Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Here I Go Again (not) On My Own

Not entirely sure a Whitesnake number is the best theme song for a week of sewing kids' clothing, but then again, who's to say?

With all the other projects on my "to do" list, there are a lot of really good reasons why I shouldn't be signing up for this....

Now I have a really good reason for not getting my other projects done and instead making cute summer clothes for the girls. Brilliant.

Care to productively procrastinate along with me?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I scream, You scream

No, though the title may suggest as much, this post is not a colorful depiction of our school-morning routine. Happily, it is a photo-full account of Beans's ice cream themed birthday party! With minimal commentary.... Hooray!

I always intend to post our theme parties here, but then I get bogged down in detailing the budget, locations of products, my general philosophy of parties and motherhood and the meaning of life. This time? Here's the party. And here on my Pinterest board, you can find a collection of the sites that inspired our party.


The Invitations: We were all set to painstakingly make our own invites using multiple sheets of scrapbook paper and oodles of glue. Then we found these. On clearance. 10 for a dollar. Thank you, Hobby Lobby.

The Decorations: Beans helped with all the decorations this time around -- she is five, after all.

The Games:
In addition to ice cream themed coloring pages I had waiting when guests arrived, we also played pin the cherry on the cone and used our Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker to create crazy flavors that only a five-year-old could love. Hint: lots of mix-ins.

The Food:
I like the 2-4pm party because it isn't a meal time, which makes for easier food planning for potentially choosy eaters. We served fruit and cheese and crackers. And cake. And ice cream. With toppings. Lots. Of. Toppings.

And yes, those are Babybels and Bugles.

The Cake: We had some game-day challenges with the cake -- primarily humidity and poor time management. Still tasted good.

The Favors: Originally, Beans wanted to have a gumball themed party. (seen here.) Then she decided on ice cream, but was stuck on these adorable favors. (seen here.) They were so cute and easy (and cheap!) to make, we decided to include them anyhow. The kids were each able to take home a pint-sized container of ice cream they made during the party and load each gumball machine with his or her desired toppings.

And that was that. A fun time was had by all. Minimal ice cream was dripped on the floor. And Beans thanked me for the "very best party ever." Win, win, win.

Your turn?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Every Heart Beats True

I didn't get the skirts done in time for the contest, but I did get them done in time for our Fourth of July celebration! Here's how it went down.

He: bought and assembled a grill with minimal swearing.
She: sewed three patriotic skirts with a moderate amount of swearing.
We: grilled a delicious marinated flank steak with only celebratory swearing.

Two out of three girls went with their Dad to see the fire works. Tater and I stayed home where she spent the hour shushing the "works." Awesome.

And lest you think all our photo sessions produce such sweet results....

And here's what the littlest does while you're corralling the two older sisters.

She harvests veggies that needn't yet be harvested. (And gets bitten square on the forehead by a nasty mosquito. Silly me -- I forgot to spray DEET directly into her face. )

Monday, May 23, 2011

Skirting the Issues

I am a terrible blogger. And a self-proclaimed Facebook Failure. Really. I receive hate mail from Facebook for having neglected my "friends" for so long. But truthfully, if I have 30 minutes to myself in which I might actually be able to form coherent sentences, I find a hundred other things to do with that 30 minutes instead of blog. (to be fair, I usually find a hundred other things that need to be done in that 30 minutes, find myself to be totally overwhelmed at the prospect of so much unfinished business that I spend the 30 minutes wandering aimlessly from room to room bemoaning the state of my home.)

Regardless, I've (re)vowed to post hear more frequently.

(crickets chirping)

For real.

To that end, I've committed myself to a sewing competition. Because nothing instills a desire to blog like the opportunity to detail one's failings at yet another endeavor. Uplifting, no?

I'll be joining these lovely ladies for this exciting adventure.

Wish me luck! I know you'll be holding your breath....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Nice Blocks, Baby.

I finally got around to finishing two sets of baby blocks for two sweet nephews. Just in time for their first semesters of college.... only kidding. They're 9 mos and 7 mos old. Just the right age for fabric blocks. It's as if I planned it that way instead of procrastinated it that way. Sigh.
For those visiting to find my doorstop tutorial, these blocks are assembled in much the same fashion.

The main differences are; I use coordinating fabrics, do all the applique work before assembly, eliminate the hook and loop closure, and finish the last few inches by hand. Easy, right? Someday, I'll put together a "companion tutorial" for the blocks and link it to the doorstop tutorial. Until that day, this site has a great tutorial (it's where I first learned how to make blocks) which should help you sort it out!

