I was so excited when our little Cincinnati got a brand new modern fabric store and sewing lounge earlier this year! Sewn Studio (located in Oakley, for you folks familiar with Cincinnati) is a little piece of wonderfulness. The people who work there could not be sweeter, and the fabrics—oh my. Plus, they have “open sewing” time, where you can just hang out and sew! If you live in the Cincinnati area and haven’t been there yet, you must go! (You can also order fabric through their site.)

So, with all of this love, I’m thrilled to be partnering with them on a Sew Retro giveaway! It's up on their blog now, right here. One winner will get a signed copy of Sew Retro—shipped right to them. They’ve got all of the rules and tricks for upping your chances of winning posted. As an added bonus, I’m also giving away the Hostess Apron (that's it below)! You can download the PDF directly from the blog post.

The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only, and it ends on September 26 at 8:00 EST.

So, check out their site, enter the giveaway, and do a little shopping if you feel compelled.
I love crafty people (obviously). And I love crafts-based businesses (obviously). But man oh man, as a writer and marketing professional, I see so much missed opportunity out there! The biggest missed opportunity? The "About" page. Your "About" page is your chance to show why your company/service/product stands out.

It's a chance to tell your story.

That matters, because in today's story-based economy, people care--not just about WHAT you do. But about WHY you do it.

I know this because my main business is storytelling. I help people build brand stories. In the past few years, I've seen how much people struggle to write their "About" pages (sometimes called "Our Story" or "Company History" or something similar) for their business and book web sites.

That's why I'm doing a teleclass this Thursday (Sept. 6) at 2:00 EST (totally free) all about how to craft better "About" pages. Hop on over to my main business site, right here, and you can read about it and sign up.

Here's that link again to share: http://judiketteler.com/teleclass-what-are-you-about-anyway

Hope you can make it!

We have a great circuit of antique shows here in Cincinnati (old river towns have a lot of cool people with a lot of cool junk). I’ve done Burlington (Kentucky) and Lawrenceburg (Indiana) several times. But I hadn’t been down to Covington (Kentucky) to the 4th Sunday Antique Show on MainStrasse for quite a few years.
I like this show because it’s small. There are just a few dozen vendors, and you can walk it pretty well in an hour or so. And it’s such a nice, urban backdrop too.

I didn’t spend a ton of money, but I found some really cool stuff. My favorite was Secondhand Fancy’s booth. Okay, not just because I enjoyed talking with her about Sew Retro! (Also, her Pinterest boards are a little bit to-die-for. ) She made these super cute magnets (I bought the cameo ones).
And I really, really wanted this owl she had. But the practical side of me won over: too many children running around in this house right now, and no where to put really cool things. Someday . . .

I also scored some pretty jewelry (a silver pendant with a tiny silver apple, banana, and pear), and saw a lot of other things I wanted. And I found some antique keys for my friend, Whitney, who likes to make jewelry out of them.

There was also a guy selling some great architectural salvage and old signs. I snagged a big piece of slate for an upcoming project. But I wished I had a reason to buy this sign!
Oh, and my sister and I were cracking up looking through these books from the 1920s. (The one about birth control was the best—don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of that one!) We really wanted them. But alas, we were just feeling too practical. I hate when I’m in a practical mood at an antique show. Like I know my 2-year-old would go crazy over this horse, but I just couldn't quite do it . . .

Anyway, Lawrenceburg is this Sunday. I hope to be there!

Back to school: what a sweet phrase that is! Max heads back to preschool (Pre-K, to be exact) and his little sister, Georgia, heads to a toddler program. Even though it’s been an insanely busy summer and I haven’t sewn in months, I knew that I couldn’t send the kiddos to school without some handmade decked-out backpacks. It was a great excuse for me to take the time to do some sewing again.

Georgia, bless her heart, has no idea that school is about to happen, or what in the world she needs with this backpack thing (she’s 2). But Max (4) had a very specific request for his back. He loved his Penguin Backpack from last year, but this year, he was ready for something a bit more grown up. And he knew exactly what. “I want Batman on one side, and Spiderman on the other. And mama, Superman too, if you can fit him.” No problem, kiddo!

