Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Stockings!

I enjoyed the stockings I made last year so much that I decided to make more!  Well, sort of. :)  My niece was born just before Christmas last year, and I knew that in all the rush of welcoming their daughter, my brother and sister-in-law hadn't gotten family stockings then.  So a couple of months ago, I checked with my brother regarding the current state of stockings.  He confirmed that they did not have any yet, and he also looked at the pictures of our family stockings and approved the snowmen.  So I made three new stockings from a lighter linen blend this time and used their favorite colors for the cuffs and accents.  (My niece obviously hasn't indicated a preference yet, but her nursery is purple.)  The pattern is again the StudioCherie Burlap Christmas Stocking (which is currently available for $2.50 - trust me, it's a steal!), and the appliques are from the snowman wall hanging in McCall's Quick Quilts (Dec/Jan 2012).  One of these days, I really will make myself the wall hanging!

The only thing I did differently this year was to make my own piping.  There are a myriad of tutorials out there, and I don't remember which particular one I used.  I tried using kitchen cotton yarn as the cording for the piping, and I don't recommend it.  Unfortunately, I didn't give myself enough time to correct that error and get something stiffer.  Don't make my mistake!  These came out looking more like flat piping, but fortunately, it still looks cute!  Next time I'll just cut loose with some change and buy cording....

I'm told that these are hanging by the mantel. :)  And I was especially pleased that they were in the mail by Dec. 1st.  Go, me!

Nursery Smocks

We are attending a brand-new church - it is actually a church plant from a large church.  We've barely officially begun, and we meet in a local school.  Coming from a large church and starting basically from scratch, you can imagine that there are a lot of items on the wish list, but not a lot of money to fill the wishes.  One "desired item" was for sewers.  I looked at it and decided that it meant people who sew, not pipes to carry sewage, and I may have allegedly informed the kids' ministry director that I have been known to stitch the occasional seam.

She told me that her biggest sewing-related need was for smocks for the nursery volunteers to wear while on duty.  We talked about it a bit, and it sounded to me as though she basically wanted nursing scrub jackets.  Hmm...I think I've made a few of those (and that link only shows two - I'm sure I've made at least a dozen over the years).  She wanted three-quarter length sleeves and a flat cuff, rather than a gathered one, so I basically whacked off the bottom third of the sleeve length and then made a two inch finished cuff.  (In case you're wondering, I cut 5-inch long pieces the width of the end of the seam, plus seam allowances.  These were interfaced with lightweight interfacing, not in the seam allowances.  I folded them in half, right sides together, and stitched them at either end, then turned them right sides out and pressed the ends.  After the sleeves were sewn, I stitched the cuffs on, so that the finished ends were butted up together at the sleeve seam and sewed them using a 0.5-inch seam allowance.  This left me with a cuff that shouldn't wrinkle easily and basically has a finished slit.)  I also used Pam Erny's technique to clean-finish the edges of the facings, and I used double rows of topstitching on the hems and all the seams (except the side seams, as I recall).  I wanted these smocks to look a professional as possible.

The smocks were made from sheets from the thrift stores.  I knew that I couldn't afford to donate all the fabric that would be needed for these (and for upcoming costumes for the kids' ministry), and I didn't know what funds the church would have.  But I could buy fabric very affordably at the thrift store - some lengths of fabric, but mostly sheets in good condition.  I held each candidate up and eliminated it if I could see my hand through it.  Anything in decent condition and not a gross color (there are some seriously gross colored sheets out there!) was a good buy!

Below are shown the current stash of nursery smocks - there's one size S - that was the prototype, because that size was already traced.  There are 2 size M, 2 size L, and 1 size XL.  More will be made, but I burned out on sewing smocks and needed to get on with Christmas sewing!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes

We support Samaritan's Purse with the Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive every year, and this year was no exception.  Because Things 1 and 2 are 9 and 6, we chose to make one shoebox for a 5-9-year-old boy for each of them, and because I read that the older boys are underrepresented in the donated boxes, we also made two shoeboxes for 10-14-year-old boys.

I'm listing what we put into our shoeboxes, even though I don't have pictures of the finished boxes, because I want to have a record of ideas for next year.  Well, and also because I got a lot of good ideas from other blogs, and I want to return the favor for anyone looking for ideas!

5-9 year old: hygiene items (toothpaste, 2 toothbrushes, comb, bar of soap in a terrycloth pouch), clothing items (drawstring pants, socks, stretchy hat, stretchy gloves), toys (2 Hot Wheels cars, 25 marbles in a fleece drawstring pouch, small yoyo), school supplies (4 regular pencils in a fleece drawstring pouch, 1 dozen colored pencils, mini notepad, small sketchbook, eraser, 2 manual pencil sharpeners), and a flashlight with 3 sets of batteries.

10-14 year old: the same hygiene and clothing items, toys (25 marbles in a fleece drawstring pouch, small yoyo, small slinky), school supplies (4 regular pencils in a fleece drawstring pouch, 1 dozen colored pencils, small sketchbook, large notebook, eraser, 2 manual pencil sharpeners), and a flashlight with 3 sets of batteries.

The drawstring pants were all made using thrifted striped sheets.  I look for sheets in good condition - figure they've been washed repeatedly and held up well, and they're soft.  The smaller pairs are KS3042 size M - that should cover all the sizes in the 5-9 age range, with rolled up legs; and the larger pairs are B6887 size M.

We used the cardboard box from Samaritan's Purse for the 2 younger boys' boxes, but we bought Sterlite clear plastic shoeboxes for the older boys' boxes.  I saw a blog posting that suggested doing this, as then the boxes could also be used to carry water for the families afterward.  I'll be doing that again next year.  (I found the plastic boxes at Target for under $2 each.)  And another idea I saw, but didn't have time to implement, was to include a lightweight tote bag or drawstring back pack big enough to carry the shoebox, as many children have to walk a great distance to get their shoeboxes.  I'll try to get that done next year.  Bags made from broadcloth and lined in muslin are usually lightweight and easily compressed into a small space, but they are fairly sturdy.

This year we paid our shipping online and were able to get tracking labels.  I just heard from the organization - our boxes have been sent to Suriname!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Angry Bird Ornaments

I was looking online for Angry Bird ideas a few months ago, and one of the blogs I found has a lot of Angry Birds tutorials!  Obsessively Stitching has made everything from blanket appliques to plushies (I made one but forgot to take a picture before we gave it as a gift - but I'm going to make more, so you'll see them then.) to ornaments!  And these ornaments are billed as a Dollar Store Craft.  The ornaments can be found at Dollar Tree for, you guessed it, a dollar.  The paints are cheap - I actually had to buy a small tube of black paint, because apparently despite all of our weird color combinations for painting ornaments, we've never used black.  You need one sheet of red felt and one of white, and some white pom-poms for the Santa hats.

And voila!

I have admittedly no artistic skill, but I think these are still recognizable.  And quite hilarious!  I bought a tube of plastic Christmas ornaments, and I think there were fifteen in it, so I have five sets in progress.  We're definitely sharing these with friends!

Monday, December 24, 2012


The Things were in need of new lunchbags.  Thing 1's old Transformers lunch bag was in atrocious shape, and Thing 2's SpiderMan lunch bag was also starting to show signs of wear.  I wanted lunch bags that reflected their interests and were easily washable.  So I started with a pattern at Sew4Home and changed the dimensions just a bit to fit our reusable containers.  The batting is Insul-Bright, which should help the contents retain cold.  I really wanted to have easily washable linings, but I was out of PUL and unable to find any locally for a reasonable price.  So instead I used a green ripstop nylon that had been purchased for a different project.

The pattern is pretty easy to follow.  I did modify it a little, as I didn't want exposed raw edges on the inside.  So I stitched the outside and the lining separately and then put them together, using the bias tape to cover the raw edges around the top and on the flap.  Thing 1 wanted a Pokemon lunch bag, and when I couldn't find any Pokemon fabric or appliques locally, a friend was kind enough to find some in her stash and send it.  Originally I was going to cut appliques from the fabric, but then I decided to just go ahead and make it from the fabric to make my life easier. :)  Thing 2 loves Angry Birds and the color orange, so I used the last of an orange batik-like print in my stash and some Angry Birds ribbon.  As you can see, they were pretty happy!

The opening at the top ended up too big without some modifications, so I added snaps to either side at the top so that the sides would be snapped in (sort of like a gusset, maybe?) and then the flap would fit down snugly.  All in all, I'm pretty happy with them.  And so are the Things!  These have been in use now for about two months, and they're holding up well.  I do plan to make a second set at some point soon, just so that we have back-ups for when the bags are dirty and need to make a quick run through the wash.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Catching up - Halloween costume

Last year, the Things were both Grim Reapers.  Apparently that never made it onto the blog.  But it was a quick, easy costume (with the minor detail that JAF's cheap costume satin can make you swear).  This year, Thing 1 was still up for being the Grim Reaper, but Thing 2 decided (after a pirate-themed birthday party he attended in June) that he was going to be a pirate.

I waited until October to begin the costume, wanting to be sure that he was really going to stick with it.  Yep, still a pirate.  So I chose M4952 as a pattern and went to work.  All of the fabrics came from JAF - mainly because they had a good sale going the week that I was ready to collect fabrics and get started. :)  The shirt is a thick white linen - added bonus that it was thick, so add a long-sleeved shirt under it and Thing 2 didn't need a jacket.  The vest is a "picante" linen blend, lined with muslin.  (It was supposed to be self-lined, but muslin's cheaper, and I knew the lining wouldn't be seen!)  The pants are a striped costume satin - those just cracked me up.  And the headscarf and sash are both a "costume sheer" - not what was suggested, but I thought it would work well.

As it turned out, the costume sheer gave me the most grief, until I realized that I didn't care about the fraying - that was just an added bonus for a pirate costume.  I ran a line of stay-stitching about a half-inch from the edges of each piece to control the amount of fraying, and that was all the finishing I did.  The sash required two pieces joined together, so I used french seams for that.  Worked great!  I would suggest for the sash - use the lengths given, but then be prepared to shorten after trying it on your child.  I think I ended up shortening the sash around 6 inches or more for Thing 2.

The thick white linen of the shirt only gave me trouble with the sleeve bands.  It was too thick to ease well, and I'd have to say that I'm not totally happy with those bands.  But otherwise, I'm really happy with how the shirt turned out.  I installed small eyelets and then used a shoelace for the lacing (I think I got that idea from a review on PR).

We just had to add some dirt and scars with face paint (he was a "dirty" pirate), an eyepatch, and a play knife, and he was set!  Thing one wore his costume robe from last year - unfortunately we didn't realize ahead of time that he didn't have a black shirt that fit anymore - and they had a blast!  (The Grim Reaper costume is M2854.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Another new bag

 I never ever carry a purse - I just take my backpack as needed - so it's somewhat surprising that I made myself a sling bag.  However, I decided that I needed something that would be smaller than a backpack for school field trips.  I see other moms carrying the string bags, but I'd really like pockets in it as well as maybe room for a water bottle.  So while I work out the mental design for that, I went ahead with another sling bag.  This one is also from a recycled denim skirt.  I shortened the bag, much like the colorful one, as I didn't really want to be able to carry too much in it!

The lining is a fun science print - it's like a school science notebook!  I found this on clearance at JAF several years ago, and I think the only thing I've ever done with it was to use a couple of small pieces as appliques for shoes for Thing 2.  It was definitely time to do something fun with it!  There's an elasticized pocket on the side not pictured, and then this is a small pocket for a wallet or maybe cell phone.  I decided to go with snaps instead of a zipper in the interest of time.  You can also see a small loop sticking out above the pocket - this is for a key leash (which hasn't been done yet) so that the keys can be in the bottom of the bag but still be secured and easily found.  

I also intend to make an insulated cover for my water bottle, and there is a "water bottle leash" attached to the other side of the bag - this will help hold it in place and upright.  Just need to finish that part....

Just for kicks, I decided to have fun with the pockets.  (These pockets were not recycled - I traced the shape of another jeans pocket onto my recycled denim and lined them with the science fabric.)  I drew on my fabric with a disappearing ink pen and then traced that with stitching.  This one is my initials, all lower case.

And this one is an ECG tracing.

