Category Archives: Uncategorized

Winding Yarn at Home

Winding yarn at homeWith fall in the air and my sewing machine on the fritz, I’ve been picking up my knitting needles more lately.  The other day I was basking in the happiness that is a pile of neatly wound balls of yarn, when I thought I’d share the yarn winder I used at home.

Crafty Little Secret - Winding yarn at home - www.craftylittlesecret.comMy mom bought me this yarn winder (I think the skein holder might come separately) a couple years ago and it has changed my life! Ok. That might be an exaggeration. But it’s definitely nice to not have to loop my yarn around the back of a chair to wind it, or make someone sit there with their hands in the air (especially since my knitting buddy moved back to NYC).

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home - www.craftylittlesecret.comIt’s simple to wind your own yarn. Lay out the skein of yarn and find the knotted parts at either end.

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home - www.craftylittlesecret.comAnd snip those knots off to free up the yarn ends.

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home -

Snag one end of the yarn securely into the yarn winder and thread it through the little metal loop at the bottom (this makes sure it feeds properly as it builds the yarn ball).

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home -

The rest of the skein loops around the skein holder. Then it’s just a matter of the turning the crank and building your ball of yarn.

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home - www.craftylittlesecret.comI’ve found that it’s best to wind slowly as turning the crank too quickly can cause the yarn to slip off the rest of the ball and you end up with this kinda spaghetti mess hanging out the middle of your yarn ball.

To keep track of exactly what each yarn and color lot is, I like to fold up the label from the yarn skein and tuck it inside the ball.

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home - www.craftylittlesecret.comThen I tuck all my newly would balls of yarn into one of those bags that sets of sheets come in.

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home - www.craftylittlesecret.comThis has the added advantage of limiting the expansion of my yarn collection before it gets too crazy. If it doesn’t fit in here, I can’t get more yarn. (Except of course for that yarn my mom gave me that lives in another container…..).

Let’s all look at this pile of perfectly wound balls of yarn for a moment, shall we?

Crafty Little Secret - Winding Yarn at Home - www.craftylittlesecret.comSigh. Isn’t it a beautiful sight?


Contact Me

I’ve received the feedback on more than one occassion lately that I’m not the easiest lady to get a hold of through this blog.

I thought, Oh well, Gee. I don’t want to put my personal email up for spammers to see, and I already have multiple email accounts to balance so I don’t want to add another for the blog. And, well, golly. It just seems like it would be so darn hard to add a contact form for people to use.

But guess what??? It isn’t! It’s sooooooooooo easy! Now I feel like a bit of a dunce for not even having investigated it before now.

All I had to do was;
1) Click on Pages, then select Add New on my WordPress dashboard.
2) Click Add Contact Form at the top of the new page entry.
3) Click Ok.

All done! A link automatically appeared at the top of my home page with the most basic and too the point contact page possible. My point to all this??? Now you can contact me if you’ve got something you’d like to share or ask about outside of the blog post. Just click the new ‘Contact Me’ link at the top of my home page!

Hunk-A-Hunk-A-Burnin’-Apron Love

I made these aprons about a month ago but am just getting around to posting them now because I’ve been working on a tutorial to go along with them. [ASIDE: Kudos to those of you who regularly post tutorials, I always forget how long they take to write up with all the photo editing!] But then of course once I started writing the tutorial I decided to break it up into two posts anyway because I have some announcements I want to make that I thought would be best to leave outta the tutorial.

Crafty Little Secret - DIY Handmade Apron - www.craftylittlesecret.comOne of my dearest friends got married last month (congratulations Sharon and Colin!) and I was fortunate to be able to travel all the way back to Nova Scotia on her big day. But what to get the girl who has everything (….everything in my price range that is…LOL)? I asked her if she’d be into some homemade napkins or oven mitts or anything like that, and she said her man was wanting a nice stout grillin’ apron. So a project was born!

Crafty Little Secret - Hunky Pinup Apron - www.craftylittlesecret.comThis is one of the funniest couples you’ll ever meet so I knew their aprons needed to reflect that. What better use for this aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamazeballs Hunky Wrangler Pin-Up fabric???? (And I got the end of the bolt bonus and got an extra half yard of this winner!) This way Sharon can be reminded of her own hunk-a-hunk-a-burnin’ love everytime she puts it on.

And for Colin?

Crafty Little Secret - Comic Book Apron - www.craftylittlesecret.comHe loves all things comic book and even has a replica of the Green Lantern’s ring as his wedding ring! Obviously as soon as I saw this DC comics fabric I clicked ‘buy’ (sorry, looks like is sold out right now).