Now, all summer long, my husband had been taunting me with back-to-school ads that show various superhero backpacks. “You could just buy one and be done now . . .,” he kept saying. As if. Do you even know me, dude?
For Max, it took a while to find the right pattern (the toddler and preschool backpack tutorials I kept finding all looked too small). I actually wound up using Simplicity 1823. It’s quite girly looking on the pattern envelope, but I knew that I could boy it up with a superhero theme. I found some Spiderman, Superman, and Batman fabrics at Jo-Ann’s, and cut out various images to make appliques. For the main body of the backpack, I decided to use a basic denim, since I wanted it to be able to take some wear and tear (and I figured it would look good with the superhero red, white, and blue palette). I lined it with an inexpensive light blue cotton.
The pattern is a really good one actually: it’s very sturdy (lined, with both a layer of interfacing, and a layer of fleece). I’d say it’s a lot of sewing—not hard or complicated. Just a fair amount of seaming things together (although I was doing a bunch of appliques, so it probably felt like more sewing than it was).

I will say that there is one mistake in the pattern: it never tells you to cut out a lining piece for the front. But once I went to put the lining together, I realized I had only cut one for the back, as directed. So, I just used the back piece to cut out one for the front (the finished front is exactly the same as the back). No big deal.

I think the appliques turned out great, and I personalized it with his name. There may be other Maxes, and there may be other superhero backpacks, but there will be no other boys named Max with this superhero backpack.
As for Georgia, I decided to go back to the wonderful Oliver + S  pattern I used last year to make the Penguin Backpack (from the book Little Things to Sew). It’s smaller, but since she won’t have a homework folder or large art projects, it’s perfect. Instead of the penguin, I kept it simple, and did an owl motif. I found this fabric on Spoonflower, designed by Hamburgerliebe. I used an owl embroidery transfer from Sublime Stitching, and made a 3-layer applique, using some pink and purple solids I already had. A little rickrack, and the whole thing popped. And of course, I personalized it by appliqueing her name, too.

I highly recommend both patterns, even for beginners. I really like the way the Oliver + S pattern has you attach the lining (I wish I had used that technique to attach the lining of the superhero backpack, because it took a lot of pressing and a little tacking to get the lining to fit snugly). Don’t let the zippers scare you in either pattern. It’s  really quite easy and workable to put them in. As for straps, the Simplicity pattern uses parachute clips, and the Oliver + S pattern uses traditional strap adjusters (you could do either though).
Sewing backpacks for the little ones got me back in the groove of sewing. I was completely burned out after a summer of demanding deadlines and zero free time. I forgot how meditative it could be to just sit and sew in the evening.  So, stay tuned for more projects, tutorials, and giveaways!
I’ve heard about the 127 Corridor Sale for years, but I’ve never gone (even though it comes right here through Cincinnati). But since I had a magazine assignment to cover a stretch of it, I finally had an excuse to check it out. And, the coolest part: I invited my two sisters and my niece to come along.

So last Friday and Saturday, we scouted the stretch from Celina, Ohio to Owenton, Kentucky. We were four ladies on the open road, perusing the junk and wonderfulness that is the World’s Longest Yard Sale.
Here is what we learned:

1.  People will sell anything. Motorcyles. Empty Cool Whip containers. Pantyliners. Anything. A lot of it is very cool. A lot of is not.

2.  It’s the one time when you should absolutely drive far slower than the speed limit. If you stick to 55, you will miss most of the random kitsch. Don’t be in a hurry.

3.  The more cars you see piled on the side of the road, the more you know that you should stop.

4.  Don’t second-guess what you’re drawn to. If it pulls you toward it, there’s a reason. (I have two different items I regret not buying and I’m still thinking about them! I should have respected the magnetic attraction.)

5. Bring snacks. Many of the stretches are not heavily populated, and there are not a lot of restaurant options sometimes. Lots of vendors do sell water and hot dogs. But have your own stash in the car.

