Cutlery for Apparel Sewing

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Last week, when I shared some tool tips for beginners, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about the arsenal of cutlery I’ve acquired over the years for various stages of the sewing process. I found that when it comes to the world of scissors, there is something that fits nearly every circumstance. There’s a lot of choices, which is great! Yay for choice!

You might be asking, “Why do I need more than one pair of scissors?” It’s a valid question and one that I asked too. As I’ve sewn more and more garments over the years, I’ve found the value of having lots of different types of scissors that work better than others do in different stages of the construction process. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure, but I’ve cut holes into garments from using the wrong scissors. It’s a cold compress moment. Tears are usually shed. Expletives start flying. It’s not pretty.

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Let’s start with the old standbys. My fabric cutting shears. I have three pairs of these. I have a pair of Kai’s that are great for most everything. They could slice through steel I tell ya! I also have a pair of spring-loaded Gingher’s that I use only on silk fabrics. I end up working a lot with wool and a lot with silk and I’ve found that wool actually dulls my shears a little, so I opted to invest in a pair that was only for silks and/or thin fabrics like lining so that I wouldn’t have to get them sharpened as often. I also have a pair of Gingher serrated shears that are marvelous for those extra, extra tricksy slippery fabrics. The knife edge has tiny micro serrations in it and they grip the fabric and then slice and they are ideal for silk charmeuse or chiffon.

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My next most used pairs of scissors are my nippers. They are a Gingher pair, but I’ve used others with success too. I use nippers for cutting threads and they stay right next to my sewing machine while I sew. I have tried to get used to the thread cutter on my machine, but I like the ritual of using my nippers. It’s a funny little preference as I do love speed, but it’s something I do.

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My tailor points come next (on the right above). These are a little 5 inch pair of Gingher scissors that I use all the time for clipping, trimming and grading. They are probably my favorite pair, I use them so much! The short length helps protect against the dreaded slice into the garment. Mainely Dad also recommends bandage scissors that help protect against that sort of thing even more! I’ve yet to try a pair, but my mister also agrees with as he’s worked in a hospital using these. Look, these ones are serrated! I use these Gingher Applique Scissors (on the left above) for narrow hems, like say on a circle skirt. Surprisingly that’s about the only thing I use these for, but I do find them very useful in that instance. They are handy to have around when you need to get nice and close to an edge.

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Last, but not least, I do have a pair of Gingher pinkers. I’ve seen these used as a seam finish, but I use them for trimming curved seams. You know how you’re supposed to notch or clip curved seams so they lay right? I use pinkers instead and trim the seam to about 1/4″. Granted this is only on enclosed seams, but they are very useful for this purpose.

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Back a few years ago, I made a little peg board especially for my shears (and then from there I added other items to it too). It’s very handy as all my scissors are hanging up and out of the way and they are easy to access when I need them. Took an old picture frame from a thrift shop and had some peg board precut to the right dimensions and voila – instant scissor hanger!

There’s my arsenal of scissors. I don’t use much in the way of a rotary cutter – though I have two for odd jobs. I’m a shears and scissors lover. What about you? Are there special scissors that really help you? Or do you use a rotary cutter? Thoughts on the best ones you’ve tried? We’d all love to know!

Custom Sewing – Strikes Dread into the Hearts of Many

Good grief. It all started with the word yes. Yes to a custom sewing job for a coworker. Now, I’m not saying that I dislike this coworker (quite the contrary) or that this project wasn’t a worthy one (it was a good challenge). I’m saying it’s me, not you and I’m so rotten when it comes to doling out my time for custom sewing. Man, I’m so bad.

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It’s a classic story. One that involves a mother-of-the-groom, a bride with a very specific color scheme and no getting out of a full-on peach dress. Add in the drama that not a lot of options come in this color as far as evening wear is concerned and we have a recipe for custom sewing. Ah yes. I’ve heard this story before – a lot. Especially when I owned a fabric shop. There are days when I think it would be marvelous to start a business based around this very problem – oh and the fact that older women get the shaft when it comes to clothing (apparently the media and society think we’re all dead or should be after age 40).

