Felt Hobby Horse

IMG_6430So, I am here. Really. I’ve just been taking a loooong off-screen break. I guess I just needed it. But with the new year, naturally I thought I might be a good time for a blog reboot. A just over year ago I was frantically packing my bags down to the last ounce to prepare to head back to Galapagos.

But this year, I have no immediate travel plans. In fact, we might not board  flight the whole year. But that’s okay. We’ve entered a new phase of our lives as a family of five, and we’re settling into it, for the next little while, at least. Anyways, enough talk. Here is a project that I started a year ago, and I’ve just now finished it up. Some scrappy felt hobby horses. IMG_6426 IMG_6400 IMG_6411 IMG_6416 IMG_6419 IMG_6422 IMG_6426Oh, you say you’ve seen this before? Well, you have. But, in case you were interested in making your own, I made a second one (well, I had to anyways, because I pretty much have to make two of everything these days; luckily sweet girl number three hasn’t demanded too much crafting from me yet) and decided to make a tutorial for you guys. 

(Just so you know, it took much longer than I expected it would to put this tutorial together, and I’m sorry if there are any errors; pattern-making isn’t my forte.)

Here we go.

Materials:

  • Felt scraps (a whole lot, in squarish shapes, are best; of course, you can always use whole pieces of felt or really any material you’ll want) You’ll need enough to make approximately a 2-foot square piece of material to cut your pattern pieces out of.
  • Stuffing (I prefer wool for quality reasons, but whatever you want is fine)
  • Thread (you’ll want some heavy-duty stuff, especially for hand stitching on the eyes, ears, and finishing the closure)
  • Buttons for the eyes
  • A 1-inch thick dowel, about 3 to 5 feet long, depending on how tall you want your horse to be.
  • Yarn in a coordinating color
  • Freezer paper (for tracing your pattern, it’s my favorite way to cut out felt)

Tools:

  • Scissors and/or rotary cutter
  • Sewing machine
  • Cutting mat
  • Iron
  • Stiff cardboard or a book, about 5 inches wide and 8 inches long.

Make your scrappy piece of felt (if you are using a solid piece of fabric or felt, you can skip this part)

  1. Basically, you will be butting up two pieces of felt together and zigzagging over both sides so that the two pieces become one. (See this post for a better explanation)
  2. As you go along, continue building up your scrappy piece with more pieces. I like to make several scrappy blocks and then sewing this big blocks to each other to make your big piece of fabric.

IMG_3149 Cut out your pieces.

  1. Print the template. Click on these links for the four pages of the template: gusset gusset 2 horse neck 1 horse neck 2
  2. You’ll need to choose “print” under the tools menu. I am not a professional pattern maker, so these may look a little rough, but hey, it’s a free tutorial.
  3. Cut out you’re pieces and assemble the ones that are in segments.
  4. Then, you’ll want to trace your pattern pieces onto freezer paper (ignore the big notch in the horse’s head down in that picture, I was just using a scrap of freezer paper and it didn’t all fit). The long gusset piece is a little extra long to give you some wiggle room when finishing off the opening for the stick, so just keep that in mind.
  5. Arrange your pieces on your felt. I only drew out one horses head, and cut two the same way, since there is not “wrong” side to my felt piece, I could just flip the cut piece and it was fine. If you are using material with a right and wrong side, make sure to do a reverse side of the horses head, too. When arranging your pieces, try to leave about 1/2-inch in between the pieces for your seam allowances.
  6. Once you like the arrangement, iron one of your freezer paper pieces down to the felt.IMG_3164
  7. Baste stitch all the way around your first piece. This is  your way of transferring your pattern to your fabric.
  8. Cut out your first piece, leaving a 3/8ths inch margin around your basting for seam allowance. You don’t need to be too careful about getting perfect seam allowances; you will use the basting to guide your final stitching, not the seam allowances. The gusset piece includes the seam allowance, so just skip the basting and cut right along the pattern piece. IMG_3175
  9. Continue this process of iron-baste-cut for your other pieces.

Now for the mane.

