March 2009

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vinyl carpet protector

I have a roll of heavy duty vinyl carpet protector runner. It has nubbies on one side and ridges on the other. Anyway, we don’t have any carpet in this house so I don’t need it but I haven’t been able to give it away. With mud season upon us here in New England you would think somebody would love to have this to protect a carpeted entryway!

I wasn’t particularly looking to repurpose it but I was looking for something with ridges to help with wet felting and I cut off a piece of the runner to try out the ridges. Since I was in the bathroom working on the felting, it was only a short leap to realize that nubby side up it made a great soap holder! Since you buy it by the running foot at the hardware store a small square for a soap holder costs just pennies. Looks pretty cool doesn’t it?

minimalist vinyl soap tray


aluminum flashing tissue box cover "mitered" top of aluminum flashing tissue box cover
I actually made this about 5 years ago, maybe longer. But it’s been at my husband’s office all this time and I just brought it home so I thought I’d post a picture of it. I’m giving it a second life as a desktop wastebin. Why? When I am sewing I constantly create little trimmings of thread and tiny scraps of fabric. Even though there is a trash can right by my feet, they don’t seem to make it in there. So for years I have been using empty square tissue boxes to hold those scraps. Small enough to sit right on the desk, the plastic flaps that allow you to pull one tissue at a time also serve to keep in all those little scraps of thread and fabric if the box should tip over. When it’s completely full I can throw the whole box out or give the trimmings to the birds depending on the time of year.

Now how did I make it? I used aluminum flashing from the hardware store. I think you can get a package of ten small rectangles for a few dollars. I was able to score and cut them to size with regular household tools. I think I used some sort of all purpose thick glue to glue the pieces together. Apparently it worked well enough! I used steel wool to make the brushed texture. Inexpensive and easy modern/retro look for your tissue box!


This is one for the history books. The boy, the girl and I were so busy, actually enjoying, cleaning their room that I completely lost track of time and missed the bus to afternoon kindergarten! The historic part of this of course is that we were enjoying cleaning together. They parted with a few unloved toys and stuffed animals, calmly agreeing that I could give them away. I had hoped they would part with a few more but since it was the boy’s idea today I figured I wouldn’t push it. The secretary at the school had a good chuckle when I told her what I’d done and that the boy would be there shortly thanks to the dad-mobile.

Now I expect to hear some embarrassing stories from the rest of you, because if you are a friend of mine I know you’ve done some silly stuff like this too!

With all the birds chirping outside lately I thought we’d have fun making some birdies for inside the house. Both the girl and the boy were able to cut these out themselves and color them. I cut the slits in the body for them and they put the wings in and then we just hung them with thread taped to the dining room ceiling. Then we admired our handiwork swaying happily.
hanging paper birdscolored paper bird

They enjoyed it so much I thought I’d include a downloadable pdf for you to cut and color your own birdies! The shapes are very simple for easy cutting for little hands. Best printed on a bit heavier paper if you have it. Don’t forget to color both sides. :)

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The girl insisted on a walk in the woods today so we took the short trail to the sledding hill. I brought my camera along as it was gloriously sunny today. I ended up taking pictures of footprints in the snow. Maybe someone who knows about these things can help identify some of them.

These are obviously dog prints, quite a few of those among the human boot prints and sled tracks.
running dog tracks in the snow closeup of dog footprint

But how about these? Could they possibly be deer prints?
unknown footprints in the snowcloseup of unknown footprints in the snow

Now, I bet you don’t know what these are. The girl matter of factly informed me that they were left by dancing marbles!

This is the girl being an ant, with antlers. She thought that was quite a funny joke. I was impressed that I understood her joke!

And when we got home, surprise! In the empty lot behind our house . . . Could these possible be rabbit footprints??
animal footprints in the snowunknown animal footprint in the snow

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A lovely photo of crocuses by Frogginette inspired me to post pictures of the green shoots sprouting at our house. They have been doused with fresh snow twice since I first noticed them but they keep growing. These as-yet unidentified bulb sprouts are actually right up next to the house which is why they are apparently unaware that the rest of the yard is still blanketed in two feet of snow.

bulbs sprouting through the snow

In this photo I am attempting to show how deep the snow is just inches away.

sprouting bulbs surrounded by snow

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brownieYou came to us in the heat of the Oklahoma summer – small and hungry, dirty and scared. I didn’t think we had a place for you but we couldn’t let you stay where you were. So we bathed you and fed you, we took care of your wounds and comforted you. We named you Brownie before we realized that the milk chocolate color of your scraggly coat would turn into a magnificent soft black fur after a few weeks of care and regular food.

You learned to play, to sing, and to cuddle. You became a part of us – funny, sweet and loyal. You became friends with the Prince and with persistence you even won over the King himself. Later you welcomed the boy and the girl with thoughtful care and endured their baby hugs and kisses, their toddler chases, hats and games, you snuck in to snuggle with them after they were asleep. You accepted Daisy and befriended her. You mourned the loss of your companions but comforted us at the same time. When we moved you let us know that you were not happy to give up your territory but you were happy to be with us, your people. You gave us so much.

We will miss you sweet Brownie. Thanks be to God for giving you to us.

cyclist musette bag inspired toteMy friend, TheJen, has become an avid cyclist and she was telling me about the small bag that cyclists use for carrying food and water. Here’s a link she suggested that shows traditional styles of musette bags or feed bags. Often these are imprinted with promotional messages and handed out at big races. Anyway, I got it stuck in my head and couldn’t get it out so I decided to make a tote based on the basic proportions and idea of the musette bag used by cyclists.

