Great New Northcott Pattern

A great new pattern from the girls at Upper Canada Quiltworks Publishing.

Modern Vibe

Nellie Holmes and Christine Baker are the co-owners and designers at Upper Canada Quiltworks Publishing. They have been designing quilt patterns and writing books for over 15 years and between them have a HUGE number of designs. Many of the designs they publish are collaborations with Northcott Fabrics including their four new patterns.

Christine and Nellie love working with Northcott and love the challenge of designing with fabrics that are a bit out of their comfort zone. Their new pattern “Modern Vibe” uses Northcott’s ColorWorks Concepts fabric line which is certainly different than what they usually gravitate to. But the quilt is amazing and they found it so much fun to make. Christine quilted the sample on her Gammill with lime green thread and showed her quilting designs on her own blog.

Here is the link to their Modern Vibe pattern on our website:

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Interview with Diane Phalen, Quilt Painter

Nancy: We first met at a quilt show many years ago where you were representing your line of fabric. I was completely drawn to the beauty of your prints and immediately knew I had met someone I would like to call a friend. I have wanted to collaborate on a project with you ever since and finally I am delighted that you have agreed to let me help you create this wonderful coloring book.


Nancy: Would that first meeting have been at Quilt Market? How many fabric lines have you designed, for what companies, and in what years?

Diane: I remember meeting you and liking you instantly!  I believe our first time we met was at Quilt Market in Houston. We then met again at the Quilt Show in Rochester, New York.  I was surprised to see you again.  We were exhibiting at the same show! My first fabric line was with Erlanger Blumgart in 1995.  At that time my designs were simplified and repainted by hand and done by hand in repeat.  The next company I designed fabric for was P & B Textiles in Burlingame, California.  I hand-painted all the designs, even doing a design right in their studio when they needed one more!  I did fabric for E. E. Schenck of Portland Oregon next. We took designs from my Spring and Summer paintings.  We focused on my Spring Garden painting and recreated the flowers and trees in repeat patterns.  I did several fabric lines for Elizabeth Studios in Milltown, New Jersey. They did a wonderful Spring collection followed by a Winter and Autumn collection. I loved designing fabric and am now looking for a fabric company to work with to do more fabric lines. My collectors of my art ask me all the time for more fabric!

Nancy: I read in one of your two quilt pattern books (still available on that you have never made a quilt. Is that still true? So someone else wrote those patterns on your behalf? Where do you get the designs for the quilts you use in your paintings?

Diane: No, I have never made a quilt!  I always loved quilts and was fascinated by the colors and the patterns. I worked with several quilters in writing the patterns.  Some of the patterns are from my Grandmother’s quilts and traditional patterns. Some patterns I designed on my own.  When I first started drawing I would doodle and fill in colors of patterns.

Fabric 2310-B
One of Diane’s former fabric lines – now sold out.

Nancy: Did you attend college and if so where and what degree(s) did you earn? When you finished school, what did you envision yourself doing for a living?

Diane: I did attend college!  I moved to California when I was 26 to go to College.  It was free to attend the Community colleges there.  I attended Diablo Valley College in Concord, California.  I wanted to take art but was encouraged to take engineering classes.  I took drafting and mechanical design.  I worked full time attending classes in the afternoon and evenings.  I worked drafting for Mare Island Shipyard. I did drawings of the Navy ships and submarines. I decided to go to San Jose State College.  I moved to San Jose, California and worked full-time for FMC Corporation doing welding drafting on the Military tanks!  I loved my time in California.  I never got my full degree.  I was in an auto accident and took time to recuperate.  I also married my husband, Mike.  He encouraged me to do my art full-time.  I worked at Amdahl Corporation before making the transition.  At Amdahl I was introduced to the beginning of CAD (computer aided design). After I married Mike we moved to Oregon. We wanted a house and some land. We lived on 17 beautiful wooded acres surrounded by woods. My studio was in the woods. I loved it!  We eventually opened a Diane Phalen Watercolors storefront in downtown Banks, Oregon. Sadly, my marriage to Mike ended after 22 years. I moved back to Pennsylvania to be closer to my parents and sisters.