The good news is that both "embroideries" turned out really well.  The bad news is that I wasn't too confident, so I went for the subtle look - one strand of black thread with one strand of a light blue.  It was actually more subtle than intended, and basically you can't see these unless you're looking for them.  :(  Boo.  But next time I try this, I'll be more bold. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

More plushies....

One of Thing 2's friends was really into Angry Birds last year, and I was intending to make him a stuffed Angry Bird for his birthday....but his mom said he's not really into Angry Birds anymore.  Darn fickle kids!  Now he's into Mario Bros.  Okay, time to check out Google!  Because she also said that he has plenty of books and games, and he's not really into superheroes or normal boy stuff like that, and even they were having a hard time figuring out what to get him!  Not helpful....and unfortunately, there were no patterns online to sew anything easily recognizable from the Mario Bros universe.  (Lots of crochet patterns available, but I wasn't going to crochet for the kid.)  So I settled for some humorous but possibly lesser known creatures, and I'm just hoping he'll recognize them.

First up is Boo.  I used a free tutorial I found online, and I actually followed it pretty closely.  The only changes I made were to use fleece instead of felt for the body (to make it softer) and to sew the facial features on instead of gluing them.  I think it turned out pretty nice!

I also made him a Luma - this one is green because that's his favorite color, but I did check to be sure that they come in green before I did that.  I know, I'm a nerd.  I used this tutorial with no changes.  And while I was on Skype with my brother (a total nerd!), I held this up, and he immediately said, "It's Luma from Mario Bros!"  So I felt very satisfied that it was recognizable. :)

I hope that Thing 2's friend likes these....

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Another Pajama Eater

Thing 2 has another birthday party coming up, so I thought another Pajama Eater was in order!  This one is pretty much just like the last ones - well, except for the color scheme, obviously!  This particular friend loves green, so I thought a green solid flannel and then lizards on green camo was appropriate for him.  The only change I made from the last time was to round the corners of the body slightly, as per a friend's suggestion.  It doesn't make much difference, and I haven't decided which I like better.  

It's awfully cute, and I love the fact that my DH just starts laughing every time I show him one.  He thinks they're hilarious!  (Well, they are!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Neighborhood Phantom Strikes Again

We had never heard of the "Neighborhood Phantom" or being "Boo-ed" before last year.  We were "ghosted" by someone in the neighborhood, and we had a blast passing it on.  So this year, we wanted to do it again!  I didn't want to buy gift bags - I try to be eco-friendly occasionally, right? - and there was no need, given my fabric stash.  I had made these last year, as well, though I apparently never blogged about them.  These are made the same way as the "green" party bags I made over the summer, although these are self-lined.  These were cut out last year, so yesterday I pulled them off the shelf and finished them up, in time for the ghost assignment last night. ;)  I made eight total - four of each fabric.  So now we have next year's bags all ready.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pajama Eaters!

So once upon a time, I have no idea how long ago, I saw this cool pattern/tutorial for stuffed "monsters" with storage space inside them.  The pattern is Pajama Eaters, from Sew Fearless.  At the time I first saw it, the pattern was a free download, but it is now only offered for sale.  (I downloaded it back when it was free.)

Much time has passed, and I recently ran across the pattern while trying to organize my downloaded sewing patterns in one main folder.  And it reminded me that I'd always thought the pattern was really cool, and clearly I needed to make it now!  Well, Thing 2 was invited to a birthday party for a set of twins, so I thought this would be perfect.  The idea is that a child can put clean pajamas into the mouth of the creature in the morning, then take them out at night.  Well, I don't know about anyone else's child, but my children would see this as perfect storage for treasured toys!  However, they also love squishy, huggable creatures, so I decided to go ahead and make them as gifts.

Like I said, the pattern is now only offered for sale, but there's still a great tutorial to take you through it.  (And yes, you could probably easily draft the pieces yourself, though why reinvent the wheel?)  The little boy's favorite colors are red and black, and I don't know the girl's favorites, but I figured purple and a little pink should be safe, right?  The boy creature is all flannel, as I had a great mottled red flannel in stash.  The girl creature is cotton woven for the purple body and flannel for the mouth and foot/inside contrasts.  The best part?  Except for one of the zippers, everything is stash!  Hooray! A great gift, and it's practically free*!

And this is definitely a hit with kids.  While the birthday party hasn't happened yet, Thing 2 approved both the creatures, and he definitely wants one for himself!  I'm thinking he might need a frog or a ninja, inspired by Jaimee at Craft, Interrupted.  Then I'll have to figure out what modifications to make for Thing 1....maybe I can come up with a penguin....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

T-shirt quilt

So I have this friend who was a grad student with me, and she was incredibly awesome when I was working on my thesis - going out to different campus libraries and copying articles that I needed but couldn't get electronically, then scanning them and emailing them to me.  She also provided lots of moral support through the whole process.  So when she asked if I'd be willing to make her a quilt using her large University of Illinois T-shirt collection, I was happy to agree.

The day after my thesis defense, we celebrated by laying out the T-shirt collection on the living room floor in her apartment.  It's been well over a year (April 2011), so I don't remember exactly, but I want to say that she started with 30-some T-shirts that she wanted to use.  As we continued to lay out the collection, she kept going back to her room and pulling out more T-shirts to add.  Once we realized that there were enough orange T-shirts to potentially form a large "I" in the middle of the quilt, we realized that we needed to have an odd number of both rows and columns.  She continued to bring out T-shirts until we eventually ended up with 49 - a 7x7 arrangement.  My best decision was to use my digital camera to make a record of how she wanted the shirts arranged.

That day, we went to JAF to buy interfacing (an essential ingredient from what I'd read online) and sashing fabric.  I can't remember exactly what kind of interfacing I chose, but it was a woven lightweight fusible - either the cheapest or second cheapest available.  I had solicited advice from sewing friends online, who said that woven vs. knit didn't matter - just to buy whichever was on sale.  This seemed  to work out well for me.  (Keep in mind that if you use knit interfacing, you need to put the direction of stretch perpendicular to the direction of stretch in the T-shirt - otherwise it won't be stabilized.)  The navy cotton for the sashing was Kona cotton, I believe.

I think I waited a few months before even starting to work on it.  Then I cut the fronts from backs on the T-shirts in preparation for applying interfacing, and then I abandoned it again.  This summer, I pulled it out again, prompted by the 1-year anniversary.  I fused interfacing onto the backs of all T-shirt fronts, then measured the smallest T-shirts to find the largest square I can cut from all the shirts.  I wanted to keep this relatively simple, since it's my first T-shirt quilt and there are a large number of shirts - this is why I wanted them all the same size.  I cut the shirt blocks all 13 inches by 13 inches.  (A few shirt designs would have been totally ruined at that size, so those were left intact to be used as appliques on plain blocks once the sashing was sewn in place.)  That was where I left it for another few months.

Once I decided it was time to get to work, I laid out the blocks according to my original pictures, and I took more pictures to send to my friend to be sure that she still liked the layout.  There was some back and forth to get it to her final approval, and then I was ready to go.  The sashing was cut the length of the fabric by 3 inches wide, in order to have a finished 2 inch width (I'm using 0.5 inch seam allowances).  I sewed horizontal sashing to the blocks and sewed the blocks into columns.  Then I sewed vertical sashing to the columns and sewed the columns together.  I appliqued the large designs onto the plain blocks before the quilt was completely assembled, to help make it easier to maneuver the quilt in the sewing machine.  Once all the blocks were together, I ran a quick line of stay-stitching around the entire top, 0.25 inches from the edge.  This was just to help keep anything from stretching during handling.

I knew that the quilt was enormous - 7 blocks wide by 7 blocks long, at 12 inches finished sides on each block, plus the sashing - but it wasn't until I put the quilt top over my queen-sized bed that I realized just how huge it was!  My poor bed looks barely larger than a twin under this quilt top!

So then I also laid it out on the hard floor (after sweeping!) for a better look.  I'm really so pleased with this quilt top.  I think it looks great, and as it turns out, my friend loves it!  (I was in town last weekend and showed it to her.  She was so surprised, as she'd had no idea I'd finally started working on it!)  I did talk her into adding borders - we'd not made a decision on that last year, instead deciding to wait and see what we thought after the top was put together.  But I think it needs borders for a more finished look, and the online sewing buddies from whom I solicited opinions agreed.  (They also felt it would help keep the T-shirt edges from potentially stretching out, despite the interfacing.)  There is just barely enough of the navy Kona cotton, I think, so I'm going to make the borders the same finished width as the sashing, and it's going to look great.  No decision has been made yet on the backing, but we'll go see what's available when she's here next month for a scavenger hunt/trivia challenge at the zoo. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Toy sacks!

I was going to title this "More toy sacks" but then I discovered that I apparently never blogged about the previous iterations I've made.  I blogged once two years ago about starting my first set, but I never apparently showed pictures of the final versions!  How remiss of me!  Anyway, I found a tutorial awhile ago for Peek-a-Boo Toy Sacks.  The idea is that you have a sack for storing toys, one that children can easily use, and it has a vinyl window so you can see what's inside without dumping out all the toys first.  Genius!

Anyway, I had made a few of these for the Things for storing their toys, and I'd even given one or two away.  That was about it, until I was hit last year by the realization that there were going to be a LOT of birthday parties in Thing 2's future.  So I had started brainstorming fun gifts that I could sew for Thing 2 to give.  I did a few Art on the Go kits, and I made a couple of superhero capes.  And then I suddenly remembered the Peek-a-Boo Toy Sacks.  It seemed like a good idea to give one with a few cars inside, so I made one from Matchbox fabric (in the stash for a long time) and had Thing 2 pick out 6 Hot Wheels cars (the birthday boy was turning 6).  Well, that was a hit with his mom!  She wrote an addendum to his thank-you note to specifically say how great the bag was and how cool it was that I'd made it.  And, you know, that's about all the encouragement I needed!  I think I had made up 4 or 5 in the spring - I gave one of each print to Thing 2 for his toys (which definitely need help!) and then used the others as gifts.  

Now he's been invited to the first birthday party of the new school year, and when I asked the mom what the birthday boy liked, she said race cars and anything NASCAR.  Which reminded me that I had some NASCAR fabric in the stash once upon a time....I couldn't remember if it was a lot or down to scraps, but I went hunting and found probably two yards in there.  So I promptly cut out four bags - I used leftover red cotton to line two and muslin to line the other two.  The red bags got red for casing and ties, but I used black cotton scraps for the muslin bags.  One for this weekend's party, one for Thing 2, and two for stash!  I think I'll be getting some more broadcloth to make some more up soon....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Something for ME!

I admit, I usually go to grocery stores that offer free plastic bags, which I then use as trash can liners (all of our trash cans except the big one in the kitchen can take the grocery bags), dog poop bags, and occasionally lightweight packing material (I'd rather use something free than pay for packing peanuts, which really I'm not that fond of, anyway).  And if we build up an excess, then we take them back for recycling the next time we go to the grocery store.

But I sort of have an uneasy truce with plastic grocery bags, and I've started going to Aldi at least every other week, and Aldi doesn't offer free bags.  Now, I can usually snag a box or two from when they unpack their items, and I often keep a stash of bags in the trunk to reuse for that very purpose.  But I've seen all these cloth reusable bags across blogs, and I really wanted to have some for myself.  Especially after I made the wine labels bags for my friend's birthday.

So I was digging through the stash for other reasons, when I ran across this great pear print.  It's got to be five or more years old, and I don't even know why I bought it in the first place.  But it reminded me that I had decided to turn it into cloth grocery sacks.  After I made my friend's bags, I had decided that broadcloth would be a better lining than another cotton print - still sturdy, but definitely lighter weight.  And I had bought some "vineyard" cotton broadcloth when JAF had it half off a few months ago.  Sewing ADD kicked in, and I just had to sew these now!

If I remember right, each bag takes about 2/3 yard each of main and lining fabrics.  So I was able to get two bags out of the pear print.  I also managed to screw up my cutting more than once, which necessitated a seam down the middle of one of the outer pieces, one bag being more narrow than the other, and center seams in the lining of both bags.  Oops!  Guess I should stop cutting when it gets late....But the final products look great!

