Category: Sewing

an adorable stuffed penguin

handmade penguin

Isn’t this the cutest penguin you’ve ever seen?! I bought the pattern for this penguin back in November, intending to give it as a Christmas gift. Then life got busyI set aside the half-finished penguin, and I ordered a set of Melissa and Doug blocks* instead. I recently realized that spring was on its way, so I set a new goal of finishing the penguin before all the snow melts!

I finished sewing this penguin last night, and when my two-year-old walked into my crafting area this morning and saw the penguin sitting on a shelf, he laughed the sweetest little giggle as he ran to pick it up. As I write this, that brave little penguin is getting a first-hand look at what exactly Ethan does in his bedroom when he’s supposed to be napping.

This is the second stuffed animal I’ve sewn (the black sheep was my first), so I felt a bit more confident heading into this project. One sewing tip I’ve learned from the pattern designer, Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps, is the value of placing pins really close together when aligning curves. She recommends placing the pins 1/4″ apart, and while it may look a little crazy, it kept everything in place while I sewed.

pinning fleece on a curve

This year I’ve been blogging less than ever and pouring my creative energy into Instagram, but I think I’m ready to get back into the swing of blogging again. So to those of you who still follow my blog — thanks for sticking around! Good things are coming.

* Setting aside the half-finished penguin and buying those Melissa and Doug blocks for Ethan (who had just turned two) was the best decision ever. He plays with them every single day.

Note: links may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I make a tiny commission at no additional cost to you.

DIY draft stopper

draft stopper

In the back of one of our closets, there is a small door that leads to our “attic.” On the other side of that little door you’ll find Christmas decorations, bins full of clothes the kids have outgrown, and a million or so cardboard boxes that I’m hoarding saving. There’s a small gap at the bottom of the door, and during the winter, there’s usually a quilt or blanket shoved up against the door to keep the cold air out.

This winter I’ve been using a mattress cover that was sitting nearby that I’ve been meaning to fold and put away. Classy.

So after four years of blocking the cold air with whatever was handy, I finally dug into my fabric stash and made a proper draft stopper.

draft stopper

The black and white striped fabric is from IKEA. I made the fabric tube 6″ in diameter, and cut it several inches longer than the width of the door. At each end of the tube, I folded the edges of the fabric to the inside of the tube, then folded and pinched it together a lot like a milk carton. After I sewed the first end shut, I used a funnel to fill the tube, and then stitched up the other end.

If you search for “draft stopper” or “draft dodger” to get ideas for making your own, you’ll find that a lot of people fill them with rice, or maybe kitty litter. I didn’t feel good about using anything that might possibly attract rodents, so I filled the draft stopper with poly pellets. Poly pellets are tiny plastic beads that can be used to fill bean bags, make weighted stuffed animals, or… fill draft stoppers.

I bought a 32-oz. bag of poly pellets (I purchased mine at Joann) and still have a quarter to a third of the bag left. But the door to our attic is narrower than a standard door, so if you’re making a full-size draft stopper, a 32-oz. bag would probably be enough. (But no promises! I didn’t actually try it.)

I’m so glad to finally have a proper draft stopper to block the cold air. And it’s so much better than stuffing a blanket into place with my toes…

Note: Links are affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and make a purchase, I make a tiny commission at no additional cost to you.

stuffed patchwork ball made with English paper piecing

stuffed patchwork ball made with English paper piecing

If you’ve ever seen English paper piecing and immediately concluded that it’s a good project for your grandma, perhaps this stuffed patchwork ball will change your mind.

It changed mine.

I had heard of English paper piecing occasionally over the years, but for the longest time I had no idea what it was, and didn’t think it sounded interesting enough to find out. When I finally realized what English paper piecing was, all of the projects I saw looked too old-fashioned for my taste, and I never considered trying it. (Just do a Google image search for “English paper piecing” and you’ll see what I mean.)

For those of you who don’t know, English paper piecing is a method of quilting in which you use a paper template to easily sew a precise geometric shape with fabric, most often a hexagon. The shapes are then stitched together to make a quilt, a table runner, or other decorative item.


English paper piecing pentagons

In August, I saw a tutorial for a patchwork ball on the While She Naps blog. It had never occurred to me that English paper piecing could be used to make a three-dimensional toy for a young child, but I immediately knew that I wanted to make one with modern colors.

Later that same day, I plunked down six bolts of flannel on the cutting counter at JoAnn Fabrics. “That’s a great color combination,” said the younger of the two women behind the counter, her tone of voice indicating that she could hardly believe I found those colors on their shelves. I bought just four inches of each color for a whopping total of $2.52, and could probably make half a dozen balls with that fabric.

stack of brightly-colored flannel

My favorite time to work on a new project is ASAP, so I washed, dried, and pressed my fabric that night. The next day I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut out a dozen little card stock pentagons and started sewing.

I followed this video tutorial for the basting, but instead of lightly gluing the template to the fabric, I first punched two holes in each template and stuck a pin through them to hold the template in place just until the fabric was cut and basted. The basting was quick and easy, and I could have created fabric shapes all day. Seriously, I LOVED basting all those little fabric pentagons.

English paper piecing pentagons

English paper piecing typically uses hexagons, but by using pentagons instead, this project becomes three-dimensional when the sides are joined together. (And if you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh, it’s a stuffed dodecahedron!” you’re in good, nerdy company…)

English paper piecing -- patchwork ball assembly

Stitching the pentagons together is where I got bogged down, since there are 30 seams to sew, and I actually set the project aside for a couple months. Last Friday night I invited some friends over for a bring-your-own-craft night, and this was the perfect project to work on while we sat around chatting and eating pumpkin bars.

