Tag Archives: sewing


I bought these place mats at the Crate and Barrel outlet in Texas when visiting my parents nearly two years ago. The hummingbird place mat in particular has been sitting on top of my sewing supply stash begging for a project. I knew I wanted to it be used just right and I am pleased as punch with how these turned out:

Placemat Rework

Placemat Rework

Placemat Rework

Placemat Rework

Placemat Rework

Placemat Rework

Placemat Rework

Placemat Rework

I needed a simple project that would make me feel like a success; something that didn’t require a pattern or too much thought. I wanted two gifts for a couple girlfriends and voila — without much toil, I was able to whip these up with supplies on hand. Plus, it makes my soul happy to reuse something — to take something destined for one use, marked down to pennies on the dollar and then with a bit of sass, turn it into something else entirely.

Not to get too loquacious about life, but our ability to take a situation and work through the potential “reworks” seems to either make or break us. I know so many who cannot apparently handle a speed bump on the way to work without lamenting about how annoying their days suddenly became. And then there are those who fight cancer quietly, with itchy wigs and bellies that are constantly nauseous, and do so with the best attitude they can muster — making the healthy shamed we haven’t been more grateful for the obvious.  I hope today, whatever life hands you, whether it is exactly what you visualized and planned or something wildly off course, that you’ll find the way to find joy in the rework.


One Yard Wonders: Another Flop


Safe to say, I’m not having much sewing luck these days. While your pattern in One Yard Wonders is adorable and I can’t wait to make it, I’ve had nothing but trouble from the others we’ve so far selected for our monthly sew-along. This month’s Pampered Pooch project was no better.


Dharma, the family pooch, is always next to my mom. In this case, by the sewing table.

I read the pattern for the dog collar with two dogs in mind: Sydney — the super guest, and a new puppy friend — The Snows of Mount Kilimanjaro (Kili). I read the pattern. And then I read it again. And then one more time. Not only was I going to have to guess the length of their necks but I also had no luck finding an O ring at my sewing shops in town.

Happy in her environment

So I did what any logical seamstress would do. I took the project to Texas and asked my sewing mama for help. Now, I’m going to add the following details as background information — not simple bragging. My mother has won international sewing prizes for her quilts. She’s got more ribbons pinned to sewing projects than you can imagine. Some of these quilts have taken years (like her Dear Jane.) So a simple dog collar shouldn’t be Everest, or in this case — Kilimanjaro.

Sew Mama Sew!

Alas, even she threw in the towel after two hours of trying to make the instructions work. As you noted, this collar is a Martingale style. Most vets, pet salons, dog parks, etc., require quick release collars. So the shopping for supplies, the gorgeous orange Mozambican capulana I cut up for the fabric and the time trying to decode the pattern were a complete waste.

I see you had problems too. I also see you are far more motivated than I am and you turned these lemons into lemonade. (My mom and instead made margaritas.) I’ll have to give your pattern a whirl! Next month? I’m going to let you happily pick the sewing project. And I promise to do it and be happy about it. May I suggest the laptop sleeve? That looks simple enough. Or better yet — how about your trash bag?


One Yard Wonders – February


By the hair on my chinny chin chin, I got both of these projects completed this weekend. To be honest, I loved the cauliflower recipe. I love veggies just about anyway you give them to me. I went to an international dinner party of sorts last night, hosted by a Sri Lankan friend, and ended up bringing the cauli as an appetizer. I followed your recipe and then threw in all in the blender with a bit of chicken stock (minus the capers) and brought crackers. It was adored! Bravo!

OYW Cooking Challenge -- Feb

As for that folklore bag, I don’t know if I am just out of practice or grouchy from TOO MUCH YOGA. Phew. Needed to scream that. (Ask me how I feel about “namaste” sometime and I’m likely to bite your head off. I am loving this challenge and yet there are days when I cannot for the life of me catch my breath.)

One Yard Wonder Challenge

Anyway – the folklore bag was a chore to make. Not just the tissue paper patterns, which wisely I will now store in Ziplock bags, but also because I found the directions a bit tedious. I am hesitant to criticize, but I will just say it is not my favorite pattern.

It is, however, going to one of my favorite people. The end result is cute enough and on its way to Aimee, who may just be the world’s best advocate for animals. She is beyond sweet and I’ve wanted to return a touch of the kindness she’s sent my way over the years. An elephant bag with bee-print lining is just the ticket.

One Yard Wonder Challenge

Now, what’s up for March? I’ve got a recipe or two in mind. (Think Irish and bread.) And did you pick a winner? I’ve got an idea for that too…



P.S. More than a little excited I get to see you and the Bubba in a couple weeks!

