Saturday, December 12, 2009

Craft Fair Purses or Fancy Math Lessons

Once upon a time I got together with some friends to rent a table at a local craft fair. I decided to make little purses. Because you can't have too many little purses.

Or maybe you can.

Because the craft fair didn't work out. We lost our spot, due to not registering. (Oops!)

I was relieved, though, because I'd planned to have dozens of purses completed by mid October, and I barely eked out four.

Two of each design. They're reversible. (So it's sort of like I made eight. (But then again, they're duplicates, so it's like I made two.))
Anyway, the point is, here are some purses I made. And this isn't the last of them. In my mad attempts to mass produce, I cut out fabric and trim for 20 more. (Just 10 more designs. But they're reversible. So it's like 40 purses. You can't have too many little purses.)

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

That's my bag, baby.

There's a lot to do to get ready to bring home a new baby. First you probably ought to get the kid a place to sleep. And it's a good idea to dig out his big brother's baby clothes from the attic, before he comes home and charms you with his first blowout. (Adorable!) If you're a show-off, you can wash the hand-me-downs before you put them in the drawer because it's been five years since those little onesies have seen the light of day.

But don't go too crazy, because there's lots more to do and you're running out of time. In fact, you'd better get started on the MOST IMPORTANT PROJECT OF ALL: Your diaper bag. Sure, you could use one of the old ones lying around from previous babies. And you probably have a whole closet full of assorted satchels and back packs handed out like candy at all of the professional meetings your husband attends. But don't bother. There's no happiness down that road; only disappointment. You'll spend the next six months switching bags for every outing because none of them are quite right.

What you really need is a purse big enough to use as a diaper bag, or a diaper bag cute enough to use as a purse. And since you have that ridiculous stash of fabric hoarded at closeout sales and swindled from little old ladies, you should probably make it yourself. And you should probably use this tutorial because, well, look at it. It's perfect!

And when you're done it should look like this.

Now that it's finished, force your husband to admire your handiwork. Insist that he inspect each compartment individually. Point out the handy key fob.

Pay no attention when he observes that you've filled all the pockets with your own stuff, and there's barely any room for baby gear. Distract him with lies: tell him that you picked out that manly chocolaty brown color for him -- so he could carry the bag (and the baby) with pride all the way to the changing table!

When he's finished admiring it, wait until he leaves the room before you kiss the bag. He's supportive of your hobbies, but being pregnant can only explain so much crazy. The rest is all on you.

And of course, by "you" I mean "me."

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have an enormous pile of onesies to wash. And a diaper bag to smooch.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Super Sam!

Sam did not get to keep this cape. It was one of an identical set that he took to a birthday party for five-year-old twins Erik and Connor, who happen to love Cartoon Network's Ben Ten. I'd never heard of the show myself, but it turns out you don't have to be a fan of the show to be a fan of the cape. Sam loved it, and has already put in his order for one of his own -- with a few customizations, of course. He wants a jaguar print backed in the sparkly green fabric I used here. He's got his own sense of style, that one.

But he's a good kid, and even though he wanted to keep one cape for himself, he willingly took it off after the photo shoot to wrap it up.

So I'm gonna make him the cape he wants. And with any luck, the lessons I learned on this one will come in handy. I should have used a trapezoid shape or gathered the top or something to make it fit around the shoulders a little better. And though I like the fact that this is fully reversible, putting appliques on both sides was really time consuming. It seemed to be a hit with Erik and Connor, based on their shrieking "Ben Ten! Ben Ten!" when they opened it, so I guess it was worth it. I'm not sure the extra detail was worth being an hour late to the party while I finished them up, but when I saw the haul of toys those two raked in, I was glad I'd spent the time. That's really what this whole handmade gift thing is about: something different, something not plastic. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it was cheap.

Here's the scoop on the material:

I've had the black fabric in my stash for years -- I think I bought it for a dollar a yard when I was pregnant with Sam, planning to make maternity clothes. Never happened. But it's made a few appearances since (Sam's Halloween costume last year), and after two super hero capes, there's not much left.