However, I want to be clear that flannel is NOT the ideal fabric for this project. I was pretty sure of that before I even bought it, but I went ahead and tried it, and now I know for sure. Flannel is soft and cozy, but it has a looser weave than regular cotton fabric, so the stitches that join the shapes together are more visible. However, my hand-stitching is far from perfect, so someone with more experience would probably have better results.  You can’t really see the stitches in the photo above, but once the ball is stuffed, they’re definitely visible in the finished product.

English paper piecing -- patchwork ball

The paper templates stay in until you have stitched around all five sides of a shape. Then you can just stick the tip of your scissors or a pin in one of the little holes and pop it out, since none of the stitches go through the paper.

The sides of my pentagons are just 1.5″ long, so I probably should have left two sides open prior to stuffing instead of one to make it easier to turn right side out. The basting stitches stay in and are not visible from the right side of the project.

English paper piecing -- patchwork ball inside out

You could definitely just use your fingers to push the stuffing into place, but since my opening was so small, I was glad for the hemostats I bought a few months ago when I made the stuffed sheep.

stuffing a patchwork ball made with English paper piecing

I stuffed the ball until it seemed full and then I stuffed it some more, because I wanted it to bounce and not be too squishy and floppy.

patchwork ball made with English paper piecing

Ta-da! There’s my first English paper piecing project. I wish my imperfect stitches weren’t quite so visible, but overall I love how the ball turned out. I made it with my toddler in mind, but I’ve seen all three of my kids kicking and throwing it inside the house this week…

Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

stuffed sheep

I feel so lucky that we live just a mile or so down the road from a farm with sheep. And my 17-month-old little boy is pretty lucky that his mama takes the time to stop the van and visit the sheep with him several times a week. Ethan hangs on the fence and says “baa!” over and over, and if the sheep come close enough, we feed them dandelions.

visiting the sheep

When I stumbled across a free pattern for an adorable stuffed sheep, I knew immediately that I wanted to sew one for Ethan. The pattern is by Abby Glassenberg, who designs and sells patterns for stuffed animals and writes a blog called While She Naps. I binge-read her blog when I discovered it a few weeks ago, and I was so inspired by her transparency and authenticity in her posts about blogging and running a creative business. Abby’s cute Baa, Baa, Black Sheep pattern is available for free at Sew Mama Sew.

stuffed sheep

Abby made her sheep with faux fur, which looked a bit more wooly, but I just used regular fleece to make my soft and snuggly sheep. The sheep came together pretty quickly and easily, but the trickiest part of the process was embroidering the features on the sheep’s face, mostly because I didn’t know how to successfully trace the stitching lines onto the fleece, but also because I simply found it hard to embroider on fleece.

stuffed sheep

I bought a couple hemostats on Amazon for just $3.59 with free shipping, and they were an extremely helpful tool for turning the legs and tail right side out and later stuffing the finished sheep. Honestly, I’m not sure how I would have gotten those little legs turned without them. Ethan picked up the legs when they were still inside out, and thought they were socks. (dock! dock!) I’m sure I’ll use the hemostats for other future projects, so I’m very glad I bought them.

stuffed sheep

Several friends of mine are expecting babies this year and I’m thinking about sewing up a few more of these sheep as gifts for the new little ones. I rarely make more than one of anything I sew, but I might have to make an exception for this adorable little sheep.

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. However, links to products on Amazon are affiliate links, which means if you order them, I make a teeny tiny commission.

numbered felt bean bags

numbered bean bags

Probably every mom with a sewing machine has made bean bags for her kids. Am I right? This project certainly isn’t original, but these brightly colored felt bean bags were fun to make — and even more fun to show Ethan when he woke up from his two-hour (!!!)  morning nap.

numbered bean bags

I followed this tutorial for tracing and cutting out my felt numbers, and it was so easy! Then I stitched the numbers on, sewed and filled the beanbags, and did a surprisingly fun photo shoot. I couldn’t stop arranging the bean bags in new ways!

The bags are made from 4×4-inch squares, and the font I used for the numbers is Berlin Sans FB Demi Bold. If you want to make your own, you can download and print this PDF to use as the pattern for your numbers.

numbered bean bags

The ideas for games and activities we can do with these bean bags are endless. Of course my two school-age step-children will do different things with them than my 11-month-old son will, but I’m eager to see what they all come up with.

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags

numbered bean bags



denim quilt made from old jeans

denim quilt made from old jeans

I love this quilt. It’s made from old jeans and backed with fleece, so it’s pretty much the coziest quilt ever. And even though the overall design is rather simple, the hand stitching is my favorite part, and I’m pretty proud of how it turned out.

Last fall I chopped up a bunch of old jeans that had previously been worn by me, my husband, and my mother-in-law. I decided to make a brick pattern quilt, so I cut out lots of rectangles and a few squares. The finished size of each rectangle is 4×8″, and the overall finished size of the quilt is about 58×67″. The size of the rectangles was determined by what I thought would be an efficient use of the denim, and the size of the quilt was determined by the width of the fleece backing!

denim quilt brick pattern

Stitching the quilt top together was a quick process that only took me one evening, but then I put the project on hold for about a year — not because I had a baby, but because I couldn’t decide how I wanted to quilt it or knot it!

