Thursday, January 26, 2012

Simple, Handmade Gifts for Boys

You won't find a lot of sewing for boys ideas on this blog.
It's not that I don't love boys. I just don't have one of my own.
But I do have nephews. Seven year old twins with a baby brother on the way.
And a Momma who appreciates hand-made.

As such, I was so inclined as to make a few of their Christmas gifts this year.
 For baby boy, I made this sweet little vest and tie onesie.
I first spotted this idea on Pinterest, but I've seen it all over the web since.
I can't wait to see the little man in it!  Mostly, I just can't wait to meet the little man.
I tried a new technique for printing these shirts for the soon to be big brothers.
It involved Mod Podge and embroidery hoops and screen printing ink (which is ridiculously difficult to find in my neck of the woods).
You can find the tutorial I used here.

You can see it's a little bit rough, so this method is probably not best to use if you are going for something really clean or intricate. But for these shirts I kind of like that look.
I didn't sew a single thing for this gift but I think it's one of the favorite gifts we gave this year.
I found the idea (again) on Pinterest.
It's a big 5 gallon bucket from Lowes with a "bucket buddy" to hold art and craft supplies.
We hit up the dollar store and Target and Wal Mart and decked this puppy out.

I love that there are lots of pockets on the outside for the little things, glue sticks, tape, paint brushes, scissors, glitter glue. . . and then big things like coloring books, construction paper, and pipe cleaners can go inside the bucket.
Now the boys have everything they need for getting creative here in one spot. And they aren't limited on where they have to be creative, they can tote this bucket around with them anywhere.

Love it.
It was a lot of fun to challenge myself this year and try to come up with some handmade gifts for these special little guys.  And it was fun to see their faces when they opened everything up.
Thank you Pinterest and all you crafty people who pin these awesome things! That inspiration folder in my head was getting a bit unreliable.  


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lunch Bag revisited

I tried my hand at the Executive Insulated Lunch Purse from the book, "Lunch Bags!" again.
My mom packs her lunch every single day so a lunch bag is always a great idea for a gift.

I've made her two others. One was when I was in college years before I had even HEARD the word "blog" much less wrote one. It was pretty cool though, pieced and appliquéd with hand dyed fabric. One of these days, I'd like to get back into dying my own fabric.

The other was one of my favorite projects a couple of years ago. . . (here)

Since that time, I have discovered thermal fleece interfacing--which is perfect for using in lunch bags to keep everything cool.
I used the same exterior fabric as the last time I made this particular bag because I love it. But I attempted to change the zipper.  The pattern in the book called for an extra long zipper that kind of hung off the sides of the bag and I didn't love the look of that. It was o.k., I just didn't love it.
So this time I tried a shorter zipper. I think it's almost right.  Zippers and I, we are learning to get along, but we still have a ways to go.

You'll note, I also added a 402 tag. 
This was a last minute Christmas gift and I totally forgot to tag it. Of course, my proud momma ask if I could add one.  You know, in case those other teachers in the lounge ask.
This bag is a bit bigger than the last one I made for my Mom so I think it will function a little better for her.
Since the sewing of this gift was so last minute, I had to ask my Mom to bring it with her for an after Christmas photo shoot. Yes, we still had green grass after Christmas. This has been one weird winter.

Believe it or not, this is not the end of my posts about Christmas presents. There are a few more yet to come. . . 
Which is good because I've sort of hit a sewing lull for the time being and don't have much to show for the last few weeks.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Muslin Hanger Cover tutorial

These hanger covers are a nice way to dress up an ugly plastic or wire hanger.  They also would help hold those slinky fabric tops on the hanger as well.
The sky is the limit fabric wise. You could make it as simple or as funky as your heart desires.
So let's begin with the supplies:
 Your sewing machine, needles and coordinating thread.
Pins (if you're into that sort of thing)
an iron and ironing board
fabric--(6 yards of 45" wide fabric should make 25 covers)
For the Lily's Closet Project we have been asked to use unbleached muslin. Just in case you were curious, on the left is unbleached (and un-ironed, ha!) muslin, on the right is bleached muslin. See the difference?
The lovely folks at Lily's closet will take these simple blank slates and stamp them each with their logo for a consistent, sophisticated look through the whole store.

Your fabric for these does not need to be pre-washed.  Since I don't imagine these will be washed frequently you don't need to worry about them shrinking.  Also, if you don't pre-wash, you won't have to do as much ironing to get the fabric crisp enough for folding and cutting.  I am a big fan of ironing when it is necessary, but when it is not, I am not.

