2014 Sampler MKAL March Giveaway Sponsor: Michelle’s Assortment

Underground Crafter MKAL button2

You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here.  Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!

This month’s giveaway sponsor is Michelle’s Assortment.  Michelle sells her wireworked shawl pins, stitch markers, bookmarks, and charms on Etsy and at fiber events around the country.  You may remember that I had the opportunity to meet her at Vogue Knitting Live in January.

blog VKL NYC 2014 Michelle's Assortment Michelle

I snapped that picture of her in her booth, where I helped out for a few hours.  Michelle has some lovely work.  In fact, I’m the proud owner of three of her stunning shawl pins.

Michelles Assortment shawl pins for Marie

In addition to her Etsy shop, Michelle can be found online as CraftyFlutterby on Ravelry and on the Michelle’s Assortment Facebook page.  Michelle will be a vendor at several upcoming fiber events, including the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival from March 14 through March 16.  (I had a fabulous time at the festival last year, which you can read about here.) She’ll also be at several Ohio events in the next few months: A Knitter’s Fantasy in April, OddMall in May, the Mid-Ohio Fiber Fair in August, and the Autumn Fiber Festival in October.

Michelle will also be the MKAL giveaway sponsor in November.  Thanks, Michelle, for your generosity and support!



blog Michelles Assortment Shawl Pin Collage

Michelle will be providing the winner’s choice of any straight pin with a single bead in her shop inventory.  You can find her current inventory of straight pins in her Etsy shop here.  Be aware that her stock is likely to change by the end of March after the Pittsburgh Knit and Crochet Festival.  (The shawl pins shown above are, from left to right: the Heart Shaped Stone Bead, the Winter is Coming Shawl Pin, and the Glass Bead with Hot Pink Wrap.)

To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during Marcj in the relevant spoiler thread onRavelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Monday, March 31, 2014.  (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with theUnderground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.)  Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry.  One winner will be chosen at random on or about April 3.

2014 Sampler MKAL February Giveaway Sponsor: An interview with Sarah Kincheloe

Underground Crafter MKAL button1

You can find more information on the 2014 Sampler MKAL here, and can order the pattern here.  Join in any time for a fun project with great prizes!

This month’s giveaway sponsor is sarahkincheloe on Etsy.  Sarah’s shop carries an array of beautiful and functional organizers for crochet hooks and knitting needles.  In addition to donating a prize for the giveaway, I asked Sarah to share some background with KAL participants and my readers in this interview. All images are used with her permission.

Sarah Kincheloe

Sarah Kincheloe with her vintage sewing machine in the background.

Underground Crafter (UC): How did you first get started knitting and sewing?

Sarah: My mother and aunt are truly remarkable crafters. My aunt sewed all of her husband’s suits and button down shirts back in the day and my mom made most of my and my brother’s clothes (with matching dresses for my dolls, of course). I wholly resisted learning to sew, but did pick up crochet and needle point among other things.

As for knitting, it’s one thing no one in my family did, and maybe that’s the reason it intrigued me. I bought a book for $4 at a craft store and a pair of needles and taught myself when I was 24. My first project was a scarf that rolled horribly but by the time I got to my third or fourth it was a double knit scarf with intarsia that had even the old Polish ladies at my knitting shop in Brooklyn scratching their heads. I’ve never been much for huge projects but I’ve knitted a lot of little toys and stuffed animals as well as blankets, socks, mittens and the like.

Circular Needle Organizer

Chocolate Brown and Blue Dots Circular Knitting Needle Organizer.

UC: What was the original inspiration for opening your Etsy shop?

Sarah: I wanted a nice knitting needle organizer and couldn’t find one I liked. I asked my mom to sew me one for Christmas and she did. I think this is what convinced me that sewing is actually useful. I flew back to grad school in Chicago with an old school metal Singer sewing machine in the carry on.

I already had an Etsy shop selling hand painted and black and white photography, another passion of mine, but my darkroom was in Texas and I was in Chicago so I decided to try my hand at sewing useful things that were also nice to look at.

DPN rolls

Purple and Green DPN organizer.

UC: Your organizers and cases are geared towards knitters and crocheters. Why did you focus on these products and what do you enjoy about making them?

Sarah: I focus on knitting and crochet because I understand those things. I can anticipate how a dpn roll should work because I have an unwieldy amount of dpns myself. People have requested organizers for everything from paintbrushes to bookbinding tools to midwife equipment but I always feel more confident creating something I can really envision using myself.

Interchangeable Knit Picks Organizer

Inside of an interchangeable needles organizer.

UC: Your photographs have a really clean look. Do you have any photography tips to share with crafters?

