How to Host a Sew-Along

Today, I’m excited to have Lindsey and Sukie here to chat about their Zakka Style Sew Along, which is happening right now and runs through September! It’s a leisurely sew along, with one project each week, and you can join in at any time.

I really wanted to know how they decided on this sew along, and asked them to share some tips with fellow bloggers interested in doing something similar.

Zakka Style Sew Along banner

Can you tell me a little bit about the Zakka Style Sew Along and how it got started?

Lindsey: Rashida visited the Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild in February of this year to talk about Washi and her book, Zakka Style (C&T Publishing). We meet at a quilt shop and I hadn’t seen a copy of the book until that day. After hearing her speak and getting a chance to quickly look through the book, I knew I had to have it. I bought an extra to give away since Rashida was autographing copies that day. The response when I gave away the copy on my blog was amazing. So many people either had the book already or had it on their wishlist. I knew that I wasn’t the only one who thought it was awesome. One of my readers Duff suggested a sew along. I had already planned to sew through the book and share each project on my blog, but the thought of doing it together with others sounded fantastic. A few weeks later Amy emailed me and said, hey, I think you need to make this sew along bigger! There wasn’t a blog/book tour for Zakka Style when it was first released so we decided to do a different version of a book tour with bloggers actually showing a finished project from the book and then the participants and I would sew along from project 1 through 24.

Sukie: As Lindsey mentioned above, I read about her idea of the sew along on her blog and thought of making it bigger. Bigger meaning, “Let’s showcase different bloggers and how they would make the project.” It’s a slight twist on a book blog hop, the ones where they give you sneak peeks of the book. This way, folks get to see the finished projects while working on theirs at their own pace.

Book Review: Zakka Style, cover

That sounds fantastic! Have you participated in any sew alongs in the past? What are some things you like about being in a sew along?

Lindsey: This is actually my first sew along, and I can’t believe I haven’t done it before. I really like the camaraderie of sewing with other people. Everyone is really encouraging and it’s a good chance to interact and learn new tips and tricks or get advice on fabric choices, etc. Plus you have a kind of accountability. Not that you would be in trouble if you didn’t keep up, but you’re more motivated knowing that you have others to share the process with.

Sukie: I’ve participate in a couple sew alongs. I love seeing everyone’s style come out of their project or even seeing a different way of doing something, especially something that I wouldn’t have thought of. The community feel of being in a sew along is the best. If you have issues or run into problems, just ask the group. That’s one thing I’ve grown to love about the sewing community – we’re all really supportive of each other and there’s no wrong way of doing something.

Zakka Style book, sweet sugar cookie sack

You have some great prizes for your sew along! Can you tell us a little bit about how to approach a company about sponsoring a blogging event?

Lindsey: Amy handled the sponsorship for this event, but my experience in previous sponsorships is to reach out to those shops/businesses that you’re loyal to. Most of the shops I’ve dealt with really love to support the sewing and quilting community but they don’t know about opportunities unless you ask. Tell the business how the event can benefit them, you kind of need to sell yourself! It can be intimidating, but with anything, the worst they can say is no.

Zakka Style book, quilt block magnets

So, there’s a new project each week of the Zakka Style Sew Along, with different bloggers featured each Monday. Do you have any tips for deciding on the timing or format for an online sew along?

Lindsey: For this sew along, timing felt a bit challenging. I knew I wanted to sew through the entire book, so with 24 projects the event would be a long one. I wanted participants to have enough time to get the projects done, but not so much time that you began to lose interest. I also needed to coordinate 24 different bloggers to make sure we were all on the same page. Weekly seemed like the best fit and so once the start date was chosen, we just went from there. I had to decide early on not to stress about other events that might come along or whether anyone would signup. There truly is room for everyone, so don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. As long as you’re hosting a sew along that you’re passionate about, it doesn’t matter if it’s just you and one other person! Doing something you love is the important part!