Print out your paper pattern.
You can find the PDF here . . .(edit: It seems the PDF is printing out small, if you go this route, add about 1/4" all around when you are cutting) or, e-mail me and I'll be happy to e-mail the PDF, or even snail mail a copy.
It will print on two sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper.  Make sure the box in the corner prints to the right scale and then cut out your pattern. You will have to piece the pattern together and tape it. It will need to overlap a bit. It should be easy enough if you match up the lines and the letters.
After you assembled the pattern, place it on your fabric.  I like to fold my fabric selvedge to selvedge in half and then in half once again.  This gives you four layers of fabric to cut through and will be about 11" wide if you are using 45" wide fabric. Place the long straight side of the pattern on the side of the fabric that has both folds.
I like to trace out lots of hanger covers on my muslin and cut them all at the same time. I use my disappearing ink marker, but you could use a pencil or even a sharpie.  These lines will be inside and won't be seen.
Cut around the pattern or on the lines you traced.  If you folded your fabric in quarters like I did, you will have two shapes like this one above once you open things up.
On the bottom of the hanger cover, turn under about 1/4 of an inch and press.  If you iron well, you won't need to pin this and that saves a ton of time.
Turn another 1/4" up to encase that raw fabric edge. Press that well and your bottom hem is ready to sew!
But wait!! Don't sew yet!
While your iron is hot and you are standing at the ironing board go ahead and iron down 1/4" on the top of the hanger cover.
. . . and another 1/4" to encase that raw edge.

Repeat the ironing of the bottom and top hems for the second piece of fabric.  If I am making a lot of these, I like to put one on top of another and iron two of them at once.  The folds aren't quite as crisp that way, but they are sufficient.

Now, you are ready to sew.
Start with your bottom hem.  Take a straight stitch along the top part of the hem.  This should be around 1/4" from the very bottom of your hem.
Once you've gotten to the end of the first one, grab the second.
I don't even waste time cutting my thread. I just keep my machine a humming and continue sewing the second hem.  It's a little trick I've learned from quilters who are sewing lots and lots of little pieces together at a time.  They call it chain piecing.

It may not seem like much, but if you are making, say one thousand hanger covers, these little time savers add up.

When you get to the end of that second hem you can clip your threads, including the line of thread in between them if you used my little time saving method above.
And move on to that top hem.  You can chain piece here too. Sew 'em both up.
You should now have two hanger cover halves that are nicely hemmed on top and bottom.  If your hems need it, you can iron them now, it's up to you.
Lay out your two pieces, right sides together. You are getting ready to sew around the curved portion, so if it helps you, you might want to pin these now.  I don't pin. I just live on the edge like that.
You want to sew around the edges of the hanger cover now, leaving the hemmed top and bottom edges open.  I use about a 1/4" seam allowance here.  That means your stitches should be about 1/4" from the edge of your fabric. Don't stress this, just find a line on your sewing machine to line the fabric up with and go for it.
This is what your seam should look like. One on the right from top to bottom and one on the left from top to bottom.  
You can see my stitching isn't perfectly 1/4" from the edge all around. No biggie. Just so you are close.
Again, the areas you hemmed (top and bottom) should not be sewn together. They are the opening to put the hanger in to. 
With your hanger cover still inside out, take your scissors and clip your curves. Be careful not to cut through your stitches here!
Clipping the extra fabric around the curves like this helps the finished product to lie flat and not wrinkle or bunch up.
There are four curves to be clipped, two at the "neck" and two at the "shoulder".
Once the curves are clipped, turn your cover right side out and press.
You're finished!
Only 999 more to go!

Again, if you are willing and able to help with the Lily's Closet hanger cover project, please e-mail me ASAP and let me know how many of these you think you can make and mail by the end of the month!
402CenterStreet at gmail dot com



Can you help? Will you help?

Several months ago I saw a logo for a place called "Lily's Closet" on a friend's face book page.
I clicked on it. I don't really know why, other than the name caught my attention.

As I read through their "info" section I knew this was a ministry I wanted to support.

Our purpose is to reach out to broken, hurting girls with God's amazing, healing love, and to give them eternal hope.
Company Overview
Who we are:

Lily's Closet is a ministry designed to reach out to middle and high school girls from Goshen living in difficult life circumstances. It is a store where these girls will be able to come and shop for clothes- for free! Each girl is paired with a staff member who serves as a "shopping buddy" for the day. When the girls finish shopping, the staff will have the opportunity to pray with each girl and talk with her about how much God loves her.

We believe that in meeting a physical need of clothes that these girls have, we are able to meet the much greater spiritual need these girls may have. God has a huge heart for these girls and absolutely moves mountains for them! This is a huge opportunity we have to reach out to broken, hurting girls in our very own community!

Follow us on Twitter :) Lilys_Closet
Our mission is to tear down walls of pain and hopeless with God's love by building relationships and providing clothes for girls in need.

 I e-mailed Madison, the contact person listed there, and offered the services of our Crafting Hope group.  I thought maybe we could sew some cute spring scarves or simple skirts for them.

She e-mailed me back with a different request. . . hanger covers.
Hanger covers???
A quick internet search turned up a few things better suited to Grandma's Closet than anything else so I asked what exactly she had in mind.
(photo via: Taylors Closet)

She sent me a few photos and I set to work thinking through some very simple pattern making.
Once I had a pattern, I made a special request of our sewing group.
Lily's closet needed 250 of these simple little things by the first of November!
Seemed manageable to me at the time. . . that's 10 people making 25 covers, right?

Well, obviously I wasn't thinking.
People were sewing Christmas gifts in October. (I wasn't thinking Christmas until late November. . . ahem)
By November 1st we had about 65 of them.

I put out my plea again. . . extended my deadline to the end of November. . . but still, with the holidays it was just too much.
So I told Madison I would revisit the project after the first of the year.

And here we are. . . after the first of the year.
And this little Lily's Closet vision has grown a bit I think.
The request has changed.
250 hanger covers would be great, but they could really use 1,000.

And this is why I need your help.
On Thursday, January 26th at 6:30 pm the Crafting Hope group will be meeting at the Nappanee Public Library.  We are inviting out anyone who can iron, cut or sew to help us make as many of these in a two hour time period as we possibly can.
We will form an assembly line, so if you can't sew, don't worry! We'll let the non-sewers iron or cut fabric.  Working together we can do exceedingly more than we could on our own.

For more information, including a supply list, please go to the Nappanee Public Library website (or e-mail me,  402CenterStreet at gmail dot com).

If you can't make it that night or you just simply live too far away, would you please consider making a few of these for us on your own?
You don't need to be local. I'd love nothing more than to see this project become bigger than our little corner of Indiana. I'd love to see God's grace and love for these girls grow all over the country (perhaps, dare I say, the world?).
I will be posting a tutorial soon.  They truly are a simple and inexpensive little project.  Very little sewing skill is required. I promise. 

I am looking for 40 people who will commit to make 25 hanger covers.
I am praying specifically for this and I am believing that the God who multiplied the loaves and fish will multiply our faithfulness.  This job is too big for me. It is too big for the small group of seamstresses I know. But it isn't too big for the God we serve.

If you need further convincing, please take a minute and watch this local news channels coverage of what Madison is doing with Lily's Closet.
That's right folks, she is 17 years old. She had the first inklings of this idea "a few years ago" at a youth conference.  That would make her, what, 15 when she had this vision?
So what say you? Will you help us?

E-mail me if you will commit to making 25 (or more!) of these hanger covers.
402CenterStreet at gmail dot com
I will send you an address to mail the completed covers to as well as be available for any help you might need along the way.

And please friends, PRAY.

Lily's Closet opens on February 2nd.  
I'd love nothing more than for every hanger in that building to be covered in unbleached muslin and the prayers of the saints who sewed a bit of hope into the lives of the hopeless.

Thank you Friends.
Stay tuned for the tutorial.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Minky & Me

Has anyone out there worked with minky before?  I hadn’t until 4 months ago…so why am I just getting around to posting about it?  Because I JUST finished the project.  I wish at this point I could at least say that it was a complex pattern I was making, but the truth is it was just a simple old baby blanket. Four straight seams and your done!
So the tale begins 4 months ago on Labor Day weekend, I was with my sister and mother fabric shopping.  We happened upon a fabric store devoted entirely to minky.
I saw this brown minky with paisley cut into it and could NOT leave the store without it, and a red with white dot print was its perfect compliment.  I had a friend that was due the following weekend and I knew these were the nursery colors she had picked out.
When I got home my sights were set high for this blanket.  I didn't want to make it too easy on myself, I wanted to jazz it up by embroidering Little Misses Name on it – I took a lot of pictures during this process…with the idea that I would blog a how to…
After several failed attempts on my own with both machine (with my normal sewing machine) and by hand I decided to seek help from the online sewing community.  What I found were several warnings to not even attempt embroidering on minky…and after several frustrating days, I would advise the same thing.
Even after all the issues I had, I still attempted the embroidery a couple more times unwilling to let the idea go.  After several more failed attempts I finally gave up and took some weeks away from the frustrating project.  When I came back to it I moved on to sewing the blanket itself.
I found the material impossible to sew to itself.  The stretch and the ply of the minky made it difficult at best to sew together without puckering and pulling.  Again I went online to look for answers.  I couldn’t find any tips for sewing minky to minky – it seemed that everyone was sewing minky to cotton.  And after my attempts to sew the minky to itself I can understand why there weren’t more people doing it.  So I was left to forge the path.
The best solution I came up with at that time, was to place heavy books (yes that is Taxation in Colonial America) on the material and run it down to smooth out the fabric along the way.  It worked better, but it still wasn’t good enough, there was still some sticking, stretching, and misalignment.  Additionally, the fabric wasn't cut precisely, so the pieces didn't line up perfectly.  I decided to us the white dots as my line and I cut all sides to straight lines.  Warning cutting minky will leave a mess at your work station.'s blog accurately refers to it as a "cloud of fuzz." After I got the pieces to the same size, lining up was much easier, but I was still having puckering and pulling issues.  I was ready to give up FOREVER – my sister convinced me to just step away from it for a while. So I took a few more weeks away from the project.
The next time I came back to it, was after a consultation with my sister (and brother-in-law) and we (he) came up with a possible solution.  To sew them wrong sides together.  It would leave the seams unfinished and in need of a finishing, but with the smooth sides together the friction that had been causing the sticking and pulling would be eliminated. 
I laid the first piece completely out on my dinning room floor (hard wood – smooth surface.)  Then place the second piece directly on top of that one.  I was now in a large enough room and space that I could move around the compete piece of fabric and pin it without moving the material around.  That ability and the fact that the wrong sides together were smooth and not “sticky” like the right sides, allowed me to get the whole thing pinned and ready to sew. And boy did I pin.  I pinned around the whole thing, to make sure there was NO shifting this time. Doing it that way, required every single pin that I own.
I also decided to use a zigzag stich, because of the  stretch of the material.  And it WORKED!  Finally things were looking up.  I had a baby blanket albeit with unfinished edges, but the two pieces of minky were together - and straight and not puckering or pulling!
I decided to finish the blanket with blanket binding and located and pinned a tutorial on blanket binding.  I have never worked with binding before, and even though I would highly recommend the above tutorial I had my own issues with tension, stitch length, and even pinning the satin binding.  I had to rip out my stiches more than I would like to admitt.  So (you guessed it)  I walked away from the project for a few more weeks.
Then came the holidays…I got some quilting pins – much better leverage for the satin binding pinning process.
As you can see I went a little pin crazy at this step too…I didn’t want to mess things up again.
I was enjoying the binding process, the tutorial really is a good one. Cornering was fun, the straightaways we going quickly.  Everything was going my husband would say - almost TOO smoothly! (he is a realist)
In the last 12 inches I had to sew on to complete the blanket - I ran out of thread…broke a needle…and some how pinned it so poorly that I didn't catch the back side of the binding with the stiches.  I had to step away from the project for an hour.  But the closeness of the completion of this looming project (and the fact that baby girl is now 4 months old) gave me a new motivation to get the blanket done. So I found some close to the same color thread, switched in my last spare needle and got back to work. 
And then I finish it!
Ding dong the blanket’s done! And I couldn't be more releaved.
The moral of this story – stay away from minky!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dish Cloths for Mom

I had this post pinned on my "gift" board for a while. I thought daily dishcloths were such a great idea.
I decided to make them to put in my mom's stocking this Christmas.
Actually, I was going to make them for a lot of people. My mom is the only one who actually got a set. . . this year anyway.
My letters are a bit bigger than the originals because I cheated and used the die cut machine we have at work for cutting out the letters.  Hooray for short cuts!
Get it. . . short CUTS??? 
I took these with me and worked on the hand stitching around the edges of the appliqué while the Bug was in dance. It made for a good little waiting room project although I think if I make them again I would just use the sewing machine for time sake.

This is a nice little scrap buster project. . . although I'd have to start mass producing them if I wanted to bust all of my scraps.  Seriously, the scrap bin is out of control. I have this inability to throw fabric away and lack of time to make that glorious scrappy quilt in my head.

I am not sure, personally, that I'd be disciplined enough to use the "m" dishcloth only on Monday and then wash it, ditto for each day of the week. Nor do I ever do dishes daily. More like once a week when they get piled up and I'm all out of bowls for my cereal. 
But they are cute, right?
Perhaps a monogram or something would have been better?

At any rate, it was a fun little project and a nice way to dress up a rather mundane object that represents to me the most dastardly and dreaded of all household chores.
You think I exaggerative? You try living your entire adult life without a dishwasher and then see how you feel. (Grumble, grumble)

Hopefully these bring a bit of cheer to my mom's day. . . whatever day she opts to use them!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Teacher gifts

I always struggle with what to do for the Bug's teachers to say thanks.
Food? A gift card? It all seems a bit impersonal.

So this year for Christmas, I made her two preschool teachers these little zipper clutches.
I figure, who CAN'T use a zippy little bag, right? 
I used the gathered clutch tutorial on Noodlehead. I've made these before and they really come together nicely. I still have room to improve in the zipper insertion department but I'm getting better.
And, you know, a gift card and some chocolate can't hurt, right?
(Candy bar wrap free printable found here)