Craftgawker -- A Cool (Free) App for iPhone

Lately, instead of playing Sudoku, I have been spending some of my free time browsing crafts using the Craftgawker application on my iPhone.

This application is an easy interface to use to find crafty ideas like how to make garden markers out of old silverplated spoons, or how to drill holes in river rocks to make jewelry.

To use the app, simply browse pictures of finished projects, and when you find something interesting, click on the picture to find the directions to complete that project.  The directions that I have read are clear and are often accompanied by step-by-step photographs.

The Craftgawker app is the mobile companion to the Craftgawker website, .  The Craftgawker application for the iPhone can be downloaded for free from iTunes.


Treasured Knitting Patterns

One of my favorite activities is looking through used books.  This started at an early age because my parents used to take us to a used book store to spend the money we earned from doing chores.  Now, I go to used book stores when I can, but I always try to attend the book sales sponsored by the Friends of the Library.  

My husband and I recently attended the Anniversary Sale from the Friends of the Library at Fort Mason in San Francisco.  Books ranged in price from $1 to $3, and there were thousands and thousands of books from which to choose.

I spent a lot of time in the needlecraft area -- I never know what I will find there.  One year, it was a collection of embroidery books in German.  Another year, it was an entire series of needlecraft magazines from the UK.  This year, I found a funny looking little box that  resembled a box of stationery.  I opened it up and saw that it was filled with pamphlet-sized pattern books.  There were twelve books in all, and they were all written by the same author, Betty Lampen.


I wasn't sure that I wanted to pay $1.00 each for the twelve books, but there was one book that I really wanted.  It was titled, "Patterns for Knitted Hats," and it is pictured above.  This book has cute patterns for knitted hats for infants and children and contains about 30 patterns in all.  I took the box to the check-out stand, and to my surprise and delight, this treasure box of patterns was only $1.00 -- for the whole box!

The other books are: Knitted Bears and Dolls, Purlie and her Friends (18 inch knitted dolls), Knitted Shoe Box Dolls, Miniature Sweaters, Stitches and her Friends (18 Inch knitted dolls), Miniature Pullovers, More Miniature Sweater Designs, Sweaters for Teddy Bears, Teddy Bear Knits, Best Dressed Teddy Bears, and Dolls and Animals.

I went online to learn more about the author and discovered that Betty Lampen has a website at:  It is possible to order these twelve books individually or together on her website.

I also found a link to an article about Betty which was titled, "86-Year-Old Entrepreneur sells 100,000 Knitting Books" at 

Review of the Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter

Before I purchased the Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter, I read a lot of reviews and also watched dozens of YouTube videos showing the cutter in use.  The Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter has only earned three stars out of five at as I write this, but I think that it deserves a higher rating.

First, let me say that, in spite of the endorsement of talented industry spokespersons, I was skeptical about the Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter.  Was it just another gadget that would frustrate me and of which I would grow tired?  Would it aggravate my repetitive stress injury?  Would I wind up wasting fabric?  Some of the reviews I read were negative, but when I read further, I discovered that those reviews -- and the accompanying low ratings -- were written by people who hadn't even purchased the cutter nor seen it in action.

I have owned the fabric cutter for about ten days now, and two queen-sized quilts and one wall hanging later, I can definitely say that it is extremely useful to have around.  Sewing with the die cut pieces is a pleasure.  My patchwork blocks come out exactly the right size and fit together perfectly.

Here are some of the factors that I considered in making this purchase:

Cost: It is an investment that might be considered a necessity by some and a luxury by others.  Since I couldn't be sure which it would be for me, I put it in the luxury category.  Then I waited for a sale and used the gift cards and money that I had set aside for pampering myself.  The cutter itself is very sturdy and although the cutting dies and particularly the mats do eventually wear out, in my opinion, they will stand up to a lot of use before needing replacement.  At first, I only purchased one die set, and I tested that and the bonus die that came with the machine before purchasing additional cutting dies.

Appliques: Apply fusible web to the fabric first and then cut the shapes.  It is a lot of fun, and the shapes are perfectly cut and ready for fusing onto the background fabric.  They have a large selection of applique dies available.  I would have bought the unit just for this feature alone!

Fabric: Small triangles and squares cut perfectly using any old fabric from my stash.  The larger squares (4-1/2" x 4-1/2") came out 4-3/8" x 4-1/2" when I used medium quality fabric.  At first, I thought there was something wrong with the die, but then I used good quality fabric and the square was exactly 4-1/2" x 4-1/2".  The instructions included with the die stated that in case of fabric stretch or shrinkage, it was okay to put a piece of paper between the fabric and the cutting mat.  This worked perfectly, and I had no further trouble with any cotton fabric.  I used paper from the recycling bin and then returned it to the bin when I was done.

Fabric Waste: One complaint that I read online suggested that using a die to cut fabric would result in more waste than using a rotary cutter.  This observation is not without some merit, but I am not in complete agreement.  I hate wasting fabric, but I am not particularly gifted when it comes to rotary cutting.  Whether it is a slip of the eye or the hand, I don't know, but I already seem to waste plenty of fabric just by making mistakes cutting inaccurately with my rotary cutter and ruler.  Also, I tend to straighten and re-straighten my fabric edges a lot.  (Fortunately, I have a use for all those fabric strips.)  Some quilters cut pieces larger than needed and then trim them to fit. This also produces waste, and so does trimming the points off from triangles, which would be done no matter what method was used for cutting the triangles in the first place.  (By the way, the Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter trims off the points on triangles when it cuts the triangles, which saves me from having to do it later.)  I actually think that there will be less wasted fabric using the Accuquilt Go! because even small pieces of leftover fabric can be cut into usable triangles, squares and appliques.  I followed the written instructions and pre-cut the fabric before die cutting 144- 3" finished half-square triangles (item 55009), and there was half a handful of 1/2" by 4-1/2" strips of wasted fabric.  Since our local recycler will take fabric scraps, I put them in the recycling bin with no guilt.

Ease of Use: I have a repetitive stress injury and arthritis, but I found that the cutter was easy to crank, depending on how many layers of fabric I was trying to cut.  The cutter worked best on a sturdy table.  If the table is on wheels, I recommend locking the wheels so the table won't move when operating the crank.  At first, the cutting mats are not scored at all, and it takes a little more strength to turn the crank.  After the first time, I had no difficulty with up to four layers of fabric, depending on the type of die I used.

Summary: There are so many variables in quilting that can affect the finished product: for example, fabric, cutting, 1/4" seam, pressing, etc.  For some, each step is a no-brainer, but that is not the case for me.  Using the Accuquilt Go! Fabric Cutter helped me to make sure that each piece was cut correctly.  Sewing was much more pleasurable when the pieces fit together perfectly.  The blocks came out the right size and my husband noticed how well everything lined up when the blocks were sewn together.  The ultimate test came when I was three squares short when I was sewing pieces together.  Would I run for the rotary cutter, or would I set up the Accuquilt Go! just to cut three squares?  Yes, I admit it: I went for the Accuquilt Go!  It was actually easier and quicker to fanfold fabric onto the die and turn the crank than it would have been to find the mat, ruler and rotary cutter, cut a 2-1/2" strip and then re-cut that into squares.