Way back in December, a few days before Christmas, I was at Joann browsing the aisles and came across a cute little kit for a shopping cart cover. Emma wasn’t sitting up yet back then, but I knew she would be soon so I scooped up a kit and put it in Emma’s stocking. Because, you know, it was really a present for HER, right?
The included some pretty adorable animal fabric for one side, and a nice blue and green pattern for the other side — the cover is reversible. It also included a long piece of elastic to make the outside edge conform around the shopping cart, and a set of rudimentary instructions. I had to provide the thread, batting to sandwich between the two layers of fabric, and embroidery floss for tying (vs. quilting) the cover together.
Construction was pretty easy — sandwich the batting between the two layers of fabric and sew the edges. I then sewed around the edge again, about a half inch farther in, to create a casing for the elastic. I measured and cut the two leg holes and secured those edges, and then tied the quilt using floss. I had never tied a quilt and that technique was a little time-consuming, but it worked great. (In fact, I am inspired to FINALLY tie the t-shirt quilt I made almost 10 years ago. Hopefully I’ll do that soon!)
The final step was learning how to make buttonholes! I needed two of them, each ~2 inches long so allow the buckle and straps from shopping carts to pass through so we can still secure Emma in the cart. My sewing machine has an automatic buttonhole feature — but it couldn’t make a hole long enough! I had to go old school and sew the buttonhole manually. Fortunately that process was pretty straightforward.
Once she was able to sit up well enough, we started putting Emma in the car whenever we are out running errands and she loves being able to sit up and look around. Good thing I gave her such a great Christmas present, right?
(Also: Her hair has grown a lot in just the 2-3 months since these photos were taken. Wow.)
My friends Katie and Andrew welcomed a baby boy a few weeks ago, and I wanted to make him a little something to celebrate his arrival. Katie is a language arts teacher and LOVES the Harry Potter books, so my original idea was to find some Harry Potter-themed fabric and make a baby blanket. However, apparently Harry Potter fabric was only produced for a short time and more than a decade ago. (This was pretty surprising to me, but I guess Rowling is fairly protective of the brand!) While there are still some pieces from 2001-2002 available on Etsy and eBay, the average price is around $100/yard. Not exactly what I was hoping to find!
So I took a different approach and started searching for Harry Potter-themed quilts. This led me to a WHOLE WEBSITE dedicated to quilt patterns for fans of various things — Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, etc. It kinda blew my mind and made me fall in love with the internet all over again. It also had exactly the right thing for me with a huge selection of Potter-themed paper-pieced quilt blocks. I’d been wanting to learn how to paper piece already, since it lets you make some very intricate and impressive blocks. This seemed like the perfect excuse.
I chose the Gryffindor crest — a very cool lion — and decided to turn it into a taggie toy/sensory blanket backed with soft red minky and bordered with some pieces of ribbon for Baby Boy to grab. I had to enlarge the pattern slightly to make it what I wanted, but that was easily done on the computer. In retrospect, I certainly could have picked an easier block for my first attempt at paper-piecing! But I took it slow, triple-checked everything before sewing, and got the hang of it as I went. (This paper-piecing tutorial from Fresh Lemons was also quite helpful.)
The lion was made up of 6 smaller sections that were then sewn together into the final block. (The picture above shows the 6 sections.) I thought it would take a lot longer than it actually did. After the first few pieces, I started to get the sequence down and the repetitive nature lent itself well to just plugging along — sew one piece, press the seam, cut a piece of fabric for the next piece, line it up, and repeat.
I did make a couple mistakes and you can see the biggest one in the upper left corner. That piece was the first of the six that I did, and I didn’t fully understand yet how important it was to cover every single bit of the seam allowance. I didn’t realize how critical this was until I had sewn the whole block together. Fortunately I was able to fix it by changing the shape of my crest — if you look at the first photo showing my completed blanket, you’ll see how I made the top corners of the crest curve inward. Doing that eliminated my error. Whew!
Once the quilt block was done, the rest of the project was super simple — just a normal blanket with the pieces of ribbon thrown in for fun. (Be careful if you’re using the photo above as a reference for actually making something of your own. That was just me figuring out where to place the ribbons, but it’s NOT how you should line them up for the final sewing! Before you sew, they need to be tucked in between the layers of fabric pointing towards the center, so that they stick outside when the blanket is turned right-side-out for finishing.)
The lion himself is made from several different fat quarters in a variety of yellow patterns, and the crest is a single mottled maroon print. The background is a cool navy fabric with tiny gold polka dots. I chose three different kinds of ribbon to coordinate, and used some nice bright red minky for the back. I think I’ve used minky in at least half of the baby items I’ve made. It’s just so soft! I love it.
I packed this up in an envelope and mailed it off to Ohio only a day or two before the baby arrived — I think this was probably waiting in their mailbox when they got home from the hospital! I was SO happy with how this turned out. I think it looks amazing and can’t wait to take on another paper-pieced project in the future.
And I think Robert likes it too!
A few weeks ago I went to a baby shower for my friend Cindy, who had a baby boy a few days ago! Even though she works for one of NASA’s contractors here in Houston, I first met her through Twitter a few years ago. Now we’re real-life friends as well and I can’t wait to meet her little boy!
I decided Cindy could use a few of the awesome swaddle blankets that we liked so much with Emma, but I also wanted to add something handmade. I originally had visions of another quilt or baby blanket but…I ran out of time, as per usual. (My friends who had babies after I learned how to sew but before I had Emma definitely hit the sweet spot in the gift department!)
So I decided to make a plush toy rocket! This was a fairly easy project, partly because I already had all the materials I needed! I used a tutorial from The Long Thread that I had pinned a while ago, but simplified it by skipping the “astronaut” since I didn’t have the materials for that. I used some very stiff heavy duty interfacing that I already had in the rocket fins instead of cardboard, and that worked just fine. You may recognize several of the fabrics as well — I used scraps leftover from last year’s zig zag star quilt, plus some starry yellow flannel I had leftover from making burp cloths.
The only thing I would change if I made this again would be to put the fins a little higher up on the rocket — so that the bottom of the fins are almost flush with the bottom of the rocket itself. The interfacing in the fins is stiff, but not stiff enough to hold the rocket upright so it would probably be better if it could sit on its bottom.
Ta da! Rocket! To the mooooon!
I’ve barely made anything for Emma since she was born, which is kind of hard to explain. I think it’s a weird side effect of having so many things I’d like to make that I can’t seem to actually get started on ANY of them.
Fortunately, she has two awesome grandmothers who have picked up the slack and made her two adorable dresses. The first was a bright blue smocked dress from my Mom. I showed a picture in Emma’s 7-month letter, and my mom will be happy to hear that I got over the fear of it getting messed up and put Emma in it when we went out to dinner over the weekend.
My mom included the leftover fabric in the package, and I used that to make a matching diaper cover. It was a good little project to do with my new serger, since I didn’t care about making it absolutely perfect. I used this pattern and tutorial for The Perfect Diaper Cover by Dana (her “Made” blog is one of my current favorites!) and it was super quick and easy.
And a few weeks ago when they visited, Jose’s mom brought this impossibly cute pink butterfly dress (and matching diaper cover) that she made just in time for spring.
Emma, your mom has been kind of a slacker so far. Hooray for grandmothers!
One of the many (MANY) craft projects that’s been on my list for a while was some kind of cute door decoration for Emma’s room. This was pretty low priority and I wasn’t sure it would ever happen, but it turns out that Joann’s is running a contest via Facebook called “Create with 8″ that challenges people to make something using 8 materials from a list of about 20 different items. Winners get a $250 gift card, which turned out to be just enough motivation for me to finally knock a door decoration off my list! Who knows if I’ll actually see anything, but either way, I get to enjoy my creation.
Since the whole idea was to use 8 materials from the list, I picked the 8 materials I thought would work best for what I had in mind (styrofoam, yarn, felt, buttons, scrapbook paper, ribbon, paint, and a wooden letter) and roamed the aisles at Joann’s with a general blue/green color scheme in mind. When I got home (I did this a couple Fridays ago when I had taken the day off work), I just pulled everything out of the bag and made the rest up as I went along.
I cut out the interior of a styrofoam disk to make a ring, then wrapped the ring in yarn. The yarn was just one skein that varied in color from white to yellow to green to blue — but when I started wrapping, I was surprised to see that it ended up making stripes around the outside. It was a neat and totally unintended effect.
The white background is a piece of felt, and I sewed a ring of buttons around the edge. I painted a wooden letter E, then backed it with two different sheets of scrapbook paper. After that, I just added a piece of ribbon and it was ready to hang on Emma’s door!
I took a “mental health day” on Friday and it was fantastic. I saw Jose and Emma off and then went for a nice 3 mile run. After that I put the finishing touches on a sewing project (that I will blog about soon) and went out for a pedicure. Ahh. I got back home and still had an hour or so to spare, so I tackled another sewing project — this time, something quick-and-easy that I just hadn’t gotten around to…
DIY baby legs! You can buy these online from tons of sources (I got Emma two pairs of Babylegs recently when they were on sale on Zulily) or you can make your own from a pair of cheap knee socks!
I used this tutorial by Bowdenisms (via My Sister’s Suitcase), and a pair of black and white striped socks that I found at Target for about $3. The leg portion of the sock becomes the leg of the legging (obviously). The foot part gets narrowed and folded in half to make an ankle cuff. The heel and toe get tossed.
Cute baby legs! (And cute baby teeth!!)
I picked up two more pairs of socks at Target today. $1.75 each on clearance! I might be obsessed with baby leggings…
When our Christmas vacation started a few days before Christmas itself, I decided that I wanted to make something for Jose. The only thing I’d ever made him to that point was a pair of pajama pants! So I decided to make him this quilted patchwork laptop sleeve. It only took a couple hours, and most of that was spent doing the quilting, so all in all it was a pretty easy project.
I used this tutorial from Oh, Fransson! to make the quilted panels. I used several fat quarters in shades of black, white and gray to do the patchwork, then added a thin layer of batting and a piece of muslin for the backing fabric. I thought it would be sturdy enough, but I should have used some sort of utility fabric for the backing like the tutorial recommended since the bag turned out a little flimsier than I’d hoped! But that’s a minor detail.
Once I had two quilted panels, I put them together with a zipper and green flannel lining exactly as I did a year ago for my brother’s Nook cover. (In other words, this was my second time using this tutorial from Little Birdie Secrets to make some sort of tech device sleeve.
Ta da! A nice boy-friendly laptop sleeve!
I generally avoid buying sewing books. I know that sounds strange since sewing is my biggest hobby these days, but it’s hard to justify building a huge library of sewing books when there are so many awesome tutorials available online for free! But I found a copy of Amy Butler’s “Little Stitches for Little Ones” at Half Price Books early last year and, after giving it a thorough inspection in the store and deciding there were multiple projects I was interested in making, took it home.
The first project was a set of 9 soft baby blocks. I started making these for my nephew Lucas way back in June, but didn’t get them finished before Emma arrived. And since Lucas himself arrived so much earlier than planned — less than 24 hours before Emma — I obviously didn’t get them done before he was born either. So instead of a baby shower or “yay Lucas is here!” present, they turned into a Christmas present! I finished the blocks and the matching bag about a two weeks before Christmas, just in time to mail them to Charlotte.
The pattern called for 4″ cubes of foam. I couldn’t find any 4″ thick foam at Joann’s, but they did have 2″ foam so I got that instead and just used 2 pieces of foam inside each block. I used a little spray adhesive to get them to stick together enough to wedge them into the fabric cubes, and that seemed to work just fine.
My brother has both an undergraduate and graduate degree from the University of North Carolina. My mom grew up in Chapel Hill and went there too. My sister went there for grad school. So let’s just say there are a lot of big UNC fans in my family! Lucas is pretty much destined to grow up rooting for the Tarheels, so I figured some Carolina blocks would be highly appropriate. It wasn’t hard at all to find Carolina fabric, so I got two different patterns for the block sides, and then used a Carolina blue flannel for the top and bottom. (I found Georgia Tech fabric too! I didn’t buy any then, but I’m thinking perhaps Emma needs a set of GT blocks. Right?)
The book also included instructions for making a cool drawstring bag to hold the blocks in, complete with a big initial on the front.The L is made from the same flannel I used on the block, and the lining and drawstring (which I neglected to photograph) are made of a light blue cotton. I really liked how this bag turned out — it’s nice and thick and sturdy, so Lucas should be able to use it for his blocks or for anything else. I am definitely bookmarking the bag pattern for future use! It would be a great gift for adults and kids alike.
Overall I was thrilled with how these turned out! Making the blocks was a little more time-consuming than I had anticipated, since the final two sides of each block had to be hand-stitched closed after inserting the foam, but it was worth it. According to my mom, my brother was pretty impressed that I made them myself!
Over Christmas break, I decided to tackle another project from the book and made a fabric “family album” book for Emma. The book pattern involved using 12 photos to make 6 double-sided pages which were then connected in the middle to make 3 leaves. Fortunately for Emma, 12 pictures was enough to capture herself, 2 parents, 2 grandmothers, 1 grandfather, 4 uncles, 2 aunts, and 2 cousins. (Sorry Katie and Joel, and Brian and Cindy — you guys had to share a page with your spouse to make it all fit!)
Did you know you can buy sheets of fabric that you can run through your printer? Neither did I! They were actually pretty neat — the fabric is attached to a paper backing which helps it feed through a printer without issue. The print quality is so-so, and several of the photos came out a bit lighter than I’d expected, but overall it was acceptable for a project like this. After printing, you remove the paper backing and rinse the fabric sheets with cold water to help set the ink and ensure that it won’t bleed in the future. After that, I cut out the photos and used it just like normal fabric!
This project got challenging at the end, primarily because of how thick all those layers of fabric were once the leaves and cover all got piled together. I could barely get my sewing needle through all the layers, but I persevered and it worked out in the end. (I’m not sure what I’ll do when Emma has more cousins and/or siblings. Make a “Family Album, Part 2″ I guess, because there’s no way I’d be able to get my needle through the fabric involved in adding another leaf to this book!)
I was excited to see what Emma would do when I gave her the book. As you can see, she immediately shoved it in her mouth, which these days should be construed as high praise. She tried to eat it! That means she likes it! Hooray!
The one complaint I have about the book is that it doesn’t include enough photos — the instructions are all conveyed with text and a few illustrations. I’m used to the web, where most tutorials have tons of photos showing all the steps, and trying to read the instructions and interpret exactly what it means I need to do was difficult sometimes. But if I read the step two or three times, I would always figure it out in the end.
There are several more projects that I’d like to try, including a cute little kimono top that I may tackle with help from my serger to fulfill one of my 2013 winter goals.
I’m still a little intimidated by my new serger, so last night I had the urge to go back to my normal sewing machine for a bit and make something quick and easy. One of the items on my (very long) project list was a nebulous idea to make something I decided to call “emergency diaper bags.” (Really, it’s just a simple DIY drawstring pouch — but doesn’t emergency diaper bag sound more exciting?)
There have been a couple times in the last few months where we picked up Emma from daycare but didn’t go straight home. And each time, my brain hasn’t worked well enough to actually remember to take the diaper bag (as opposed to my normal purse). This means our adorable baby turns into a ticking time bomb. At some point, she’s going to need a diaper change — and we just have to hope it doesn’t involve a poop explosion!
Therefore, I’ve been meaning to put a small bag in each car just big enough to hold a few spare diapers, a small travel pack of wipes, and a roll of small plastic bags for trash.
Ta-da! Last night I made a cute little drawstring bag, and I even was able to do it using scraps of fabric that I already had so it didn’t cost a penny! I’ve sewed enough now that I didn’t really use a tutorial for this one, although I did use a mis-mash of ideas I saw online.
One of those ideas was using a piece of grosgrain ribbon to make the casing for the drawstring. I had plenty of ribbon left over from a plushie toy I made for Emma for Christmas, and this blue polka dot seemed like a good fit.
The outer and lining fabrics were leftover from the card wallets I made over a year ago, and I used basically every single bit that was left . The drawstring is made out of the white fabric, since I didn’t have any cording. To be honest, the drawstrings are way too short — as you can see in the photo above, the bag can’t quite be fully opened! But I decided I could live with that.
This one measures about 8″x11″ and was limited by the amount of fabric I had leftover from the card wallets. I’m going to make another one for Jose’s car, and plan to use two fat quarters that I’ve had for a while. That will let me cut each piece a big larger, so I can make a bag that is more like 10″x12″.
Fits perfectly in my glove compartment! And now I can be confident that even when I forget the diaper bag in the morning, we can survive spending an hour at the doctor’s or at happy hour without fear!
p.s. I have a few other sewing projects I did for Christmas that I’ll try to share soon.
I went into labor with Emma on a Sunday — the exact Sunday, in fact, that I had planned on finishing up a couple projects for her nursery. I cut the fabric and made the bias tape for a crib skirt at the end of July. I finally sewed it together in October. And yes, I’m finally blogging about it in December!
I found several good tutorials for making crib skirts, and chose to go with a pretty simple technique. Instead of making a full, four-sided skirt with a swath of unseen fabric in the middle that sits under the mattress, I “cheated.” My “crib skirt” is really three separate pieces — one for the front and one for each side. I didn’t make anything for the back, since the crib sits against the wall and you wouldn’t see it anyway.
Each piece is attached with a combination of sew-in and self-adhesive velcro. The loop side of pieces of sew-in velcro is sewn to the fabric, while the hook side of pieces of the self-adhesive stuff is stuck to the crib. For the front, the hook pieces are stuck to the metal mattress springs and on the sides, the pieces are stuck to the wood. Since it’s on the inside where you’ll never see it, I wasn’t worried about leaving sticky residue on the wood.
But the best part of making panels instead of a more “traditional way” crib skirt is that this one can be easily adjusted when we have to lower the crib mattress in the future! For the front panel, instead of having to re-hem the whole panel, I can just relocate the velcro so that more of the fabric is tucked under the mattress. The side panels can stay right where they are, since they’re attached to the crib frame itself. Clever!
I also taught myself how to make an inverted box pleat to add a little detail. There are two pleats on the front panel and one on each side panel. This technique was really easy — the most challenging part is just making sure to measure correctly. I made 2-inch pleats, which means adding 8 inches of fabric to whatever the desired finished length is.
Ta da! Even though it took me 6 months to finish this project, the true time spent was only a few hours. I loved the way it turned out and it makes Emma’s crib look so much cuter.