Category Archives: travel

tutorial: beach reads book cover

Even though it has been ridiculously, hellishly hot lately, I find myself wishing I was going to the beach. A friend of mine is going to the Cayman Islands this weekend, and I am insane with jealousy. I just know that the weather there is going to be normal-for-summer sunny and hot, the way you want it to be at the beach, not the I-can’t-breathe-outside kind of hot it’s been here lately.

For me, a critical accessory when going to the beach, along with a pedicure and aloe vera, is a thoroughly trashy novel. Preferably something without any literary value whatsoever. Something that could be considered the paper-and-ink equivalent of an ice cream float, you know what I mean?

The last time I went to the beach, one of my companions was reading The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama. I was absolutely horrified. That’s the kind of book that might be assigned to you for some reason!!! At the beach, I’m more interested in reading the kind of book that would embarrass you if your brainy book club friends caught you with it.

Which is the thought that inspired my latest tutorial, a pretty little cover to keep judgmental eyes away from your guilty pleasure. You’re on vacation, after all, no?

This cover is quite simple, and can be whipped up quickly using less than a half yard of fabric. It also lends itself to mixing coordinating (or not) fabrics, if you’re interested in using up scraps. Additionally, for those of you more technologically advanced than I, it can easily double as a cozy for your new-fangled e-readers like the Kindle or Nook. Check it out:

the pattern
…is only two rectangles, one 11.5″ by 9.5″ and the other 7″ by 9.5.” You can measure out your rectangles on some spare paper or posterboard, or directly onto your fabric. The larger rectangle forms the outside and inside base for your book cover, and the smaller rectangle forms the inside pockets, where you’ll slip in the covers of your paperback or snuggle in your e-reader. The finished dimensions are (closed) 8.5″ tall by 5.25″ wide.

materials needed
I used quilting cotton for all parts, but something heavyweight like denim, corduroy or upholstery fabric would be great for the outside. You’ll also want at least one layer of interlining for padding and/or stiffness. I planned on using a layer of felt and a layer of thick upholstery fabric, but ended up using only the felt. Some great possibilities for interlining include felt, batting, fleece, minkee, or timtex interfacing. I also used grosgrain ribbon for the bookmark/tie closure.

I also used lightweight interfacing to stabilize my quilting cotton. I like to use a woven, fusible interfacing. It gives quilting cotton a nice body without making it too thick.

cutting your fabric
Of the larger rectangle, cut:
*one of your outer fabric (I used the dark orange fabric above),
*one of your lining fabric (the striped fabric)
*one of your interlining (the black felt)
*two of your interfacing (the white bits above; originally I was also going to use a layer of thick upholstery fabric to add additional stiffness, but decided I didn’t need it; ignore those bits!)

Of the smaller rectangle, cut:
*two of your lining fabric (the light orange fabric)
*one of your interlining (the black felt)
*one of your interfacing (the white bit)

start with the interior pockets
1. Although we have two pockets, we only cut one of the interlining and interfacing, because each pocket only needs half of each. The first step is to cut your interfacing and felt in half lengthwise.

2. Set aside the felt for now. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply the interfacing to the wrong side of one half of each pocket. Using only one half eliminates thickness in the outside edges of your book cover, which is pretty important if you’re going to use thick interlining like felt or batting.

3. Next, fold your pockets in half lengthwise, and iron flat. Sandwich your felt (or whatever interlining you chose) inside each pocket, and use a few decorative stitches to quilt the felt and the pocket fabric together. Make sure the side with the interfacing is on top, facing you.

I just stitched a few straight-ish lines, but you could quilt the whole thing in a traditional harlequin pattern, or stitch some other design here. The point is to keep the felt in place underneath the fabric.

prepare the inside lining
4. First, apply one of the large pieces of interfacing to the wrong side of your lining, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. To create the spine and bookmark, I used 1″ wide grosgrain ribbon. A length of 9.5″ for the spine, and 30″ for the bookmark/tie closure. You could use any type of ribbon, or a strip of fabric for this part, in either matching or coordinating colors.

