GUEST POST: Gretchen Hirsch on her inspiration for 'Gertie's New Fashion Sketchbook'

I’m so excited about the release of my new book, Gertie’s New Fashion Sketchbook! Over the past several years, I’ve been busy writing sewing technique books with an emphasis on retro design (see Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing and Gertie Sews Vintage Casual), so this is a bit of a departure for me. Today I’m going to share the inspiration for the sketchbook and why it was such an important project for me. 

Sewists often think of sketching as something that “real” designers do. But everyone who sews is a designer! The simple act of matching a fabric to a pattern is designing. Even picking out a zipper is a design choice. Every choice you make on a project is part of its design. With so many little decisions to make, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s why sketching is such a helpful tool: you can map out your ideas visually, easily changing them if necessary. 

A wonderful tool for sketching fashion ideas is the croquis, a body figure template. That way you don’t have to be able to sketch a realistic figure from scratch! And nowadays it’s easy to go to a bookstore and buy a fashion sketchbook filled with croquis, ready to go. However, the problem with the available fashion sketchbooks is that the figures can look a little bizarre: they’re strangely elongated and spindly, and twisted into strange poses that I like to call the "broken doll" or the "sad alien." That's because fashion people work with a concept called "nine heads," where the figure is nine head-lengths tall. To put this in perspective, actual people are only seven to eight heads tall. Here's an interesting image that breaks it down:

One of my missions over the years has been to write about sewing and fashion in a body-positive, feminist way. So these nine-head ladies were bringing me down. And so the idea for this sketchbook was born and brilliant illustrator Sun Young Park brought it to life. Here's how it works:

The figures are presented in a "nested" configuration (almost like a sewing pattern!), so that you can follow the lines (bigger or smaller) to represent different figures. You can make the figures smaller on top or bottom to replicate a woman's actual curves and proportions. I tested the whole thing out with some wonderful sewing friends, and it really works! But my favorite thing about it is that the height of the figures is actually realistic. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Do you enjoy sketching ideas for your sewing projects? If so, I hope you love this new sketchbook! 

Holiday Crafting Memories and a Recipe Treat from Susan Waggoner

Well, we've had our first official snowfall here in New York City, and it's beginning to look a lot like the holidays! We can't help but feel a little giddy at the thought of all of the upcoming baking and sipping and  time spent with friends and family. Excited as we are, sometimes we look up and realize the calendar is nearing dangerously close to a party or holiday commitment and we're feeling underprepared!

Fear not, Susan Waggoner, author of Handcrafted Christmas: Ornaments, Decorations, and Cookie Recipes to Make at Home, is here with a holiday memory and a delicious recipe to get you inspired and in the spirit! Here's Susan:

Forget Black Friday and the insanity of 5 a.m. store openings. To me, the day after Thanksgiving will always be the day Christmas crafting and decorating begin. My mother me this. Start your crafting and decorating early and it will be fun; wait until mid-December and pressure will steal away the joy.

The day after Thanksgiving, a card table would go up in the family room. My mother would already have a list of things she wanted to make for gift exchanges, and a stack of magazine pages with decorating ideas she wanted to try. My father would be called away from the football games for engineering and carpentry input, and we’d be off and running. As my mother got out supplies and decorations, my job was to make a list of all that needed to be replenished and replaced.

Over a dinner of hot turkey sandwiches and mashed potatoes, we’d plot our path through the craft stores the next morning. Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday would be our work days, and by the end of the weekend, we’d have a good start on all we wanted to do. We were ready for snow. We were ready for Christmas.

The card table remained up throughout the entire season. When the crafting and decorating projects were done, it became our wrapping table. My frugal mother did not believe in buying expensive paper or matching tags. She saved cards sent to us in previous years, bought tissue paper, glitter, tape, glue, and ribbon (never pre-made bows) and let us decorate our own packages. I loved going through the old cards and finding an image that was just right for the recipient of the gift - outdoor woodland scenes with deer for my father, chic modern-looking motifs for my mother, skating Santas or Beatrix Potter scenes for my sister, who eventually confessed, as an adult, to disliking Potter’s art.

After Christmas, the table was cleared and brought upstairs to our den, where it held the annual jigsaw puzzle Santa left by our stockings. I have no idea what became of that card table, but I know what became of the memories - I still have them.

So take time to start your crafting and decorating early. Make the most of every Christmas minute and you’ll double your stock of good memories.

Here’s a Christmas treat from Susan that you can make ahead and set aside for holiday gifts and parties, or snack on while you craft and decorate:

image (c) Lori Lange, 2011. 

Almond Roca

For this you will need a candy thermometer and these ingredients:

2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

Big pinch of coarse salt

1 pound whole roasted salted almonds (may substitute roasted salted peanuts or pecans)


First, prepare a pan by placing a silicone mat or bakers parchment on a clean cookie sheet.

