From My Idea File: Drawing Tool Kits

As many of my sewing readers know, sewing notions and tools are important to someone who is passionate about sewing. The right combination of pencils, erasers and marking tools are vital to an artist, especially a beginning artist like me. Having your notions and tools organized can be even more vital to your creativity and productivity!

Over the past few semesters of graphic design and illustration classes, I’ve put together the perfect art toolkit for drawing and illustration.

Artbin storage box. The perfect size for me is this 4-inch wide by 10-inch tall box. (they make a great selection of storage solutions for art and craft supplies)

-Mechanical Pencil

-Ballpoint pen

-Erasers: pink, white and kneaded

-Set of graphite pencils in 2B, HB, 6H hardness/softness

-Verithin pencil

-Charcoal pencils in black and white

-Razer blades (for sharpening the charcoal pencils)

-Colored pencils: red, blue, green purple, and white

-Pencil sharpener

-Exacto knife and extra blades

-Sharpie marker, fine tip on one end and regular tip on the other end

I have two more art bins for more specific projects. In a separate art bin, I keep my charcoal supplies because they can be very messy. It holds my charcoal sticks, charcoal pencils, an Exacto knife for sharpening, and various erasers (which used to be white).

My other art bin holds my pastel supplies for doing heightened drawings like this and this, pastel pencils, erasers and a sharpener.

I also have a great mesh pouch I use for my brushes. I like this mesh material on the front side because it helps the brushes breath and air dry after I’ve washed them.

The only things that don’t fit into these kits are a metal ruler, which I carry separately, and a scissors, but I have an Exacto knife, so I don’t really need a scissors.

I work in different areas of our house and backyard, and I’m back and forth to campus everyday, so it helps to keep things organized. I love being able to just grab a sketchbook and one of these little drawing kits, knowing they hold all the basic supplies I may need.

Thanks for stopping by!

My Year in Review

It’s great to have a blog to be able to look back on how I spent the past year. Here are my highlights from 2010. (note: I’m choosing to ignore the low points!) I finished a couple quilts.

completed Mod Girls quilt

completed Darla quilt

I started a couple more quilts.

(my chocolate lollipop Road to Spring quilt top)

(my Pop Garden quilt top)

I joined my first quilting bee. I went on my first quilting retreat. Had the time of my life! I shared a few tutorials. I made lots of great new friendships this year that I cherish, so I hope we continue to stay connected. We did a little travel to Las Vegas and New York City.

(Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas!)

(Radio City Music Hall)

I went to a few rock concerts. I experimented with lots and lots of new bag designs. I shared a series of Best Practices. We enjoyed our gardens. We enjoyed the farmers market. I spent some time at my parents’ cottage. I organized a Christmas in July ornament exchange. I am happy my etsy shop was more active. (By the way, did you know I started advertising on a couple blogs? I looking for a couple more to try.) I made lots of custom orders, which are always fun to do. They are challenging and so fulfilling! (still have a couple more to finish) I entered my first craft show. I squeezed in a little hiking and a little skiing.

(trail at Peninsula State Park)

(riding the chair lift at Tyrol Basin)

I lost a total of 22 pounds! I quit my corporate job! Scary and freeing in the same breath! I went back to school! So far, I’ve taken a design class, a drawing class and a computer graphics class. Looking back at the amazing variety I experienced this past year makes me feel like one lucky girl! I am excited to continue to move forward, so cheers to a Happy New Year!

Adding the Details

Here’s a small preview of some of the patchwork projects I’ve been working on this week:

I haven’t done a lot of stitchery in a long time, so it’s been great having my stitching books on hand for reference.

I’m having fun relearning some of these stitches.

I love making patchwork projects, especially for my shop, and lately the thrill has been to dream up new details to give my ideas more edge and flair. I think details, subtle or shiny, can really make something super unique and more fun to wear or carry. Hope you had the chance to notice some details and learn something this week!

Workbook Pages

I’ve had a subscription to the American Patchwork and Quilting magazine for about ten years, and I still love it. Even though I don’t always make something from each issue, I still read them from cover to cover, including the ads. I also love their seasonal magazine Quilts and More, which comes out four times a year.

One of my favorite regular features are the Workbook Pages, where the editors provide tips and techniques on fabrics, thread, sewing needles, pins and more.

I especially love this guide on thread and sewing machine needle recommendations for various stitching.

Since I don’t have a lot of space to save old magazines, and I’m not a saver, these are exactly the types of articles I would tear out and put into plastic sheet protectors to save for future reference. I thought this might be another small best practice worth sharing with you.

Best Practice – Customer/Reader Appreciation

“The customer is always right.” How many times have you heard that? I used to work in the retail industry, and I always rolled my eyes when I heard that speech. At the end of the day, I think every corporation, small business, and individual maker of handmade goods will tell you that customers (and blog readers) are the #1 most important element to their business (or blog).

I know, you don’t need to hear from me how important it is to appreciate your shop customers or your blog readers. Crafters are kind folks by nature, right?! Just look at the steady list of giveaways taking place every single week as proof of that.

I am not an expert in marketing, and I am generally a shy person when it comes to marketing, making it hard for me to drum up new customers or new blog readers. I try to appreciate the ones I have. I just wanted to share a few of the things I try to do, especially here with my blog.

If you have ever left a comment on my blog, you have most likely received an email from me thanking you for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment. I love comments. I love hearing from readers. That has also been the start to a few email conversations that have led to great friendships I cherish.

Offering Tutorials
I think tutorials are a cool way to offer your readers something for free. Who doesn’t love a free pattern?! I wish I were better at offering more tutorials!

Participating in Swaps
Exchanging supplies or handmade goods through swaps is a great way to meet people and share similar obsessions. Some of my blogger friendships began from swaps. (That reminds me, don’t forget about our Christmas in July ornament swap coming up.)

Interact and Engage
Sometimes I can be indecisive, so it’s good to know I can ask you all for advice, such as with my recent patchwork arrangements project. I loved reading your thoughts on which half-square triangle arrangement you liked best. I like it when other bloggers ask for an opinion or feedback because it initiates in a creative conversation, which is beneficial to all of us.

Amy frequently posts surveys on her blog, seeking feedback on sewing topics or ideas for content she could offer. I love that! Personally, I think surveys are fun to participate in because they make me feel like I have a say, like I’m contributing to the success of another creative person. I’m all for that!

I adore this little matchbook notepad I got from Randi’s shop with a recent fabric order!

I am going to make a supply of these little drawstring bags to include in orders from my shop. Just a little something extra.

I mentioned above the number of giveaways that take place every week. I’m not telling you that you should do a giveaway. Just saying I like doing giveaways, whether it’s an extra goodie with an order, a giveaway for a blogiversary, or participating in a sponsored event like the upcoming Sew,Mama,Sew‘s May Day giveaway. (Be sure to check back next week for the giveaway I have to offer!)

This series has been fun for me to do. It has challenged me to take notice of and share the things I do to keep myself organized and to keep life running smoothly. It’s also been good writing practice for me. I hope you have found it to be useful in some way too.

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Previous posts about my Best Practices:




Bobbins, Pins and Folding

Business Cards

Carry Your Product

Best Practice – Resources

Ready for another installment of my Best Practices series? I can’t believe I have stuck with this series for six weeks  now!

I have worked as a paralegal for so many years (17!), and I’ve always found it important to have the right resources at hand. This carries over to my creative world too. There are lots of resources available, from books to magazines to the Internet.

(my new favorite resource – the Fat Quarterly e-zine!)

I especially love using the Internet and fellow bloggers for resources and inspiration. But I also like to have the actual books and magazines when learning the terminology, materials, tools, new techniques, and just looking for inspiration.

Finding what works for your needs can be fun. A couple things I like to look for in my resources: high quality pictures and illustrations (eye candy!), useful tips, intermediate to advanced techniques, and a variety of fresh, modern projects.

