Sunday, January 29, 2012

A little Valentine's inspiration

I know it's a little cheesy, but I love a good holiday outfit. However, I'm usually sitting up late the night before said holiday, sewing some cute thing I want my kiddo to wear the next morning.

But not this time! My February 13th will be peaceful and relaxed! I will have time to help the boy make his own valentines to bring to school! Because I have made Little Sister's valentine ensemble in advance!

Here she comes...walking down the street...

Of course she had to have a headband (what kind of a shop would I be running if I didn't mention that I sell these?):

She got the head wound falling over this hamper that I made her
(she assumed it would hold her weight).  Oops!
Made out of felt, layered and sewn together on the machine, then added a little embroidery thread by hand before attaching to the elastic with hot glue and a felt backing. This elastic is called Foldover Elastic, and it's often used for lingerie and cloth diapers (as well as headbands). It's super soft and stretchy, so it makes for an extremely comfortable headband for a little one. Works great with or without hair!

I didn't make her dress; I picked it up on clearance at Old Navy for $5. But it looked like this off the rack:

Action shot

Definitely cute and festive, but just not quite enough for me! So using old t-shirt scraps and some embroidery floss, we now have this:

I just used the embroidery floss to hand-sew the two hearts together, then added the second row of embroidery floss before machine-stitching the whole thing to the front of the dress.

And ta-da, we have a very valentiney ensemble!

Comfy too. I actually love this little dress--would it be weird to let her wear it year-round? It even has pockets, one of my (and her) favorite features.

Happy Valentine's Day!
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Upcycled Sweater Cowl Scarf and Armwarmers

I'm not going to lie, you guys. It was hard for me to put this one in the mail and send it off to its intended recipient.

I wants it.  My precious.
(photo by Shelby Brakken)

I know, I know, I can just make one for myself again later. But it's not always that easy! First of all, it's not every day you find a major score at the thrift store:

Not only was this sweater snuggly, cute colors, and in good shape, it was also Goodwill's 1/2 price color of the week, making it a mere $3.50. AND it was a size 2XL, giving me TONS of knit to work with. Although I do feel a little guilty taking one of the few cute plus-size items available at a good price at Goodwill just to cut it up--but I'll learn to live with it.

I decided to make an infinity cowl scarf, like I'd done before, but because of the shapes of the pieces I had once I cut up the sweater (shown below):

The shoulders/neckline
The body of the sweater
I made one large rectangle (18" by 100"), folded it in half lengthwise, and sewed one seam all the way down to make my tube instead of making two long strips. Then I turned the tube right-side-out, and closed it up with the machine for as far as I could go, leaving about two inches that I had to hand-sew with an invisible seam at the end.  This tutorial explains this really well--that's where I learned it.

Photo by Shelby Brakken
This finished scarf is wrapped around my neck twice and is the perfect snugness for me--nice and wide to cover your whole neck, close enough so you can tuck in your chin against the wind, loose enough to slip over your head the second time around without messing up your hair.

And then this is what I had left over from the body of the sweater:

A friend of mine had just shown me a pair of armwarmers she had bought that were so cute, and I had been looking for just the right sweater to upcycle into a pair.  This one was perfect for it.  Well, what would have been REALLY ideal is a sweater with snug sleeves that I could just cut off and hem, but this was a close second.

  To figure out how big I wanted to cut my armwarmers, I used a knee sock that fit my arm pretty well as a template.

So my cut pieces ended up being about 10 or 11 inches wide (I trimmed it after sewing it right where I wanted it):

(it's folded in half)
By about 12" long (I ended up cutting a little more off the end because I was adding green cuffs).

I used the original hem from the sweater for the bottom edge of the armwarmers, and then I trimmed the cuffs from the original sleeves of the sweater to the same width to go on top (the finger end of the armwarmer).

These cuffs were double-thickness, which was a bonus.
I pinned the cuffs to the tops of the armwarmers and sewed them using a long stitch length, and I stretched the fabric as I sewed it to give it stretch for your hands to go through.

Then I folded them in half lengthwise (inside out, of course), pinned up the outside, and sewed at about the 4 inch mark at the top, and the 4.5 inch mark at the bottom.  I curved my seam in a little towards the wrist for a little snugger fit.  Actually, I slipped my arm inside before sewing to make sure the fit was okay.  It was.

Then I added a second zig-zag seam for some extra stability, then trimmed it down.

After turning inside out, you could be done...

But to make sure your fingerless glove/armwarmer doesn't go slipping off (and for extra warmth), you can stitch a simple line about an inch in from one edge to give your thumb a home.  Again, place your pin, check the fit, then sew.