One block in each set has a bell inside. Note: I put a regular 2" jingle bell inside an empty film canister -- remember those?!?! If you punch some holes in the film canister, drop in the bell, put the lid back on and enclose the canister inside the stuffing of your block, you'll actually be able to hear the sound of the bell when you shake the block. Instead of hearing some sad muffled sound slightly reminiscent of a bell sound drowned out by wads of fiberfill... not that I have any experience with such things. I did also discover that the empty wrapper from the baby wipes (the crinkly sleeve the refill wipes are packaged in for restocking the hard plastic wipes container) makes a perfect addition to a couple of blocks. Because, let's be honest, the empty wipes wrapper is truly a baby's favorite non-safety-approved-and-therefore-enjoyable toy.

Thanks to those who have used the doorstop tutorial and shared your successes. It is totally crazy to learn that people "across the pond" are using and enjoying the instructions.... you've made my month!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Making of A Doorstop

So, I did something crazy. I wrote a tutorial. By myself. Unsupervised. Late at night. Maybe as much tutorial as insight into my sense of humor when overtired? Yikes. It does enable you to churn out a rather pleasant little doorstop though, so it can't be all bad. Besides, it was created as a means to enable a lovely group of women (whom I accosted during the afternoon school pick-up. No shame, I tell you.) to assist me in crafting 50 doorstops for our teachers as part of our Teacher Appreciation Week festivities. Seems perfectly reasonable, no? I will say that the project was a huge success (the teachers loved them) and most of my fellow sewers are still speaking to me. They even seem to still think doorstops are fun to make! Now that's just crazy.

So here it is -- The Making of A (cube-shaped, handled, hook-and-loop closure, holds approx. 4 lbs. of beans, super easy) Doorstop. Can you stand the excitement?

The Making of a Doorstop

This is my first attempt at creating a tutorial by which others are supposed to produce something recognizable. Please, feel free to offer critical feedback if you find yourself cursing me during the wee hours of the night. The tutorial assumes the doorstop is made using only one fabric per doorstop. Obviously, this project is going to be so much fun, you’ll be making doorstops for everyone you know, and you can be ambitious and use different coordinating prints on opposing sides, handles, whatever. Go crazy. For now, we’ll simplify.


Upholstery weight/Home décor fabric (denim, twill, or corduroy would work too)

Approx. 3” strip of sew-in hook-and-loop closure (ahem, elcro-Vay)

Coordinating thread

Measuring tape or ruler

Not necessary, but helpful:

Rotary cutter and mat

Pinking Shears

Fabric marking pen

Large, cold, adult beverage

Here’s what we’re making!

The doorstop is a simple cube shape. The bottom has an overlapping opening with velcro closure and the top has a sewn in handle. That’s it. Easy, right? We’ll see.


Step 1:

Using a rotary cutter, cut the following from your chosen fabric:

5 -- 6”x 6” squares (top and sides of cube)

2 -- 4”x 6” rectangles (bottom of cube)

1 -- 3”x 8” rectangle (handle)

Step 2:

Start with the two bottom pieces and handle. Press with an iron or “finger press” (I love terms that lend validity to my laziness) ½” along the two long sides of the handle and along one long side of each bottom piece.

Step 3:

Begin with one of the bottom pieces. Using your machine, stitch approx 3/8” in from the (now folded) edge to secure the raw edge.

Stitch again close to the folded edge.

Repeat with the second bottom piece.

Now we’ll add the Velcro. Lay the bottom pieces out, long finished edges together with the one piece right-side up and the other, wrong-side up. Pin one half of 3” strip of velcro along the finished edge of one bottom piece, about 1/8” to ¼” from the finished edge. Repeat with remaining strip of velcro and remaining bottom piece.

Stitch velcro in place.

Trim threads. Take congratulatory sip of adult beverage and set bottom pieces aside.

Step 4:

Take the handle piece with pressed edges, and fold wrong sides together, matching the folded edges. Press.

Stitch close (about 1/8”) to the matched folded edges, then stitch close to the pressed edge.

Another congratulatory sip of beverage, and set aside handle.

Step 5:

If you have a cutting mat and ruler, it will make this step easier. If not, enjoy a good bit more beverage, then get out your ruler. You want to use your fabric marking pen to mark ½” line from all four corners of the squares, as pictured here. (You can actually mark the full length of the edge and use that line as a stitching guide)

The best way to accomplish this is to draw a line ½” from the left and right raw edges, then, turn the square and mark the perpendicular edges.

The important part is to ensure that your lines cross leaving a ½” square in each corner of each square. You will use these as your stitching guides, so make sure you can clearly see where your marks cross. You’ll also want to mark ½” corners on the raw edges of the two bottom pieces. (pictured below before I added the Velcro)

Feeling the need for more beverage?

Step 6:

Time to assemble the cube! (I’ll wait while you drink up the courage…..)

Lay one square on top of another, right sides together. Pin one raw edge.

Put the needle down at the point where the top two lines cross.

Not so bad, right? Now let’s add another side. Take one square and place (right-sides together) ontop of one panel of the newly attached squares.