Sewing / Quilting References

When I first learned how to quilt in 1999, I took formal classes at the local quilt shop. I guess I was lucky to have access to such a fabulous shop because so many people nowadays seem to be either self-taught or are learning from free sites on the Internet. I’m a visual learner, so I like to hear and see the steps done and then try them myself.

Anyway, after those classes, I bought this quilting encyclopedia to have by my side as I made quilts on my own.

It’s an older book, but still great reference, from tools to techniques to piecing to quilting.

I progressed to using baby quilt books, since they provided easy to follow instructions for great projects.

These days, my sewing interested have expanded from sewing quilts to patchwork goods for our house and bags and clothes. Who doesn’t love Anna Maria Horner’s Seams To Me sewing book?! Every girl has to have this on her shelf!

I love the basic sewing techniques in this book to guide you through the charming projects that will stretch your sewing skills beyond of quilting. I adore Anna Maria’s voice and perspective – fun and free. There are no rules here; just guidelines to help steer you in the direction of success with your modern projects. I also especially like that this book is spiral bound so I can lay it flat.

Another sewing book I love is Amy Karol‘s Bend-the-Rules-Sewing book. It’s full of clever, modern projects with a fresh twist, from bags to aprons to table linens to aprons. I love her illustrations, and the multiple pictures or ideas she presents for each project.

Knitting and Crochet References

I learned how to knit and crochet when I was about 10 years old, but I ended up setting crafts aside while I was in college.

I relearned both knitting and crochet over 10 years ago, so I bought a couple reference books to have on hand. My absolute favorite resource book is the Knitters Companion because it serves like a mini encyclopedia (or a paperbook version of Google) when I get stuck and need to look up something quickly. I also really like that it’s spiral-bound so I can lay it flat if I need to follow along.

I always need help figuring out how to interchange yarns, since I often don’t have access to the yarn used in a pattern. So I especially love those particular pages!

Embroidery References

I used to do more embroidery and needlepoint in years past. At one point, I had to narrow down my hobbies, which is mainly sewing these days.

(Doodle Stitching by Aimie RayKids Embroidery by Kristin Nicholas, and Colorful Stitchery by Kristin Nicholas)

But I was so happy I had these reference books on my shelves when I made my mini friendship quilt for my recent blog giveaway. I needed a refresher on how to stitch words and flowers.

Color References

I think we would all agree how much fun it is to learn about the color wheel, how to use it, and how to make projects with the color wheel in mind.

I love the color exploration sections in Joelle Hoverson’s books. She provides a simple yet artsy narrative on combining various colors to achieve a different feeling.

I found this cool book at the local yarn store. I haven’t had much time to spend studying it, but it has amazing examples of different color combinations based on how you turn your color wheel.

Drawing Resources

I also have a pile of drawing and design resources, but I haven’t had much time to spend on those art techniques since the design and drawing classes I took last year.


I know, there are zillions of great craft reference books and pattern books on the market. I could write a separate post reviewing each one of these wonderful creative books. (I do have a couple new sewing books I plan to review soon, so stay tuned for more on that.) Having these particular resources on my shelves has given me access to techniques and inspiration right at my fingertips! Feel free to share your favorite resources in the comments or link to your blog.


Previous posts about my Best Practices:



Bobbins, Pins and Folding

Business Cards

Carry Your Product

Best Practice – Filing

I deal with ridiculous amounts of paperwork in my day job. I think real estate transactions generate too many documents. To keep up, I have to be very organized, which carries over to keeping paperwork at home organized. The home filing is much more interesting – sewing and knitting patterns!

There are hundreds of wonderful tutorials offered in blogland, which I usually just bookmark. Since I do all of my computing on a laptop, sometimes I need to print a pattern so I can follow along as I make the project. Or I just want to save it for future reference. I don’t have any of those fancy magazine holders to store my patterns and magazines, mainly because I’m cheap frugal and short on time to make them for myself.

My sewing room is only 10 feet by 8 feet, thus I don’t have a lot of space, so no room for a filing cabinet. I make do because I think I am lucky enough just to have my own room!

I’m a simple girl, so I use accordion file folders to keep my patterns and reference information organized. I love them because they expand, meaning there’s always room for more ideas.