In my chosen career as an academic I’ve often found myself in a situation where I am traveling for a friends wedding and end up not being able to afford the type of present I would really love to give. That’s when I love to think up something personalized like this that I can make. For a total cost of about $20, I ended up with a totally personal and totally memorable present that I can guarantee no one else got them!

Oh but hey there, my career comment reminds me. I mentioned I had a bit of news didn’t I?

Announcement #1: I GOT A JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! [Imagines dancing around fabric store throwing around dollar bills, draping herself in all the fabrics she’s been pining for over the last year of unemployment]. And it’s a bit of a career change into the communications side of science, which I’m super excited about! But it’s been a steep learning curve that’s left me exhausted at the end of the day and, combine that with a 10 day trip back home to Canada, and I haven’t gotten much sewing or blog writing done in the past month. Hopefully as I get used to my new schedule and things calm down I’ll pick up my sewing more regularly again. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from all you gainfully employed sewists out there – how do you find the time to sew???

Announcement #2: I got a surprise when I idly looked at my blog stats the other day and found that I’d received well over 1,000 hits that day (that’s like 10x what I usually get). Whaaaaa????? After a little clicking around I realized that my DIY bed o’ nails thread organizer project had been included in a list on Buzzfeed’s Community page! What a lovely surprise. Check it out if you’re interested, there are lots of other great organizational ideas on there: 45 Organization Hacks to Transform Your Craft Room.

Announcement #3: This one is definitely late, but better late than never, right?? A couple months ago I received another lovely surprise, this time in the form of a comment on one of my blog posts. The lovely Elle from Erratic Project Junkie had left the following comment for me:

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Originally I thought it would be fantastic to incorporate this into last month’s Sewcialist-hosted Tribute Month Sew-Along (check out a great roundup of the amazing projects here) because I could pass the award along to all the sewists that I would love to pay tribute to. But, errrr…’s September already! Anyway, Elle’s got all the rules of the award posted on her blog here, but I can never come up with facts about myself. And really, nearly this whole dang post has been about myself! (Where’s the crafting?!?! Ammiright?!?!). I’m supposed to nominate some other bloggers that I find inspiring and post a button here that people can grab but, I’m gonna be honest, I don’t know how to do that (but the ladies in the following list should grab the button from Elle’s post if they so desire). So I’m just gonna link to a few ladies that I’m sure you all know, but who I find particularly inspiring and would like to present with The Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

Oona Balloona – Ummm…..hello?! Her amazing use of color, texture and pattern is a constant inspiration and source of wonder.
Ginger Makes – What’s not to love about that big smile of hers! Her willingness to sew up whatever her heart desires always inspires me to make something just for the fun of it.
Gillian (Crafting a Rainbow) – Gillian is so inspiring to me because she’s just such a dang good Sewcialist! Always coming up with thoughtful discussions and new ways to engage the online sewing community I also look to Gillian for knit inspiration!
Checkout Girl – I don’t think she’s blogging too much these days but Checkout Girl’s beautiful felt art embroidery hoops have inspired me to try my own versions a couple times
Chrix Design – I can’t remember how I found her blog, but Chrix Design’s cosplay is outta this world. I don’t do cosplay but costume making definitely holds a special place in my heart and I love reading about her creative (and often inexpensive) solutions to bring her characters to life.
Cloth Habit – It had literally never occurred to me that one could make their own lingerie until I saw this blog. Of course, I’ve still never made any but Cloth Habit has inspired the kernel of an idea that keeps growing and growing in the back of my mind.
Nicole at Home – I think I found Nicole’s blog through Britex and I’m so glad I did. Her technical expertise is a constant source of inspiration and I aspire to have half as much talent one day!
Amy of Sew Well – Amy constantly inspires me to try to be more diligent in making the effort to improve my craft and technical skills.
Seamstress Erin – Erin isn’t shy about sharing some of her personal struggles on her blog and hearing about her PhD, relationship with sewing and ultimate decision to go her own way reminds me how important passion is.
Cassie Stephens – I think I found Cassie through Seamstress Erin’s Rambo project, and she’s been putting a smile on my face ever since. Her obvious passion for art and teaching comes through in every post and every crazy dress and I love it all.
CathGrace – Catherine makes it look easy, but her amazing Anthropologie knockoffs (and other awesome projects) are always a testament to the art of sewing.
Curvy Sewing Collective – And last but not least, how could I forget the fairly newly formed Curvy Sewing Collective. While many beautiful ladies post here, each one inspires me to embrace my body explore sewing as a way to show it off.

