Product Review :: Sewline Fabric Pencils

In a search to find the perfect fabric marker I stumbled across the Sewline pencil. Using a ceramic-based lead, the pencil is designed to give you a thin clean line while still being erasable/removable.

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Available in a rainbow of colors (white, pink, yellow, green, brown), the pencil comes with a packet of six lead refills and has one eraser in its top. I got the white, pink, and green pencils to make sure I had a lead that would show on whatever fabric I was marking.

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I like the form factor of the pencil. It’s nothing special when compared to a mechanical pencil (comfortable to hold with a nice diameter barrel) but it’s vastly different from other fabric marking tools I have. And I don’t think you can tell from the photos…but the pencil has a slightly triangular shape to the barrel. Would you like to see my informal test of how the lines compare with other markers?

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As you can see, the Sewline (far right) makes the finest line. The tailor’s chalk (center) is the most difficult to control and left a small amount of chalk dust. The chalk pencil (far left), while easier to control than the tailor’s chalk, left a large amount of dust and it dulls quickly requiring frequent sharpening. There may be an argument that the Sewline is best as a pattern/design tracing tool while tailor’s chalk is best for marking clothing for tailoring since the Sewline definitely needs a firm surface underneath the fabric to work while the tailor’s chalk leaves a heavy mark by just rubbing against the fabric. But since I make quilts and toys and I have no clue how to resize clothing, the Sewline would seem to be the tool for me.

The Sewline pencil drew fairly smoothly and I adore that fine fine line. I’m just starting to explore applique and I can see how this fine line will be perfect for tracing out the more intricate shapes. And of course – you don’t have to stop to sharpen it. In my quick tests, the lead did not break, but if this is like other mechanical pencils…the thin leads are probably prone to snapping if you extend them too far or apply too much pressure. I did encounter some minor drag on the fabric when I drew and had to hold the fabric down with my hand to keep the fabric from stretch while I marked. But I have a feeling that was largely due to the amount of pressure I was using.

I’m glad that I got multiple colors because, as you’ll see below, each color shows up with varying success on different colored fabrics. Sewline is coming out with a 3-chambered pencil (just like those pens we had in grade school) that holds 3 different leads at once.
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I think I’ll be using the pink pencil the most frequently as it seems the most versatile.

Finally – the all important eraser test. Here’s where my praise of the Sewline pencil stumbles a little.
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I made a single horizontal line of each color on the 4 swatches. The vertical line in the center divides the eraser test from the water test. Obviously, this isn’t a perfect/professional test…but I have a 6-month-old so I do what I can with the time I have. I’m sure you understand.

The “E” indicates the eraser side (the right side) of the test and I used water on the left-hand side. I used 4 colors of Kona Cotton as the fabric. Overall, it seemed like a toss-up between the erasing or using water to remove the marks. If you click on the photo and view it larger, the detail shows better. None of the marks came off completely through erasing and the eraser tending to leave behind annoying little curlings of the used eraser (just like a regular eraser – so who am I to complain?) And the water seemed to be just as effective as the eraser to remove the mark. To be fair, I did use a fair amount of pressure to make the lines…so maybe if you draw more gently more of the mark will come off. Also – I didn’t wash the swatches in soapy water…so perhaps more of the markings would come off that way?

My final verdict – I’m somewhere between liking the Sewline pencil and loving it. The downside of the marks leaving traces behind after erasing is a dark mark against it. But the benefits of the smooth, fine, clean line with the ease of use of a comfy mechanical pencil outweighs the erasing issue to me. They’re perfect for drawing applique shapes and tracing toy pattern pieces – which is what I mostly needed a marking tool for, so they’re perfect for me.

I bought my Sewline penciles at the Fat Quarter Shop. But you can also find the products HERE, HERE, and HERE. (You can find them lots of other places too…but I can only list so many links.)

And yes, I did get the Sewline fabric glue pen too. I’m using it to do some strip piecing and will write up a quick review soon.

May 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm 33 comments

What’s wrong with this picture?