I considered lots of ideas for stitching the top to the bottom, but none of them seemed right. Regular quilting was out of the question because denim is too thick. Machine quilting using the “stitch in the ditch” technique seemed too visually boring, and machine stitching in anything but a straight line would have been very difficult due to the bulk of the fabric. Knotting it seemed too casual — even for a quilt made out of jeans.

A light bulb finally went off in my head when I realized I didn’t have to follow the quilting “rules.” I could do whatever I wanted to! So the decorative stitching on the quilt does NOT connect the denim to the fleece — it’s only on the denim layer. I used crochet cotton to make long running stitches in a stairs pattern, which breaks up the brick look and creates a bit of a chevron effect.

denim quilt with hand stitching

I knotted the fleece to the denim with the knots to the BACK so they don’t show up at all on the front. There are 42 knots in a grid at the intersections of the rectangles. There are six knots going across and seven going down, but I didn’t take a picture that shows the placement.

I made a nice wide binding (about 1.5 inches), sewed it on, and thought I was finished, but the binding looked too plain. Also, the binding was so wide that I was afraid it wouldn’t lay flat after it was washed or heavily used, and I thought the mitered corners would eventually not look crisp. So I used the same white crochet cotton to stitch three rows of running stitches in the binding. Only the row closest to the denim goes through all the layers — the other two rows only go through the fleece and the binding.


I listened to several episodes of This American Life while I stitched the binding, and it was time well spent. The detailed stitching on the binding is the perfect finishing touch.

denim quilt with hand-stitched binding

Calling this a “quilt” sounds too fancy for something so cozy, so I usually just refer to it as the “denim blanket.” Whatever you call it, I put it to the test last night when we went on a hay ride in 35-degree weather, and I’m pleased to say that I was nice and toasty!

crib skirt for an IKEA Sundvik crib

crib skirt for IKEA Sundvik crib

Little by little, Ethan’s bedroom is coming together… at least in my head! Progress is slow because I’m a DIYer to the core and want to make everything myself — bedding, curtains, art, and even furniture upholstery. Are you the same way?

Ethan sleeps in an IKEA Sundvik crib, which has solid panels on the ends, rather than slats. I wanted the crib skirt to come down just to the bottom of the frame, and since one side of the crib faces the wall, I could get away with using just a single rectangle of fabric for the skirt. So it’s more like a crib “apron” than a crib skirt, and since I didn’t want any ruffles or pleats, this was the easiest sewing project ever.

crib skirt for IKEA Sundvik crib


1/2 yd. fabric (54″ wide) OR 1 1/2 yd. (42″ wide)
packing tape


1. Hem the fabric on all four sides so that it measures 52.5 x 16.5 inches.

2. Tape it to the crib with clear packing tape. Nobody will know!

crib skirt for IKEA Sundvik crib

I wanted fabric that would just blend into the background and not compete with other fabrics in the room, so I chose white broadcloth, which is nice and heavy and not too see-through. Many fabrics are just 42 inches wide, but I lucked out with 54-inch-wide fabric, and thanks to a coupon, I spent just $2.40 on this simple crib skirt.

crib skirt for IKEA Sundvik crib

My next project will be reupholstering the chair that sits in the corner of the room next to the window. I already have the fabric — I just need to find the courage!

DIY baby gym

handmade baby gym

A few weeks ago, I noticed that Ethan was starting to focus more intently on objects that were dangled in front of him. He loves to lie down on the floor and kick his chubby legs, and he was ready for a more interactive environment.

So I made a baby gym.

Obviously, it would have been easier to just buy one, but it was much more fun to create my own. I had complete control over the design and color scheme AND it was cheaper than buying one — even with the purchase of snap pliers. I scoured the internet for inspiration and then loosely followed this tutorial.

The baby gym I made is basically a very simple 35×35″ pieced quilt with tabs sewn onto the corners for covered hula hoops to snap onto. This makes it easy to remove the arches to wash, store, or transport the mat. And when we’re finished using it as a baby gym, I can just rip out the stitches that attach the tabs to the mat, and it will just be a simple little quilt again.

handmade baby gym tab with snap

I did invest in a set of KAM snap pliers for this project, and this was my first time working with plastic snaps. Setting the snaps was SO easy, and it made me want to create lots of items that require snaps. If you live locally and you ever want to borrow my snap pliers, I’d be glad to let you use them.

Each arch on the baby gym has five ribbon loops for hanging toys, and I bought a pack of 24 plastic links for just a few bucks. To hold the two arches together at the top, I sewed a long strip of fabric with half of a snap set on each end. Then I just twisted it around like I was tying ribbon onto a gift upside down: center the fabric strip underneath the two arches, bring the ends up to the top and criss-cross them, then pull the ends down to the bottom and snap them together underneath.

handmade baby gym arch connector

Ethan is three and a half months old, and spends lots of time wiggling, rolling around, and kicking and batting at toys in the baby gym. Happy baby, happy mama!

handmade baby gym


yellow, green, and polka dot fabrics: JoAnn Fabric and Craft Stores
blue fabric: Walmart
hula hoops: Dollar Store
snap pliers and snaps: KAM Snaps via Amazon
plastic links: Amazon (also available at Walmart)
butterfly and turtle toys: received as gifts
cute baby: not available for purchase

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I enjoy the product enough to share and recommend it. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, I receive a small commission. The opinions expressed here are always my own.

a little tote bag for a little man

Back in December, just ten days after he became a big brother, Hayden suddenly decided one Sunday morning that the tote bag he always took to church was too childish. He was pretty insistent that he could just carry his Bible, activity books, and writing tools in his arms, but I somehow convinced him to keep using the old tote bag with the promise of a new one soon.

