Thursday, April 12, 2012

from a long and skinny scrap to the easiest tie EVER

I have two little girls who love to wear pretty things.  It can be so easy to get carried away with making pretty things for enthusiastic little girls and neglect to sew for my little guy.  Also, boys clothes are all about well-tailored details, right?  I don't have the sewing chops to tackle most of that stuff.  I did really want to make SOMEthing for my little boy for Easter since I had already made dresses for the girls (I'll probably post pictures of those another day).  I found a long skinny scrap of fabric in stripes of orange and a grey-blue (his two favorite colors), and I had a brainstorm of how I could make it into the easiest tie EVER.  

My scrap was about 10 inches by 40 inches, which was the perfect amount for my 2 1/2 year-old son (I think 9-12 inches for width could work, depending on how wide you want your tie/how big your guy is, and for a full-sized tie, I would just measure the length of a real tie).  I think it may even fit him next year, but if it doesn't, I won't care because this tie is SO easy!

I folded it in half length-wise and sewed up the narrow ends about 3/4 of the way, starting at the fold.

Then, I turned each of those ends inside out and flatted them into triangles with the seam down the middle and moved to the ironing board.

I folded and pressed a hem along the length of the tie that was about an inch at what turned into the wide end and an inch and a half at the narrow end.  The amount that you fold could definitely vary depending on how wide you want your tie.

Then, I made another fold of half an inch along the length of the tie to match up with the end of the previous fold.

I ironed one last fold along the tie, having the two sides cross over each other along the middle.  I made sure that the tie was definitely a bit wider at one end (not quite twice as big) and nice and crisp before sliding fusible webbing tape in to keep both flaps in place and ironed one last time.  At this point, if I hadn't started the day before Easter and still had a dress for myself on the docket, I would have hand-stitched the seam as well.  I will probably go back to that...some day.

My little guy does not like to be fussed with, so I tried it out on a less squirmy member of the family.  I could have stopped right here, loosening the tie off of the doll and slipping it over my son's head to tighten and straighten.  But, he REALLY doesn't like to be fussed with, and I didn't want him to hate his tie.  

So, I cut it right behind the doll's head, leaving the knot in place and added a 4 inch strip of elastic (this measurement was based entirely on the ratio of the doll's neck to my son's as measured by the neck measurement of his collared could definitely vary) to the back of the neck.  The tie stays tied, but has a more authentic look than a clip-on.  It's actually easier to put on than the clip-on that he got as a gift from his aunt last year, and the elastic hides right under his collar.  A bunch of people told me that they couldn't believe he was wearing a real tie.

Thankfully, he's not THAT big, yet.

My husband was kind of jealous that he didn't get a tie.  I wish had more of this striped linen!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

from old, worn-out sweaters and memory-filled receiving blankets to easy-to-store Easter baskets

I hate having to store bulky things.  I am VERY lucky to have a large storage area in my house, but it has a dirt floor, so everything in it has to be packed away very tightly to stay clean.  I never liked the idea of storing bulky baskets for Easter that only come out once a year, so I wanted to make something that would lay flat and not require a giant box to store them.  

I still wanted them to be able to stand up sort of like a basket, so I turned to my good friend felted wool.  I have a bunch of felted wool from sweaters that I purposely "ruined" by washing and drying with lots of heat.  I love how it acts like regular felt with more personality and a handmade quality.  I decided to make a basket for each of my kids in a different color, lined with one of their receiving blankets from when they were babies (sniff).  

Their receiving blankets have a lot of memories for me since I swaddled all of them for almost 9! months and spent lots of time nursing them in the middle of the night (for way too long) with them wrapped tightly in their blankets.  UNSOLICITED TIP: I found that it was so much easier to nurse twins at the same time if they were swaddled and their limbs were contained.  

Anyway, I also put a layer of batting between the wool and lining to make the baskets sturdier.  I had planned to put a different applique on each of them, but after I made the lamb for my son, I decided to give each of them their own wooly, Easter lamb.  

Here's the super easy pattern for the basket.  I just winged it for the lamb by free-handing circles for the wooly coat, skinny rectangles for the legs, an oval for the head, and sort of a circle with one half divided into two triangular-ish points for ears.  I hand-stitched all of the lamb pieces into place before sewing the big pieces together and finished the edges off with a blanket stitch in coordinating embroidery floss.

I remember having the same Easter basket that I found every year when I lived in my parents' house.  I am excited for my kids to each have their own basket to celebrate such an important day each year.  Since they pack away so easily, the kids probably won't have many chances to play with them.  They sure had fun skipping around with them, though.

Aaaand dumping them out...

Can't wait to fill them with a bounty of blessings!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

from chalk cloth scraps to an erasable memory game

It's probably not uncommon, but my four year-old daughter learns well when playing games.  She started getting interested in the words to label things around the house as they came up in context.  At dinner, we would have little scraps of paper with chair, spoon, etc. on them, which she naturally wanted to turn into a memory game.  Of course, she would want to change the words out constantly, and we ended up trying to save really tattered pieces of paper or ripping up lots of it to make squares.  I decided that an erasable, durable memory game would be great.  We could tailor it to what she is learning in pre-k, different end sounds, blends, whatever.  I had a decent-sized scrap of chalk cloth leftover from another project, so I cut it up along with a scrap of oil cloth in a gender neutral pattern.  

I used pinking shears to give it an interesting edge, but you don't have to since chalk cloth and oil cloth don't fray.  You could try regular fabric instead of the oil cloth, but the weights are so different that it might be wonky.  

My oil cloth scrap was pretty small, so I let its size dictate how many game pieces we made we ended up with 16 pieces that are approximately 3 inches by 3 1/2 inches.  They are big enough for small words, letters, pictures, or numbers.  

I put wrong sides together and stitched close to my edge.  I trimmed them up a bit with my pinking shears to make them look neat.

I had my stack ready in no time.  

Chalk cloth is supposed to be seasoned before you write on it with chalk.  Just rub the side of a piece of chalk on it and wipe it off.  This way, the first thing you write won't get etched onto the cloth.  I used a microfiber cloth to clean them up, which worked out great.  

My daughter helped me write some easy words on the cards, and we were playing in no time.

She's already thought of a bunch of easier ways to play the game with her 2 year-old brother and sister.

We did a round of words that end in -it.  She does a great job thinking of those rhymes!  I might have to sneak this game into the car to use at restaurants.  The possibilities for these cards are endless!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

from broken, abandoned crayons to heart-shaped crayon valentines

I wonder if I'll ever get this blogging thing down.  I fully intended to post this days ago...

Having small kids, I always find broken, abandoned, sad little crayon pieces on the floor.  A while ago, I started collecting them all in one spot. 

I know that making new crayons out of broken ones is no where close to a new idea, but my daughter had so much fun making these Valentines for her friends that I just had to share our take on it.

Chopping up crayons is harder than it looks.  I used my biggest knife and worked in small batches.  Actually, peeling off the paper was the hardest part.  My 4 year-old did most of that tedious work, though.

After a while, I had a beautiful pile of chopped up crayons.

I never like spending much (or ANY) money on DIY projects, so I didn't want to spend money (or time finding one) on a silicon or metal heart-shaped pan.  I had some heart-shaped cookie cutters and a SILPAT, so I figured that might work.  

Um, no.

Lots of oozing wax. Easy to clean up, though!  The only reason that I tried that method is because I had tried it before with a cheap plastic-trying-to-look-like-silicon ice cube tray from Target's dollar section, and the tray melted.  But, I still figured out a way to use what I already had!  A water bath!  It works for bread pudding and custard, so I figured it was worth a try.

The tray did not melt.  Success! It did take a long time in the oven (maybe half an hour?), though, since I kept it at 250.  I was still afraid of melting the plastic.  I know that I could have just melted the wax in a pot and poured it in the molds, but my daughter loves how crayons made this way change color as she draws with them, so I opted to bake them.

The tops melt together into a deep purple with a few pops of color, but the bottoms are colorfully speckled.

After letting the tray cool in the freezer for a little bit, they pop right out.  If you leave them in the freezer too long, they can crack if messed with, so letting them warm back up to room temperature is a good idea.

We thought it would be fun for the kids to have some Valentines to color with their new crayons, so I designed some on Picnik, which I was very sad to learn is closing soon or moving to Google+ or something.

The girl loves rainbows, and wants them incorporated into almost everything, so the front side was a no brainer.  I made two options.  The back side should give the kids lots of practice staying in the lines.  I like pop of color against the black and white.  We glued up three sides to make little pockets for the crayons, and slid them in.

Cute, easy, and free!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

from ladies dresses to fairy and princess dress-up clothes

I made my daughter's first princess dress out of a dress that I stopped wearing.  I save a lot more ill-fitting, stained, or damaged clothes than I used to.  If I like the fabric, I try to think of something else that I can make from it.  I don't have a before picture of the dress, but it was a very basic, 3/4 sleeved, knee-length sheath, which made it the perfect length for a long princess dress.  

I took it in a little bit, added elastic at the waist, draped tulle for poofiness, and added a tulle neckline.  I was able to preserve the original's always nice to be able to cut out some steps!

I found this sparkly button in a stash that my mom gave me years ago that is the perfect embellishment for the new neckline. 

I also cut up a very old and worn out Elizabethan costume that I inherited.  I had just enough fabric to make a Tinkerbell costume.  I used one of my daughter's undershirts as the lining and cut the green velvet to fit comfortable over the undershirt.  I made straps to cover the ones on the undershirt as well.  I cut up 6 or 7 leaves out of the velvet with a couple of layers of green tulle on the top of each.  I topstitched leaf veins as well.  It was so easy to use the undershirt as a guide.  I'll share a couple of other dresses I made with undershirts another time.  

from slinky skirt to Rapunzel-inspired dress

I have two daughters under the age of 5.  Disney princesses are big around here.  I love the way my oldest daughter loves to fully embody characters, acting out favorite scenes in movies, and belting out songs.  Naturally, she loves to dress the part.  I don't love the ridiculous prices of princess dresses, especially since the cheap fabric often loses its elasticity and pills up or the way the seams often fall out.  I also am trying to be conscious of how much I allow my kids to be branded.  I would like them to be content with what they have and not get used to having what marketers tell them they need.  I try to repurpose and use up scraps as much as possible.  My daughter got really into Tangled last year, and I knew that she'd love a dress to match the long golden locks she was blessed with.  

I started with a plum skirt that I haven't worn in years.  A skirt that hits below my knees will be a long dress on her.  

I had a remnant of a sheer white fabric with embroidered pink flowers on it that I used as an overlay for the dress.  I laid out the skirt and wrapped the printed fabric around it, folding and draping as needed to achieve the look I was going for.

After I had the fabric laid out how I wanted it, I cut and hemmed it along the two sides in the front and, eventually, on the bottom of the dress.

I pinned the overlay fabric to the skirt in a lot of places so that it stayed right where I wanted it while I did the hemming.

Then I cut out armholes, using the scraps to make capped sleeves.  

I put in an elastic casing so that the dress would have a defined waist and be easy to put on for a 4 year-old and comfortable to wear.  

I sewed little loops to the bodice of the dress and threaded ribbon through them to tie a bow at the top.  The ribbon is functional and helps the dress to fit my 4 year-old and her very petite 2 year-old sister.

I know that she won't believe in fairy tales forever, so I'm happy to help her live inside of them for a little while.