Friday, April 18, 2014

Pattern Designer Interview - Lindsay of The Cottage Mama

1. When did you start designing patterns and how did it come about?

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, Savannah Rose, I got this urge to create things for her nursery. I really wanted to sew some things such as curtains, pillows, etc.  but I didn’t know where to start. I had grown up with my mom sewing, but never took the time to learn from her. Since my mom lives in Texas and I live in Chicago, I didn’t have her there to teach me. Luckily my grandmother lives close by so I took a lesson from her and off I went. I consider myself self-taught for the most part, but she taught me some very important skills during our one sewing lesson.

After Savannah was born, I started creating clothing for her and I fell in love with designer quilting cotton fabric. As she would wear the clothes around town people would ask me if I sold clothing or baby goods. Shortly thereafter I started my blog ( where I shared my love of sewing, cooking and crafting and shared mostly the different sewing creations I made for Savannah (and our second daughter, Matilda). About a month later I started an Etsy shop selling handmade clothing. While it was fun at first, I slowly realized that I didn’t like creating the same piece of clothing more than once and what I truly enjoyed was sewing for my own children. As the demand got stronger, I began to lose some of the joy in sewing. And once I came to that realization, I knew I needed to make a change. I decided I would offer my clothing designs as printed sewing patterns that mothers and grandmothers could then sew themselves at home.

I offer all of my patterns in printed paper and PDF form now. The printed patterns are sold retail as well as through shops around the country and are mostly sold through my wholesale distributors. The PDF patterns are sold directly through The Cottage Mama website or through The Cottage Mama Etsy Shop and are available for immediate download.

I released my first book in October 2013 called ‘Sew Classic Clothes for Girls: 20 Girls’ Dresses, Outfits and Accessories from The Cottage Mama’. The patterns in the book are in PDF form on a disk in the back of the book and you can use the patterns to create an entire handmade wardrobe for a little girl in size 12 month – 10 years.

Buy the book here!

And finally, I have two sewing DVD’s out  too. One is a companion DVD to the book where I show you many of the techniques found in the book (it’s great for visual learners). The other DVD is about pairing fabrics and trims and I walk you through an adaptation of my Charlotte Apron Dress pattern.

2. What training do you have or how did you learn?

I didn’t go to school for fashion design……I actually went to college for musical theatre (yes, I sing and dance) and got my degree in Finance. If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I ever saw myself doing what I do now, I would have called you crazy. I learned pretty much everything from books and online and A LOT of trial and error.

3. What is the process of designing a new pattern like?

I flat draft all my patterns, so I generally draft it in a size 4 and then it is graded down to a size 6 month and up to size 10.  I use basic blocks that I’ve created and the patterns are created off of those. The pattern usually undergoes 3 – 4 modifications before I’m happy enough for it to go into grading. Once the pattern is graded from 6 months – 10 years, then the pattern goes into testing with my online Facebook group that has 55 of my beloved pattern testers that make sure that each and ever size and variation are up to The Cottage Mama standards.

4. What is the hardest part about designing a pattern in pdf form?

Interesting question. I guess it’s making sure that everyone understands how to print it properly. If the 2” test square is off when someone goes to print, the pattern won’t line up properly and the fit will be off. Even if it’s 1/16th of an inch off, the fit will still be off. So educating people about PDF patterns and how to use them is the hardest part.

5. What is your favorite of your patterns and why?

This one is easy…….The Georgia Vintage Dress. It’s my favorite dress I’ve designed or sewn EVER. It’s everything a little girl could hope for in a dress. It’s  sweet, feminine, a little vintage, has a tad bit of whimsy and the fit is spot on (if I do say so myself). It also has a lot of wow factor and looks like an incredibly difficult dress, when in fact, it’s one of my easiest patterns to sew. Plus the fabrics can make the dress look completely different and it’s a fun pattern to use with embellishments.

6. Do you sew for your own family or for sale? What do you prefer more, sewing or pattern design, and why? 

At this point, I only sew for my family. I love sewing. That’s where my heart is, but what I love even more is inspiring others to sew and creating patterns is what helps me to do so. My favorite part of my job is traveling around the country and teaching classes because I get to meet all these amazingly talented women who share the same passion as I do………the love of sewing. I feel so blessed.

