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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Making an overhead camera stand for online teaching

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

As I transition to holding online classes to supplement live and in person classes, I needed an overhead view of my work table. The traditional way to do this (outside of a fancy filming studio) is with a “C-stand” that is sturdy/heavy, stands on the floor next to your work table and has a boom arm that extends over the table. Then you hang the camera/iPad/iPhone from the boom arm. Cue COVID delays in shipping. I tried the one I could get in time for this week’s Perfect Bindings class at the first ever Mancuso online shows. The accessories didn’t fit the boom arm. Back they went!

Cue: Mama’s brainstorming, Mama and son’s (Joshua) creativity, and Joshua’s awesome tools (Band saw! drill! Random bits and bobs) and construction experience and help, and a stand using leftover stuff and $5 in supplies.

A DIY overhead camera stand

The wooden “light stands” were built based on information from Holly Knott’s wonderful “Shoot That Quilt” section on her website about taking great photos yourself of your quilts to enter in shows and magazines: two pieces of 2×4 lumber and four cheap shelf brackets for each stand.

Ignore the dust, cat hair, pug hair and thread. Please. Sorry. Here’s the link to Holly’s useful webpage on quilt photography.

Joshua, our older son, did some electrical work for Mom and Dad (us) a while back, and introduced us to something called Unistrut. Link here. It is a bit heavy, which is why I looked at C-stands to begin with, but that is also its virtue: it is totally rigid. Rigid helps keep your camera (in my case my iPad) stable.

The upper brackets were from something else that was modified. Knew they’d be handy! I bought two small black brackets with one hole on each side. Joshua said I needed two holes to prevent the small L brackets from wobbling, so using his awesome power tools (tool envy!), he just drilled an extra hole. He cut the Unistrut in about 8 seconds with his band saw. It would have taken me the better part of an hour with a manual hacksaw! The length is the width of my table plus an extra inch or so to help maneuver the stand into place.
The ruler is serving as my iPad’s stunt double because I was too lazy to run upstairs and get the iPad while taking photos. Can you tell from the clutter how chaotic it has been?
I CAN’T WAIT to have a MASSIVE TIDY ATTACK!
I wanted the iPad above the bar for added stability and so I could have full access to the screen while teaching live online workshops.
A close up view of the stand attaching to the unistrut. Here’s a link to the iPad holder on Amazon. It isn’t the most rigid thing and the little grip thingies that hold the iPad in place aren’t huge, so that’s another reason to have the iPad on top supported by the cross bar and not just those four little pads.

SO if you are wondering what your teachers does to get ready for you, this is just one small but vital component. If you are going to TEACH online, I hope this helps you–please feel free to ask questions! MASSIVELY HUGE thanks to Lyric Kinard for her help on so many things on the technical side over the years, and to Lee Chappell who gave us newbie online teachers for the Mancuso show a studio tour by Zoom to share with us how she set things up. And THANK YOU to my wonderful, creative son who comes home and always wants to do some sort of “fix up” something for his mom and dad. Joshua, you ROCK!

Dress Form: Unvarnished Truth and a Game Changer

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Two years ago I made my DIL Ashley a linen jacket for job interviews. It was a revelation! Working on another body (not mine) was SO EASY–I could see what needed fitting, figure out how to make changes, assess fit and lines. So I vowed to get a dress form. KaCHING! What I wanted was over $400! Nope. So I cast about for something less expensive. A local quilty friend had a friend with one to sell…done for $75. And it still mostly adjusted and wasn’t musty!

For your listening pleasure (you’ll need to read to the end to understand why), open this in a separate browser window.

First change: using an old bra to get the boobs into the right shape for me.

However, I discovered that the dress form and I were built on different molds. I honestly didn’t look as good as the dress form even though the measurements were correct. For starters, most dress forms start with a B-cup. The only time I was that large, I was nursing my sons! So I had to shrink in the torso to get a proper full bust measurement and shape, then pad out everything else to correct ribs, high bust, etc

But even that didn’t do it. Luckily I had long planned to get proper measurements done. Fiddlehead Artisan Supply (if you ever get to Belfast Maine, you MUST MUST MUST go there; quilt fabric, garment fabric, paint, art supplies of all sorts, crafting supplies….in other words, heaven!) has a classroom. Students can pay a VERY modest fee per hour for the teacher to come and help you. When I went, there was one student sewing and me getting measured. I figured I could try and explain to hubby what to do (but do I really want him to know my actual size? NO!) OR I could get someone who sews and would do it properly. Easy choice. The following is a chart I made to use at that session.