The green sparkly fabric is part of a huge stack I bought from someone off Craigslist. Her grandmother, who'd been a seamstress for Singer for 40 years, apparently embraced the motto "She who dies with the most fabric wins." For twenty dollars, I got probably 80 yards of fabric in cool vintage prints, and another twenty got me a mountain of trim, buttons, and notions. Negotiating that great deal was not easy -- both the daughter and the granddaughter of the seamstress were there, and they seemed to have different goals. The granddaughter just wanted to get rid of everything, while the daughter wanted to get full retail value for it all. It was tricky. When all was totaled and stacked, the daughter just kept saying shaking her head and saying, "You're getting a great deal. That's a lot of fabric." I might have felt a little bad about being such a swindler, until I got it home and realized just how musty -- and full of allergens! (I couldn't stop sneezing while I sorted through it) -- everything was. I didn't notice how stinky my pile was because grandma's whole house was a bit musty smelling, with giant stacks of old fabric everywhere. And I specifically sniffed my choices and put back selections that seemed particularly bad. Still, when I brought it all home the stench was undeniable. So I washed those 80 yards of fabric, plus the miles and miles of trim TWO TIMES EACH! And now I figure, I totally earned my great deal through hard labor. The pile is still not quite sunshine fresh, but at least I'm not allergic to it anymore.

I hope having some time to air out in my craft area will help, because I'm planning to use a lot of this stash to make little purses for a craft bazaar coming up in October. Expect to see lots of ribbons and ruffles coming soon to a blog near you.
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Friday, August 14, 2009

A Baby Girl Giveaway

I'm not actually giving away a baby girl. What kind of barbarian do you think I am? You don't just give away babies! Maybe if you have an extra, you sell it. But giving them away is just plain wasteful.

But you do give away baby girl stuff! And that's what this post is all about.

So here's the deal: I'm having a baby boy in a couple months. This will mean lots of changes for our little family, not the least of which is that Baby's two big siblings (Sam and Grace) will share the room that is now Grace's girly girly girly pink and green abode. So I'm giving away some girly stuff to make room for more unisex decor.* (Sam's idea: "A big blanket that's pink on one side and blue on the other. I'll sleep under the blue side, and Grace will sleep under the pink.")

I realize as far as giveaways go, this is pretty lame. All the big crafty blogs do giveaways with fancy NEW stuff. Stuff made by professionals, who know what they're doing. Stuff people (who aren't as cheap as I am) might go out and buy. So let me be clear: This giveaway features USED stuff. Stuff that I made myself. Stuff with crooked seams and unfinished edges. But stuff that is still pretty cute (if I may be so bold), and in good condition, despite its amateurish construction. Stuff that I spent way too much time on to just drop off anonymously at Goodwill. And stuff that I don't want to pack away and cart across the country in another move (sometime), on just the possibility that I might have another girl (someday). I'd rather have someone else use it and love it. (Please love it.)

So here's the stuff.

A crib skirt:

I didn't get a good shot of the short side, but it's the same pink gingham I used on the inset panels and the blanket.

Speaking of the blanket, I might throw that in too. I made it to be Grace's special baby blanket, but she has lots of blankets, and she's never been particularly attached to this one. I should warn you though, I tied it with that fuzzy yarn, which looks great but sheds little pink hairs.

There's also a set of vintage Strawberry Shortcake flannel crib sheets made from the sheet set I used as a little girl. (I freakin loved those sheets, and my sisters were jealous because they had lame Care Bear and Rainbow Bright sheets. Neener.)

(What I'm not giving away: The amazing quilt hanging on the wall. My sister Peanut made it. And it's definitely staying, even if never matches another room in our house. Sorry.)

But wait! There's still more that is up for grabs: cafe curtains for two windows (two pieces each):

You'd never know it from the dark picture, but these curtains actually let in a lot of light. So much light, in fact, that I often stop in Grace's doorway to turn off the overhead light, only to discover it's just sunlight in there. But they're still opaque enough for privacy, which is important in my neighborhood where the houses are 12 feet apart.

Finally, and I hesitate to even throw this in because I didn't make it and, well it's used. But do you want the cover for the diaper changing pad? It's clean, but, uh ... you know ... shows signs of use. Also the flower clock. It doesn't work, and my plan has always been to get a clock kit and fix it. But I guess I got used to it always reading 7:35, because it's been two years and I've never gotten around to doing anything with it. So you can have it if you want it.

I think that's it for now. But stay tuned for more. I'm totally in nesting mode, and I really like the idea of de-cluttering my house by junking up yours. You're welcome.

On the off chance that there are multiple people interested, I'll use a random number generator to select a winner. Or just pick my favorite commenter. (Cause how are you gonna know? That's how all these giveaways are really run, I bet.) Or should I split up the set so lots of people win? I don't know! It's so complicated! OK, I'll split up the set if people are interested in individual items. So let me know.

Contest closes when I feel like it.

Good luck!

