You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Sewing’ category.
Have you seen My Neighbor Totoro? I hope so. If not, please do. It’s the cutest movie EVER. Our daughter loves it, which pleases me greatly… because I’ve dreamed of throwing a Totoro themed birthday party since the time she was just a twinkle in our eyes.
Here are a few pictures of the simple Totoro-themed party that we threw for Cleo’s 2nd birthday party. Everything came together in the end very nicely, with a lot of help from grandparents and friends. We planned a late morning party, so we just had cake and coffee. It was really nice to have coffee talk with friends in the park before the day got too warm.
Look at the great cake that my friend Vince helped me make! Actually, this one I did by myself, but he came over and helped me make a trial run cake. The vegan “buttercream” frosting recipe (see below) that he came up with looked better than this one did, but it was so very tasty. I used a Dr. Oetker’s lemon cake mix, and instead of using eggs, I substituted 1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water for each egg, which is turning out to be my favorite egg substitute. It came out really well! There’s also a layer of organic blueberry jam in there between the cake layers serving as the filling. One of our guests wondered why I decided to make a cake that wasn’t vegan. He looked pretty surprised that it actually was. And there was barely enough for all of the guests. Oops.
Vegan Buttercream Frosting
1 c Earth Balance margarine, at room temperature
3 c vegan confectioner’s sugar
1-3 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp vanilla (Vince suggested flavoring it with fresh grated ginger! It was really good, but didn’t play well with the cake flavors we had planned here)
Using a hand mixer, beat the margarine until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar; it’ll be crumbly. Add a tablespoon of soy milk and mix, adding more if necessary. Add vanilla, mix more. If you need more liquid, by all means, add more, but slowly. If desired, add food color. Now get to decorating! Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
Soot Sprites are abundant in Totoro’s neighborhood.
I made about 40 of them, with fuzzy faux fur, felt for eyes affixed with embroidery thread. Very simple, too (see my instructions, below, to make your very own). Making them was a lot of fun, but seeing the looks on people’s faces when presented with one was even better.
To make the Soot Sprites, trace 5″ circles (coasters work really well as a pattern here), and cut out 2 pieces for each sprite. The eyes are patterned by a quarter, and then use embroidery thread to affix them in a star pattern to one of the faux fur pieces (if you’re into that. Dots would work too). After attaching the eyes, place the faux fur pieces right sides together, and tuck the furry ends in toward the middle of the sprite so that you don’t see any fur sticking out. Pin the pieces together. Stitch around the edges (if you use a sewing machine for this, you will want a bigger needle and a longer stitch length. And you’ll also want to dust it out really well after this project. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Soot Sprites can be messy!), leaving about a half inch seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 2-inch opening! Turn the sprite right-side-out, and stuff with the stuffing of your choice. They would make really great bean bags, but I opted for stuffing. Light and fluffy! Hand stitch them up. Voila! A Soot Sprite is born!
Acorns and seeds play a part in Totoro too. Cleo’s grandmother was so generous with her time and made a bunch of these! They’re about 2 inches from end to end, and made with such care. She is a crafty lady, and I think she really enjoyed the challenge of working on something so small, using a new pattern, and making them just right. She made almost 30 of them, and they’re amazing. They still sit up on our bookshelf to be admired. Here is the pattern she ended up using. There are a LOT of cute things going on on that site. I might have to learn to knit. Again.
It wouldn’t be a party without treat bags…
And our young guests seemed to enjoy them greatly. They’re just basic paper gift bags, filled with bubbles, Soot Sprites, the fabulous knitted acorns, and some stickers. The Totoros are made from heavy duty scrap booking paper. I sketched my basic Totoro shape on one, cut it out, and then traced it to make some clones. I kept it very basic. Less is more, and when you try to do details on a reproduction, it looks so much more… reproduced. I did the same with the Totoro tummy, and then used a hole punch to do the eyes. After gluing them all together, I just used a felt pen to put on the finishing touches and customize them with the guest’s name. Finally, tape the Totoro to the full treat bag, and you’re done!
Our adult guests didn’t go home empty handed though. The night before, I cut down some flowers I got in bunches at the grocery store and grouped them in half-pint mason jars. So cute! I chose jars that would fit into a car’s cup holder. I’d hate for our party favors be remembered for the mess they made and not for the cuteness of the event!
Thanks to all of the help that we had, I was able to arrive at the party site just half an hour before the party started to unload everything. I enlisted a few friends to help with the tablecloths on the picnic table, and to arrange the decorations on top of them. My parents brought a huge party pot of organic coffee from a local roaster and coffee house, and I set up a little coffee station with a selection of vegan creamers and sweeteners. This party was a true lesson in keeping things simple so as to truly enjoy the day.
Here’s one of my favorite moments from the party- Cleo walking with my dad. At first she was really wobbly while maneuvering the perimeter of the now-unused wading pool at the park. By the time she got halfway around, she was feeling pretty confident; by the time she’d lapped it, she wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. She’s growing up so fast!
Happy Birthday Cleo. Next year you can pick out your party theme. xoxo Mommy
Look how big my baby is getting! I actually made this back in September, and it’s been hanging in Cleo’s closet waiting for her to grow in to it. Fortunately, the time came during the month that mommy went back to work, and baby went to day care. And brought home a variety of germs. Which brought the entire house down for about a month. Four huge cases of tissues, several prescriptions, and a few paychecks later, here we are.
Now- let’s talk hoodie. I always have SOME sort of problem with a pattern, now don’t I? This one was actually pretty easy to work with- though I got a little carried away gathering up the ruffle edges, and had to loosen them up. I always do that. It’s a very gentle gather, not some crazy circus petticoat trim, though that’d be fun! My only complaint is that the cuff edges are unfinished- you can see that just on the inside of her sleeve. I plan to clean it up with some bias tape, with the same treatment that the edge on the bodice received:
Can you see how challenging it is to get a photo of this busy little person?
My only advice for you, should you decide to make this hoodie, is that you choose a fabric that is not quite as dense as the flannel I’ve chosen. Those layers of (although gentle) gathers, sewn onto the bodice or sleeve, covered with bias tape, make for some challenging stitchery. And it’s not always pretty. And you might also consider choosing a bias tape that matches (rather than pops against, as I’ve chosen) your hoodie fabric.
Won’t this be the perfect little hoodie for a day at the coast?
from Nylon, May 2007
This is one of those projects where it might have been nice had I taken pictures of my process for you to see. Sorry, I was too busy watching Project Runway.
I made a hoodie like this for myself shortly after I bought the magazine. My lovely friend Sabrina fancied one for herself, and was willing to shell out the steep payment of, get this: one men’s XL pullover hoodie. Using the tutorial in the magazine, I was able to churn out this cute little number, custom fit to her cute little figure!
While trying to find info on the designers Mike & Chris, I found a site that actually has the magazine in it’s entirety available online. If you look hard enough, you can probably find it… but basically, it’s such a great idea: you chop the hoodie in half, just above the pocket (it won’t work with a zipper hoodie), and cut again just below the bust for an empire waist. Cut off the sleeves. Make a pleat on the shoulder, and fit the hoodie to the body that will be rocking it, and sew it back together. Hem the sleeves, and turn the excess fabric from the middle into a fancy little “neck belt” (that’s the genius part, really), add some buttons, and BAM. You can do that, right? C’mon, it’s SEW EASY.
Happiest of Holidays to you, dear reader! Here are a few things that I’ve been working on this past month. The secret ingredient is LOVE! With a few shots of caffeine….
Here is a Cuddle Kitty Toy that I made for the lovely little girl that I watch regularly. I’ve missed her over Winter Break- her mom is a teacher. I’m sure they’re having fun together… Still, I can’t wait to see her next week.
You might know how fond I am of making multiples when crafting- and you might recall how much I enjoyed making this Collapsible Shopping Tote. Well, I had made a set of 4 since the original post, and given them away as gifts, and got such great feedback (and loved using the original that I made myself), that I just had to share the greatness of this tote with the rest of my loved ones. Here are nine of The Twelve Totes of Christmas. I hope that they are all well used! This pattern alone has made One Yard Wonders one of my favorite sewing books so far!
And last, but definitely not least, a gift for my sister. From (drum roll please…) Prudent Baby.
I just knew I had to make these for her when I first saw this tutorial. Jacinda sold me on those fabric covered buttons like nobody else could. And let me tell you, they were even more fun than I was expecting. So satisfying! I can’t really describe. I got so into assembling them that after I finished 10 of them (yeah I only needed enough for 8 napkin rings, but they came in packs of 5 and I COULD NOT STOP), my thumb was really sore from shoving them together. It hurt so good! I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Aren’t they fabulous? These are actually the completed napkin ring closures. A fabric button sewn to a regular button. I used embroidery thread and an upholstery needle- it got complicated with plain old sewing thread.
Here is the other side of the napkin ring, with the unexpected side of the button closure. How slick would it look with the fabric covered button here too? I wanted to show you variety though, so… Here.
Another reason that I was so interested in this one was the button holes. I haven’t done any on my new machine, which I got last March, and I figured it was time. One of my more recent goals is to challenge myself with sewing projects, so here we go, right? Due to the thickness of the project, the button holes did not come easily. But my mom came to the rescue! She suggested that I put a piece of paper under the project as reinforcement before I try to sew the button hole. Prior to doing so, the feed dog (those grippy teeth that hang out just below the presser foot that help to move your sewing project along while the machine stitches) wasn’t moving the project at all, and my blood was boiling! It was almost Christmas and I was supposed to be wrapping this gift, instead of being 16 impossible button holes away from finishing. NO! So, yeah. Plain old printer paper works. Just a little piece. Give it a try.
Now, to start scheming for next year’s gifts…
from a tutorial on Prudent Baby
Have I mentioned how much I love Prudent Baby? Oh, yes, I have. Almost every day a new project from them appears in my email box, and I swear at least half of them I plan on making. I don’t know when I’ll have the time… but I can dream, right?
These pants though, were a necessity. My baby girl wears cloth diapers, and so often regular pants in her size range don’t fit because of that diaper bulk. There are a few store bought pairs that we have that fit nicely, but they keep getting shorter! These pants are the perfect solution, and they’re so easy. SOOOO EASY! If you’ve never made clothes before, this is a great place to start; you can really get an idea of how pants are constructed with this simple tutorial. Also, it’s easy to see how adjustments in length of the pant leg or in the rise will change the fit- and since just half a yard of fabric is enough to make these for your wee person (Cleo is 17 months old), it’s not like you’re out $20 if you mess up (unless you’re using ridiculously spendy fabric). I plan to make some in heavier fabrics- jeans are the biggest challenge with our diapering system (which we love, BTW… If you have questions about cloth diapering, I love discussing!), so I’ll try some denim once I feel I have the fit just right for it. I do love how wide these pants are, but they do have a very lazy day pajama feel to them. Also, I need to add length in the next pair I make! Yikes! Stop growing, baby. As it is, your inseam is almost as long as mommy’s.
A week before Halloween, I decided to make this costume. In the past, I would have these HUGE costume birthday parties the weekend before Halloween, and in the last few years, I’ve somehow lost the urge to spend an entire month preparing for my birthday drinking weekend. I was actually really let down by myself; that I wasn’t eager to find or make the perfect costume for my little one- something that I’d always looked forward to doing as a mom. But that urge kicked in as I was dredging through the limited selection of reduced price costumes online a mere seven days before my favorite holiday. I saw a costume like the owl one pictured above in a virtual shop that my bestie showed me back in August, but it was too springtime flowery and too spendy. It haunted me as Halloween got closer. Finally, when it seemed that I already had too much on my plate between trying to finish up a commissioned portrait, taking a watercolor class, and the rest of daily life, the urge really struck.
Six days before the holiday, we headed out to the fabric store to purchase our fabrics. I used scrap felt for the eyes and beak, a scrap of fuzzy fleece for the chest and face, and the rest is purchased flannel, perhaps about a yard in total. I did a few sketches, and used an existing hood from one of her sweatshirts and a tighter hat as a guide for the owl’s head, and then constructed the rest of it on my own. I must say, I work best under pressure. Because in those six days, I was able to finish a 3×4 foot portrait of my nephew dog, prepare this cake (for the 4th time, with raisins, BOMB!) for mine and my mom’s birthday, spend a day with mom, learn some new watercolor techniques, carve some pumpkins (see below) and bust this costume out.
I’ve taken some pattern drafting classes in the past, and I must say, if you like to sew, and want to learn to sew your own clothes that fit perfectly, I highly recommend seeking some out. It definitely helps if you are one of those people who enjoys visualizing and translating a three dimensional idea into a two dimensional pattern and back into a three dimensional product, but it’s something that you can definitely get better at. I found my class at our community college, and learned SO much in just two trimesters.
I don’t have a pattern for this costume 1) because I didn’t have time to make one and document as I worked, and 2) because it’s so similar to the one I was inspired by. Next year though, I’m thinking ahead. I’m going to start early. It’s going to be fabulous. Hold me to this. Please.
Another festive thing that took place were these bars:
Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Bars adapted from Shutterbean
Nonstick cooking spray
12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
2 cups (1 package) Dandies vegan marshmallows
Coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray. In a large (your biggest!) bowl, toss together popcorn, almonds and pretzels. In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high. Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color–8-12 minutes. Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter). Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.
Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat. Transfer mixture to dish and use a dampened hands to press the mixture into the pan. Sprinkle with a heavy dose of kosher salt. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.
They were SO GOOD. I veganized them, using this awesome product called MimicCreme that I found recently at my market, in place of the heavy cream, and Dandies vegan marshmallows in place of the regular marshmallows. Those marshmallows have the best flavor, I had to resist eating half the package. It paid off, and these made such great treats to share with friends and family. As Shutterbean shared with me, the recipe claims to make 12 servings, but those would be HUGE. I ended up with 24. And I’m the queen of out of proportion portions! I’d recommend chopping up the marshmallows so that they melt more easily- though they aren’t jet-puffed, they’re not minis either! They’re much denser with a better flavor than the regular nastioso marshmallow. A special thanks to Bean for coaching me through this- from not disturbing the boiling sugar mixture to reassuring me that this concoction really WILL fit into that 9×13″ pan!
And, here are my pumpkins. I like to wait until just a few days before Halloween so that they don’t get all yucky and moldy, needing a shovel to be disposed of. Also, I was smart this year and wore vinyl (Latex would work too, if you aren’t allergic like me) gloves to guard against that awful dry skin that I always get from carving multiple pumpkins. I can’t believe it took me so many years to figure this out. I always do a kitty as my warm-up pumpkin. It’s tradition:
I hope that you had a happy Halloween!
I’m a guest blogger over at Almost All The Truth, for Make Things Monday!
Come and learn how to make an easy hooded baby towel from an old bath towel! I promise, it’s easy and fun.
My little girl and I are going on a trip next week, to see my best friend in California! We will be traveling by plane, which is FREAKING ME THE F*CK OUT. I picture my little terror sweet bebe, screaming and whining and squirming throughout the entire flight each way as I am the meanest mommy EVER to not let her roam freely throughout the cabin, greeting the other passengers. So, I’ve armed myself with a sack full of never-before-seen toys and books to pull out one by one as the minutes creep by while we are confined in the air- one for each flight, actually! Of course, I needed some fresh new containers for this trip- I have a reputation for being “well-contained” to hold up. Enter the Simple Drawstring Sack. I have been making such sacks for various occasions over the last few years (lunch sacks, snack sacks, camera accessory sacks, dirty clothes while traveling sacks, lingerie/sock sacks, gift sacks…), after my friend in Japan sent me 2 small ones that she’d made.
This is the most easily modified to suit your needs project that one could think up. Each one that I do is different, depending on whether or not I have finished selvage edges (like I did this time), whether or not my fabric is one piece or two (here I had one)… and so on. I was able to make these 2 bags in about 45 minutes while watching a show and taking photos between most of the steps. Let’s get started!
Here’s what you’ll need:
fabric- just a bit more (by a few inches) than double the size you want your sack to be
drawstring material- double the width of your sack (I usually use bias tape because I like the colors that are available, and it’s sturdy)
2 safety pins
For all seams I used a half-inch seam allowance. Really, you can do whatever you want to though. French seams would be really nice!
First off, if you are working with two panels (instead of just folding one large panel in half to make the sack like I did), stitch them together right sides together down one side. Press open the seam. If the edges are unfinished on the other sides, you’ll want to finish the top edge where the drawstring will come out. I usually will do this to the top 2 inches, folding over 1/4″ from the side edge, and then another 1/4″, pressing and then top stitching.
If you are working with just one panel with finished edges like I was, here we go! Start out by making the channel at the top of the sack for the drawstring: fold over and press 1/2″ or so (just make sure it’s wider than whatever you’re using for the drawstring! I like to be generous here. Why not?) along the top unfinished edge of your fabric. Fold over another 1/2-3/4″ and press. Pin it down if it makes you feel better… And don’t mind my cat.
Zip on over to your sewing machine and top stitch that puppy down! As you can see here, I’m using a generous 5/8″ seam allowance. Of course, if you have a thin cord that you’re using to cinch your sack, this might be considered excessive. MAYBE. Be sure to back stitch at each end to reinforce the seam. It sure would be sad if you lost your contents!
Now that you have your channel all finished and pretty, let’s spread it out and take stock. As you can see here, I took the easy road. This is a half-yard of fabric, folded in half lengthwise. If you’d not had those finished edges and needed to turn in the upper edge, now would be the time to make a little snip in the fabric just below the channel so that it’ll smooth out nicely when you stitch up the side. Clip in just to the point where the seam allowance will be… Once you do that, the fabric will lay flat when it’s sprawled out on your rug (or table if you’re fancy). If you’re extra fancy, you’ll probably use pins. Again, I winged it. Is that why my seam ripper and I are so tight?
Now you’re ready to turn this into the sack it’s destined to be! Start right where that channel stitch hits (or right where you’ve clipped they should be really close), and go down the side and along the bottom edge. Again, be sure to back stitch at the beginning and end.
Clip the corners at the bottom of the sack to keep it from getting bulky, especially if you’re making a wee sack:
Now it’s time to install your drawstring. I cut mine to be just a bit longer than double the width of my sack- so that when it’s open all the way, the only part of the drawstring visible is the knot. Attach one end of the drawstring to the bag just below the channel using a safety pin. Attach a safety pin to the other end of the drawstring.
Thread the loose end with the safety pin through one of the channel ends of the bag. Since I used bias tape, and one edge of it has an open fold, I positioned my tape so that the opening would face the bottom of the channel, giving it a more finished look with the folded edge being at the top. Feel the safety pin on the inside of the channel and work it through, gathering up the fabric around the pin, and then pulling the fabric over the drawstring while keeping the safety pin moving forward in the channel, like this:
Eventually the safety pin and the drawstring will emerge out the other end of the channel, right next to where you began. Snazzy huh? I am really good at this thanks to all of the scrunchie making I did in middle school.
The hard work is done! And it wasn’t even that hard, was it? Tie a (simple overhand) knot using both ends of the drawstring lined up together. Turn the bag inside out and press. You’re done! All that’s left to do is fill it with toys and snacks and underwear and head out for your adventure! Wish us luck.
from One-Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins
I made two of these delightful little smocks for two delightful little girls. For their second birthdays. My daughter chose the fabric (one of her few words is dot, and she is an expert pointer), and I liked it because it isn’t too girly and is fairly neutral- it won’t clash with whatever the artiste happens to be wearing when she decides it’s time to create her masterpiece.
Well, you know me, I can’t follow the directions from the get-go. Originally the pattern suggests several paintbrush-thick pockets, but being an artist myself, I figured that these girls might want to tote something a bit larger to their easels. Perhaps like the little pack of washable crayons I included with the gift?
Like I said, I made two smocks. The first one was frustrating, at best. This is another pattern that you might have trouble if you’re a beginner to sewing. There are two side panels, and the front piece with the pocket, and then the two back panels. The edges are all encased in bias tape, which isn’t all that tricky in general, unless you have two pieces coming together at a very sharply curved edge, like you do here. Are you catching my disgruntled mood here? Good. Because the finishing of the side panel edges was never addressed in these instructions. Or, if it was addressed, it was very unclear, and in the mish-mash of instructions for encasing the edges of the front and back panels. I tried to follow them, but decided to just follow my gut and go around encasing the edges in the way that made the most sense to me, which went pretty well, and in one piece. On the first smock, I didn’t encase the bottom of the side panel before attaching it to the front and back… but I did on the second, which made it a lot easier to encase the front and back edges. With both smocks I ended up having to do some hand stitching at the points where the seams curve and meet. Another thing that I did on the second smock was a French seam on the seam allowance on the shoulders connecting the front to the back. It’s just so much more tidy, and I do have this book to thank for teaching me to sew them, with the collapsible tote that I made a few months back.
Overall, I’m really happy with the outcome of the smocks, and I can’t wait to see them in action. However, I’m taking a break from bias tape for a while, and I’m going to give this book a well-deserved rest. Perhaps distance will make the heart grow fonder, and I’ll later pick up the book and push through another project because the promise of such a cute project is worth a little bit of strife.
from Babycakes by Erin McKenna
3 1/2 c whole spelt flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 c coconut oil, plus more for the pans
1 1/3 c agave nectar
3/4 c unsweetened applesauce (there’s a recipe for homemade in this book! i took the slacker route and used store-bought…)
3 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 c hulled and sliced strawberries
vanilla frosting (recipe to follow)
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottoms of three 8 x 3-inch round cake pans with circles of parchment paper and coat lightly with oil.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add 1 cup oil and the agave nectar, applesauce, and vanilla directly to the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake the cakes on the center rack for 22 minutes, rotating the pans 180 degrees after 12 minutes. The finished cakes will be golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.
Let the cakes stand in the pans for 20 minutes, then gently run a knife around the edges, cover the top of each pan with a cutting board, and flip over. Carefully lift the pan away and re-invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Place one cake layer on a serving plate or a cake stand. With a frosting spatula, gently spread vanilla frosting over the top. Scatter enough strawberries over the frosting to completely cover it. Place a second layer on top, right side up, and spread with more frosting. Add another layer of strawberries. Place the final layer on top, domed side down. Spread the top with frosting and arrange strawberries over it decoratively. Cover the cake with a dome and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes 16 slices.
1 1/2 c unsweetened soy milk
3/4 c dry soy milk powder
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 c agave nectar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 c coconut oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
In a blender or a food processor, combine the soy milk, soy powder, coconut flour, agave nectar, and vanilla. Blend the ingredients for 2 minutes. With the machine running, slowly add the oil and lemon juice, alternating between the two until both are fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and refrigerate for 6 hours or for up to 1 month. (If you plan to use it as a sauce, store the mixture at room temperature for up to 1 week.) Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes.