Sewing and Design Meet: Transit Lines

Sewing and Design Meet Logo

It is time for another edition of Sewing and Design Meet!  This time I am sharing about my Transit Lines design and the tote bag I made with it. This design is part of the City Collection which can be found in my Spoonflower shop.


Transit Lines by Brenda Zapotosky

When putting together a new collection I don’t often sit down and sketch out ideas for coordinates but for CITY I actually did.  My original idea for the Transit Lines design was to have criss-crossing lines going in many directions, similar to a subway map.  However, as I started drawing it in Illustrator I really loved the look of just the horizontal lines with the thickened bars and decided to take it in that direction instead.  I love how the pattern is a versatile stripe and yet, when paired with its title, can easily (I think) invoke images of the city site that inspired it.  Whether you interpret the thick bars as trains or stations is up to you!  I also really love the color palette I decided on for this print: mostly neutral but with pops of color.


Transit Lines on Eco Canvas by Brenda Zapotosky BLOG

A few years ago Spoonflower had an awesome and rare 50% off sale on Eco Canvas and I ordered a couple of yards.  One yard I divided into (2) 1/2 yard pieces with the intention to make a tote bag with each of them, although at the time I did not have a specific pattern picked out.  I ended up choosing free tote patterns from Purl Soho for both of the totes.  I have a previous blog post about the first one I made, the Railroad Tote, and some zipper pouches I made with the extras.  I chose the Everyday Tote for the Transit lines design as I thought the more horizontal shape would suit it well.

The Eco Canvas has pluses and minuses for me personally.  On the plus side: It washes and sews well and colors are bright and vibran.  On the minus side: It is  much softer and drapier than other canvases which is something I do not like.  But I think this is really just a personal preference. I gave the Railroad Tote to my mom and she loves that soft quality.  When making the zipper pouches I decided to interface the Eco Canvas portions and I was much happier with the structure.  So for the Everyday Tote I knew I wanted to interface those pieces.  I needed to do some construction changes to accommodate this (Along with a bunch of other construction changes) which I detail below.


There were a lot of steps to making this bag, including some extra ones that came along with my changes, but otherwise it was straight forward and easy to sew.  I didn’t take a lot of in-progress photos (my sewing space is not photo friendly) and it was difficult to get a good overall look of the bag.  Here is the best one:

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 3

As mentioned above, I made several construction changes when sewing up this bag.  I knew I wanted to interface the Eco Canvas pieces and since the bag isn’t lined, I needed to underline at least those portions so that the interfacing was not exposed.  After contemplating solutions for this, I decided to also change how the bag panels were sewn.  Per the instructions, you cut two full side pieces from what eventually becomes the “upper” fabric, and then cut bottom panels of the “lower” fabric which go over top the first fabric on just the bottom portion.  There are some good reasons to sew the bag this way.  It ensures you aren’t relying on a horizontal seam to hold the top and bottom half of the bag together and it creates a nice double layer for the bag base.  But, it meant that 1/2 of my good patterned fabric was going to be covered which I wasn’t crazy about.  So, I decided to instead cut both pieces at half height and let the seam where the bias “piping” detail is connect them together.  Since the bag side pieces were already cut, I chose to cut one in half height wise and that determined the height of my bag (and preserved a nice FQ sized piece of the Transit Lines for a future project!).  I sewed the top and bottom halves together with the accent bias “piping” in between.  I then UNDERLINED the entire height of the bag sides with a coordinating quilting cotton that I had leftover from the previous Eco Canvas projects.  I quilted this to the bag panels which helped provide the extra stability I lost when I changed the construction.  The quilting, despite using a walking foot AND having design lines to follow, is kind of wonky… Quilting is not my forte!  Despite the lackluster quilting, I absolutely love the end result inside the bag.  I think the quilted underlining really gives the bag a high quality look!

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 1

Other changes I made:

  • I flip flopped from the directions which fabric I used for the front and back of the pocket so that I could enjoy more of the print.  I also made the pocket wider since there was plenty of room to do so.
  • I changed the order of sewing so that the folded over top hem of the bag was sewn last.  I did this on my Railroad Tote too.  By saving it until last the tops of the side seams are concealed instead of exposed.
  • Longer straps.  I like to wear my bag over my shoulder and longer straps make it more comfortable when I do.

I chose to use 2 different colors of bias tape instead of one and I am very happy with the results.  On areas where I wanted the trim and finishing to stand out (like on the exterior seam or around the top of the tote fold over hem) I used black.  To finish all the interior seams I used white.

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 5

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 4

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 6
DETAILS! Pretty details are one of the “perks” of sewing your own!  Like rotating the print to be vertical on the pocket.

The webbing I used for the straps (linked at the end) is a bit industrial.  It works ok… especially since the Eco Canvas is also a synthetic, but I wouldn’t get it again.  I purchased a large roll of it and have a lot leftover, so it will probably pop up in another project at some point. It was a really good deal though, and should be pretty durable (I hope).

I was hoping that this bag would work as my music bag and I am happy to report that it works perfectly!  My previous bag was a freebie tote that I got when I worked in Architecture.  It was rather ugly and advertised a window company that I am not even a big fan of (otherwise I might have posted a “before” photo).  I love having my new “chic” bag that is me-made and features one of my own designs!  It holds all my music, books, and misc. with room to spare! (And even packed can sling over my shoulder!)

Transit Lines Tote by Brenda Zapotosky 2


(I have seen others do a summary like this and think it is a fun way to provide quick access info all in one place. I will probably make it a regular feature of my sewing posts.)  

Pattern:  Free Everyday Tote from Purl Soho



  • Pellon Interfacing, Lightweight, Fusible (I can’t remember the exact #)
  • 1 package each white and black bias tape
  • HipGirl 1 1/4″ Black Polypro Webbing
  • Sewing label designed by me and printed by Spoonflower

That about wraps it up!  If I missed a detail that you would like to know about feel free to ask in the comments!

Thanks for Reading!




Handmade Christmas Gifts 2017: PART 2

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2017 Part 2 Rectangle

Today I am back with the second installment of my Handmade Christmas Gifts 2017 Recap!  If you missed it, you might want to start with Part 1 as it gives some general context, etc.

The projects I am sharing this round are mostly apparel but there is one fun/silly non-clothing item bonus project at the end!  But first…


Eggplant Bethioua by Brenda Zapotosky with Words

I sewed up this combo for my mom, who is one of my biggest fans and is always so appreciative of the items I make for her.  She is a pleasure to sew for and thus I have made her many items over the past few years.  She has a lot of Brenda-Made clothing that was either made specifically for her or was an item that didn’t work for me.  So for her gift I wanted to make her something from a “new to her” pattern.  I have sewn up the Bethioua Raglan top once before for myself and my mom loves it so I thought it was a great choice for her gift.  For the main fabric I chose this awesome Eggplant French Terry from Raspberry Creek Fabrics.  I love this “line” of french terry fabrics that Raspberry Creek carries because they are a cotton/spandex blend!  And jewel-tones are a good color on my mom.

Bethioua 3 Views by Brenda Zapotosky

Originally I planned on using some charcoal gray cotton spandex for the cuffs and collar but I had a scrap of this AGF knit (from the Etno Collection, can’t remember the design name) sitting on my table when I was working on this and they looked so perfect together I decided to use it instead.  I like how it adds a really special and unique touch to the sweatshirt.  AND, after I cut the shirt pieces I had a perfectly sized piece left to make a mini-cowl!!!  Bonus Gift!  I just love how it pairs with the shirt.

The Pattern:  I have sort of mixed feelings about this pattern.  The Bethioua Raglan (which I purchased from Indie Sew) is a a fun one, since it has some special details that set it apart from other raglan tops, including subtle bat wing sleeves and really awesome curved back seams where the sleeves attach (instead of the usual angled raglan connection).  Both big pluses.  It also has shoulder darts… which is a minus for me.  I have made this pattern twice now, and I am just not sold on them.  I am not sure if I am not sewing them correctly… since on other examples I have seen they do not stick up like they do on mine.  Or if they are more pronounced when using heavier fabric.  Or they need to fit just right to look good.  But I am not loving them.  (In fact I am now wary of trying any other design that has shoulder darts!)  If I make this pattern again, I am going to try to eliminate them by modifying the pattern piece.  I also have an issue with the sleeve cuffs.  I think the size the pattern instructs you to cut (there is no pattern piece) is definitely too skinny. There are actually 2 size options close-fitting and over-sized.  But even the bigger sized ones are too small.  This is a super easy modification but I did want to point it out so if you are making the pattern you can consider cutting them bigger from the get-go.  You might want to taper the sleeve bottoms a bit wider to match (although I did not).  As a reference, I have SUPER skinny wrists and small hands… and they are definitely too tight for me.

My mom was just commenting this weekend about how much she loves this top and how in the french terry it is like wearing pajamas out and about!  I am considering this gift a TOTAL WIN!


Next up is a pair of coordinating raglans I made for my sister-in-law and niece.

Mommy and Me Raglans by Brenda Zapotosky

I was assigned my sister-in-law Julie for our Christmas gift exchange and I had her show me some of the patterns I have made myself that she would like also.  Then I picked from there.  I chose one of my most TNT (Tried and true) patterns, the Lane Raglan by Hey June Handmade!

For the fabric I chose this gorgeous Dear Stella knit.  It was my first time sewing with a Dear Stella fabric and I was super impressed with the quality.  I especially loved that the fabric was the coral color all the way thru with just the scallops being the printing (instead of it have a white back like a lot of printed knits.)  I purchased it through Hawthorne Threads (and I wanted to give them a shout out because I am a big fan of their store) but it is no longer available there.  You can however find it here.  This was a pretty straight forward sew.  I did cuffed 3/4 sleeves, so I did do a custom sleeve length/cuff combo for that.