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This coworker asked me to do this dress and I do think it turned out pretty nice. She’s petite and she can definitely pull off this cute style – looks totally her! But I was strapped for time (my own fault) and this dress was cranked out over my Halloween weekend and it would be nice if I allowed myself time off when I have time off (again, my own damn fault – no fault of anyone else’s which is even worse!). Then again, it would be nice if my mouth could utter the word “no” with such sly cleverness that it felt like I was saying “yes” to the person I was talking to. Alas, such is the plight of the girl who just can’t say “no.”

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There were things that made it worse too. After I said yes, I also said yes to chiffon, which is the overlay to the skirt portion of the dress. OK, actually I mentioned that the chiffon would be nice for texture (just call me dumb). Ugh. You know what I’m talking about. You know. If you’re thinking this dress and jacket look like a one trick pony, think again – it’s all polyester, which if I do say so myself, can be a bear to press. And I’ve never actually sewn a bolero jacket, which though not hard, is making me question a few of my construction choices right now.

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It reminded me that when you sew, you do a lot of work. If you’re sewing for yourself right now, you’re probably forgetting that:

  • You had to select a style, which involved getting a pattern from somewhere
  • You had to select the fabric, which involved getting the fabric from somewhere
  • You needed notions for your project – thread, zipper, buttons, interfacing, again, all those coming from somewhere
  • You probably did a muslin/test garment to see where the fitting problems were
  • Then you had to fix your pattern, do fitting adjustments
  • Somewhere in here, you probably pre-treated your fabric
  • Next was cutting – which can be a two hour ordeal depending on the project
  • Construction takes a good long time, especially when you have to figure out how your going to line this or that and all of this requires forethought, experience and sometimes pattern manipulation and making new pattern pieces
  • Remember why you bought that serger? Not just to look pretty, that’s for sure, to say nothing of the investment of both a serger and a decent sewing machine. PS ~ serger threads aren’t cheap
  • Let’s not forget pressing with a decent iron as we go
  • Oh and pressing tools. Oh my! Let’s see, tailor’s ham, seam roll, clapper, sleeve board, tailor board were all used in the making of this garment
  • Fitting as you sew – I know it’s weird but the muslin doesn’t fix everything!

Seems like an awful lot to me. I mean, when the project is for me, I LOVE it and it’s so satisfying. And even when it’s for loved ones – and I picked the pattern and fabric because well, I’m picky – then I love that too. But this was different. I’m glad this turned out well, I was paid and I’m so happy she liked it (yay!) but I have to admit, it’s hard to dole out my time for this. I think my own personal frustration is that I completely forgot how much time it takes to sew this type of project, especially when you’re keeping track of all the hours and I never do that when I sew for myself. Additionally, I have a hard time sewing items that don’t have a likelihood of being worn more than once, twice or even a dozen times. I’m kind of hard core about constructing clothes you can wear in the everyday – it’s like my daily mantra. There’s also the worry that the customer won’t end up liking the end result, even though they picked everything and you just made it up for them. Or even the fitting – I mean after the muslin I try on as I go and pin out here and there and I don’t have the luxury of doing that when it’s custom. Gosh, so much anxiety here! Just call me a ball of nerves.

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I think the word no will start coming a lot easier and that part where I tell everyone I sew will start getting a lot quieter. What about you? Do you like custom sewing? How do you stomach it? How do you say no? I know there are lots of sewing enthusiasts out there who love custom. Are you one of them? Why do you like it?

Credits: Duchess Satin, Chiffon & Stretch Lining; BurdaStyle 7798 for the dress and Vogue 8957 for the jacket.