In a medium heavy‑duty saucepan, heat the water, butter, both sugars and salt over low heat. I have found that the secret to making good buttercrunch is a slowed-down heating process. Cookbooks suggest this can be done in 15 or 20 minutes, but this makes it easy to scorch the mixture or end up with a grainy result. I spend 30 to 45 minutes on this and have always been rewarded with crisp, perfect candy. Start over low heat, stirring and scraping down the sides occasionally to make sure everything is blended and the nothing is sticking to the corners of the pan.

Fit the candy thermometer onto the saucepan, making sure the is not touching the bottom of the pan.

You are now going to cook this mixture until it reaches a temperature of 300° F. (150° C.). Raise the heat slowly at first, and more quickly as you near the end. Stir mixture and scrape the sides of the saucepan occasionally at first, more often as the heat rises, and nearly continuously when the mixture begins to boil and foam.

The minute the temperature reaches 300° F., remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the almonds and spread immediately onto the prepared pan. You need to work quickly, as the mixture begins to set up as soon as it’s off the burner. Use a spatula to spread as thinly as possible.

Allow to cool and set up several hours or overnight. Store in a lidded tin lined with a napkin or a lidded plastic container.


For more ideas for cozy vintage-inspired crafting and baking  from Susan's latest book, view our image gallery or order it online. 


Guest Post from Wendy Bernard + Creativebug Giveaway + Holiday Crafting - 5 Weeks Out!

With T minus 5 weeks until the holidays, we're back with more gifting ideas that you can get started on now. As a special bonus, we also have author and knitter extraordinaire Wendy Bernard here with words of wisdom on knitting inspiration, info on adding new stitches to your needlearts repertoire in time to create a holiday gift, plus a giveaway from Creativebug. From Wendy: 

I think it was just about 11 years ago when top-down knitting caught my eye.

I had started knitting again after a more than 30-year hiatus when I was expecting my daughter—grandma taught me when I was young and I never really knit after that. Of course, I knit my newborn one of those hats that resembles a strawberry. It sort of seemed like the right thing to do.

Fast forward to now. I’ve been so happily knitting and writing books that feature patterns that are knit down from the top: Sweaters, hats, you name it. For some reason, the idea that you start at the top and work your way down to the hem seamlessly made sense to me. And ever since I figured out how to do it and how to make patterns this way, I have wanted to share my ideas with other knitters.

Books will always be here with us, they are so wonderful: we can hold them in our hands and mark them up with post-its. They sit on our shelves and make us happy. The Internet has added another dimension for me, though. With streaming online videos growing in popularity, it is possible for you to take online classes that aren’t live, which means you can pop in whenever you like and follow along at your own pace. Creativebug is that sort of place and I’m so excited to tell you that I have a four-week course on Creativebug where I share with you how to knit two types of sweaters, from the top down, seamlessly!

What makes me even more excited is that my latest book, Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary shows you how to knit more than 150 stitch patterns not only flat, but in the round, and top-down as well. This means, as you watch my courses on Creativebug, you will be able to swap out the plain ribbing in these sweaters and insert other ribbings that strike your fancy. Same thing for the other parts of the sweaters: if you want to spruce up the otherwise plain stockinette stitch, do a little shopping in the book and insert another stitch pattern that you like even more.

Working with was so much fun. The crew even came out to my home studio and hung out with my family for a day so we could share with you a little of my background and my love for knitting and crafting. You can watch the trailers and videos for a bit of background. And speaking of crafting: Creativebug isn’t only about knitting. The classes they feature range from jewelry-making to quilting to ceramics, and even working with leather. This new online genre is a great one and I hope that you’ll check it out!

And without further ado, here are more holiday crafting ideas at five weeks out from Wendy and some of our other 2014 books:  

Slouch Cap from Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard


Pleated Mittens from Up, Down, All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard

Breve Cowl from Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads by Cirilia Rose

Heima Slippers from Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads by Cirilia Rose

Cotton Scrap Rag Rug from Cloth by Cassandra Ellis

Metallic Leather Sling from Cloth by Cassandra Ellis


If the ideas above have your creative gears turning, but you're stuck on a step or technique (or maybe you want to learn something entirely new), why don't you go ahead and try out Creativebug on your own? Enter here for a chance to win a copy of Wendy's book, Up, Down, All-Around Stitch-Dictionary, 2 project patterns, and yarn courtesy of Blue Sky Aplacas. The best part? The prize package also includes a free six-month subscription to Creativebug, so you can take all of Wendy's classes, plus any other crafting courses that strike your fancy! But hurrythe contest ends in 4 days!

Celebrate Fall by Knitting-A-Long with Guest Blogger and STC Craft Author Katie Startzman

Hello! I’m Katie Startzman, author of STC Craft’s The Knitted Slipper Book. I blog at Duo Fiberworks with my twin sister Laura Poulette. Thanks to STC Craft for inviting me to guest post here!

