Monday, July 30, 2012

Whatnot: Softies (Sea Horse Tutorial)

So, if you read my Family Reunion Post, you will notice that there have been many new babies added to my family in the past two years - well those aren't all the new babies in my life.  I have friends having babies, cousins having babies, people at church having babies... SOOOOOOOOOOOOOMANYYYYYYYYYYYYBABIESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

And of course you always want to get some kind of gift for the baby.  I love it if I can get something off the registry (they registered for it, obviously they need it!).  But when possible, I also love to get or make something personal and special.  I stumbled across the following softie on pinterest.

from:  Sparkle Power/ (

Soooooooooooooooo stinkin cute - especially for my little niece whose nursery is an orange and grey giraffe theme-, but sadly there is no tutorial because she had the pattern in a book. Hmmmm - well it looks simple enough - so I free handed a pattern, skipped the rattle element, stuffed it up, and had an adorable little giraffe  to give my niece.

My Cousin and his wife are currently expecting their first child - a little girl - so my family decided to send them a shower in a box (aka: a box of gifts from all of us, since we don't live close enough to go to their shower).  Their nursery is a nautical theme in blues and tans.  What would be better than a cute little sea horse - and I knew I had the perfect fabric to do it in.
This time You are getting a TUTORIAL!!! (this is a simple enough project for anyone to try!!!)

-So the first thing that you need to do is figure out what animal you want to create - I of course am doing a Sea Horse, but you can use this tutorial to create any animal you want.
-Next, pick your fabric and find a template.  You can free hand a template and draw it on paper, or take the easy route and print out an image. (*** Do a google search for coloring pages and you will be amazed by what great images you come up with that are free to download and print)
image found at:
 -Now take a sharpie and simplify or widen any areas of your design that are too complex
 -Cut out the template (following your sharpied lines) and lay it on your fabric
 -Trace your template onto your fabric (add seam allowance) - make sure your fabric is folded over wrong side to wrong side so that you will cut two inverted images at once.
 -Cut with your AMAZING Roto-cutter (wait, you DONT HAVE A ROTO CUTTER?????? - get your keys, run to the store, and buy one - seriously this is the one tool I can't live without, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE!)
(see the seam allowance left around your template)
-Now pick your embellishments: I like to make some sort of 'Tag' that baby can hold onto or chew on.  For this project I decided to do dorsal fins and a coronet (did you know that means crown).  I had 1.5 inch ribbon on hand, but you can use whatever strikes your fancy.  Cut the ribbon to length (2 fins, 1 coronet) 
 -I decided the ribbon was too wide for the fin, so I folded it in half and liked the look much better.

*Top stitch the edges of your ribbon (I did a zig zag to decrease fraying, you could also use fray check)

 -Next, pleat or ruffle your coronet and top stitch so that it will stay put when you sew it into your softie. (there is no right or wrong on the pleating/ruffle, this is your embellishment - customize as you please)
(finished pleated coronet)
 -Now add your fins.  I sewed them down facing the stomach first then folded them back and top stitched twice.  Do one side then repeat on your other piece.
(angled down toward stomach)

(folded back up and top stitched 2x)
 -Now pin the coronet in place:  With fabric right sides together, place your coronet SANDWICHED INSIDE the two.  When the edges of your two pieces ate matched together you should see only the edge of your coronet.  If it is sticking out, it will end up inside your finished softie. (I may have learned this from experience in making my niece's giraffe)
 - Stitch around, make sure to leave a 2 inch opening in the back so that you can turn it inside out and stuff it.
  - Turn it right side out and admire the cuteness.  Now stuff that baby - I used a pen to push the stuffing down into the tail.  Stuff it nice and full!!!
 -AWWWWWWWWWWWWWW  over your creativeness, it is so much cuter stuffed.  Now take a deep breath, we are almost DONE!

 - Hand stitch up that opening in the back
 -I like to bring my needle up from underneath...
 ... so that I can tuck in the tail and knot
-and finally, you are ALL DONE!!!

Now go out and spoil all those little ones in your life!

someone approves of my handiwork!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Whatnot: Family Reunion #1

(from left to right: J, R, Uncle Mike, Auntie Kes, littleA, Crazy Uncle Jon, AK, Auntie Erica, B, Jules, baby girl, Me, A)

Families come in all shapes and sizes, some are wrapped up all pretty, and some are scuffed around the edges.  No two families are exactly the same and no family is perfect.  But no matter the differences between us all, I LOVE my family more than words can say!!!

I haven't seen my sister in 2 years -yep years, that says YEARS!!!!  There is no rift between us, we love each other like...well yeah, like sisters ;o)  We'll just call it a 'series of unfortunate events' that has kept us apart (Oh, I'm not supposed to refer to my pregnancies as unfortunate... well...).  To sum it up, I got pregnant, my sister made travel plans, she got pregnant, travel plans got canceled.  I had babies and started figuring out travel plans, I got pregnant AGAIN, and all travel plans were off the table.  We live 14 hours apart.  So to say I was excited to see her would be an understatement.

I have also only seen my brother once in the last two years, and that was for about 6 hours 2 weeks after the boys were born - he was leading a mission trip to somewhere in PA, hopped on the Mega bus, spent the day with me, hopped back on the bus and resumed his regularly scheduled programming.  We don't call him 'Crazy Uncle Jon' for nothing (well there is that and the fact that there is a second uncle Jon and we have to keep them straight somehow).

Family reunions are an amazing thing - they bring people together, they seep laughter, and they can be wildly unpredictable.  There are somehow never enough hours in the day, never enough days, and never enough rounds of settlers played!  But through stolen moments, five minute conversations, and hugs to cover the year ahead - the family grows closer and recommits its love for one another.


(Nana with all SEVEN of her grandkids - 5 new ones in 14 months time)

gorgeous little AK

(Crazy Uncle Jon's beautiful family)

'I'm swimming naked in the paddling pool!!!'

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Whatnot: Why I upcycle

 Have I told you that once upon a time I was a costume designer?  Well, in college I was.  And there began my flirtation with upcycling.
I didn't know that it was called anything (upcycling, refashioning, re-purposing, etc...) - I was just a poor college student trying to make ends meet who knew how to sew.  My very first project was an old pair of my dad's jeans (like old from when he and my mom were dating or first married or something like that).  For some reason my mom had them in a drawer and handed them over to me on my way out the door to freshman year.  They fit me loosely around the hips, but I didn't like the cut or length of the legs.  Luckily I had just entered a world where I had a costume shop full of scraps at my disposal - ahhhh the good old days. I chopped the legs off below the knee, added bell-bottoms made out of funky fabrics, appliqued a coordinating butterfly to the upper thigh where there were some holes and a sun to the back pocket (what can I say, I was in a hippy phase).  These jeans were anything but fashionable, but I loved their comfort, and they made me smile.

My mom taught me to sew, but college set me free to CREATE.

Upcycling has become popular these days, between a down turned economy and a generation attempting to go green; 'reuse, renew, recycle' when it comes to your closet seems a perfect solution.  But this trend is anything but new.  It isn't hard for me to conjure the image of Maria singing "A Few of my favorite things..." and creating play clothes out of the household drapes for the Von-Trapp children .  Going back to the 40's, women painstakingly took apart suits and dresses to turn worn collars and hide stains by filliping the pieces.  Wool and silk were hard to come by during war time as soldiers' uniforms and parachutes took precedent over new fashions.  Going further back in US history, colonial women and children used worn garments to create napkins, handkerchiefs and other items that helped them hone their skill at a variety of stitches.  Eventually their needlework made its way into their hope chests to be used for their own future families.

History lesson aside, upcycling has been around for a long time, and the trend seems to be here to stay!  I would love to say that I upcycle to create a greener planet, to celebrate the resources already at play in our wasteful world, to.... Eh, let's be honest, I'm just cheap.

I have watched my sister create gorgeous things out of t-shirts and other materials for her children over the years, and I love the knowledge that not only can I re-fashion for me, I can do it for them as well.

Here are just a few of the things that are staples in my closet that I have upcycled or made out of remnant fabric peices:

Knit Vest: one of my favorite spring/fall layering pieces
made from scratch
once long, now short

most comfy pj pants ever

favorite fitting tank from t-shirt

Awesome fabric my mom had laying about
I tie the bows around my bra straps so nothing gets out of place

Before (flirty dress with too low cut top)
After: perfect comfy skirt for all occasions

Before: Way too big (just trust me,  they were falling off)
After: Just right

Before: 2 too short shirts
After: Cute color blocking

And here are some new re-creations for my kiddos:

headband from onesie
my nephew D sporting his new hat

Before: Men's Shirt
After: Bucket hat
headband from t-shirt 
t-shirt to baby romper

So, my closet has become my home shopping network and I have a pile of clothes waiting for their turn on the chopping block. It makes me think of this quote:
 "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me"... and let me see what I can create ;o)

*Expect to see more sewing projects and tutorials in the future - any one have any requests???