Nancy: So you grew up in Amish country in PA? Was that part of the inspiration for your career goal?

Diane: I did grow up in Pennsylvania and love being close to Amish Country and seeing the dramatic seasons once again. I do some painting of my memories of California. I still paint Oregon too, especially the snow-capped mountains. I do miss the West!

Nancy: Thank you Diane for all the inspiration!

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Humble Beginnings

Humble Beginnings
Today I’m going to take you on a little journey behind the scenes. Let’s go all the way back to a quilt’s very humble beginnings, the cotton plant.
clip_image002Cotton plant

Now this is what I call a blank canvas. What do you see: quilts, a summer dress, soft towels, or hard working jeans?

clip_image004Cotton field in Suffolk, Virginia
Two innovations that helped create the growth of the cotton industry in the United States were the cotton gin and mechanical spinners. Once cotton was easy to clean and spin, it didn’t take long for it to become an affordable and universally worn fabric.
clip_image006Picked cotton waiting to be processed

This is where the magic really begins. The cotton gin separates the plant into two products, the seed and the fiber.

Cotton seed is high in protein and oil. It’s sent off to become a variety of products from mayonnaise to rubber. Did you know cottonseed oil is on the American Heart Association list of “good foods”?
clip_image008A cotton gin, Virginia
The fiber, now called lint, is bundled into large bales. One bale could make 1200 pillowcases!
clip_image010Cotton bale

Next it’s off to the textile mill where it’s pulled, combed, twisted, and eventually woven into fabric. You may have heard the term greige goods, pronounced like the color grey. That’s the plain cloth from the loom.

How It’s Made Fabrics by Ian Collier on Youtube
Finally, our favorite fabric companies dye and print lovely yards of fabric for us to pet, purchase, and turn into quilts.
That’s a lot of people involved in the making of your quilt!
Printed Fabric Production by Avlyn Fabrics on Youtube
Grab a trip souvenir while you’re here. carries a variety of fun kits!
19” Vintage Patchwork Snowman Kit DML-201 $15.50
This pattern and kit includes an antique beehive bobbin, complete instructions for making fringed snowman, mini quilt with template, fringed trees and fringed snowman pincushion.
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by:
DML – Down Memory Lane – Nancy Hughes
Vintage Spool Pincushion Kit DML-177 $11.00
Kit includes quilted time worn fabric, 4″ tall x 3″ diameter genuine antique yarn wrapped silk spool with wood core, one jumbo button for top of pincushion and complete easy instructions.
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by:
DML – Down Memory Lane – Nancy Hughes
Star Spin Kit ROG-1014K $26.99
Kit includes all fabrics (100% cotton) for quilt top, back, and binding. Also included are batting, quilting designs, precise patterns and complete illustrated instructions.
Finished Size: 22″ x 22″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by:
ROG – Rachel’s of Greenfield
Midnight Snowman Kit ROG-9205K $15.99
Kit includes foundation fabric, iron-on transfer pattern, ALL floss to complete the project (DMC cottons), and illustrated instructions.

Finished Size: 3″ x 4″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by:
ROG – Rachel’s of Greenfield

Always sew for fun!
Carol Steely, FunThreads Designs
Posted in Fabric, Helpful Tips, patterns, Trends, Video | 2 Comments

On Pins and Needles Part 2

On Pins and Needles Part 2


Choosing the right hand sewing needle can be overwhelming. Their odd names often don’t help point you in the right direction either. Ultimately, you want a needle
that feels comfortable in your hand, glides easily through your fabric, and has
an eye you can thread. Purchasing a variety pack is a good way to give several
different types and sizes a test run to see what best suits your needs.
Needle Sizes
Hand sewing needles get smaller as their size gets larger. This is opposite from
machine needles which get bigger as their size gets larger.  As you can see in this multi sized package of Sharps, size # 1 is the largest needle and size # 5 is the smallest.