When I purchased fabric for the Lane I bought a little more than I needed for long sleeves, totally forgetting that Julie said she preferred 3/4 or short sleeves… So I knew I was definitely going to have extra fabric leftover and I thought it would be super adorable to make my niece a top to match her mom’s!  Using the size I thought I needed to make, it turned out that I did NOT have enough to make an entire long-sleeved top from the leftovers.  Believe me, I TRIED!  Multiple patterns and pattern hacks were tested.  I needed to bring in another fabric and this solid white scrap from stash was the best matching fabric I had.  And even with that scrap the Raglan Sweatshirt pattern I chose (from Brindille and Twig) still BARELY fit!  Basically I cut one piece at a time starting from biggest to smallest, maximizing the scraps and barely fitting every piece (except maybe the cuffs)!  In fact, the sleeves did not fit fully, I had to shorten those and use extra tall cuffs to make up the difference.  I used my puzzle solving skills to the max on this one!!!

Nieces Raglan Shirt sewn by Brenda Zapotosky

AND THEN… it turns out… the shirt is WAY TOO BIG ON HER!!!!!!!!!!!  Wah, wah!  Oh well. I’d rather have it too big, because it will fit eventually… but I did long sleeves on purpose so she could wear it now.  Not sure a size smaller would have fit on just the Dear Stella fabric anyways.  So… it is more like a dress.  But I think she likes it, because she has special requested to wear it!  🙂

My plans for nice modeled photos fell thru, twice, but Julie got some photos of them together and I found one that was pretty good.  (Bad lighting so not super clear, but gives you a sense of fit).  I still think they look pretty cute together, even if my niece is swimming in hers!

Mommy and Me Raglans



This super quick little project was a bonus gift for my 2 1/2 year old nephew.  He LOVES cooking!  And he loves REAL cooking tools.  So as a fun little gift I decided to give him his very one “big person” spoon for all his play cooking.  To jazz it up a gift I thought a special holder for it would be fun.  This was created entirely with scraps and entirely on the fly. I just kind of made it up as I went.  The navy is fleece and the orange is a piece of leftover felt from another gift I made my nephew for his first birthday!  (You can see what that was and read all about it in this post).

Fleece Spoonholder by Brenda Zapotosky

The spoon does fit inside completly, I just thought it would be cute to take of photo of it popping out a little!

AND… That’s a wrap!  Phew!  I am finding these blog posts that cover a lot of projects to be a great deal of work!  I hope you enjoyed reading them!  (Because then the work is worth it!)  It is also my 5th blog post this month!  Wow!  I definitely won’t be this prolific all year long.  But I already have my plan for my next blog post and hope to be posting more regularly throughout the year!

Thanks for Reading!


Handmade Christmas Gifts 2017: PART 1

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2017 Part 1 Rectangle

Today I am excited to finally start sharing with you all the gifts I made for this past Christmas.  I think it is fun to do a post like this, not only to share sewing details, but also to perhaps inspire ideas for handmade gifts. If you want even more inspiration you can read my Handmade Christmas Gifts 2016 post!  I am finding there are A LOT of details to share, so I have decided to break it up into a PART 1 and PART 2 so that the posts are not overwhelmingly long.  Today I will focus of the gifts I made using my own fabric designs, since that always adds an extra layer of information.

It is a tough business sewing for Christmas:  deadline looming, personal projects get delayed or on hold, and you have to keep a lot of secrets!  (really tough for me when I am excited about a make).  Learning a lesson from past years, I started REALLY EARLY this year and yet, somehow STILL found myself down to the wire.  In my defense, I added a few gifts not originally planned AND lost some sewing time I expected to have.  So I was still sewing on Dec. 23!!!  But I got it all done and everything was well received!


Stacked Picnic Napkins by Brenda Zapotosky

First up is a set of cloth napkins and matching trivets I made with one of my own fabric designs:  Picnic (Sunny).  This is actually the newest colorway for this design and I created it specifically with this project in mind.  I chose this print because I think it is a modern take on both plaid and check and perfect for a kitchen.  The colors were picked to match the recipients’ dinnerware.  I really love how this palette turned out and might need to look into offering all the designs in the Flutter Collection in this new colorway.  I ordered 1 yard printed on Spoonflower’s organic cotton sateen.

Since this print has a natural cutting point built in, I let the white space breaks in the pattern squares determine my size options for the napkins.  Ultimately I decided to make 8 out of the yard I had.  They turned out a little small… but not unusable, just smaller than you would expect.  (Perhaps I could have made a smaller hem).  This was my first time sewing mitered corners.  32 mitered corners!  Yeah.  That got old pretty quick.  I found this tutorial from Colette very helpful.  I did the sewn and topstitched version.  Below is a zoomed in look at the corners as well as a “styled” photo with silverware.

Picnic Napkins 2 photos by Brenda Zapotosky
Design: Picnic (Sunny), printed on Organic Cotton Sateen by Spoonflower

I had a good sized strip of fabric leftover so I decided to make a few trivets to go along with the set.  I went with a slight rectangle instead of square for two reasons: 1.  I thought they would be a bit more practical for oblong and rectangle serving dishes and 2.  The fabric shrunk more in one direction than the other, so even if I cut it an equal number of design pattern squares wide and long they would not be square.  (In fact the napkins are not exact squares for this very reason.)  I backed the trivets in a light yellow quilting cotton.

Picnic Trivets by Brenda Zapotosky


Checkered Christmas Hats by Brenda Zapotosky 2

These are created from the FREE pattern for the Blizzard Bonnet by sweetkm. It didn’t take long after seeing this project to know that I wanted to make them for my niece and nephew.  They are both 2 1/2 yrs old, born just 3 weeks apart.  It is hard to resist making them something matching and I thought this little hat was so adorable!  Like a little Gnome hat.  In hindsight, maybe I should not have gotten caught up in the cuteness so much, as I am not sure how much they will actually wear these.  (Although my niece did request to wear it at a birthday celebration!  Ha Ha Ha!  It is a party hat!)

They were surprisingly fun to sew up.  Even the bias binding, which I usually loathe, sewed up so well!  I think because it is sewn twice, instead of just sandwiching over it the edge, which made it “ok” to miss the back side edge in places as it was already sewn down.  I actually changed the sewing of the bias tape from the directions.  I first sewed it to the INSIDE of the hat and then flipped it to the outside.  And I edge stitched on the front instead of stitching in the ditch.  Aside from that, the only other change I made was to lengthen the ties.  I do want to note that SIZING  was a conundrum for me.  The toddler size, which is what I consider a 2 1/2 year old to be, look super small to me.  (I sewed up a quick tester with a scrap of fleece.) I ended up making the small child size and it is perfect.  (My mom did do a stealth head measure of my niece for me.)

Checkered Christmas Hat Festive by Brenda Zapotosky

Checkered Christmas Hat Merry by Brenda Zapotosky

I used my own fabric design for this project as well.  I actually created a brand new design: Checkered Christmas, to coordinate with my Classic Christmas Collection.  I ordered 1 fat quarter of both the Festive and Merry colorways on the Lightweight Cotton Twill.  After getting my fat quarters I decided to tweak design a little, so the designs as listed are slightly different than what can be seen on the hats (Same overall look and colors, just in different places).  I used white fleece to line them and Jungle Green bias tape (by Wrights) for all the finishing (That color is a very good match to this print).  Even in the second largest size, thanks to wider width of the fabric, I have a lot of this twill leftover for a future project.

I am ending with two ADORABLE photos of my nephew and niece “modelling” their hats!  Shout out to my brother-in-law Jacob (of The Traveling Photo Booth) for taking these great photos and to my sister Deanna (of DLynn Design) for using her AMAZING Photoshop skills to crop out all the Christmas chaos in these photos!

O and C together in Checkered Christmas Hats

If I left out a detail you would like to know about please ask in the comments!  And stay tuned for PART 2!!!

Thanks for reading,



Sewing and Design Meet: Floral Bliss

Sewing and Design Meet Logo

It is time for another installment of Sewing and Design Meet.  Actually it is time for the second installment… I started this series last year and then never did a second one!  Oops!  Hopefully this year, there will be more regular posts for this series.

Today I am sharing about my Floral Bliss design and several projects I sewed with it. I currently have 4 different colorways of the design plus coordinates all available in the Floral Bliss Collection in my Spoonflower Shop.


This design has a really fun story, since it began as a doodle in a doodle book I kept a long, long time ago.  Here is a look at the original, non-repeating doodle:

Floral Bliss Doodle by Brenda Zapotosky

As you can see, this doodle was not created with a repeating pattern in mind, and thus, there was a lot of work involved in turning it into one.  It was a multi-step process, where I would split the design apart in photoshop, print it out and add more elements by hand, re-scan it, erase elements, digitally tweak etc. Here is just one in-progress look.

Floral Bliss In Progress Pattern Creation by Brenda Zapotosky

At this point you can see the original page outline was still present.  Once I went through all those steps mentioned above (some more than once) and had a repeating tile with all my hand drawn elements, I next started the long process of recreating it as a vector tile in Illustrator.  I did auto-trace it as a first step, but there was a lot of time spent editing and tweaking, etc again in Illustrator.  This is not a fast process!

