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Category Archives: Sewing Super Genius

The Little Things: Bag Dispenser

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Years ago, I made a bag dispenser from a tutorial which utilized a dishtowel. It didn’t specify the longest of all dishtowels, but the one with the best graphics in my collection made for a dispenser the size of a windsock. It got knocked down constantly, my husband did not like it (which says something, because he rarely makes a comment on these kind of things), and it was just annoying. When the ribbon “hook” snapped, that was that. Sure, it could have been easily repaired, but why?

Well, mostly because the alternative — stuffing the loose plastic bags into any corner of the hanging over-the-door baskets — was doubly annoying. And messy.

The dandy little version you see in the picture was made using a pattern from Stitch magazine, earmarked long ago and finally made after the great magazine clean-out. It only took me an afternoon, and is perfect for the job. Of course, the dimensions veer from the original pattern, because I changed the way I put the patchwork together, which meant math was involved, which of course meant that the dimensions would change. C’est la vie.

Are there bags in it? Why, yes there are, so it all ends well!

Much Better

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As it turns out, there’s a certain amount of getting what you paid for when it comes to those cheap stacks of hand-towels on the end cap in Housewares. Eight years ago, when I was setting up housekeeping here, I grabbed a pack of white ones and figured they’d surely do the trick. Also, since they were white, they could easily be bleached and made good as new whenever I pleased.

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They could become crummy almost immediately, and cause me to want to tell guests to our powder room, “No, really — the towel is clean! I just changed it today!”  For the next eight years.

Then I came across this genius idea, and new I had the answer to my problem. Actually, two problems, the other being what to do with the faded chenille-like Shabby Chic bath towel that was losing its chic and heading straight for shabby.

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One short year later, I got down to it. Since it was a bath towel, rather than a beach towel, I was only able to get two generous hand towels out of it. The borders used up a piece of fabric that has been on my shelf FOREVER, just mocking me. You would laugh at the happiness these towels have brought me. Already, they have been completely streaked with markers [why won't kids rinse their hands properly?!] — seemingly within hours of me hanging the first one — and came out of the wash pristine. They just feel so…fancy…compared to the old thin ones.

We’re nothing if not fancy.

Love is In The Air

The second her teacher said, “Wear your prettiest Valentine dress on Thursday!”, I could tell by the look on my girl’s face that I was hosed. See, she does not have a Valentine dress — not a specific one, at least. Silly me, I thought that her favorite red and gold sweater dress would do just fine. It’s red, it’s gold — it has short sleeves! Short sleeves rule!

But no.

“Mom, I need a dress for my party.”

The next morning:

“Mom, don’t forget my pretty dress. Oh, I can’t wait to wear my pretty dress for the Valentine party!”

Oh boy.

Okay, so a mom who is not super cheap would just mosey on down to Target and get whatever glittered heart madness they’re churning out this year, but I’m not always that mom. It was cold yesterday. So, so cold. Better to hit the fabric shelf and see what I could come up with…except I didn’t want to make a dress. More importantly, I don’t know how to make a dress. My only trick is attaching a skirt to a t-shirt, and I didn’t like any of the options on hand.

And then

I took one more look in her closet and found this:

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A $6.00 H&M dress with a spot on the front. Well! This looked promising! After a quick peek at the Pinterest files, I came across some reverse applique instructions, cut a sleeve off of one of my old shirts, and was off to the races. A couple of hours later, voila!

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Best of all, the young boss loved it! (I wasn’t sure it was going to fly, since she’d already said that the red and pink tunic she was wearing would be “crazy” for her to wear, due to the black and grey in the color scheme. Imagine!)

Bolstered by this success, and drunk with ideas after the whole Pinterest perusal, I also cranked these out for the kids at my AWANA table:

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They were…well, less than enthused, but I bet they’ll use them sometime. Or leave them to get smushed up at the bottom of their bag. I really am trying not to overthink these things. They certainly weren’t going to be any more excited over the stuff that I’d thought about doing two weeks ago and never did, so there we go.

Two more bookmarks are in the works today for the two at my breakfast table. Theirs will be stuffed into new books, so that ought to be worth something. Not that they wouldn’t prefer them to be sticking out of the top of a Lego box, but come on. Speaking of Legos, we saw the movie on Saturday and thought it was terrific. I think Kevin and I laughed more than the kids. Anyway, one of the great points the movie makes [spoiler alert, but not really] is that there are so many creative things to make with those little bricks that aren’t on the instruction pages. True! But then what’s with all the movie tie-in sets? I mean, I know what’s with it — cha ching! — but it really offended my sensibilities.

 

SuperbOwl Weekend

[Tip of the hat to Mr. Colbert for the title of this post.]

As usual, by ten o’clock Monday morning, I’ve all but forgotten what all took place over the weekend. There was a basketball game…I relented and went back into the kitchen…church on Sunday…yeah. More along those lines.