Sukie: An important aspect of a sew along is first seeing the finished product. You want to show readers, “Hey, it’s worth it to do this, and here’s what you’ll get after all your hard work.” I agree with what Lindsey. We looked at each project and they all seem fairly simple and decided that a week’s timeframe wasn’t asking too much. So if reader sees on Monday how the project looks when it’s done, then they’ll have the whole week to motivate them to finish. But also, if you can’t finish in the week time frame, don’t worry! Finish at your own pace. We have prizes at the end of each week but we also have a big prize pack at the end of each 6 weeks that we’re doing a random prize drawing for. The most important thing about planning a sew along is not to rush it or make it too long. You’ll lose readers because they can’t follow along or they’re anxious to move on the next step.

Zakka Style book, happy garland message board

I’m sure it’s a challenge to stay organized through a big project like this, and I bet teaming up helps! Any advice for how you stay organized as a blogger, or how to balance creative projects with the other parts of life?

Lindsey: My best advice is to plan in advance. A well organized event takes time to coordinate so you need to give yourself time to work out all of the details. I try to write and schedule blog posts in advance so that I can stay ahead. That way if life happens, I’m not stressing out. Teaming up absolutely helps, too! Along with sharing the work load, you have someone to be your cheerleader on bad days and to bounce ideas off of. We also created a Flickr group for the contributing bloggers as a place to discuss plans and to ask/answer questions easily. This was really helpful in helping us all stay connected.

Sukie: Once you have your sew along idea, start planning! Give yourself plenty of time to organize. The more help you ask for – especially from friends that you trust – the easier it is on you. Make sure to keep a list and tick items off as they’re handled, or when issues come up, write them down. I would say one of the most important things to remember is: Don’t kill yourself with stress over a sew along.

Thanks for the tips, ladies! Week one’s project was a cute zig-zag tote, and here are some of the entries from participants:

Zakka Style Zig Zag Totes

1. Zakka style tote, 2. Zakka sew-along Zig-Zag-Tote 1, 3. ZigzagZakkaTote10, 4. Zakka tote – outside 2, 5. Zig Zag Tote – Zakka Style, 6. zigzag tote, 7. Zakka Style Zigzag Tote, 8. zigzag tote bag, 9. Zakka Style Zig Zag with Streptocarpus

As you can see below, there’s still plenty of time to grab a copy of the book and join in! Also, Lindsey is hosting link parties for each project on her blog, so follow along to see the latest projects, sew along and enter to win fantastic prizes.

Zakka Style Sew Along

Cookie Dough Frosted Brownies with Lifestyle Crafts Big Top Shapes

Lifestyle Crafts’ latest die release is a Big Top circus theme. These shapes and letters would make great party decorations for a kid’s birthday or are perfect for scrapbooking! I decided to put my animal and pennant shapes to use decorating cupcakes and making name cards for a kid’s birthday.

You can find the recipe for my Cookie Dough Frosted Brownies below. These shapes work in any brand die-cutter and you can save an extra 20% by using the code CRAFTBUDS when you check out!

Cookie Dough Frosted Brownies


Prepare a box of Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate Traditional Brownie Mix 13×9 Family Size as directed except for add an extra egg so it’s a more cake-like consistency. Pour the batter into 12 muffin tins (or I did foil cups on a baking sheet), filling them 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 to 27 minutes.

Cookie Dough Frosting

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and sugar. Next mix in the vanilla and salt, then the flour until well blended. Gradually add milk until you get to a normal frosting consistency. I used 1/2 cup but you may need a little more or less. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips. There are no raw eggs so this is totally safe to eat!

After the brownies have cooled, frost them with the Cookie Dough Frosting and you’re ready to serve!

Revolution Sale

If you’ve been wanting a die-cutting machine you’re in luck! Lifestyle Crafts is currently offering their best-selling die-cutting machine, the Revolution, for $59.99 while supplies last. The regular price is $89.99 and if you use our 20% coupon code, CRAFTBUDS, you’ll only pay $47.99! It’s similar to the Epic in that it die cuts and embosses. It has a 4″ magnetic platform so when you put your metal dies on the platform, they hold tight and don’t slide off. The 4″ platform is slightly smaller than the Epic, so it only works with dies and embossing folders that are 4″ or smaller and is too small for the letterpress. It is easy-to-use and compact.