The original use of this pattern was for a Spoonflower limited palette contest. There was no theme other than the colors: Coral, Mint, Black and White, so it was a perfect opportunity to use an abstract pattern. Here is the look at that colorway of the pattern for the contest:

Floral Bliss Coral and Mint by Brenda Zapotosky
Floral Bliss (Coral and Mint) Design by Brenda Zapotosky

This is one of the most “hearted” designs in my shop.  Because of its popularity and the amount of time invested in the pattern, it made sense to offer it in other color versions as well.  I also added a second, smaller scale version.  I currently offer it in 4 different colorways and 2 different scales!  I have sewn with 3 of those colorways.  Here is a look at the other 3 versions:

Floral Bliss 3 Color Versions by Brenda Zapotosky
Colorways Left to Right:  Pink and Gray, Tropical, Winter Blues




The first project I made from one 8 x 8 swatch:  A Travel Eye Mask.

Floral Bliss Eye Mask by Brenda Zapotosky

This was made with the Floral Bliss Pink and Gray (Small Scale) version of the design.  I am not 100% sure which fabric type this is… one of the woven cottons.  I created my own sewing pattern by tracing a freebie eye mask that I had (modifying the shape and size a little bit and adding seam allowances). It is backed in raspberry pink flannel with a layer of batting in between and I kept the piece of 1/4″ elastic I used “raw” (which I rather like).  Bonus:  All the extra materials were already in my stash!

The second project I made used the original colorway of the design in the Small Scale again combined with a coordinating Polka Dot:  A Travel Jewelry Pouch.

Floral Bliss Travel Jewelry Pouch 4 views by Brenda Zapotosky

This was a gift for my sister and Floral Bliss was one of the patterns I knew she liked. (She also loves polka dots).  It was quite an ambitious project for me at the time I made it.  It was my first time working with vinyl, had multiple zippers, and a LOT of bias binding.  I actually wrote an entire blog post about this one where you can read all about it in great detail.

The third, and final project so far is an Infinity Scarf.

Floral Bliss Winter Blues Infinity Scarf by Brenda Zapotosky

This scarf features the newest color of the Floral Bliss design, Winter Blues, in the larger scale.  (The small scale version has not been added to my shop yet.)  It is printed on 1/2 yard of Cotton Spandex Jersey.  I don’t like my infinity scarfs to be too voluminous so 1/2 yard is the perfect size for me.  I used Spoonflower’s Fill-A-Yard function to get 1/2 yard of this print and a different print for the other half which I also plan to make a scarf with.

I created this colorway specifically for this project.  I wear a lot of scarves in the wintertime and keep them on even inside, so I like a lot of variety.  This print, at this scale, in these colors will work well with a lot of what is already in my wardrobe and is quite different than my other scarves.  Here it is styled with another recent make of mine, a Lane Raglan by Hey June Handmade sewn up in RK Laguna Knit in Navy.  I think this is the 7th Lane Raglan I have sewn.  It is definitely a TNT (Tried and True) pattern for me!

Floral Bliss Scarf with Lane Raglan Brenda Zapotosky


I think it is apparent from the above projects that Floral Bliss is a very versatile design!  I sewed these 3 very different projects quite far apart.  It is fun to see that it is a design that I continue to return to and use in different ways.  I have not sewn anything up in the Tropical colorway yet, but there is the chance that I will in the future should the right project come along!  A skirt or dress for summertime would be lovely in that version of the print.

How about you?  Which version is your favorite?

Thanks for reading!




Alphabet Animal Art Challenge: The final recap!

Alphabet Art Challenge 2017 Final Review by Brenda Zapotosky


That was the elation I felt when I completed the final animal in the Alphabet Animal Art Challenge!  52 weeks, 26 letters, and I created both a prompt list and an animal for ALL of them!  It is quite an accomplishment if I do say so myself, and NOT easy.

I had several reasons/goals/ideas when I first dreamed up this challenge and I am happy to say that I met them (and perhaps even surpassed them!) There is so much to share, in fact, that I hardly know where to begin… (And, if you are just hearing about this challenge for the first time you can read the original post here).

First, the animals!  All 26 of them.  One for every letter of the Alphabet and almost all of them posted within their allotted 2 week time frame!

26 Animal Illustrations by Brenda Zapotosky

It is rather amazing seeing them all together.  Such a wide variety!  The first animal, armadillo, is a bit out of place.  After that first letter, and motivated by a comment from my husband, I decided to go “cuter” with the look of my animals.  I am really glad I did!  I think that I was able to achieve a pretty good consistency of style throughout the year and, scale aside, these animals could work well in combination in addition to solo.  (In fact I plan on tweaking the armadillo to use in a project I have planned). I chose a handful of favorites to create the title art for this post, but honestly, while I definitely have ones I don’t like as much, there is future “potential” for most of these.  One of the great “side effects” of this challenge is that I now have a large library of animal characters ready to use in patterns, greeting cards, and any other sort of art.  In fact, many of them have already been used in these ways, which you will see below.

Next, I wanted to share all the “prompt” posts I did for Instagram.