  1. Wrap your yarn around some stiff card board, or a book. It should be about 5 inches wide and at least 7 inches long.
  2. Wrap it a lot, but if you find you still need more yarn for your mane, you can always wrap more, so don’t worry about it too much. IMG_3178
  3. Now cut the yarn along to top. IMG_3184
  4. Then cut along the bottom. This will give you a bunch of yarn approximately the same length for the mane.IMG_3186
  5. This picture is to show you about where on your gusset piece to start sewing the mane.IMG_3195
  6. Now sew the yarn down. Start with about an inch bunch of yarn. IMG_3200
  7. Using a small stitch length, start sewing the yarn, about 3/4ths of an inch in from the edge of the gusset. Continue to add more yarn, a couple inches at a time, and sew all the way down till about 4 inches from the bottom of the gusset piece. You’ll want to use about 2/3rds of your cut yarn for this. IMG_3206
  8. Then sew down the other side of the gusset over the yarn, about 3/4ths inch from the left side. IMG_3209
  9. Now finish by sewing 1-inch bunches of yarn right down the middle of the gusset.IMG_3213
  10. When you are done sewing, it will look like this:IMG_3217
  11. Yes, not very mane-like, but never fear. Just start to mess it up with your fingers, and hey-presto, you’ve got a nice full mane going on. IMG_3223

Sew your horse head together.

  1. Okay, here’s where I apologize for the lack of great explanation and pictures for this step. But hey, it’s a free tutorial, so you get what you pay for, right? (nervous laugh) Generally, you are going to sew all the pieces together, right sides together, leaving the bottom of the neck open, and then turn the whole thing out. This is how I did it. I pinned the one side of the horse’s head  to the gusset. The pointy part of the gusset will sit about where the little notch is at the bottom of the mouth, and the rest just follows along the top part of the horses head. Make sure when you pin, that you have the side piece facing up, because you will want to sew along your basting stitch. Also, make sure you have all the yarn from the mane tucked out of the way where you are going to be stitching.
  2. Sew from the tip of the gusset to the bottom of the horse’s head, but don’t sew all the way to the end of the gusset piece. Try to follow your basting line as close as possible. IMG_3228
  3. Now line up the other head side so that it is in about the same position as the sewn side of the head, in relation to the gusset piece, pin, and sew. (Again, follow the basting stitch, and make sure to keep the yarn from being trapped underneath your stitching.
  4. Now, pin the bottom side of the horses muzzle and neck together, feeling to see that the basting stitches of the two sides line up as closely as possible. Sew from the point of the nose gusset down to the bottom of the neck. Actually, I started by sewing about an inch from the end of the nose gusset, up to the point, because starting the stitching with all those layers is hard on my machine. It’s easier for me to get the machine going before powering into that thick part. Then I turned the piece around, and sewed down the bottom of the muzzle to the end of the neck. IMG_3232
  5. Leave about a 4-inch opening in the bottom of your horse head. This is approximately what you’ll have:IMG_3235IMG_3238
  6. Now reach in, grab the horse by the nose and gently turn it right-side out.IMG_3249
  7. Here’s your horse all sewn up.IMG_3254

Finishing your hobby horse. This part happened right before we moved back to the states, so the pictures didn’t really happen as much.  Sorry about that.

  1. First, I transferred the pattern pieces for the ears to the felt using the basting technique I mentioned before. IMG_3241IMG_3242
  2. Remove the freezer paper. Then zig-zag stitch all the way around the piece. Then cut it out right next to the zig-zag stitch. IMG_3247
  3. Now here is where you have options. You can leave your ears flat and stitch them on, or you can stitch the bottom corners together and then whip stitch them on kind of sticking out, like I did.
  4. Sew the eyes on like you would any button. Make sure to make it really strong, because little hands will be rougher than you expect.
  5. Stuff that thing. I mean really stuff it. I filled mine with some wool, but you can use fiberfill or whatever you like. I packed the wool in really tightly. Once you get fill to about in line with the bottom of the chin, go ahead and stick the, well, stick, up in there, and pack the stuffing around it. I didn’t use any adhesive or special tricks to get the stick to stay stuck, I just packed the filling tight. Yes, your kid can get it out, but you just stuff it back in, if that happens. If you’ve packed it tight enough, a hollow space for the stick will remain if the stick is removed, as long as you don’t crush the head down after removing the stick. Does that make sense? Hope so.
  6. Finally, you’ll want to slip stitch up the bottom. I just tucked any loose ends in around the stick (if the end of the gusset piece is really long, you can trim it down). Then I slip stitched with heavy-duty sewing thread up and down both sides of the opening to make sure it was really secure. (For some pictures and further explanation of the slip stitch I used, see this post.)

