real life testing

One of the great pleasures of writing Little Things to Sew was that I had built-in inspiration and testing.

When I started developing ideas for projects to include, I wanted to be sure that every single one would be interesting, exciting to make, and unique. There are so many sewing books in the market these days, why would you want to buy a book with the same projects as all the other books? Looking back at the book now, I think I succeeded in this goal. I’ll be eager to see what you think, too.

I thought it might be fun to introduce you to some of the book’s projects that have become favorites at our house over the period that the book has been in development. Some of the photos below are shots from the book, others are extras that didn’t make it into the book (we had a lot of terrific photos from which to choose), and still more are snapshots that I’ve taken over the past three years as we’ve made samples, tested patterns, and tried out the projects.

So, without further ado….

The Tutu

Every little girl needs a tutu, right?

photo by Laurie Frankel

I first made this tutu for S in 2008. It’s constructed a bit differently than other tutus I’ve seen, and it was inspired by classical ballets like Swan Lake and La Sylphide. S has worn hers for dress-up, for Halloween, and around town. Last year she wore it when we met Heather Ross at the Metropolitan Museum to do some sketching, and last weekend she wore it to the butcher and the green grocer. So it’s good for lots more than just dancing.

Cozy Bear Hood

Is there anything cuter than a hat with ears?

photo by Laurie Frankel

This project was entirely inspired by our much-loved knitted bear hat, which was worn and adored until it just plain fell apart. Here is the original hat. (Note, please, how well a hat with ears coordinates with the aforementioned tutu.)

first day of preschool, three years ago!

S loves to look like her best friend, Bear. I wanted to make a similar soft hood with ears from woven fabric, and the resulting project has been loved as much as the original. People here in New York seem to like it, too. We get amused looks and comments everywhere we go. It must be the ears.

The hood continues to be a popular cold-weather and dress-up item for S. (And these two bears still go everywhere together, as you can see below.) Here is the Cozy Bear Hood as worn last week between our two recent snow storms.

The pattern comes in multiple sizes, as do many projects in the book. So you can customize each project to the size of the child for whom you’re making it, or you can make the project in increasing larger sizes as the child grows, which is what we’re doing at our house.

The Penguin Backpack

If you’re wearing a hat with ears, you’ll probably want a backpack with wings, won’t you?

photo by Laurie Frankel

This project was originally inspired by S’s Paris backpack, which I made when she and Todd took a trip to Paris just as I was about to launch Oliver + S and needed some extra work time. While they were in Paris they pretended to use the map printed on the fabric to navigate the city.

Here is the final project on its way to school last year. This penguin has seen a lot of the city from S’s back, and we’re especially attached to it because of my Dad’s work in Antarctica where, just last week, he visited a real penguin colony. (He reported back to S that penguin colonies smell awful, and she was ecstatic to report this to her class, where they are studying penguins.) You can also make the backpack without the penguin features, as seen in the first photo above. And this penguin is delightfully scent free.


The mittens are another popular item at our house.

photo by Laurie Frankel

Here they are last year, getting a thorough wear testing after a big snowfall.

Of course they are getting lots of use this winter, too, with all the snow we’ve had.

The pattern and construction are a unique design that allows easy movement, so they mittens are great for making and throwing snowballs, constructing snowmen and igloos, and the like. If you make them from soft felted wool you’ll be amazed at all the colors that are available (we’ve given some sources in the back of the book), and they’re warm and cozy for little hands. They can also be made from polar fleece if you’re so inclined.

And here is one last project we’ve been enjoying a lot.

The Tea Party Doll Dress

Because every girl needs a matching dress for her doll.

photos by Laurie Frankel

American Girl dolls are an obsession at our house. It’s almost ridiculous, actually. Samantha is our doll of choice, and she’s almost as beloved as Bear. I thought it would be fun to include a dress pattern for dolls like Samantha in the book, so this project is based on one of our very first sewing patterns, the Tea Party Sundress, which has also been one of our best selling patterns. If you have already sewn a Tea Party dress for your daughter or granddaughter, you’ll now be able to make a matching dress for her favorite doll.

We’ve personally tried and tested every pattern in the book at our house, and these are some of the projects that S has been especially attached to. I’ll show you a few more of the projects in greater depth soon.