Keeping a Eye on Things
Do you cringe at the thought of threading that teeny tiny eye? Well, have no fear.
I’m going to start with some of the needles that I seem to be needing lately…easy
Split Eye/Calyx Eye – A general purpose needle with a split on the outer edge of the eye for easy threading. In my experience, when this needle is pulled through multiple layers, the thread can pull out of the eye.
SENCH™ – These needles easily load from the side so you don’t have to worry about your thread slipping out of the eye. They come in three sizes for general sewing.

Photo used with permission from Pam Turner

Spiral Eye® – These needles also load from the side and come in a variety of sizes for all types of sewing. They are made from surgical stainless steel.


Photo used with permission from Pam Turner

Here’s a little break down of some of the more commonly used needles.
Ball Point/Jersey – Has a rounded point that slips between the threads on knits and stretchy fabrics.
Sharps  – An all purpose needle with a round eye. Great for appliqué.
Betweens – Same width as a Sharps but approximately ¼” shorter. Has a small round eye that easily moves through multiple layers of fabric. Usually the choice for hand quilting.
Embroidery/Crewel Same sizing as a Sharps but they have a larger eye to accommodate multiple strands of thread.
Needles Need a Nesting Place
Gah! Needles DON’T belong in your pincushion. They will sink into the center and get
lost. Needles are best kept in lovely little needle cases. You can find a
variety of cute patterns here on to make one for yourself or as
a quick gift for a friend.

Becky’s Needle Case with Pocket Pattern TKY-311 $4.00
Designed by: TKY – Turkey Track Designs – Kim Kamlet

Love to Stitch Collection Pattern IJ-949 $9.99
Finished Sizes:
Heart-Shaped Needle Case: 4 1/2″
Rectangular Needle Case: 4 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
Large Scissor Keeper: 9″
Small Scissor Keeper: 5 1/4″
Heart-Shaped Scissor Fob: 2″
Skill Level: Beginner
Pattern designed by Amy Barickman – Indygo Junction.
This delicate vintage inspired sewing collection would please any sewing enthusiast. Each pattern is quick & easy to sew for yourself or as gifts for your sewing friends. Personalize with a machine or hand embroidered initial and then mix & match fabrics in your favorite colors and patterns.

Heart Etui Needle case Pattern PCG-2102 $5.00

Finished Size: 5″ wide
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by:PCG-Prairie Cottage Corner-Kathie Donahue
Etui or needle holder pattern teaches freezer paper applqiue, quilting, layering and light embroidery. 

Mini Scissors and Needle Case Pattern RR-162 $9.00

Finished size: 8” x 4”
Designed by: RR-Reet’s Rags to Stitches – Rita Carl
Always sew for fun!
Carol Steely, FunThreads Designs



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Trucks, Trains and Rocket Ships – Quilts for Little Boys

Is there a special little boy in your life that needs a quilt?  In a family full of boys I am always looking for appropriate patterns for both big and little boys.  This week I found a few that will make cute quilts for the little boys in your life.  (Don’t worry, I am planning a post for little girls next month!)

My little guys love trucks and trains and tractors and bulldozers and pretty much anything that makes “big noise” as my grandson tells me.  Here are a few that you won’t be able to resist.

Just Trucks Quilt Pattern – SCN-2065


A colorful quilt for anyone that just loves trucks!
Features 12 trucks in all shapes and sizes. Purchase the border and background fabrics; use scraps from your stash for the trucks. Personalize with fun business names and slogans on the signs.
Use as a wall quilt as shown in the photo or stitch wider and/or additional borders for a larger finished size. Appliqued trucks on a pieced background. Suitable for hand, machine or fusible applique. Hand or machine quilt pattern.
Finished Size: 30″ x 34″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by: SCN – Spring Creek NeedleArt – Nancy Richoux.

I Love Semi Trucks Quilt Pattern   PAD-133


Does a child in your family like semi trucks? These big, bright trucks should put a smile on the face of any semi-lover. This fun quilt pattern is easy to sew and quick to finish.
Finished Size: 48″ x 55 1/2″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Pattern designed by Claudia Lash for Presto Avenue Designs.

Dump Truck Quilt Pattern     CQ-065


This bright and cheerful dump truck quilt pattern is for all those little ones who love to play in the dirt.
Finished Sizes:
Wall Hanging: 24″ x 28″
Crib: 36″ x 42″
Lap and Throw: 48″ x 56″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Pattern designed by Lisa Muilenburg – Counted Quilts.