Here they are, ready to ride. You may notice those dandy little felt bridles (my favorite part of the whole project, go figure). Well, those are just some long pieces of felt that I magic braided (but really, you can just regular braid some felt and stitch the end so it stays braided) and then fashioned into a simple loop and halter piece. The d-shaped loops are optional, but they sure add a feeling of authenticity. IMG_6425 IMG_6406Enjoy! Seriously, you might want one for yourself. You’ve been warned. IMG_6412 IMG_6418 IMG_6429

Have a great Wednesday!

Scrappy Hobby Horse

Do you have piles of felt scraps floating around? Felt food, hair clips, fancy flowers, and a myriad of other felt crafting fun can leave you with quite a heap of felt bits floating around. Or, if you can’t get enough scraps, like me, you might purchase a big old box of scraps from some felt supplier. These scraps can come in handy, but I’ve found them hard to use in bulk, until now. I decided to try piecing some fabric together out of all the scraps. After I got about a third of a yard worth, I decided it was time to make something. Of all the different projects I had in mind for this lovely patchwork fabric, I decided a felt hobby horse was most appropriate, because it’s usually made of re-purposed materials (most commonly a sock, but you get the idea).

collage 1

I drafted my own pattern, fully stuffed muslin and all, and then with a few alterations, I stitched up this guy. My favorite part is the mane. It may look involved, but stitching the mane was almost the easiest part (besides attaching the button eyes, of course). collage 2

It’s stuffed firm with scrap wool (i.e., wool that is too short, scratchy or icky to use for anything else). collage 3

Did I mention my little girl is obsessed with horses? She’s already completely smitten, and I think this may be the start of a beautiful scrappy friendship.

This is another project that I think deserves a tutorial, though it might take me a little while to get around to it. Busy, busy, busy. But life is good.

Have a great day.

Dolls for Christmas

dolls sittingThis is my very first finished project of 2013. Never mind that I started it way back last year. I really wanted to make some dolls for my girls for Christmas. Last Christmas they got a some dolls from their abuela that they loved to pieces, literally. Like, the legs fell off of one, and the head fell off of the other. I wish I was kidding. And after watching my poor baby walking around cuddling, cooing, and shooshing a headless doll for a couple months, I decided I needed to take some action. So I made these (hopefully) sturdier dolls.

girls smiling

Now, this could have been a simple project. There are tons and tons and tons of thorough tutorials, books, and patterns for beautiful dolls out there. I even took advantage of the the wonderful public library system to check out some books on doll making techniques. But when it came down to it, I decided that I wanted to make my own pattern for my doll. And I wanted to stuff it with wool. And I wanted to do some of that cool, Waldorf-doll style hair. Like I said, this could have been a simple project. isa playing with hair

doll  2

But as my husband often reminds me, if it isn’t difficult, I won’t do it. Sometimes I think he’s right. So, I used some of the very, very helpful information on one of my favorite blogs, While She Naps, to draft a basic doll pattern. And then another one. And then a third one. After three prototypes (thankfully done in muslin) I decided I’d had enough and would have to go with it. If I ever make more dolls, I’ll definitely want to refine it a bit. It was a great learning experience, though.

And, of course, I decided to purchase a raw wool fleece from ebay to stuff the dolls with. Hmm, I think I’ll just breeze through this whole phase of the doll preparation phase, but lets just say there was so much washing, and culling plant and fecal matter from the fleece, and then drying, and then more sorting, and then combing/fluffing. Bottom line, buying prepared wool is probably worth the extra cost.

After assembling the doll bodies, I had to decide on the faces. Several sketches were thrown out before I decided to kind of wing it as I stitched. I fairly well like how the faces came out. I did the pink lip face first, then the smile face. I had intended to go back and redo the pink lips as a smile, but my four-year-old saw the pink lip doll and wouldn’t let me change it.

all together

When it came to the clothes, I did a very simple dress, but I got a little fancy with the decorative stitching on the hem. First time, and it felt good.
close up dress

more close ups

For the hair, I used some lovely organic cotton yarn which is super soft, but a little fragile, so I had to tell my girls not to try combing the dolls hair. They were a little disappointed with that, but they like having me do braids and other hairstyles on their dolls (since they won’t let me do it on them).

faces

dolls by trees

underwear

Oh, and I stitched on a pair of underwear for both dolls, so there wouldn’t be any doll indecency should they choose to climb a tree or swing on the swings.

doll love

twoSo far the working names are Tully and Sally, but we’ll see if that changes.