We will soon be deep into slipper season—blustery, gray days and downright cold starlit nights. As someone who delights in making and wearing slippers, I look forward to this time of year. It’s an opportunity of pile on the handknits, make lots of soup, and catch up on my reading by the woodstove. But we’re not quite there yet. Here in Kentucky, we still have a good long stretch of crisp Fall weather ahead of us, and the layers I put on in the morning get peeled off as the day warms up.

To celebrate the changing seasons, I wanted to do a knit-a-long that featured a pair of slippers that would be a good fit for this transitional time of year. The Cotton Loafers from The Knitted Slipper Book are shoe-like slippers that are made from soft organic cotton and rustic jute twine. They’re my knitted mash-up of boat shoes, espadrilles, and loafer moccs. They feature functional leather lacing, and the thick jute sole is sturdy and comfy.


I’ll be hosting the knit-a-long on my blog, over the next two weeks. In a series of posts, I’ll share tips and tricks to knitting these quick-to-finish, stylish slippers. You can view the first post here. Since many folks are unaccustomed to knitting with jute, I’ll also be sharing a free pattern that combines the cotton and jute to make a mini-tote.

Thanks to Blue Sky Alpacas, we have giveaways planned too—a sweet kit of organic worsted cotton yarn, jute, and a hand-stenciled canvas project bag made by yours truly.

**To enter the giveaway here, leave a comment between now and Friday, September 26 sharing something that you love about this time of year.** The winner will be announced on Monday, September 29.

Be sure to join us at Duo Fiberworks in the coming days to knit with us and for a chance to win a kit over there too. Here’s the schedule:

Monday, September 22:      Inspiration and design

Thursday, September 25:    Knitting the jute sole, project kit giveaway begins.     
Monday, September 29:      Knitting the slipper upper: Also share free pattern for the Bird Nest Mini-Tote

Thursday,  October 2:         Seaming and finishing details, announce giveaway winner

Gertie at STC Craft: It's Not Your Grandma's Crafting (Or Is it?)


Hi everyone, I'm back! I got a little bogged down in other work for awhile (including finishing my book!) but I'm back to posting here on a regular basis (I don't want to make any promises that I can't keep so I'll keep it a little vague). I thought I'd jump back in with a discussion of the generational aspects of crafting. I know there are strong opinions on this matter, so I hope we can have a spirited conversation here!

It’s not news that there’s been a resurgence of young women getting involved in crafting for the last decade or so. (I just turned 33 so I feel like I'm smack dab in the middle of the whole thing) Hip knitting books, tattoo-style embroidery kits, and sewing patterns by Project Runway stars all speak to a new generation of DIYer. My personal blog has resonated with lots of twenty-something women, and if I can get them to start sewing, then I’m happy. But one thing bothers me about the young crafting movement: namely, the “it’s not your grandma’s sewing/knitting/embroidering!” mentality and marketing strategy. Because, well, it is your grandmother’s sewing, knitting, or embroidering. (And because I work with vintage sewing patterns and books, this is quite literal to me.)

Whether you’re knitting tea cozies or a skull motif sweater, you’re using the skills that have been passed down among generations of women. Crafting may have gotten a hip makeover, but there’s nothing new when it comes to hand crafting technique—and we have our grandmothers to thank for sharing these skills. Also, we have a responsibility to pass them on to the next generation ourselves. (I’m sure our granddaughters will think skull sweaters are so 30 years ago!)

But perhaps this distancing of the older generation is what it takes to get the young folk interested in crafting. I’ll readily admit to sometimes being drawn to hipster embroidery transfers and other products marketed to the under-35 demographic. But there must be a way to draw in that demographic without alienating our grandmother’s generation.  My Grandmother’s Knitting by Larissa Brown is a great example of this concept at work: it’s a collection of stories about the tradition of knitting in families, paired with patterns that appeal to the modern knitter.

Since we’re coming up to Mother’s Day, now seems like an appropriate time for this discussion. What do you think of this issue? Do slogans like “it’s not your grandmother’s knitting!” bother you? Or do you think it’s a necessary step forward for the craft movement? Please share!


A Knitter Gives Back: A Guest Blog Post from Leigh Radford of Portland, OR

Leigh Radford is the author of three STC Craft books: AlterKnits, AlterKnits Felt, and One More Skein. She is also the author of One Skein. Leigh and I have been friends ever since we worked together on Interweave Knits magazine. Always generous, she recently completed a beautiful, colorful community knitting project. When I heard about it, I asked her if she would write a guest blog post for us and she--generously--agreed.


Above: Albers Stash Blanket, a field of knitted dreams for the Portland community (photo here and below by Beth Conyers).

Knitting is one of my favorite activities.  What began as a childhood hobby has transformed into a career that continues to evolve.

