How did a novice like me end up sewing a cactus-shaped pin cushion?
Some people go running to help relieve stress and keep them sane
in the face of, well, life. Some people self-medicate, clean the house from top
to bottom, or take the dog for a long walk.
I make things.
My name is Dorothy and I am Melany's new part-time help at Project
Anthologies. I've been knitting and crocheting for several years, and teaching
knitting classes at Project Anthologies for a few months. I am also a mom, a
part-time Spanish professor, a soap maker, and an organic gardener, who tries
to find time regularly to play a little ukulele and bake a fairly mean loaf of
bread. Recently I have started learning to use a sewing machine. I would
say I'm a serial hobbyist, but all my hobbies seem to stay with me, like the
Morning Glories you were confident wouldn't become weeds in your zone-5 garden
because they'd get killed by frost in the fall, not realizing that they're
prolific self-sowers. (Now we both know not to trust Morning
Let's just say I have a lot of interests. I am, you could say, an
interested person. I enjoy matching a suitable method to the desired end
result. Don't even get me started on fiber choice for the perfect knitted
garment. It's embarrassing. And tremendously satisfying. But I digress.
Given my tendencies to take on interesting but sometimes
impractical challenges, it's perhaps not surprising that I have trouble setting
realistic goals with new projects. And the more I started sewing, the more
obvious it became that I needed a good pin cushion, since I now needed to use
so many pins at once. So rather than making or (gasp!) buying a simple one,
what did I decide to do? Why, make one that looks like a cactus, of course. Of
my own design. Because it might be cute / funny / a learning experience. I'm
sure you've heard yourself say this before: "How hard could it be?"
I present to you my cactus pin cushion, with tutorial below. I
apologize for the photography. Be warned, though, that I made no attempt
to create a facsimile of any particular extant cactus. I didn't even look at a
single photo of a cactus.
I also didn't iron anything for this project, because I am really
good at rationalizing my lazy choices. A good deal of my knitting is in the
round, purportedly so that the finished piece has no bulky seams to irritate
the wearer; but really, it's because I hate seaming knitted fabric. If I wanted
to sew, I would be sewing. And ironing is to sewing as seaming is to knitting.
Plus, it's meant to look like an organic living thing, which is bound to have
I used cotton fabric left over from other projects, bought a
4" terra cotta pot so the whole thing wouldn't be top-heavy, and filled
the cactus with sand to keep the pins sharp. (I found a 1-lb. bag of sand,
which was more than enough, in the paint aisle at the hardware store.) You
could also use poly fill, in which case you wouldn't have to worry about making
stitches teeny enough to prevent spillage when you close up the cactus.
How it's made:
1. I cut three rectangles 4" x 8" and sewed a simple
1/4" seam at both skinny ends of each piece, facing the same side of the
fabric. Or maybe it was 1/2". Doesn't matter, as long as they're fairly
consistent. Stop measuring!
2. I folded each piece in half so the raw edges (wrong side) faced
out and traced a 4" circle
(in this case the lid of an extra-large peanut butter jar) against the folded
3. Then I sewed a 1/4" seam allowance up the sides and
inside that curve, and cut along the line to form the top curve of the cactus.
You can obviously do this with 6 separate 4" x 4" pieces, but for
some reason the folding method made sense to me at the time.
4. Then I turned the 3 pieces right side out, flattened them on
top of each other in a stack, and pinned them together. (The tops do need to be
lined up carefully, so that the sections all come to a point in the same spot.)
I sewed a line right down the middle of the stack, going over it twice for
5. Putting the assembly upside down in the 4" pot kept it
from falling over while I filled it, and because I'm a klutz, I put that inside
a larger bowl to catch stray sand. I filled each cell halfway, pushed it down
into the "top" corners with the eraser end of a pencil, and filled it
to 1/4" from the open edge before hand-stitching it together. Here's where
I started to get lazy, because A) it's crazy tedious making stitches close
enough to keep SAND from getting through, and B) this part ends up not very
visible. So keep the stitches close if you're using sand, but don't worry about
making it pretty.
6. Next you have to create a base on which the cactus will sit
inside the pot. You'll notice I have no pictures of this phase. That is because
at this point, I didn't care how the thing got finished as long as I didn't
have to look at it anymore. So it's not exactly elegant-- because its job is to
sit inside a pot, underneath what everyone
will see. Basically you make some kind of round sand-colored beanbag (it
doesn't have to exactly fit the inside shape of the pot, but it helps to make
sure the top diameter will sit at the right level inside the pot), hand stitch
the base of the cactus onto the beanbag before filling it (I filled mine with
pebbles I had originally bought as houseplant mulch), close that up too, and
stick the sucker in the pot.