I try to keep them coordinated – pink for quilt patterns, purple for bag patterns, green for home patterns, blue for clothes, vanilla for color inspiration, red for crafty projects, yellow for techniques.

I keep them on my book shelves (as you can see in the photos above) in between the magazines I save and reference books I collect. I broke the patterns down into categories of handmade projects, which makes life so much easier when I have an idea to just browse through my files. I keep files similar to this for my shop too.

The other filing practice I like to do is keep my current project in a plastic sheet protector, which allows me to store the instructions and cut fabrics together. Since I don’t like cutting, I tend to cut several projects in one day, in essence “stocking up” on cut projects, so they are ready when I find some free time.

I also like using these pocket file folders for the same purpose. Once I’m done making the project, I file the pattern into the appropriate folder shown above, and reuse these protectors or pocket folders.

These best practices have saved me time and patience! Feel free to share your ideas or practices in the comments or link to your blog.


Previous posts about my Best Practices:


Bobbins, Pins and Folding

Business Cards

Carry Your Product

Best Practice – Bobbins, Pins and Folding

Here’s the next installment in my best practice series – pins, bobbins and folding! It’s not a crafty business-related tip; more like reminders about being organized and efficient. If you have been sewing for awhile, these time-savers may seem like no-brainers to you. But sometimes I get lazy and neglect these simple tasks, so I thought you might have similar issues.

First up, bobbins. I use white, cream and grey bobbins a lot. But dang, I hate it when my bobbin runs out, I reach for a new one, and this is what I find in my bobbin basket – empties!

Take the time to fill up a good supply of bobbins, leaving a couple empty ones for those colorful projects that call for a different color. You will thank yourself when you are on a roll in the middle of a project and you have a supply of bobbins ready!

Next up, pins. The idea popped into my head after reading Amy’s recent post where she asked her readers what kind of pins they use. I was working on a patchwork project lately, using a lot of pins. I found an extra stash of pins in this box, and decided to use them. As I was pulling pins from this box, I wondered why so many of them were bent! So I sorted them into two piles, using the cover  for straight pins, the black box for bent pins. If you have bent pins, quit putting them back into your pin cushion!

I never throw bent or dull pins in the trash because they could be dangerous for whoever is handling the trash. For this batch, I secured them to a paper plate using packing tape so they aren’t floating loose in the trash. You could also tape them to piece of cardboard.

Finally, when you bring your fabric home from the fabric shop, don’t shove it onto your fabric shelves like I did with these remnant pieces of muslin.

At least take the time to peel off those labels and refold them properly. I’m not a perfectionist, so personally, I don’t think it matters how you fold it. Just get your new fabric ready for proper storage, especially if you aren’t going to use it immediately. I had to press this pile to get it back into useable shape.

Do you have any sewing tips you do to keep your groove going? Feel free to share your best practice ideas in the comments or link to your blog.


Previous posts about my Best Practices:

Business Cards

Carry Your Product

Best Practice – Carry Your Product

The phrase “best practices” was a buzz for years in the corporate world. I recently heard someone in the cubicle next to me say it in their phone conversation, and the creative lightbulb went off in my head. I thought it might be fun to start a regular column here to share best practices with other sewists, bloggers, and makers of handmade goods.

Experts say when you make stuff to sell you should always carry your products with you as free advertising. For instance, I like to sew. However, I can’t carry all my bags and patchwork gear with me everywhere I go, so I had photos printed and I put them into a cute little album.

That little portfolio keeps getting thicker and thicker as I make new products, but I don’t want to have to carry a bigger purse. I made a couple simple little tote bags to carry my portfolio in.

One cheerful version for daytime.

Another girlie version for evenings.

(simple tutorial in the works!)

Now, if someone notices my tote bag, I can say “I made it” and show them pictures of the rest of the things I make.

I am going to start paying closer attention to the things I do and make, and share more ideas here, in hopes they might help someone else. Feel free to share your best practices from sewing to selling in the comments or link to your blog! (even just simple things like how you store your bobbins or how you store your cutting tools)