7. Have you learned anything from feedback from customers that you would like to share with other designers or wanna-be designers? 

I have learned that designing great patterns is wonderful, but not only do you want people to love your patterns, you want them to know about you and who you are as a designer. It’s not just the pattern that creates a loyal following, it’s the love for the designer that creates customers for life. And the feeling is mutual……..I absolutely love and adore my customers and many of them I can now call my sewing friends.

8. Best time and place to design?

Saturday morning with a cup of coffee………when my husband takes the kids out of the house. Listening to my Caro Emerald station on Pandora. That’s a very happy place for me.

9. Favorite fabric of all time? 

Seaside by October Afternoon for Riley Blake Designs. LOVE, love, love it!!

10. Favorite thing to do for fun? 

I’m a big foodie, so I love going out to eat! 


Note from Kathy: Lindsay is one of the most genuinely nice people I have come across in the online sewing world.   I hope you enjoyed my interview with her!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Blog Hop Planning

I keep seeing the big girl bloggers participate in blog hops, where they all share and sew around a theme. It looks so fun! I've been in one hop, a while back, but I decided to try planning my own.

So, voila, starting April 28, 16 bloggers, including myself, will show you a different way EACH to use the fabulous Perfect Party Dress Pattern by Tie Dye Diva.  But sure to check back at the end of the month to see all these fab dresses!


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Project run and play week #3 - design your own fabric

design your own fabric project run and play

 For this week's Project Run and Play, we were tasked with designing our own fabric. I decided to take this project quite literally and design some fabric at Spoonflower! I have always wanted to do this and I have been playing around on Inkscape, drawing delphiniums (my fave flower) so that became my theme! You can read a bit about the design process on my guest post at Sew McCool. I will add a bit more details here, however, just for fun.  I spent hours making these pictures. Literally hours and hours. Probably 12 hours in all, over the course of a week. This was not a simple process.  I hand drew those delphinium flowers that you see on the bodice and colored each petal individually in Inkscape. I painstakingly added each stamen.  I used the controlZ keystroke (undo) a lot!

As you can see, each petal is a slightly different shape.  

One of the reasons I love flowers is for how perfectly unperfect they can be.  They never have completely uniform parts.   After I made these individual flowers and created the fabric for the bodice, I then moved on to the skirt fabric.  
perfect party dress

For the skirt fabric, I cut and pasted and resized the flowers to achieve the look of one delphinium stalk.  For the stalks, I also removed the dark blue outline I had put around the bodice fabrics flowers.  So, the skirt flowers have a softer look.  

The leaves were also hand drawn.

 When the fabric arrived, I was pretty sure I was going to make a Tie Dye Diva Perfect Party dress with it.   Because fabric from Spoonflower is pricey, I chose to get the least expensive option, the basic combed cotton.  The fabric resembles sheeting fabric in it's sheerness and wrinkle factor.  So, I knew I would need to line the bodice. However, I was unsure what to do with the skirt!

Until I saw this Barbie

I cannot show you a pic because I don't want to get in trouble with Mattel, but please be sure to click on the link to see Mad Men Betty Draper Barbie, my inspiration!

For, you see, this project is also going to be part of a Tie Dye Diva/ Handmade Dress Haven blog hop for how to use the Perfect Party Dress pattern in unique ways.  ( I will tell you more about that tomorrow).  So, voila, the Betty Draper-inspired Perfect Party Dress.

See! It's the same pose!  Isn't she cute, my little Eliza!

 Tomorrow, I will tell you more about the pin tucks, the tulle underskirt, and the double-gathered waistband I made for this dress.  In the meantime, here are some outtakes from our photo shoot.

 One tulle underskirt is so boring! How about adding a few more tutus and some bloomers!

This is her "what does a model look like" pose.

Big sister was the stylist for the shoot. 

Cute girls!

More posing like models.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Project run and play week #2, season 9: Spring Break Vacation!

What do you know! It is spring break around these parts! So, what did I dream up for the PRAP Sewalong this week:  Glamping across the USA!  My dream vacation is to own or rent a trailer or RV and take several months, at least, to glamp our way around the country.  We live in an amazing country and I dream of driving down the Pacific Coast to the Redwoods, heading inland through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, crossing the desert to the Grand Canyon, and heading east to Taos, Austin, and New Orleans. From NO, we would head to the Carolina Coast to compare beaches. From there, we could spend a few days in DC seeing the Smithsonian and the sights. Then, on to Pennsylvania dutch country to see where my grandparents were born. Into upper New York state we would go to see Niagara Falls and the Adirondack mountains, and then to Montreal.  From Montreal, we would drive around the great lakes and explores some of that area before heading west again towards Washington state, where we live.  The drive from the Great Lakes to Washington will take us at least a week, if not more, so we can see all the fabulous natural and significant sights along the way. 

Glamping, to me, means camping that is a bit more glamorous than living in a tent and using a porta-potty. So, in my dream, we would have a vintage Airstream like the one my grandparents had when I was a kid!I always love that thing! It had a bed and a fold down table and it was so stylin' in it's looks. Even in the 70s, it was fab-U-lous to see. In my vision, we store cool chairs, rugs, flowers, the antenna so we can stream NPR, and everything else we need to camp in style. We would, of course, stop at lovely retro motels every few days so we could shower, swim, wash our clothes, and enjoy the amenities. 

You are thinking CRAZY!  This girl is CRAZY!! Her dream vacation is an RV trip across the USA? Yep! That is my dream trip. I looooove car trips. My parents have been taking me on long car camping trips since I was three months old. I am an excellent passenger and I love seeing the sights.  Plus, I've already been to Europe.

So, with out further adieu, here is my week #2, season #9 Spring Break Vacation sew-a-long outfit.

It started with the fabric and the idea of using my friend Amy's Brownie Goose patterns. I knew they would be perfect for summer fun.  See sidebar for link =======>

Google camping fabric and you get Moda Glamping. 


 I fell off my chair. How CUTE IS THIS!! 

So, I added Robert Kaufman Carolina Chambray, the perfect summer fabric. (learned that from Amy of BG) and a few bits of this and that and Voila!

The coat is Brownie Goose Pepper with serious modifications.  Pepper is supposed to be a dress but it can be done reversible as a coat.  I not only did it reversible, following Amy's tute, but I shortened it for summer and added a pocket and appliques. I purposely lined up the coat so it would show a bit of the Blondie tunic and I made the sleeve trim match the Blondie body so they would look CA-UTE together.  I googled "camping tent applique" and "vintage trailer applique" to get ideas and winged it (wung it?) from there.  I think they turned out super duper cute!! Since this will be a layering item, I made the size 7 and it turned out great. My E has broad shoulders so 7 fit her great.

Then, I made BG Blondie top and Darby shorts.  Since E is a size 4 wide and 7 long, this took some tinkering. I made the size 7 Blondie but I had to do some serious tailoring to get those armpits not to stick out.  My seam ripper was my BFF for this top.  The yoke also gave me fits, but that is another story. The 7 fit her great, once I got the armpits to work. (remember, she is a 4 wide) The Darby shorts are a size 4 wide but I added length to them at waist and leg. So, they turned out great! 

 Here are some details.  I have done about 2 (??) applique projects before this but I found this awesome-sauce tute from Sew Like my Mom and followed it like no tomorrow and practiced first and I think things look pretty good!   Several years ago, I bought these gigantic red buttons and hey! They look good here!  

 Here are some more photos.

Check it out at

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Using canned air to clean a serger or sewing machine

Today, I am going to talk about whether you should be using canned air to clean any of your sewing machines.  This is controversial so I thought I would do some research for you so you know if it is right or wrong. I spent several hours, today, reading all manner of blogs, serger manuals, and sewing forums.

Canned air is the nickname for compressed gas duster products you can find at most office supply stores. I buy mine at Office Max, as you can see, but this is not intended as an endorsement for that store. It is located in the same parking lot as Joann Fabrics and, well, you can now understand why I shop there.

Canned air, or compressed gas duster, is not air at all.  It is a compressed fluorocarbon gas that is recommended to clean hard to reach places that cannot get wet, such as some vents on computers.  The can contains a fluorocarbon gas compressed into a liquid for storage. When you spray it, it comes out as gas and blows particulates, like dust, off of or out of what you are cleaning.