He didn’t know this, but when the mother of a newborn uses the word “soon,” she might mean “in six weeks.

Last week I bought four feet of royal blue nylon webbing at JoAnn Fabric to match some canvas-like fabric I already had on hand. And on Saturday night while the kids were getting their baths, I sewed up a little blue tote bag.

canvas tote bag

Hayden told us that the Phillies wallet and Angry Birds watch we gave him for Christmas made him feel “like a man” (he’s six!), so hopefully this little blue tote bag also makes him feel like a little man.

all in the details: a gray flannel pillowcase

gray flannel pillowcase with topstitching

As much as I love making things, I usually don’t want my creations to look like they’re obviously “homemade.” I’m realizing that often the difference between an item that looks homemade and something that’s handmade is all in the details.

Friday night found me sitting at my sewing machine, stitching up a cozy flannel pillowcase. I’ve fallen in love with the color gray, but I thought a gray pillowcase might look too boring without a little something special added to it. Fortunately my sewing machine has a nice reinforced straight stitch that basically makes two stitches right next to each other. So I just finished off my plain gray pillowcase with three rows of white topstitching, and it made all the difference in the world.

gray flannel pillowcase with topstitching

a better ironing board cover

We needed a new ironing board cover for longer than I’d like to admit. (I say “we” because my very patient husband irons far more often than I do!) We didn’t like any of the options we found available for purchase, so I decided to make one. But I kept putting it off because I had never made one before and therefore I was afraid it wouldn’t turn out as well as I hoped.

Turns out it was a valid concern.

measuring for ironing board cover

sewing on white bias tape

On Saturday I decided to tackle the project I was dreading. It actually started off well, but I stopped taking pictures when the process became frustrating. The end result isn’t as perfect as I imagined, but it looks just fine — and it’s a million times better than the one that it replaced.

neutral ironing board cover

It’s probably the world’s most boring ironing board cover, but you know what? It works and it’s done. Finally.

[In September, I’m choosing to finally do things that I planned to do someday. You can see the whole list of projects here.]

a purple birthday party

Stars, sparkles, and purple all came together for a fun birthday party for our sweet nine-year-old. Magen’s favorite cake is angel food, which means I didn’t have to attempt any fancy cake decorating (hooray!), but it did add the challenge of coming up with an interesting cake topper. Last year I just used tall spiral candles, but this year I made some sparkly stars with her name (which should have been higher up).

That’s not a custom metal topper — I just cut her name out of card stock with my X-Acto knife and painted it silver. (The font is Japan, which is a nice thick cursive font.)

Magen wanted to do some of the same activities this year that I had planned for her party last year, including a photoshoot with a giant number and a water balloon fight.

She also requested another treasure hunt, so this year I came up with various activities that would each reveal a clue about where to look for the next clue. It was somewhat complicated to get it all planned out, but also very fun. The girls played charades, Wheel of Fortune, balloon darts, and other games. I didn’t have a Wheel of Fortune game, and couldn’t seem to track one down among any of my friends, so I made my own (of course). I just taped little pieces of paper over the letters written on a chalkboard, and the girls took turns spinning a little spinner to win another Starburst before they guessed a letter.

The girls also enjoyed hitting water balloon piñatas, an idea from Scrap Happy Heather that I discovered via Pinterest. I hung the balloons from a rope tied between two trees, and the girls took turns whacking the balloons with a bat. With a camera in my hand, I made sure I stayed out of the splash zone!

At the end of the treasure hunt, the girls found drawstring goody bags full of fun little trinkets that almost made me wish I were a nine-year-old again.

project: sixteen zippers – number 1

Little girls look so sweet in sundresses with ruffles, and Magen is no exception. This black and white dress is the first garment I sewed for project: sixteen zippers — an effort to use up the zippers I have been accumulating in my sewing stash. I finished it up just in time for Magen to wear it for Easter a few weeks ago.

I love the fabric the skirt is made out of. The white-on-white stitched floral pattern gives the skirt texture and interest without making the dress look too busy.

One down, fifteen to go!

vinyl foot

Way back in September 2010, a very tiny miracle occurred, but I didn’t realize it until Monday evening. When I sat down at my sewing machine with some fabric and a square of vinyl, I was amazed to realize that I just happened to have the absolute best tool for the job. I mean, I knew I had it, but I had no idea just how much I would need and appreciate it!

You see, one September evening, I bought a sewing machine that came with nine different presser feet. (For those of you who don’t sew, a presser foot is the part of the sewing machine that lightly clamps down and holds the fabric against the feed dogs, which pull the fabric through as you sew.) It doesn’t seem like you’d need a lot of different kinds, right? My previous machine only had two presser feet — a regular foot and a zipper foot — and I never felt like I needed more, so these seven extra presser feet seemed like an unnecessary bonus.

Then again, I had never tried to sew vinyl. A regular presser foot would tend to stick to the vinyl and grab on to it as it gets pulled through the machine, causing the seam to get all bunched up. But a non-stick glide foot? Perfection.

You can’t see it in the picture, but the bottom side of this plastic presser foot has a special coating that allows it to glide right over the vinyl. It’s designed specifically for sewing foam, vinyl, plastic, or leather, and technically it’s called a “non-stick glide foot,” but since I’ve only used it for vinyl so far, I like to call it my vinyl foot.