26 Animal Prompts by Brenda Zapotosky

These were posted every Sunday (except for 1, which got delayed due to some major computer issues I had) to kick off the new letter and give some ideas to get participants started on their next letter. (Of course, after the first quarter most other participants dropped out, but I persevered in sharing the prompts anyways, always in hope of new people joining in!) Each prompt had 7 animals listed. I researched animals and created these letter by letter as the year went along.  You might be surprised to learn that I did NOT check prior to starting the challenge if there even was an animal for every letter of the alphabet.  Honestly, that didn’t matter to me.  I figured there would be an animal for MOST of them and I could always use adjective descriptors for a letter that did not have an animal.  It turned out, however, that every letter DID have an animal!!!  And in fact, I was able to fill all 7 “slots” on my prompt list for every letter (although for Y some of them are “adjective Y” animals)!  It was a bit of work putting together the lists but it was also fun.  I liked looking up the letter and discovering new and interesting animals.

As I mentioned above, I have built up an impressive library of illustrations that I can now use for other design projects.

Surface Pattern Design: I have ideas for patterns for many of the animals I have created, but so far I have only created one seamless pattern.  It features the flamingo and is titled:  Flamingos and Flowers. This design is now available as part of the Floridian Collection in my Spoonflower Shop.

Flamingos and Flowers Pattern Promo by Brenda Zapotosky

Greeting Cards:  I also created several greeting cards, basically on an “as needed” basis as occasions popped up throughout the year.  So far I have created 5 different greeting card designs, 2 of which, the elephant and owl, have 2 different color variations (I chose to only include 1 color version of each card below but you can see the other elephant here and the other owl here).
Animal Greeting Cards by Brenda Zapotosky

I think it would be fun to do some coordinating patterns for these as well.  I am particularly found of the Birthday Owl!

Onto my final thoughts:

  • One of my goals was to force myself to be creative on a regular basis.  This challenge definitely achieved that goal!  There were definitely times when I really did not want to create an animal for a particular letter, but since I committed to the challenge I did.  I am very happy for that.
  • Another goal was to improve my animal drawing skills.  Character design does not come easy to me, so this was a great way for me to grow that skill set.  I think some animals were more successful than others, but even my least favorites gave me good practice.
  • If I am disappointed with any part of the challenge, it was the dropping out of most of the participants after the first quarter.  I totally get it… it was hard for ME to keep up sometimes and I created the challenge!  But I did miss that social aspect of it.

I think that’s it!  It is a little weird to be done with this challenge.  But I am excited to move on to a new subject matter!  I announced the 2018 Alphabet Art Challenge theme a few weeks ago:  Fruits and Vegetables!  It will be a nice change of pace.  I would love for you to join me!

Thanks for reading!  I would love to hear which animal is YOUR favorite!  You can comment below.



Alphabet Animal Art Challenge: T-Z

The final group of letters for the Alphabet Animal Art Challenge is complete!  It is so exciting to be finished!  I considered combining the last quarter letter’s recap with an overall end of the challenge post, but for consistency purposes (and blog post length) I have decided to keep them separate.  So look for a final recap on the entire challenge coming (hopefully) later this week!

There were 7 animals in this final group.  Here is a look at all of them:

Animals Animals Letters T thru Z by Brenda Zapotosky

This was not my favorite batch, and included some of the most challenging animals from the entire year.  Even though I initially planned on avoiding fish (since I have drawn MANY in the past), for the letter X it ended up being my favorite choice, and it is definitely one of my favorite from this batch.

X is for X Ray Tetra by Brenda Zapotosky

I also really like how the Urial turned out! It is too bad it is a more obscure animal, not sure if/how I could really use him in the future.

U is for Urial by Brenda Zapotosky

I think another reason this round was more difficult, especially at the end, was the lack of time due to all the extra Christmas prep and activities etc. that I was doing.  More complex animals to draw (like the Yak and Zebra) combined with a time crunch equals less fun in my book.  One of the goals of this challenge was to force myself to be regularly creating new art, and it DEFINITELY did that.

During this last quarter I also created one new greeting card design using an animal from the previous batch, the raccoon:

Merry Christmas Raccoon Card by Brenda Zapotosky

I switched up his colors, added mittens, and placed him on some snow to give him a Christmas make-over!  (You can see the original version of the raccoon here.) This was a SUPER quick card design squeezed in to give to my husband for Christmas.  In the future, if I wanted to use the card again, I’d like to spend a bit more time on it, and use my own original font.  I am also considering a Christmas surface pattern featuring this guy and maybe a few other woodland animals.

That’s it for this round!  I have a ton of thoughts about the challenge overall which I will share in the final recap!  In the meantime, I’d love to hear which animal was YOUR favorite this round!

Thanks for reading!


ps.  In case you missed it, I announced the theme for the 2018 Alphabet Art Challenge a few posts back!  Super excited for a new year and a new topic!  I would love for you to join me!


Announcing the 2018 Alphabet Art Challenge!!!

I super excited about this post and to share the theme for the 2018 Alphabet Art Challenge!  If you are new to this Challenge you can read all about the first one, The Alphabet ANIMAL Art Challenge, here. You can also read each of the quarterly updates here, here and here.