Here’s a link for you to download this chart.

To prepare, I looked at patterns, sewing books and knitting books to figure out every conceivable measurement I might need, ever. And I put them into a chart. I have created this a PDF for you to use!

I tried using batting and whatnot, but decided to purchase this smaller set of Fabulous Fit Dress Form pads to make life easy AND give myself a surface that was more pinnable than the actual dress form which is a very dense molded paperboard covered in cloth. I didn’t understand why the slightly more expensive version of this set had TWO dress covers….I’ll explain below. Here they are on Amazon US.

I learned SO MUCH about the shape of my body in this process (and I’m fine with lumps…life is better with ice cream, although 10 pounds fewer lumps would be nice too….the 20 I need to lose ain’t gonna happen). And I learned about the pattern industry, the “blocks” (body shape bases they use) and fitting ease. I can now use my stand-by—measure a garment I have that fits the way I want and compare with what I measure on the pattern–along with the dress form and get a fit that I want!

In the coming weeks I’ll have several garment making posts. I have made a top, a skirt, a tunic, leggings, have another pair of leggings on the cutting table, and a pinafore/jumper on the design wall. Ailith (traditional Scottish name meaning seasoned warrior–my paternal grandmother was Irish but born in Glasgow, I am named after her, so I liked Ailith) has been a great help already. Can’t wait to share. Oh…and why red dress?

Put on your red dress, girl, and have FUN! BIG thanks to Marty Ornish, who makes amazing art with old quilts and dress forms….check out her website, Marty-O, here. I asked her what she uses, and for some purposes she uses mannequins with stretchy fabric pulled over. She gave me a length, so now Ailith can put on her party shoes!

Canticle of the Stars

Monday, May 11th, 2020
Canticle of the Stars, or should I call it Anthem of Light? Chime in!
Completed May 2020, 36 tall x 46.5 wide.

There is a thing called star trails photography (just google it…it’s really cool). The earth rotates on its axis. The North Star is static in our northern skies. If you take time lapse photos and then “stack” (merge) them, you get star trails….images that describe the lines created by the light of the stars. Did you know that starlight comes in different colors??? It does… I love the feeling of the vastness of space. When I went to college, I comforted myself knowing that my then-boyfriend and I could both look up at the constellation Orion in the sky even though we would be 3000 miles apart. I love wondering what is out there, and feeling snug and at home in my own world. The universe is Out There and it is Within Us. I love the resulting art quilt. While trying to figure out the title (star trails was too boring), I wrote a poem to go with this quilt:

As many of you know by now, I was selected to be a Michael Miller Brand Ambassador this year. At the start (last December) we received a box STUFFED with goodies (post here). I decided to challenge myself, using items ONLY from this box to make an art quilt in my style, but using fabrics that are totally not in my usual wheel house: commercial solids, prints, and bling. I love the result…in trying to figure out the title (star trails was too boring), I wrote a poem above. Help me decide should the title be Canticle of the Stars? or Anthem of Light? Leave comments and thoughts!

So, how do you make an image that is DARK work successfully as an artwork? In this case, the answer is a lot of quilting with light thread in seven shades from pink to peach to green to blues! Here are the fabrics I used:

The quilt is under the fabrics, with the top visible in the upper half and the backing below. The Michael Miller Fabrics are from left to right: Michael Miller Krystal in Aubergine 1278, Wine 2248, Coal 1302 and 1257 Evergreen. Fairy Frost in Black. Cotton Couture SC5333 in Midnite and Ink. Marble CX1087 in Stone, graphite (or onyx) and night (I think on the denim blue). Michael Miller Jet Black which is part of the Cotton Couture line. I overdyed the green with a navy dye to use as the backing.

The quilting was done entirely on my Janome M7 Continental. The sky was done with the walking foot and the trees was free-motion quilted. It has been eons since I did walking foot quilting…I may do more of it soon! And the threads I used:

It is VERY rare for me to use a walking foot for quilting, but for the sky on this one I did. I used the dark blue So Fine to help hold down the Mistyfused pieces (cut curved, but on the bias so I could adapt their arc) and solid black (I can’t remember if it was the Mettler or So Fine) for the treelike silhouette. The six colors are the star trails in the sky. I used both regular straight stitch and the triple-straight stitch with the walking foot.
Detail, Canticle of the Stars. The edges of the print fabrics are definitely rougher than I am used to with the batiks and hand-dyes I use due to the different thread count, but I think they work because the light edges become another star trail.
And a very close up of the raw edges, some wool lint (sigh…do you know how many times I vacuumed and lint roller this quilt??????) from my pressing surface, and the quilting. The pale green turned into that creamy yellow color when quilted. It’s amazing what thread will do!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this journey to the stars, and back to home on Earth.

Lost in (a Tropical) Paradise AND quilty things

Friday, April 24th, 2020
Today’s blogpost is my Michael Miller Brand Ambassador project for April. I was fortunate to receive my fabrics and things just before everything shut down! I knew I wanted to make up the Running With Scissors pattern from byAnnie.com, so I wrote to ask permission. To my utter delight they not only said yes, but what do you need and we will send you supplies! So thank you also go byAnnie.com for the mesh, vinyl, stretchy elastic stuff, Soft & Stable foam “batting” and scissors. I actually placed a wholesale order with my regular wholesaler for about $95 more of byAnnie goodies — I have been buying her patterns for a couple years and this is the perfect year to make them in conjunction with Michael Miller Fabrics.
Here is part of the collection. I used the Postage Stamp fabric in charcoal/black background for the outside of the bag, and the Tropical Leaves on white on the inside.

When I selected this fun line of fabric for one of my second quarter projects as a Michael Miller Brand Ambassador, a global pandemic wasn’t even a blip on most of our radars. But who wouldn’t love to be on a beach with a balmy sea breeze, enjoying the turquoise waters and lush green foliage of a tropical splendor. Well, now that COVID-19 and hunkering down at home are the order of the day, a virtual escape is even MORE fun.

Fabrics are from top to bottom: Garden Pindots in Raspberry, Lavish Leaves in white, Garden Pindots in Marine, Hash Dot, Garden Pindots in Fern and , and Tropical Getaway in black, the feature fabric with “stamps.” The Garden Pindots and Hash Dot fabrics are Michael Miller Basics and always available, while the two prints are from the Lost in Paradise line that should be shipping to stores in April/May, though we now know that all previously planned schedules are now subject to change!

For some time now, I have been “collecting” patterns from byAnnie.com. I decided now was the perfect time to try at least one of them out.

These are the items I used for my project. I made a few changes (small) to the pattern and the supplies. Two of those are the magnets from byAnnie.com (little box to the left of the green elastic) and using the thermal barrier fabric we were given at the Janome Education Summit nearly two years ago.

I had only done one byAnnie.com pattern before, a freebie for the Petit Four box/basket. Annie is one smart and organized lady–and with a pattern with as many parts as this case, that’s a very good thing. If you are a linear thinker, you will ADORE her methodical step-by-step approach. If you are a global thinker, like me, and need to see the big picture I suggest that if you make this project skim the first 7 pages of the pattern. Then read Pages 8-9 CLOSELY so you can understand where the component parts go. Then go back to page 1 and go through it closely step by step. I don’t do well when I am being led to an end without knowing the overall picture (literally as well as figuratively) or where “pocket D” goes! Once I got the overall picture, having Annie’s very careful process and step by step approach was brilliant for me, too.

Annie’s attention to detail and fine craftsmanship also sets my heart aflutter–I am a stickler for fine workmanship and beautiful results. You can learn a lot from her patterns, so I encourage you to go ahead and dive in no matter how complex because the instructions will guide you at every step. The Add-On videos that now come with some of the patterns are also extremely helpful. You get a “just for you” code with a pattern that allows you to access extensive information on the byAnnie.com website.