Felt Flowers Button Snake

Button Snake Stack

This is a quick tutorial for a “button snake” toy to help kits with their buttoning skills. In case the word “snake” sets fear in the heart of your child or yourself, try calling it a button caterpillar!

For supplies, you’ll need felt scraps in a variety of colors, two buttons (1-inch and 1.5-inch across), about 18 inches of grosgrain or thick ribbon, scissors, a needle and thread. I used a die cutter to cut the felt flower shapes and some nail polish to secure the buttons and thread. I also created this project entirely with supplies from my stash, so it can be very inexpensive.

Button Snake Supplies

First, cut out several squares of felt in a rainbow of colors. I used 16 colors, but you can adapt this pattern to use whatever you have on hand. Use scissors and a circular template (like a drinking glass) to trace and cut circles out of felt. Instead of cutting circles, I used my Accuquilt GO! Baby and the Rose of Sharon die to cut out the largest size of felt flowers, which are about 3-inches in diameter.

Felt Flowers

Use your scissors to cut a slit in the middle of each felt shape, large enough for the smaller button to go through easily (but not the larger button). I cut my slits about one inch wide.

Button Hole

Next, hand sew the smaller button onto the top side of your ribbon end, repeating on the other end with the larger button. Secure button several times with your needle and thread, so the buttons don’t pop off with frequent use.

Hand-sew buttons to ribbon

I used a bit of nail polish (you can use clear if you’ve got it) to paint the thread to the back of each button as an extra measure of security. Make sure to keep a close eye on your kids when using this toy, so they don’t put anything harmful in their mouths.

Nail Polish

Note: If you are worried about buttons being unsafe for your children, you can leave off the buttons entirely and just sew a circle of felt perpendicular the bottom of the ribbon (example here) to use as a stopper for all of the other felt shapes.

Button Snake

Once the buttons are secure, use the smaller button to guide each flower onto the ribbon. The larger button will act as your stopper. Young kids can be engaged for hours with this simple toy, as they practice putting on and taking off the felt flowers.

Button Snake Finished

It’s also small enough to stash with you in your toddler’s “busy bag” to take in the car, the waiting room or anywhere they need to be entertained!

Dahlia and the Ribbon SnakeDahlia and the Button Snake (Thanks Suzy!)

If you make this or any of our tutorials, we’d love to see them! Just comment with the link or add the photos to the Craft Buds Flickr group.

Book Review: Modern Basics

The Sewing Summit Did you sign up for The Sewing Summit before it sold out? I am excited to attend in October, and feel lucky to have gotten a ticket!

The first Sewing Summit was founded by sewing bloggers Amy Ellis and Erin Singleton. Although Amy will be teaching and not organizing this year’s event, the Sewing Summit’s return to Salt Lake City is highly anticipated as shown by the event selling out in just 10 hours!

Book Review: Modern Basics

In case you haven’t read it, I wanted to share a bit of Amy’s book Modern Basics: Easy Quilts to Fit Your Budget, Space and Style (Martingale & Co). The book has 14 quilt patterns that major on squares, strips and rectangles. Even the triangles on the cover quilt are approachable for beginners.

There’s also a Quiltmaking Basics chapter that talks about tools, block construction, squaring up quilt blocks, adding borders, basting, machine quilting, and binding. If I would have had this book when I made my first quilt, the section on bindings would have been so helpful!

Modern Basics book: Basic Ease quilt

“Basic Ease” is the first pattern in the book, and it is constructed from just 30 basic quilt blocks, making it suitable for beginners. Patterns are accompanied by full-color illustrations to help with piecing blocks and strips. “Tumbling Cubes” is another beginner friendly quilt design with squares that seem to float randomly across the quilt top. But again, one simple block can be repeated for stunning results.

Modern Basics book: 1,2,3! quilt

“1, 2, 3!” shows a simple way to display great fabrics. Again, a single block design is flipped and pieced in alternating colors, and the resulting quilt is one of my favorites in the book. Plus, who can go wrong with Hope Valley?

