Birdsong Bows

Monday, October 7, 2013

Writing a craft book

My 12-year-old already has a list of places she wants to go during her life, as well as a few goals she hopes to achieve. I don't know how young I was when I mentally started my own "bucket list," but I remember thinking seriously about goals when I was a teenager.

Knit a sweater. Check. Easy, but I didn't learn how to knit until I was almost 30 - despite (oddly) adding this goal to my list when I was 16 or 17. Travel around the world. Uh...not yet; still awaiting that rich benefactor. Win a Pulitzer for newspaper reporting. Sadly, no. I had to let that one go when I left the newspaper world.

Land a book contract.

Not an easy feat...but finally....yes!

For the past several months I've been writing my first craft book, "50 Ribbon Bows and Rosettes to Make", which will be published in summer 2014 by St. Martin's Griffin Press (in the U.S.) and Search Press (in the U.K.).

It's a consuming process that involves a lot of planning, a lot of organization, and...yes, quite a bit of time! My weekly schedule is packed with the list of projects for which I'll need to design and write/photograph step-by-step instructions. The photographs will be turned into beautiful illustrations by the publisher's illustrator. Additionally, I have to budget time to make beautiful samples of each bow, headband, or flower.

In other words - it's the Big Project. Thankfully I like Big Projects, because I enjoy breaking them down into their smaller, logical parts. That's the nerd in me. Writing a craft book reminds me of sewing a large quilt...choosing the design, deciding on the color scheme, selecting the fabrics...then sewing the blocks and turning them into rows. And after much work - they become a quilt top. Thankfully, the editors I've been working with are excellent and also make the job easier.

The writing should be complete shortly after the holidays and then it's onto editing...proofing....and waiting for those first copies to show up on store shelves.

And hopefully starting again. We'll see. It's not an easy accomplishment to land Book 1, and I know it's also a challenge to land Book 2. But my bucket list must grow as I grow, right?

What's on your bucket list?

Labels: ,

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Giveaway: Enter to win a Craftsy Class!

My name is Deanna, and I'm a Craftsy addict.

Maybe they noticed.

Craftsy contacted me to participate in a giveaway contest so you and I can have the chance to win one of their courses! But this isn't about me - it's about you, and how I really want one of my followers to win. Because these craft classes are fabulous and will change your crafting and sewing life. It's like learning one-on-one in your own home. The classes never expire and you can watch at your own pace, even at 2 a.m. in your jammies.

The first class I completed was Christine Haynes' Sassy Librarian Blouse. I loved the pintucking and bow details!

I also finished Jane Dunnewold's The Art of Cloth Dyeing. I had wanted to dye fabric for about 10 years before taking the plunge, using her class as my launching pad. The bodice and leggings for my sample for the Not-So-Basic Tee pattern were dyed using her methods.

In addition to offering craft classes, workshops, hosting pattern shops for designers like Birdsong, and selling fabric and other supplies, Craftsy has also developed a fabulous new YouTube series with some quick classes you can try for free.

So, how do you win one of Crafty's classes?

It's simple - enter the giveaway through the special Birdsong Craftsy Giveaway link ( until Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. U.S. Eastern time. This link will take you to a page where you can sign up for Craftsy. If you're already a member, you can use your existing login to enter. If you have trouble, use Firefox's browser.

For full disclosure, Craftsy has partnered with a few bloggers (including me) for this contest, and whichever blogger gains the most entries will win a free class of her/his own. But more importantly, they have 5 free classes to give away among all the bloggers' entrants who enter, and you'll be notified through my blog if you've won!

Good luck! Remember to enter through the Birdsong Craftsy Giveaway link by August 14!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Free Tutorial: Gathering fabric using clear elastic

I enjoy sewing with woven fabrics for a variety of projects, but love knits for kids' clothing because they're so comfortable. I particularly enjoy Ottobre magazine for their multitude of easy-to-wear but still funky patterns for kids. I decided to pair their Lucky Cat pattern in the Spring 1/2013 issue with some Birdsong Comfy-Fit Leggings. The Ottobres can be a little intimidating at first - lots of pattern pieces per page, no seam allowances, and to-the-point instructions. But the fit is great on most designs and, oh, the eye candy in each issue!

Key to sewing up this design is the use of clear elastic to gather the fabric at the empire waist, to gather the sleeve caps and sleeves, and to gather the bottom before the addition of the hem band. Clear elastic works great for gathering, and it's a tool you'll want to use...there are a few tips that you won't learn from Ottobre.

First, measure the section to which you're attaching your gathered fabric - not the fabric you're going to gather. Stretch your clear elastic (I buy mine here) a few times to loosen it up, and cut it 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) longer than what you've measured. Using a Sharpie, make three marks on the elastic - about an inch from one edge, then from that mark to the measurement you're trying to achieve, and then in the middle (which you will figure out by folding it in half, meeting the two marks you've drawn, and marking the half-way point). What you don't want to do is cut the elastic to the exact size to begin with - you want an inch or so on each end so you have something to hold onto.