By making a very small change to the overall dimensions–1″ each way when zipped closed–I was able to fit my cutting mat in an outside pocket as well as my long scissors. There is a companion pattern, the Take a Stand bag, that serves as an “easel” for this bag. Since I travel teach and my suitcase usually weighs 49.8 pounds (.2 under the limit), I knew I wouldn’t want to carry the extra case. BUT I wanted this bag to stand up for me. I have the mat on one side, some rigid plastic on the other, and added some straps (see below) so I can still use it upright on my teacher’s table!
My changes meant I needed to remember to adjust the sizes of the pockets to make each item 1″ wider and, for the outside pockets a bit longer. Luckily, the 40″ zipper to close the entire case was still plenty long.

One of the first things you want to do is take an inventory of what you want to put in the case. Here is what is in my “toss it all in” bag for teaching:

I managed to fit everything except the roll of tape, plus a few extras.
As usual, I need to customize things. My pleated pockets hold my rotary cutter on one end and my breath mints (truth: you teach and don’t hydrate enough because you don’t want to need to leave the classroom to run down the hall, but that can lead to lunch-breath! Ick! So I always have Altoids!).
Sewing with tissue or paper under the vinyl prevented sticking to the machine bed. I was impressed by the thickness and flexibility of the byAnnie vinyl–the best I’ve come across. I received one of Annie’s stilettos in the teacher goodie bag at Houston years ago but hadn’t really used it, preferring to use a bamboo skewer or something less hazardous if I hit it with the needle. I am a convert to using this tool for many (though not all) purposes. I took a 90 minute lecture/demo class with Annie Unrein at Houston during Market last year, and learned that the tip isn’t smooth but kinda grippy. What a difference that makes! And the flat back end “presses” seams open at the sewing machine. The fact that you can also “spear” the fabric or zipper tape with the tip makes wrangling the multiple layers easy.
Those new BFF Wonder Clips also make it easy to control the bulk without bending pins! And now I want to go have a pina colada on a beach somewhere….
Annie has a pretty nifty way to create beautifully finished edges. Using the ability to fine-tune where the needle drops combined with the accufeed (walking) foot meant I was able to do a nice job with the topstitching which keeps the zipper tape from misbehaving while in use.
I’ve been impressed by the M7 ever since Janome America (THANK YOU AGAIN for 16+ years of sponsorship!) sent me a loaner. I continue to be astounded at how well it works. I mean–a quarter of an inch thick through dense zipper tapes (TWO of them), foam batting, multiple layers of fabric, and not a fuss!
If I were just traveling by car, I would TOTALLY make Annie’s Take a Stand bag, the companion to the Running with Scissors pattern. You just drape this case over the top of the Stand bag, and presto. I improvised by creating straps cut from 1 1/2″ x 12″ strips of fabric. I appliquéd magnets to the inside of the outside pockets (testing to make sure they would grab, and indeed they are plenty strong). The photo below shows the testing stage.
The other minor fiddle to the pattern… I did the tabs my way. I sew a square or rectangle to the end of the zipper. Then I use my beloved glue stick (which is dynamite for sewing bindings by machine for washable things like placemats) to hold things in place before sewing.
And here is my finished bag on the inside… I LOVE IT! It’s SO PRETTY!!!!! On the right you can see how the magnet-strap tucks into the pocket (top, with green rotary cutter) and pulled out next to the Altoids tin.
At first I wasn’t going to make the optional pressing mat. The idea of it is to protect your tools: set it in the center of the case and when closed the tools won’t rub on each other or scratch. I thought–don’t need the bulk. But then I thought why not…I can take it or leave it at home as needed. But I was worried about plastic tables at guilds if I were to use the Soft and Stable foam insulation. Instead, I used a layer of print fabric, a layer of pure cotton batting, a layer of the solarize insulating material, then two layers of wool felt. I didn’t quilt them…just sewed them together around the edges. It works!

PS: that quilt top in the background is going to be called “214,” for the 214 colors of Cotton Couture solids made by Michael Miller. Stay tuned for that quilted later in the year!

I only did one thing I wish I had done differently: I didn’t quite get the measurements correct when handling the zipper on the tab end because I had modified the sizes. I expect the zipper would be easier to open if I had heeded the precise measurements, but working from the center out instead of the edge to the center. I have learned: trust Annie’s patterns (and I’m not usually one to go by someone else’s rules).

I LOVE THIS BAG SO MUCH–the Michael Miller fabrics just make me happy–those are SO my colors! I actually have not put it away, and reorganized my work table so I can keep it opened / standing up right near where I work. Stay tuned for my own take on bags and baskets in May and at least one other byAnnie pattern later this year!

Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows (part 2 of 2)

Thursday, March 12th, 2020
Today it’s time for part 2 of 2 in the “how to make cushions” tutorial! In this image, I’ve sewn the boxing strip–the bit on the edges/sides (black Galaxy fabric from Michael Miller Fabrics, Spring 2020) to one of the squares (top and bottom) to make sure I’ve got the fit right. Looks pretty good! The top on this one is the SuperFred fabric in gray (with this fun fox named Fred and a robot named Mike). Those glorious solids (SWOON) are part of the Cotton Couture collection. Colors are Acid (left), Yellow (top), Apricot (right), and Lilypad (bottom). Like I said, SWOON!

In my last post, we went through my deep-placket zipper construction that I use for home dec use. Sturdy and classy. You can find the free PDF pattern with gobs of photos here at Everyone’s a Kid Floor Cushions and Toss Pillows. And here’s a link to the first post. And close up views of all the pillows are at the end of this post.

I shared this photo before, but didn’t point out the very hard to see black strapping handle which is in the center of the side facing us. If you look at the pop-socket on the ruler, come down to the cloth. Then look and you’ll see two Space Aliens, fussy cut from that fabric, at the ends.
My dear DIL is a kindergarten teacher, and these cushions and pillows are headed to her classroom for wee people to flop upon and read. Or just flop upon! She’ll need to be able to move them about easily. As she is TINY, we need to make this easy (not a bear hug thing just to move a pillow). I cut some of the Space Pals fabric into rectangles, centering one of the Pals so it would show. Sew the rectangle to the end of some webbing. I could only find 1 1/2″ wide locally in rural Maine. It works but I think 1″ wide would be better if you can find it. Sew the rectangle to the end of the webbing, then fold and press the side edges in, turn under the remaining raw edge, and sew. I use–get ready for this–washable glue stick instead of pins. When doing your folding and pressing, use a swipe of glue. Presto. Stays put. When you fold things together into a nice little package, a little dab of glue will do ya! (Who else remembers Dippity Do?) Center the handle exactly over the zipper and sew. I put some squares of old denim on the inside to reinforce the fabric. See next photo.
Next step: sew the boxing to one side. Start by finding the center of the zipper. Here, you can see those rectangles of denim (with overcast stitch to prevent raveling) I used to reinforce the handle which is on the right side of the fabric. Mark 12″ to the right and to the left of the zipper’s exact center. Then measure 24″ to mark the other corners on the boxing strip. I chose to put some reinforcing stitching (triple straight stitch–see below) at each corner–about an inch to either side of th marking pin. I sewed about 3/8″ from the edge. If your overall gusset/boxing length is a little off, you may need to remove the stitching for one of the zipper garages and adjust the overall circumference of the boxing strip/gusset so it is snug.

Put the boxing strip (now a loop) on the cushion inside out. It’s much easier to assemble and pin with the fabric held upright (and not floppy on the table)! Place the top fabric face down. If you use a print that is directional, as I did, I put the top of their heads on the zipper side of the cushion. Pin all the way around.

You’ll want to clip each corner about 3/8″–so to the reinforcing stitching / almost to the very seamline in each corner. I clip right before stitching.
I like to use the triple-straight stitch when I need a strong seam with some flex. This is on my Janome M7 Continental, but almost all machines other than straight-stitch only have something similar. This is what I used to reinforce the corners AND sew the seams. Since the corners are clipped, this provides a little insurance against tears, especially in the cushion stuffing/wrestling stage. Or when anticipating wee people thumping their little bodies all over the place.
With the top of the cushion on the bottom and the boxing/gusset on top, sew together with a 1/2″ seam. I sewed this with the triple straight stitch, again because I expect these cushions to see some enthusiastic use in a classroom. Sturdy is wise. Sew RIGHT UP to the CORNER and stop with the needle down. You can see some of the reinforcing stitching just to the left of the needle. You can also see that clipping has allowed the boxing strip to make a 90 degree turn at the corner, and that a bit of the boxing has folded over and is pushing into the next side to be stitched.
With the needle still DOWN, lift the presser foot. Ease the boxing to the left to remove that little pushed bit you see in the photo above. Notice the reinforcing stitching that goes down to the pin. I will sew on or just a thread’s width to the left of that when I sew the seam. Make sure the raw edges are aligned–you’ll see a perfect little square of the fabric on the bottom as the boxing strip pivots around the corner/needle. Sew the next side.
And here we are, corner turned, ready to roll. Or sew. Or have a something rewarding. Wine? Pina Colada? Nap? Chocolate?
Anyway, Repeat until you have reached where you began!