*I'm kind of drawing a blank here, so if you have ideas about shared space decor that's suitable and appealing for both boys and girls, please share. Who knows? Maybe it will even increase your chance of winning!
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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Kitchen cabinets

Several weeks ago we painted our kitchen. We went from a hideous orange to a deliciously creamy brown aptly named "cup of cocoa." And you know how these things go: one project always leads to another. In prepping the room for painting, I removed a desk we kept in the kitchen to hold cookbooks and office supplies. It opened up the space so much that I decided not to return it to the kitchen. But that meant finding a new home for all the cookbooks and office supplies (plus all the other junk that always sat on top the desk).

So one afternoon I decided to haul up a dusty file cabinet from the basement, a monstrosity that has been there since before we moved in -- and, judging from the paint splatters and debris around it, probably before our home's previous owner moved in too. The files and labels indicated that it had been used by a law office, and I'll admit that I hoped to find something valuable inside. Maybe the deed to a diamond mine, or something?

Alas, all I found were some giant envelopes and three two-hole paper punches. So I had to make myself content in seeing the cabinet itself as a treasure.

The huge drawers were definitely a plus.

But on the other hand, the hugeness of the whole thing made it pretty difficult to drag up from the basement. I should have waited for my husband to come home from work, but you know how these things go. It had to come up, and it had to be then.

Also, have I mentioned I'm six months pregnant?

Noticing I was struggling a bit, Sam offered his services. "I have big muscles." He said. "See?"

And how could I argue with proof like that? So I let Sam and Grace each carry one of the (lightweight) metal supports from inside the drawers. And somehow, we managed to get it all outside.

I thought it would be a quick job; just a quick scrub and sand, and then prime and paint. I had everything I needed in the garage, so I planned to be done in a couple hours. And then, you know how things go (you do know, don't you?), I ran out of spray paint after a single drawer front. And even worse, that paint didn't stick. So when my sweet husband got home, he lugged the whole thing into the garage so it wouldn't get rained on while I figured out my next step.

In the end, what was supposed to be an afternoon project ended up taking two trips to the hardware store and an additional week to complete. I sanded and sprayed and sanded again. Then I ditched the idea of spray paint altogether and used high gloss latex and a roller.

The finished piece turned out pretty well, I guess. Except that it's boring. I didn't think of this until after I was done, but if I was going to go to the trouble to repaint a giant file cabinet, I should have done something that didn't look exactly like what you'd find at Office Max. I should have done something pretty and interesting.

But oh well. It's done. And it's huge. And it holds everything I wanted it to, plus some. One drawer is for cookbooks, one is for canned food, one holds a giant crate of dog food, and one is for recyclable trash. I love being able to have all that stuff handy, but not out in the open. And function is nearly as important as cuteness, right?

Fortunately, the project I tackled between coats on the file cabinet went much more smoothly. And cutely.

I bought this little green cabinet for $4 at a thrift store many months ago. I feel like my house is in constant need of more storage, so I grabbed it up, even though I didn't have a real plan for it. It stayed in our front entry, empty, for several months.

I wasn't wild about the color (although it did match strangely well with the old green paint inside some of our closets!), but I liked the hand-crafted-by-grandpa feel of it. It's sturdy, and well-made, but not fancy. I decided to decorate it like a grandma might, like a giant doily. First I gave the whole thing a coat of cup-of-cocoa, and then I draped it in lace and shot it with white spray paint.

There are sections where the lacy pattern is blurry, and some where the pattern is crisp -- an accidental effect that I really like a lot. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, in part because it just came together so quickly and easily. I spent probably half an hour on minor drawer repairs, and then another half hour painting. AND THAT'S IT! It was loaded and in my kitchen within hours.

Eventually I'll get curtains up and windows washed and show you the whole kitchen--with these fancy new cabinets!--in context. That is, if I can ever manage to get the floor mopped and the dishes done at the same time. But at least, with all this new storage, I can finally keep my counters clear.

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A Purse for Peanut

So Peanut came to visit a few weeks ago, and we managed to squeeze in some craft time. She liked the toddler purses I made for my little friends a couple months ago, and wanted one of her own for carrying her tiny scriptures. So we went through the fabric stash, found some cute prints, and whipped one up.

Only, it wasn't really as simple as that, because this time I ironed in heavy-duty interfacing (I usually use lightweight), and the fabric became so stiff it was impossible to work with. What should have been a quick little project ended up taking hours. And I'm sorry to say, the purse had some serious flaws too, not the least of which is that it ended up being too small for her tiny scriptures. I should have made her another one, but the first one took up all the crafting time and energy we had. We were so sick of it we didn't even take a picture.

Lucky for me, Peanut had a birthday last week, so I had a chance to rectify the tiny purse tragedy. Here's the scripture tote: take two.


I used another material she'd selected while she was here, and NO heavy-duty interfacing. So this one turned out a little better, and I'm pretty sure will fit her scriptures, PLUS a pair of sunglasses, an i-phone and a tube of chapstick.

