Archive for the 'tools' Category



I’ve known Alison aka Coriander Girl since I opened the workroom. She was the first friend I made at the shop. She took my very first Sewing Machine Essentials class. She kept me company over lots of lunches in those early quiet days. Soon after she opened the wildly successful flower shop, Coriander Girl. Now that we’re busy business ladies, we don’t lunch as often as we’d like, but we still make time for important catch up sessions (over scones with jam) and nights of guilty pleasures (The Bachelor!).

I was overjoyed to hear that she was having a baby many months ago. Even more so that it was going to be a girl! That gave me the green light to make her a pastel dream of a quilt. I decided to use the Fiesta Wall Quilt from Quilting Modern as my guide. The book sample is only 24″x24″, so I just doubled all the measurements and ended up with a quilt that was 50″x50″.  I had so much fun choosing fabrics for this project. Using a palette of apricot, linen, white and aqua I went through our recent arrivals and my stash to pull these cheerful prints. Besides all the florals (of course), I also snuck in several different bunny prints that I knew Alison would love finding.

The quilt was fun to sew. I really recommend the pattern and really the whole book. I’m very inspired by the projects in Quilting Modern and have bookmarked a few more of them for future projects. I hope to make more improv style quilts this year, so this was the perfect start to that.

This project was also really fun to quilt. I decided to do a random straight line grid. I’ve fallen in love with the Clover Hera Marker and it makes straight line quilting so quick and easy. I love being able to mark my quilts without the use of tape or any kind of mark on the fabric. The Hera Marker simply makes a crease on the fabric that is very visible that you can sew over. No need to worry about your marks damaging your quilt or not washing away.

Alison’s baby shower was yesterday at her sweet church house in Frankford, Ontario. It was a beautiful day, filled with gorgeous flowers, handmade gifts, delicious food (tacos & trifle!), happy tears and a room full of ladies who love Alison. It was perfect.

More photos of Alison’s shower are posted here.

Fiesta Wall Quilt from Quilting Modern

Alison's Baby Quilt

Hera Marker

Alison's Baby Quilt

Alison's Baby Quilt Back

Alison's Baby Quilt


Flower arrangements by Tellie

Dream Catcher by Tellie

Gorgeous Dream Catcher Mobile by Tellie

Gorgeous Dream Catcher Mobile by Tellie

Chloe & Rosalyn



Flower arrangements by Tellie

Bunny by Sonja Ahlers

Love this little painting so much

Alison's Baby Quilt


Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Here’s my second completed quilt top of the year (of 12). I’ve been wanting to try out some of the rulers from Creative Grids and got my hands on this one, Triangle Squared. Right away, I could see how wonderful these rulers are. Once I had decided on the height of my triangles, I just cut out strips of fabric (1/2″ taller than my finished triangle height) and was able to quickly cut out all my pieces. There was pretty much no waste and my cutting was very accurate. Did I say that it was quick to cut out? It really was! That alone makes me love this ruler. That top notch, in the tip of the triangle, ends being very useful when pairing your triangles together for piecing. The ruler also has a subtle texture on the bottom that prevents it from slipping around.

I randomly pieced the triangles together in pairs and then laid out all the pairs to determine a final layout. All the pairs were pieced into rows and then the rows were sewn together. I made good use of my Best Press Starch for this project to keep everything nice and flat.  I was able to cut and piece this top together within the same day. I love quick projects like this!

If I was to do something similar to this in the future, I might be more deliberate with my fabric placement. I can see how you can create some wonderful secondary patterns by playing with the colour value. I just basted this quilt top the other night, so I’ll be working to finish it off in the next few weeks!

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top

Triangle Squared Mini Quilt Top


Karyn's Cross Stitch Sampler

I’ve finally finished and framed my Intro to Cross Stitch sampler! I had finished up the alphabet part of the sampler during the class, but was determined to frame it in a hoop and wanted to do a round border around it. Lucky for me, Johanna accepted my special request and designed this sweet leafy round border.

Since this border is round and the pattern is actually quite random, it took a little bit longer for me to stitch. The rectangular border that Johanna also designed for the class is a much easier border to stitch since it is repetitive. I hardly ever like to take the easy route, especially when it comes to aesthetics. To be honest, I miscounted when I was more than halfway done and had to take out quite a few stitches. The end result is totally worth it. I am so proud of how my sampler turned out. It’s now hanging on the wall at the workroom, so if you’re in the shop you can see it in person.

Cross stitch appears to be a fairly easy form of needle work. The reality is that there are always mistakes to avoid and tricks to learn that make any new craft so much better from the very start. Tricks and tips are Johanna’s specialty! I don’t know how she does it, but man! are we lucky to learn from her. (psst! have you seen her new class?!) What I didn’t realize about cross stitch was that it requires some strategic thinking to keep your work tidy on the back side. I found myself feeling like I was playing a game of Tetris, as I was pre-planning my ‘moves’ (aka stitches) with my needle. I totally enjoyed this aspect of cross stitching.