If you have any questions about the process, I’d love to share my beginner’s perspective with you. Does anyone else have any first-time doll-making experiences to share? I’d love to hear.

Have a great day!

Christmas Cookies

Here’s something fun to do this weekend with your kids (or friends, someone special, etc.) to get you into the Christmas spirit. Decorate Christmas cookies. Oh yes, as cliché as it might sound, this really is a lovely way to bring some holiday fun into your home.

cookies 2

And it does not have to be complicated. Or fancy. Or perfect (remember this last one especially if you decide to do this with little kids). It is just meant to be fun.

Making sugar cookies with my little girls was a new experience for me. I’ve always loved doing sugar cookies, especially for Christmas, but I wasn’t ready to try letting the little ones help until just recently. As with practically any activity, letting little kids help with something usually doubles the amount of time it takes, but if you can just accept that and allow yourself to ignore the messes and little mistakes tiny fingers make, you’ll find real joy sharing a new activity with your kids. And why not start with sugar cookies? A very good place to begin, if you ask me.

isa looking at cookies

Here’s the recipe I used for the cookies. I have never settled into a really great sugar cookie recipe. In fact, I think I try a new one every time I make sugar cookies, but I have to say, this is a pretty good standard one. Nothing fancy like cream cheese or sour cream, but nice and flavorful.

isabella mixing

The instructions a fairly straightforward, and I decided to let my almost 4-year-old help with the dough.

mixing 2

mixingIt went pretty well, except that part of the way through I went to get something and came back to find my little sweetie spooning unknown quantities of flour into the bowl that I had already carefully measured my flour into. I had to start over there, but it wasn’t a big deal, and she is so eager to learn, which makes it fun for me, too.

dough

Now, I have to be completely honest and say rolling and cutting out the cookies was the hardest part. Probably because I was not quite ready to give up control in this area. My two-year old was especially hard to control during that step in the process, but I should have known. She is two after all. The girls did not want to wait until the dough reached the right thickness, and the didn’t want to hear anything about trying to place the cut outs as close to each other as possible to keep the dough from having to be rolled out multiple times. No siree. I’d go to put a nicely cut cookie on the pan only to find several false starts from some anxious cookie cutters in the center of the rolled out dough, marring the whole project. It got a little tense. But after the cookies were made and the little bakers got to sample their fine work, the rest was just, well, icing on the cookies.

Here’s the recipe I used for the frosting. I halved the recipe and still had lots left over, so if you’re not a frosting0phile like me, you might want to take this approach, too.

So here’s the thing I wanted to tell you about especially. Decorating cookies does not require any special tools or skill sets. Now, I do not mean decorating cookies for Martha Stewart Magazine or some fancy cookie boutique in New York doesn’t require tools and skills. It does. Whole lists of them. But decorating cookies with your kids does not. You can even go a little fancy, if you want.

cookies close up 2

Here’s what I did to spell out a little message with just a plastic bag, some frosting, and some sprinkles.

First, fill a plastic sandwich bag with some frosting, about 1 cup to spell out Merry Christmas. Push it to one corner, then seal and twist the top so frosting won’t squeeze out that end. Snip the corner that has the frosting in it off  so you have about a 1/2 inch opening. Then take some sugar cookies in whatever shape you want (I recommend circles, squares, or shapes with at least one big area; save the snowflakes for the kids to decorate) and spell out your message one letter per cookie. After you have completed a letter, dump a generous helping of sprinkles over the whole frosted letter. You may want to gently press the sprinkles a bit to make sure they stick to the frosting. Wait 10 seconds. Then turn the cookie upside down and gently shake it to remove the excess sprinkles.

cookies

I recommend doing this over a piece of wax paper so you can gather up the falling sprinkles for use on another cookie. This went pretty well for me, especially for a first time go at it.

close up cookiesMy letters turned out a little shaggy since I had big sprinkles, but I would love to see how some sparkly sugar sprinkles or nonpareils would look.

frosting

While I did the cookies this way, I let my little girl decorate as many cookies as she wanted. I didn’t expect much (she’s not even four yet) but I was amazed at how carefully she frosted each one. She was sparing with the frosting and sprinkles, and she kept telling me how careful she was being with the knife (it was a butter knife, but she associates any knife with danger).

decorating It was definitely the best part of the whole process.

eating(Well, besides eating the cookies, of course.) And my two-year old? She was perfectly happy to let me help frost and sprinkle a cookie with her, and then she spent the rest of the time picking off each sprinkle, licking the cookie clean, and then devouring the plain cookie.

eating cookies 2 isa eating cookie merry christmas
Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy some time with the ones you love!

Tutorial: Toddler Tote

My little almost 2-year-old is going through a phase. An incredibly cute but sometimes irksome phase. You see, she is a little bit of a hoarder. More like a magpie, I guess. Lately, anything that catches her interest, shiny or otherwise, is quickly tucked into a random shopping bag that she drags around with her everywhere. Like I said, super cute, but a little difficult sometimes, when said shopping bag breaks. It causes a slight meltdown. Because of this, I’ve been meaning to make a little bag for her to “guarda” (that’s her Spanish word for putting things in her bag) anything she wants. And since her birthday is this week, I thought I had better do it, already.

So here it is, a little toddler-sized tote (and one for big sister, because you can’t make something for just one of your kids, people!). I roughly measure my bigger little girl (2nd child was sleeping) and then went with a 10 by 7 inch design, with an extra inch and a half for seam allowances (since every seam gets folded over twice).

Oh, I forgot to mention the second reason I decided to make these bags. A year ago, when I was stockpiling supplies for my first year in Ecuador, I purchased yards and yards of this lovely organic cotton grosgrain ribbon (because I love grosgrain ribbon, but hate that most of it is made of polyester or some other artificial material).

So, I also measured this ribbon to make the handles. I just draped it over my daughter’s shoulders and decided where I wanted to cut to make it the right length. Then I cut two pieces of ribbon that length.

The bag construction was pretty straight forward. I started by doing the top (opening) seam. I ironed over a quarter inch (please ignore the fact that I don’t currently own an ironing board and that I’m using an old towel instead). Then I ironed that seam over another half an inch to make a nice finished edge.

Then I tucked the ribbon under this seam, pushed up right to the crease in the fabric. Make sure you don’t twist your ribbon when you put it in.

Sew an 8th of an inch in from the bottom fold. Then flip your ribbon up and sew an 8th of an inch in from your top fold. When you’re done, your inside top seam will look like this. And the outside will look like this. Isn’t that nice?

And the outside will look like this. Isn’t that nice?

Thus ends my contribution of helpful pictures to this tutorial-ette. From here, is just got too caught up in sewing (and entertaining kids while I sewed) that I didn’t take any more pictures until I was done. Here’s what I did. I sewed the bag with French seams all the way around (Google French seams if you need help with this; it’s pretty straightforward, so don’t be scared off by the word French. You can refer to them as freedom seams if that’s your boat). Then I cut off the corners, and did those as French seams too. The cut of the corners part is hard to explain, but if you’ve ever made a boxed corner bag (my own term, sorry) of any sort, you probably know what I mean. If not, check out this great tutorial for the run-down on boxing out your corners. Of course, this step is just optional; the tote works fine without boxed corners. The benefit of boxed corners is that the bag will stand upright when you set it down, which is a big plus when you’re a little person trying to fill a bag as full as you can by yourself.

Here’s what the French seams business looked like on the inside. Lovely, right?

And here’s the finished tote. I did a little nuno-felted initial, but I’m not entirely satisfied with the freehand felt typography here. Oh well, my little girl loves it. So I’m happy. Of course, I should have a picture with the little model, because she sure is cute with her little tote. Sorry about that.

Have a great day!

New Embroidery Pattern: Classic Cars

It has been a long time since I released an embroidery pattern in my languishing Etsy shop. It’s not for lack of ideas or desire; it’s just that those two things haven’t met up with time and means for a while. That is, until now.

I gave a teaser to this pattern last week. A classic Volkswagen Beetle. Why not a yellow slug bug (those were worth more points, right?). The embroidery pattern includes a set of 8 classic cars and a truck. I had hopes of doing more, because there are tons of beautifully designed cars out there, but I decided to limit myself to just these for now.

Let’s see, there’s a Ferrari, Rolls Royce, BMW convertible, Ford truck, Jaguar, a mini, and a Shelby Cobra in addition to the beetle.

They were really fun to stitch up, too. I kind of have the horse before the cart in that I am designing embroidery patterns even though I’m not the most awesome embroider. There are definitely little problems here and there, but for the most part I think they turned out nicely. As I mentioned before, I tried a new stitch as my outlining stitch, the split stitch. For most of my stitching prior to this, I’ve used the good ol’ reliable running back stitch, but my sister, who is currently training herself as an expert embroiderer, introduced me to the split stitch, and I’m hooked.

I have to stipulate that I’m using split stitch with pearl cotton, so it looks rather different than it would with floss. That’s why I like it so much.

I also used a new method of transferring my design. For whatever reason, tracing with pencil, pen, or whatever onto fabric always yields terribly, wonky results. Especially when I’m using linen. I’ve been searching and searching for a better way, and finally, I came across this. Sewing through tracing paper with a thin thread.

You can just barely see it here. I’ll admit, it’s time consuming. But it is so much easier for me than trying to muddle through and fudge things with a barely visible traced pattern. Anyways, if you are desperate like me for a better way, give it a try. If you’re a pro at tracing, stick with that.

Anyways, you can purchase the pattern here, if you’re interested. So glad to have this done. It’s really gotten my creative juices flowing, and I’ve got a bunch of new things in the works, including a free embroidery pattern I’m working on just for you.

Have a wonderful day!

A Few Little Things

Christmas and New Years flew by in a blur, and now I’m battling a nasty stomach bug, so I’m not feeling up to much. I just thought I would share a few little things with you. First, Christmas. It was small, on my part, very small. I whipped up a couple of little felt lovelies for my daughters. With life and our future living situation still up in the air, and living out of suitcases for the last month, I didn’t want to add too much to the toy load, but I did want to give them a little something to make this Christmas special. First, my older daughter is OBSESSED with horses.

So a little felt horse finger puppet was an easy choice.

My younger daughter’s tastes are a little more simple, so I went with a nice little felt ball. It’s fun to chew on and to throw.

With the year before me a complete unknown, I decided to ground myself with a few goals (resolutions) that I want to make happen. I even wrote them down, in a nice little word-collage, but of course, I forgot to photograph it, and now it’s dark, so I decided to let the post go without a picture. My goals are mostly small, but after all, it’s the “small” things that make life wonderful.

Anyways, I hope you all have a wonderful week. Hopefully I’ll be feeling up to posting something for real next week!

Tutorial: Sewing Fabric “Block” Animals

***Just a reminder, the giveaway for the 3-piece nativity set is still going on, and there are a few full copies of the nativity template left and you can now purchase the full template in my brand new Etsy shop. Be sure to leave a comment on that post to get a chance to win and to get your free template.***

So, you’ve got your Nativity template, and you’ve been happily stitching away, and now you want to make those little guys into fabric block animals (like wood block animals cut out with a jig saw). Well, it’s a pretty simple process, so for all you seasoned sewers out there, just scroll down to admire the finished product. But if you’re like me, still feeling my way around the sewing thing, then you might want a quick tutorial to get you on track.

First things first, I got a question a little while ago about what kind of fabric I used, and my answer is a medium weight 100% natural colored linen from Joann’s. Nothing special (but if I had unlimited resources, I would have liked a nice, expensive, made specifically for embroidery linen). I also think a good cotton (Kona is my preferred choice) would work perfectly well, too.

  1. Once you have your image embroidered, you are going to want to remove any marks you may have used to create the pattern, then iron your piece flat (I use a scrap of muslin when I iron my embroidery to protect it).
  2. Then lightly trace an outline about 3/4th’s of an inch around your piece. I like to keep my border fairly well-rounded, because tight curves are much harder to sew (maybe that’s just me, though).
  3. Cut around this traced line. You can use a good, sharp pair of scissors, or lay your fabric down on a self-healing mat and then carefully cut around it with a small rotary cutter.
  4. Lay your cut-out piece on top of your back embroidered piece, or just on another piece of fabric if you don’t want your block to be double sided, right sides together. Make sure to line up the two designs as closely as possible ( I feel for the “ridges” made by the embroidery).
  5. Trace the outline on your back piece of fabric and cut it out. If you are using a rotary cutter, you can skip the tracing step, and just follow the outline of your top piece as you cut out the back.

  6. Cut a long strip of fabric, making it the width you want your finished block to be, plus a 1/4 inch seam allowance on both sides. The length will vary depending on which figure you are sewing, but you’ll probably need at least 18 inches, to be safe.
  7. Sew the long strip all along the right-side edge of one side of your piece.
    You can pin it if you wish, but I found it easier to just manipulate the fabric around as I went.
    Leave at least a 1-inch tail at the beginning and end of the strip, and leave a slight gap between the beginning and end of your stitching so you’ll have enough room to turn it out later.
    (I didn’t leave extra room, so my fabric tore a little when I turned it out. p.s. I didn’t mean this to be a close-up of my pomegranate-stained finger. Sorry about that!)
  8. Pin you other side to the edge of your strip, with the right side facing in. You’ll want to make sure you’re laying over the other side in mirror position so the sides will be straight look right (sorry if that’s a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out a better way to word it, so just look at the picture.)
  9. Sew all along the edge, with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Your stitching will be parallel to your previous stitching along the side strip.
  10. Turn your piece out. If you are using hemostats or any pinging implement, try not to grab your embroidery, go for a blank piece of fabric.
  11. Stuff your piece with little pieces of poly fill, wool, or cotton. I like to stuff mine pretty firmly.
  12. Leave a little room in the bottom to pack in your weighting implement. This can be a few fishing weights, some beans, rice, or anything heavy, small, and nonperishable. If you want, you can sew a narrow weight “pouch” out of a scrap piece of the side strip and fill it with your weighting device, then stuff the pouch into the bottom your piece; this method helps keep all the weights at the bottom. Something to keep in mind: the bigger your piece, the more weight you’ll want right at the bottom to keep it upright. I didn’t get quite enough weight in my donkey to keep it really stable, so it’s a little wobbly, but it works.
  13. Once you have your weight inside, sew up the opening with a ladder stitch (see my tangram tutorial for an example of that—I think I called it slip stitch there,  or just google it).

You may have to smoosh it around a bit to get it to sit right.

You’re done! (Only 23 to go. . . .) If you don’t have a nativity template, go get one here, or use whatever design you want for your fabric blocks. Enjoy!
ps. I’m linking this up at the weekend wrap-up party and at skip to my lou.

Home-made baby food, and a quick update

I’m still here, in case any of you were wondering where I’ve been. My blogging funk ended just in time to get loaded down with work for my editing job.  From the way things are looking, I probably won’t be able to come up for air until the first of October. I’ll try to drop in here every now and then to show you what I get done in the wee hours of the morning (i.e., the projects I really want to do).

In the meantime, here’s a little follow-up to my last post about living a beautiful life:

Homemade baby food.

I’ve never bought a single jar of baby food. I’ve never made a conscious decision not to, like it’s some big valiant stand against the evil baby food makers (I don’t think they’re evil, by the way), I just never have felt the need to. My baby’s first foods have always been mashed up bananas and such things, and grabbing a ripe banana was always much more handy than going to the store to get a little bottle of the stuff. From mashing things like bananas, I moved on to steaming and puréeing.


Yes, a little more effort, but less expensive and easier than running to the store, in my opinion.

If you want to make your own baby food, you just need to take whatever it is you want to feed your baby and make it soft and easy to eat. That’s it. If you’re looking for ideas, this site has great information. It’s where I always go if I have a question about how to prepare something. For the most part, thought, it’s pretty simply. Most fruit and vegetables need to be cooked (I prefer steaming) and then mashed or puréed before your baby eats them.

Bananas, mangos, and avocados are okay raw. I try to go organic when I can, and you can skip adding salt or sugar, your baby will love it anyway. I love knowing exactly what my baby is eating.

Enjoy sharing some new, home-made foods with your little one.

Tutorial: Lacing Softies

My little girl always asks to “sew” when she sees me doing my embroidery. If she finds my hoop, she will often make a few giant stitches of her own. She’s a little too young to handle a real hoop and needle, so I wanted to make something she could work on, too.

I’ve seen those sewing cards, but since I don’t have access to power tools, little wooden things are not an option. My solution: make it out of fabric.

Would you like to make your own lacing softies for your little ones? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward, but it does require some specific tools and some time. The results are totally worth it, though.

Supplies:

  • Hammer
  • Eyelets/grommets (if you check the definitions, the distinction is rather fuzzy, but in the store the box I got said “eyelets”). I used 5/32″ eyelets.
  • Fabric and whatever you need to put your design on it, (thread, ink, stamps, etc.)
  • Batting
  • Cardboard
  • Hole punch (the kind you hold with one hand and hammer with the other hand)
  • Sewing implement (yarn, blunt needle, shoelace, ribbon, etc.)
  1. Design your softie. You can use whatever means you want to get an image for your softie—a freezer-paper stencil, stamps, silk screening, large printed fabrics, etc; for this one I embroidered the image I wanted (a fox** in this case).
    You can do a front and back image, like I did, or just a front image if you like. If you do a front and back image, you’ll need to make them mirror images so that they’re not backwards.
  2. Turn your image over. If you can’t see it on the back (i.e., the back of the stitches), then place your fabric over a light table, window, and trace the outline with a fabric marker or pencil.
  3. Set some 1/4 in grommets around the outside of of your image where you intend to have them, about 3/4 in apart.
  4. Trace an outline around the grommets with a fabric marker or pencil  (I used a pen so you could see the line). This outline is the line you will sew on, so you do not need to include seam allowances. 
  5. Layer the two pieces of fabric with your design on them together, right sides facing. Use a light table or window to see that your front and back design match up. Pin these two layers together, with a layer of batting behind them.
  6. Sew all the way along the line (I used a free motion foot, but a regular foot might work fine, depending on the design), leaving an opening for turning out.
    (I wasn’t going to show you this, because my free-motion stitching is bad, but it worked okay, so don’t worry about it too much.)
  7. Cut your piece out, leaving 1/4 in seam allowance.
  8. Clip and curves/trim corners if your design has them, and then turn your piece right-side out.
  9. Tuck in the opening and slip stitch it closed. If you need help with slip-stitching, I’ve got some instructions on it in my fabric puzzle tutorial.
  10. Add the eyelets. (If you’ve used eyelets/grommets before, you can skip these instructions, but this was pretty much my first time, and I learned some things that might be good to know before you try it.)
  11. Use a punch to cut a small hole for each eyelet. You will want a cutting board, scrap piece of wood, or piece of thick cardboard underneath you fabric to make sure you don’t make holes in your work surface. (ahem.) I’m using a punch that was about half the diameter of my eyelet hole. Not ideal, but when I tried the punch that was the same size as the eyelet hole, I found that the fabric did not always get caught by the eyelet’s edge when it was pounded down, so it’s better to have to push and wiggle to get the eyelet to fit through a snug hole than to have too much room. I also tried punching a hole and then doing half another hole, overlapping the first one, to make the diameter a little bigger, and that seemed to work pretty well.
  12. I quickly learned that a tap tap tap tap approach worked much better than thud thud thud. I ended up with a few misshapen eyelets before I learned this lesson.
    Also, be sure to tap directly perpendicular to your eyelet setting tool, or it will go on at an angle and not catch all of your fabric (I also learned this lesson the hard way).
  13. Try to push your eyelet through the hole without fabric overlapping the edge of the eyelet, this will help the back stay neater.
  14. Keep setting eyelets all the way around until you’ve done them all.
  15. Choose your sewing implement. I went with yarn and a large, dull needle, but you could use a thin ribbon on a needle, a shoelace, etc.With the yarn, I started with a pretty long piece, and sewed it all the way around to make sure it would be long enough before I cut it off.

Once you have your sewing implement, you’re done. I couldn’t wait to share this with my little sewer (yes, it’s a word).

I don’t know about you, but there is something about those chubbly little fingers holding an oversized needle that is just too adorable (and yes, my daughter is sporting a snow hat at the end of July).

I’m not going to lie, putting in all 26 eyelets was kind of a pain because of the aforementioned problems that I had to work through. But I really liked the result, so I think I’ll definitely have to make a couple more of these.
**If you would like to embroider you’re own fox, leave a comment with your email address, and I will send you the embroidery template.

Have a great weekend!

ps. I’m linking this up on skip to my lou.