Modern Basics book: Basic Puzzle quilt

“Basic Puzzle” offers another clean and modern design, with pieced rows of solid fabric making up the quilt top. Amy’s instructions paired with the illustrations are clear and easy to understand. If I make a quilt from this book (so many quilts, so little time!), I’m dying to try my hand at this one.

Amy also hosts the bi-annual Blogger’s Quilt Festival, which ramps back up on May 18, 2012. Make sure to check out Amy’s blog for updates on the free event for quilting bloggers, and the new button when it’s available.

Blogger's Quilt Festival

A question for quilters: Think back to your first quilt. What was the trickiest part of putting it together, that you wish you’d known more about?

Springtime Crafting: Fresh Picks for 4.1.12

It’s springtime again, and we wanted to make sure you didn’t miss these tutorials before Easter is here!

Tulip Petal Sun Hat Pattern and Tutorial

Flower Power: The Cottage Mama shares a tutorial for her adorable Tulip Petal Sun Hat. Download the free pattern, grab one yard of fabric, and you’ll be on your way to making this cute sun shield.

Peeps Bunny Bunting Tutorial

Army of Cuteness: Dana Made It shares her sugary sweet Peeps Bunny Bunting tutorial. How cute would this be cute for an Easter dinner or baby shower?

Here are some oldies but goodies from Craft Buds:

My Peeps Shirt with Free Printables

My Peeps Shirt with Free Printables

Easy Bunny No-Bakes

Easy Bunny No-Bakes

Dying Easter Eggs with Rubber Cement

Dying Easter Eggs with Rubber Cement

Book Review: Modern Blocks

99 Modern Blocks book cover

Over the last few months, I’ve had the chance to really dig into a modern quilt block compilation from C&T Publishing: Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite Designers compiled by Susanne Woods.

This book was at the top of my Christmas wishlist, and has moved with me from sewing room to every other room in the house while I figure out which block to make. After all, there are 99 blocks to choose from! The blocks represent a wide variety of styles, from patchwork to paper-pieced, appliqued and embroidered. Each block in the book is an original design or a fresh take on a traditional block.

Binary: Modern Blocks

Some of my favorite blocks in the book, including “Binary” (above) and “It’s a Stretch” (on the cover), were designed by the very talented Angela Pingel of Cut to Pieces. Angela was the winner of the recent Moda Bake Shop SLICED competition, and you might have seen winning project, an adorable owl backpack.

Saturn's Rings: Modern Blocks

“Saturn’s Rings,” designed by Latifah Saafir of The Quilt Engineer,  uses bias-cut strips appliqued to a base block. The bold colors really pop and it’s easy to imagine a whole quilt made from this simple yet stunning block.

House on the Hill: Modern Blocks

“House on the Hill” pairs patchwork with applique and creative machine-embroidery. It’s designed by Monika Wintermantel. There are so many blocks in the book that I want to make when I find the time, and they range from beginner to advanced skill levels.

There is also a Flickr group dedicated to this book, so you can go there to add your blocks or see the blocks that others have sewn up in a variety of fabrics! Here are some recent blocks from that group (photos by Seamed Up).

My creation

As you can see, the book has a staggering variety of blocks! So how did I ever choose which one to make first?

My Blocks

Four Acres Block: Modern Blocks

As part of an online quilting bee I participate in, I’m always looking for a good 12.5″ square block to make in a variety of colors. I whipped up these blocks (plus one more) from the “Four Acres” pattern above, designed by Solidia Hubbard. The book gives specific measurements for each cut, so there is no guesswork, and I was happy to be able to pre-cut all of my fabric one night, and sew the blocks the next day following the block assembly instructions.

4x5 Blocks, 1st Qtr

Although I’ve been known to spend as long as 6 hours designing blocks for this bee, I’m happy to report that this book helped me shave 2 hours off of my production time! Whether you are part of a quilting bee or just looking for a way to build your quilting skills, Modern Blocks is an excellent resource for your quilting library.

Have you checked out Modern Blocks yet? If so, what blocks really caught your eye?

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