Thursday, October 25, 2018

Cookies 'n Cream Apron is simply delicious!

Furthering our efforts to publish spin-offs of our famous apron, Four Corners, we have come up with another version of our signature 'square-on-point' apron series. Appropriately named 'Cookies 'n Cream', this version is simply delicious. Maybe the scalloped edges remind you of cookies and cakes covered with cream frosting. Or maybe the scalloped edges resemble lacy doilies under your favorite pastries! Whatever the connection, we are sure everything you make in this apron will taste delicious! 
Likes its original counterpart, the apron is lined with a coordinating print that matches the neckline flap, pocket flap, and neck and waistline straps. But different from Four Corners, the neck flap is is made semi-faux. The original Four Corner neckline flap folds over from the back. On Cookies 'n Cream, the flap is sewn on separately, and the neck straps are sewn into the seam. Made differently but looks the same. This apron is so easy to make and looks good on every figure. 

Cookies 'n Cream apron

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Are you Sloth Full in the Kitchen?

Sloths are the cutest critter Ever! And Vanilla House has published a new set of oven mitts with appliques reflecting this latest trend of slothfullness. The basic oven mitt itself is wonderful -- easy to assemble and works great  -- very comfortable. 

Important products used in the oven mitts: 

Soft Fuse Premium fusible web by Shades Textiles for the appliques. We chose this brand for several reasons. Foremost, the paper does not separate from the webbing prematurely. Nothing like having the paper fall off the webbing before you get it cut out. Another huge factor is the paper removes from the webbing easily after you get the applique cut out. How many hours have you spent trying to get the paper off your fused applique, often destroying your applique in the process? If you fuse as recommended, 3-4 seconds, the paper side comes off easily. We recommend the "scratch in the center of the applique with a pin and use the 'ripped spot' to grab the paper and pull" method. 

Insul~Bright thermal fleece by The Warm Company. We use this product because we like the metalized polyester film sandwiched between batting layers. The film not only helps prevent the heat transfer to your hand, but the metalized layer helps prevent moisture from penetrating the layers which can facilitate too much heat transfer also. So, good product! We have published more information on Insul~Bright here.

Sloth Full P232
The appliques are also easy to add (edge-stitched), the more intriguing part being the 'thumbside' of the mitt which shows the sloths paws and claws.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Friday, October 12, 2018

What makes a good, well written pattern?

A good pattern should be well written, fully illustrated  --- meaning illustrations for every step of the project --- and clever construction techniques that make sewing really fun. And sewing is more than just sewing these days. Vanilla House talked with a group of sewers recently and they all agreed they love to learn new techniques as they sew a project as well as ending up with a well-made item without having to spend a ton of time figuring out the instructions. That's why Vanilla House patterns are kind of on the long side --- not because they are 'wordy' but because they are filled with illustrations. We are hoping the understandable illustrations are a 'quick read'.
That being said, every year our patterns get better and better --- at least we think so. If you purchased one of our earlier patterns, the above definition may not apply as well as current releases. Still not many complaints over the years, so that is a blessing.  

Vanilla House does have two types of patterns these days, the paper versions and the online pdf downloads. The paper versions use black, white, grey, and textured illustrations where the online versions are in color. In our opinion, the color versions are a little easier to comprehend the concepts being illustrated.
Editors are also an important part of pattern writing. I remember my first editor, Debbie Soelberg. She was awesome and probably taught me more about technical writing then my college English professors. Her big deal with me was consistency within the pattern. For example, if you write a technique in one spot in the pattern, keep the same terminology throughout the rest of the pattern (ie. call it rst or RST or right sides together through out the pattern). The example seems obvious but some newbie pattern writers are all over the place and their patterns are a night mare. However it is handled, a good pattern has threads that weave the whole pattern together. It makes it easier to read and to understand.
I also had a editor who previously worked for McCalls Pattern Company as an editor. She was set in her McCall pattern method of writing and was not open-minded enough to see anything but their style of construction. That really left me out of being able to create new and interesting techniques. One thing I have learned, there is more, and in fact many ways to construct a project. McCalls constructs patterns so they are easy to write. I construct patterns so they are easy to sew. That does mean the techniques are sometimes harder to write, but it is worth it. The whole point of being an independent pattern designer is the large arena for creativity in your construction process. Once you figure out a creative technique, experienced pattern writers will figure out the best way to convey the process.
It is interesting to note that even with editors, mistakes still show up in the patterns. After all these years, I currently do not have editors but I edit the [darn] things about a hundred times before I publish. Still miss stuff but not as much as when I had editors, so there you are. Most honest pattern designers will have a correction site on the internet or some process to convey the slip-ups. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Inside Scoop on Insul Bright Thermal Batting

Oven mitts, hot pads, and casserole covers are popular projects using Insul-Bright Thermal Batting from The Warm Co. We started using Insul-Bright a few years ago and discovered the real scoop on the product. We do love it but there are some tips you should know.
The biggest tip is really ironic ---- don't iron or press it too much. We discovered this by pressing a layer of Insul-Bright onto cotton fabric during one of our sewing projects. Then we pressed them -- mostly out of habit to simply press everything. With a really hot iron, the Insul-Bright seems to shrink up a bit causing the cotton fabric to distort or ripple.
Insul-Bright reflects heat back from a its layer of metalized polyester film sandwiched between layers of polyester fibers. It's meant for holding onto hot things from the oven for rather brief periods of time, not the firm, intense heat of an iron. So if you need to iron/press any part of a project containing Insul-Bright, go lightly and it will solve the problem. 

These oven mitt panels have fusible web on the back side. Fuse them to the Insul-Bright lightly -- 3 to 4 seconds per spot.

The other curious thing about Insul-Bright is one layer is not enough to protect you from the heat source. Even they say so. You can use one layer of Insul-Bright on the 'back of hand' and 'thumb side' of an oven mitt, but in the 'mouth' part (the part of an oven mitt that comes into contact with a heat source and protects you from it), you should always use two layers. The Warm Co. recommends using one layer of Insul-Bright and one layer of cotton batting like Warm 'n Natural Cotton Batting. It is fine to do so, but when writing my patterns, it is too much of a hassle to write in this extra feature. So in the case of an oven mitt, I just have you cut two layers of Insul-Bright and it works fine. 
You might ask 'why not use two layers on all panels?' --- well, it simply gets too think to sew all the layers together.

Some other helpful suggestions. 1-Insul-Bright does not have a right or wrong side. 2-You can pre-wash it, but I never do and it seems fine. It does wash well inside your oven mitt if you choose to wash them. 3-You can not use Insul-Bright for microwave projects and is too noisy for clothing. 4- But the noisy part of Insul-Bright can make interesting stuffed toys or soft books for babies. 5- Use zig zag stitching for sewing layers together -- it smashes down the edges so the seams allowances are easier to work with, especially if you are sewing bias binding around the edges. 6-Set your cut oven mitt panels on the sheet of Insul-Bright and use the panels as templates to cut out your Insul-Bright.

Use the oven mitt panels as templates instead of the paper templates -- a much simpler and neater method.