Phew! See? That was a lot. I’m off to finish up the tutorial so you can make your own version of these awesome aprons, and hopefully I’ll have that up by Monday….Tuesday??? Sometime next week….

Mending Torn Jeans

Oops, I guess I kind of disappeared there didn’t I? I was off enjoying friends and family in Eastern Canada and having so much fun that I never got around to putting up any blog posts like I’d intended. Oh well!

Before I left for my trip I realized I didn’t have a single pair of jeans with an intact crotch. I’ve worn a hole in every. single. pair. So I thought I’d share a link to a great tutorial for how to mend torn/worn jeans by Suzzanah over at Create/Enjoy.

Here are my jeans before the fix:
How to  mend jeans crotch holeAnd after:
How to  mend jeans crotch holeThe only thing I would stress is that I found I need to extend my stitching well beyond the actual tear or it will quickly rip again because the area around the actual hole is usually very worn as well and can’t handle much pull or pressure.

So check out Suzannah’s tutorial and save your favorite jeans! I’ll be back later this week with my own tutorial showing you how to sew a BBQ apron.

Finding My Style…..

I haven’t posted anything in nearly three weeks because I’m frozen with indecision. I’m on a budget right now and trying really hard to work with what I already own but I can’t quite decide what to make. I’m craving something with pattern (as would be appropriate considering Oonapalooza is happening right now) but everything I have in my stash is boring solids.

To help find some inspiration I took a look at a Pinterest board I started to help me define my style (inspired by this post by Tilly and further encouraged by some of the Wardrobe Architect posts).

Crafty Little Secret - Finding My Style

I’ve found three distinct styles that I’m drawn to (that may or may not be represented in my current wardrobe).

1. Bohemian
Crafty Little Secret - Bohemian Inspiration craftylittlesecret.comThis should come to no surprise to anyone who read my sewing retrospective post since I spent a good part of my teenaged life searching thrift store racks for Bohemian finds. I don’t think I have a ton of this in my wardrobe right now, me-made or otherwise, though I guess my latest maxi picks up on the tie-dye.

2. Vintage/Mod

Crafty Little Secret Vintage/Mod Inspiration craftylittlesecret.comLike many fellow sewing bloggers I have a definite vintage lean to my tastes but I don’t like anything too twee (just learned that word, LOL!). I tend to like vintage looks that have a bit of a mod look to them and I’ve definitely got a fair amount of this in my RTW wardrobe including a dress I’d count as my “signature style”.

3. Nautical Military Punk
Crafty Little Secret - Nautical Military Punk Inspiration -
Nautical military punk. Because that’s a style, right? What I notice most about the garments in this category is that, with the exception of the occasional skull, stripe or submarine, this inspiration manifests mainly in outerwear and accessories.

Looking at my three main favorite style categories, any two put together compliment each other. You can go Bohemian mod, or Bohemian military, but probably not all three. Growing up tall I’ve always felt self-conscious whenever I try to dress too cutesy and I tend to use the nautical military punk style as a way to avoid this. A dash of cheekiness added to a dose of adorable.

I’m not really sure how this analysis will inform my future sewing decisions, or if it will at all. And of course, this only takes into consideration what I lust after, not what I actually wear. Maybe I’ll just use this all as inspiration. I’ve already been thinking it would be fun to make a gathered Mathilde blouse with Bohemian embroidery embellishments. And as I reflected at the end of MMM’14, I look better when I’m not just wearing jeans and a tee.

Maybe I should go through the Wardrobe Architect exercises and work on a color palette for my wardrobe to try to nail things down more? Has anyone else done an exercise like this? How has it informed your sewing and pattern choices (or has it)?


100th Blog Post Vintage Pattern Giveaway: Winner!

And the winner is………..

…………….[drum roll]……………

WinnerJennifer, email me at with your mailing address and I will get your patterns to you. Congratulations!

And thanks so much to everyone who entered the giveaway or just stopped by to offer kind words of encouragement. The sewist blogging community is so inspiring, supportive and full of talent, I am constantly blown away with the amazing garments that you come up with. Keep up the awesome everyone!


100th Blog Post Extravaganza!!!!!: Sewing Retrospective + Vintage Sewing Pattern Giveaway

Crafty Little Secret Vintage Sewing Pattern GiveawayIt’s my 100th blog post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

To celebrate, I decided to do a little giveaway! But more about that at the end of the post. First, I’m going to make you read a walk down memory lane…

Reaching my 100th blog post got me all nostalgic. I went back through my blog and I was actually amazed at (and proud of) what I’ve made over the past two years. It got me thinking about my relationship with sewing – a lifelong off again, on again love affair (that is in full swing right now).