Find the center of the inside lining by folding it lengthwise and then again width-wise, and pinching the corner formed to mark it. Pin one end of your 30″ long ribbon at the center mark.

Secure the ribbon end by stitching a little square and then an “X” through the center.

Next, pin the shorter ribbon in place down the center, covering the square you just sewed. Sew the ribbon down using a straight stitch down each side, as close to the edge of the ribbon as you can.

6. Now it’s time to attach the pockets! Pin the pockets in place on each side of the lining, matching the raw edge of the pockets with the raw edges of the lining, so that the folded edges of each pocket are facing inward.

Baste the pockets in place with a straight stitch down each side.

prepare the outside
7. If you are using something very thick for the outside like denim, corduroy, or upholstery fabric, you probably won’t need a layer of interfacing. Since I used quilting cotton, I chose to use my favorite fusible interfacing to add body. Interfacing also helps thin fabric wear better.

If you are using interfacing, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply it to the back of your outer fabric. Then, quilt your outer fabric together with your felt backing. I chose more straight lines, to echo the stitching I did on the interior pockets.

I used topstitching thread, which is a bit thicker than regular thread, the same as buttonhole twist. But regular thread or quilting thread works just as well, whatever you have. Like with the pockets, the point of this step is to keep the felt in place underneath the fabric, as well as add a little decoration.

Now you have two complete pieces, interfaced, quilted, and ready to join together to form your book cover!

8. Pin the front and back together, lining up all four sides and four corners, and stitch all the way around using a 3/8″ seam allowance. Make sure you leave a hole to turn it right-side-out, and thread the ribbon tie through the hole, to make sure you do not stitch over it.

I double sew all of my seams. Depending on how thick your layers are, you might want to triple-sew your seams, just to make sure the force of turning it right-side-out doesn’t bust any of the stitches. Cut off the corners and the seam allowances, to make it easier for the edges and corners to lie flat once it’s turned right-side-out. Do not trim the seam allowance around the open hole.

final steps!
9. We are almost done! Once it’s turned right-side-out, iron your book cover flat, using a press cloth over the lumpy parts so as not to mark or burn your fabric.

Take special care to press all the seams completely open. With lumpy interior layers like felt or batting, it takes a bit of finesse and finger-massaging to make everything lie flat, and squared-off. After ironing the inside and outside flat, fold it in half along the ribbon spine and iron again.

10. You’ll also need to make sure the seam allowance that you didn’t trim around the hole (you didn’t cut it, did you!?!) is tucked inside and ironed flat. It will make closing the hole much simpler!

Close the hole you left for turning your cover right-side-out using a blind stitch. You’ll probably need to iron it flat again after stitching, as well as iron the spine fold as well. A hot iron will easily flatten out any lumpiness, and make it almost impossible to find where the opening was!

We are done! This cover is approximately the size of most paperback novels, but can easily be adjusted to fit any size book. Just make the appropriate changes to the pattern pieces to make it wider or taller for bigger books, or with a wider spine, for your sci fi/fantasy epics.

Slip the covers of your book into each pocket and use the long ribbon as a bookmark, and you’re ready for the beach, with your embarrassingly trashy literary choices safe from prying eyes (I may be projecting here…)!

Or, if you’ve evolved past paperbacks, slip your Nook or Kindle into one of the interior pockets, and use the long ribbon tie to tie the cover closed securely. The padding will keep your fancy e-reader nice and snuggly inside your beach tote!

Enjoy your summer beach reads, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about what you read for fun…even if it is something serious like the President’s musings on race and culture. 🙂

If you make one of these, I’d love to see pictures! Especially if you adapt the pattern to fit other size books or e-readers!

If you liked this tutorial, you’ll like the Syndicate newsletter even more. New tutorials, sewing patterns, and sewing tips & tricks every month! Click here to subscribe.