Also! I really had a chance to get a feel for the new Cosmo embroidery floss we got in. I love it!! Firstly, we have 443 colours, so the possibilities are endless. Secondly, the cotton floss is so silky and totally doesn’t tangle. The other thing I’ve recently started using are needle threaders. They make all the threading in hand quilting and needle work SO much easier. Clover makes a floss embroidery threader and it is now a permanent part of my sewing kit.

I have big cross stitch plans now that I know what I’m doing. I’m envisioning making linen napkins, coin purses and wall hangings with cute cross stitch motifs. Here are a few things on my cross stitch project list:

  • Farm Folk Stitchettes by Wee Wonderfuls
  • Some of the incredible border patterns in the DMC Library Cross Stitch booklets
  • Cute Kiwi from Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery‘s Fruit of the Month Club
  • Wildflower Garden Cross Stitch book by Kazuko Aoki (anything from this book)
  • Master Collection : A-Z Cross Stitch by Kazuko Aoki (anything from this book, too!)
  • Cosmo floss colours used in this project : 226, 225, 2224, 224, 2223, 223, 2222, 436

    Karyn's Cross Stitch Sampler

    Karyn's Cross Stitch Sampler

    Cosmo Floss + Clover Floss Threader

    Karyn's Cross Stitch Sampler



    Doing the 365 project has got me thinking a lot more about photography. I’ve also been reminiscing about my days at Ryerson in the Media Arts program. My major was photography, so I spent a lot of time taking photos and even more time working in the darkroom developing prints. The red light bulbs, the vinegary smell, and making test strips to determine proper exposure… things have changed so much since then.

    One of my courses in school was a computer graphics class, where we spent the entire semester writing code to create a program that would literally do what a Photoshop filter can do in 3 seconds. Seriously! I’ll confess, I never wrote that program but ‘borrowed’ a friend’s. I must have known at the time what a ridiculous exercise that was.

    I don’t often spend much time doing post production on my photographs, mostly just adjusting the colour balance and exposure. Surfing around in the last few weeks I’ve been hearing more and more about Photoshop Action Sets that you can download and use to create fun effects on your images. My favourite find so far is Pioneer Woman. I downloaded her free action sets and used the ‘Seventies’ action to create these vintage photos of the workroom. Another blog with great free actions is Coffee Shop. It’s very easy to get carried away with these, but it’s pretty fun in moderation.

    While I’ve discovered lots of random tidbits here and there, I haven’t found any solid photography blogs to subscribe to. Do you have any that you read?

    I’ve been following Adele’s 365 and am excited by her new interview series based on photography.

    Lead Glass




    I’ve finally started hand quilting my queen-sized quilt. Hopefully I’m going to get better as I go along. I’m pretty sure any practiced quilter would frown on the size of my stitches – they should be much smaller, but I just can’t seem to manage a tinier stitch.

    When I first started out I didn’t have a great thimble, which made things much harder. I finally got one of these Clover thimbles. It’s leather, so it feels comfortable. It also has a metal coin on the pad of the finger that allows you to push the needle through pretty easily. I really like it.

    I’m just hand quilting straight vertical lines that are about 1.5 inches apart. I use a piece of low tack painter’s tape as a guide for my stitching line. This was a tip I got from Johanna. It works like a charm.

    The quilt is set up on a 17″ square Q-Snap frame and I try to do an entire 17″ square in each sitting. The frame fits in my lap and the rest of the quilt takes over the couch. It takes a couple hours, but I think I’m getting a bit faster. At this rate, I have about 32 more sittings. So perhaps in a few months (and dozens of dvds) I’ll be done!

    In the meantime, I’m starting to think about picking a colour palette for my Double Wedding Ring quilt class in March. Greys with pastel brights? Browns with purple tones? Aqua with pinky reds and cream?


    I have finally assembled all my ingredients for hand quilting. My thread arrived the other day – it’s a Valdani Hand Dyed Variegated cotton thread. The colour is called Silver Foam. I really love variegated threads. Why just have one thread colour, when you could have thread colour that changes as you sew? It’s way more fun.

    Johanna recommended Thread Heaven which is a thread conditioner and protectant. Besides reducing hand fatigue and preventing tangling and fraying, it is acid free and perfect for machine or hand sewing. I have always used beeswax for coating thread and apparently this can have negative effects on both the thread and the piece you’re working on. Thread Heaven sounds dreamy and apparently is awesome for bookbinding, beading and embroidery too. I’ll report back with my review, but I’ve got it in the shop if you’re wanting to try it out yourself!

    I’m also trying out a Q-Snap frame (17″ x 17″) for the first time. It’s a square frame that is really easy to assemble and won’t give you hoop wrinkles. I really like the square shape, especially since I’m hand quilting straight lines. I’ve also got a leather thimble, but may need to get a metal one instead. As for needles, I plan on trying the little short ‘in-betweens’ and regular needles and see what feels good to me. Considering how much time this part of the project is going to take me, surely I’m going to form some clear opinions to share with you shortly. I’ll take any hand quilting tips that you might want to share with me. I have no idea what I’m doing!