Billsville Express Quilt Pattern     BAD-202


Hop on the Billsville Express and let your imagination take you anywhere! Here comes Overall Bill on the Billsville Express. All Aboard! This is an adorable applique quilt wall hanging pattern from Betty Alderman Designs. The perfect quilted wall hanging for the little train enthusiast. A super quilt pattern for a little boy or little girl.
Complete pattern directions and a stitch guide are included.
Finished Size: 32.5″ X 40″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Pattern designed by Betty Alderman Designs.

Train Quilt Pattern     CQ-068


Choo Choo, All aboard for dream land! Wrap your little one is this bright and friendly little Train quilt pattern as they travel to the land of dreams.
Finished Sizes:
Wall Hanging: 24″ x 28″
Crib: 36″ x 42″
Lap and Throw: 48″ x 56″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Pattern designed by Lisa Muilenburg – Counted Quilts

I love Trains Quilt Pattern     AV-132


This quilt pattern is for the train lover, young or old. The I Love Trains pattern gives you the opportunity to use up a lot of your colorful scraps.
This quilt pattern is compatible with the AccuQuilt GO! Fabric Cutter and contains optional instructions for its use.  Don’t have a GO!? Templates are included with the pattern.
Finished Size: 48″ x 59″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner

Pattern designed by Alison Vandertang

Rocketman Quilt Pattern     BHQ-104


Space-themed growth chart. Quilt pattern contains templates reversed for fusible applique.
Finished Size: Approximately 18″ x 36″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by: BHQ – Bear Hug Quiltworks – Lisa Alley.

Outer Space Adventure Quilt Pattern     LYTM-101


A rocket blasts off and makes its way through deep blue space, past stars and colorful planets. Applique astronauts and aliens alternate with patchwork “star” blocks to create a whimsical border. This quilt pattern is perfect for any little astronaut!
Finished Size: 44″ x 55″
Skill Level: Intermediate
Designed by: LYTM – LYTM Designs – Janice Holden.

Rocket Man Quilt Pattern     FCP-019


Send your little astronaut’s imagination off into space! This quilt pattern is designed with fusible machine applique in mind. Full sized templates are included.
Finished Size: 60″ x 60″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Assumes the quilter already has a good working knowledge of quilting and applique skills.

Pattern designed by Sindy Rodenmayer – FatCat Patterns.

Next time you need to find just the right pattern for your little man, perhaps one of these great designs will work.  All — and many more — are available on

Happy Quilting

Reeze L. Hanson, Morning Glory Designs

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On Pins and Needles Part 1

On Pins and Needles Part 1

Are you “on pins and needles” when it comes to, well, pins and needles? Do you give them any thought at all? They’re our smallest tool but have the most important
job. Without pins holding our fabrics in place, we’d have a terrible time creating our lovely projects.

left to right: metal, pearl, glow in the dark,
plastic ball, no-melt flat, glass, quilting
When we head to the store to purchase pins the first thing we’re often drawn to is
the wonderful colors and fun shapes. But to find the correct pin for the task, you’ll
need to consider the pin’s anatomy and the project you’re working on.
Anatomy of the pin

Head should be picked based on the sewing task.

  • Metal Flat Head: Small solid metal pin. Great
    for handwork and pinning appliqué pieces.
  • Plastic Ball: Colored ball, pearl, and glow
    in the dark. Sized for many different purposes. Plastic ball may melt if
    pressed with high heat.
  • No-Melt Plastic Flat Head: Extra long, fine
    pin with a flat head for eyelet, lace, lofty and loose woven fabrics.
  • Glass Ball: Thinner, sharper pin with a glass
    head that won’t melt.
  • Quilting: Longer pin for holding thick layers.

Shaft diameter should not leave large holes in your fabrics.