Since this is not for real cyclists, I used a double layer of home dec canvas, a print called Sprig by Jessica Jones for J. Caroline Designs. I really liked this fabric although it’s a large design which is unusual for me. It’s a graphic treatment of leaves, very much up my alley. I had to have it but I really did not know what I was going to do with it! It would make great couch pillows or upholstery for cheery kitchen chairs, or any number of things. But when I got the idea to make the musette bag I knew immediately I wanted to use this fabric. I did use the basic proportions that I could find on the web, about 11x13inches I think. The strap is very long for wearing across the body rather than over the shoulder. There is no closure but I did add a teeny zippered pocket on the inside that would hold cards, money, keys. I was able to cut two bags, including the little pocket, out of a single yard so I went ahead and used the same fabric for the lining. Almost no wasted fabric!

inside zippered pocketThis construction of this lined bag is my own design and was done entirely on the serger and regular sewing machine with no handstitching! It’s roughly based on some self-lined shoe bags I made years ago, also my own design. Anyway, it went together fast and easy (except when I decided to put that little pocket in). I will definitely make this again, especially since I already have the second one cut out, lol. When I make the second one I will take pictures along the way for a tutorial. I am really excited about the construction method I used. It’s fast, trim but sturdy. Now I do have plans to make another musette bag out of a much lighter weight fabric that would actually be more practical for cyclists, but this is one we can all enjoy, yes?

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ruffled skirtAnother skirt for the girl . . . again made from those 9″ wide remnants. This is a beautiful butterfly print several years old from Mary Hopkins by Kona Bay.

I used the ruffle foot on the serger to gather and attach the ruffle at the same time! Now I know there are plenty of people who think this is old hat but for those of just getting into using our sergers, this is really cool. This makes it so easy to do ruffles. No pinning, hardly any fussing. Just have to remember to hem the ruffle before applying and write down the tension settings. I’m going to start pinning those up on my idea board. I’ll take a picture of that soon, when there’s a little more on it!

Also, I figured out that a wooden clamp style pants hanger works great for holding up the kids’ elastic waist skirts and pants to take pictures. Now I just need to work on my photography skills.

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rahbo (as used by the girl)

the proper thing to say while clapping after watching ballet on YouTube

We all know the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” But consider it this way—practice makes—period. (Okay, I have no idea how to correctly punctuate that thought.)

Today I was struck with the thought that since I started disciplining myself to follow the idea of “better done than perfect” I have accomplished a lot. I never like to waste anything so I always want my first try at anything to be useful, edible, whatever. But sometimes that means I spend far too much time fretting over the details before I actually get started. Rather than trying to make the first try perfect, I have gone ahead and just tried. And in doing so I have freed myself to try again sooner. That in and of itself is energizing. Granted, it helps that a lot of the projects I’ve been doing lately have been done entirely with materials I already have in the house. So I’m not spending any money or wasting anything, rather I’m reclaiming it from dust collecting status. Not only do I have more finished projects, I’m learning from those and immediately pouring the learning into the next try. All in far less time than I have usually taken to complete the first try. And the quality of the results? Perfectly usable for the most part.

I’ve known for a long time that I’m never going to attain perfection in any area. But now I’m attempting to apply that knowledge to the attitude with which I do everyday tasks. I haven’t changed my goals, just made an agreement with myself to value each step along the way as much as the end goal itself.

I’m not really saying anything new here. Just reminding myself. ;)

wool felt encased soapwool felt wrapped soapsThis is that wild idea I had yesterday in the shower. It’s certainly a compilation of inspirations from various sources. I’m sure other people have already done this but I’ve never seen any. I did these little samples and they turned out just how I thought, I love when that happens. The first set are meant to look like rocks with either veins of some precious metal in them or maybe lichens, however you choose to interpret. The second set are just vibrant colors for fun. These are soap chunks that I wrapped and felted wool around. The veins of color are wool and/or silk. Wow, that silk is amazing stuff Annie! The best method so far seems to be to wrap the soap snugly in thin layers of roving and then needle felt it quickly with the Clover tool.
Clover felting toolThen a quick squishy bath to really set the felt. They lather really well. Maybe too well, I don’t know how fast the soap will disappear. I started with chunks of unscented glycerin melt-and-pour because that’s what I have. I think something harder would be better. What would be really nice would be some of TheJen’s baby soap. Maybe I can get her to share the recipe. (hint, hint) Cool, I get to use the “fiber” tag, lol.

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img_3303Ever since I first sewed the crow tee shirt and stencilled the crow on it, the boy has been bugging me to add a tree. With a nest for the crow’s babies. I was kind of hoping he would forget about it because I really liked the starkness of the original design. But persistence won out. I’ve always been afraid of drawing trees, mostly because I’m really bad at drawing trees. Studying lots of pictures and tracing photographs of trees is giving me some confidence. Now just don’t look too closely at the nest!

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It’s far worse than I thought. It took me all of three minutes to fill an index card with all the projects that I want to do in the immediate future! 22 in all. This does not include projects that are on the back burner, ack.

On a good note, 14 of them are things I’ve never done or are largely new ideas. A few of them are tutorials I want to do and at least half of them are for the girl. Oops.

I don’t feel too bad though because I’ve been making a lot of things for the boy lately. He needed them. Today I finished a pair of navy twill pants, start to finish. Yay me! Hopefully they are long enough. He seems to be growing an inch every month lately.

Boy’s pants are a pain. And I didn’t even put a zipper in. Elastic waist with fake fly. Two patch pockets and twin needle topstitching. Why do boy’s pants take more time than girl’s pants? Because the fabric is so plain you have to give it some detail in the design of the pattern or pockets, seams, etc. I did try out a new way to do the patch pockets which I liked and will do a better job with next time. Maybe that will become a tutorial as well. I don’t think I’ve seen this method anywhere.

boy's navy twill pants

boy's navy twill pants

boy's navy twill pants pocket detail

boy's navy twill pants pocket detail

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