Pin the raw edges together and stitch, just as you did for the previous squares – beginning at the top cross point and ending at the bottom cross point. Then, add the fourth panel in the same manner.

Pin, stitch (cross point to cross point) and unfold to see your beautiful work! I’m sure a victory sip is in order.

Step… Umm, 7? (Too much beverage)

Time to add the top and bottom of the cube. Feeling super confident now, I’m sure.

Lay the four attached side panels flat, right sides up. Take the final remaining square and lay flat on top of second panel and pin in place.

Make sure you are lining up the raw edges of the two squares, doing your best to ignore the attached side panels. A close up look at the raw edges should look something like this:

The side panel will be out of the way, and – since you stitch cross point to cross point – it won’t get in your way. Don’t think about it too much, just stitch. It’ll be fine.

See? Fabulous. Now for the bottom panels. (You may want to consider a refill on the beverage now.)

Step 8:

Start with the bottom panel on which you sewed Velcro to the wrong side of the fabric. Working on the raw edge of the square opposite from the top of the cube (the piece you added in Step 7) pin the bottom panel to the square, right sides together, raw edges and corners aligned.

Next, take the remaining bottom panel (Velcro attached to the right side of the fabric) and pin it to the same square, raw edges and corners aligned. It will overlap the bottom panel you’ve already pinned in place. Ideally, the Velcro pieces will be so well aligned, they’ll stick together perfectly. Which will be annoying if you need to reposition the panel, but less annoying that trying to sew the Velcro on in a later step. (Speaking from experience. I consumed a lot of beverage during that adventure.)

Pin that panel in place and stitch – cross point to cross point – being careful to keep the overlap area flat as you stitch over it.

Now, it should look like this crazy thing:

If yours looks like this – Hooray! If not, curse me for getting you into this mess, swig from beverage, and call me in the morning.

Step 9:

Now we pin the sides of the cube together. ( Side note: Looking at the image above gives me some chilling flashbacks to high school Geometry.) Begin with the single panel that extends off the panel on which you attached the top and bottom panels. Fold up the two perpendicular raw edges, matching raw edges and corners, and pin in place.

Continue pinning perpendicular edges, matching raw edges and corners. You should end up with something like this:

Now, locate the bottom overlapped panels and orient the cube so that the bottom is on the bottom and the top is… yes. On the top.

Step 10:

Slide the handle through the gap in the saw edges between the top and side panel of the cube.

Reach through the opposite side gap and pull the handle through.

Center the handle along the width of the side panels. You could use a ruler and measure precisely where the handle should go, but let’s be serious here. Push the excess of the handle inside the cube so that only about ¼” remains exposed through each side gap. Pin handle in place.

Step 11:

Deep breath, liquid courage, and let’s sew! Working from cross point to cross point, stitch together all remaining sides. Pay careful attention to the handle edges – I even backstitch to reinforce the handle, but then, I’m fancy and super attentive to detail. Or haven’t you noticed? Once you’ve sewn all the sides up, double check you haven’t missed any. After all, you are on your second (third?) beverage by now. If you’re sure you’ve stitched up the side, remove all your pins. Now you can use your pinking shears (or regular scissors) to trim the excess seam allowances and handles. It will look like this:

Locate the bottom panel with the Velcro opening and turn your cube right-side-out through the opening.

Push out all the corners and smooth the side seams…. Voila! A doorstop!

Now, fill the doorstop with your choice of stuffing. For the Teacher Appreciation Week project, we needed the doorstops to be pretty dang heavy, so we insterted a ziploc bag into the doorstop and filled it with river rocks and sand. They ended up weighing around 8 lbs. That amount of weight does put a lot of strain on the handle, however. Bonus: the ziploc bag makes it easy for teachers to remove the cover for washing (or add more rocks if the ridiculously heavy doors still
won't stay open. Seriously, how strong does an elementary school kid have to be to open a classroom door?) If your doors aren't made of lead, I would recommend using approximately 4 lbs. of dried beans. Kitty Litter and dry rice are other good alternative stuffing materials.

Enjoy making these little guys for your friends and family. And teachers. And neighbors. And casual acquaintances. Really. They're addictive....

Epilogue: A few things I've observed since creating this tutorial and posting it here.
1) I need to move "refinish kitchen table" closer to the top of the project list. Woof.
2) It might be easier to attach the top and bottom panels to the first side before adding the other sides.... perhaps a tutorial revision is in order already?
3) I find myself way too entertaining late at night. Sorry.
4) This tutorial is great for making baby blocks! Drop the handle, use cute contrasting fabrics, ric-rac, and ribbon. Put a bell inside. Appliqués.... I could go on, but I'll save it for the next tutorial. Oh, and don't fill them with 4 lbs. of beans. Try batting instead. Unless you're sewing for Superbaby.