One Yard Wonders: February

Awful horrible stupid tissue paper pattern

Dear Fin,

Okay, I have a big dirty secret to admit: there are times when I am so sick of sewing, I don’t look at my machine for months. When I left for Cancun December 15th, I tucked my machine and supplies away. They didn’t re-emerge until last night. I needed a break. You could tell in my work that I was bored and frankly, it gave me time to fall in love again with knitting. (Not to mention, this craft is much easier to take with you on said beach vacations.)

Awful horrible stupid tissue paper pattern

Yesterday when I pulled out my shiny new copy of “One Yard Wonders” for our sew-along this year I was utterly dismayed to find tissue paper patterns. Am I the only one who finds these insanely difficult to work with and store? Perhaps I don’t have the patience required. When I finally found the pieces, cut them out and refolded all the other giant sheets of tissue patterns, I realized there was absolutely no getting them back in the book’s tiny front pocket from which they had emerged.

Elephant pillow sham

The good news is — I’ve got the patterns cut and some super cute fabric to work with for this Folklore Bag. Isn’t this elephant print delightful? It is actually a giant pillow sham I received as a gift from a friend. I’ve been waiting to use it for just the right project. It’s folksy and fun and has elephants! Perfect.

Elephant pillow sham

Rant over. Hope you have the patience I’m missing!



Adventathon: 1

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Advent begins today, some 26 days before Christmas. I don’t remember ever celebrating advent with any great fanfare as a child, but have coveted intricate and beautiful advent calendar traditions during the last few years. I am particularly fond of this calendar and this homemade version. {How amazing would it be to receive a sweet note each day?}

This season means different things to Christians. For me,  it is a great time to prepare. It provides 26 days to find reasons to be thankful, be mindful in prayer, and to get my heart and home ready for the Christmas season. Cheesy? A bit. Truthful? Definitely. I am a sentimental girl.

I didn’t participate in Black Friday this year and don’t plan on buying a thing for Cyber Monday either. The older I get, the less the stuff seems to matter. I don’t need a thing. Most in my life are equally blessed. And let’s be honest — all you need is a $.50 newspaper to be reminded the most important things in life cannot be purchased or wrapped — love, fidelity, health, sanity, peace. The very last thing I needed this weekend was to sacrifice sleep for the celebration of consumer gluttony. (If I want to celebrate gluttony, I prefer to do so in the comfort of my own home with a piece of pizza in one hand and bottle of wine in the other.)

Instead, my list of handmade items is long and my list of tiny intentional acts of beauty is longer. This year, I’m celebrating Christmas with Christ in mind — He who fed the poor, spent time with the lepers, advocated for love and peace. Needless to say, I’ve got a lot to learn.

I’ll be posting a project each day for the next 26 days. Some take considerable time, while others are conquered within minutes. I hope there will be something included that strikes your fancy. I wish you and your loved ones a holiday season abundant with the very best of life!

Adventathon: 1 Children’s Art Portfolio Tutorial

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Supplies needed:

  • Exterior fabric 18″ x 11″
  • Interior fabric 18″ x 11″
  • Interfacing 18″ x 11″
  • Interior crayon/marker pocket fabric 7″ x 8″
  • Two pieces of ribbon, each 10″ long
  • Wax paper
  • Art supplies

Directions: Iron all fabrics. Iron/sew interfacing to wrong side of exterior fabric. Set aside.

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Take interior pocket material and iron under top (7″) edge, 1/4″.

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Repeat, ironing same seam again under another1/4″, hiding raw edge.

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Repeat with right-hand (8″) edge of pocket. Top stitch top seam.

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Iron center crease on right side of interior fabric. Align the folded under right-hand edge with the center crease of the interior material:

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Pin down pocket side edges and bottom. Stitch 1/4″ from edge of pocket material securing pocket to interior fabric. Do not sew down top edge you’ve already hemmed.

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Now, pull out your markers, crayons, pencils, paint brushes or whatever art supply you’d like to gift in this porfolio. Measure the width of these items. We are going to create a series of pockets for each of these by running hems from the top of this pocket to the bottom, backstitching at each end.

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I created 8 of these lines, measured equally across the pocket, to hold a packet of markers.

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Now, measure the drawing pad you’d like to include on the other side of the interior fabric.

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Find the center of the right-hand side of your interior fabric, 3-4″ from the top edge. Draw a line measuring the length of your drawing pad, adding 1/2″. This pad was nearly 5″ – so my line was 5.5″.

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Very carefully, snip this line open with a pair of scissors.

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Tuck the back cardboard edge of your drawing pad into this hole to make sure it fits. If it doesn’t, make the hole a bit bigger on either side.

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Now hem a small zigzag stitch in a coordinating thread around the hole (buttonhole stitch) to close the raw edge.

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Place the exterior fabric — with interfacing already attached — on top of the interior fabric with right sides matched.

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Measure 6.5 inches from the top of the left and right hand sides of the portfolio and tuck your pieces of ribbon between the exterior and interior pieces, leaving at least .5″ outside to pin and later stitch. Sew both sides together with a 1/2″ seam. No need to leave a hole to turn right sides out. Clip the corners, trim any excess including that extra bit of ribbon and then pull the right sides through your drawing pad hole. Iron flat, pushing out the corners carefully. Top stitch in a coordinating thread.

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Now, measure several pieces of wax paper to place in the center of the portfolio for stamps/stickers. Carefully run a tight zigzag stitch down the left-hand side of the wax paper to secure to the portfolio. This also creates a center binding for the portfolio because you are stitching through all three layers (make sure your bobbin thread matches your exterior fabric.) This step is entirely optional. Wax paper doesn’t hold up well and if your artist is too old for stickers, skip it.

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Add a label if you’d like.

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Place the drawing pad in the hole by securing the back cover.

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Add your art supplies

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And stickers

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Voila — a children’s art portfolio.

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Other variations may include thank you notes, stamps, stationery, etc.

Tomorrow: a favorite holiday recipe


Abe Darby are My Favorite Flowers, Speaking of Roses




For Rosie

Rosie had a stupid thing happen — her purse was stolen this summer when she was on vacation. We met  in Denver soon after the incident. When she lamented her new handbag had just arrived before she’d taken it on vacation, I knew good karma must soon be returned. She’s a sweet woman with a witty, spicy blog and it would be easy enough to send a little love her way.  Voila.

Is it the fancy handbag she’d carefully ordered? Nope. But it is made with her in mind and that’s something no sweatshop can say.

As for that contest earlier this week? The three winners, randomly selected, are: Trish, AmiS and Holly. Email me your addresses and I’ll get your baby bags in the mail!



Chevroleg Bag

My friend Chris asked me to make him a Chevroleg bag months ago. I’ve been dragging my feet because it required going to Ikea, which is the equivalent of REI or Costco for me — $100 at a minimum seems to disappear on purchases that really don’t make sense. (2 gallons of shampoo? Really?) Without letting myself get distracted by the pretty fabric or section of plants, I  tucked shopping resolve in my pocket and came out with one of these $.99 blue bags. The plastic is heavy enough that it won’t fray and you can sew it with a regular sewing needle. Yet it is light enough that it makes a perfect cycling bag.

Chevroleg Bag

Chevroleg Bag

On this version, I added a small interior pocket for keys and change, per request.

Chevroleg Bag

Chevroleg Bag

Chevroleg Bag

I used velcro to attach the pocket so he could pull this out when going into a bakery after a long ride. I’ve ridden with Chris before. He’s a great athlete who loves his croissants too.

Chevroleg Bag

And so, you see the humor in lining the bag with a recycled flour sack.

Chevroleg Bag

Also, in contrast to the tutorial, I “splurged” and spent $5 on a clasp and webbing for the handle. We’ll later modify the length to his build and add an additional back strap to balance the weight of the bag.

Chevroleg Bag

I left the front Ikea webbing because it’s perfect for a carabiner key ring.

If you are looking for a couple sources of fabulous creativity, I ran across two lately that I think are bad ass:

1. Larissa’s appliqued messenger bag (thanks Ellen for sending this my way!)


2. This spectacular use of recycling and sewing for the home. How great is this swing? I am going to do this one day for my future backyard.

The beauty of the blog — sharing and inspiring!



Recycling curtains

Recycling curtains

Dear Fin,

Remember when I sewed new curtains for my craft studio before it became my guest room before it became Matt’s room? And then those curtains were changed out again because really? The green didn’t work for me. There was too much other stuff going on color-wise and African/Aussie is a very simple man.  Well, I still had those curtains tucked in my scrap box and in preparing for this month’s CRAFT challenge, I wondered if I could put this fabric to use?

Indeed. I now have 8 placemat backings.

Scrappy fabrics


As for the scrappy tops? They are in process. Have you ever noticed how this sort of project takes considerable time to simply prep? I’ve got at least four hours into washing, pressing and cutting the pieces for these, although I am loving the repurposing angle. Also, it is incredibly satisfying to use what I have and to be cleaning up the scrap box too.

How is your project going?



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Kara came over this weekend to try out that fabulous boxy bag tutorial.

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It was quite a bit fun and the tutorial is easy peasy. I love the results, especially those created with canvas in lieu of interfacing. They are easier to turn and sit up as nicely. Plus, meeting Kara and spending an afternoon talking about her gorgeous Native American jewelry and the fun of being able to create what you want with a sewing machine and in life.

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Of course, my favorite are the Frida bags. Check out photos from this recent Frida birthday party. Oh, the sweetness! I am going to use this idea one day.