7. If you like, you can trace and glue on a circle of felt to
cover the bottom of the pot, so that it doesn't scratch your tabletop.
Now you can get on with other things. But this time, your pin
cushion is decorative enough that you don't have to put it away out of sight.
Let me know what you think!
Here we are a month into the New Year already! Time flies when you're having fun. Cliche but true! The shop is doing well - the holidays brought many customers looking for stocking fabric, gifts for sewists, handmade goodies and yarn for knitting something for a loved one. I LOVED it. January was also good - a bit slower - but actually better than I expected.
Living where I do, in upstate NY, I think people crave getting out and doing something this time of the year. The hard part is that the weather sometimes prevents us from doing just that. I've found that the snow doesn't keep people away as much as the bitter cold or rain. However, the shop has managed to stay pretty busy with people coming for classes and shopping for supplies to take home for new creations.
(This was an impromptu class making jersey knit infinity scarves with some of my running peeps!)
One of the most exciting new things that the new year has brought is the addition of a part-time employee. She is an accomplished knitter and becoming an accomplished sewist! She's helping revamp and build the yarn selection and her knitting classes are all the rage. She is even going to share some of her projects on the blog as she continues to build her creative skills!
I also have a new intern this semester. She's proving to be as delightful as Trista - and I look forward to helping her complete some projects while she's here this semester. She completed a major task on my to-do list her first week here - she built our Project Inspiration Board!
Now, you can shop at Project Anthologies, go home and make something cool, bring in a picture and earn 10% off your next purchase! Plus, your picture will hang proudly on our wall inspiring other shoppers and class participants. If you don't live in Oneonta, no worries. Participate online too. Just post a picture on our Facebook page and I'll send you a discount code for your next purchase!
The blog has been neglected as I suspected would happen as we got busy for the holidays, etc. Happily, I'm getting in a good groove with the business, I have some help now, and I hope to share more of what's happening here. In the meantime - if you're ready to THINK SPRING (supposedly we're having an early one??)...buy any Art Gallery Fabric and receive this Maxi Dress Pattern for FREE. No promo code necessary - it will arrive with your shipment. :)
Until next time,
I have had the pleasure of having an intern this semester from one of our local colleges. She is only here a few hours per week - but we try to pack a lot into those few hours! She is just learning to sew on the machine and I asked her to write a blog entry about her first big project. She did a Fat Quarter apron using Maureen's tutorial! I love this apron tutorial - and now so does Trista! :)
I have been an intern at Project Anthologies for about two months now,
and I have finally been able to complete my first sewing project! For a
gift for my grandma on Christmas, I decided to make her an apron. At
first I was overwhelmed with all the fabrics and patterns that I could
choose from. There were so many that caught my interest and that I
wanted to use. In the end I chose Christmas patterned fabric due to the
holiday season! However, there were a lot of great Christmas themed
patterns to choose from that even then I was indecisive.
When first starting to sew, I was very intimidated by the sewing
machine. This was going to be the first time I have used a sewing
machine in my adult life. The only thoughts that were going through my
head were "straight lines, straight lines" and "don't break the
machine!" After a little while of using the machine, it was easy to
become comfortable with the foot pedal and to stay consistent with the
speed of the needle. I was just so thankful that this project was a
beginner one rather than anything more difficult. The thread was
probably my biggest feat, and I am still working on how to keep it
right, but I suppose that comes with a little more practice.
The apron itself was not very hard at all to put together. I was
able to successfully and painlessly sew the separate panels of the apron
with consistent straight lines and very little flaws or mishaps with
the help of Melany, of course. I was able to finish about three quarters
of the apron, sewing three panels and a waistband, until it was time
for me to leave for the day. The next time I interned, the following
Thursday, I finished the apron by applying the straps to the waist band.
After the apron was complete, I have to say, I was very impressed with
the work I had done! I would have never thought that someone with very
little experience could accomplish making something such as an apron,
something that I wouldn't think twice about just buying.
After conquering my fear of the sewing machine, I now am looking
forward to making more Christmas presents for the family. I can't wait
to see how they all turn out! Take a look at how the apron came out along with the fabric I was able to choose from. Just know that if
I were to sew an apron like this, anyone can! Stay tuned for the
If you haven't been to THIS blog - you're missing out. Maureen is a multi-talented soul who between designing, sewing, creating, blogging and selling - somehow finds time to be a wife and mom to three adorable little ones. When I launched my online shop I knew that Maureen's blog was one I'd want to sponsor and be connected with! She has not disappointed!
Today I am doing a giveaway on her blog... 7 yards of Michael Miller's Tipsy Square Canvas. Check it out and enter to win! This fabric is fresh and fun and could create endless wonders. ;)
Our Sewing Classes at Project Anthologies have been a big success!
