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

Monday Minus Three

I am happy to report today that I lost another three pounds, making my total weight loss of 19 pounds since September!

I started a new exercise routine seven months ago to get into shape. I’ve had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 16 years old, so exercise has become a must. My exercise routine has developed into a habit that keeps my knees super healthy. The bonus – weight loss!

I’m also thankful today to Melissa for sponsoring the Bronte-Along. I’m so happy I finally know the story of Jane Eyre. I finished watching the movie and reading the book over the weekend – I just love this story! Inspiration for my crafty project finally struck me. At one point in the movie, Jane starts wearing a red scarf around her neck. It was so cool seeing Jane grow into an independent woman, so outspoken and bold for her day!

I thought it would be fun to make an independent woman’s scarf of my own with this pomegranate yarn I had in my stash, based on a lacy pattern in Joelle’s knitting book.

The Bronte-along group is moving on to Wuthering Heights, so it’s a good thing I’m a fast knitter. I can be a slow reader, so I might have to rent the movie for the next one to keep up with the group. All in all, a pretty good Monday!

Handmade for Christmas

Before I do a recap of 2009 (which I love doing), I wanted to show you some handmade gifts that arrived at our house and were mailed from our house for Christmas. First I wanted to extend a thank you to my friend Lisa for sharing these adorable handmade projects with me! Aren’t they sweet?

Handmade gifts from Lisa

Next, I want to thank Emily for the fabulous note-taker. What a wonderful surprise!

Note-take from Emily

I mailed a pile of handmade gifts to share with friends for Christmas.

handmade Christmas gifts

They range from a patchwork basket to a drawstring bag to nesting bowls crocheted in organic cotton yarn,

crocheted nesting bowls

… to felted oven mitts,

felted oven mitts

… to a drawstring bag knit from silk yarn and a cotton chenille facecloth.

drawstring bag and facecloth

I wasn’t sure how I was going to get a few handmade gifts done this season, but I remembered how quickly each one of these projects comes together. I didn’t use a pattern for the crochet bowls, but I used patterns for almost everything else. Those cool soaps came from The Soap Opera in Madison, one of the best places to buy locally-made soaps. I love giving and receiving handmade for gifts; I just need to remember to start earlier next year.

Swap With A Friend

Awhile ago, my blogger friend Amy did a post on her blog looking for someone to do a swap with her – knit her a pair of fingerless gloves as a trade for something she could make for the volunteer. I volunteered! I made these fingerless gloves to help Amy get through the winter.

fingerless gloves for Amy

In return, she made me this Denyse Schmidt Promenade Market Tote!

Front of Swap Bag

The back is just as cool as the front.

Back of swap bagIt has a big inside pocket and a flat bottom with a sturdy plastic insert, making it great to carry a book or groceries. I will probably use this tote to carry a winter knitting project, but I could also take my newest book to the cafe and hang out for awhile.

pocket and flat bottom of swap bagAmy even included one of her new scrap-busting cards and an adorable drawstring bag with this cute ribbon and vintage buttons.

scrap card and drawstring bagI really enjoyed this swap because it was a one-on-one  trade with a fellow sewing friend, making me feel more grateful for the personal touch that went into her efforts. Thank you SO much Amy!

No Cat In a Hat Here

Both of my cats refused to pose for a picture modeling the new hat I made last weekend.

cats on their bunks

And my husband’s head would stretch out my new hat.

Dave's big head

I don’t have one of those head models, so I had to model the hat myself.

my new hat

I was quite happy with how it turned out! I liked the pattern, which uses a sort of baby cable stitch, and this lovely silk-merino yarn is warm and luxurious.

crochet flower embellishment

I think that crochet flower adds a subtle but charming touch too! Definitely need to embrace warm things around here these days, since I don’t have a fur coat like those spoiled cats pictured above.

Sunday’s List

Today’s list includes finishing several projects:

Lots and lots of bulbs to plant. I got a pile of crocuses, hyacinth, anemones and more – all early bloomers. I love seeing the early bulbs coming in March, when there’s still snow around here, yet we are yearning to get out in the garden.

Lots of leaves to rake. We don’t have a lot of trees in our yard that drop too many leaves, but there’s a pretty big pile in the front to rake (and then jump in!).

A sewing project to finish. I can’t say much more about it just yet. But it’s pretty and exciting. I promise.

Finish making my contribution to the scrap challenge, sponsored by JCasa:Handmade. I have my project cut out, and just need a few minutes to assemble it. I’m excited for this one too!

A knitting project (or two) to work on when I have a few spare minutes. I doubt I will have time to finish either of these knitting projects (scarf and fingerless gloves), but it doesn’t hurt to add these to the list.

My to-do lists are usually overly ambitious, but I love having Sundays to work on all these home and craft projects. I have a busy day ahead so I better get going. Hope you have a great day!

Felting is Fun

The only thing I did not get to on my weekend list was to spend an hour at the local yarn shop. Instead, I finished a felting project at home. I fell in love with felting a couple years ago. In fact, it was on my list of New Year’s resolutions for 2007 to learn something new, like felting.

I knitted two of these oven mitts from the pattern “Out of the Frying Pan” by Amy E. Anderson with Ella Rae yarn by Classic Elite. Very easy pattern to follow (even for beginning knitters), very nice yarn to knit with, and it felts great too.

And then I felted them, which calls for three cycles of agitation on my washing machine.

I just love how these oven mitts turned out!

Next step – embellishment, which I did with a little embroidery stitching.

I make these felted oven mitts as gifts quite often. I made a pair of forest green mitts embellished with daisy stitches using variegated thread as a gift for my sister. This pair might be for my mom’s birthday coming up soon. She’s a very patriotic person, so I thought the red and blue mitts with white stars would be festive. Next on my list should be a pair of felted oven mitts for us to use in our kitchen.

Unfinished Projects

I finished writing my final paper to present in class this week, and it feels great. What a relief it will be when the semester is over. Then I won’t feel guilty working on my unfinished craft projects.

I was so excited to get my Bittersweet Autumn quilt back from The Quilt House, where Julie Jenkins machine quilted my quilt top. I took a class at my local fabric store with Judy Hasheider to make this quilt. Each block is assembled similar to a log cabin block, and the wool leaves are appliqued on. It has been about five years since I took the class, so I am happy to see the quilt in one piece, finally! All I have left to do is sew on the binding, which is a good project to work on during a movie.

Bittersweet Autumn Quilt

My next project is a darling pine tree sachet from The Purl Bee. Purl publishes the best project tutorials; knitting and sewing pattern ideas; and gift suggestions. This is an easy project to work on when you have just a couple minutes; it takes about an hour to complete one tree. Here is a picture of my first pine tree, almost finished. I just have to add the tassel and some flecks or flakes. I hope to make a forest of them!

Pine tree sachet in progress

Also on my list are these fingerless gloves, cable slippers from the One Skein book, felted oven mitts for gifts, homemade napkins for gifts, and ornaments for the ornament swap.

Hope you are finding ways to be creative today too.