 [Warnings: Do not ever breathe it in, because it is not air and it is toxic. Do not put the can around children or pets. Do not shake the can. Do not use it past when it gets cold. A few seconds, at most, is all it is meant to be used. ]

Now some people say these cans are okay to use to clean sergers or sewing machines. My own Janome dealer said I could use it to clean my serger only but not my sewing machine.  And here is why: compressed gas dusters, or canned air, blow too hard for delicate machinery. Your sewing machine is too delicate for canned air.  Your serger might be too delicate or it might be a hardy soul, like my Janome.  If your serger does not open up on both sides, you could blow the dust and lint further up into your machine. If you use it on your sewing machine, you risk the same thing, that the lint and dust will blow up inside the machine and cause problems.

But my Janome 1110DX serger opens up on both side. As you can see in this picture below, I open up the side AND the front to clean it. And I angle the can so the air is blowing out the side. I do the same with the side, angle it so the can is blowing out the front. I am not blowing the compressed gas up into the machine. And I am keeping the compressed gas duster far enough away from the machine that it is not doing damage.

That is how you can successfully clean your serger using compressed gas duster or canned air. GENTLY.  If you read around the internet, which I did today, this is the concern with the canned air, that you will not be gentle enough and do damage to your machine. So, there, now you know how you can use canned air successfully!

So, in case you are interested, here is how I clean my machine between projects.

First I open it up and blow.

Then, I take my vacuum hose and vacuum in and around. You should see the mess I've blown out! Some people buy a small vacuum just for this purpose that is more gentle than your household vacuum. In that case, you might be able to get closer to your machinery than I do.


 Now, even after all that, there is still lint. Look!  Oops! I forgot to remove the thread! You should do that first! And remove your needles and needle plate, if you want to do a really thorough cleaning. I am just doing a quickie so I left those in this time.

Third step is taking the little brush and very carefully removing all the lint I can find.

Be sure to put the knife down so you can clean the wads of lint behind it!  Wow, there was a lot in there.

Now, I follow my owner's manual's instructions to oil my machine. I use Singer brand oil made especially for sewing machines. That is not an endorsement but please use sewing machine oil, not cooking oil.   

You should be oiling your machine once a week if you use it often! That is what my manual says!

My final step is to take the anti-static wipes meant for computer monitors and give the flat parts a good wiping down. I use anti-static wipes because I do not want to add static electricity while wiping, which you might do if you use regular wipes. Also, computer wipes are much drier than other wipes so I know I will not be adding unnecessary moisture to my machines.

There! Now my serger is all clean and ready for Project Run and Play part 2!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Birthday girl sewing

 Today marks 11 years since I became a mother. This is a special day for any mother, but when you struggled with infertility and thyroid issues and almost got to the point of accepting you would always be childless, to celebrate your child's birthday is extra special.  Today, P is 11 years old!!  She came into the world two weeks early because my water level was very low. Due to a very stressful pregnancy, and many scares, she was very small at birth, only 5th percentile for weight and height. So teeny. But, by the time she was two, she had hit her stride and has comfortably remained in the 50th-75th percentiles ever since.  She is a lovely, sensitive, sweet girl, a tad shy, artistic and kind.  She brings us all great joy.  Happy Birthday to my beloved girl.

In honor of this day, I thought I would share with you some of the sewing I have done for her over the years.  I know that sew a lot more for E, because she loves my creations more, but there are still some great things I've made for P.  

Click on each picture to visit that blog post!

I've been sewing since I was a little girl but only sporadically. I didn't start taking it seriously until P was in kindergarten, when I made her this cute dress!  It didn't fit her well that year so here she is in first grade, finally fitting into it! 

 One of my first attempts with knits!

2010 (first grade) also saw handmade halloween costumes. Both girls wanted to be witches and designed their own costumes for me to sew.

This dress was our first attempt at working together to design something she might like to wear.
Summer tank dresses!
 This was our first sewing disaster.  It was supposed to be an Ottobre hoodie but, as you can tell by the face, she did not like it at all. Didn't like the fabric, the hood was not comfy, it was just a big no.

Our second attempt at designing together! She drew the dress and we worked together to find a pattern and fabric

 Mary's Fancy Sash dress for a fancy girl.

And a recent picture in one of the many Jocole knit tops I have made her.  She doesn't like to have her pictures taken as often anymore but she is still letting me sew for her.  Phew. I hope she lets me sew for her forever. 

I love you P!