I never had an excuse to sew vinyl until this week, when I was making a drawstring bag to hold a game that Magen created for a school project. We wanted to have the name of the game on the outside of the bag, but instead of having her decorate the bag with fabric markers, I offered to attach a drawing to the bag by enclosing it behind a vinyl window.

Ta-da! It worked out exactly as I hoped.

Here’s the whole bag, just for perspective.

And here’s a detail shot, just because I like neat rows of stitching.

Have you ever sewn vinyl? Did you have a special presser foot for your machine, or did you just cover the bottom of your regular foot with a layer of scotch tape? Most importantly: have you ever gotten this excited about a presser foot?!

project: sixteen zippers // finally getting started

Shortly after the new year began, I eagerly kicked off project: sixteen zippers when I discovered that my stash of sewing notions contains sixteen brand new zippers that deserve good homes in wearable garments.

Several months later, I’ve finally started on the first one — a dress made of black, white, and black and white fabric. (Oxford comma, how I love thee.) So tonight I’ve been cutting…


and keeping my fingers crossed that the dress will fit the sweet girl who’s sound asleep upstairs.

tiny tote bag for an American Girl doll

The American Girl doll who lives in our house seems to be acquiring more new clothes and accessories than I am these days. Now she can carry all of her daily essentials in this snazzy little tote bag. Purple floral fabric isn’t my personal style, so it was fun to use a bit of it to sew a tiny tote bag for Mia.

(For the record, I used the tote bag pattern included in McCalls M5775, but I used braiding that is wider than specified, so I had to fold it in half to feed it through the casing.)

project: sixteen zippers

I never intended to start a zipper collection.

When I buy a zipper, I purchase a specific length in a specific color to go with specific fabric for a specific garment or project. Sometimes I end up not sewing the item I envisioned. It happens, right? Yes. But in my life, it happens too often. Somehow, over the past decade, I have bought 16 zippers that I have never removed from their packaging. Sixteen!

In my defense, about half of those have been purchased in the past year, and I still have every intention of making the garments that they are intended for. But there are others whose original purpose I can’t even remember. When I discovered recently that I had 16 brand spankin’ new zippers in my stash, I knew it was time to do a little more sewing and a little less shopping at Jo-Ann.

And so, project: sixteen zippers is the story of my accidental zipper collection and the garments they will be sewn into as this little adventure unfolds.

Let’s meet the cast of characters:

The 7-inch zippers are the most predictable and least intimidating, as they are all destined for skirts. They all happen to be very basic colors like black, white, brown, gray, and navy.

The rest of the zippers are a bit more interesting and unexpected. Twelve-inch lilac? Fourteen-inch dark teal? Don’t worry, the three white zippers in this bunch will keep things from getting too crazy. Almost all of these longer zippers were purchased within the past year, and I think all but one are intended for dresses, either for me or for Magen. Dresses make me nervous.

So that’s what I have to work with.

I’m eager to reduce the number of zippers in my accidental collection (and use up some of my fabric stash!) as I work my way through project: sixteen zippers. And of course I’ll be glad to add more skirts and dresses to my wardrobe. I’ll be sure to show you each item as I complete it, but don’t expect frequent progress reports. It’s going to take a while to sew sixteen garments with zippers.

I haven’t decided yet which of the zippers I’ll start with, but ideally, I’d like to be wearing that 14-inch teal zipper in about two weeks. Wish me luck!

(I am not affiliated with Coats and Clark, nor have they compensated me for this publicity. However, if they knew anything about this project, I’m sure they’d want to encourage you to start a zipper collection of your own.)

twelve by 2012: 4 down, 8 to go

My twelve by 2012 list doubles as a holiday to-do list, so it’s fun to be making progress.

On Monday we baked cookies (#1), on Tuesday morning we welcomed our Elf on the Shelf (#2), on Tuesday evening I finished creating my only handmade gift (#9), on Tuesday night I baked mini cookies (#1 again!), and tonight I downloaded A Very She & Him Christmas (#8). Hooray for checking things off while enjoying the holiday season!

The handmade gift I created is for my niece, whose American Girl doll is soon going to be sleeping soundly in a cozy fleece sleeping bag. It’s almost identical to this sleeping bag I made for Magen’s doll a couple months ago, but the lining matches that Pepto Bismol pink color in the flowers.

sleeping bag for American Girl Doll

sleeping bag for American Girl Doll

sleeping bag for American Girl Doll

Also, Zippy (our Elf on the Shelf) had a little surgical procedure done tonight that will make him more bendable, but when the effects of the anesthesia wear off, I’m sure he’ll be feeling more adventurous than ever!

a tiny pink flannel nightgown

Several weeks ago, eight women and girls from our family enjoyed a mother/daughter/grandmother’s daytrip to the American Girl Place in New York City. One week later, I found myself at the fabric store, carefully selecting a variety of fabrics and snatching up a bunch of patterns (McCall’s for a dollar!) to sew some doll clothes.

Don’t be fooled by the miniature clothespins — the tiny flannel nightgown I sewed measures only 11 inches from shoulder to hem. It looks so cozy that I almost wish it were my size, but instead, it’s for an American Girl Doll named Mia who you met back in June.

The pattern I used is McCall’s M6137. I spent a dollar for the pattern and $3.50 for the adorable pink flannel fabric.

This sweet little nightgown is one of my favorite things I’ve ever sewn.

a brightly colored felt pennant bunting

Now that Magen is 8 years + 2 weeks old, I figured it was finally time to get out the ladder today and take down the felt pennant bunting I strung up to celebrate her big day.