  • .5mm – fine to lightweight fabrics
  • .6mm – medium-weight fabrics
  • .7mm to .8mm – medium to heavy fabrics
Shaft length should provide ease of handing for your project.
            Short: 1/2” – 7/8” for detailed handwork and close pinning on appliqué and trims
            Medium: 1 1/16” – 1 5/16” for multipurpose work
            Long: 1 1/2” – 2” for quilting and thick layers
Point should glide easily through the fabric without snagging the threads.
            Sharp for most woven fabrics.
            Ball Point is slightly rounded for knits.
Proper Way to Pin
Oops, I could have “heard a pin drop” after that headline. How to pin will often
trigger a debate much like “to wash or not to wash” fabric.
In class, I teach pinning parallel in the seam allowance when cutting a pattern.
Pins will be close to the cutting line, but you won’t accidentally hit them and
ruin your expensive scissors.


Pinning perpendicular for machine sewing works best. The fabric lays nicer, the pin can
be placed right where it’s needed, you can sew right up to the pin before removing it, pins are easy to see and pull out, and if you accidentally miss a pin chances are it will clear the machine needle.
If you were to pin parallel for machine sewing you wouldn’t be able to sew close
enough to the pinned seams before removing the pin. This would leave too much
of a chance that the seams will shift before being sewn.
Pinning perpendicular for hand sewing allows the fabric to gather nicely in your hand.
The pins fall gently into the folds of the fabric with less chance of stabbing you.


“To the Point”
  • Always toss out dull or bent pins.
  • Never sew over pins.
  • Don’t leave a pin in the fabric for long periods of time. This will create permanent holes.
Pin Worthy Fun

Until we meet again, I’ll leave you with a bit of fun. I think you’ll be amazed at how graphic designer Christophe Thockler used his pins and thread for this VIDEO!

Favorite Place by Black Books

  Always sew for fun!
Carol Steely, FunThreads Designs
Posted in Helpful Tips, Helpful Tools, Notions, Techniques | 5 Comments

Baby Quilts

Love is a newborn baby!

It’s no surprise that quilters love to make baby quilts. More and more of us are or are becoming grandmothers! And once the grands all have their first quilt the older kids are demanding a new one. I think that is why the median age for quilters is 64! We are in the business of making quilts for our children, grandchildren, and often the children of friends, neighbors. . . . well you get the picture.

It might be a hard task but there are just so many cute patterns that are hard to resist that some quilters make them to have on hand “just in case” a baby comes along in need of a quilt.

Here are a few ideas to get you started thinking about baby quilts.  Applique, cute, traditional, modern, artsy — there is something to thrill any new mother here.

Turtle Tots Quilt – SWD508


The Turtle Tots quilt pattern features 10.5″ turtle blocks, which are used to make a cute children’s or baby quilt.
Finished Sizes:
Turtle Tots: 40.5″ x 50.5″
Art Quilt Scape: 19″ x 47″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by: SWD – Southwind Designs – Annette Ornelas.

And what could be cuter than this spring themed bunny quilt with the pinwheel border?  This would be a perfect way to welcome a springtime arrival.

Spring Baby Quilt – QA 115


Fat quarter friendly, fusible web applique and lots of fun to make, this little quilt pattern is suited to a nursery wall hanging or crib quilt. The fabric used in the cover photo is “Bunny Tales”, a Feedbag reproduction line by Darlene Zimmerman, along with pastel Kona solids. Both lines are by Robert Kaufman Fabrics.
Finished Size: 50″ x 58″
Skill Level: Intermediate
Designed by: QA – Quilting Affection – Tina & Diana Dillard.

Shelby’s Woobie Quilt Pattern – BHQ107


Fat-quarter friendly baby quilt pattern. Full-sized alphabet, numbers and other characters are included in the quilt pattern, reversed for fusible applique.
Finished Size: Approximately 36″ x 42″
Skill Level: Just Learning
Designed by: BHQ – Bear Hug Quiltworks – Lisa Alley.

Animal Crackers Quilt Pattern  – BHQ117


Easy piecing and applique for a baby quilt, perfect for a gift. Quilt pattern includes full-sized applique templates including alphabet, numbers and other characters that are reversed for fusible applique.
Finished Size: Approximately 40″ x 40″
Skill Level: Just Learning
Designed by: BHQ – Bear Hug Quiltworks – Lisa Alley.