In May 2011 I completed 3-1/2 years of study and earned a bachelor of fine art in craft degree from Oregon College of Art and Craft. The time I spent at OCAC was amazing and, frankly, very self-absorbed. When I finished I took time to reflect on the support I had received from my friends and family and also from my community.

I feel fortunate to have grown up in Oregon and to make my home in Portland. I love living here. The environment, the people, and yes, even the rain--it all feels like home to me. I wanted to give back in some way that would benefit the community that helps nurture my creativity and I wanted to reconnect with people outside of the art school campus.

While pondering possibilities, I thumbed through a copy of One More Skein, the book I finished writing during my first semester back in school. I stopped when I reached the Albers Stash Blanket. I designed this project to celebrate my love of color and my desire to artfully use leftover yarn in my stash. I knew that this project could easily be worked on by a group of knitters--the perfect way to reconnect and give back, and it was right under my nose!

I posted the pattern on my Facebook page and asked  knitters to send me completed panels to assemble into blankets that I would donate to three Portland nonprofits: Cascade Aids Project, p:ear, and Raphael House. Alternatively, I asked them to coordinate similar efforts in their own communities. 

Lantern Moon generously donated knitting needles so that I could start multiple panels and then hand them off to other knitters to complete. I love that this was a joint effort—a community of those who love to knit working together to create something for others. As the deadline approached, I found myself lurking around my mailbox each day to see if a new panel might arrive.

The Albers Stash Blanket is a simple project and versatile enough to incorporate into my daily routine. I brought panels with me to meetings and social events. As I worked a panel, I eagerly anticipated choosing the next color. Sometimes I found myself knitting faster so I could get to it. 

This spring I proudly delivered four blankets to the chosen organizations on behalf of everyone who contributed their time and talents: Michele Lee Bernstein, Linda Blum, Anne Bressler, Jody Creasman, Close Knit, Erin Derr, Liz Hawthorne, Christie Heinonen, Sue Hill, Laura Irwin,  Loretta Kelly, Debbie Kenyon, MaryBeth Lynn, Aileen Mann, Tamsyn Mihalus, Kristin Spurkland, Twisted Yarn Shop, Laurie Undis, Cathy Woodcock, and Sharon Woodcock.

I began this project thinking I was the one giving a gift.  In truth, I feel like I have received one. This project created an opportunity for me to spend time with friends, old and new, and to learn more about three local nonprofits and how I can participate in them in a positive way going forward.

I continue to find inspiration within my Portland community and ask that you think about how you might use your time and talent to connect with others in your community as you reach for your knitting needles to work another row of stitches.

Above: Leigh puts finishing touches on the four blankets donated by the community. 

The Gift of Handmade from Our Friends at Open Road

A Guest Post by Laura De Silva, Open Road Media

Christmas Eve is only two days away, and December 28th is the final night of Hanukkah this year. Did the holidays sneak up on you, too?

Right about now, many of us are frantically wrapping up our shopping and finishing those handmade gifts we’ve been leisurely approaching until this week. If you, like me, still have a long way to go on that item—whether it’s a scarf, a hat, or (Heaven forbid!) a sweater—you might be cursing yourself for biting off a little more than you can chew this year.

If you’re running out of steam, here’s a little inspiration to help you make it through that last mile of yarn. Watch STC Craft’s Melanie Falick, Joelle Hoverson, and Andrea Price speak about the specialness of giving handmade gifts. Give yourself the gift of a moment with this video, and get back in touch with the reasons why we go to all this trouble in the first place:

I hope watching this video inspires you to share why you make handmade gifts in the comments. (Personally, I give handmade gifts because I love seeing my loved ones wear them—even when the weather doesn’t call for it!)

Ready to jump back into your project now? Needles up . . .

Wishing you and yours the happiest of holidays!


P.S. If you still need a gift for that friend who loves her Kindle, Nook, iPad, Sony Reader, or Kobo Touch, you can always get her one of the ebooks from STC Craft | Melanie Falick Books! Watch below to learn how to gift an ebook—a great last-minute gift that doesn’t require any swatching).


Handmade Holidays Memories from Kelly Wilkinson, author of Weekend Handmade

A Guest Post by Kelly Wilkinson


For me, the telltale smell of Christmas isn’t gingerbread or eggnog--but the smell of a hot glue gun. 

We were one of those annoyingly Currier & Ives families who actually made our holiday gifts and invited people over to sing carols around the piano and, get this–-reenact the story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. I kid you not. My dad always played the tax collector and sometimes doubled as the donkey.  I know, I know: I can practically HEAR your eyeballs rolling. You can’t get much more wholesome, which is probably why my sisters and I each cultivated a pretty healthy streak of snark.

Naturally, these traditions became unbearably embarrassing once we entered middle school and beyond. But now, there is nothing I love more than an old-fashioned sing-a-long, led by my insanely musical mother.  Another holiday tradition that I still cherish is crafting up homemade presents for my family. 