Fitting Thoughts on McCall’s 6649

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Since I got you all excited about creating your own patterns – from a pattern that already fits you – in my last post, I thought I would give you some fitting thoughts of what I went through with my versions of McCall’s 6649. I posted an update about the Craftsy class with Sarah Holden in my last post, but I thought I would state it again. This particular class does not offer any help whatsoever for fitting. It focuses on pattern drafting from a pattern that fits you. The fitting process is a whole class unto itself, so that was not covered in a class like this (but see below for more info on my fitting references). Often times fitting, for me, is a really rotten and time consuming process (isn’t it for everyone?). One thing I really really don’t enjoy is that I tend to start second guessing myself at the end of it all. Do I really like the fit of this? Maybe I should make a few more tweaks? Shouldn’t it be more fitted? Hmmm, the sleeve might be an 1/8″ too long? An 1/8″? Isn’t that a little nuts? Are we actually trying to split hairs here? AHHHHH! This process is called overfitting and it happens, I think, to all of us (well I hope it does or I am a bona fide nut job). I usually have to step back from something like this and then come back to it a few days or weeks later.

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With McCall’s 6649, I made an initial muslin. From there I created this flannel shirt that I blogged back in August of last year. That was my first rendition. The sleeves were too short, the collar was too tall and flopped about too much (for my taste). The shoulders needed a forward shoulder adjustment, the sleeve cuff was too big. I also like to sew the button placket in a different way (this is just too lumpy for my taste). These were things that needed fixing even after I had done a muslin and made extensive fitting adjustments before I made up this version! In case you were worried, I didn’t pick this pattern back up and finish the fitting process until December 2014. It did not take me since last August to fit this pattern! Ha ha! Now that would be bad!

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My second round proved better. I measured a sleeve and cuff from a button-up shirt I had and liked the fit of and then adjusted my pattern accordingly. Also compared the collars and made more adjustments to my pattern. The sleeve cuff on this one still ended up being too big for my taste preferences. And yes, I totally added lace to this one! This is a Liberty of London print, just in case you were wondering.

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I adjusted the sleeve cuff for this favorite version (read more about this one here)! The cuff is a  little more fitted and that’s exactly the way I like them. This shirt, I daresay is perfect. Again on this shirt, I opted not to sew in the vertical darts on the front bodice, just to mix it up a little. I like things boxy sometimes and I was curious to see if it still “fit” if I didn’t sew in the darts. It fits just fine, it’s just a different sort of fit which is good because then the wheels start turning and I start seeing possibilities for future hacks!

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And then just to be safe, I made one more version in a most beloved Liberty of London that I had been stashing for some time for just this very purpose. I decided to go whole hog and do all of the things, including front vertical darts and pockets with flaps.

I decided to show you all of these because I feel that sometimes people might think that fitting can be solved after one muslin iteration. While a lot of it can and the garment you make next is usually just fine or at least wearable, you’ll end up wanting to tweak things for an even better fit in the next go around. Why? Because you CAN! Hello fitting ninja! The kinks come out of it pretty well when you’re into your third make from the same pattern – at least this has been my experience. Granted, there are a lot of patterns out there that I don’t make multiples of. Sometimes those patterns are just one hit wonders, but base patterns like these I take a good long time with and really get the fit right on par for what I want.

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I took this class on Craftsy quite some time ago, which I found to be incredibly useful pre-muslin – Fast Track Fitting with Joi Mahon. Her follow-up class is really good too, Fast Track Fitting, in the Details. She’s also got a great book out – Create the Perfect Fit – and all of these resources stick to the same method that she really tries to drill into your brain – measure your body, measure and adjust the pattern. I like her method a lot because you use measurements from your body and then you adjust the pattern before you do your initial muslin. It clears up a lot of the big problems. After the muslin phase, I tweak the fit utilizing the first edition of Fitting & Pattern Alteration. Really, really awesome fitting book.

OK, well I think that’s enough about fitting for one day. Hopefully there’s some good information here for those of you who might be stuck or thinking about overfitting every sewing pattern you’ve ever made! Do you make multiples of patterns to get the fit just right? Do you over fit? I know, it’s totally a thing, right?

