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Take Gertie Home With You

Monday, September 24th, 2012
By Twistie

If you love to sew and you love vintage, chances are you already know Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing.

It began as a Julie/Juliaesque project wherein Gretchen Hirsch (aka Gertie) worked her way through all the patterns in Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing, published in the 1950’s. Fourteen fabulous vintage outfits later, well, Gertie kept on going. she’s still blogging away about sewing vintage style clothes, and all the issues that go with them. She teaches online courses, and appears on the PBS show It’s Sew Easy.

I guess all that was left to form a complete media empire was to write a book. And that, my friends, is precisely what Gertie has done. Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing features twenty-five vintage-inspired patterns (in ten different sizes, no less!) conveniently located in an envelope attached to the book, instructions for sewing and fitting all the garments (including tips for sizing vintage patterns up and down to fit your body), advice on choosing the right fabrics and sources to get them from, all written in the same breezy style as her blog. The tattooed, bespectacled Gertie herself models all the clothes with aplomb and fabulosity… though I think it might have been useful to have at least a couple looks modeled by someone else instead or in addition to Gertie, just to show how they would look on other body types.

Still, that’s a minor quibble. If you love vintage clothes, if you love Gertie’s teaching style, if you’ve got a stack of old patterns you’d love to use if only you knew how to size them to your body, then this is the book for you.

Best of all, Amazon has it for the bargain basement price of just $22.88 (list price $35.00) and it qualifies for free Super Saving shipping, too.

Tiny City, Huge Imagination

Thursday, September 6th, 2012
By Twistie

This is how I first became aware of artist Megan Piontowski. It’s a series of delicious fabric sculpture potted plants she did back in 2009. Aloe, jade plants, she did a wide variety of succulents that never die. I’ve wanted one ever since. After all, I look at plants and they keel over dead.

Piontowski’s skill, humor, and wit appealed strongly to me.

Unfortunately, I fell behind and missed something: she wrote a book. Luckily for me – and for all of you – said book is now available in paperback from Etsy for just $15.99 plus shipping.

The title is Tiny Underdog City: An Uncomprehensive Guide. Filled with the artist’s linocut print illustrations, it tells the tale of a tiny city ‘comprised  solely of outer reaches.’

I don’t know about all of you, but I love to fill my real world with imaginary ones that speak to me. Sunnydale, Wonderland, Hogwarts, London Below, Oz… I think Tiny Underdog City fits right in with those, and so many others.

Oh, and if you happen to live in or near the very real city of New York, she’s participating this weekend (Sept. 8 and 9) in the Brooklyn Museum’s GO Open Studios. Check it out!

The Gospel According to Tim

Thursday, August 30th, 2012
By Twistie

You all know how I feel about Tim Gunn. He is totally my gay imaginary celebrity boyfriend and I long to feed him fresh-baked scones.

But I also enjoy reading his books. He’s got a breezy, opinionated flair for language and he knows his stuff, even when I disagree with him on  how to interpret it.

Well, now he’s written Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible: the Fascinating History of Everything in Your Closet.

Ever wondered what Queen Victoria’s corset has to do with what you’re wearing now? Tim can tell you. What togas then mean for you now? Tim is here to explain it. How the Sixties were the downfall of underwear? Well, my guess is that one is one of those issues where he and I would have a lively (albeit friendly) debate whilst dripping clotted cream in our excitement… but I’m still interested in his argument.

It’s available right now for pre-order on Amazon (release date September 11, just in case anyone is wondering what to get me for my birthday on the thirteenth) for just $16.46 (list price $28.00) and eligible for Super Saving free shipping on your purchase of $25.00 or more.

Oh, and I’d also like to note for my fellow Project Runway fans that in an article that ran on Racked National just yesterday, Tim called contestant Ven Budu ‘atrocious’ and let it be known that the editing in last week’s episode was actually flattering to Ven. Also, gird your loins, folks, he let slip that there’s going to be an upcoming challenge in his least favorite category that ‘will not disappoint you in terms of horrible.’

Left Out No More

Monday, August 13th, 2012
By Twistie

(Image via M3)

Happy Left-Hander’s Day!

Yes, it’s a real day. August 13. And this month friday the thirteenth lands on a monday, which makes it more dangerous. Bonus points to anyone who knows where that concept comes from.


As a southpaw, sometimes it’s hard to find equipment set up for me, let alone instructions to use it properly.

So in honor of the day, I have found a selection of tools and instructions to help my fellow right-minders be super crafty.


Get Mod!

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012
By Twistie

I remember my first – and thus far last – decoupage project. It was in about second grade, an art class project. Of course construction paper and Elmer’s Glue aren’t the best materials for the craft. And of course at seven I blamed myself rather than the materials for my utter, disastrous failure.

But over the last few years I’ve been seriously considering giving it another go. These days I know a lot more about the correct supplies and my personal aesthetic is better defined. Oh, and I discovered the blog Mod Podge Rocks.

It’s an homage to a fabulously versatile and endlessly useful crafter’s tool: Mod Podge. Oh, and author Amy Anderson has written a book about using Mod Podge to decoupage your world. You can see an illustration from it above. It’s available from Amazon for just $10.17 (list price $14.95) and qualifies for free Super Saver Shipping with a $25.00 purchase.

Oh, and to make up the rest of that $25.00, you can also purchase Mod Podge, scissors, foam brushes, or anything else you need for your project.

What To Do When the Washer Eats One Sock

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
By Twistie

It’s a well-known fact that washers and dryers eat socks. It’s equally well-known that they typically eat only one from each pair they attack. I don’t know about you, but after years of dealing with voracious laundry rooms and laundromats, I’ve wound up with dozens of unmatched socks I don’t know quite what to do with.

I’m thinking what I might do is pick up a copy of  Sockology by Brenna Maloney.

In this, her second book of crafty instructions for what to do with leftover socks, Maloney gives us another sixteen adorable stuffed critters to delight folks from three to three hundred. Whether your taste is more toward the super cute ducks pictured on the cover, the wacky toe sock rooster, or the cool aliens in jumpsuits (because in old sci fi movies, astronauts from Earth wear jumpsuits but aliens are often completely naked and Maloney felt it was time for the tables to be turned… though she mercifully does not give us patterns for naked astronauts) and gloriously deranged robots (she manages to make socks into cubes!) you’re sure to find a fun, easy way to upcycle those mismatched socks into something to amuse you or someone you love.

The patterns aren’t difficult, either. They’re sewn by hand using only running, back, blanket, and satin stitch. If you’re an experienced sewer, one of these should take roughly an afternoon to do.

Even if you never make a single pattern from the book, Maloney’s breezy prose will amuse you enough to make the cost worth it. Oh, and the cost? If you order it through Amazon, that would be just $12.08 (retail price $17.95!) plus it qualifies for free Super Saver Shipping on orders of $25.00 or more. At that price, you can afford some socks just to make into monsters from under your bed or big-mouthed frogs.

Shoes for Industry! Shoes for the Dead!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
By Twistie

I got a cry for help in my mailbox yesterday from reader Dawn:

Can you recommend a site/book/ anything for making shoes?
Well, Dawn, I didn’t yesterday, but I’ve been researching the question and I think I’ve got a couple sources for you. Of course, it’s always easier to find the right thing when you’ve got a few more parameters, but at least one of these should set you on the right track.
Etsy store simpleshoemaking sells books on basic techniques of shoe and sandal making. The books are self-published and available in both hard copy and pdf format ranging from about $30.00 to $45.00. The books recommend recycled soles, and the shoes look pretty crunchy granola, Berkeley in the seventies. Still, the techniques are for shoes created with few or no specialized tools, and the books are budget friendly. This could be a good place to start, especially if you don’t plan to get too exotic with styling.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive source emphasizing a more elegant approach and much more complex work… at a correspondingly higher price, you might want to check out Bespoke Shoemaking Book. This is for the person seriously interested in making a lot of custom shoes. The basic book runs $140.00AUD, plus shipping. And then there’s the sandal book, the sandal kit, and the instructions for making a professional grade sole press.
Amazon has several pages of books on shoes and shoemaking available. These range from reprints of historical manuals (often meant for professionals) to books on embellishing shoes you buy commercially to more general books on leatherwork that happen to include a pattern for a sandal or two to books that show what sorts of shoes were worn when and where. It’s a little scattershot, but you might find a good book there.
All of these sites have their advantages, but I think the best source I found had to be Walrus Shoe. In addition to books on how to make shoes, they carry lasts, a book on making your own lasts, cobbling-themed jewelry, and say they will soon carry tools, findings, and machines to help your shoe making dreams come true. I’ll be keeping my eyes on this one! Again, these books and tools are meant for the professional or the very serious hobbyist. They don’t come cheap, but they result in pretty footwear. Then again, if you’re going to make shoes… why not go for the gusto?
And if you’re just looking for a bit of fun inspiration, why not check out the Bata Shoe Museum? You may just find a good reason to buy one or two of those books so you can reproduce something special.
I hope that helped you, Dawn! Best of luck with your shoemaking endeavors, and be sure to let us know how it goes.

Slice of Life

Monday, April 9th, 2012
By Twistie

Chances are you have a toaster on your counter. Most people do. I have one. I don’t use it every day, but when I do I’m glad it’s there.

It’s humble and ubiquitous and nearly unnoticed by most of us on a day to day basis.

And one day  Thomas Thwaites, a graduate student at the  Royal College of Art, decided to make one for himself from scratch.

He could have just gone down to the hobby shop and bought a kit and called it a day, but he wanted to make it a school project, too. He wanted to make it really from scratch. As in he wanted to create all the components from their base materials.

The Toaster Project is the book born of this concept detailing his year long, nearly two thousand pounds sterling effort to make a simple device for heating bread, much like the one he could buy at a local store for roughly the equivalent of six dollars and pocket change.

Along the way we see him smelting steel using instructions from a fifteenth century manual translated from the Latin by Herbert and Lou Hoover some years before they became President and First Lady of the US of A, making plastic in his own kitchen (do not try this at home, kiddies!), learning to extract copper from water, and getting hopelessly lost in the Highlands of Scotland searching for mica.

It’s a humorous and Quixotic adventure with an engaging guide and scads of useful illustrations. It’s also available in paperback and Kindle editions at

Do yourself a favor. Read it before you try to make your own microwave oven.

Share and Enjoy!

Monday, April 2nd, 2012
By Twistie

If you’ve been reading this blog for any time, you know I have a passion for the history as well as the techniques of crafting. I own several antique books on various needlework techniques, reprints of a great many more, and some fascinating pamphlets, as well. One of the bobbin lace patterns I used for my wedding gown was taken from the oldest known printed collection of bobbin lace patterns, dating back to 1559. It was a pretty – and surprisingly complex! – edging, which I really enjoyed making.

So when I find a good cache of patterns, books of instruction, and historically significant pamphlets available online, I just have to share the wealth with my fellow enthusiasts.

The Antique Pattern Library is a fabulous resource for the modern practitioner of antique needlework techniques. It’s a completely free collection of antique and vintage books and pamphlets for techniques ranging from knitting and crochet to quilting, bobbin lace, tatting, needle lace, beading, embroidery… almost anything you can imagine. Each book or pamphlet is in PDF format for easy downloading and use. There are literally hundreds of resources on this site and every single one is free.

Some of the names listed as authors are familiar to those of us who love antique needlework: Therese de Dillmont, Isabella Beeton, Butterick, Coats and Clark, and the Red Cross. Others are less well known, but have equally interesting and inspiring patterns to play with.

Oh, and if you have an out-of-copyright book or pamphlet in your needlework collection, consider offering it up so that another needleworker out there can have a chance to do the patterns. You’ll find all the information you need to do so right here.

Daffily Delightful Detritus

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
By Twistie

Now this is a suitcase that won’t get easily lost or mixed up with someone else’s at the airport! What’s more, you can make it – or something quite similar – out of random junk you may already have in your home. If you don’t, you can easily get it at any garage sale or swap meet you happen across.

You see, all you need for this project is a hard sided plastic suitcase, some patterned fabric (in this case a print of the Virgin Mary and some floral motifs), and some Minwax Polycrylic. Not religious? No problem! Pick a floral, a great skull image, or just a cool geometrical motif. It’s all good.

And that, my friends, is the philosophy behind Mark Montano’s The Big-Ass Book of Crafts 2, where you can find more thorough instructions for this suitcase and more than 150 fun projects made of random odds and ends.

The projects range from the practical (a fabulous bejeweled backsplash for a bathroom sink, and a wide selection of homemade bags and purses) to the whimsical (my personal favorite is the corset composed entirely of zippers), to the downright disturbing… but in a harmless way (those baby doll head salt and pepper shakers will probably haunt my nightmares, even though they make me giggle).

Whether the random stuff you have on hand is wooden hangers, zip ties, buttons, colored paper, scraps of wood or fabric, old eyeglasses cases, ribbon, beads, bottle caps, newspaper, or tin scraps, you can find plenty of ways to use them up with this book. Most of the projects could be easily finished in an afternoon, too.

But the really great thing about this book and the other two in the series (The Big-Ass Book of Crafts and The Big-Ass Book of Home Decor) isn’t the specific projects, though they are weird and wonderful in their own right. No, the really great thing about them is that they help you see the potential in the random, the cast off, and the humble. That means these books are a great jumping off point for your own imagination.

Whether your personal taste runs to the bizarre or the gently understated, the silly or the profound, there’s a lot you can do with the discarded to make your life – and those of your friends – more charming and more unexpected.

And at just $12.81 and free Super Saver shipping if you spend over $25.00 on your whole order ($9.99 in the Kindle edition), it’s even inexpensive enough to leave you the money for that bag of baby doll heads on your next visit to the flea market.

Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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