To make the bunting, I went to JoAnn Fabric and Crafts and selected four colors of felt in coordinating colors. I bought felt off the bolt, but if you’re making a much smaller bunting, you could just purchase a few small sheets of felt that are available in a wider variety of colors.

I purchased eight inches of felt in four colors — fuchsia, yellow, peacock, and orchid, according to my receipt. The felt was 72 inches wide, and each piece cost me just $1.11. I also bought a couple rolls of ribbon and used a coupon for the purchase, so the total cost of the bunting was $5.06.

Back at home, I laid out the strips of felt and immediately wished I had a rotary cutter. Instead, I made a triangular template out of cardboard (the top was 5″ wide) and used it as my guide for marking the diagonal cutting lines on the felt. I used my good sewing scissors to cut out the triangles, and it really wasn’t too bad.

My final step was to stitch the triangles together by laying a piece of ribbon across the top of the felt triangles and running a straight stitch down the length of the ribbon.

Ta-da! Fifty feet of bunting!

(Too bad I didn’t realize that my photo was a little blurry until after I took down the bunting…)

a very little sundress

I just spent about an hour sewing the cutest little dress I’ve ever made.

If the sundress that Magen’s American Girl Doll is wearing looks familiar, it’s because I made it to look like a dress I sewed for Magen a couple months ago. After I wrap it up and give it to Magen for her birthday next weekend, I’ll take a picture of the dresses together. Meanwhile, shhh! It’s a secret!

new summer dress

This evening I wore a new dress to go out to dinner. This morning it was just one big piece of fabric.

I think the last time I sewed a dress for myself, I was in high school. The dress had big puffy sleeves that I would occasionally adjust so they were perfectly inflated. Thank goodness dresses like that are no longer in style!

The fabric for this dress came from JoAnn Fabric & Crafts. According to the selvedge, it was made “exclusively for JoAnn,” and the fabric has a linen feel. When I bought it, I was a little afraid that the floral print looked too much like a curtain, but now that it’s a dress, it seems less like a window treatment. The pattern is NewLook 6885, and has quite a few different bodice styles, so I’m sure I’ll use this pattern again.

Hooray for a new dress!

the chevron sundress

When I was cleaning up some files and backing up my computer the other day, I was reminded that I haven’t yet posted any photos of the dress I made for Magen to wear on Easter. So… here it is.

I bought the pattern for a dollar when Joann Fabric & Crafts was having a big sale. It’s McCall’s M5574, and it was quite easy. (No armholes! No sleeves! No zipper!) The fabric is a cotton sateen by Lisette, which I had just heard about for the first time a few days before I bought the fabric. I don’t really know anything about designers of fabric, so I was quite surprised to recognize a name! You can see a closeup shot of the fabric way back in this post about our Easter basket treasure hunt.

At the time I bought the fabric, I wasn’t thinking about how tricky it would be to get the chevrons to at least line up a little bit. It’s not perfect, but I was content with the outcome.

Here are a few shots of the front and back of the dress:

I have enough fabric left over to make a matching dress for Magen’s American Girl doll, but somehow I haven’t gotten around to that yet. Hopefully soon!

black and white with a grosgrain hem

Six years ago, I stopped by a fabric store in Rockville, Maryland (in the greater DC area) and bought 7/8 of a yard of fabric to sew into a skirt.

Black and white floral skirts were popular in 2005, and G Street Fabrics had a MUCH better selection of fabrics than I could find in the small fabric stores in my area, so I handed over $8.39 and brought the fabric home.

A couple weeks ago, I decided it was finally time to turn that fabric into a skirt, even though black and white floral skirts are no longer on the cutting edge of fashion. So I sewed most of it, and then ignored it until last evening, when I finished it up. It’s just a simple A-line skirt, but it’s made out of stretch cotton sateen, so it’s a very nice weight. Also, I stitched a black grosgrain ribbon to the hem to spiff it up a bit and make it look a little less homemade.


When I get or make new clothes, I always want to wear them ASAP, so I wore the skirt to church this morning.

P.S. I know you can’t see this, since it’s the internet and all, but I accidentally cut the fabric for the back of the skirt with the print upside down. The floral print is pretty busy, so hopefully people won’t notice, but some of the flowers are definitely directional. At least I got it right on the front!

one little apron

One Sunday evening a few weeks ago, I pulled out a bunch of containers of leftovers from the fridge and started announcing all of the options for dinner. Instead of groaning at the idea of reheated food, Magen thought it seemed like a restaurant. So much selection! Suddenly she wanted to write up menus and take orders, but at that point, I really just wanted to get dinner on the table, so we put her idea on hold for another time.

Fast forward to this past Sunday afternoon, when I went to my fabric stash and pulled out some cute brown fabric with pears on it that I had bought on clearance. After all, if Magen was going to be the waitress for our Sunday evening dinner of leftovers, she needed to be properly attired with a little apron.

After taking a few quick measurements, I made a pattern out of a paper grocery bag and proceeded to make a very simple lined apron. (The colors look better in real life than in this photo.)

While I sewed, Magen wrote out the menu, took orders, and even made a little cardboard sign for the table highlighting the dessert options — {leftover} brownies with ice cream.