Working with a Sloper

Over the course this year so far, you’ve seen my adoration for a certain button up sewing pattern (McCall’s 6649) and then a couple of hacks of things I’ve made from it (here and here). I thought I would take a sec, stop down and say a little more about it. It’s exciting. Well, at least I think so.

Hopefully this post will help clear up some questions I’ve been getting and hopefully it will show you that you can take a pattern and hack it up and not have to re-invent the fitting wheel. This is a skill I’ve cultivated over several years and one that is well worth the time invested and when you get to the pattern drafting part, it’s really quite fun to learn (in like a scrapbooking sort of way!). In my recent hack of my beloved McCall’s 6649, I mentioned a Craftsy class I had taken. One Pattern, Many Looks with Sarah Holden. I enrolled in the class last year sometime and then it sat in my Craftsy cue for many months. One night, I was really tired and decided to watch this Craftsy class as I was sitting in bed. I watched all the episodes right there and then. I was riveted and I was so excited to get up and get started in the morning. Dreamt of pattern hacks all night! Yessssss!

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The class takes you through this pretty fascinating process. First you’re supposed to fit the pattern. This process actually took a few weeks (the longest part of this whole business) because I wanted something that truly, was perfect and that usually means, for me, that I work out any and all kinks in a pattern by making it up at least 3 times. Seriously, 3 times is the charm. I have some more thoughts about the fitting process in my next post, but yeah, I made this shirt up a good 3 times (and then one more time, making that 4 times!!) before I moved on to the rest of the content of the class. Update: Just so you are aware, this Craftsy class does not cover anything about fitting! It’s only about pattern drafting and manipulation.

After a perfect fit, then it was time to reverse engineer the pattern back to sloper form. What is a sloper? In the most basic terms, a sloper is a base pattern, without seam allowances, from which other patterns can be created or hacked from. You can have different types of slopers. For example, you can have bodice, sleeve, dress, pants, etc. From there you can even have varying types of those basic patterns like a button-up shirt sloper or a raglan sleeve sloper. The idea is that you’ll start forming an entire collection of base patterns that are closer in idea to what you want an end pattern to be. More colors in a crayon box if you will.

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Anyway, back to McCall’s 6649. I created a sloper from this pattern and transferred all of the pertinent markings to posterboard. All of the seam allowances have been cut off here and there are holes and notches in specific places. Putting a pattern like this on posterboard is fantastic because then when I’m ready to create a new top from this pattern, I can just trace it off  in a matter of seconds. The posterboard is stiff so you can just trace around it really easily.

In the Craftsy class, Sarah shows you some really great hacks. And these are just starting points. I mean you really do have the entire world at your feet when you start creating your own patterns – from patterns that already fit you! Since you’ve already addressed the fit, that tends to not be a problem anymore. You might run into some issues here and there, but they are minimal by comparison.

All in all, I’m very very pleased with how my hacks have turned out from this process. It took a lot of time, but was well worth the investment. Onward and upward from here. Have you gone through this process before? What kinds of slopers do you have? If you haven’t, I can’t recommend something like this enough. You learn a ton about fitting and about your body and what things you should be looking out for when you go to try a new sewing pattern. Plus then there’s the creative gratification that comes from creating a pattern of your very own. Fun, fun!

Caring for Your Woolens

I’ve been meaning to continue this series for some time and well, good gravy, life has happened! Thank you for your patience as we’ve been working behind the scenes here for new and upcoming things. I have been wanting to get back to my blogging habits for awhile now. I love connecting with others that sew on this level and I miss it terribly! So with that, we can now resume this regularly scheduled program on working with wool!

I think we’re all wanting to know more about fabrics so that we can arm ourselves with this knowledge when we go to the fabric store. It also helps (tremendously) when you’re purchasing goods online too. So today, I thought I would take a minute and give some thoughts on fabric care for woolens.