6. Keep your eyes open for all of the signs: there are lots of sales off of 127 too. Be ready for anything. Ask the locals for tips about what might be off the beaten path.
7. Anytime you see a diner advertising homemade pie, absolutely stop.
8. Practice your haggling skills. Never be afraid to make an offer.
9. Whatever you say on 127, stays on 127. Especially when one of your sisters is reading 50 Shades of Grey in the back of the car.

10. The whole thing will be way more fun if you pretend that a film crew is following you for some fabulous cable show about picking through junk.
Thanks for the memories and the loot, 127. I’ll be back next year!
I’ve been working on a photo collage for my the wall behind my bed, incorporating all kinds of fantastic old pictures of my parents, and little pieces of vintage coolness. I knew that I wanted to incorporate some illustrations of vintage patterns with fabric, so I came up with a fun way to do it: just stitch a (paper) picture to a piece of fabric, and then use the fabric to cover a piece of blank canvas.

Super easy!
I used an illustration from Wade Laboissonniere’s book, Blueprints of Fashion. (As an aside: this is a really cool book, and I referenced it in several places in Sew Retro.) I simply cut out an illustration I liked (you could also scan, if you don’t want to cut into a perfectly good book), picked out some complementary fabric (this is a scrap of seersucker), used some double stick tape to hold the picture in place, and then carefully did a zigzag stitch all the way around.

I was worried that when I pulled the fabric tight over the canvas that the stitching would pull. But it didn’t. So, when you staple the fabric over the canvas, make sure to pull it taught, and wrap your corners neatly.
I love the effect, and it looks great hanging on my wall. I'm wondering how I could use this technique next . . .
Thanks everyone for entering to win a signed copy of Sew Retro! I loved reading what people are planning to make this summer. I am most impressed that a few people are going to make swimsuits! And as it turns out, some of you are going to be making babies, after all. (I, however, echo the "no more, thank you" sentiments of some commenters.)

So, I grabbed a winner at random, and it is Abbi, who says that she is going to make a new wardrobe that suits who she is. Yay!

Abbi, I'll be in touch shortly about getting the book & bonus vintage handkerchief in the mail to you. Thanks everyone for entering. I'll be giving away more books, so please stay tuned!

Oh goodness, it’s June. I’ve been absent for so long, the only thing I can think to do is to give some stuff away!

So first, I’m giving away one of the patterns from the book. It’s the Tea Party Tablecloth. I confess, I haven’t had an actual tea party since I was about 5 and used to have them for my stuffed animals. However, I have had numerous gatherings where having a very cool tablecloth like this is the hit of the party. It’s the perfect size for a card table.
To get it, you’ll need to download two files. The first is a PDF of the directions (direct from the pages of the book). The second is a PDF of the pattern piece. Happy sewing!

Secondly, I’m giving away a signed copy of Sew Retro. It’s been a while since I’ve done a book giveaway. I will throw in a vintage handkerchief too (I buy them like candy at flea markets).

To enter to win the book, just leave a comment below about what you are going to make this summer (a party dress, hummus, a necklace, a baby . . . whatever)

I’ll choose a winner on Monday, June 11th at 10:00 EST (or thereabouts).

And if you want to hear from me regularly, head over to my business site and sign up for my newsletter. It’s painless and fun, and you get a weekly newsletter from me. I put a lot of time into writing good, inspiring articles. I’d love to have you join, right here

It's going to be a great summer . . .
Yikes, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted a blog update! I’ve been so focused on building my newsletter that I’ve put the blog on the backburner (it’s hard to do lots of different things well, I’ve found). But I did want to pop in and let readers know about something very cool I’m organizing.

