Friday, December 12, 2008

Crafty Christmas, Part Deux

In my quest to make as many gifts as I have time for, I have relied on the wealth of knowledge of other crafters and artisans through the many great tutorials on the web. Having written one tutorial myself, I can truly appreciate the time and effort that is put into writing something with clear, easy-to-follow instructions and good quality photos.

You can find tutorials for just about anything on the web. Want a tutorial for a drawstring backpack? Just type "drawstring backpack tutorial" into your favorite search engine and voila! A whole list of them will appear.

One of my gifts makes use of two great tutorials.

Having school age children, there is always the dilemma of what to do for the teachers. My son is in 1st grade and just has one teacher. My daughter is in preschool and has three teachers. I'm sure every teacher has more "#1 Teacher" tchotchkes than they know what to do with, so I try to come up with something useful....or at the very least, a creative and different tchotchke.
This year I decided to do mugs and tea wallets. First of all, the mug. During the month of November, one of my favorite blogs, Sew, Mama, Sew, did their second annual "Handmade Holidays," where they posted gift ideas and links to tutorials daily, with each day having a different theme.

The November 8th entry featured gifts for teachers, and it was there that I found the link to the tutorial for the cute "Quilty Mug." And I just have to add, this tutorial was not only great from an instructional was funny. This blog, Lady Harvatine, has become one of my regular blog stops.

I dug through my scraps, picked out some cute calico fabrics, and string pieced it together onto a piece of muslin. Slide it into the customizable mug (which ended up being the toughest part of the whole project) and there you go....a quilty mug!

Next was the tea wallet. This was another tutorial I came across from SMS's Handmade Holidays, under "gifts for a gift exchange." My original idea for this cute tea wallet was to make one for my mother-in-law, who is English and an avid tea drinker. The one I made for her turned out so cute, and they are so quick and easy to make that I'm giving them as stocking stuffers for several people, as well as giving them to my kids' teachers.

I used some of the same calico fabrics that I used in the mug to create the tea wallet. It has room for four tea bags and has a button closure. I have no idea if any of the teachers drink tea, but oh well....if they don't, I'm sure they can find another use for it. And of course, I will be sewing some of my cute little fabric gift bags to put them in!

Overall, I'm very pleased with the teacher gifts, and I hope that they are pleased too. My children are fortunate to have wonderful teachers this year, and I just want them to know that they are very much appreciated.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crafty Christmas, Part 1

One of my goals this Christmas was to try and make a lot of our gifts. I'm actually making about half of them, and a few others I'm picking up from other artists on Etsy. The one gift I've spent the most time on is the one I've made for my niece.

When my son was about one, my sister-in-law made him a Quiet Book. It was such a great gift, that I decided I would come up with my own. So I took the one she made, plus a lot of examples I found online from googling "Quiet Book," and came up with my own set of pages.

This gift was truly a labor of love. I had no pattern, no instructions for putting it together. Just pictures and my son's book (which was put together differently than what I ended up doing). I sketched stuff up on paper and did a "mock up" to figure out how I was going to assemble it all. I know there are people who make and sell these, and my hat is off to you. I just don't know that I could do it and make it profitable....I'd have to charge $35 + a kidney to account for the housework that didn't get done while working on this!

I "super" sewed everything down to make sure no little choking hazards would come off...even used heavy-duty upholstery thread to secure the buttons. I tried to cover several different activities on my pages: textures, counting, zipping, buttoning, velcro, "peek-a-boo," and "I Spy" to name a few. I hope she likes it. I will be making one for my nephew too when he gets old enough to play with it (hmmm....first birthday gift.)

I also picked up a few injuries on this project: I sewed my finger (not the first time I've done this. Once, the needle went through my finger and stopped....and I had to turn the hand wheel to get it out), I cut myself with the rotary cutter, and I stuck a pin into the heel of my hand. Guess I shouldn't sew while drinking tired.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday...

Some things in life make me feel old. I'm not old (I will only be 34 this month), but some things in life definitely make me feel that way. Like the fact that both of my siblings now have children. Even my little brother, who is 12 years younger than me (I can still clearly remember the night that he was born) has a baby boy.

I have to brag a little here: I have the cutest niece, Kaitlyn. She's a little doll. Here she is:

Now tell me that is not cute! That's not even a decent quality picture (my sister is not known for being quick with the picture distribution) and she's still cute. The thing is, she looks so much like my sister (on the right, as if that's not obvious):

This was our annual Easter picture....circa 1982. (For those of you who know me in real life: yes, I had enough hair for 4 people even at the age of's a blessing and a curse.)