If you found this tutorial useful, please use the links below to share with your friends, and of course comment to let me know what you think, ask questions, or to make any suggestions!

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the good, the bad, and the ugly

This year I have an incredibly busy retail show season, that is completely unprecedented in my previous five years in business. It’s not even the end of May, and I have four major shows under my belt, plus other, smaller events earlier in the year. It’s crazy! Last week I was seriously doubting my sanity, because of course, I did this to myself. Nobody told me to apply for shows that were back-to-back.


my table at the Femme Fete, 2006

And I’m not even half-way through the madness. There are still eight more events to come, spread out through the rest of the summer! Anyway, this is all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of my show season so far.

the good
*No rain at my outdoor shows so far!

*The two absolute hippest and cutest girls in attendance at the Squidfire show visted my booth twice and bought two of my flower hair clips each…so nice to know that my goodies are going to good (a.k.a. stylish) homes.

*Lots of repeat customers at all of my shows so far!

*People bought my favorite things! Including but not limited to: the chinese new year envelope clutch, and the cherry blossom pocketbook. Somehow I get an extra little thrill when someone else likes the ones I like the most. 🙂

*20 item purchase! Nothing like hearing “If I buy twenty of something, can I get a discount?” Um, yes you may.


Art on the Avenue, 2007

the bad
*No rain, but unbelievably forceful winds in Baltimore two weeks ago…seriously, I was chasing my (very light) handbags all over that town square.

*Thus, everything got really, really dirty and had to be cleaned before my next show 🙁

*Lots of sunshine + sleep deprivation = forgotten sunscreen and major sunburn in both Baltimore and Philly. Oops!

*Dontcha hate it when you work extra hard to finish something for a particular show, and then NOBODY even looks at it? (mini clutches in Baltimore, pouch sets in Philly. Alas.)


The Spring Bada Bing, 2008

the ugly
*Got my cash box stolen in Baltimore by a drunk, homeless guy who I was very nice to earlier in the day. 🙁

*Although my tent was secure in the 45mph winds, I cut my foot on one of the cinder blocks holding it down. Ouch! Also, bleeding foot = not a good look.

*One customer came into my booth, looked around a bit, fingered my flag banner (which is not for sale, just decoration) and said: “you clearly have too much time on your hands.”

…I’m sorry, WHAT? Not sure what that’s about, but I chose to be offended.


Art Star Craft Bazaar, 2009

Despite the drama of the bad and the ugly, I’m happy to say there was much more good than anything else. The bottom line is that I really do love to do craft shows, even if they are sometimes a helluva lot of trouble. There’s really nothing like meeting my customers in person, and seeing how they react to my creations (even if its not how I predicted they would).


The Handmade Market, 2010

Next up, is the Rockville Art & Craft Festival. Looking forward to adding to the “good” list!

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skip town in style

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled anywhere, and I’m starting to feel anxious about it. Luckily, I have several trips planned for the spring/summer, mostly for out-of-town craft shows, but at least one just for fun. I’m going to Dallas for a friend’s wedding in a few weeks, and planning for that trip inspired my latest polyvore set:

in the mood to get out of town
This is how I like to travel: lots of layers, colorful luggage (including my Holland Cox flight bag), and music and sketch books to keep me occupied. This also got me thinking about the fact that it’s been quite a while since I added new flight bags to the website … I like to have new ones for my summer shows anyway, so stay tuned for six new flight bags in the near future (and by “near”, I mean next month)!

How do you like to travel?

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four thousand five hundred thirty three

That’s how many words I have left to write before I reach the finish line for NaNoWriMo! Although my word count does not reflect it (I figure the next time I verify will be at the very, bitter end), I am at 45, 467 words as of 4:45 pm this afternoon. I started my Thanksgiving weekend sprint on Wednesday afternoon with 22,886 words. I think I’ve done pretty well in the mean time, considering a lot of the time between then and now was spent sleeping late (I’m on vacation, after all), cooking, eating, cleaning up, and driving back home from North Carolina.