And this shows the lining fabric a bit.  It doesn't exactly match by any stretch, but I think it looks pretty good together.  I'm happy with them.  And I can't wait for the next time I go to Aldi!  (Or Shop-n-Save, which offers free plastic bags but is all self-bagged, making it easy to use your own if you'd like....)  And I think I'm going to make some wine labels bags for myself, but use broadcloth for the lining....

PSA: Don't forget to run your cloth bags through the wash on a regular basis - you don't want any nasty bacteria growing in there!  I plan to throw these in the wash with my cleaning rags, which get washed and rinsed on warm and dried on warm or hot.  (Otherwise, I'm a wash cool, tumble dry low kind of girl....)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Some birthday sewing....

So my friend's older son had a birthday in July.  This is the kid for whom I made monster PJs last summer.  I had asked her a month or so below his birthday about those PJs and how they fit.  She said then that they still fit great, and that her boys (the other is 17 months younger) fight over the jammies that I make.  Well, that sounds like a winner!  So I dug some vintage car flannel out of my remnant stash - I think I had a little over half a yard.  It was pretty much just enough for these size S shorts, with some scraps for embellishing the shirt.  The black flannel was a Black Friday purchase last year - with no particular intent, just figuring that I can always use black flannel, right?  Especially for $1.49/yard.  Anyway, I used Pam Erny's clean finish for facings on the neckband, then stitched it in place so that it would be flipped right side to the outside of the neck.  I like doing that on these flannel PJs, so that it actually looks like part of a set.  And I added a pocket from the car flannel as well.  He just turned 7, and Thing 1 is 9 and wearing the size M, so I'm hoping that the S will continue to fit my friend's son for awhile longer.  

And if I get a gift in the mail before the next calendar month is over, it's all good, right? ;)  This arrived August 31st, so I'm still good.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Another baby gift!

So my cousin was expecting her second baby, and I thought the diaper clutch would be a great gift for her.  I had already cut it out when I made the first one.  At that point, though, I was out of PUL, so I had to wait to order some, since my local stores no longer carry anything but the Babyville PUL. :(  Anyway, once the PUL arrived, I was already into other projects, and this one kind of stalled until the day my cousin posted that she was having contractions.  Oops!  Time to finish!

As you can see, this one looks pretty much the same as the last one!  (Except that I put the handle a little too high - I couldn't access the directions when I was putting it together, so I figure I actually did pretty well.)  Here it is closed.

And here it is partly open.  I know it's dark, but maybe you can see that there are two rows of snaps on the body, so that she'll be able to adjust it slightly based on how stuffed the pocket is.  We'll see how that works out, anyway.

I used up the rest of the butterfly print making two smallish wet bags to match.  These were both intended to be between 9x12 and 12x12, but the final dimensions were based on the scraps I had to work with.  Both close with zippers, and I added snapping handles in case she wants to hang them off a doorknob/stroller handle/whatever.

At the advice of several people in an online sewing group, I also made a pillowcase-sized wet bag for use at home.  This is a very bright Garfield print that has been hiding out in my stash for years.  I was glad to find something useful for at least part of it to do!  This is big enough to be useful for a family trip to the swimming pool, too!

She wrote back yesterday after receiving the package and sounded pretty excited about it, so hopefully she ends up liking all of this after using it a bit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another hobo/sling bag

Also known as, I finally actually made a birthday gift a month in advance!

I made an oversized denim bag a few months ago, using a thrifted denim skirt, thrifted sheet, and the tutorial from Morning by Morning Productions.  I really liked how it turned out, and I had already purchased a second long denim skirt from a thrift store to make another one, this time for my aunt's birthday.  But then I saw this lined linen skirt at the thrift store, and I just thought it would be perfect. it is!

This skirt wasn't as long, so I had to shorten the bag a few inches, but it's still quite large.  I just love the colorful print.  If I carried a bag more than once in a blue moon, I'd be seriously tempted to keep this one for myself.  Fortunately for my aunt, I just don't carry bags.

You can see the lining in the next picture - it's a purple poly-something fabric.  Looks nice, but isn't exactly sturdy.  So I didn't put any pockets on the inside of this version.  And I decided that I didn't want to use elastic in the outer pockets.  Instead, I made larger rectangular pockets, with rounded lower corners.  I lined them with the poly, interfacing both linen and poly at the top of the pocket.  Then I put two snaps in to help keep things somewhat secure.  (I also used light interfacing on the linen piece behind where the pocket was stitched into place.

I'm hoping that my aunt likes it at least as much as I do!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Lego sack/playmat

I've had my eye on this tutorial for months now, and I finally got around to making it!  (Probably because I was procrastinating on something else....)  I used two queen-sized thrifted sheets to make this - it's 80 inches in diameter, as we have a LOT of Legos.  I have enough left from both sheets to make a somewhat smaller version, also....We'll see how long that takes. ;)

The tutorial is pretty simple.  Basically, this is two circles sewn together.  You then use premade or self-made bias tape or ribbon or whatever for the drawstrings.  I made my drawstrings from broadcloth I had leftover from the "green" party bags project.  I liked the idea of using something up (that totally finished off my leftover orange) as well as getting a pop of color.  And orange is Thing 2's favorite color, so he'll like that touch.  (As an aside, I cut my strips on the straight grain and then ran them through the bias tape maker.  I didn't feel that they needed to be cut on bias as these were only going to be used for drawstrings.)

And here's the sack all cinched up, with toys inside.  I'm hoping this works out in practice as well as it does in theory!  I'm also thinking that this will be a great idea for a baby gift - something the parents can use into the future.  If I give any as baby gifts, though, I'll put a caution in the accompanying note to use these only with supervision, as the drawstrings could pose a strangulation hazard.

Someone had posted a comment to the tutorial, saying that their self-made bias tape didn't move very easily through the casing.  I don't know what kind of fabric she used.  My thrifted sheets are almost certainly a poly/cotton blend, and I believe the broadcloth was also a poly/cotton blend.  The drawstrings move very easily through the casing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One-Yard Wonders: Bear

I've heard rave reviews of the book One-Yard Wonders for quite some time, and I was able to find it at my local library about 6 months or so ago.  I enjoyed looking through it, and I made the mistake of leaving it sitting out one day, and Thing 2 picked it up and started flipping through it.  That's always dangerous!  In this case, he picked out the bear cushion and wanted me to make him one (immediately!), as well as a second to give to his baby cousin.  Well, who am I to pass up an opportunity to encourage sharing?

We picked out (well, I picked, but he approved) a light brown corduroy that's been in my stash long enough that it can no longer be used for boy pants - at least not for my boys, at their current sizes!  And then we picked out the remnants from my dog's first leash/harness/collar/stuff as the contrast.  I traced the pattern, scanned the instructions (because the book was due!), and cut out the pieces.  And there it has sat for months.

And then I decided this would be a great back-to-school gift!  So I found all the pieces, found where the heck I saved the instructions, and got to work.  I was planning to make both bears at once, until I screwed something up and decided not to waste time unsewing right then.  So this bear got finished in time to be presented after dinner on the first day of school.  

Here's a side view:

 And here's the happy boy view:

I have to say that it's a pretty straightforward toy to stitch, though it's not easy to sew the long strap to the side pieces.  That takes some patience and slow-sewing.  It's definitely not perfect, but it's done!  I did wind up going back to recut the nose pieces and start over, because the nose looked ridiculously small.  I'm still not sure I'm totally sold on the nose.  Oh, and I cut two nose pieces, sewed them right sides together, cut a slit in one pieces and turned them out that way.  Press it, then stitch it on, and no one ever sees the side with a slit.  Much easier than what they described!  I also decided to use a contrast piece as the underside of the tail, to match the ears.

Thing 2 is happy, and now I just have to sew the second one for my niece, which will hopefully take less time than the first.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Angry Birds!

Thing 2 loves Angry Birds.  Never mind that he's only played the game once.  He's in love.  So when I was flipping through a pattern catalog and spied McCall 6481, I about fell over.  The pattern description is basically just "stuffed toys," but let's not kid ourselves.  These are Angry Birds!  Fortunately, JAF was having a sale on McCall patterns, so I just snatched it up!  This is view D, which is basically the red Angry Bird (though in different colors on the pattern cover, and minus the black tail feathers, which I still might go back and add....I haven't convinced myself to bother yet).  I changed the colors to match the red bird, and then I went to work!

Basically, this is a round ball with wings, facial features, and a comb.  It's awesome.  I used fleece for everything except the eyes and eyebrows.  Those are felt.  The pattern calls for using a fusible webbing on the eyes/brows and fusing them to the fleece.  Now haven't we all learned that we're not supposed to put an iron on fleece?  Well, I approached it with fear and trepidation, because there's really no way to machine sew these on, and I really didn't want to hand-sew them.  And now I can tell you that by using a press cloth (mine is an old thin piece of flannel from a practically threadbare sheet) and lots of steam and even moderate pressure, you can safely fuse things onto fleece.  Granted, this is generic, non-fluffy, non-special fleece, so YMMV.

I stitched up the pieces in half an hour or less, then ignored them for over a week, just because I didn't want to do the handsewing to attach the beak and comb.  Silly me!  When I finally buckled down and just did it, it probably took me half an hour.  I should've just sat in front of the TV and done it earlier.

I left the Angry Bird knockoff on my husband's nightstand, because Thing 2 always comes into our room in the mornings to announce that he's up and moving.  And DH's nightstand is visible from the doorway, so I figured he'd definitely see it there.  I was already up and in the kitchen, but DH said that the reaction was everything I had hoped for - the classic double-take in the middle of a sentence, then the cautious "Is that for me???", followed by joy.

Of course, now Thing 1 wants one.  Go figure.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Going green....

I have a cousin who is expecting a baby in the next month or so, and I have another diaper clutch in progress for her (I cut both out at the same time - good thing it turned out so successfully!).  But I also know that she switched to cloth diapers when her older child was around 2 years, and she plans to cloth diaper this baby from the start.  Not sure if it's more a financial or environmental decisions, but either way, go her!  In any event, because I know she's committed to cloth diapering, I decided that cloth baby wipes would be a nice gift!

There are 90 or so in these stacks, mainly because I was having fun cutting up flannel that was in the "huh?  What was I thinking?" category, as well as flannel that was leftover from other things but I just wasn't sure what to do with the leftover pieces.  And also because it was strangely fun and addicting.  These are all 8x8, with slightly rounded corners to make serging easier.  They are double-layer flannel, because I didn't have a stash of terrycloth or anything else for the backing, and I decided that I wanted this to be stash-busting instead of a reason to go shopping.  The apple, diaper pins, and beach flannel on the right and the penguin in the middle were all leftover pieces.  The Sesame Street on the upper left was purchased for making crib sheets for the local pregnancy center years ago, but obviously I never got around to using that particular flannel.  And the fall leaves on the left and polka dots on the top are both flannel sheets from the thrift store.  They were purchased to become PJ pants, but that hadn't happened yet, so I sacrificed them for this.

Now it turns out I have another pregnant cousin who is thinking about cloth diapering, so I'll send her some of these.  Maybe 2 dozen.  But Cousin #1 gets the rest, because I know that she'll cloth diaper. ;)

And since I was on a roll, I also cut the fall sheet into cloth napkins for an early Christmas present for another friend.  I decided that the casual fabric should mean a casual finish, so these are also serged with slightly rounded corners.  I got ten napkins out of the queen sized sheet, plus a half dozen or so cloth wipes.  Not bad!  Hooray for stash-busting!

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Green" party bags

For Thing 1's birthday party, I bought paper gift bags that I customized with printed tags.  For Thing 2's birthday party, I decided that I would rather sew reusable cloth bags that hopefully would be useful later for holding treasures.  Of course, I came up with this brilliant idea somewhat at the last minute, so they had to be easy-peasy.