Craftzine has a great preview of Lotta Jansdotter’s new book, Simple Sewing for Baby. I love Lotta’s work and I’m looking forward to getting a copy of the book myself. But this picture in the preview had me chuckling.

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Does anyone else see what’s wrong with this picture?

C’mon all you swaddling moms out there…you know what I’m talking about. It’s that adorable little hand sneaking out of the top of the swaddle! Of course, the wrap looks gorgeous and snuggly. But anyone who’s swaddled knows that a good swaddle is one in which the baby stays wrapped up tight – with no escaping bits. Sure, that’s not the point of the photo. But seeing as how we we struggled to find the right swaddle for our escape-artist daughter, I found that sneaky little hand amusing.

May 15, 2009 at 4:57 pm 4 comments

Munki-ing Around

After my post about finding Heather Ross fabric…I slipped into an ugly downward spiral of obsession. I realized there are so many gorgeous Ross prints that I didn’t have in my collection yet! I had to have them. I HAD to HAVE them. (I know I’m coming off as super materialistic – pun intended – but I pinky swear that I’m not THAT bad. This is my big vice. This and dark chocolate.) So after two days of Googling and emotionally justifying the cost, here’s what I have:
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Yup…a whole STACK of Munki Munki pajamas. All beautiful Heather Ross prints that aren’t made anymore. Now, if you look at this and think, “what the heck is she going to do with all of those PJs?” then you aren’t thinking like a sewist. If you know the Munki Munki line, then you know the PJs were often sold for upwards of $80 retail. And if you know me, you’ll know there’s no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I would pay that price. But thanks to Google and some digging around time, I found all of this stuff on sale for well below retail. It’s funny how value is so subjective. The pajama sellers just think this is older stuff that hasn’t sold and isn’t being printed anymore…so clear it out. I’m thinking these are hard-to-find prints of out-of-print fabric from a fabulous designer that are valuable. Go figure.

These lovelies are going to be sliced and diced into lovely pieces for patchwork. If you can’t see the prints I got: Bicycles, Brides, Gnomes, Vans, Shoes, Ice Cream Truck, Coffee, Martians, Sushi, and Yoga. Isn’t it neat how you can see how this early work of hers influenced some her of later stuff.
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There’s a mix of PJ shirts, nighties, and the best finds…tops and bottoms (the Ice Cream Truck and VW Buses – SO cute.) I shopped around and bought the largest size of whatever PJ was available. And I only purchased the cotton poplin although I was sorely tempted by all the fun flannel that I found. I’m happy with how large each piece is and I figure I have a nice amount of yardage here. These are going to be so fun to play with!

Here are my faves (cuz you can’t have enough Munki love pictures.) Have you seen these before? They’re just the cutest things ever. I love love love the ice cream truck print…it’s so cheerful and fun and completely captures the essence of the ice cream truck excitement.
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And because I know I’ll get asked…this is a combination of shopping ebay, Amazon, and Only Pajamas. Repro Depot also has some straight yardage left of Munki Munki prints. The “poolside” print may have to find its way into my collection…

I’m mulling over an all Heather Ross quilt top (from the PJs and the other fabrics in my stash. ) But the prints are so different thematically that I’m not sure how that would really work. So I’ll probably just work in pieces into projects here and there. Whatever I end up doing with them, I know these will add whimsy and delight to the project.

Now if my Far Far Away pre-order would just arrive.

May 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm 15 comments

Fore!

Or is it “Four”? I don’t know anything about golf!

Right now you can get one of my favorite time killers, Fairway Solitaire, for FREE! Yup. Bigfish Games is offering Fairway Solitaire and THREE other games absolutely free…no strings attached. There’s a little trick to placing the order (they have multiple check out options) so read through the steps HERE.

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You can read all about the freebies and get the other coupon codes on my favorite casual game site, Jay is Games.

Fairway Golf is the perfect casual game (they have it for Mac and PC.) You can start and stop anytime and you don’t have to “remember” anything about where you were. The gameplay is ridiculously easy. But for some reason, it’s an addictive little application that keeps you happily clicking away.

Have fun!