  1. Heather

    This is officially torture. I want a copy of your book NOW. Adorable, beautiful work as always. Congratulations!

  2. I cannot wait! So so so excited for this book! I think the hat with ears first, and then the doll dress- I have my Samantha somewhere in a box. Antarctically speaking, my brother-in-law just climbed Vinson last week! Too funny!

  3. I’m super excited for this book. Especially after seeing the Tea Party Doll Dress and Penguin Backpack. And it comes out just in time for my birthday. Yay!

  4. I can never get over how photogenic S is. The first day of preschool shot is a heart-grabber! I can’t wait for the book–that tutu! Wherever did you ever find such a rich, flowy toile?

  5. Janell

    I am now thrilled for the Samantha dress alone; she was a beloved childhood friend of mine. I’m really excited for this book! Now I just need to find a cute child to sew for 🙂

    PS. S is a gorgeous girl!

  6. Angela B

    Thank you for the sneak peek. I love your patterns and am looking forward to the book!

  7. That Cozy Bear Hood is too cute! I’m seven months pregnant and want to make one for my baby (perhaps for next winter?)

  8. mel

    Seems I have begun graduate school at the most inopportune time! Congratulations on your continued success! I can’t wait for this to be released!

  9. Such great projects! I can’t wait to see the book.

  10. Marie-Michelle

    Lovely! Can’t wait for the book to come out!

  11. Lucinda

    oh, thank you for the wonderful sneak peek! I can barely wait!!

  12. Heather

    Oh! I really am so excited to have the book released! I saw a sneak peek of a cape to be included, is that right?!

  13. nicole keller

    Oh where do I start- too gorgeous for words-and a tutu I will actually allow my daughters to wear out!

  14. Oh! My daughter has recently become obsesses with wearing a tutu ALL THE TIME. Sometimes she sleeps in one, and she’s just two! I am SO looking forward to this book and all these cool projects. Cheers!

  15. Congratulations and thank you for sharing these beautiful photos, although it makes waiting for March rather difficult…

  16. I agree with the other commenter who said this was torture! The photos are gorgeous, and I especially love the tutu and the hat. I can’t wait to see all the other great projects – and get sewing. Counting down the days!

  17. Margery

    As always, you’re offering something lovely to make. I,too, have a little girl who will think she has died and gone to heaven to have one of those tutus!

  18. It’s official — I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Love everything I’ve seen so far!

  19. So freaking excited! I can’t tell you how much appreciate your thoughtfulness in coming up with new items. That tutu is going to be a classic, my niece is absolutely getting one for her birthday (if I can wait that long).

    Will there be a boutique sewer program for patterns in the book? I can imagine some lovely holiday craft fair tables offering bear hoods and mittens…

  20. Liesl- I’m with Heather. This is pure torture… want that book NOW! (It is so much fun to see the samples out in the real world!)

  21. Liesl,

    i can’t believe it is almost time!! I can’t wait!! I told Cheryl we should have Tutu day at work. The pictures just make me want to get up and dance around. I thinkit would be acceptable to dance if I were wearing a tutu.

  22. Melanie

    I can’t wait! I simply can’t wait! I also can’t wait for my baby girl to be big enough to wear these things. I really hope the tutu comes in bitty sizes. I also love the look of the cape on the cover and just can’t wait. I’m off to buy the tea party pattern so I’ll be ready for the matching doll dress. As always, Liesl, your designs are beautiful, tasteful, and whimsical – perfect childhood garments.

  23. oh man, so excited about this! love so many of the things here and am especially excited about the things that could be for girls OR boys. my daughter would disagree with my thinking here, though. she’ll be teeming for the tutu and the american girl matchy matchy dress! but, know that the balanced approach is much appreciated. congrats on so many wonderful things going on and on having such a sweet and wonderful S in your life!

  24. This is very exciting stuff. I think the hardest part will be deciding where to start!

  25. Earthly Joyride

    I’m looking forward to your book arriving in Australia!

  26. Im SOOOOO excited. I have three boys, no girls, so I am hoping to get lots of use for boys out of it too.

  27. i got so excited about the sneak peek a few months ago that i attempted a cape partially based on your photo ( ). i can’t wait to try your version, and that tutu!

  28. The penguin backpack is so adorable!

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