Hancock Fabrics had their relatively cheap broadcloth on sale, so I had Thing 2 pick out four colors.  His brother helped, and together they chose green, blue, red, and orange.  Nice, bright colors!  I was concerned that the fabric would be too thin to be really sturdy for bags, so I chose plain muslin to line them.  That also meant that I didn't have to worry about seam finishes. ;)  

These are very simple bags: basically, the linings were squares with squares cut out of the bottom corners for boxing them.  For the outer fabrics, I added an inch and a half in length for folding over the tops to the inside and covering the top edge of the lining.  I could have simply sewed them right sides together and then turned them right sides out, but that would have meant handsewing an opening shut in the lining.  I didn't want to deal with that, and I wanted to try this.  The raw edges of the handles were tucked under the outer fabric, when it was folded to the inside (does that make sense?), and then stitched in place when I stitched next to the fold on the inside.  Then I folded the handles back up over the top of the bag and topstitched around the top of the bag.  So that stitching also holds the handles in place.  I would have done an "X" over where the handles attach if I thought these bags would be used for really heavy treasures.  But given the size of the bags (I think they ended up something like 7 inches wide, 9 inches tall, and 4 inches deep.), I didn't think that they'd ever have to hold anything too heavy.

I hadn't figured out the sizes for the bags when I bought the fabric (brilliant, huh?), so I bought 1.5 yards of each color broadcloth and then 6 yards of muslin.  In the end, that gave me 3 of each color bag, plus some leftover of each color.  I have probably half the muslin left, because I could get 3 lining pieces to fit on it width-wise.  (Of course, then we ended up having only four kids at the party, due to illness and scheduling conflicts, so now I have eight bags stashed in my gift stash.)  I thought that this project turned out really well, and I do hope that the kids have been using their gift bags for books/toys/whatever.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wacky Creatures

Wow!  I really have been horrible this summer about posting.  Oops!  Guess it's time to play catch-up.  Well, this is a project that was finished over a month ago.  I have had the pattern (McCall 5826) for a long time - I know that I had it before we moved, so it's been at least 1.5 years.  Sadly, I had traced it before the move, intending to make some wacky snuggly creatures for the monsters for Christmas then, but obviously didn't do so!  The Pattern Stash Contest on PR prompted me to finally get around to making these up last month.

I had originally intended to use interlock from stash for these, just to make them softer and more snuggly.  Well, I still used stash, but these are batik-type cotton prints that I've had long enough to have forgotten where/when I got them.  The bonus is that Thing 1's favorite color is green, and Thing 2's is orange.  So this worked out well!  

The pattern has tons of options to customize your creature - two basic body shapes, and then different shapes/lengths of limbs, ears, etc.  There are also different options for facial features.  You do have to trace this pattern - I always trace mine, but here it's absolutely necessary - in order to put the chosen options together and have a pattern to cut.  Once you do that, it's a simple matter of cutting two pieces - front and back are identical.  Put your facial features on, sew around the sides, turn right side out, stuff, and sew your opening shut.  Voila!  Wacky creature!

The creature is a little larger than the picture looks - mine are about 13 inches tall and 12 inches wide (depends on arms).  Still a good size for a kid to hug.  The only quibble that I have with the instructions was that, despite telling you to put on most facial features before sewing front/back together (good!), they tell you to sew the eyes on after stitching front/back together (bad!).  They do take a LOT of stuffing, so keep that in mind if you make one.  Oh, and I machine stitched the lines for the teeth, and I used top-stitching thread for it.  I thought that made them stand out more.

All in all, these were fun to stitch up.  My boys loved them, though they have not so far become favorites.  However, they've only had them a month, and their favorites tend to rotate.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Continuing the theme....

Still making baby presents, though this is for a different baby. ;)  A friend from grad school is expecting her first baby, a girl.  While I wouldn't mind making her a diaper bag, I'm concerned that I really don't know her taste well enough to invest the time/money in a bag that she may dislike but can't exchange.  Instead, I decided to make her a diaper clutch, which is available as a free tutorial/pattern from A Beginner's Needle.

It's an ingenious idea - a small diaper bag, just big enough for the bare necessities for a short outing, with an attached changing pad.  If I'd known about this when my monsters were in diapers, I'd have probably made one for myself!  I thought this was so cool that I cut two out at once - though I've only sewn one up so far....

I used a pretty cotton print from my stash as the outer fabric and interfaced it with a relatively stiff interfacing.  The lining is a white PUL from JAF, originally intended to become wetbags for my cousin, but I hadn't cut or stitched those yet, so....I'll get more PUL later!  This is the closed version, with a hard travel wipes case and two T5 pullups in the pocket.  I did change the closure from the recommended velcro to snaps.  Here, I've used two snaps, though I'm thinking about doing four (in two rows) in the future, to make it more adjustable for when the pocket is more or less stuffed.  We'll see....

And this is the clutch partly (mostly) open.  It's so long that I decided to photograph it like this, rather than trying to find something else to stand on so that I could get the entire piece in one picture.  Yes, I'm lazy....Anyway, you can see that the pocket is fairly substantial.  Even with the wipes case and two T5 pullups in it, I still would have had room for a wetbag and a tube of diaper cream or something similar in it.  (For those who cloth diaper, I think you could get at least one diaper, a few cloth wipes, a wet bag, and some diaper cream in there, assuming that it's packed carefully and not haphazardly crammed in.)  There is fusible fleece in the center of the changing pad, which should aid in baby's comfort during changes.  The outer thirds of the changing pad fold in, before the pad is folded up from the bottom to then go over the pocket.  The top flap comes down to fasten it closed.

This really is a pretty cool idea!  I was pretty pleased with it when I got it finished last night.  And I showed it to my DH, who really liked it!  (The man is not stingy with compliments, but he doesn't exactly throw them around, either.  So when he says something is a really good idea, he means it!)  Useful and practical, yet pretty.  And of course it's machine washable, which is even better!.

Anyway, I would totally make this again.  I need more PUL before I can make the next one, but once I get it, I'll make the next one for my cousin (as well as her wetbags).  And then I want to make at least one more, for another pregnant cousin.  After that, I'll keep it in mind as more friends get pregnant....

Friday, June 22, 2012

A diaper bag that doesn't look like a diaper bag

My sister-in-law's birthday was earlier this month, and I wanted to make her a diaper bag.  I've had Amy Butler's Nappy Bag pattern for years - ever since Thing 2 was a baby - but I've never made it.  Silly me!  Anyway, I decided months ago to make this for my SIL, and I even bought the fabric months ago!  (The lining fabric was the last to be purchased, and I bought that in January.  So it really has been months!)  But you know how things lose your steam, and then it doesn't seem urgent, blah blah blah.  And in my case, it was partly that I'd already given her a ton of baby stuff, and I wasn't so sure that she would appreciate this, so I just ended up putting it on the back burner.  But since I'd already purchased the fabric, I figured I'd have to get to it eventually, and eventually turned out to be just in time for her birthday.