This year, my husband and I are travelling back to Virginia and the renovated barn I grew up in for the holidays. And while I’ll try to have all my presents made by the time we ship out, I’m sure that my down-to-the-wire personality means that you’ll find me in my Christmas pajamas, tucked into a cozy corner of the barn, soldering or sewing or wrapping. 
And in all truthfulness, there’s nowhere else I’d prefer to be. 

Above, left: Kelly expectantly hanging her stockings in 1979; above, right: The Wilkinsons, wishing you a Merry christmas sometime in the early 1980s.

Inspired to craft your own holiday presents? Check out Kelly's book Weekend Handmade for plenty of fresh, simple, and fun ideas.

A Handmade Holiday Recipe from Susan Waggoner, Author of Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas

A Guest Post by Susan Waggoner

My early Christmases were celebrated in Des Moines, Iowa, with my father’s family, a group to whom Yuletide was equal parts holiday and competitive crafting marathon. Today, my most vibrant memories of those years revolve around what was made rather than what was bought: red voile aprons with white poinsettias painted--freehand--by my grandmother; a host of miniature angels crafted by my mother hovering around an organ my father made, using his drafting pencils for pipes; wreaths of pinecones. It was exciting to be even on the fringes of such activity.

A few years later, when we relocated to Minnesota, my mother kept up the tradition on her own, gluing mercury glass beads to pine boughs on the steppes of suburbia. Our Christmas Eves were quieter, lit by tiny blue lights and the magical hush of a house surrounded by deep snow. In Minnesota, we followed my mother’s family tradition, and hand-crafting took the form of a Swedish smorgasbord, with tender meatballs in cream gravy, sweet Swedish rye bread with orange peel grated in for the occasion, a sweet-and-sour brown bean dish known as bruna bönor, and for dessertkringler, a delectable almond pastry whose very taste still summons up to me the essence of so many Christmases gone by.

Swedish Kringler

This is a surprising recipe in that it has no sugar other than the frosting, and the filling sounds about as appealing as wallpaper paste. Nevertheless, the end result is delicious. If I'm just making this for a few people, I make half the recipe. I don't try to do half of 3 eggs, I just pick the largest egg in the carton and it works fine. To keep the crust crisp, I store leftovers in a shoebox, or on a plate loosely tented with foil.


1 c flour

½ c butter

2 tbsp water


1 c water

½ c butter

1 c flour

3 eggs

1 tsp almond extract


1 c powdered sugar

1 tbsp milk or cream

1 tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp almond extract

To make the crust:

Pulse ingredients in a food processor or cut with knives as you would pie dough to make a crumbly dough that will stick together if you press it.

Round up dough in two balls.

On a cookie sheet (a silicon mat on the cookie sheet is swell, as is baker’s parchment), pat into 2 long strips, about 4" x 12" each. This is kind of messy and sticky—I use the side of my hand to push it into shape. No problem if it looks rustic.

To make the filling:

Put water and butter in a saucepan. Heat to melt butter, then increase heat, bring to boil and remove from heat immediately. Add flour and stir until smooth. Beat in one egg at a time. Add extract and spread over crust.

Bake on 325 for about 40 minutes, until the edges of the crust turn golden brown.

To make the frosting:

Whip ingredients together. 

When cool, frost and garnish with slivered almonds or multicolored sprinkles or drained maraschino cherry halves.  Slice crosswise in strips about 1" wide.

For more traditional holiday recipes as well as vintage-inspired holiday decorations, check out Susan's book Have Yourself a Very Vintage Christmas.

Gertie at STC Craft: Feeling Thankful

Thanksgiving, more than any other holiday, is all about reflection for me. I was walking past Penn Station today, and it brought back a memory from exactly one year ago.

It was the day before Thanksgiving, and I had a half-day at work. I used to edit books for a big publishing company. While it was an interesting job, it gradually evolved into just a “day job” as my sewing blog took off and I wanted to devote all of my time to it. After I left work that Thanksgiving Eve, I had to get downtown for an appointment, but I had a couple hours to kill. I decided to walk to the Borders bookstore right by Penn Station to browse the craft section. When I got there, it became very clear that I had picked the wrong day to do that. 

“What kind of idiot decides to take a leisurely trip to Penn Station the day before Thanksgiving?” I wondered. Apparently, I was that idiot. As mobs of travelers rushed by me, yelling and jostling and ramming their suitcases into each other (and me), I had quite a dark moment. Sometimes I really hate New York, I thought.

Fast forward to today, the day before Thanksgiving. I no longer work at my day job. Many factors came together to make it possible for me to switch to a combination of sewing and craft-related freelance work. This afternoon I met with the illustrator for my book at the sewing studio where I teach. After we finished, I walked uptown to the Garment District to pick up a few supplies. Can you guess where I walked, readers? Right past Penn Station and the holiday travel hustle and bustle. Again, I was that idiot.