April 30, 2009 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

So tempted…

Wow! Little Knits got Koigu in stock!!! And she has a ton of colorways. AND it’s listed for $12.25/skein…which is less than a lot of other places nowadays. (Still freaking expensive considering Shibui – another fave of mine – is usually under $10/skein.)

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Since I have, let’s just say – a LOT of KPPM already, I thought I’d share this news with you. If you get some, let me know so that I can stash vicariously through you!

April 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm Leave a comment

Unboxing Stitch Simple

I have been intrigued by the concept of Stitch Simple since I first heard about it a couple of months ago. It seems like such a stroke of brilliance to offer pre-washed, pressed, and cut fabric for quilting. Personally, the washing and pressing parts of fabric prep are my least favorite part of the quilting process so this shop seems like the perfect solution. Stitch Simple offers a variety of sizes of prepared squares and rectangles as well as fat quarters and fabric by the inch. Stitch Simple’s owner, Jen, also has two convenient customizable kits you can choose from. I chose to get the 40×50 CYO (Choose Your Own) kit.

To order your kit you use this clever little tool that allows you to preview what your quilt will look like with your selected fabrics. You select from Stitch Simple’s fabric swatches (see more about this below) and the quilt preview to the right shows you exactly what you’re going to end up with. I loved how easy it was to use and how it took the guess work out of the selection. I have to admit, I went through dozens of variations of the kit until I finally locked down my choice.

I ordered my kit on Thursday and it arrived the following Monday. I have to say I was surprised (pleasantly, of course) at how quickly it came! I had fun opening my package and thought I’d share the experience with you.

Opening the box you see your invoice, a note about the fabric, and detailed info about fabric care.
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Dig down a layer (which are all neatly separated by cardboard) and you find your backing fabric. Yes, the kit includes backing!!! And really, there’s enough fabric to make the binding too.
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The next layer contains the heart of the matter…the instructions and the precuts. You also receive a cute cardboard ruler. The instructions include the info you need if you want to use the pattern again with your own fabric or more precuts. And yes, Stitch Simple sells refills for the kits.
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I was pleasantly surprised at how detailed the instructions are. The guide is in full color and basically take you step-by-step through the assembly. This kit would be great for a first time quilter. As a neat little bonus. Stitch Simple provides a color print out of your quilt preview too!
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But c’mon, let’s get to the good stuff! Nestled in the recycled paper packing material are your neatly wrapped bundles of precuts. Somehow it feels like candy to me! Each fabric is sandwiched in cardboard, wrapped in plastic, and is clearly labeled.
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Another bonus of the kit are the two “extras” you get: Practice pieces and an “emergency kit” for repairs in the future. Both inclusions are incredibly thoughtful and shows that Stitch Simple knows crafters and is all about sending you a package that will create an heirloom.
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I chose the David Walker Robot line of fabric for my kit. I love the bright colors and cute motifs. And look at how perfectly those rectangles are cut!
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For some reason, the profile of a stack of fabric is always more appealing to me than a head on shot. See?
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So there you go. The Stitch Simple CYO Quilt Kit unboxed. I hope you enjoyed going through it with me. I can’t wait to start piecing this together.
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Stitch Simple is a young company that has a bright future. There are definitely areas that they can grow in – especially around fabric selections. I can only imagine the challenge of managing an inventory of fabric that you’re washing, pressing, AND cutting. But for now the fabric selection is a little sparse. Thankfully, Jen has a good eye and although small, there is a nice selection (big enough that I had a tough choice to make between some Amy Butler and the David Walker) of high quality prints. And I hope in the future Jen will offer additional patterns/kits beyond the two she currently sells.

For the order-by-piece precuts, Stitch Simple also offers some suggestions on how you can piece them together for a variety of blocks. I can see how I would order loose pieces or another kit in the future. I think the kit would make an especially nice gift for a new quilter (or an old one for that matter.) The price, considering the labor of fabric prep, the quality of the fabric and cutting, and all the extras is, in my opinion, more than fair. And if you sign up for the mailing list, Stitch Simple offers occasional coupons too. Finally, after interacting via email with Jen a bit, I can tell you that the customer service is top notch. And after my rants on fabric cutting you know I’m serious about my customer service.