Our little waitress had so much fun serving dinner that Hayden now wants an apron too so he can be a waiter. The chef plans to make him one this weekend…

little bags of wooden block puzzles

I hope the short people who received homemade Christmas gifts from me a few weeks ago are having as much fun using them as I had making them. I’m not sure what inspired me to make wooden block puzzles for my kids and three of my nephews, but like usual, I procrastinated on the project and found myself feverishly creating these gifts just a couple days before our gift exchange back in December.

The first step was to sew little muslin drawstring bags for storing the block puzzles. I then painted each child’s initial on the corner of the bag with acrylic paint so they could tell their bags apart.

Sewing the bags was quick and easy, but making the puzzles took MUCH more time. One evening after the kids were in bed, I sat down at the computer and started doing Google image searches for all kinds of fun pictures to put on the puzzles. Since I was making five puzzles with six photos each, I needed up to 30 photos.

The photos needed to be (1) age appropriate, (2) different enough from the other photos on the child’s puzzle, (3) high enough resolution to be usable, and (4) suitable for making a square or rectangular puzzle.

The two older kids received block puzzles that were 3 by 4 cubes (12 blocks total), while the younger kids received 3 by 3 (9-block) puzzles that were a bit easier. I used a few of the images on multiple puzzles, so I ended up with 26 different images.

I printed out my images onto photo paper, then coated the paper with Mod Podge to make it a bit more durable. (Mod Podge is a glue/sealer that you brush on.) The next step was the most tedious. I cut all 30 pictures into 1-inch squares with an x-acto knife and a ruler so I could attach them to the wooden blocks. That’s 306 little 1-inch squares.

Three. Hundred. Six.

I attached the squares to the wooden blocks with Mod Podge, being very careful to stay super-organized so I always knew which squares were destined for which puzzle. I set up a little assembly line and attached one picture to a set of puzzle blocks, then attached one picture to the next set, and so on. Before I attached a new picture to a set of blocks, I made sure to mix up the blocks in that set and turn them all around so that the placement of the little squares was totally random.

It was a tedious process and took much longer than I expected, but I was very happy with the results. Here is one of the 9-block puzzles:

You didn’t know Lightning McQueen was lurking in there, did you? Bonus points if you can figure out what the other five images are in this block puzzle.

I wanted the puzzles to be challenging enough without being so difficult that the kids got frustrated, and I tried to choose trickier pictures for the puzzles for the older kids.

I couldn’t believe how long it actually took me to put this one together!

It was fun to make these wooden block puzzles, and it’s fun to see the kids work on their puzzles (they’re great quiet toys for church!), but I can’t say I’m eager to make another one any time soon!

a little green sparkly skirt

Last Wednesday while Hayden was napping, I pulled some fabric from my stash and sewed a little skirt for Magen. I created my own pattern from a sheet of newspaper (The Philadelphia Inquirer, actually) and it turned out just fine — only because it’s pretty much the simplest skirt ever. Two side seams, a casing for the elastic waistband, and a machine-stitched hem. Magen watched and followed along as I worked, and even fed the elastic through the casing all by herself.

Next time I sew a skirt for her I want to make it a bit more fitted around the hips to reduce some of the fullness while still maintaining some flare, but this was the first time I made clothing for someone other than myself, and considering how quickly I made it, I’m content with the outcome.

The sparkles are fairly subtle, so here is a closeup shot of the fabric.

When I first showed Magen the fabric that afternoon, she said, “Are you sure this is good fabric for a skirt?” I wanted to say, “Actually, it isn’t, because it’s going to wrinkle and I try to avoid ironing,” but instead I just said, “Sure, it’s green and sparkly! It will be cute!” By the time the skirt was finished, she liked it so much that she put it on right over her pants and twirled and danced around the living room.

Magen was so intrigued by the process of making the skirt that I offered to teach HER to sew a skirt sometime in January. When I told her that we would go to the fabric store together so she could pick out the fabric, she said she wanted to get fabric with holly on it.

Holly? This could be interesting…

the happy sleeping bag bag

EXHIBIT A: My cozy Coleman sleeping bag that I bought from a friend for two bucks a few years ago when I stopped by her yard sale late one Saturday morning. Last Sunday evening, when Tim and I were unloading the truck after our trip to Penn State, my sleeping bag that I had so neatly rolled up that morning suddenly fell into disarray, so I decided to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.

EXHIBIT B: My new sleeping bag bag that I sewed up this weekend. All I had to buy were the cording and the cord stop, since I already had the fabric on hand and I’m trying really hard to use up my fabric stash. I also used this project as an excuse to try out one of the many stitches on my fancy new sewing machine — the reinforced straight stitch, which is good for topstitching and reinforcing seams.

EXHIBIT C: My old sleeping bag in its new habitat. Doesn’t it look happy? Well, at least the person who made it is.

fun machine, boring project

My relationship with my sewing machine is a lot like my relationship with my camera. They’re both capable of doing all kinds of fancy things, but I don’t know how to make them do those things. Sad, isn’t it? I bought my camera three and a half years ago, so I have no excuses there, but I just bought the sewing machine three weeks ago, so I’m holding off on doing fancy things while I get the hang of doing basic things in a new way.

My old sewing machine was one my mom picked up at a yard sale, and a few weeks before I moved to PA, it bit the dust. I never knew just how much I relied on having a sewing machine until I didn’t have one, but in the midst of moving and planning a wedding, I didn’t have any extra time to run out and buy a new sewing machine. I really don’t sew all that often, but I still felt a bit handicapped.