Abby’s Elephant Party – RCQ588


Come join the party with Abby and her elephants. Momma elephant quilt pattern measures 77″ x 90″. Baby elephant quilt pattern finishes 48″ x 56″. Each quilt pattern uses fusible web applique for the elephant images. There are two sizes of templates, momma and baby. Both are actual size. This quilt pattern is named after a brave little girl named Abby (7 years old) who has had heart problems since birth. Her favorite animal is an elephant.
Finished Sizes:
Baby Throw: 48″ x 56″
Twin: 77″ x 90″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by: RCQ – Ribbon Candy Quilt Company – Margie Ullery.

Hopscotch Maze Quilt Pattern SEQ-103


This is a quick and easy “no fail” quilt pattern for a beginner, that is the perfect size for a baby quilt or a play mat. A charm pack and solid yardage is all you need.
Finished Size: 39″ x 39″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Designed by: SEQ – Jackie Berdych – Sew Excited Quilts.

Sweet Dreams Quilt Pattern – CTG-029


Easy quilt pattern for the beginner. Easy four patch blocks and star & moon blocks to delight any baby and mother.
Finished Size: 48″ x 60″
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner
Desgined by: CTG – Cottage Quilt Designs – Rochelle Martin.

For dozens of other great pattern ideas check out “Baby Quilts“.  I know I will be shopping — and sewing — for babies this spring, with a new grandbaby girl on the way this March!!

Reeze L. Hanson,  Morning Glory Designs

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Iron Out the Details

Iron Out the Details


I’ve gained a new appreciation for irons after picking up a few for my mantel. Did you know that thousand year old paintings have documented the Chinese using metal pans filled with hot coals to smooth and prepare silk?

Irons got their name because they were mainly made from the metal iron. Flat Irons or Sad Irons were heavy, simple shapes often weighing 5 – 9 pounds. They were hot to handle, had to be reheated often, and collected soot from the fireplace.  Although using these irons was difficult at best, the name Sad Iron comes from Old English meaning heavy not because of the way they made women feel.


The 1800’s saw new innovations in an effort to improve on the Sad Iron’s flaws. Box Irons came with slugs that could be heated in the fire then inserted inside the iron and Self-heating irons could be filled with coal. Self heating irons are still being produced and used in many countries today.


In 1871, a then 19 year old Mrs. Potts patented the Cold Handle Sad Iron. The simple idea of a removable handle revolutionized the iron industry.


In 1882, Henry Seeley patented the first electric iron. Since most households lacked electricity, these were far from a “hot” item at the time.

By the late 1800’s, irons were being fueled by kerosene, ethanol (alcohol), and natural gas. If that description doesn’t scare you, take a look at the photo below. Yipes!!


Rest for the Weary

All that hard work made the arms tired, and hot irons needed a place to rest. Trivets were originally hand wrought by blacksmiths and later mass produced by casting. They were both functional and decorative.


Photo used with permission from  Carole Meeker,

I’m Feeling “Sew” HOT, HOT, HOT

Today the “hot topic” is traveling with our irons. Our biggest worry is how to get that iron to and from classes and retreats. Why not whip up a handy combination hot iron carrier and ironing mat to impress your friends.

Finished Size: 20” x 28” laying flat (fits all standard and small irons)
Skill Level: Intermediate
Pattern Designed by: Nancy Dill

If you need something more compact, the bootie style hot iron covers might just what you’re looking for.

Hot Iron Holder Pattern KB-16

Pattern Designed by: Kay Buffington

Don’t forget about your hot curling iron!

Finished size: 15” x 7”
Designed by: Kay Buffington

If you want to be the “hottest” guest at the party, make the hostess a handy set of hot pads. They’re a great place to showcase your piecing. Set includes double ended mitts that become a trivet at the table, 8” square and circular hot mitts, and a hot pot handle cover.