I feel pretty good about finishing, but I’ve got to get back to it, so this is going to be short. None of my nine stories are going to be technically finished, they all ran away from me. I guess all nine of main characters felt like they should be the star of their own novels, and were not willing to share the spotlight. 🙂 I do admit that I’ve fallen in love with some of them, though, and I may continue to write their stories until they come to a natural end, and see what happens.

I do have lots of news to share with you all though, non-noveling news, that is. But, it’s going to have to wait! Back to work.

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random thoughts vi

fall collection!
Check it out, y’all, the fall collection is finally ready! I really think this is my favorite collection so far. I am absolutely in love with every single one of the eighteen new looks for the wristlet, classic, and envelope clutch. Yes, that means in the past I haven’t totally loved all of them. I confess! This paisley just about killed me when I first saw it in the store:

You’ll notice there’s a good bit of paisley, wild botanicals, and bright colors in this collection, plus my not-so-new favorite thing, embroidery on wool. I’ve also done a few things a little differently, including the use of applique on the envelope clutch above, but I’ve also made my own patchwork fabric for the first time!

I got this fabric from Purl Patchwork in Soho this August; I was very drawn to the odd combination of colors and patterns. I knew immediately I wanted to make this into patchwork. I wanted the wristlet to be all dots and stripes, so I didn’t use the solid color squares or airplane-patterned squares. It was way fun and not as much extra work as I thought it might be!

clearance sale!
Of course, when a new collection comes along, there’s also a clearance sale, and this month is no different. Newsletter subscribers (as always) got first crack at the sale this morning, and you’ll see that a few things are already sold out. It pays to be an insider, people, I keep trying to tell you. 🙂 You’ll notice that the passport cases are on sale as well, including several that have never been available online before. I am cleaning house because the next travel collection (planned for next month, we’ll see…) will feature an all-new passport case, so the old ones must go. Enjoy, and be advised there’s only one of each colorway left!

project runway
Sigh…I just always seem to lose interest once fashion week rolls around and I actually see their collections. I’ve missed the last two episodes, and the mis-match between what goes on on the show (zomg! only three of us get to go to Bryant Park, oh noes!) and reality just rubs me the wrong way. You know what else rubs me the wrong way? Kenley. SHUT UP AND GO AWAY, KENLEY. I feel much better now.

new york fashion week
Speaking of Bryant Park…you should go to New York Magazine online and check out the shows of all your faves, or at *least* the Project Runway shows (there are also slideshows from London, Milan, and Paris fashion week for Spring 2009). It is painfully obvious which of the Project Runway kids belong and which do not. Speaking of fitting in, you MUST check out Christian Siriano’s show…it is absolutely gorgeous. I thought his collection was way better than many of the established designers showing in New York…really.

seattle
Part of the reason that I have been neglecting the blog (in addition to getting the fall collection together) has been the preparation, anticipation, and recovery from the big show at the day job. I spent all of last week recovering from the conference, which actually went very very well. Still, it was completely exhausting. My coworkers and I all have funny little stories about silly things we’d done over the course of the week due to sleep deprivation. I learned one important thing, though: I *love* Seattle! It was totally gorgeous the whole time we were there, and the air is cleaner there, I swear it. My sinuses have never been so happy. My theory is that although it is rainy there, it is not humid, and thus lacks the swampy moldiness of the DC area. Anyway, I hope to go back one day soon.

do the right thing
It’s nearly that time! If you haven’t registered to vote, there is still time. I am proud to say that I have voted in every single state, local and federal election for which I have been eligible to do so, since I first registered to vote in my 12th grade government class. Voting is serious business and our Constitutional right and responsibility, that should not be taken lightly nor for granted! So just do it. Here are links for you locals: Virginia, DC, and Maryland.

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