But this year, I barely noticed. Things felt calmer. Yes, people were yelling and smoking and taking up the whole sidewalk waiting for the Bolt Bus, but it didn’t occur to me to feel annoyed by all this. Perhaps I’m just having an unusually serene day, but it did really highlight the differences in my life between last year and this year.

Melanie and I were chatting on the phone earlier this morning, and she reminded me of a conversation we had when we traveled to Palm Springs together last January. She had recommended me to teach at Heather Ross’s weekend sewing workshop there, and Heather obligingly agreed, even though I was a very small name in her lineup of star-power teachers. As Melanie and I chatted the entire way out to California, she told me that she had a fantasy of me coming to work at STC Craft with her. I was incredibly flattered and agreed that was indeed a great fantasy.

Amazingly, it did happen. Not exactly the way we thought it would, but what in life ever does? Earlier this year, many people came together to support my big career move. Melanie gave me regular freelance work to make the transition easier, along with many words of wisdom as a friend.  My amazing husband, Jeff, continues to work at his “day job” so I don’t have to--and has been nothing less than supportive and optimistic. I have an amazing readership of passionate sewing enthusiasts who have made my blog what it is. A couple readers have even become my “interns,” working for me for free to help me juggle all the amazing things going on in my life.

To make a long story short, there’s a lot to be thankful for. I can’t believe the way my life has changed in the past year, and I’m grateful to all of you reading this for being a part of it.

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Gertie at STC Craft: Awesome DIY Hairdos


I've been a Bust magazine reader since way back, and I've always loved their smart and sassy attitude. A feminist magazine with sewing projects and beauty tips? Yes, please!

So, of course, I was super-excited to get a copy of the new book, The Bust DIY Guide to Life. After flipping through it, I fell in love with the section on hairstyles. So I hatched the idea of trying out a couple of the 'dos (there are ten in total) and reporting the results to you here. Here goes!

First, I tried the "Go Go Kahlo," an homage to Frida the Great.

Here's my version.


The front is done in French braids down the side of the head, which then get flipped up to the top of the head and pinned in place. (I don't think I've French braided since I went to Girl Scout camp! It was a good refresher.) The book gives you several options for how you can finish the back of your hair, and I chose to twist it into pin curl-like shapes.

Of course, chandelier earrings were a must! This would be a great look for an elegant evening out.

Next, I tried "The Do in Doo-Wop," a bouffant style reminiscent of girl groups of the 60s, with a punk edge like Amy Winehouse (RIP).

I decided it needed glasses and more black so I did a quick wardrobe change. (And extra eyeliner would have been good, but I was on a tight schedule.)


I loved the messy approach to this style. As the book says, "Don't aim for perfection--this is rock 'n' roll, not a beauty pageant!" I dig that. This coiffure really spoke to my inner bad girl; it would look amazing paired with a motorcycle jacket, don't you think? (Note to self: Look into sewing motorcycle jacket ASAP.)

The best part about these two styles is that they worked with my hair's natural texture, so no blow drying or curling or straightening was needed or recommended. No fuss and super stylish--what more could a girl want out of her DIY life? The only hard part will be deciding which one to try next!

Also! See a gallery of project images from the book here.

Guest Blogger: Wendy Bernard on Customizing Her Knits and 90210


A month or so ago, my editor for the Custom Knits series, Liana, asked me if I would want to write a guest post for the STC Craft blog. We went back and forth on what I should write about, such as my experiences writing Custom Knits 2, or what it’s like knitting for my family, but nothing was feeling especially inspiring to me. That is until she finally said I could write about any old thing, even Beverly Hills 90210, if I wanted to. I’m not sure if she was joking, but I figured I might as well take her up on it, and actually 90210 does have something to do with how I write books. Truth is, I average two hours of the stuff a day when I’m writing a book and I’m not lying. (Believe it or not, I’m sort of proud of it, because at this point I’m an expert. I can look up at the TV, glance at Donna’s hair color, and know right off the bat what season it is.) 90210 keeps things interesting for me when I’m sitting in my office knitting or writing. In fact, as I type this out, Donna’s hair is short and blonde and that means she’s in the early part of her college career and her boyfriend’s name is Ray.

But what else does knitting have to do with 90210? Well, it is (obviously) set in Southern California, which is where I also happen to live, and living where I do is part of the reason why I started to customize my knits in the first place. You see, it’s almost always warm here, so if you’re knitting, you’re not usually knitting for warmth. When I started knitting and wanted to make sweaters, I always had to change things around in the original pattern in order to suit my climate. And this is what gave me the opportunity to start honing my design chops.

When I was a kid, my family lived in Minnesota, and my grandmothers--both of them knitters--would knit mittens for me. But when I moved to Southern California in the late 70’s, I noticed that the only people who seriously wore knits were wearing them for an hour or two, or in a super-cold office, or for pure fashion, and not usually out of necessity. As ironic as it may seem, it was in Southern California that I eventually found my favorite thing to do—knit and design and write books about it—yet I couldn’t experience what it was like to actually “use” the knits the way they were originally intended: for warmth.