Then do it again with the other side. REMEMBER to leave the ZIPPER OPEN just enough to reach your arm inside. Makes turning the cushion right side out a whole lot easier. Ahem. Yeah, didn’t do that when I first began working for that interior designer. I was able to fiddle the zipper pull and get it open. Trust me, gap is better.
OMG–almost done!!!!! Most furniture cushions are foam wrapped with dacron (outdoor cushions are the exception). There are different grades of foam. Softer ones are generally used for seat backs, firmer foam for seat cushions. There is even this miraculous “outdoor” flow-through foam–instead of being sponge-like and holding water, it drains out. The foam is kinda very firm, but think about it…no mildew! Anyway…back to this program. Upholsterers then use a spray glue to adhere the Dacron wrap (like quilt batting but fluffier, scratchier, cheaper I think, I had leftover, only partly mouse-munched in the shed). I had a vintage can of the spray upholsterers use but I think an artist’s spray glue **might maybe** work–check the label to see if it says anything about eating/eroding foam. And test. You can also just hand baste the edges. When using spray glue, I just spray the surface, pat the one huge, long and wide-enough-to-cover-the-edges Dacron in place and then trim it to the edges.

Next: Stuffing the cushion cover you just lovingly made. In the above photo, notice that I have used a dry cleaner bag (a big leaf bag works too) that I wrapped around the bottom of the cushion to facilitate wrestling it into the cushion cover. Do NOT put the cushion inside the bag–wrap plastic-something around the bottom. You need to be able to remove the plastic bag easily, and trying to tear a bag off the innards while stuffed inside the cover is not workable.
By having zippers that come halfway around the sides of the cushion, you have made this part–stuffing–a whole LOT easier. Place the cushion inside like you are putting a pillow inside a pillowcase. Then place the cushion on the floor, using your legs to hold it upright. Smooth and pull the cushion up the sides. Pull the plastic out, then slide your arm inside and coax the seam allowances toward to boxing on all sides. Tuck the corners of the foam on the top edge under the zipper, and zip closed . See next photo.
Here I’ve got the cushion on its side…see the zipper garage on the left? Use one hand to squish the foam/dacron down, and pull the zipper up over your hand (prevents getting dacron in the zipper). Slide your hand back, repeat. When you get to the corner, nudge the innards into the corners and continue until done. Park the zipper pull in the zipper garage on the other end. You may wish to fine tune where the seams are–straighten them, etc. Wearing quilting gloves or rubbery kitchen gloves gives your fingers a bit of grip and allows you to ease the fabric into perfect position.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!!!!!

Ta DAAAAA! DONE! Celebrate! Feel a bit chuffed (great Aussie word meaning proud or pleased).
The Space Pals in Gray side of the cushion. I put a different feature print on each side, so the kids can have Super Fred up on both cushions, or Space Aliens (next image), or one of each. Notice on the top of this one that black ripple? That’s the carry handle so the kids and DIL can tidy up! AND these cushions stand up on their edges, better for stashing in a crowded classroom. And yes, that’s my one and only (so far, I hope for another) magazine cover behind the love seat..my pink peony on Germany’s Patchwork magazine.
Are those Space Pals in Black not the cutest things ever? I think some pillows made in their image need to happen…
Close up of the Space Pals toss pillow. I got my pillow inserts from (Sigh…I go there sometimes…no one else within an hour’s drive has some of what they carry) WalMart for cheap.
And Super Fred in gray. Adorable. Although I think we need some gender equality…It’s gonna be Super Freddie, short for Frederica! for me.

Thanks for sticking with me this long. I know these have been long and detailed posts, but sometimes when you’re essentially teaching a day-long workshop in two blogposts, that happens! I hope you’ve learned something and enjoyed the visit. THANK YOU!

Ask for it at your local shop!

And one last time… here’s the link to the free PDF pattern!