And so without further ado, and perhaps a little drumroll…. The 2018 theme is:


Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!  (At least, I am hoping that is what you are thinking.)  I am very excited about this theme.  While the Animal theme was a great challenge to me personally, and I will be sharing a lot of thoughts about it all when I do the final recap of the year, I am looking forward to having a little bit simpler subject matter this time around.

The OFFICIAL name for this challenge will be the Fruit and Veggie Challenge, because that is more fun in my opinion, and makes for a shorter hashtag:  #2018fruitandveggieartchallenge

2018 Alphabet Art Challenge Announcement by Brenda Zapotosky

For this theme I have a very distinct vision for the style of the art I will be creating.  Since my days of doodle books, starting way back in college, I have LOVED hatching.  And one of the style methods I employ a lot in my artwork is creating “geometric” versions of common objects.  So for my fruits and vegetables this year, they will be geometric in style and employ hatching as part of the rendering.  I already created some patterns that use geometric fruits and vegetables, so I will be building upon that small library.  Here are a few examples (Which are available as fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap in my Spoonflower shop) :

Geometric Pumpkins by Brenda Zapotosky

Tropical Pineapples Pattern by Brenda Zapotosky

As an added “bonus” this year, I have also decided to create a new geometric font to go with my fruit and veggie illustrations, which will add an element of Art to the “Prompt” posts that I do at the beginning of each letter. (You can see examples of the prompts on my Instagram feed.)

Ok, so onto the official “rules” for this Challenge.  There are 52 weeks and 26 letters, so that means 1 letter for every 2 weeks.  Since 2018 starts on a Monday, that will be our starting day for each new letter.  So Monday, Jan. 1 will kick off the letter “A”.  On each Monday where a new letter begins I will post a reminder on Instagram with the letter for that 2-week period and some ideas of fruits and veggies to get you started.

Like last year, this is JUST FOR FUN!  There are not any prizes for participating.  Use any type of medium you like to create your art.  And if you are late to join in or miss a letter or 2, that is totally fine!  I would like to do an artist round up like I did for the first quarterly recap of 2017.  Sadly participation last year drastically tapered off after that first quarter, so the other recaps did not include other artist’s work.  I hoping that there will be more participation this year and I will able to share a bit more of other’s work.

So get your artistic thinking caps on and start mentally prepping for a year of Alphabet Art Fun!  I really hope you will consider joining me!


ps.  If you are not already following me on Instagram, I highly recommend it.  It is where I will be posting all the prompts and fruit and veggie creations.


Alphabet Animal Art Challenge: N-S

Hi folks!  I am back with the third recap in my year-long Alphabet Animal Art Challenge. 3/4 of the way through!  If this is your first time learning about the challenge you can see my original post here.  And recaps 1 and 2 here and here.

Let’s start with a look at the 6 animals I created for this portion of the challenge:

Alphabet Animals Letters N to S by Brenda Zapotosky

3 birds and 2 sea creatures in the mix. Very interesting.  Not sure if I can narrow down a favorite.  Instead I’ll make it a tie and choose both the nautilus and the peacock!  Here is a closer look at both of those:

N is for Nautilus by Brenda Zapotosky

P is for Peacock by Brenda Zapotosky

I don’t know how “marketable” the nautilus is to use for other things, but I just love him! The peacock on the other hand would be fun to incorporate into a pattern or a card.  I particularly love his fat belly and his feathers!  I could see a coordinating pattern using just those ovals from his feathers.

I have used one of the animals so far in a greeting card design.  The owl!  Here is a look at the super cute birthday card I designed in 2 colorways:

Owl Birthday Cards by Brenda Zapotosky

I especially love the new colorway I did for the second card with the pink and teal.  It would be fun to do a whimsical geometric owl collection using these two colorways.

Final thoughts:

This round was the same as most of the rest in that some animals were easier than others.  I write about my thoughts about each creation individually when I post them on my Instagram feed so I won’t bother rehashing that here.  One thing that is interesting:  I did not give any of these animals names!  I am big time into naming things so it is a little bit surprising that not even one was named.

With only 7 letters left, I anticipate some challenges in this final quarter.  I normally don’t research the next letter until I am ready to do my prompt post shortly before the Sunday I post it, so I really haven’t looked to see what my selection will be for the upcoming letters.  I can think of a few, but not many.  I have a hunch it will be slim pickings and possibly some creativity involved to get an animal for the rest of the letters (or else being force to draw something either really obscure or not very fun). The adventure continues!

I guess that wraps it up!  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  Which animal was your favorite this round?

As always, thanks for reading!




Adventures in Sewing: Cheyenne Tunic

Hi folks! I am here today to share my most ambitious sewing project to date.  And while it is not perfect, I still consider it to be a HUGE SUCCESS.  I present for your reading/viewing pleasure… the Cheyenne Tunic by Hey June Patterns.