So imagine how it has been for me to fall into a career and a passion that has so many environmental constraints! If I want to knit for myself, I absolutely have to consider my surroundings. Does it make sense to knit a cardigan that takes me weeks to knit and only be able to wear it for a few days in a season? Nope. What about a pullover? Does it make sense to spend a month knitting a pullover with the nicest alpaca I can find so I can wear it for, oh, two hours? No. No. No. But you know what? If I slapped short sleeves onto the cardigan instead of the long ones, I might be able to wear it. And the pullover? Same thing: Shorten the sleeves, add a deeper neckline to allow a colorful tank to show through, and I’m set. The alpaca part? I’d probably still knit with alpaca—some of my favorite yarns have alpaca—but I’d probably try to find a blend or something in a sport weight.



When I think back on how I naturally approached knitting when I first started designing, I realize that my personal limitations and point of view actually worked in my favor. I knew that people living in colder climates might want to wear warm items with long sleeves or cowl necks and spend the time knitting them, but I also discovered that people like me–who live in areas where there are fewer knit-wearing opportunities–might also like to knit them and wear them, and so I started to think about variations. The Knotted pattern from Custom Knits 2 (shown above) is a perfect example of the same sweater pattern being put to use for people living in different climates. If you live in a warmer place, like me, then you can knit the vest version of the pattern (in yellow, above) as is. But if you live in a cooler climate, you may want to add long sleeves and a hood to the pattern (in red, above)--which are both things I show you how to do in the book. And this has been the way that I have approached the Custom Knits series: I encourage you to look at a pattern and make adjustments so that the garment works in all areas—perfect for your climate, body shape, and personal preferences--and customize it so that you will actually get to wear it (and want to wear it).

For Custom Knits 2, I even went a step further with the customizing, this time including answers to all of the questions I have received in recent years about more advanced customizing techniques. For example, I have heard from knitters all over the world who would like to make a child’s pattern in a woman’s size (or vice versa), and in this book, I show you how. Many, many people have also asked how they can customize a raglan—one of the trickier sweater styles to customize--so I addressed that question in the book, too. In fact, the Zuma Tunic (shown above on the cover) is a raglan, and there are all sorts of ideas for customizing this pattern in the book.

So whether you’re living in 90210 or in 10011 (that’s the zip code for STC Craft), the key to successful sweater-making is understanding what works for you and how to make changes to existing patterns so that you end up with a beautiful garment that you can actually wear and love. Speaking of making garments you'll love, why not try your hand at making one of the patterns in Custom Knits 2 along with a helpful, inspiring group of other knitters? Next week, I'll be kicking off a Custom Knits 2 knitalong where knitters from all over the country will create garments from the book (and most likely customize them to their heart's content). Be sure to join the Knit and Tonic Knitters Group at for announcements and updates, and check out my blog, Knit and Tonic, for more information.

Knitting for the Camera! A Star is Born

Back in August Andrea Berman Price (author of Knitspeak), Joelle Hoverson (author of Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts), and I (Melanie) were each visited by a camera crew from Open Road Media. The crew's job was to film us talking about our passion for knitting and then create documentary-style videos with their footage (all of this part of our launch plans for our new digital knitting book initiative). Not surprisingly, each of us felt a little hesitant about our interviews and then self-conscious about the results. It was definitely a test of our self-confidence and groundedness. I asked Andrea to share her memories of the day she was in the hot seat. I'll share my story soon.

Cheers, ladies (left to right): my friend Melissa, Lily, Lisa, and Polly from Open Road, and me

You may not believe me when I tell you that even a florid extrovert can get nervous and tongue-tied when faced with a crowd or a camera.  I’m not sure I have ever been as nervous as I was on the day in August when the Open Road crew came down from New York to DC to capture me on pixels for STC Craft. 

The crew rolled up to my rowhouse in Washington, DC, just after 11am and began unloading black bags full of wires and lights in my living room.  I hid upstairs, I was so jittery. I let them have the run of the first floor to set up without me in the way. I identified the crew by their voices. I began to wonder: Were they knitters? Were they hungry? Could I connect with them? I was relieved they were all women, and highly competent. For some reason it seemed easier to talk about knitting on camera with a female crew; I felt as if they’d respect my passion for it rather than ridicule it. And I think they did.

The camera was set up in a corner, and a chair was placed in the middle of the living room floor. This was  going to be the hot seat.  The interviewer, sat facing me, next to the camera so I could feel like we were having a conversation, but I was mesmerized by the black lens. I rambled on about how I learned to knit, about patterns, why I think knitting is so great.  My hope was that there was a good editor back at the studio who could make this sound cogent in postproduction.  