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When I talk with people in real life about fabrics in general, there is a lot of misconception about fabric care. And I get asked about how one should care for a certain fabric all the time, so I’m going to give you some of my thoughts and some facts that will hopefully help you out with caring for your wool fabrics/garments. First some facts about wool.

  • Wool is a protein. It’s the hair of any animal that has been spun into yarn and from there woven or knitted into cloth.
  • Moths love protein for their babies. Moth adults will lay their moth larvae in wool cloth (or fiber/yarn) and their younglings will hatch and eat the wool. It’s a good source of protein after all!
  • Wool shrinks a little in cold water and a lot more in hot water. Wool felts when agitated in hot water. Depending on the weave and type, some wools felt more than others.

One of the biggest misconceptions about wool is that you can’t wash it. If you’re careful, you can care for your woolens at home. For the most part. Consider wool fabric yardage for a moment. If you’re thinking about pre-laundering wool fabric, consider what the fabric is going to be and from there, pre-launder/shrink according to how you will launder the final garment. My thoughts are:

  • garments with a lot of internal structure, ie. jackets & coats, should be dry-cleaned sparingly. To pre-launder these, I spray down the fabric yardage with a water bottle and stick in the dryer for 20 minutes (or stick it in the dryer with a wet cloth). Works especially wonderfully right before you’re ready to cut.
  • skirts, blouses, dresses and pants can be hand washed in cold water, hung to dry and from there, ironed (I also do this sparingly). I do the same with fabric yardage before cutting.

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If you’re unsure what a certain wool will do, the absolute safest route is to take a swatch of your fabric and wash it the way you plan before pre-laundering the whole yardage. If you’re satisfied with the swatch outcome, go ahead and launder your full yardage. Whatever way you choose to pre-launder, consider using shampoo on your wools instead of laundry detergent as detergent will erode the wool away over time. Wool is technically hair so it benefits from a little shampoo anyway! (This one is worth a try too as it’s specially made for wool and from personal experience, it’s lovely to use!)

There’s not just fabric and garment care to think of with wool, but also how to keep those pesky little moths at bay! I store my wool fabrics and wool garments in plastic tubs with cedar balls. You can also use cedar hangers in your closets when wool garments are in use. Cedar wood is something that repels moths naturally without leaving the horrid chemical stench of moth balls. Another thing to keep in mind is that carpet beetles love to eat wool fabrics/garments too (I’ve had this happen more times than I care to admit)! Keep your woolens picked up and off of the floor. Before I add a new piece of wool to my stash, I always either let the wool take a tumble in the dryer or a give it an overnight in the freezer as this will kill existing moths/creatures in the fabric. From there, I’ll add to my stash. This way a new wool fabric won’t infect my existing wool fabrics with moths.

Keep in mind that wool fabric that is folded and put in a tub may start to fade and loose its color over time. I’ve found this to be true with light colored woolens in particular. When they’ve been sitting in the same position for too long a time, they fade in the creases of the folds! It really makes the fabric unusable unless you’re only thinking about using it for tiny items, like doll clothes. Use your stash! And you might consider going through your stash each year and refolding the pieces differently.

What are your thoughts on caring for your wools? I would love to hear your thoughts and feelings and things that you do differently, or in addition to!

For more about Wools, visit the Working with Wool Section!

dark horse

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These are another pair of jeans I made for Mr. AFS. The funny thing was, I was thinking that I would skip doing a blog post about them. It’s just another pair of jeans. I mean, you saw the distressed ones I made for him and then I talked him into having a pair that was non-distressed. But then Mr. AFS kept asking me, “When are we going to do photos for my jeans?” I rather flippantly said something like “whenever” and then later on I thought, well I guess we’d better. The day of the photoshoot (a very high fa-lutin word for what we do around here…..) Mr. AFS was ready to break out his best shirt for the occasion. He even put some “stuff” in his hair and he left his beard on “for the girls” he said. Additionally, he said something to the effect of, he needed to look good for “his following.” Ahem.

