Still Here!

It’s been awhile, but I haven’t forgotten about you!  Hopefully, I can get back to a more regular posting schedule.  I am doing plenty of projects, just haven’t had the time to show them off.


This is a little pin cushion and a needle case made from selvages.  I must admit,this is kind of addicting and the possibilities are endless once you have the basic selvage blocks completed.  The needle case pattern from a book called Save the Selvages.  The book contains all kinds of small projects you can make in just  few hours.


Here’s a pattern for what the book called a tea bag holder, but I used it for a wallet and check book cover.

Start saving your selvages and see what you can make!  Keep it Thimble!


Quilt Book Recommendations

I love books about sewing and quilting and wanted to share a few of recommendations with you.  There are so many books out there, it’s hard to know which one to get.  This list is by no means complete, but if you are looking for some good basics to include in your library, check out the following books.

For some good beginner quilt books, I recommend the “Quilter’s Academy” series by Harriet Hargrave and Carrie Hargrave.  Right now she has three books in the series (Freshman Year, Sophomore Year, and Junior Year), and the fourth book will be published in May.  These are excellent books and they will take you through the quilting processes step by step. Each book builds on the one before, so if you want to get your Bachelor’s in quilting, these are a necessity.  I wrote a review of the first book in this series – so read that for more information.

Hand-pieced Wall Hanging

If you are interested in making quilts by hand, I recommend “Quiltmaking by Hand” by Jenny Beyer.  This is also an amazing book and takes you through each step of the hand piecing and hand quilting process.  Hand piecing can be fun and relaxing if you aren’t in a huge hurry to finish the project.  I hand pieced this wall hanging a few years ago (still need to hand quilt it though!).  The book has lots of pictures and clearing explains the specific techniques needed for each phase.  Of course, I highly recommend Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting as well, and posted a review of this last year.

If you like crazy quilts, check out “The Magic of Crazy Quilting” by J. Marsha Michler.  This book includes several techniques for piecing the crazy quilt foundation, information on embroidery stitches, embellishments, and transfers, and several crazy quilting projects.  The book has tons of pictures and a gallery of quilts at the end.  You definitely will get a lot of ideas just looking at the pictures!    She also has a companion book called “Motifs for Crazy Quilting” that includes hundreds of embroidery designs for your crazy quilts.

For a general quilting reference book “The Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Quilting” is a must have.  This includes lots of pictures so the techniques are easy to understand.  This is my go-to book when I have a question about how to do something or just a need a quick reminder.

What books do you recommend?  What books do you have your eye on?

Keep it Thimble!

Book Review – Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting

As someone who loves crazy quilting and is always looking for new ideas, I had to get Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting book.  First, it has one of the best subtitles for a quilting book:  “Modern Piecing and Embellishment Techniques for Joyful Stitching” (italics emphasis mine).  What a great way to remind us why we sew and quilt in the first place!

Allie Aller's Crazy Quilting

The book is divided into seven sections that cover all aspects of Crazy Quilting:

  • Collecting Your Materials and Tools
  • Creating Your Own “Fabrics”
  • Four Ways to Build Crazy Quilt Blocks
  • Eye Candy:  Embellishment!
  • Gallery of Inspiration
  • Projects
  • Work in Progress – A Crazy Quilt from Start to Finish

The author does an excellent job explaining all her techniques and augments this with lots of photos.  For example, in the tools section she discusses all the different types of threads you can use, and provides many photos of various samplers that show how the threads look when they are used in stitching.  This is very useful when trying to figure out what threads are needed for the look you want for your quilt.

Likewise, the embellishment section contains numerous photos of embroidery stitches and  ways to use them in the quilts.  She discusses how to use beads, lace, and other types of trim, as well as how to create three dimensional effects (flowers, leaves, insects).  You won’t want to throw out scraps of anything again!

Part of the fun with crazy quilting is using all the scraps of fabric to create a unique foundation for your embellishments.  There are tons of options for the types of fabric you can use and what you can do with them – Allie discusses all of them!  In addition, she provides step by step instructions for how to use photo transfer to create unique fabrics — even without buying the expensive transfer paper or fabric sheets from Jo-Ann’s! (hint, think freezer paper).

Four different techniques for creating foundations are shown.  I found this section extremely useful because I was looking for ways to create foundations that didn’t look like some type of modified log cabin (a piece in the center with other scraps radiating outwards in a loose spiral).  One of the methods, called “Chunk Piecing” gives you a lot of freedom and enables you to use all those oddly shaped scraps that you couldn’t use in one of the other traditional methods.