Finished Sizes: 
Double-Ended Mitt: 7.75″ x 29″
Pot Handle Cover: 3.5″ x 6.5″
Square Mitt: 8″ Square
Circle Mitt: 8″ Diameter
Skill Level: Advanced Beginner 
Designed by: IJ – Indygo Junction – Amy Barickman

Pressing Spot and Iron Tote

iron cover

Price: $10.00
Product ID : HHQ-7313
Designer: HHQ – Hedgehog Quilts – Terry Albers
Always sew for fun!
Carol Steely, FunThreads Designs
Posted in Helpful Tips, Helpful Tools, Notions, patterns | 4 Comments

Sewing for Tweens with Fat Quarters!

Are you looking to bring new customers into your shop?  Have you considered the Tween sewist?

As a sewing instructor, my students, girls aged 9 – 13  would ask me – “Ms. Ellen, why can’t we find patterns to sew clothes like the ones you teach us?”  I looked around and they were right – there are not many patterns with the simple, clean lines that they want.  My students love how sewing lets them express their own creativity and style.

The new Sewing Guidance for Young Ladies Pattern Series is designed just for Tweens.  They are fun, modern and uncomplicated with lots of illustrations.  Most patterns have only 2 -3 pieces and they stitch up fast.  Girls draft their own pattern pieces based on just a couple of key body measurements.  This means a great, customized fit every time.  All of our patterns are kid tested!  There are a variety of skill levels ranging from absolute beginner to intermediate.  Here are three of my designs.


In 2016, we will include more tops, skirts, pants and shorts along with the hugely popular zakka items for accessories and bedroom like totes, scarves, pillows and of course, quilts with Tween-style.  Parents are happy to spend money on a productive pastime that builds a lifelong skill.

The New Year is a time for re-imagining.  What about including a few amazing Sewing Guidance Tween workshops in your shop’s class offerings? Create a customer that will come back to you for many years!

See all of Ellen’s patterns and products HERE on

Ellen Brown

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Pincushion Ponderings

Pincushion Pondering

Photo used with permission from Carol Steely

Pincushions. What is it about them that seem to draw us in? We use them, display them, make them, swap them, and collect them. Do you ever wonder “why a tomato”?

Mello Mushroom Pincushion Pattern AK-164 $6.50
Designed by: AK-Annie’s Keepsakes-Vicki Clontz

 Pincushions have been referenced as far back as the middle ages. The predecessor of today’s pincushion went by strange names like pimpilowes, pyn-pillows, and pin-poppets.  They were made from fine fabrics and often decorated with delicate hand embroidery.

Grandma’s Silver Spoon Pincushion Pattern
DML-182 $12.00
Designed by: DML-Down Memory Lane-Nancy Hughes
Prior to 1835, pins were handmade and very expensive. Husbands would designate a line in the family budget for their wives called “pin money”. This was an allowance
she would use to purchase pins, cloth, and other personal items. As you can
imagine, the pincushion was not only a utilitarian place to store pins but also
a place to put ones pins on display.
In December of 1835, Dr. Robert Howe invented a pin making machine. In no time, the Howe Manufacturing Company was turning out about 70,000 pins a day. Once pins were massed produced pincushions became a commonly purchased trinket and popular sewing necessity.

Ready Pincushion Pattern IJ-856 $8.99
Designed by: Amy Barickman-Indigo Junction

But how does the ever popular tomato pincushion fit into this story?
During the Victorian Era, placing a tomato on the mantel of a new house would repel evil and bring prosperity. Of course, tomatoes weren’t always in season and didn’t last very long.  Being clever and resourceful, ladies would make their own out of cloth. Eventually this powerful mantle trinket became the perfect place to show off their lovely little pins.

Tomato Pincushion Pattern AK-172 $6.50

Designed by: AK-Annie’s Keepsakes-Vicki Clontz

I know you’re thinking, “so how does its companion strawberry play into all this?”
Well, the nickel coating on early mass-produced pins would flake off causing the pins to rust. Creative tailors and seamstresses would use a bag of emery grit to clean their pins. Today we have a cute little strawberry attached to our tomato pincushion that serves that same purpose.

Why not browse the fun pincushion patterns here at and start your own collection or swap party today.
Always sew for fun!
Carol Steely, FunThreads Designs


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