It was supposed to be a surprise, but Sam gave it away when he talked to Peanut on her birthday. He described it in complete detail, right down to the blue flowers and "golden dots" (buttons). So I'm pretty sure she knew what she was getting when she opened her mail a couple days ago. Still, I hope she likes it. And that all her other birthday tote dreams come true.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Sam had a wonderful year in pre-K, so I wanted to do something special for the good folks took such great care of him along the way.

First was Mrs. S, his teacher. Mrs. S is that perfect combination of warmth and enthusiasm ideally suited for teaching. And she has the patience of a saint, which helps too, especially when dealing with a classroom of 4 to 5-year-olds. So when I heard her mention that she missed having a rocking chair in her classroom -- that in all her previous classrooms at other schools she'd had one -- I knew what her gift had to be.

I watched craigslist for a sturdy, inexpensive, rocking chair. It didn't take long before this little sweetheart came up. I happily shelled out $20 and brought it home.

This finish was in great shape, so painting it almost seemed inappropriate. But I did it anyway because I wanted to personalize it. Sam picked out fabric for a new cushion ($1.50 a yard), and together we decided to paint it black to match his fun jaguar print. I used scrapbook stickers to stencil the word "delphinium" on the back.

(Here's the story behind that: When we picked out seeds for our garden in early spring, Sam was smitten with delphiniums. (Unfortunately, none of the seedlings survived long enough to make it into the ground!) I'm not sure whether it was the word or the picture that intrigued him so, but for the next several weeks he mentioned them frequently, including several times at school. Mrs. S just couldn't get enough of his 4-year-old articulation, and said the word "delphinium" would forever more remind her of him. It seemed a fitting way to sign/dedicate/customize the chair without an ostentatious inscription like "Painted by Diana!")

If you view the pictures full-size you will notice the many flaws in the finish. I used spray paint, which bubbled up in several places where I hadn't sanded well enough to get all of the old varnish off. I couldn't ever get those areas smooth, even after sanding the bubbled areas and painting again. I also had some trouble distressing the edges. I like the lightly distressed look, but I found I had a hard time deciding where and how much to distress. (All the tutorials say "where the chair would wear naturally," but I still don't know what that means, exactly.) So I did some sanding and repainting and resanding.

Still, I'm pleased with the finished results. Mrs. S was too. She actually got a little teary-eyed, and said she'd never received a present like that. When she sat down, she exclaimed "It has that perfect rocking chair creak, too!" I bashfully admitted I'd tried to fix that (with some glue and finishing nails), but she said "Oh, no. You want that sound. It's perfect background noise for nap time."

I'm really glad she liked it.

My total for this project was about $25; $20 for the chair, $1.00 for fabric, another $1.00 for the cushion insert (from inside a $1.00 Salvation Army pillow), and $3.50 for a can of spray paint.

For her teacher's aide, Mrs. Mc, I made a bag in matching jaguar fabric and a set of jungle/zoo themed jewelry.

I'll admit the jewelry set was thrown together the morning of Sam's graduation, and I had my doubts about how it was going to turn out. But in the end I really liked it. I think the mixed metals and materials work well here. As an added bonus, most of what I used was from my purchased-on-clearance/handed-down-from-other-crafters stash, so my total material cost for the jewelry set was probably about $1.00. Add that to the 50 cents worth of material for the bag, and that's a pretty affordable gift!

Mrs. Mc was a little harried when Sam gave her the gift, so we didn't get to see her open it. But I hope she likes it too. I'll have to watch for her in the fall to see if I can catch her wearing it.

Speaking of harried, the gifts for Sam's bus driver and bus aid were thrown together in a hurry too. I had planned to bake a batch of cookies to take out to the bus stop for them, but decided the night before that was too boring. What good is a batch of cookies without a cute tote to deliver them in? So pulled out some fabrics from my stash and had Sam pick two.

He ended up choosing the same prints I used to make Arabella's purse (blogged here) last month. It was cute how specific he was; the polka dot pattern was for Miss K, and the flower print was for Miss Ashley.

I made the bags, two reversible totes with ribbon closures, in record time. I was so proud of myself when I finished and had them loaded with cookies a whole TEN MINUTES before the bus was scheduled to arrive. I was just taking them outside to photograph when the bus pulled up EARLIER THAN IT HAD EVER ARRIVED in my entire year of meeting the bus. So, no photos. But you can use your imagination: same style and size as the one for Mrs. Mc, but in Arabella's pretty black and white prints, and with a pink ribbon closure. Then imagine them stuffed with cookies and pink tissue paper, and delivered flower-side-out for Miss Ashley and polka-dot-side-out for Miss K. And that's how it all went down.

Since these purses were made entirely from material that had been in the stash for years, I'm calling them free.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saturday, May 23, 2009


A couple months ago my friend Dawn brought me a big box of stone heart charms that had turned up as freebies at her work. No one else was taking them home, and she knew I make jewelry so she delivered the whole stash to me.

I can't tell you how much fun we've had with these. Sam loves to count and sort them by color. I love to imagine the project possibilities. So far, I've only managed to use them in one project, this set of earrings for Stephanie. But when I learned that Dawn recently had a birthday, I knew the hearts had to make a prominent appearance.

I paired turquoise hearts with shell discs for a bracelet and earring set. My photos, unfortunately, did not turn out well this time (and the camera may be permanently broken, so that doesn't bode well for future photo shoots either), but in person the set is really quite pretty. I love the movement of the bracelet. The look and feel is just perfect for summer. And luckily, there's no shortage of supplies for these babies. So there might be a set just for me sometime soon.

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Party all the time

I'm way behind with posting projects, and mostly it's because I've been doing too much partying. For example, a few weeks ago my friend Tiffany organized a fun and crafty group of ladies to make and exchange baby girl hair bows. I'll admit I'm not a make-a-million-of-the-same-thing kind of crafter, but I powered through and made these beaded flower clips.

They came together pretty quickly and I'm happy with how they turned out. But I'm even more happy with the stash I brought home.

One of each of these babies. (Picture stolen from Tiffany.) Pretty sweet haul!

Speaking of sweet, here's Grace modeling one of the pretty daisy clips made by my good friend Angela. Unfortunately, Grace is not as keen cranial ornamentation as I am, and most of our hairdressing sessions end like this:

But still, it's cute while it lasts.

In other party news, there's been a epidemic of little girls having birthdays. I tried out this pattern for adorable little girl purses and came up with this for my sweet three-year-old friend Arabella.

I wanted it to be reversible, and have a button closure, and be equally cute on both sides. And since I'm not very good at planning ahead when it comes to three-dimensional inside-out construction, there was some trial and error. I spent some time with the seam ripper. But in the end I loved how it turned out enough that I considered (very briefly) keeping it for myself, and then (more seriously) making a big-girl version of my very own.

Sharp-eyed observers will note that the ribboned ornamentation on the polka-dot side of the purse is one of the hairbows I brought home from the exchange a couple weeks ago (see photo above), made by none other than the hostess, Tiffany. I felt kind of weird including someone else's craft with my gift, but it matched so perfectly -- entirely by coincidence! -- that I had to include it. Besides, my chances of ever getting it to stay in Grace's hair were slim, so it might as well belong to another little girl who might actually wear it.

And then (I know I'm stretching my credibility here, but it's true!) it happened again! I made another little bag for another little three-year-old which happened to match another bow from the exchange.

See? Look!
This one went to Ella, who shared her birthday with four-year-old Alison (green purse) and five-year-old Caroline (black and pink).

Alison's purse is embelished with a wire-wrapped star. Her mother, Angela (of the pink daisy Grace is wearing above), made a necklace at one of my jewelry parties using one of these stars, and I knew that Alison loved it. I thought for her birthday she could have one of her own.

The embellishment on Caroline's is another hair clip, but this time it's one I made myself. The black and white disk was from a package of pre-made yo-yos I purchased at the infamous JoAnn Fabric Closeout Sale. The pink yo-yo I made myself -- my first ever! -- and then I sewed it all together with a button and glued on some fancy feathers. It's almost my favorite part of the bag. Except for the handles, maybe. I really like the double handle version, I've decided.

Here's the reverse on all three.

(In the background, right behind the garden hose, you'll see a little sneak peek of the backyard patio I coerced my sweet husband into building for me. More photos will be coming soon!) The only other thing I have to mention about these purses is that my almost five-year-old Sam is the one who assigned the purses to each birthday girl, and if you knew these birthday girls, you'd be amazed at how accurately he pegged their personalities. As always, this boy is frighteningly good with the ladies.

The last party in my circuit was this morning, a baby shower for my friend Briste. I used this pattern, created by the crafty host of Homespun Threads to make her a trio of baby shoes. The shoes turned out pretty cute, despite a several maddening blunders and way too much time with the seam ripper. But now that I've made three sets, I think I have the process down.

Only, I don't have all my processes down, obviously, because in my rush to make it to the shower on time (I was still late!) I forgot to take pictures. So until next week, when I make some more for my friend Rozannah, (shhh! Don't tell.) you'll just have to use your imagination.

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