I love that we've had a variety of ages, abilities and interest levels. There are people who have come back for 2, 3, and 4 or more classes. The feeling of creating something that didn't exist before just never gets old!
Upon opening my shop, my intention was to leave the teaching to others - but after getting my groove going with running the shop I became interested in teaching as well. I love sharing some of what I love to do with a new group of people and seeing how they put their own twist on it! Part of the fun with our classes is that the possibilities are endless for different projects. We have some new classes in the works and I can't wait to get going!
Please join us if you can! You can find classes that still have availability HERE (they have been selling out). And keep watching for more - I post them as we get them scheduled. I hope I'll see you posing with your project soon!
This is another simple dress pattern that my friend, Alyson turned me on to. It's the Audrey dress from Indygo Junction. The thing about this pattern...and all patterns for that matter, is that you can't always tell by the picture how cute it really is. I think both this one and the Cowl Neck dress look much better in person. I'm so glad she encouraged me to try them. They come together quite quickly and I imagine I'll be making many more in different fabrics.
I had been dying to make something with Anna Maria's Field Study line. I think it's my favorite new line this fall. Don't tell the others though.
So - here it is in Sinister Swarm with a little Field Study coordinate belt. Do you like? That's me at my 40th birthday party this weekend. I'm learning that a huge perk to knowing how to sew (and having my shop) is that I can make myself something fancy right in time for a party. ;)
A friend of mine, who owns this adorable shop in Alabama, turned me on to this pattern. It's by Indygo Junction - the Chic Cowl Neck Shift.
It is - as she told me - pretty quick to put together, versatile, and looks REALLY cute on. I made one recently with a little fabric "mistake" that was cut in my shop. I'm so happy that little error got made! It gave me just enough Amy Butler Lark in Lake (cotton sateen) to make the dress. I did it in two afternoons - but that was with the interruptions of working at the shop. People with experience could whip it up in a couple hours. Here is the finished product (now being worn by a dress form in the shop).
My shop is full of before and afters. I had a pretty tight budget for store fixtures and decorating - but that's how I live - so it was fun. I am so excited that I can now start showing some of them to you! My poor little phone is chalk full of pictures that have just been hanging out there for months as I tried to get to a point of being able to re-launch my site.
The first one I am going to spotlight is one I'm particularly proud of...I got this pink pleather (is that a real word?) off of Craigslist for $10.
I was a little sickened by what all I found in the seat. Pretty gross. But probably not grosser than what lurks in my couch cushions at home right now. Minus the cigarette butt. We don't have that going on.
I use Amy Butler's home decor weight Kasbah. I think this was my biggest reupholstering job...it wasn't harder than doing couch and loveseat slipcovers though. That was more work. I've found the hardest part is getting the thousands of staples out and trying to not rip up the old fabric. If you take it off nicely - you can use the pieces as a pattern.
So - here is my new chair. I love it and would like to have it in my home...but I suppose it will stay nicer longer in the shop. :) AND - I recently scored another $10 chair that is on my list of "to do's". The next one may get to live at home - or I may sell it. We'll see what it looks like when it's all said and done.
I've finally set my little online shop out into the world! There are still some details to attend to (some of the fabrics aren't showing up by manufacturer) and categorizing to do but I think the items are purchasable. It has, of course, taken a lot longer than anticipated which, after working in IT for 12 years, I should have known would be the case.
I also feel I should note that not all the fabrics are listed yet. I need to get the new AMY BUTLER listed!
As all businesses are, it's a work in progress. But - it's a start! Enjoy and keep checking back!
It's been a busy few weeks! We've been open a month already and it's going well! I'm posting quickly because there are few items of interest I want to spread the word about. First, my new website, complete with online shopping capability is almost ready! I'm so excited to get it launched and share it with everyone. The fabulous Kyla Roma from Freckled Nest has been so wonderful to work with.
photo by Ashlie Blake
Second - I wanted to tell you about one of the many lovely people I've gotten to meet in my first month of being open. Ashlie Blake is an artist that grew up in Oneonta but now lives closer to NYC. She did a really flattering blog post about my shop after visiting here one day. Please visit her blog and see what she wrote - and then browse her Etsy shop. Her art is amazing and FUN. We may even have some here in the shop later this summer!
Ashlie's Post about Project Anthologies!
Lastly, Project Anthologies is starting our Beginning Sewing Classes next week! The first one is July 18th and still has a couple of spots left. You will leave with a completed project and meet some really neat women. If you are local - please stop in the shop for details and to register! No need to having any experience or a machine - we'll provide you with both!