Sarah: Seek out good natural light and edit your photos to reflect the real item. I use Photoshop to get a white background as well. It adds extra time and effort to each listing, but I think it’s worth it for the cohesive look in my shop.

Straight Needle Organizer

Whales straight needles organizer.

UC: How do you balance your business with your professional job? What tips do you have for other small business owners who are also working at another job?

Sarah: This is a constant question in my mind as I do have a full time career that I love as well as a toddler, a husband, and a huge urban garden where I grow as much of our food as possible. I set aside chunks of time to sew and make sure to keep up with orders on a daily basis. Luckily winter is my busiest time of year, and that is when the garden is quieter. I have used slower times to build up a lot of inventory (about 300 items) so I never have to enter panic mode.

Since my day job is pretty intense and requires me to be “on” (I’m a social worker doing therapy with adults with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), it’s nice to have time to just sew and listen to podcasts and unwind a little.

Thanks for stopping by for an interview, Sarah, and for sponsoring this month’s MKAL giveaway!


Sarah will be providing the winner’s choice of any needle organizer in her shop inventory with a price of $42 or less.  You can check out her organizers in the straight needle cases, circular needle cases, dpn rolls, for interchangeable sets, and hanging needle organizers sections of her Etsy shop.

To enter the giveaway, post a picture of any 2014 Sampler Mystery Knit-A-Long sampler square you knit during February in the relevant spoiler thread on Ravelry by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Friday, February 28, 2014.  (KAL participants who are not Ravelry members can instead share pictures with the Underground Crafter Facebook page or Tweet pictures to @ucrafter.)  Each square you share a picture of will count as one entry.  One winner will be chosen at random on or about March 3.

Small Business Holiday Shopping Guide

In the U.S., tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a day of reflection and gratitude.  The holiday is supposed to be about being thankful for what you have and spending time with loved ones (and let’s not forget eating favorite foods), but it has also become the official start of the winter holiday shopping season. I dislike crowds and rampant consumerism, so Black Friday sales and doorbusters are pretty much the total opposite of my idea of a good time.

Especially during this time of year, it’s important for me to support small businesses.  Here’s my version of a Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday shopping guide highlighting some great small businesses I’ve encountered with over the past year.  (Oh yeah, and there are some discounts, too.)

Shameless Self-Promotion

I’ll start by saying that I’m offering a 25% discount in my Ravelry and Etsy shops with coupon code shopsmall13 through 11:59 Eastern on Monday, December 2, 2013.

Underground Crafter pattern collage

In my Ravelry shop, you’ll can purchase any of my self-published patterns for instant download.  All of these patterns are included in the Indie Design Gift-a-long on Ravelry, where you can win great prizes from indie designers and yarn companies.


Underground Crafter hooks Collage

You’ll find the same patterns in my Etsy shop, along with bamboo Tunisian crochet, crochet, and “knooking” (knitting with a crochet hook) hooks.  If you’re looking for a fun crafty gift, I sell a Tunisian crochet gift set with 5 Tunisian crochet hooks and my Beginner’s Guide to Tunisian Crochet all wrapped up nicely with a gift card.


Other Gift Ideas for Crocheters and Knitters

Sistermaide hooks


Molly Girl Chart Topper

  • Earlier this year, I spent the day at the farm of the Long Island Livestock Company, which was amazing.  (I’m still working on writing up a blog post to do my visit justice!)  If you’re in the Long Island area this Sunday, you should absolutely check out the open house at the farm, where you can buy her gorgeous llama yarns, rovings, and skin care products.  (And don’t forget the cat toys, which my cat gave 5 stars.)  You can find more details on her Facebook page.  Click on the flier to enlarge it.

Long Island Livestock Company open house


  • I recently finished reading Sweater 101, an amazing book by Cheryl Brunette that is produced by an indie/small publisher.  If you have a friend who wants to try out knitting (or even crocheting, because there is a lot of general information) their own sweater, this would be a fabulous gift.  You can find more knitting and crochet books that I’ve reviewed here.


  • And if you’re looking for other ideas for the knitters and crocheters in your life, check out Marly Bird‘s frequently updated compilation of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales on her blog here. You can find links to discounts on patterns, yarn, needles/hooks, bags, and all sorts of other goodies there.


Big Ticket Items

And in case you’re in the position to splurge (as a gift, or for yourself)…

Jenny Hall

Last year, I injured my back and spent most of 2013 in constant discomfort.  A few months ago, I was referred to Jenny Hall, a Licensed Massage Therapist. I always thought massage was a frivolous luxury, but Jenny’s approach to massage isn’t about spending a day at the spa to pamper yourself, but being aware of your body and working on it as part of a long term plan for your health.  Visiting her office has been one of the best decisions I’ve made and is truly money well spent.  For those of you in the New York City area, Jenny offers competitive rates, including discount packages.

If you live elsewhere, Jenny recommends looking for a reputable massage therapist through the American Massage Therapy Association, or by reading reviews in a local Yelp search.

Creativity Yenta

My long time readers already know Carlota Zimmerman, the Creativity Yenta (interviewed here).  Carlota is a creativity coach, and was instrumental in helping me make a career transition this year.  With the New Year around the corner, booking a series of appointments with Carlota for yourself, or as a gift for a loved one, may be the inspiration needed to kick off a career or other creative transition.  And Carlota’s offering a special discount for my readers!

Get. Started. Now.

Ready to make 2014 the year you achieve your goals? Ready to start creating a life you love? This package is for people who are looking to change their lives, but are not exactly sure how to get started, given how overwhelming the process can be. Many people have very manageable goals, but they find that the actual mechanics of starting something new are, frankly, terrifying.

Terrifying… unless you hire a coach with a Type-A personality who loves to create detailed, step-by-step plans to get people started, and is comfortable holding clients accountable.  (Oh, you lucky people.) Over these six weeks, we’ll organize your goals, and craft a realistic strategy based on your personality and experience, allowing you to start creating the life you’ve always wanted.

Get. Started. Now.

So many people find that the hardest thing is knowing where and how to start. I’ll get you started, and then I’ll help you create the long-term habits necessary to maintain and grow your success. At the end of six weeks, you’ll have an exit strategy to keep moving forward, as well as the skills necessary to keep creating the opportunities you need. $575

This package is specifically for friends of Underground Crafter. It will expire on December 31, 2013. To take advantage of this package, please email me at carlotazee AT gmail DOT com, and become a fan of my business Facebook page.


Please remember to shop small throughout the holiday season, and to think about buying (or making) creative gifts that inspire the recipients!

Vintage Needlecrafts Pick of the Week: The Complete Family Sewing Book

VintageNPotW 400

This post contains affiliate links.

This week’s pick: The Complete Family Sewing Book edited by Cathi Hunt and Irma Fischler.

Source:  The Strand.

Publication date: 1972.

Status: Out of print, but available online, generally for reasonable prices.

Condition: Very Good.

Craft: Sewing.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk cover

Some of my longtime readers may remember this book from my first ever posted list of craft goals.  I had great plans of reading it cover to cover, but never actually finished.

It's pretty big.
It’s pretty big.

I found this wonderful book back in 2011 while visiting The Strand with two of my best friends.  We used to meet monthly for a craft circle for almost 4 years, but changes in our various apartments made that impossible in about 2009.  Since then, we try to get together for dinner or a movie about every 6 weeks.  We randomly decided to pop into the Strand after seeing a movie, and I found this amazing book.  I immediately snatched it up, which was a bit upsetting for one of my friends, since she wanted one, too.  (Not to worry, we ordered her one online for her birthday.)

This book is a great snapshot into the early ’70s, just a few years before I was born.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk something missing

It’s over 500 pages long, printed on a newsprint-type paper in a few colors, and displayed in a sturdy three ring binder.  The retail price was $6.98.  You could also order the binder for $2.49 or each chapter for 39 cents.  (According to the consumer price index calculator I used, these prices are equivalent to 2013 U.S. buying power of $38.83, $13.85, and $2.17, respectively.)

This book was written at a crossroads between traditional and contemporary expectations about gender.  It is clearly addressed to women, who are assumed to have both children and husbands.  But, at the same time, the authors understand the women may be working and may not have had as much sewing time as in the past.  There’s also an acknowledgement that these women readers may have missed out on some of the background knowledge – so it isn’t like reading a 1880s book where you are advised to do things in “the usual way.”  Instead, everything is explained in case you missed out on the important foundational sewing information that all women “should” have.

As someone who comes from a strong line of seamstresses yet seems to have missed out on that foundational knowledge about sewing myself, my favorite parts are the Shapes of Fashion sections, which illustrate and identify different clothing styles.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk dresses and skirts
Finally, I know what a Dirndl skirt is.
Complete Fam Sewing Bk pants and coats
I had no idea that capes were categorized thusly.

My next favorite parts are the various fitting guides.  I know that, in today’s times, a lot of people don’t follow the fitting guidelines from the past, but I still find them really helpful.

In particular, the first chapter, Do Wonders with Your Wardrobe, has a series of comparative illustrations that demonstrate how different features (line, colors, detail, etc.) can emphasize certain physical characteristics.


Complete Fam Sewing Bk fitting1


Complete Fam Sewing Bk fitting2


Complete Fam Sewing Bk fitting3

There is similar information in the Sew for Him! chapter as well.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk tall and thin

I really love the illustrations in this book, although it isn’t clear who has drawn what.  (The title page lists three artists – Francis H. Schwartz, Patricia Cullen, and William H. Silvey – as well as George W. Harrington for cover design.)

Here's one of my favorite illustrations.
Here’s one of my favorite illustrations.

This isn’t a pattern book, but an encyclopedia of sewing with a fashion and fitting primer.

There is information about fabrics…

Complete Fam Sewing Bk man made fibers

and detailing.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk embroidery

Some of the information holds up for today…

Complete Fam Sewing Bk swimwear

and some of it is dated.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk fringe

Some of my favorite sections are those about sewing for men and children.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk making most of man

Complete Fam Sewing Bk pantsuit

Complete Fam Sewing Bk kids

There are these great sizing/fitting charts inserted throughout the book, too.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk men

Overall, this is probably one of my favorite vintage needlecrafts books.  Even though it is specifically about sewing, there is a lot of interesting information about fashion, styling, and fit that can be applied to wearables in other crafts, too.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk sleeves

Plus, now I know what a trumpet sleeve looks like, and how to use all the latest (through 1972) fabrics.

Complete Fam Sewing Bk future of sewing

Book review: Vogue-Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques

Vogue Butterick Step-by-Step

This post contains affiliate links.

Back in March, a publicist at Sterling/Sixth & Spring Books contacted me to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques: Revised & Updated Edition.  I don’t generally review sewing books, but this one seemed interesting so I asked them to send me a review copy.

I come from a family of skilled seamstresses, and over the past few years, I started dreaming of sewing my own clothes.  I’ve been dissatisfied with the clothing I see in retail shop for a while, and after reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (reviewed here), I became even more disgusted with the fast fashion industry.

Although I’ve made some beautiful quilts with my sewing machine, I confess that I’ve been pretty afraid of using it for anything but sewing straight lines.

My very first completed quilt, a log cabin.
My very first completed quilt, a log cabin.

With just a quick perusal through the Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques, a lot of my fears were laid to rest. The book explores 47 different sewing techniques in explicit detail.  The book is arranged alphabetically by technique.  Each technique is explained clearly, step-by-step, with text and includes several illustrations.  The book ends with a measurement conversion chart and guide to fabric care labels, and a thorough index.

I skimmed through the entire book, but I decided to focus on two of my biggest fears: buttons and zippers.

The Buttonholes and Buttons section is 11 pages long and explains how to measure your button to create the right size hole, marking the fabric for buttonhole placement (both horizontal and vertical), and several techniques for creating buttonholes by hand or machine.  This section also includes tips for buttonhole placement if you aren’t working from a pattern, as well as an explanation of how to attach and reinforce different types of buttons.  When appropriate, the instructions cross-reference other sections so that you go straight to another section without leafing through the index.

The 10 page Zipper section explores preparation (who knew you needed to preshrink zippers?), shortening zippers, different methods for basting, and hand or machine sewing the zipper in place.  There is also discussion of 5 methods of zipper application.  Each method explains typical uses (e.g., which is typically used in men’s vs. women’s garments, on a blouse vs. a skirt, etc.).

I’ve read through many sewing books in my day, but this type of detail is usually left out.  I would definitely recommend the Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques: Revised & Updated Edition to anyone hoping to learn more about sewing with an emphasis on the details that make garments look great.  While the book does include applique, embroidery by hand, and quilting, it primarily focuses on techniques used in garment construction, like collars, darts, and lining.  In crocheting and knitting books, I usually find that illustrations are not as helpful as photographs.  However, in this book, I found that the illustrations are quite clear.  The instructions are explained simply enough for a beginner, and include step-by-step details and cross-referencing. At the same time, I could see this as a reference guide that even a more experienced sewer could use because it provides the type of details that would free you from relying only on patterns.

While I would prefer hardcover binding for a reference guide of this sort, the cover flaps will help you to keep the book open to the page you are referencing while sewing.

I recommend this book to anyone who has the basics of sewing down, but is looking for an easy to read guide to help them expand their skills.

You may have noticed that I’m not offering a giveaway for this book.  It is going into my personal collection for use as a sewing reference guide!

Full disclosure: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. Although I accept free books for review, I do not accept additional compensation from the publisher, nor do I guarantee a positive review.  My reviews are based entirely on my honest opinions. This also post contains affiliate links. You can read my affiliate and review disclosures here.