Cheyenne Tunic 1 Blog 1 with Text

This is the third pattern I have sewn up from Hey June and I have to say that I am continually impressed by the quality and detail of both the patterns and instructions.  In fact, besides loving the popover view with the non-traditional partial placket, a huge reason for me picking this particular blouse as my first official button-down project was because it was designed by Adrianna of Hey June.  Having sewn many, many patterns by Indie sewing pattern designers, I can say that while MOST have been good, there have been disappointments along the way.  But Hey June is a tried and true brand for me so I knew it was a safe bet for my dip into the next level of sewing.  Plus it gets great reviews!  Adrianna’s instructions and illustrations are top-notch.  She also has an online photo-tutorial sew-along.  Normally I am an illustrations over photos gal, but for some of the techniques I found having both very helpful!

Since I had not done many of the skills included in this pattern I decided to make a full practice version of the top instead of just a quick fit muslin.  I found this very lightweight cotton at Joann’s for a MEGA bargain after all the discounts and coupons were applied.  I did not bother with pattern alignment.  The design is not symmetrical even though it might appear that way in places.  It is only on the back yoke where it might look like I tried but failed to pattern match.

Cheyenne Tunic 1 Blog 2

This pattern comes with A LOT of options, most of them interchangeable (making it a really great value too!). I chose the View B placket/collar, tunic length, long sleeves with roll up tabs and no pockets (This fabric is WAY to busy for pockets).  Even though these were my first button plackets (and first time using the button/buttonhole feature of my sewing machine) I found that it was the COLLAR that actually gave me the most difficulty.  It is a little wonky, especially at the front tips, but not super noticeable when it is on.

I made the pattern mostly as written (a rarity for me), adding a little extra top-stitching since I prefer it all the way around the plackets instead of up just one side.  I didn’t do this until the sleeve plackets and decided it was too difficult to add after the fact to the front center.  Next time I will do that everywhere.

Cheyenne Tunic 1 Blog 3

My other change was to use self-fabric bias tape for hemming the bottom.  I find I have more success hemming curves this way and after struggling with the curves of the collar I definitely preferred to use the bias for the bottom!

Cheyenne Tunic 1 Blog 4 with text

FIT:  So this is technically my muslin for this pattern and after all the work I put into it, I am very thankful that it fits well enough to be wearable.  I do, however, plan on making some changes for the next one.  For reference, my measurements put me in a size Small for the bust and size Large for my hips (Pear shaped gal here.) Based on the finished garment measurements I felt that I could get away with only grading to size Medium on bottom and still have enough ease.  And I do. But I would like a little bit more.  And since one of the perks of sewing your own clothes is getting garments tailored to your body, I am tweaking my next one to hopefully be my perfect fit.  I actually just finished creating new pattern pieces for my changes today.  The fit of the front of the tunic is good but I do want more width for my hips so I am adding width to the back only in two ways/places:  A tiny bit through the neck and yoke (I have wider shoulders and this will give me just a bit more room across my upper back) and then a lot more width though the back main piece.  I plan on creating a pleat in the top center where it attaches to the yoke (a common detail on button-down shirts).  The other change I am making is to NARROW the sleeves!  Yes, I am making the shirt larger on one end and skinnier on another!  I have skinny arms (apparently skinnier than average) and a “skinny arm adjustment” has been a common alteration for me since I started making clothes.  On this version, the sleeves have been riding up my arm as I wear it and bunch up near my elbow (I do not even need to unbutton the cuff to put it on).  So I am tapering the sleeves to an extra small on my next one.  I have high hopes that these two changes will get me to my perfect top!

Cheyenne Tunic 1 Blog 5

Buttons and Buttonholes:  As I mentioned this was the first time doing these on my machine and I was extremely happy with how it handled them.  The apparatus for making the buttonholes is not the sturdiest but it gets the job done.  My only complaint is that it does not seem to be consistent on where it starts the hole and thus it is a bit unpredictable where the finished hole will be positioned.  This is not a big deal for solo buttons or even pairs (like on the placket).  But would be if I had done a full placket. Other than that, NOT SCARY!

Here is a close up of one the special details of this top, the sleeve tab!  I picked long sleeves for the first one but it easily converts to elbow sleeves simply by rolling up and securing with the tab!  You might notice that the buttonhole is slightly too close to the tip. This is one of those locations where the buttonhole did not start/stop where I expected it to. Otherwise, I think it looks pretty great!

Cheyenne Tunic 1 Blog 6

Overall, I would say that this top was a pleasure to sew!  There are a lot of pieces to cut. And a lot of steps.  It took me quite a long time to complete.  But it was so satisfying!  And the end results, even with my imperfections here and there, look so professional!  Whether you have never made a button-down shirt or are an old pro, I highly recommend this pattern!  I very excited about my next one!


Cheyenne Tunic 1 Blog 7

As always, thanks for reading!