Where is thumbkin?  Here I am!
And tada, you're done!

These are so great--I swear, I have wished I was wearing them several times since making them.  They were very tempting before I put them in the mail.

photo by Shelby Brakken

For example, we were at the chilly chilly beach this weekend, all bundled up for the windy and cold sunbreak walk on the beach.  If I'd had a pair of these, I wouldn't have had to whip off my gloves every time I wanted to take a picture on my touchscreen phone.  Gotta find me another sweater to chop up!

[Edited to add--I have since made tons more armwarmers, and I like this method (with a hole in the side seam for your thumb) much better!]

And I still have the hood left over, so I can make an upcycled version of this adorable girl's poncho someday (even though I famously announced in college that friends don't let friends wear ponchos--I had never had to wrangle my friend's arms into their sweaters, so I may be willing to change my mind about that now that we're talking about a freakishly strong toddler.)
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Challenges of reusing framed art

I found another frame/mat setup that I loved at Marshalls or some such place. The mat color was so perfect for a photo I had of our family at the beach, and I loved the detail around the inside. So I took it apart to reuse the frame and mat, just like I did over here at this tutorial post. But man, I think those art framers are on to me! This has gotten so much more difficult than it used to be when I started doing this 6-7 years ago.

You WILL leave this art in this frame.
I had the same kinds of challenges on this reframing job as I did the last time--hard piece of fiberboard backing nailed into the frame, strong double-stick tape holding the art to the mat, etc.  What, do they think people are just going to leave that stuff in there forever?  Who wants a high-quality mat-and-frame job?

I did pull the wood trim on the inside apart a little at the corner while removing the hummingbird picture, but for the most part using the box cutter delicately did the trick for getting the art out. Don't worry, it stuck right back together and you can't even tell.

The bigger problem was that after I had everything back where it belonged, I couldn't get those teeny little nails that hold the fiberboard in place to push down far enough. They were sticking up just enough that I know my wall would be mangled if I hung the picture that way. So when I tried to work them down further, oops, I broke the frame. Damnit! At least the glass didn't break. But of course we didn't have any superglue in the house that wasn't hard as a rock. As soon as I had some new superglue I was able to fix it so that you can't tell it broke unless you're looking for it. And I had a new solution for my persistent little nails:

My frame has warts!

Sticky felt pads. I found a sheet of these tiny furniture dots leftover in a drawer, so I stuck one to each place where a nail was popping out. I think I had to use a dozen of them or so. Crazy!

But here's the finished product, and I love it. I paid $19.99 for the framed art and $2.39 for the 12 x 18 enlargement, so pretty steep for my house, but I'm so happy with it that it's worth it!

The funny thing is, I even kind of liked the hummingbird art! But I can't resist covering my walls with family photos.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Easy Ikea Hamper Makeover

I bought these hampers for my kids at Ikea for $4.99, and they're fine, I guess, but I thought I'd be happier with them if I liked the fabric better, and it didn't seem like it would be too tough to cover them so that I liked them better.

The starting point
And I was right--it wasn't hard. But there are a few things that I learned through trial and error (or through not paying attention and error, so having to do it again) that might make it even faster and easier for you than it was for me!

First, I chose the fabric from my stash that I wanted to use, and then I grabbed an old shirt from the goodwill pile (eg, not something I wanted to upcycle into a dress for the little one). I traced the lid on the old shirt, laid it wrong-side-up on top of the face-up fabric, pinned them together, and cut out the circle. You might be able to tell from my photo that I cut right on the line. What am I, sewing for the first time with no idea what I'm doing? It was late at night. But please note, leave yourself a seam allowance, dummy.  Actually, I'd give it about a half-inch.

The next step is to shoo the persistent animals out of your extremely neat and organized workspace.

I know right where everything is.
Anyway, by pinning your wrong-side-up backing to the right-side-up fabric before you cut it (WITH a seam allowance, of course), you are ready to just stick it in the sewing machine and sew around the outside, right on the line you traced, leaving an opening big enough for your hand. I like to make a little 90 degree angle at the opening so that the edges fold themselves in when you flip it right-side-out.

Hard to see with the white thread, you know what I mean?

Once it's right side out, stick your hand in there to push the edges out all the way around, then iron flat.
Auto-tucked-in opening.
I would sew the opening closed at this point, I left mine open but then it was a bit of a pain making sure it was closed while attaching to the hamper lid.

The lid comes off of the hamper (it's stuck with a piece of velcro), which is nice for running it through the sewing machine.  There is a piece of plastic boning that gives the circle its shape, and working with this was something I learned through trial and error.  I think it's still helpful to pin the fabric to hold it in it's general place, but expect to do a lot of tugging.

Feed it carefully into your machine.  What ended up working best for me was to place the plastic boning under my presser foot and sew the fabric circle down as close as possible to that boning.  It was a little hard to keep it under the foot, but it looked a lot better than when I kept the boning on the right side of the foot and tried tugging the fabric over far enough.  Yes, I did sew this on more than once to learn this. You're welcome.  In any case, the top probably won't look perfect, but it will look cuter than when you bought it.  It's a hamper, people.  Relax.

To cover the handles, I first flattened down the body of the hamper (it's got velcro tabs to hold it that way).  Then I cut out two rectangles of my fabric, approximately the same length as the handles (one for each side). I kept the fabric right-side-out and folded it around the handle, then sewed a straight line down the outside, making sure NOT to catch the actual handle in the seam.

Then I trimmed the fabric and turned it so the seam was toward the inside.  Finally, I cut two squares of felt for each side and glue-gunned them on, covering the ends of the fabric handle cover as well so that it would stay put and not expose my sloppy seam.

There's the finished product!  It still doesn't match my daughter's room, but what are you going to do? It lives in the closet anyway.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

The kids that play together/Winter Beach Trip!

I am so thrilled that my kids are at an age where they can start to play together. Those awesome moments of laughter and snippets of peace that comes from them entertaining each other are so priceless (not least of all because they will shortly break down into screaming and owies, but still...focusing on the positive here!)

Whatever big brother is doing, little sister wants to do too.  If what Brother is doing is crash-landing as he runs around a corner too fast and ending up with an owie, then Sister will immediately splat herself to the ground and call out "Owie!"  too.

We are laying our heads on placemats now, of course.

The age-old "Grab my foot" game
After the last pic, I really wanted to call this game
"Grab my monkey," but that seemed somehow inappropriate.
So silly!
Very important firefighter conference call
Superhero Tete-a-tete
They are just so darn cute.  How is it possible that they just keep getting cuter?  Does it just continue this way until they hit their awkward stages?

I'm just so happy that they seem to enjoy each other's company.  Crossing my fingers that it continues into adulthood!

Speaking of enjoying each other's company, the kids and I (and even the hubby for a quick trip) were able to spend a long weekend at Cannon Beach with my parents and my brother and his gf.  It was my dad's birthday, but I won't tell you how old he is...

Oh.  Oops.
Of course, he couldn't resist impressing The Boy by pinching out the candles.

Anybody can blow out a candle.
It's also pretty rare to have my brother at the beach with us, since his chef's schedule is not usually conducive to weekend trips.  So score!

Shoulder rides!

And we were treated to some rare coastal inclement weather.

Little Sister is showing baby Rosie the snowfall.

My parents' dog Maddie knew exactly the best way to handle the snow:

Can't you just let me enjoy my fire?
I don't have any pictures of the kids playing in the snow, because most of it was melted by breakfast time, but here's a look at the dusting we had before I went to bed:

Quick!  Cancel school!
Despite how this looks, the weather actually was pretty intense over the pass, so we stayed an extra day to give it a chance to clear up.  The kids got to miss school (well, The Boy missed his 3 hours of preschool, and Little Sister missed her 30-minute Baby Boogie class at the community center) and have an extra day of chilling with the grandparents.

Telling Grandma a Knock-Knock joke (really!)
But before you get too impressed, here it is:
Little Sister:  Knock Knock!
Grandma:  Who's there?
Little Sister:  Bless you!  Ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

Since I had to make the trip into Seaside to buy some chains for my car (the pass got worse instead of better after our extra night, oops!), we took the kids for a carousel ride.

Getting artsy at the Seaside Carousel
The Boy actually allowed Grandma to let go of him this time! 

Such a big boy!

And this was Little Sister's first trip on the carousel.  I had a hard time getting a photo of us in motion:

But once the ride stopped, you can see how clearly impressed she was.

Don't make me do it again, Mom.
When it was actually time to brave the roads, I was so glad to be with my mommy and daddy--Mom rode in the car with me to entertain the kids:

Backseat drivers

While Dad caravanned with us so that when the time came, he chained up my car for me. And then even though he had studded tires and he had to get back to town for a meeting, he stuck with me and my 25-mph driving over the entire pass to make sure we were okay, then he took them off again on the other side of the mountain.  And I sat in the warm car while Mom helped him.  How spoiled am I?

Yes, chains required.

I was a little afraid that we would have missed the whole 2012 PDX snowfall event, but this happened after the kids went to bed:

So now we've had snow this year.
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