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Somewhere in the midst of all that excitement, I managed to finish up a couple of more baby gifts. As much as I love pink — and I do love pink — it is a lot of fun to break out of the blush and bashful color scheme when sewing for little girls. Yes, the second owl has some pink worked in, but note that the dominant color is none other than a close relative of THE color for 2014! How could I resist the tying that in? That alone makes it an important memento. All that’s left is to wrap these up and launch them from the nest.

 

Whatever

What day is it? With all the crazy “snow” days interrupting our regular schedule, and all of the other stuff making our days a little cuckoo, I’m feeling even more scattered than usual. But that’s winter for you.

Still, we press on! This weekend we made ninjabread cookies (thanks, Ms. Heather!):

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Later, I gave new life to one of Bridget’s old faves, thanks for this tutorial:

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She was so happy. I, of course, spent the next hour wildly looking for more ruined long-sleeved shirts in my stash to try that trick again.

And then yesterday we had Cold Day (which is when they close the schools on account of the weather, and then it doesn’t actually do anything), so I decided to make good on the beef bones in the freezer and whip up another batch of stock. Oh, it simmered away all afternoon, and I had big plans for french dip sandwiches and pot pies in our future. Finally, I lovingly strained it into my largest bowl, and caught the bottom of the pan on the edge of said bowl, tipping it over and dumping the entire contents down the drain. I mean straight down the drain, as though it were being vacuumed down the disposal. AGH!! It was just disgusting. So I washed the nasty, greasy dishes and closed the kitchen for the night. Or maybe FOREVER! Ugh.

 

Presto!

I’m not sure this needs to be said at this point, but right now is all about clearing out, fixing up, and finishing. It’s going to be a running theme.

As if this is something new.

So saying, today I began with this box of squares:

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and ended with an almost finished rag quilt:

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All that’s left is the snipping and washing. The snipping is time-consuming and tedious, but is perfectly suited to break-time in front of the television. And then it’s done! One more box out the door!

You guys, it was astonishing how many times yesterday I tried to stop along the way. It’s partly that I hate to be interrupted in the middle of something, so every time I get to a natural break, it’s tempting to put the project aside rather than power through to the next stop. This one was so close to being done already anyway — those squares had already been cut, sandwiched, and quilted. All that was left was to join them together into the quilt. It took about two to three hours, hardly worth waiting all these months.

The same thing happened on Tuesday, which is to say Pajama Day. Yes, I finally finished the flannel pajama pants that were sitting cut on the table, mocking me. According to my notes, I measured the kids back in August. I’m hoping that’s not when I actually cut the pieces, but it’s close enough. Sheesh. I really do not like making those pants.  Those only took a couple of hours to complete, and in the end I had two pair for each kid. But I tried to stop when I got to the elastic casing, and then the elastic threading, and then the hems. Sure, these pants may not fit — it would have made more sense to have the kids try them on before finishing them, but they weren’t here! — but they are done.

Done is more important than perfect. These kids wear their pajama pants until they are capri length and unbelievably low-waisted, so we should be good.

Out With the Old, In With the…Old

The first project of 2014 was not an exciting one, and it certainly wasn’t glamorous.

I made dust rags.

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Okay, but I lied when I said it wasn’t exciting, because it a little bit was. See, I was cleaning out Kevin’s t-shirts, and instead of bundling them up and putting them in the laundry room cupboard for “someday”, I sat right down and made these rags. The product may be lackluster, but the process was a tiding of good things! Also, at least the cloths are useful, whereas the shirts would be worse than garbage sitting up there in the cupboard.

I don’t have a picture of the second project, but it was a selection from last year’s tower of unfinished beauties. There were five fabric gift bags all cut out and ready to go. In fact, I’d already sewed the ties and loops, which is the most tedious part, but apparently lost steam after finishing the first half-dozen bags. Anyway, I got down to business and finished the rest*. Since I tend to make errors when making something the second time around, I took it nice and slow and checked all the instructions. As a result, I managed to sew each and every tie on the wrong side. BUT! Instead of making it work (oh yes — I had already figured out how they could be “perfectly good” with the jacked up ties), I picked out the stitches and re-attached them all by hand. More good practices! More stuff done!

*Not quite the rest: One piece of interfacing had gone missing, so that bag got scrapped. Then yesterday I found the missing piece, so it may not be a loss after all. Or it still might; not sure about looping around for yet another round of these bags. Save that bit of personal growth for 2015.

3…2…1…Blast Off!

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The last day of school is finally upon us. I don’t care what the calendar says — summer is here!

Of course, not before we cart a few more tokens of our appreciation out the door.

For the “main” teachers:

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A patchwork bookmark with a gift card tucked in. The design was very much inspired by this one, but I like bookmarks to be really thin, so I stitched patchwork to card stock instead. Oh, and I very fancily made a buttonhole at the top for the ribbon.

For the many other wonderful teachers, assistants, and our wonderful neighborhood crossing guard, cookies!

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Apparently, I lost count in the wee hours of the morning when I was bagging them up, because he was giving them to any teacher he met in the hall on his way out. Hey, fine by me — better than coming home with a bag full of gifts like last year!

And, finally, a little something for his one teacher who is expecting a late summer baby:

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I already had some bibs made up, but they needed snaps. This will show you how much I hate attaching snaps: rather than just hammer a couple in, I made up a whole new diaper clutch instead. Yes, last night. Or maybe that just shows how much I like making these, and how quickly they come together. Actually, it’s totally the sum of those parts.

Halfway through construction, I remembered that this was the fabric I’d used to make this same teacher a tissue pack cover at Christmas. Well, won’t she just be voted Most Coordinated Mom!

Also, once it was finished, the square of stitching where the Velcro is attached to the closure was bothering me so much that I couldn’t leave it alone. In the end, I just cut out a tiny patch and glued it right on.

See?

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Easy peasy.

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And that, as they say, is a wrap. Come on, summer!

Salvaged

Goodness! What a ridiculous couple of weeks it has been.

Long story short: The pre-Easter virus stretched halfway through the week, seemingly went away, and then returned in time to make Easter a little bit of a chaotic bust for half of the household.

The night before Easter, I realized that I hadn’t — how you say? — arranged for the Easter Bunny to stop by our place. Oh, oops.

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Pinterest to the rescue! Whipped these up on the sly and added a couple of treats. The kids were happier than I thought they’d be, so that was a plus.

And lather, rinse, repeat. It just seems like the month of April has been swallowed by little upheavals and I’ve been more easily beset than usual (which is to say: completely off-track.) But we just keep moving forward, right? Yes!

My girl had a Fashion Show/Tea Party Day at her preschool this morning, and I just couldn’t bear to send her in the blasted red satin-y dress that she insists on wearing any time it appears in the closet. Sunday to church? Yes. Monday to Grandma’s? Sure. Thursday to school? By all means. I’ve given up on trying to convince her that it’s a little ridiculous, and I don’t care as much as I used to about people thinking I’m an idiot to let her out of the house that way. I’m all about choosing my battles. I’m also getting pretty good at choosing my weapons; in this case, a sundress. Apparently, sleeveless totally trumps satin.

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I picked this skirt up at Old Navy about a year ago, on clearance, because it was long and pretty and my size. Turns out that it looks horrible on me, but I held onto it in case I had a change of heart. (You know how that goes.) No such luck, but I was pretty sure that I could turn it into a dress for the girl, since it came mid-calf on me.

011Voila! I cut off the top of the skirt — right about the lettuce ruffle edge — and finished the inner edge, which also secured the lining to the outer shell again. Then, I added about twelve rows of shirring. The rows should’ve been spaced further apart, but I only realized that after the first two were done, and well, that was two rows too late for me. Charge on! Lastly, I made straps out of the discarded skirt top, and there you go. Getting the straps placed correctly took about as much time as the whole rest of the process, but it still only took me a couple of hours. Truth be told, it’s a little on the short side, but it’s floaty and fancy and she was thrilled and it was free. Happiness all around!

 

Dapper

Dressing a boy is not nearly as much work as dressing a girl. For one thing, the options are limited. Most of the time, I find this to be a good thing; no fuss, no muss. I can buy a stack of shirts and a stack of shorts at the beginning of the summer, and that’s all she wrote. Mix and match, my friend — it’s all good.

A couple of times a year, though, it’s a real pain. Want to find something fancy for your little girl? Pick a store, any store! You may not be wild about the selection, but you’re sure to be overwhelmed by the choice. Thinking about sprucing up the young man (without turning him into Little Lord Fauntleroy, which will hit you in the pocketbook and is doing him no favors I’m just saying)? Well, good luck to ya. You might find a few outfits, but I’m not a huge fan of “outfits”. Could I just get a tie? Maybe one that’s not blue striped?

I will say that I managed to find a couple at Children’s Place [think I was lying about the blue striped thing?], but the one I picked online doesn’t match the sweater I picked out. Also, much to my secret delight, he said he’d rather have a bow tie. Well!

Once again, a big thank you to you crafty sisters out there. I found this tutorial yesterday, and cranked this out immediately:

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Pretty hip with the t-shirt, don’t you think?

Anyway, I was thrilled with how this turned out. (It’s the little things.) I can’t wait to make more, although I’m not sure how many he’ll need. Still! The only things I did differently were to use the machine instead of hand-stitching; pressing in a 1/4″ fold on each of the long sides of the neck-band rather than stitching and then turning it, because I go crazy when I have to turn narrow tubes like this; and when attaching the second piece of Velcro, I just folded the unfinished edge to the top — tucking it under the Velcro — so that it gets caught in the stitching when you attach the Velcro. [If you have any questions about any of that, just leave a comment and I'll try to explain it more clearly.]

Isn’t it nice when something comes together quickly and easily? Celebrate the moment, friends!

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