One of the things that I really like about this pattern is that the bag doesn't necessarily look like a diaper bag, as long as you don't choose fabrics that scream "diaper bag."  With that in mind, I chose a rich black Kona cotton for the outer fabric, figuring that though it will attract lint and such, it is fully machine washable, and she could feel good using this anywhere.  (Because I used a black cotton, I made sure to get black canvas for the interlining.)  It is BIG!  I don't remember the final dimensions, but the upper part of the main front piece is 21 inches or so wide.  So lots of room to put stuff....

This cell phone pocket is a really neat idea, though I reworked it.  As explained in the instructions, the pocket is smaller and goes higher up, on the strap part.  It should also be closed with velcro, but I don't like velcro for things that get washed frequently.  I had read reviews that cautioned that the cell phone pocket would not fit some smartphones, so I texted my brother to get my SIL's cell phone info, then used the phone specs to redraft the pocket.

Because I wanted to use snaps instead, I interfaced the entire pocket, as well as interfacing both sides of the flap.  And because of the size, I had to move it down onto the main piece in order for it to fit.  But this should be much more functional for her now.

The lining fabric is geared toward my SIL's taste.  She loves horses, and when I first saw this fabric, I thought it'd be perfect.  However, at $10/yard (though I did end up buying it on 50% off), I texted a photo to my brother to make sure it was good.  He thought she'd love it, so I stalked the JAF sales flyer until I was able to use a 50% off coupon.

The "circles" are to show the topstitching along the top of the pocket, along with the stitching lines that divide the pockets into thirds.  I'm very happy with how well I matched up the print on both pockets!  And I just used black cotton for the other side of the pockets.  No sense wasting $10/yd fabric, right?  And between the three pockets on each side and the large space in the center, this bag should hold a lot!

One addition I made was to put in a D-ring on one side, about the level of the top of the pockets.  This is to be used with the (not pictured) key leash I made, using more of the lining fabric and two dark swivel hooks.  With a bag this size, it's just not going to be easy to find your keys unless they're attached somewhere!  (And my SIL has already told me that she loves this feature!)

All in all, I really like how the bag turned out.  It was simple to make, and I love that you can make a completely launderable diaper bag that is customized to the recipient's taste and doesn't have to scream "diaper bag!"  That said, I will not be making this again unless I know the recipient well enough to really know their taste.  I bought everything for this bag on decent sales (at least 40% off), but I still have at least $40 in it, without even considering my time.  I think it's totally worth it - don't get me wrong!  But since it's nonreturnable, I wouldn't put that much into a baby gift if I wasn't sure that the new mother was going to like the fabric choices.  But if I needed a diaper bag again, I'd totally make it in a heartbeat.  (Though I would consider adding a couple of snaps or magnetic closures so that I didn't dump everything out when I set it down....)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Oversized denim bag

So I was thinking about what to do for an upcoming birthday gift, when I looked through a Linky Thursday post from Stacy Sews.  And there I saw it: the Hobo/Sling Bag tutorial from Morning by Morning Productions. And I thought, cool!  That looks like a fun yet practical gift!  I really wanted to find a long leather skirt to make one in leather (as she does in part 2), but no such luck was with me during the thrift store hunt.  Alas....maybe later.  I'll keep an eye out in the future.  But until then, the long denim skirts would have to do.  This one was made from a denim skirt that looked like those skirts that are made by splitting the inseams of jeans, then adding some fabric in the middle.  I don't think it was actually made that way, judging by the consistency of the thread color throughout the entire skirt - I just think it was made to look like those, which is why there's the diagonal seam in the lower right.

I cut off the waistband to help the skirt lie flatter, also removing the zipper fly - I have a friend who reuses old but working jeans zippers and wants to use the belt loops in a project, so I'm saving those for her.  I removed the back pockets and the coin pocket, then folded the skirt so that I could cut each piece on a fold.  Before sewing the pieces together, I stitched the pockets back onto the bag but in more useful places.  I couldn't find rivets I liked, so I ended up with decorative flower eyelets.  (They'll also show up on the next one - the smallest packet I could find had 50 pairs.)
The "lining" was made from a striped sheet I found months ago at the thrift store.  I was thinking originally of boy PJ pants from this - but there's plenty left, I think.  There's no mention made of interfacing, but I decided that since I don't know what will go in the pockets, it would be best to use some lightweight interfacing over the back of the lining piece.  It doesn't cover the entire piece - just a few inches around the pocket.  I managed to line up the stripes on the pocket really well on this side - not so much on the other. ;) I really like how it turned out, though!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A little gift sewing....

Thing 1 had a birthday party to attend a few weeks ago, and his friend loves lizards!  We looked in vain for some sort of a stuffed lizard for him, and then Thing 1 thought that a pillowcase would be fine.  Then we searched in vain in the fabric stores for a suitable fabric - I know I've seen cute lizard fabric in the not too distant past! - and came home to find the perfect flannel print and coordinating solid in my stash.  Go figure!  I made this up the night before the party, and both the boy and his mom loved it!
And one of my friends was having a birthday, and she's expressed interest in the past for using cloth grocery bags.  I know that she hasn't gotten around to making herself any, so I thought that would be a perfect gift for her birthday!  (As well as using up some of my stash....)  The outer fabric is a wine labels print that I picked up on clearance at JAF years ago.  The lining is the same fabric, but on a tan background.  I think it's pretty hilarious for grocery sacks.  Hopefully she likes them!
And I realize this one isn't sewing, but it's pretty darn cute!  Thing 1 loves penguins, so I found a penguin cake mold at Amazon.  This is the prototype for his birthday party cake.  It didn't take too long to decorate, partly thanks to the large white belly.  And it's a smaller cake - doesn't use the whole box mix.  I think I'll have two for the party.  Anyway, Thing 1 loved it!