If you’ve never heard of Stitch Simple, I hope I’ve introduced you to a new shop. If you’ve heard of it and wondered what it’s all about, I hope my unboxing helped you learn more. I, for one, can’t wait until I get my sewing machine fixed so that I can start quilting!

(And for the record…I wasn’t given a freebie, paid, or in any way compensated for this post.)

April 28, 2009 at 3:56 am 2 comments

A Fabric Shopper’s Code of Conduct

I wrote a little manifesto about fabric stores cutting yardage. But to be fair, as a customer there are rules we need to adhere to also.

I’ve worked plenty of retail in my life, and let me tell you – it’s TOUGH. I’ve had some terrible customer service at stores before. But then again, I’ve experienced and witnessed some truly indecent treatment of employees. So to play fair, here’s my Code of Conduct for us shoppers as we build our fabric stash.

(and note – the manifesto and code of conduct for yarn shops is slightly different.)

  • Be friendly. If you can’t be friendly, be kind. If you can’t be kind, be respectful. If you can’t be respectful, be polite. These are human beings that work at the store. Just like me. Just like you.
  • Be patient. I know it stinks when someone is getting 14 single yard cuts in line in front of you…but that stuff happens. Huffing and puffing in line doesn’t make anyone work any faster.
  • Recognize limits. Keeping stock is costly. Buying merchandise is an artform and every store has its own style and priorities. If the shop you’re at doesn’t have what you want, don’t throw a fit.
  • Be creative. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people upset because every exact fabric in the store sample is no longer in stock. Things sell out…especially when a pretty sample is displayed. And it’s not like the store owner is going to take down a great sample just because a few of the prints sold out. For goodness sake, you’re crafting! Get innovative. And heck, chances are the employees would be happy to help you find a nice alternative if you just ask.
  • Don’t hog the help. It’s one thing if you’re the only customer in the store…but on a busy day, be cognizant of your fellow shopper’s and the employee’s mandate to try to help everyone. Sure, it’s nice to have a second opinion as you select 20 prints for your heritage project. But it’s awkward for the employee when you drag them from corner-to-corner with you while you shop.
  • Have clean hands! The best thing about shopping in a store is feeling up the fabric. The tactile reward of strolling through a shop and touching all the pretties is wonderful. So please don’t mess it up for those who come after you by leaving your Slurpee remnants behind. And if your store has a no food/no drink policy, please respect it.
  • Finally, don’t steal. Sure, this one is obvious, right? But I’ve seen stores go out of business because they simply couldn’t handle the “shrinkage.” Shoplifters do very real damage to the store owner and our crafting community at large.

And now a pretty picture to break up all this darn text!
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And for those of us who shop a lot online too…

  • Pay promptly! It’s a hassle to track stock and sales and shipping. Don’t order until you’re ready to pay.
  • Communicate. I find the vast majority of store owners are very friendly and more than happy to describe a product, put together a bundle, or make custom cuts if you just ask. And make sure you ask your questions before you buy. It’s a lot easier to ask ahead of time than figure out how to return later.
  • If you have a problem with your order, try to talk/email the owner first. Mistakes happen to the best of us. Leaving negative feedback without trying to find a resolution directly with the seller probably won’t solve anything and you can leave a good seller who made an oops with an unfair blemish on their record.
  • Research your seller. If the seller doesn’t have any feedback, buy at your own risk. If the seller has negative feedback, take that into account. And remember…if it’s too good to be true…it’s too good to be true.

Phew! All this laying down of the rules makes me sound like a harridan. Really, I’m not that much of a hard-ass. And to think, all of this started because I got a half-yard cut that was only 16″ wide.

Any store owners out there? I’m interested to see if I hit the mark at all with this list. I can remember what it used to be like as a worker…but that was years ago in a different industry. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can make your life easier (thereby giving you more time to stock fabulous fabric!)

April 20, 2009 at 4:52 pm 3 comments

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