As I’ve been settling in to my home here in Pennsylvania, I keep thinking of things that I’d like to sew, so a few weeks ago, I finally went and bought a new sewing machine. My new Husqvarna Viking Emerald 183 is much MUCH fancier than my old machine — it makes way more stitches, it has a whole bunch of presser feet, and it’s electronic. Honestly, it’s a little intimidating.

So what am I sewing with this snazzy new machine? I’m making the most basic projects ever.

Yesterday I wrote about the booster seat covers I made for the kids. Sure, they’re cute and fun, and I even had to make my own pattern, but as far as the actual sewing went, they were very straightforward. The item I made this afternoon was much more simple and infinitely more boring. I almost decided not to show it to you, but I’m writing about it for two reasons: (1) I’m chronicling my progress on my life list and (2) you will never see it in real life.

Well, unless you come to our house, go upstairs to the master bedroom, and step inside our walk-in closet.

Back when I lived alone, I just used a white plastic laundry basket as my clothes hamper, but now that I’m married, we throw our dirty clothes into a nice wicker basket and leave the laundry baskets in the laundry room (something I never had before). However, when I empty the hamper to do laundry, the clothes occasionally get caught on some of the ends of the wicker inside. I’m always afraid that something is going to get damaged, so I set up my sewing machine this afternoon and made a fabric liner for our hamper.

The fabric is some I already had on hand, and in fact, I remember I already had it when I lived in a tiny apartment in Harrisonburg, which means I’ve moved that folded-up fabric to a new home four times.

I was planning to put some elastic around the edge to hold the liner in place, but it turns out that the fabric was exactly the right size, so it just fits taut around the basket. I also considered putting some kind of contrasting fabric trim around the edge, but I decided that it seemed kind of silly to put extra work into something that’s just going to live in our closet.

So here it is — our plain jane fabric hamper liner.

I have no idea what I was originally going to do with the fabric, but I think the linen pairs nicely with the weave of the basket. Unfortunately, I have plenty of other fabric that I bought with good intentions and then never actually sewed up. I recently went through my stash of fabric and put some in a bag for the thrift store. I just couldn’t think of anything I would ever want to make out of it. The rest of the neglected fabric is now neatly organized in a plastic bin. It will be interesting to see what it will become!

cruisin’ with Tinkerbell and Lightning McQueen

Here in Pennsylvania, one of the perks of turning four is that you get to upgrade from a regular car seat to a booster seat. It sounds like such a small thing, but when you’re four, it’s a pretty exciting transition. So last weekend Tim and I went online and found a good deal on a two-pack of Evenflo Big Kid No-back Booster Seats. When they arrived, I immediately took Hayden’s big ol’ car seat out and replaced it with a nice little booster seat (in the foreground of the photo).

Before I became a mom back in July, the backseat of my Subaru rarely carried anything but a gallon of milk and a few bags of groceries. The only things I left in my car were things that were supposed to stay there — sunglasses, phone charger (for all those trips I used to make from VA to PA), reusable grocery bags, a blanket, etc.

But all that changed in July, when I started transporting two cute passengers on a regular basis. Gradually they left more and more things in their wake, and I just sort of ignored it… until last week. One afternoon I got a plastic bag and loaded up a Barbie DVD, dried out wet wipe, empty tin of mints, red convertible Mustang GT, plastic ice cream cone, binoculars, gladware lid, matchbox car, steamroller, shark, seahorse, Clifford book, polar bear eraser, and four tear-out postcards from kids’ magazines. You can’t see all of it in that picture, but trust me, it was all there somewhere.

This is what my back seat looked like after the intervention.

I know, the towels under the booster seats still looked pretty ghetto, but it was oh-so-necessary, especially with the rainy days we’ve been having recently.

But then the sewing machine fairy worked her magic, and now my backseat looks like this:

and this.

Unfortunately there’s no photography fairy. Taking pictures inside the car is hard.

And actually, there’s no sewing machine fairy either… as you can probably tell. I bought the fun fabric at JoAnn for 30% off, and then I sat down at my new sewing machine and got to work. Oh, but first I had to make a pattern. These covers just go on top of the original padded cover, so all I had to do was lay the original cover on a piece of newspaper and trace around it.

My eagle-eye readers probably noticed that the Tinkerbell one was made a little bit differently. I was curious whether making it out of two pieces of fabric would make it fit better, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference. Oh well.

I sewed a piece of solid-colored fabric on the back, flipped it all right-side-out, and stitched around the edges. Then came the fun part — stitching eleven elastic loops onto each one so I could attach the cover to the booster seat. (The original padded cover also has these eleven elastic loops.) Theoretically I could have sewn the elastic right into the seam, but it’s very narrow elastic, and I didn’t think the machine would make enough stitches as it passed by the elastic. Plus, I didn’t know at that point how long each piece of elastic would need to be.

Sewing on 22 elastic loops isn’t my favorite way to spend a Tuesday night (after a restaurant festival, after taking the babysitter home, after putting the kids to bed, and after removing furniture from a room in the basement where the carpet got a bit wet from the excessive rain)… but hearing the delight in my kids’ voices this morning when they climbed in the car made it all worth it.

Oh, and I replaced those towels with a big piece of gray fabric I had on hand. I just stuffed it in around the edges of the seat for now, and we’ll see how well that stays.

And finally, in an effort to keep my car from becoming a complete mom-mobile, I have a new “rule” for my backseat. When we get home, all toys and books have to be taken inside except for the ones that can fit in the booster seat storage boxes. That’s right, folks. My kids’ booster seats not only have cup holders, they have their own little glove boxes. Thank you, Evenflo.