(I should know - I muttered a few expletives when I tried to gather the sleeve caps on this pattern without cutting the elastic longer than recommended, and marking as suggested above.)

Now mark the middle of the piece of fabric you want to gather (not the piece you just measured! Set it aside for now), and place a pin or a snip there (below).

Line up your elastic with the first mark on the edge of the fabric to be gathered, on the right side of your fabric. Don't worry; this is in the seam allowance and you won't see it later. Take a couple of basting stitches on your sewing machine. Now continue to baste - stretching the clear elastic, not the fabric - until the middle marks on the elastic meets the middle mark you've pinned in your fabric. Once you make it to the middle, keep stretching the elastic until you get to the mark at the end. If you have a larger piece of fabric, you may consider making marks at the quarter points.

You'll see the fabric start to gather as you baste. Once you reach the end, the fabric should be gathered to the width of the piece to which you're attaching it:

In the sections about sewing the sleeves, the instructions will tell you to gather the sleeve cap to 8 cm (about 3 1/8 inches) from notch to notch - this is where you'll definitely want to cut your elastic about 14 cm (5 1/2 inches) so you have room to maneuver your fingers to keep the stretch. Be sure to mark the 8 cm/ 3 1/8" on the elastic so you know where to start and stop, though.

That's all there is to it! Of course you can always gather using gathering stitches, but clear elastic is an easy, professional way to go and is quite quick once you get the hang of it. :) An aside - in the photo below I'd like to say my daughter is jumping for joy because of the ease of using clear elastic to gather, but it's because she saw a cement truck drive down the street - a neighbor is getting a new driveway - and she declared that "Spinny trucks are my favorite!" Oh, the days when we were so easily amused, right?

I loved the fabrics for this pattern, by the way. The main print in the top is Lillestoff Scandifruit (for those who don't mind splurging on great knits...I sized up on this top so she can wear it next spring/summer mainly because of price). The accent fabrics and legging fabrics are from Eurogirls Boutique. And the hair flower is the felt version of the Camellia flower pattern.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 8, 2013

New pattern - The Lakeshore Halter!

Just as summer in the U.S. gets its hottest - a new summery outfit to sew! The Lakeshore Halter Dress comes in sizes 2T-8 and is designed for knit fabrics:

The testers came up with so many different fabric combinations, and some also added other embellishments. This one is from Lil Bubs Couture - Luong added some lace and trim to the bodice (not included in the pattern):


And here's a back view of the dress from Kelly, in a a great nautical print:

Nichole's sweet girl from Bluebird & the Boy shows how cute this dress looks when twirling:

And Kimberly's daughter looks so cute in this retro poodle skirt version (applique is not included in the pattern)!

I really enjoyed the entire tester team of 14 great sewists!! And I can't wait until the next pattern and the next round of testing. It's so fun to see what everyone creates. :)

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Mama Guilt

First, let me say that I love summer! I wish I lived in a climate where spring came sooner and fall didn't get cold until at least November. I also love the slower pace of activities - no having to drop everything before 3 to pick the kids up from school and no harping about homework!

And I know that childhood is fleeting, and I want to spend as much time nurturing my children as possible.

But, I'm a WAHM mom with a business, and it's hard to find that work-childcare balance. Earlier this month I was awarded a book contract (yay! More on that in posts later this year); I have patterns in the pipeline for the back-to-school season, and I'm helping to organize a sewing program for kids at a great local quilt shop, where I'll teach in the fall.

So having time to work, play with the kids, make dinner, do daily chores, grocery shop, and spend time with hubby were starting to stress me out by week 2.

I began getting up before 6 to get an hour of work done before I allowed the kids to come down and eat at 7. I work until noon, make lunch, and then do a daily activity with the kids until it's time to make dinner. Frankly, by the weekend, I want to hide in my sewing room to work on personal projects, but usually I won't. I plan another family activity so we can get the most out of summer. And Sunday is church. And other family chores. And I feel like I never have a moment alone and always need more time to work.


Mornings are still riddled with "Mommy! I need this" and "Mom, I'm bored...."; "Mommy, can you find my such-and-such?" And my repeated reminders: "I'm sorry, Mommy needs to work in the mornings." And: "Can you please stop asking me for things? I'll play with you later" (and I do!) and: "You don't need to stop and chat every time you walk by the room!" (I do not have an office door).

Ugh. I know I'm not alone.

Then I remembered my summers as a kid. My brother is 8 years younger than I, so I didn't have anyone to play with during my youngest years. My mom did things with me sometimes, and we took an annual family vacation and occasional trips to the zoo, museum or amusement part, but usually I was on my own. I was to play outside when it was nice, and was not allowed to say "I'm bored." I wasn't allowed to pop in and out of the house - going outside meant staying there until it was time for lunch or dinner. Of course I was bored sometimes (even though I tried to remember not to say it out loud)! But it really did mold me into a person who's rarely ever bored as an adult. I developed artistic interests, read, wrote, crafted. I didn't go to activity-fill summer camps or have access to a pool. Yet I still loved summer.

To be fair, our one daughter has never been very good about playing alone...I think this trained me to feel like I always needed to entertain her. She has AD/HD and is a high-maintenance child. This is the not-so-secret family secret that I hate talking about, but her peers and teachers and most folks know (she even talks about it openly when she's not being defiant and pretending it's not so). And I know I'm not the only one who deals with the fallout from other issues associated with this medical condition. It's just our life, and I adapted by being Mrs. Activity Coordinator to try to prevent behavioral problems. And when friends would visit, I'd even come up with a craft for them to do to keep them busy. Even now, a morning outside means coming in every 10-15 minutes despite repeated requests to stay outside or find something else to do...and ideas about doing a big project that inevitably includes asking for my involvement.

Our other daughter has always entertained herself. When I started my bow business in 2006, she was just a few months old, sitting on the floor, playing, as I worked next to her. Yet I feel guilty leaving her to own devices! Back to playing Mrs. Activity Coordinator....because, I'm thinking: Am I a bad Mommy if I leave her alone and let her play? Am I ignoring her?

So, I took to my Facebook biz page. Was I a bad mom if I no longer wanted to schedule an activity with them nearly every afternoon - whether it be as simple as head to the local park, or hang out by the neighborhood pool? Was I really being a "Good Mom" by continuing to coordinate daily activities?

A teacher provided one of the best words of wisdom. She wrote, "(Kids) need to be truly bored to look inside and find their interests. That's what's so great about summer. The school year is too busy to give them time to learn who they are and where their talents may lie."


Maybe it's time to remove the guilt, do something special with the kids once or twice a week, and not feel like a "bad mom" if I also need to work in the afternoon on other days, or if I need the afternoon to do household chores. Or even if (gasp)...I simply need an hour to myself.

Maybe I'm not a bad mom if I let them be bored.

So, I'm working on this. I caught my youngest practicing her bicycling skills and my oldest sweeping the driveway today. Maybe some boredom will also lead to random and exciting acts of chore duty as well! Wish me guilty conscience will need it.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

New pattern in the works: The Lakeshore Halter Dress

So I've been a bit absent lately but I've had a good excuse - it's not one I'm able to share quite yet, but it's an exciting new venture for me and I'll share when I'm able. But in addition to that, I've also been hard at work on my next pattern, designed for knit fabrics: The Lakeshore Halter Dress.

This pattern will be available in size 2T-8 within the next couple of weeks. A great team of testers will be getting the pattern within a few days. I can't wait to see what fabrics they choose for it! This dress is best made with lighter jersey knits (7-10 oz); knits that maybe aren't as suitable for tees or other applications - you know the ones...the ones you expected to be a little more substantial when you ordered them but then found out they were a bit light!  But since the front bodice is lined and the dress needs to be light and drapey, it's perfect for those lighter fabrics.

In the meantime, for those of us in the U.S.....bring on summer!!

Labels: ,

Monday, May 6, 2013

Giveaway with Sew, Mama, Sew!

The website Sew, Mama, Sew is having a fantastic giveaway this week! And I'm giving a $30 gift certificate to my shop! The winner can choose from any of the patterns from the Birdsong Etsy shop.

You've known Birdsong for the past three years as a specialist in ribbon and fabric flower accessories. But Birdsong also has other accessories patterns, such as this tote pattern that can be used for many purposes, including for storing Barbie dolls and their clothes!:

And I've just released the first two new Birdsong children's clothing patterns: The Not-So-Basic Tee (with ruffle options) and the Comfy-Fit Leggings pattern, featuring full-length, capri and shorts lengths - along with tutorials on how to make boutique ruffles. Check them out in my Clothing PDF category in my Etsy shop! Fearing knits? No worries! These patterns include informational guides with step-by-step photographs on how to sew with knits.


To enter,  leave a comment and tell me which patterns from the Birdsong shop (or the upcoming new clothing patterns!)  you would like to sew or craft! Leave me a way to contact you in your comment by 5 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time on Friday, May 10. I'll choose the winners on May 12 through and contact you if you've won! Because these are downloadable patterns, this giveaway is open worldwide.

If you can't wait to purchase before the giveaway is over - no worries! I'll refund your purchase up to $30.

Make sure you enter the other fantastic giveaways through Sew, Mama Sew while you're at it!
In the meantime, I'd love to see you over on the Birdsong Facebook page, Good luck!