Kaitlyn is going to celebrate the big one next week: ONE YEAR OLD

My sister is having the typical big First Birthday Party. And since this is their first First Birthday Party, I'm sure it will be quite the affair. Since I am also Kaitlyn's Godmother, I wanted to make something special for her. So I asked my sister if I could make her an outfit for her first birthday party. My sister's one request: please make it very girly-girl.

Now that's a request I can oblige!

I thought it would be cute to try and follow whatever theme she was having with the fabric choices. She is using a Lil' Cupcake 1st Birthday theme:

So I started looking around, and I came across the perfect fabric online at J & O Fabric Center. It's called "My Little Cupcake"

After I had the fabric, I found the perfect "girly-girl" pattern: The Peasant Dress by Dainty Designs. I paired it with an all-purpose bloomer pattern that I happened to have, and the final result is just too cute!

Completely useless sidenote: Notice I didn't tie a bow with the sash, just a nice knot. That's because I am "bow challenged." I cannot, to save my life, tie a decent looking bow. That's because I have a really bizarre way of tying....I taught myself how to tie shoes when I was four from watching people tie my shoes. Since I was looking down watching them from a backwards angle, I now tie completely backwards....the result: ugly bows and my shoes never stay tied. Oh well....

Happy Birthday, Kaitlyn. Nanny loves you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like....Well, You Know....

I LOVE Christmas time. The decorations, the music, the cards, the food, the goodwill and cheer...everything. I guess it was inevitable that I would, since I was actually born on Christmas Day. Yep, three weeks early, right smack on December 25th. The reaction I usually get from people is "Aww....that sucks." And maybe sometimes growing up I thought it did. But overall, I think it's pretty special and the older I get, the more I appreciate it. And my parents made a point of separating it the best they could....they never combined presents, they made sure I always had a birthday cake, and my birthday presents were never wrapped in Christmas paper.

But the best thing about the holiday season in MY book is the crafting opportunities! This year, I have a list a mile long of gifts I'm planning on making. I'm going to try to post some of the best ones here as I finish them.

This week, my good friend Tracey (the handbag genius!) has invited me to be her guest over on Artiste, a conglomeration of artisans on

I have a couple of great holiday items that will be available, starting with the Merry Snowman jumper and matching accessories.

This cute jumper is made using an adorable Debbie Mum snowman fabric along with a buttery soft, 21-wale red corduroy. It can be layered over tights or leggings and worn with short or long sleeves. The dress has a slight A-line shape with button closures at the shoulders. The bodice of the jumper is lined with a soft cotton broadcloth. Cute white rick-rack and topstitching add just the right amount of charm.

And what little girl wouldn’t like to be perfectly accessorized with a matching tote and reversible headband?

This dress and accessory set will be “made-to-order,” and is offered for $35 in the following sizes:

Size 2: Chest size 13" , Length 19"
Size 3/4: Chest 14" , Length 21"
Size 5/6: Chest 14.5", Length 23"

The second holiday item I am featuring this week is the wonderful Christmas Stars Layered Twirl Skirt.

This fantastic twirl skirt features adorable coordinating holiday fabrics and would be perfect with a favorite holiday shirt or sweater layered over leggings or tights.

The skirt has an elastic drop waist and two tiers, each with a double-ruffle bottom, separated by two layers of gold tulle.
This skirt is offered for $35, and will be made to order based on your desired waist and length measurements.

These items (and many others I'm listing, like my cute coloring totes) will be available on Artiste beginning at 9pm (EST) November 25 until December 5. Scroll down to "Cute2Carry" and there I'll be! And be sure to check out all the items from the other artisans. There are some really talented ladies out there!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Color Me Happy

First off, let’s talk about my “sewing challenge.” I won’t twist the facts: I bailed. I was good for 4 days, but then we went on a Cub Scout camping trip for my son’s Cub Scout Den and I didn’t get anything made for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But I don’t consider the challenge a complete failure…I did manage to get some projects done that were sitting around for awhile. I may revisit the “sewing challenge” at a later date.

Moving on…..

I’ve talked before about how I have a fondness for sewing little girl items….face it, they’re just more fun! But I have been toying with the idea of “non-gender” specific items for my Etsy shop. I wanted something quick and easy that would make a good gift for the holidays.

So I decided to whip up some of these great little coloring totes. I’ve seen lots of different versions of these, so I took all the ideas I liked best and put them together.

fully lined little tote measures 10” by 12,” and has two reinforced handles with a 10” drop. It has room for two regular or one jumbo-sized coloring book and slots for up to 20 crayons.

Top-stitching and decorative trim add just the amount of charm. Each tote comes with a sewn-in “It’sSewSweet” label for a professional look. These would be great for Christmas or birthday gifts for the budding artist. And the best part: they are completely washable!

These totes will be available for $15 in my Etsy shop and will come “ready-to-give” with a coloring book and 16 crayons.

I will be offering several different fabrics, depending on what’s in “my stash,” but if you have a specific color or theme in mind, shoot me an email….I may already have the perfect fabric and if not, I can probably get it!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Please Don't Feed the Animals/The Gift(bag) That Keeps on Giving.....

I didn't get my posting done yesterday for this week's sewing challenge. I ended up going to bed really early last night with a major sinus headache. But I did finish my DAY THREE PROJECT. So today's post will be a joint DAY THREE/DAY FOUR post.

Please Don't Feed the Animals

For Wednesday's project, I choose to finish something else that's been hanging around for awhile....another item for my daughter. The weather is changing here (finally), and it's cool in the mornings and evenings and only in the 70s during the day. So it's time to put away the summer clothes. Since my daughter wears dresses or skirts 99% of the time, I usually try to make things for her that can be worn with long sleeve shirts and tights. This is one of my favorite patterns to make:

I couldn't get her to model it for me, so I just had to lay it out on the floor. It looks much cuter when it's actually on. This fabric is so adorable. It's a nice, soft corduroy with cute little forest animals on it. Perfect for my little animal lover!

The Gift(bag) That Keeps on Giving.....

Today's project was stolen from inspired by my friend Tracey. Tracey usually makes her gift bags. So I thought I'd follow her example this year and make my own too. They are reusable, but don't get torn and wrinkled like store bought gift they are much cuter!

I just made simple, unlined drawstring bags. I made five today in a variety of sizes, mostly from fabrics I had laying around.

On two of them I used ribbon for the drawstring.

The drawstrings are long enough that you can tie them in a bow at the top.

For the others, I made a drawstring out of coordinating fabric. I think these will look great under the tree!

Well, that's the first four days done! Tune in tomorrow!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Wear My Pink Pajamas in the Summer When It's Hot...

DAY TWO of the sewing challenge.....

For today, I thought I would tackle something that's been sitting around in my sewing room for awhile.....a nightgown for my daughter.

She doesn't discriminate in her dislike of pants/shorts. It carries over into what she'll wear to bed. She has a few pajamas that she'll wear occasionally, but her preference is for nightgowns. And the more girly the better.

Nightgowns in the store are often upwards of $15 or more, and I am far too cheap frugal to pay that for them. Most nightgown patterns for little girls take a yard of fabric or less. So if you're willing to take the hour or so to do it (often less time than that), and if you look for a good fabric deal, you can make a nightgown for under $5.

I usually let my daughter choose her own fabrics (from what's on sale). And OF COURSE she chose a "satin-y" fabric. I hate satin-y fabrics. They slip, slide, move, stretch and are just a pain in the you know what to sew. But she likes it, so hey.....

I used the "cannibalized pattern" method....take the bits and pieces from patterns I like and put them together to make a garment. I used the body from one pattern and the sleeves from another.

And here is the finished result:

All snug and ready for bed! Goodnight, Peanut!

Check back tomorrow for DAY THREE!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Because I'm Just Not Busy Enough.....

My friend Tracey (who creates wonderful handbags, totes, and other accessories) decided that she needed a little extra motivation to get some projects finished....both personal projects and items for her website. So she issued herself a public "Bag-a-day" Challenge....she is going to create something new each day this week and post it on her blog. And she challenged her readers to do the same.

And because I have tons of free time (insert sarcastic eye-rolling here), I thought what the hell...I join her. Besides, we can commiserate together as we frantically scramble to finish something each day.

So each day this week I will be making and posting something new. It may be something for my shop, or it may just be an unfinished project that is lingering in my sewing room (and trust me, there are many!).

Today, Monday November 3, is DAY ONE, and this is what I made today:

This adorable little tote and matching headband is made with the Alexander Henry "Apples & Pears" print, along with a cute pink courduroy and a brown twill. The opposite side of the bag has the print with the brown, divided again by the red satin ribbon. The interior is lined with white cotton broadcloth.

I actually made this accessory set to go with this, which I made last Friday:

This set is available now in my Etsy shop in sizes 2, 3/4, or 5/6.


Check back tomorrow to see what I manage to finish!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We're knights of the Round Table, we dance whene'er we're able.

Ok, ok, I'm sorry. I couldn't resist the Monty Python clip. I'm married to an Englishman, and I guess after almost 10 years, his offbeat British humor has rubbed off on me! :)

So last week I wrote about my daughter's doggie costume. This week it's my son's turn. He doesn't go for the traditional scary costumes or the trendy Star Wars/Spiderman/etc. In the past he's been things like a dragon, a dinosaur, and last year, a police officer. This year, he chose to be a knight. Without further delay, here's presenting Sir Aidan:

To create this costume, I used Simplicity 5520. I only paid $0.99 for it on sale at my local fabric store. It was an easy pattern to put together. One thing, has a lot of pieces. So although it wasn't hard, it was a little time-consuming. But once he put it on, it was definitely worth all the time....he looked so cute, um excuse me, handsome, and he really loves it.

We borrowed the sword and shield from a friend, and he's ready to do battle with the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog......

Happy Halloween!!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Going to the Dogs....

It's that time of year again....the time to come up with the perfect Halloween costume.

Because I can sew, everyone always assumes that I will create wonderful handmade costumes for my kids.....that's not always the case. The truth is, with all the sales, online stores, etc., sometimes it just isn't cost-effective to make their costumes. It just depends on what they want to be and whether I can find it for a steal.

My daughter is a total animal lover and her two favorite movies are 101 Dalmations and the Aristocats. So this year she wants to be a Dalmation.

Now, one thing about my daughter....she doesn't wear pants. Ever. Well, hardly ever. I can probably count on one hand the number of times that she has worn pants. She wears dresses and skirts, and when it gets "cold" (cold in Central Arizona terms is almost comical), she wears tights or leggings. And of course all the standard "doggy" costumes are pants.

But then I came across a costume on some random costume website that was a little dalmation dress. It was cute, but at only $10.99, I was very skeptical about the quality. Besides, it's a dress.....if there is one thing I can sew, it's little girls' dresses. So I decided that I would make it.

First things first: the fabric. I knew I didn't want an obnoxious print, and a quick search on the internet turned up the perfect find.......Michael Miller "Spot the Dog"

Next up: the pattern. I wanted something easy and something that I would use again. So I went with this one....Simplicity 2825

I'll definitely be making her more dresses with this pattern. When they say "It's So Easy," they mean it. This pattern was very easy to follow and went together quickly. It runs large, so next time I'll make some adjustments.

To give the dress some fullness and make it a little special (it is a Halloween costume, after all), I made a petticoat-like slip with some lining fabric and about 8 yards of tulle. It gives it just the right "girly-girl" touch.

Next, I made some doggy ears with a black headband and some faux fur. Add some black tights and black shoes and there you go! A dalmation.

On Halloween we are going to paint a little black nose on her. She also wants me to make her a red "collar" to wear, so I'll be pulling out the red satin ribbon. I'm very happy with the results and think it fits her personality perfectly.

Here she is practicing her "doggy-ness!"

That's one costume up, tackling my son's knight costume!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

By Popular Demand....a Hooded Towel Tutorial

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Joy, asking if I would share the pattern for the hooded towels I wrote about here.

Well, I don't really have a pattern, but I told her I would be happy to type up some instructions and send them her way. When I sat down to write, I found that some things just didn't make sense without photographs. So I decided to write a tutorial for hooded towels. I'm sure there are many hooded towel tutorials out there, but sometimes a different person will have a different technique/perspective/explanation.

Now, this is my very first tutorial, so please bear with me!

Supplies Needed:

One full size bath towel

One hand towel (this will be cut in half, so one hand towel will make two hooded towels)

Approx. 1/2 yd of ribbon of your choice for trim

Thread to match the towels

1. Cut hand towel in half and serge or zig-zag the raw edge.

2. Fold the finished edge over until it covers the textured border of the towel, about 2 inches.

3. Stitch. Use whatever seam allowance you're comfortable with. I use 3/8" a lot because it's an easy one to measure on my falls right at the edge of my presser foot.

4. Pin the ribbon along the finished edge that you folded over.

5. Stitch ribbon in place by sewing along both edges of the ribbon.

6. Fold the hand towel in half, inside out (ribbon to the inside), matching finished edges.

7. Stitch along serged (zig-zagged) edge, starting from open, finished side and stopping about 2/3 of the way to the folded edge.

8. Open the hole along the edge you just stitched and flatten perpendicular to the seam.

9. Stitch.

10. Turn right side out, and there's the hood!

11. Find the center of the large bath towel, mark with a pin. Make two wide, flat pleats, each about 2 inches wide and 2.5 inches from the center. (I never measure these, just "guesstimate")See pics.

12. Pin the hood to the bath towel along the finished edges of the hood, right sides together, matching the center seam of the hood to the center of the bath towel. (It will be finished edges that are being stitched together.) Stitch, making sure to go slowly over the pleats (they will be bulky). I like to stitch this seam twice, just to give it some extra strength.

(View of inside of hooded towel after hood is stitched to bath towel)

13. If desired, zig-zag over your stitched seams on the inside (where the hood and towel were attached) to flatten them. Be careful not to zig-zag over your ribbon trim because it would show on the other side!

14. And now your hooded towel is finished!

I always like to fold them up nicely and tie with the same ribbon I used for the trim.....

Happy Sewing!!!!