    I just noticed that this my 101st post. What?! Wow, that kinda snuck up on me.


    Bernina Activa 220

    I’ve never shopped for a car, nor gone for a test drive in one. It seems like such a great concept though. Cruising around in various cars you may or may not buy. Deciding whether or not you love the custom leather, heated seats and turbo engine. I think my criteria for choosing a car would be rather superficial though, mostly based on cuteness and gas mileage.

    Now a sewing machine is another story. While styling is always a priority for me, performance is key with my sewing equipment. Especially now that sewing and teaching sewing is my business. Right now I’m lucky enough to be doing a test drive on a Bernina Activa 220. I’ve heard only wonderful things about Berninas and I can already see why. My first impressions are impressive.

    First off, the machine is quiet. I’ve never heard a bobbin wind so quietly and smoothly. The Activa sews strong, steady and with the most precise stitches I’ve even sewn. There is an optional sewing table which give you a larger surface to sew on. This machine is computerized and so far has been very intuitive to use. I’ve yet to tap into all the features and nuances of the machine. I’m working on dress 10 right now so I’ll report back with more details.

    I can see now why the test drive is so desirable, it gives you just the right amount of time to develop a major crush. – sigh –

    Bernina Activa 220


    Xocolatl, originally uploaded by the workroom.

    This post is especially for Ellie – Happy Belated Birthday! I hope we’ll share some drinking chocolate very soon.

    A few weeks ago I finally made it to the Sorauren Farmer’s Market on Monday. There are so many markets throughout the city, but Monday is my day off and luckily Sorauren is close to home. The one stall that I was immediately drawn to was Choco Sol’s. They sell eating chocolates and drinking chocolates that are horizontally-traded, bicycle-powered and stone ground. I bought a biodegradable container of their Xocolatl, which comes with three discs of drinking chocolate (the ingredients are roasted cacao & raw organic cane sugar) and a molinillo. The molinillo is a beautifully carved wooden whisk that is used to whip the drinking chocolate into a froth. When you hold it between your palms, you just rub the handle back and forth, causing the molinillo to spin and aerate the chocolate drink. I don’t drink coffee, so this has become my new morning ritual. The xocolatl has a rich roasted flavour that I would associate with coffee, I always add a bit more raw sugar to mine because I prefer to have it sweet rather than slightly bitter. I feel absolutely no guilt drinking this pure chocolate-goodness, but here is some scientific research. If you need that sort of thing.

    You can also catch Choco Sol at the Dufferin Grove Market on Thursdays and the Brick Works on Saturdays.

    My Favourite Drinking Chocolate (hot or cold) places in NYC
    Chocolate Bar
    Jacques Torres

    I also picked up some goat’s milk cheese from Montforte Dairy Company Ltd. at the Farmer’s Market. I can’t resist cheese, especially goat cheese.

    Did you know that you can bake bread in a rice cooker? I feel like i should have known that. Check out this photo tutorial by elissabetha. Very cool!


    Vintage Juicer, originally uploaded by the workroom.

    When you’re making stuff, it’s essential that you’ve got the best tools possible. Not only does it make your job easier, it often can make it quite fun. My favourite tools not only work like a charm but look pretty to boot. Yes, looks do count. The more I love my tools, the more I use them. It’s a proven fact.

    When I bought this vintage juicer years ago at the 26th Street Flea Market in New York, it was purely for its looks. I had no intentions of juicing anything and my shopping partner, Dominic, enthusiastically supported the purchase purely for its vintage cuteness. I can’t even remember how much I paid for it. Perhaps $20?

    It sat in my kitchen in Hoboken, looking lovely and never got near any citrus fruit. When I moved back to Toronto, it had a new kitchen to sit pretty in. One day, as I was getting ready to squeeze some lemons for a recipe, it occurred to me to try the juicer out. I cut the lemon in half, popped it under the press and cranked the handle. Not only did it get every last bit of juice out of the lemon, but it felt really satisfying to do it. Juicing lemons became a favourite activity. Any recipe that called for lemon juice was made with zest; fresh squeezed lemonade, salad dressings and lemon loaf.

    The funny thing is that it never occurred to me to squeeze oranges. It’s so obvious! Just this weekend I was looking at a slightly old bag of oranges in my fridge. I was sad that they were past their prime and wondering what to do with them. FINALLY, I made the connection. Fresh squeezed orange juice!! Six oranges made two tall glasses of sweet yummy orange juice. Oh, juicer, you get better and better as time goes by.

    Last night I juiced limes to make this lime yogurt sorbet. Yum! It’s quite tart, the way I like it and incredibly easy to whip up. (with the right tools) I didn’t make the grilled peaches to go with it. Now that I’ve had the sorbet, I’m curious to try the two flavours together. I’ll pick up some peaches today.