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This brings me to another point. I have been doing a fair amount of very non-selfish sewing around here. This is very unlike me. But I have to say that lately, it’s kind of nice to change it up. I find that it’s easier to fit others than it is to fit myself. Especially my mister. He just doesn’t have the same curves and such as I do and that’s nice. It also still keeps me fresh in the thick of sewing and keeping up with technique and such. I’m about to embark on making my mom a few pairs of pants. Crazy coincidence is that she fits into my perfected and beloved Burda pattern just like me. So I can just whip out two pairs for her in nothing flat.

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Since I’m rambling a bit in this post, let me ramble some more. Mr. AFS wore his distressed jeans to a friend’s house awhile ago and they got to talking about how I make him his jeans. And then the wife of said friend said that she wanted me to make a pair for her man (Mr. AFS’ friend) and Mr. AFS was like, “well you’ll have to talk to Sunni.” He’s been schooled very well, because then he went into the discourse of how they are made and how they are made to fit him just they way he likes and how he wanted certain things like two different thread colors and he wanted a back pocket with a flap, but attached to the back pocket. All this to say that having the experience of someone custom make jeans for you – or any piece of clothing really – is something you’ll pay the big bucks for. Unless of course you’re married to the custom clothier or are related by blood!

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I think we could probably go on for a good jot about how sad the state of the United States clothing industry is (and I only say the U.S. because that’s what I know and that’s where I live). People have no clue as to how much a piece of clothing should really cost or to be more precise, how much it would really cost if they were paying the people who made it a living wage! To say nothing of what the clothes we purchase these days are made of. Now, this is not to say that I don’t wear my fair share of ready-to-wear fashion. I do, because quite frankly, I don’t have time to make all the things and I do subscribe to that saying of “moderation in all things.” I make a very good fair share of my own clothing and some for those I love.

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So my big question is, how do we get more and more people interested in making their clothes? How to inspire the younger generation to make stuff with their own two hands? From scratch? What are your thoughts?

Hear Me Talk About Stuff + Upcoming Shop Event

Several weeks ago, Corinne of The Sewing Affair ever so kindly invited me to be on her ongoing podcast. If you don’t know anything about Corinne, you should hop on over to her blog and get to know her! She’s delightful to talk to and was very gracious as a host as I rambled on and on and on. She’s starting up a sewing studio in Canada where it looks like she’ll be teaching others how to sew. That is very exciting! Anything to keep the sewing bug alive eh? Yay!

You’re in for a long haul if you listen to the podcast featuring me. Oh boy! I’m such a rambler and that’s exactly what I did. Ramble, ramble, ramble. But hopefully there are some grains of interest there. Ha! Hop on over and have a listen.

In the podcast, I talk a bit about how hard its been for me to combine my world of blogging with my world of being a brick and mortar shop owner. People, I can’t have two separate personalities anymore! So, even if you don’t live here in Utah, you’re still going to be in the know about local events surrounding my shop. This blog is a huge part of who I am. Something that I’ve felt was too sacred to let the brick and mortar shop intrude upon! But this is silly thinkin and now the shop is becoming a huge part of my life too. So, without further rambling…..we’re having a shop event at the end of September! Yay! If you live in SLC, Utah or think you might be here for a visit, it would be worth your while to stop on in.

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The September Soiree will kickstart our Autumn Sale event. It’s an after hours party + sale. Yay! We’re excited about it. We had a little something like this back in February which was quite fun and now that its the best time of the year, its time to have another party. Not to mention, its just fun to sew for fall and if I do say so myself, we have a beautiful fall here in Utah. So if you can, be there or be square! Look for our contact and address info, here.

If you’re looking for an online shop sale, don’t worry! That’s coming up too! I’ll spill the beans for that in the ensuing weeks.

Happy Monday Everyone!
Sunni