I’ve been thinking lately how people can make a splash with their brand: how do you get your ideas out there into the world? We know how big companies do it (with huge marketing budgets and staffs of people). But what about solopreneurs, Etsy shop owners, fabric designers, and other creative types? You’ve got ideas too!
That’s why I’m organizing a “telesummit”: Expand Your Influence: A Virtual Conference on Turning Big Ideas into Brand Extensions (March 19 – 23)  is an interview series all about brand extensions—larger projects like books, eBooks, videos, and TV shows that help you get your big idea out there into the world. It’s going to be energetic and insightful, and totally multidisciplinary (from sports psychology to fabric design!). Speakers range from designer and author Amy Butler to TV show host and designer Angelo Surmelis to self-publishing guru Peter Bowerman, and a whole lot more, like a literary agent (who specializes in craft books), a business coach, and business owners/bloggers who leveraged their brand/blog to write books and sell fantastic branded products. You’ll not only come away from this interview series inspired to create something amazing, you’ll also learn practical tips for marketing your brand extension.

How do you listen? Well, it couldn’t be easier, because it’s free. And it only requires signing up. You can listen live, completely free (calls are at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. EST each day). Register here. Share this link with anyone you’ve ever heard say they have a big idea.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Amy Butler (who you are definitely going to want to hear from) is also offering a book giveaway when you sign up! (Details are on the sign-up page)

So, I’m obviously not doing this because I heart technology (did you read my newsletter last week?). So, what’s the deal? First, I am a geek and I want to study some things, publicly: how the splash happens (what Malcolm Gladwell calls “the tipping point”), what remarkability has to do with it (what Seth Godin calls “the purple cow”), and why starting with “why” always matters (Simon Sinek). But it’s not just about great thinkers I admire. It’s about action. And learning from others’ actions. (I sort of want to take over the world, so there are a few things to learn.)

It’s also a chance to interview superbly cool and extremely brilliant people who are doing inspiring, revolutionary, and/or intriguing things with their brand extensions. Basically, I love the flow of a good conversation. I want to do backstrokes in it. I used to only get to interview cool people when I was writing an article for someone else. Now, I’m doing it for me—and definitely for you.

So sign up, right here!
Last year, I made a Clifford quilt for Max for his 2nd birthday for his big boy bed. When my mother-in-law saw how much Max loved the quilt, she asked if I’d make one for my niece G. for Christmas (which falls right before her 2nd birthday and her move to a big girl bed). I consulted with my sister-in-law on what my niece would like, and we decided G. would love an animal theme. Farm, circus—whatever, it was all fair game. The only requirement was a hippo—G.’s favorite animal.
I had made a small animal-themed quilt for my friend Kate several years ago, so I re-used many of the appliques that I had found in the book B is For Baby by Suzonne Stirling: the zebra, the hippo, the tiger, the lion, the kangaroo. I also found some good ones in 100 Applique Motifs by Deborah “Ismoyo” Green, like the elephant, the sheep, the kangaroo, and the porcupine. For the embroidery (the owl and the butterflies), I turned to the classic, Sublime Stitching, by Jenny Hart. And finally, I searched online for images to make the rest of the appliques, modifying them.

I used the satin stich on my machine to do all the appliques. I also did some raw edge appliques for the flowers and the bird cutouts (those are from a piece of fabric I picked up at Hobby Lobby a few months ago). The quilt looked a little flat the first time I laid it out, so I punched it up with some embellishments, like giant polka dot cut-outs and flowers. I also added some blocks made from strips pieced together. But my favorite thing to do was the hand-embroidery embellishing. I love sewing and applique, but there is something so relaxing about the rhythm of hand embroidery; it’s a great way to chill at the end of the day.
I never did a final measure, but the blocks are each 12 inches (4 across and 7 down, except for the two places where I did 12 x 24 blocks, just for variety) and the border is 5 inches. I had so much fun making this quilt! I’ve got another year until my own little one, Georgia, is in a big girl bed, and I’m already thinking about it . . .

Have a great holiday, everyone! A shout out to all of you who bought Sew Retro as a gift this holiday season. Remember, if you want to buy a signed copied directly from me, you can do so right here, and if you want to keep up with business announcements and the like, head over to Facebook and like the Sew Retro page and my business page.