Allie Aller's Floral Sampler

Finally, the part you’ve been waiting to hear about – the Projects!  There are six small and creative projects in the book – perfect for getting a taste of what crazy quilting is like and leaving you wanting to do more.  What’s great about crazy quilting, is that once you have these instructions, you have the tools, know-how, and inspiration to make an endless number of projects that are unique to your tastes and themes!  The picture above is a floral sampler that uses large floral fabric as the base for a beautiful flower garden (perfect for my April Cornell Barcelona fabric!).  This is also the project used the example in the “Work in Progress” section.


Allie Aller's The Dreaming Maiden

The Dreaming Maiden is another creative idea and perfect for those who aren’t really interested in doing a traditional, rectangular quilt.  You can make the maiden look like the favorite girl in your life – what a great gift!

In summary, Allie Aller’s book is an excellent reference for aspiring and experienced crazy quilters.  She provides a lot of inspiration and ideas on what you can do with it.  You certainly will have a lot of fun experimenting.

Keep it thimble!

Book Review – Wool Dyeing

I’ve been doing some reading on wool dyeing in preparation to dye my first batch of wool.  I was able to take a class from Liberty Rose a few months ago, and it was great to get some hands on experience with it (and it actually made me even more interested in doing more of it on my own).  However, I love reading books on any subject of interest in order to learn as much as possible (and pick up some new techniques).  Amazon had two books on hand-dyeing wool that looked pretty interesting, so they soon found their way to my house.  Both books contained valuable information, and between the two of them I feel I am ready to tackle this head on.

Teach Yourself Visually: Hand-Dyeing

The first one called  Teach Yourself Visually:  Hand-Dyeing focuses more on how to dye yarn, but the information and techniques are applicable to yardage as well.  The author takes a very technical approach to the subject and includes a lot of different exercises designed to help you better understand color theory and dye formulas.

The book includes an in depth discussion of color and the color wheel, including instructions  for creating your own color wheel.  There is also a detailed section on preparing to dye, including the equipment needed and safety precautions (this is especially important since you are working with chemicals and acids).   For those interested in hand-dyeing silk she also includes information on how to dye plant-based fibers like silk and cotton (cellulose dyeing).

Throughout the book there are color pictures that help explain the techniques discussed.  For me, the most useful part of the book are the formulas she suggests for getting different colors.  All of her formulas assume you are blending primary colors in order to get a desired color.  Her information better helps you understand how to create a spectrum of colors with three primaries, and the book also explains how you can change the depth of  a color with the correct proportions of dye and water.  Several dyeing techniques are discussed, including immersion, hand-painting, and freestyle dyeing (including a section on how to dye with Kool-Aid).

Dyeing Wool

The second book called Wool Dyeing focuses specifically on how to dye wool yardage for rug-hooking and applique.  The book is based on the author’s own intensive workshops she offers in the craft.  Her approach is more free form in that she teaches you how to dye without using formulas.  She includes the basics of color theory, but instead emphasizes looking at nature for color inspiration and encourages you to experiment with color to achieve the desired results.

The majority of the book is devoted to various dyeing techniques that are described in detail and accompanied by beautiful color photographs.  She covers 20 techniques from beginner to advanced, including spot dyeing and shibori (which involves folding, stitching, or wrapping the fabric).  The author is less focused on providing specific exercises that teach you about color theory, and instead presents each technique from beginner to advanced with step by step photographs and descriptions.

All in all, both books are great companions to each other and provide a good starting foundation for anyone interested in wool dyeing.

Goals for 2011!

Happy New Year!

Well, it’s time to kick of 2011 at Keep It Thimble!  I wanted to have a great new project to share with you today, but I had a Wool Crazy emergency!  I took the block with me on the road over the Christmas holidays so I could finish basting down the wool appliques.  I only had a few more left – they were all cut out, they just needed to be stitched down.  When I got home, some of my appliques were missing – I’d left them in the hotel!!  Long story short, I spent yesterday recreating the missing appliques and stitching them down so I wouldn’t lose them again.  This was a blessing in disguise, as I’ve been missing to finish the applique part so I can get started on the crazy quilt stitches.  Now this project is more portable and I won’t lose anything – as long as I don’t misplace the entire block :).  Here’s how it looks now:

Wool Crazy Progress

2011 Goals

Big plans are in the works for 2011. Here’s a brief overview of what you can expect this coming year!  I appreciate everyone who reads my blog and I look forward to sharing more with you this coming year:

  • More free patterns
  • More tutorials
  • More giveaways
  • More book reviews
  • Guest bloggers
  • Etsy shop

Finally, here are some fun stats about Keep It Thimble that were sent to me by WordPress (my blog host).

Keep It Thimble – 2010 in Review

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 61 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 81 posts. There were 124 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 232mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 20th with 326 views. The most popular post that day was Free Pattern – Shaker Pincushion.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for folded patchwork, patchwork, folded star patchwork, wool crazy, and folded star.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Free Pattern – Shaker Pincushion January 2010


Free Pattern – Folded Patchwork Star December 2009


Free Patterns October 2009


Free Pattern – Stuffed Sea Creature Toys April 2010


Grommet Purse August 2010

Book Review – Sew and Stow

It’s been too busy for me to finish up a new project or the March Pattern (it’s coming, I promise) so it’s time for another book review!  This review is for “Sew and Stow” by Betty Oppenheimer (Storey Publishing, 2008).