“What’s your angle?” I had asked the producer a few weeks prior.  “Our angle is you,” said the producer.  Ack.   What is it about me that would be important to talk about? I could talk about teaching knitting, I could talk about pattern reading, and common pattern problems, but oddly enough for those who know me, I did not want to talk about me.

As friendly as the crew was (and they really couldn't have been friendlier), this was not like speaking to fellow knitters at a fiber festival, or my weekend knitting group, or to a group gathered at a yarn store event; the camera didn’t smile back.  I thought about what I really wanted to come out of the conversation. The message would be: The joy that knitting has brought to my life can be accessed and celebrated by all. A humble cause when you think about it, that a folk craft learned at a grandmother’s side, can fascinate, calm, and delight. I kept rambling, stopping, and asking the crew to let me re-take the questions.

This may seem a trumped-up aim for a humble craft, but I wanted to get across that knitting (and crochet) is a meaningful activity for so many reasons. We show love by making gifts, we celebrate friendship in knitting groups, we recognize the love in the connection when we teach others, and with those who taught us even after they are long gone.

I was tongue-tied all day long; the nervousness never left. How could I communicate this grand thought in a way that did not sound silly? If I was unfocused myself about what I wanted to say, how could I produce a cogent message with those lights in my face? By the end of the day, at least one of the crew talked about rescuing a long-forgotten project from the back of the closet. She tried on a soft, swirly shawl as we set up the last shot. I realized then that through all the fumbling and re-takes, that I might have hit the mark. I had chattered and pontificated all day, but my enthusiasm was (I hoped) inspiring a sometimes-knitter to reach for the needles and try again. Some of the comments I got from old friends on Facebook in the first days after the video released reinforced the feeling that the message had gotten through. The message was: pick it up again; knitting might just satisfy a vague need for centering, for creating, for connection. We popped a bottle of prosecco and the crew ran off to catch the train.  I was exhausted.  All I wanted to do was knit.

Click here to see Andrea's video.

Tell Us: Who Inspired You to Knit? A Guest Post from Larissa Brown

The second-ever Sock Summit was held in my home town of Portland, Oregon, last week, and it was the most joyful gathering of knitters I've ever seen. From flash mobs to fleeces, the convention center was overflowing with creativity and stuff. A huge marketplace showcased a world of gorgeous hand-dyed yarns from the tiniest dye company to Blue Moon Fiber Arts itself. I was introduced to MacKintosh Yarns and Black Trillium for the first time, got samples of gorgeous buttons from Lantern Moon, and made notes about several new yarns, including my favorite of the weekend—a linen-esque recycled denim from Kollage. A highlight of the summit was the final morning, when darling lambs were herded into the convention center and sheared onsite for the start of the Fleece to Foot team spinning and knitting race.

I was attending the Sock Summit for fun, but also as the excited author of a very new book, My Grandmother’s Knitting. The book features family stories, and even baby pictures, from 17 top designers. The book honors the people who made us the crafters we are today.

Looking around at the 6,000 summiteers, I figured that amounted to at least 6,000 inspiring teachers and mentors. I managed to capture the names of about a hundred of them, by asking 100 knitters to hold up signs.

It was kind of an odd request, and I’m shy, so I recruited my friend to approach those hundred people. Stevanie (of Pico AccuardiDyeworks) worked the room with a big stack of white paper and a fat black Sharpie. The assignment: Write down who taught you to knit or who inspired you. Then smile big for the camera.

So many people joined in, from the famous to the amazingly anonymous, it was impossible to get all their names. But I have recorded “on flim” the names of those who came before them, who inspired and nudged and supported them. Or in many cases, I have a smiling photo of someone who taught themselves to knit (there were lots of signs that said “Me!”)

Just a few proud knitters seen below include Clara Parkes, Emily from Portland’s Twisted yarn shop, Gryphon (of The Sanguine Gryphon), Shannon Okey of Cooperative Press with her sweet purple hair, Benjamin Levisay, designers Marnie MacLean and Star Athena, and bon vivant Franklin Habit. A highlight for me was taking Joan McGowan-Michael’s photograph with a sign honoring “her dear mom” Angelina, whose story and photograph are featured in My Grandmother’s Knitting. As I took Joan’s picture I could feel her love for her late mom. You can see her in the center of the mosaic. 

The photos are now on Flickr and Facebook, where more are joining them each day. Knitters from all over the world are adding their own.

All that is missing is you.

We’d love to get 1,000 knitters posting their photos on Flickr and Facebook by the time the book hits stores on September 1.

Please get out some paper and a Magic Marker and take your photo and the photos of your friends. We’d love to see your face and the name of that special person, and we’d love to know if you blog about it, Tweet it, or Facebook it.  There were 6,000 knitters at the Sock Summit. There must be at least ten times that number who have a special person to honor, right? Show us!

See the project on Flickr.

And on Facebook.