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.)