This book features 31 projects to “carry, hold, organize your stuff, your home, and yourself” including a grocery tote, shoe hideway, cleaning caddy, and gardening apron.  The projects themselves are geared towards confident beginners and intermediate sewers and most can be completed in the same day.

The author takes a very technical approach to sewing and the first two chapters go in depth on how to select the correct equipment, fabric, and tools, and then discusses techniques for cutting, sewing and finishing.  She gives details on the different elements to consider when selecting fabric including water resistance, durability, hand, and weave.  There are also tables that organize fabrics by weight and weave which are very useful when selecting the perfect fabric for your project.

In the techniques chapter she provides some specific ways to transfer patterns, layout the pattern pieces (you want to make sure the nap is going the correct way), and different stitching types.  Information is also presented on other techniques such as making casings, making gathers, forming pleats, creating bias binding tape, mitering corners, and so on.  Everything is clearly explained with detailed directions and diagrams.  You can learn a lot about sewing from reading these first two chapters alone.

The projects are all very useful and she has some great ideas for how to customize them.  Sidebars offer more hints and tips so your projects turn out right the first time (for example, positioning a zipper pull on a continuous zipper so it functions correctly in both directions).  The projects are also clearly explained with directions and diagrams, and each one has a color photo.

The last chapter of the book is my favorite, called “Stow it Your Way,” because it discusses how to design your own pieces.  In this section she walks you through the process of creating a customized sewing caddy, file box, and some other projects.  These projects don’t include formal patterns, but the author provides enough design information for a confident sewer create some quality customized projects.  As someone interested in creating patterns, I found the techniques discussed in this section to be very valuable.

I think the main shortcoming of the book is that some of the projects featured on the cover (the sewing caddy) don’t actually have a pattern in the book.  Instead, they are discussed in the last chapter and the reader has to design this – including calculating the cutting dimensions for each pattern piece, figuring out how many pockets to include, and in what order to sew the pieces.  This is actually pretty easy to do if you read the first two chapters and the design chapters (and reading through some of the other projects that have patterns won’t hurt either), and it gives you more freedom to create the project exactly as you want.  However, some people might be disappointed when they realize that the sewing caddy, dog bed, bedroll, and file box don’t include a full pattern.

Overall, this is one book I am happy to have in my library.  The technical information and diagrams are well worth it to me and I enjoy the challenge of designing my own projects.

Book Review -The Quilter’s Academy, Vol 1

This year I am adding book reviews to my blog.  As an avid collector of books on quilting, sewing, and embroidery, it’s nice to share my opinions on the ones I enjoy the most.  The first review will be on “The Quilter’s Academy – Vol 1”, by the mother/daughter team Harriet and Carrie Hargrave.

Quilter's Academy - Vol 1

The authors’ goal is to create a series of books that breaks down the process of making quilts into discrete classes (which in turn are broken down into 4 – 7 focused lessons).  The books progress in difficulty, and by the time you work through the entire series of books you will have a “Masters” in quilt making.  As someone who thrives in a classroom environment, this approach to quilting definitely got my attention.

The first book in the series, aptly subtitled “Freshman Year”, is an invaluable resource for both beginning and advanced quilters. Both groups are guaranteed to learn something new that will improve their skill.  Volume 1 contains nine classes and focuses on the basics – such as tools, workspace, fabric, thread, rotary cutting, seam allowance, and so on.  The techniques are broken down into specific lessons and each lesson is accompanied by a hands-on exercise that utilizes the technique presented.  Each class concludes with a larger quilt project that lets you practice what you’ve just learned.

The book is packed with information – for example, the authors give a very detailed (and interesting) description about fabric grain and how this can impact your sewing.  Their directions for rotary cutting are some of the best I’ve seen and all of their lessons are geared to teach the most accurate piecing possible.   While you might not aspire to be a perfect quilter, I don’t think there is any harm in learning how to do things the “correct” way first, and then modifying it to suite your style.

The projects themselves are very attractive and are small enough so they can be completed in a weekend.  They all use basic strips and squares (no triangles or circles – they will be covered in later books in the series), but there is a lot of variety.  By the time you work your way to the end of the book you will have a good understanding of how to create blocks, calculate yardage, piece accurately, and will be able to create your own patterns from strips and squares.

Overall, I am very impressed with the technical detail and pictures in this book.  Everything is clearly explained, and it is definitely a resource you will consult over and over again.  Highly recommended for any quilter’s library!