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).


dolls by trees


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!

Linen Lockets

Have you ever had a project in mind for a long, long time. Something new that you’ve been wanting to try, but for whatever reason, you just can’t get yourself to sit down and do it. And so you think about it and think about it, refining the idea, imagining dozens of variations on the original idea. Then you edit your idea down again, incorporate some changes, and keep thinking about it. But this whole process is all in your head. You haven’t done a thing yet. And the idea sits and sits. For me, these ideas usually just sit and sit and eventually gets replaced by a new idea. Only the strongest ideas hold on there, demanding to be made. Insisting.

This was one of those ideas. I couldn’t get it out of my head. And so, one fine day, I finally started testing it out. It was simple, really; some linen, some felt, a little hand-stitching, and voile, a locket. Simple in conception, a lot more complicated in execution. There were a lot of little details that, in all my thinking and rethinking, I hadn’t thought about. It was one of those projects that made me just so mad and frustrated. I would put it away, giving up completely, only to start again a few days later, determined that I had solved the problem, only to discover a new one. Or two new ones. Ha. The creative process is like that, I guess.

So here you go, after oh so long. The finished results.

close lockets

Some lovely linen lockets. They are about the size of a quarter. I quite like them. Which is nice, since it was a long struggle to get to this point.

lockets lockets open open locket pink open close up

These three are available in my shop right now, and I think I’ll be adding more colors soon.

Have you ever made something that took a long, long time to figure out? What was the experience like for you?

Have a wonderful Tuesday.


Fabric Chess Board

Here’s another little project that I’ve been doing a piece at a time since last April. It’s the kind of project that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, mulling over in my head. It really started way back, like last year (summer of 2011) with this project. Yes, another fabric chessboard. I loved  (and still love) that project, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with how it functioned. It was a little off. The pieces were too soft, they didn’t feel like game pieces. So I got to thinking about how I could make it better. The answer that came to me was cover buttons.

So here it is, finally (almost finished):

I quite like it. It’s not completely done, but this was as far as I could get with the supplies I had on hand.

Here’s a look at the pieces. You’ll noticed I simplified the design from the other chess board, mainly to make it a bit quicker to stitch up, and so that it would still read well in a smaller size.

I was able to do enough to create a full tutorial on it, and I decided to publish it (publish is in air quotes here, since it’s just little old me creating a PDF e-book) and sell the tutorial in my Etsy shop.

It’s only $6, and it comes with the pattern for embroidering the pieces and 13 full-color pages of step by step instructions and pictures.

If you make one, be sure to let me know, I’d love to see. This is a project that allows for a lot of creativity, so go for it!

Have a great day!


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.

I made a purse

It is now probably painfully obvious that I’ve been off my blogging game for a while, and I apologize (I’m especially sorry for the clunky, uninspired title; nothing clever came to mind). I know, today is October 1st, and look, this is me coming up for air. Remember how I said that I would be working on my own projects in the wee morning hours? Well, I don’t know if 5 am is considered “wee,” but that’s the earliest I’ve been getting up, and it’s actually been pretty good. The whole house is still and I can breathe in the peace before a hectic day begins. Hmmmm. The only problem is that the early early morning hours before sunrise are not very conducive to lovely photodocumentation, thus my absence and seeming inactivity on this creative blog.

But ah, here is proof; I really have been up to something. A bunch of somethings, really, but this is the first one to get finished, so here it is:

A purse.

Not the first I’ve ever made, but a first from my own design.

The idea behind this purse came a long long time ago, with this pin. It was one of my first pins on pinterest, actually, and the image struck me then as a great way to give a plain old purse some character, so I tucked the idea away, simmering slowly on the back burner, waiting for the right moment for me to put the idea into action. Then this little contest came along, and I thought, sure, why not. (EDITED: My purse got selected as one of the top 10 purses for purse week over at A Lemon Squeezy Home.  Be sure to check them out, and vote for your favorite!) I needed a new purse, anyways. Plus, it was the perfect opportunity to experiment with the smocking trick.

I thought the weaving effect was lovely, and at least worth a try, so with a little practice, a slight idea for which direction to take the purse, and some trial and error, I made myself a little purse.

What do you think? Don’t you love my little model?

I hope to be sharing a little more about my new love of smocking (and little fabric buttons) soon.

Have a great weekend!

ps. I’m linking this up at skip to my lou and at thirty days.

Fabric Baskets: How I Made Them

Remember these:

from the previous post? Would you like to know how I made them?

I’m a little hesitant to call this a tutorial, however, since I have pretty much zero background in sewing and have only completed a handful of projects, but I decided to show you how I made them, in case you were curious and want to make some beautiful containers to wrangle your stuff in. Plus, I bet someone who actually knows how to sew could take my basic ideas and come up with a better way to do this (please do, and let me know!).

What I love most about them is that they are so versatile and so lovely.

If you would like to make your own fabric baskets, click the button below or go to my tutorials tab on the top menu.

I would have loved to embroider something lovely on the outside of these, but my need was pressing, and I didn’t have time to design and stitch something before sewing them. But that would definitely add a nice touch.

I can see these being used to hold all sorts of things, like yarn, fabric scraps, extra cords and electronic what-nots (we have a lot of these since my husband is a computer engineering student), embroidery thread, toys, blocks, diapering supplies, etc. I want to make some to hold projects I’m working on so I don’t have pieces of things scattered everywhere. I also think these would make great “green” gift bags. There are a lot of possibilities. Let me know how you use your fabric containers, and send me a picture of the finished products.

I’m linking this up on Today’s Creative Blog and here: