My top 5 favorite sewing books to add to your quilting library. They’re the best!

Even though we have Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook to find all sorts of sewing inspiration and tutorials, there’s still nothing like a good book.

Something that you can hold in your hands. Something that can look pretty on your shelf. Something that can trigger your creativity every time you page through it.

After years of collecting, I’ve amassed oodles of sewing books. However, there are just a few that I go back to over and over again.

I thought I’d share with you my top 5 favorite sewing books that you should add to your quilting library. At least, in my opinion. 😉😍

Wise Craft Quilts: A Guide to Turning Beloved Fabrics into Meaningful Patchwork
By Blair Stocker

I got this book a couple weeks ago and instantly connected to it when I saw the jean quilt on the cover. I knew the book had to go in my top 5.

I’ve been making a jean quilt on and off over a period of (very literally) a decade. It thrilled me to see Blair’s jean quilt. It uses a traditional quilt block design to turn several shades of jeans into a clean, modern, warm and inviting quilt. I’m telling you, my heart expands when I look at it.

Actually, that’s how I felt with just about every project in the book. Blair shares her expertise in using well-loved and found fabrics such as vintage handkerchiefs, men’s button up tops, and even a wedding dress, and turns them into amazing quilts.

None of the quilts feel kitschy or overdone, something I commonly see in projects using reclaimed fabrics. They are all beautiful in their simplicity and I want to make every single one.

The biggest takeaway for me was to give yourself permission to cut into that special fabric.

I’ve been known to keep all my pretty fabric folded on the shelf to pull out every once in awhile and marvel at its prettiness but never hurt it by actually using it. Well, I’m getting over that. The more I use my special fabrics, the more I want to use them up. They’re far prettier in a finished project than sitting on my shelf.

Click here to purchase Wise Craft Quilts: A Guide to Turning Beloved Fabrics into Meaningful Patchwork by Blair Stocker

The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously
By Sherri Lynn Wood

For me, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters by Sherri Lynn Wood helped me put fear aside and step into a world that before I only wished I could enter.

The world of free form, no pattern involved quilt making where every quilt ends up looking like an abstract art piece.

Before reading this book I thought there was no way I could ever make something so beautiful and seemingly impossible to make. How would I know what size to cut things? How would I get seams to match together? How would I even make a decision on what to do next?

I felt like there was no way to break away from a planned out pattern and make something so improvisational.

But Sherri Lynn Wood illustrates the process in an informative and encouraging way. And after using her methods, I feel like there’s a creative part of me that’s finally getting the chance to open up.

I used her methods to construct the back of my Splendid Sampler quilt using all my scraps up from the project. It was a thrill. (See my YouTube videos of the process by clicking here.)

You don’t need any special design skills, just a few methods and parameters you set for yourself, and the world of Improv piecing becomes understandable.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It breaks down the creative decision-making process in a way that will help in any project. So even if you don’t plan on making an improvisational quilt, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters will still be a valuable addition to your sewing library.

Click here to purchase The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters: A Guide to Creating, Quilting & Living Courageously by Sherri Lynn Wood

Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction
By Abigail Patner Glassenberg

Abby is a PRO at designing and sewing super cute stuffed animals. In Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction she shares her technical knowledge in a digestible way so that you can design and sew your own stuffed animal patterns. Even complex designs.

Click here to see my longer review of Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction.

If you want to learn how to make professional looking stuffed animals, you won’t find a better book than this.

Abby starts with how to design your own stuffed animal, then, through her projects, takes you through making a simple stuffed animal with two sides, all the way through how to make more complicated designs with gussets, darts, rounded shapes, asymmetrical design, and fully jointed parts. The “Lesson” inserts throughout the book are gold.

Even if you don’t make stuffed animals, you’ll get a great education on how to manipulate fabric into 3-dimensional shapes.

You’ll use Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction as a go to reference for years.

Click here to purchase Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction by Abigail Patner Glassenberg

The Art of Manipulating Fabric
By Colette Wolff

I’ve had this book for years and years and it never fails to inspire me.

There are no projects in this book. It is purely a technical guide on how to manipulate the flat surface of fabric to give it dimensionality using a wide variety of traditional techniques. Techniques include gathering, shirring, ruffles, godets, pleating, smocking, quilting, stuffing, and more, all in great detail and with lots of diagrams and photos.

One of my favorite things I like about this book is that it shows what the most traditional way of a doing a technique looks like, all the way through what a technique would look like when done in a way that’s more free form or unconventional.

All the techniques are shown in plain white cotton and photographed in black and white. I think that design choice focuses the book on the textures you can create, and lets you think of your own projects that you could use them in.

There are textures in this book that you’ve never seen before being created with fabric. Any of them would be stunning in a quilt.

Now that I’m crafting a whole lot more (because of my nightly Facebook Lives), I’d like to start experimenting with more dimensional techniques and include them in upcoming projects.

Click here to purchase The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff

Story Quilts: Through the Seasons
By Yukari Takahara

I found out about this book several years ago at the International Quilt Market trade show. I met Yukari there and we traded books (my book, Sew & Stitch Embroidery, had just come out).

The quilts in this book are so beautiful that I get kind of emotional every time I page through.

Yukari’s quilts consist of large scenes of people, buildings, toys, plants, and animals made through a combination of patchwork, needle turn appliqué, and embroidery.

The sheer amount of handwork is astounding.

Story Quilts: Through the Seasons is eye candy for sure, but there are also great lessons on needle turn appliqué and different ways you can combine it with embroidery. I love the page where it shows the same little girl design made several times in different combinations of needle turn appliqué and embroidery, and in a variety of materials.

Although I love my Japanese version, I’m sure it’s even more informative in English!

For a kick of beauty and inspiration, I pull this book off my shelf more than any other sewing book in my library.

Click here to purchase Story Quilts: Through the Seasons (English version) by Yukari Takahara

Red and White Quilts: Infinite Variety: Presented by The American Folk Art Museum

By Elizabeth Warren, Maggi Gordon, Joanna S. Rose. Forward by Martha Stewart. 

Image from The American Folk Art Museum website

Ok, yes, this is a sixth book, but it’s technically not on my bookshelf. It’s on my Mom’s. And it’s definitely worth putting on yours.

In 2011, The American Folk Art Museum displayed red and white quilts from over 3 centuries of making. The show featured 651 quilts, all from the collection of Joanna S. Rose.

What a gift of Joanna’s to share such a history.

Colorfast “Turkey red” dye became available in the mid-nineteenth century, and in turn made red and white quilts popular. And it’s easy to understand why. The contrast between the plain white and the vivid red is stunning.

And to see 651 red and white quilts all in one place takes your breath away. I wish I went to the show when the quilts were displayed, but I’ll settle for paging through the book.

The book showcases each quilt from the show on its own page, grouped by technique or style. I love that you can see all the log cabin style quilts together and all the embroidered quilts together.

Not only does this book make you want to sew a red and white quilt immediately, you feel a connection with the women and men, some from hundreds of years ago, who were makers just like you.

Click here to purchase Red and White Quilts: Infinite Variety: Presented by The American Folk Art Museum by Elizabeth Warren, Maggi Gordon, Joanna S. Rose. Forward by Martha Stewart

There you have it. My top 5 (6) favorite sewing books for your quilting library.

Share YOUR favorite sewing book in the comments below. I can't wait to check them out!

I’d love a really good one on basic clothing pattern drafting from measurements only. For some reason that’s been itching at my creativity trigger lately. Not directly quilting related, but I feel like everything I learn in other sewing categories helps me with my quilts.


If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll join me to get occasional emails on how to craft a happy life - and make something cute in the process. For signing up you’ll also get a FREE hand embroidery pattern.

Click here to join (it's FREE too!)

Giveaway 2 for the Jacquelynne Steves, “I Love Home” BOM quilt along.

I had so much fun this past month working on Block 1 of the Jacquelynne Steves “I Love Home” block of the month quilt along.

Here’s my Block 1 all finished.

(To watch the YouTube replays of me making Block 1 Live, click here.)

Kind of a vintagey, floral explosion.

I like it.

It’s interesting to see the fabrics come together.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s a mystery how fabric and color combinations will relate to each other and in the larger quilt. You can do all the planning in the world, but the result is still ultimately a surprise.

A great surprise because it represents you.

It’s like a fingerprint. No one is ever going to put fabrics and colors together quite like you. And that makes your quilt uniquely special.


If you haven’t joined in on the free "I Love Home" quilt along, have no fear! There’s tons of time to work on it. There are four blocks total.

TODAY is the release of Block 2!

Woo hoo!

If you’re already signed up, Block 2 should be on its way to your email.

If you haven’t joined yet, here’s a link to sign up for the free “I Love Home” Block of the month quilt along. Click here.

Check out Block 2 on Jacquelynne’s blog by clicking here.

Also, check out photos of all the blocks people are making in Jacquelynne's Facebook group. Click here.

With Block 2 comes Giveaway 2!

Speaking of fabric…

Block 2’s giveaway is a gorgeous Fat Quarter fabric bundle from Sarah J. Maxwell, who also happens to be another “I Love Home” blogger.

Click here to find out more about Sarah.

Aren’t the colors pretty! They’re the colors I’ve been gravitating to as of late. I love that blue fabric on top!

How to win:

To enter to win, “Like” the Penguin & Fish Facebook page, and leave the comment #ILoveHomeQuilt 
on any of my Facebook Lives this week.

Leave a comment while I'm live or after, during a replay.

Not on Facebook? You can also enter on my YouTube replays. Head over to the PenguinAndFishMovies Youtube page, click Subscribe, and leave a comment #ILoveHomeQuilt

Each evening I’m Live is another chance to enter. You can enter every evening during my Facebook Live video, during the reply, or on YouTube.

The entry period starts in tonight’s Facebook Live (Sept 4) and will run through September 10th. I’ll randomly pick a winner on the 11th, and the winner will be announced on Thursday the 14th on Facebook Live.

To be notified when I’m on Facebook Live:

1. "Like" the Penguin & Fish page on Facebook for crafty live streams every night at 9:30 pm central time. Click here to get to the page:

2. You can either remember to be on the page at 9:30 pm Central time, or to be notified, after “Liking” the Penguin & Fish page on Facebook, click the “Following” tab and make sure Notifications are set to “On”. Then click "See first".

Want more chances to win?

Check out the lovely people below who are also “I Love Home” BOM quilt along bloggers. Each blogger has a chance to win.

The Crafty Quilter

The Inbox Jaunt

Designs by Sarah J

Farmhouse Quilts

Podunk Pretties

The Quilting Nook

The Sewing Loft

Good luck! And happy sewing!

xoxo - Alyssa


If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll join me to get occasional emails on how to craft a happy life - and make something cute in the process. For signing up you’ll also get a FREE hand embroidery pattern.

Click here to join (it's FREE too!)

“I Love Home” Block of the Month (BOM) quilt along. Sewing LIVE from start to finish. Plus a GIVEAWAY!

It’s time for a new project over on Facebook Live. Yay!

Tonight we’ll be starting the Jaquelynne Steves, “I Love Home” Block of the Month (BOM) quilt along.

The project is the second in my Designer Series on the Penguin & Fish Facebook Live #RelaxAndCraft show.

For the “I Love Home” BOM, we’ll be stitching the cutest embroidered / appliquéd house blocks into the sweetest quilt. There are 4 blocks total that will be sent to your email every month. If you’re signed up, you should have received your first block in your email today.

I’ll be filming the whole process from beginning to end on Facebook Live. That means everything from cutting my fabric, to each embroidery and appliqué stitch, to sandwiching my quilt, and binding.

The awesome thing about working on a project Live is that we all get to help each other out while we work. If you have any questions, I’ll be able to answer them on the spot. And if I don’t know what to do, I bet one of the lovely people in the chat, just like you, will be able to help. There are some new-to-me techniques in this project (like half-rectangle triangles) and I may need a little hand holding. I’ll be there to hold yours as well.

This is going to be fun!

My 8 most used embroidery stitches. (And how to make them)

And be sure to check out her “I Love Home” Pinterest page by clicking here. There are some great examples of different fabric colorways for the quilt. Helped me a bunch.

And for some more fun…

How about winning a box of Aurifil thread!

The prize sponsor for this month’s block is Aurifil and they’re giving away a box of thread from the image below to one of my lucky blog readers!


How to win:

To enter to win, “Like” the Penguin & Fish Facebook page, and leave the comment #ILoveHomeQuilt
on any of my Facebook Lives this week. (You don’t have to be there Live to leave a comment.)
The giveaway ends after Friday’s (Aug 11, 2017) Facebook Live. And I’ll randomly choose a winner on Monday the 14th.

(quick note: I won’t be Live on Tuesday this week, so there will only be videos on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)

To be notified when I’m Live:

1. "Like" the Penguin & Fish page on Facebook for crafty live streams every night at 9:30pm central time. Click here to get to the page:

2. You can either remember to be on the page at 9:30 pm Central time, or to be notified, after “Liking” the Penguin & Fish page on Facebook, click the “Following” tab and make sure Notifications are set to “On”. Then click "See first".

Want more chances to win (and see some awesome work by other designers)?

Check out the lovely people below who are also “I Love Home” BOM quilt along bloggers. Each blogger has a box of Aurifil to give away.

The Crafty Quilter

The Sewing Loft

I hope you join me over on the Penguin & Fish page for my Facebook Live tonight at 9:30 pm Central time. I’ll be cutting the fabric for ALL of the blocks. Cutting is always the scariest thing for me when quilting, so I could use your hand holding tonight. Eeep.




If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll join me to get occasional emails on how to craft a happy life - and make something cute in the process. For signing up you’ll also get a FREE hand embroidery pattern.

Click here to join (it's FREE too!)

Half way finished with The Splendid Sampler quilt along.

The last 6 months for me have been defined by one big crafty project.

The Splendid Sampler quilt along.

If you haven’t yet joined the 21,000+ people working on a Splendid Sampler quilt of their own, here’s a little background on the project.

Started by quilting stars, Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson, The Splendid Sampler is a 100 block mystery quilt along running from Feb 2016 - Feb 2017. Each week, on Thursdays and Sundays, a new mystery 6 ½ inch quilt block is released as a digital pattern.

Each block pattern is written by a different designer and uses a technique they’re known for. I’ve been fortunate enough to be the designer for block 11.

So far we’ve seen everything from traditional piecing to embroidery. And also raw edge appliqué, needle turn appliqué, foundation paper piecing, English paper piecing, and combinations of all these techniques.

Right now The Splendid Sampler quilt along is totally FREE.

That means every pattern with a bunch of bonus patterns, all beautifully crafted by some of your favorite designers, is all at your fingertips. Not to mention an incredibly helpful, kind, and inspiring Facebook group of over 21,000 quilters. Some quilting for 50+ years and others making their first ever quilt. All the patterns are free for the duration of the project and then they will be taken offline and turned into a book.

My versions of The Splendid Sampler blocks (clockwise from top left) 32, 31, 15, 18

I love that there may be 21,000+ Splendid Sampler quilts being made right now. Pretty amazing, huh!

Tomorrow marks the halfway point of The Splendid Sampler.


Block 50!

I’m making myself a Splendid Sampler quilt and I’m so proud I made it this far. My craftiness temperament doesn’t usually want me to take on large projects (it likes small “quick win” projects), so it was a big leap for me to choose to do The Splendid Sampler.

I’m so happy I did! I realized that breaking the quilt down into blocks, turned the project into a whole series of “quick wins”.

My mom decided to do the Splendid Sampler too, and it’s been so great to have the shared experience of working on the blocks with her.

Mom's "Flip Flopping Challenge" bonus block.

I decided to keep myself accountable by broadcasting Live the process of making every block in the streaming app, Periscope. Every night at 9:30pm central time I broadcast Live and work on the most current Splendid Sampler block. Viewers can comment and ask questions in real time.

At minimum I thought the Live broadcasting would keep me on track by giving me a dedicated time to sew, and I’d be able to help people with the embroidery on the block I designed, block 11.

The block I designed! Block 11.

What I found through Live broadcasting on Periscope was community of new friends, all helping each other to become better quilters. And a group of wonderful people to hang out with every night.

It’s because of my Periscope community, that I’ve gone from a “faking it” quilter that knew just enough to get by, to a confident quilter that could stand up tall in any room of experienced quilters.

One of the biggest rewards for me has been the comments and emails from quilters who’ve watched the Live broadcasts or the replays on YouTube, who’ve said that the videos have helped them make their blocks.

And it’s especially exciting when they decided to try a technique they thought they’d never tackle because they could watch me do it, and it didn’t seem so hard anymore.

That makes me so happy!

The more people trying new things and gaining confidence through crafting the better! Yay us!

To celebrate the 50 block halfway point of The Splendid Sampler quilt along, I’ll be having a special Periscope at my parent’s house. I’ll be laying out all of my blocks like a quilt. The last time I did that was when I finished block 25. The quilt has doubled in size since then!

And even better, my mom is going to lay out all of her quilt blocks as well. You’ll get to see both of our quilts side by side. It’s amazing how different fabrics can totally change the look of a quilt.

After “show and tell” I’ll be starting block 50 Live on Periscope.

I’d love for you to join me in tomorrow’s (Thursday August 4th) 9:30pm Central Live Periscope broadcast “show and tell” to celebrate block 50.

To watch and chat LIVE:

1. Download the Periscope app to your device (IPad users may have to look in the Iphone only apps)
2. Sign in using your Twitter account.
3. Click the Person icon, then click the magnifying glass
4. Search for penguinandfish, and when you see me, Alyssa Thomas, click the plus sign or follow button
You'll be notified when I go live. Click the notification or the title of my "scope" in Periscope to join.

You can also watch online at at 9:30pm central time.

Replays of the Live Periscope broadcasts are on YouTube on my channel, Penguin & Fish Movies: If you want to learn a new technique or need some help making it through a block, that’s the place to be.

You don’t have to wait until tomorrow to join me on Periscope either. I’m there every night! So pop on in tonight while I finish up block 49. I’ll be stitching at my parent’s house and sewing it on my mom’s machine.

The best part of stitching at my parent’s house is that you’ll get to hear the frogs outside!


For more info on The Splendid Sampler and access all the free blocks, check out

And click here to join The Splendid Sampler Facebook group.

If you’re nervous about starting such a big project, start off by stitching my Splendid Sampler freebie bonus project. My BEE BRAVE quilting bee. It will help you muster up the confidence to “BEE BRAVE”!

Click here to get your FREE Bee Brave embroidery.

I’ll see you on Periscope!

Happy halfway point!



If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll join me to get weekly emails on how to craft a happy life - and make something cute in the process. For signing up you’ll also get a FREE hand embroidery pattern.

Click here to join (it's FREE too!)

Chain stitching in embroidery and crochet - My block for the Splendid Sampler #thesplendidsampler

There’s a reason that the chain stitch is one of my favorite embroidery stitches.

It reminds me of my grandma.

My grandma and the hundreds of doilies she crocheted out of an endless number of tiny chain stitches. Her crocheted chain stitches look almost identical to the embroidery chain stitch.

I absolutely loved visiting my grandma’s house. When you walked in the door you could see her doilies right away. There’d be one under every plant and lamp. Doily table runners on the side tables. And at Easter there would be pretty yellow and pink and purple ones out. She had a little “stitching station” beside her chair in the living room, so when she was relaxing and watching tv, she would be crocheting. No idle hands for Grandma.

Grandma and Grandpa. Check out all those doilies in the background.

A little over a year ago, while organizing my craft supplies, I came across a bin full of grandma’s thread that she used to make her doilies. About 20 opened spools, some full and some with just a bit of thread left. I had stored them away because I wanted them to stay just as they were when my grandma passed away. But now, years later, I decided the best way for me to honor my grandma was to use her thread.

So I started making her doilies. Stitching the same pattern she used, with her thread, and her tiny crochet hook.

“DOILY: Starting at center, chain 16. Join with sl st to form ring.”

16 chain stitches made, thousands more to go.

My first doily using grandma's floss. The green is from a tiny ball of thread I found hiding in the center of a larger spool.

I was a couple rows into my 4th doily when I was asked by Pat and Jane to design a quilt block for The Splendid Sampler. I knew immediately that I wanted to continue to honor my grandma and her doilies by combining her main craft of crochet with my main craft of embroidery, and my mom’s main craft of quilting. I wanted my block to represent our 3 generations of crafting.

My quilt block is of a “crocheted” doily being stitched with a tiny metal hook.

I love that I finally got to design an embroidery using the chain stitch with what the chain stitch always reminded me of. Grandma’s doilies.

"Crocheted Thoughts" My Splendid Sampler quilt block.

You can get the free pattern for the embroidered quilt block on the Splendid Sampler homepage by clicking the link below.

Get the free pattern here:

Let’s make the quilt block together! 

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be sewing and embroidering my Splendid Sampler block LIVE on Periscope.

You’ll be able to sew and stitch the block right along with me, and ask any questions you have along the way LIVE and I’ll answer them during the Periscope. We’ll hang out and craft together!

So first, go download the pattern at the Splendid Sampler by clicking here.

Then download the free Periscope app to your device from the App Store for Apple products or Play store for Android (if you're using an iPad, look in the iPhone only apps).

In the app, click the person icon and then the magnifying glass icon, and search for my user name, penguinandfish. Click follow. I will Periscope LIVE at 9:30pm central time, starting tonight, March 20, 2016, so tune in (Periscope should notify you when I’m live). Then grab your crafting supplies and we’ll make the block together.

Note: You do need a Twitter account to use Periscope. If you don't have or want an account, you can still view my Periscopes live (but not participate in comments) at

Can't watch LIVE?

If you missed any of the Periscopes live, you can watch all of the replays at:

I'm making EVERY SINGLE BLOCK of The Splendid Sampler LIVE on Periscope and you can watch them all by clicking the Katch link above.

You can also check out my blocks so far on my Instagram at: (I'd love if you followed me there)

Need some help with embroidery?

I did a few embroidery lessons leading up to the release of my block for The Splendid Sampler. If you're new to embroidery, need some help transferring your design, want a stitch refresher, or want some fun tips and tricks, then check out the replay videos.

To watch, click the link then click the "collections" tab on the website. Click "Embroidery Lessons" to watch.

I’m excited to work on the block together with you.

Happy stitching! And good luck with all the rest of The Splendid Sampler blocks.


Comment below, or feel free to contact me (Alyssa) at emails [at] penguinandfish [dot] com (type out using the “@” and “.” symbols with no spaces).


If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll join me to get weekly emails on how to craft a happy life - and make something cute in the process. For signing up you’ll also get a FREE hand embroidery pattern.

Click here to join (it's FREE too!)

The cutest Foundation Paper Pieced hexie pattern by Tiny Toffee Designs

When I started quilting about 15 years ago I had a question, and it lingered in my head for years.

“How do you make a quilt with all sorts of different intricate pieces and angles?”

I had my eyes set on designing a quilt with cute animals on it. Animals that were actually sewn pieces in the quilt, and not appliquéd or stitched on top of the quilt. I wanted all the pieces to fit together perfectly like a puzzle.

I never asked my question out loud. I assumed that only master quilters with ninja math skills could make quilts like that.

Then I stumbled across “foundation paper piecing” and the stars aligned. This is how quilters were making the intricately pieced quilts!

Foundation paper piecing is almost like quilting-by-number. The design is printed onto paper with each piece labeled with letters and numbers like A1, A2, A3, B1, B2. You first cut the paper into the different sections like the A section and B sections. Then you sew your fabric directly to the paper in the order of the numbers for each section. Finally, you sew the finished sections together completing the design.

By following the lines on the paper, all of your fabrics line up perfectly to each other and form the intricate patterns that I absolutely love.

It looks difficult, like Sudoku for quilting, but it’s actually very easy and enormously satisfying.

I gave foundation paper piecing a try. Of course, like a crazy person, I decided to make a design myself having never done it before, and for a magazine deadline. I made a simple elephant head design and fell in love with the foundation paper piece sewing process.

My first adventure in Foundation Paper Piecing. Designed by me for Quiltmaker's magazine, 100 blocks vol. 5

After that project, life got in the way and I never did foundation paper piecing again. I wasn’t doing much personal crafting at the time (BOO!!!) so foundation paper piecing went, with lots of other things, to the wayside.

However, over the past year I’ve changed a few daily habits, and now I craft every day! (During my nightly 9:30pm central live streaming Periscopes)

After making the commitment to get on Periscope every evening and craft, I’ve made and tried more projects in the past couple months, than I have for the past 4 years. It’s amazing what a tiny amount of time every day can yield.

So when I got the opportunity to try paper piecing again, I knew I could commit, and jumped at the chance.

I met Susi Bellingham of Tiny Toffee Designs on Instagram (@lillaluise) and instantly fell in love with her foundation paper pieced patterns.

There were three immediate things about her foundation paper pieced designs that set off the “squee” meter for me.

1: The paper piecing was TEENSY TINY.

2: The designs were of super cute animals like foxes and narwhals.

3: The finished designs were hexies for English Paper Piecing.

Cute times 3!

Image from the Tiny Toffee Designs Instagram account (@lillaluise)

We got chatting and I was super excited when she asked me to be in her blog hop for some new little hexie designs.

I was asked to try her “Shine like a Star” pattern.

I cut the pattern into its A,B, and C sections and was ready to go.

I was going to do the background in one color and the star in another (I had the fabric out and ready to go), but when I was about to get started I had 3 mini charm packs of fabric within arm’s length. They were stacked up on a pile of fabric on it’s way to a “fabric stash” bin.

I opened up the charm packs and used them instead. The 2 ½ inch pieces of fabric weren’t large enough to do the background or the star pieces in all the same color, so I had to mix and match, creating a patchwork look.

A stack of mini charm pack fabric cuts. I used one charm for each paper pieced segment.

3 little patchwork stars.

I couldn’t be more happy with the result. I ended up with three little patchwork stars. And they are SO CUTE!

I ultimately sewed the 3 finished hexagon stars together using English Paper Piecing techniques and glued them to a leather journal with contact cement. I punched holes in the cover of the journal and stitched on the work “Reach”.

Reach for the stars!

Decided where to place holes then punched the holes into the leather sketchbook cover.

My finished leather sketchbook. Reach for the stars!

What do you think?

I’m so happy with how the turned out.

To check out Susi’s totally cute new foundation pieced hexie patterns, check out her etsy shop, blog and instagram:

Tiny Toffee Designs ETSY shop

Tiny Toffee Designs blog

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If you want to watch a replay of my live Periscope of me making this entire project from start to finish, click the link below.

Click here to watch replays of penguinandfish Periscopes.

And to join me in my nightly LIVE Periscopes, download the free Periscope app to your device. In the app, click the person icon then the magnifying glass, then search for penguinandfish and click follow. My Periscopes are at 9:30pm central every evening. Your device should notify you when I'm live.

Happy stitching!


Feel free to contact me (Alyssa) at emails [at] penguinandfish [dot] com (type out using the “@” and “.” symbols with no spaces), or leave a comment below.


If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll join me to get weekly emails on how to craft a happy life - and make something cute in the process. For signing up you’ll also get a FREE hand embroidery pattern.

Click here to join (it's FREE too!)

How to choose what craft project to work on - 4 super quick steps

Yay, it's craft time!

Ok, let’s go. Grab one of your projects.

I’m waiting.


Oh, I see the problem. You don’t know which project to pick!

You have so many projects, both new and unfinished, and now when you finally have time to craft you don't know which one to work on.

Having too many choices can end up being a barrier to crafting.

And any barrier that gets in between the decision to craft and the actual crafting is a huge problem, because even the tiniest barrier can be all that it takes to kill your motivation.

You need a plan so the act of choosing a project doesn’t lead to no crafting at all.

Here are my 4 super quick steps on how to narrow down the choices so the decision becomes easy.

1. Assess your location.

Start to narrow down your projects by assessing your location limitations.

You can probably eliminate many projects in less than 5 seconds.

For example, if you’re headed to a doctor’s appointment and you want to craft in the waiting room, you’re probably not going to drag a sewing machine with you, or a box full of card making supplies. So those projects are easily nixed.

However, an easy crochet project could be perfect. Maybe you like English paper piecing or coloring books. They're all compact with minimal supplies needed, great for the doctor office location (or in my case above, the Apple store).

Assess your location and eliminate the projects that aren’t an ideal fit.

2. Estimate the time you have available for crafting.

Do you have a lot of time to craft or only a little?

Will you likely have lots of interruptions or one uninterrupted block of time?

If you have a limited amount of time, it’s probably best to work on a project where you don’t have to get a bunch of supplies out which sucks up a lot of time.

If you expect interruption, it may be a good idea choose a craft that’s easy to stop quickly and is easy to remember where you left off. I love embroidery for this.

On the other end, if you have a large amount of time, break out that king sized quilt top that you’ve been piecing together for the last seven years (my situation), put on a good podcast and get sewing for the next few hours.

Eliminate the projects that don’t fit the time you have available, or the amount of interruptions you expect.

3. Determine your mood.

Craft time should be a good experience. The BEST experience. So if you try and force yourself to work on a project that you’re just not “feeling” right this moment, then you’re not going to have a great time. And even worse, you might start to resent the project.

Here are questions to ask yourself to determine if a project fits your current mood.

Do I just want to relax and not think?

After a long day I want to work on a craft that hypnotizes me into total relaxation and lets the stress melt away. For me that means choosing a craft with repetitive counting and minimal decision making required. A simple crochet, knitting, or cross-stitch project does the trick.

Always make sure to have a “relaxation only” project in progress so it’s there when you need it.

Do I have a project idea that I can’t stop thinking about?

If this is the case, it’s almost always a good idea to work on this project. If an idea needs to come out then you should let it. Allow yourself the grace and creative freedom to go for it. There is always something to learn and gain by exploring your ideas.

Exploring your ideas is what makes you an artist. But only if you get them out of your head!

Am I feeling ambitious?

Are you pumped and up for anything? It might be time to break out that large project that you’ve slowly been making progress on and now really forge ahead with it. Or maybe it’s time to give that new craft a try that you never started because you were too scared.

When you’re feeling ambitious it’s time to use all that strong creative willpower to do something scary, big, and exciting.

Do I want to finish all of the things?

Occasionally I get in the mood where I can’t stand all the projects piling up and I feel compelled to “finish all of the things!” Do you ever feel this way? When I’m in this mood I go with it. Look at your unfinished projects. There are probably a few in there that can be finished quickly or get to the next step quickly.

Wanting to “finish all of the things” often means your brain needs an “easy win.” Pick an unfinished project that you can complete in the time you have available. Get that win!

Determining what mood you’re in can often narrow your project choices to just one or two.

4. Go with your gut.

Ultimately this is one of the best ways to make a decision. You can do this right away, even before you go through the other steps. If you feel strongly about working on something, you’ll figure out how to make everything else work.

Look at your remaining projects. Touch them.

Which one is pulling you towards it the most?

That’s the one to work on.

It takes practice to go with your gut instead of doing what your brain says you “should” be working on. The trick is to give yourself permission to choose your gut over your brain without guilt. When it comes to crafting, you’ll almost always feel more fulfilled when you go with your gut. Remember, that “should” project will still be there later, and next craft time your gut might tell you to work on that one.

Trust your gut. It’s is pretty smart.

I encourage you to try using these 4 steps to pick which craft to work. The goal is to get as much out of craft time as you can, both physically and emotionally. Your craft time is precious. Follow these steps and you’ll be crafting in no time.

Now that you’ve picked a project, I invite you to come craft with me.

At 9:30 pm central time every evening I LIVE craft on Periscope.

It’s a time to relax, work on a project, hear some tips and tricks, and chit chat. I love hanging out with viewers and we have the best conversations. Periscope allows you to type into a chat box, and I can see what you say LIVE and can respond. It’s so much fun!

To chat and participate in a LIVE Periscope with me, download the free Periscope app from the itunes store or google play store, then search for and follow “penguinandfish”. Your device will notify you when I’m LIVE.

You can also watch without downloading the Periscope app by going to at 9:30 pm central time. You can still watch LIVE online, however you won’t be able to comment. For that reason, I recommend using the Periscope app.

I hope you join me for nightly #RelaxAndCraft time. I’ll see you on Periscope!

I'd love to hear how you choose what project to work on. Do you have lots of unfinished projects? Lots of new project ideas? Do you use Periscope?

Lemme know.

Comment below, or feel free to contact me (Alyssa) at emails [at] penguinandfish [dot] com (type out using the “@” and “.” symbols with no spaces).


If you found this post interesting, I hope you'll join me to get weekly emails on how to craft a happy life - and make something cute in the process. For signing up you’ll also get a FREE Picnic Pals minis hand embroidery pattern.

Click here to join (it's FREE too!)

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