(****Faces have been blurred to protect the (not so) innocent and because I’m sure not everyone wants their mug plastered all over the interwebs)

This was basically my uniform was I was 13.

This was basically my uniform was I was 13.

Like a lot of little girls my very first sewing projects were hand-sewing Barbie clothes with scraps of fabric my mom gave me. But the first time I sewed something for myself on a machine was in Home Ec. in middle school when we learned to sew simple boxer shorts. My best friend and I both loved it! At the time, the photo above pretty accurately represents our daily color-blocked uniform. We went crazy that summer sewing up a bunch of random shorts – I remember some Flintstones patterned and some picnic ant covered pairs in particular. At 12 or 13 I was really just starting to develop my own style for the first time. I think sewing our crazy shorts gave us a chance to express ourselves and find our own unique look. Over the next couple years we’d sew a little here and there making Halloween costumes and outfits for our school’s lipsynching contest but then as I moved on to high school I drifted away from sewing for a few years.

I started shopping at thrift stores and in my parents' closets.

I started shopping at thrift stores and in my parents’ closets. This blouse came out of my mom’s closet and I loved it so much!

Instead, in high school I found thrift shopping as my way of expressing myself through my wardrobe. I became obsessed with styles from the 60’s and 70’s (and still am, though now I’m more partial to mod looks while back then I was fully committed to scruffy hippie) and would buy anything I could find with bell bottoms or wide lapels (or both, as is the case in the photo below). My parents were 100% on board with their teenage daughter announcing that she would only buy used clothes and happily handed over the $50 in September that would cover all my back-to-school shopping at Value Village.

Don't worry, this outfit was actually for a Halloween Disco dance.....though the coat was stolen from my dad's closet and was something I wore regularly.

Don’t worry, this outfit was actually for a Halloween Disco dance…..though the coat and belt were stolen from my dad’s closet and were items wore regularly.

If you’re going to be a serious thrifter it definitely helps to be able to sew! I’m an O.G. Refashioner, I guess. I would embroider little daisies to embellish the bottom of my bell bottoms or change pussy bows on dresses into waist ties. Lots of my clothes would see a few iterations: they’d start as a pair of pants and as I grew up I would cut them into shorts, then as I grew out I would sew side panels of contrasting fabric.

The final incarnation of a beloved pair of grey cords.

The final incarnation of a beloved pair of grey cords.

What really got me back into sewing for realsies though, was prom. I was still in my hippie phase and couldn’t find anything in the thrift stores that would work. Until, that is, I stumbled upon an amazing bold, bright and beautiful heavy polyester floral fabric.

Flower Prom Dress 70s

My me-made prom dress that I still wear today, over 15 years later!!

I remember feeling really self-conscious at prom when I showed up in this dress among a sea of black-clad peers. Now I’m so proud of my high school self that I had the courage to dare to be a little different! In fact….I still love this dress! During grad school I hacked it off into a micro-mini (but had the sense to leave a ton of fabric at the hem) and have recently lengthened it again just a wee bit, but it’s still above the knee.

Prom Dress Refashion

Still crazy after all these years!

It can be tough sometimes to be a thrift store shopper when you’re a tall, busty lady. I was much slimmer in high school than I am now but, even then I was 5’9″ and wearing a C cup! I would often find things I loved in the thrift stores but too often they’d be too small. My prom dress was a mini-revelation for me, if I could find a fabric that I liked I could sew it into an outfit that actually fit me!

I can haz clothez that fitz???

I can haz clothez that fitz???

I made a couple other brightly colored dresses but my me-made revelation was destined to be short lived. When undergrad hit (and I turned 19, the drinking age where I grew up), there were suddenly a whole new set of extracurriculars that seemed more interesting than sewing.

I didn’t give it up entirely though. My mom gave me a sewing machine one birthday so my room mates and I all decided to sew up our Halloween costumes that year, going with sexy fairy tale characters (Disclaimer: the choices made my 22 year old me are not at all a reflection of my current tastes or values and I do NOT endorse the fashion choices made at that time). 

Oh good Lord, I remember those boots. My feet hurt just looking at them!

Oh good Lord, I remember those boots. My feet hurt just looking at them!

That last year of undergrad I continued to sew mainly “special” clothes, fancy dresses and pretty things that wouldn’t be a part of my daily wardrobe. (I have a vague memory of a terrible pair of high waisted pants sewn in fabric with such a loose weave that the seams were threatening to give after the first wearing. Thank God, no photographic evidence exists).

It never occurred to me that I could so an "everyday" wardrobe! I pretty much only sewed up special occasion dresses and costumes.

It never occurred to me that I could so an “everyday” wardrobe! I pretty much only sewed up special occasion dresses and costumes.

And I didn’t entirely give up my thrifting ways. I remember finding a strange green spandex paisley that somehow screamed “SKIRT!!!!” at me, then later screamed “TUBE TOP!!!!”.

Green paisley skirt

Yes friends, it’s true. We actually all came together as a group and decided to paint our living room that Kraft Dinner orange. Our landlord, who had originally given us free reign on paint colors, quickly regretted that freedom. Once again, I do not endorse the style choices made by 21 year old me.

Throughout grad school my sewing tapered off almost completely. If it weren’t for Halloween  and a group of friends who were equally enthusiastic about dressing up every year, I might have lost my sewing chops entirely! I think I made a costume every year during grad school (I posted about them here), starting with Alice from the Resident Evil games/movies….Alice from Resident Evil II

…..and reaching it’s peak with my infamous (among my friends) Bjork costume.

BjorkWhen I moved to San Francisco after grad school I was fortunate enough to make some seriously crafty friends who I credit with inspiring my to get back to my crafty roots and eventually start this blog. Really, while this post is about sewing and that has definitely been my focus of late, sewing and I have a pretty open relationship. I always come back to it, but I’ve dabbled with painting, bead making, cross stitching, knitting (that’s an on-going casual affair), scrap booking and probably pretty much any other craft you can imagine!

My good friend Sandy, who you may remember from such posts as my NYC Fabric Shopping Roundup, taught me how to knit again (I had known how when I was a kid but never knit anything more complicated than mittens and hadn’t done it in about 15 years) and suddenly I was whipping up hats and mitts in no time!

Anyone who has had an experience with San Francisco's public transit will appreciate this one, snapped after a speeding bus ride had us practically getting air on SF's substantial hills then finally careening into another vehicle.

Anyone who has had an experience with San Francisco’s public transit will appreciate this one, snapped after a speeding bus ride had us practically getting air on SF’s substantial hills then finally careening into another vehicle.

But you know, when you live somewhere that never drops below freezing or requires anything heavier than a Fall jacket, there are only so many hats and mitts you can knit yourself! I think that’s when I finally came back to sewing. I started looking around online for creative blogs and found the fantastic sewist blogging community that I am so proud to be a part of today! I sewed up a couple shirts and dresses and before I knew it I was fully in love again with my old flame, sewing.

And you know the rest, because it’s all documented here!

I am surprised by how excited I am to hit my 100th post with this blog and I really really wanted to celebrate, so I decided to host a giveaway! And what goes better with this nostalgic trip down my sewing memory lane than three vintage sewing patterns from the 60’s and 70’s?! My blog doesn’t reach a huge audience so please post this wherever you think interested parties may be found! Or, selfishly keep to yourself – if you are the only entrant you’re guaranteed to win, LOL! Here are the patterns I’m giving away.

Crafty Little Secret - Vintage Sewing Pattern Giveaway

Simplicity 6740 circa 1966, Size 14, Bust 34. Purchased in Portland, OR last year.

Crafty Little Secret - Vintage Sewing Pattern Giveaway

Simplicity 8513, circa 1978, size 10-12, bust 34. From my granny’s sewing stash that I inherited when she passed.

Crafty Little Secret - Vintage Sewing Pattern Giveaway

Simplicity 9067, circa 1979, size 10, bust 32.5. Inherited from my granny’s sewing stash when she passed.

Each pattern is uncut (except the skirt from 9067 which my granny must have made). The first pattern from the 60’s is one I bought in a moment of over-zealousness on a fabric shopping excursion in Portland, OR last year (the pattern includes that Coco-esque top in Views 1 and 3!). The other two patterns are ones I inherited from my Granny’s sewing stash. I always forget that she was much, much tinier than me in every proportion so these patterns are much too small for me! I can definitely imagine some of you, with much more swagger than I, rockin’ these patterns. One lucky winner will receive all three patterns and the giveaway is open to everyone everywhere.

To enter the giveaway please leave a comment on this post telling me about your own love affair with sewing by midnight on June 26. Has it always been hot and heavy or just a casual relationship? Are you high school sweethearts or is it a new romance?

I’ll announce the winner in a week, so go ahead and follow my blog (link for Blog Lovin’ on the side bar) to be the first to hear the winner and keep up on future giveaways and fun happenings here at Crafty Little Secret!