Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fresh Herbs in January

It's that time of year again, when the first frost renders my herb garden unusable. It's a sad day in the Princess household, I can tell you. I just can't cook without my lemon thyme anymore. Luckily though, I don't have to.

Last year I stumbled upon the perfect method for preserving cut herbs for use in cooking. I go out the day before the frost is expected and harvest as much as I can. Or in the case of the mint and oregano, as much as I think I can use. (I believe in five years my herb patch will have evolved into a pitched battle between the mint and the oregano for dominance.)

For each herb I have ready one wet paper towel, not dripping wet, but more than damp, and a plastic storage bag. I like quart size freezer bags, but gallon would be nice if you've got that much to harvest. Place the paper towel in the bottom of the bag and then just stuff the herb in after it. You probably don't want to be too rough, but remember herbs are basically weeds we've found a use for, so don't worry about being too nice either.

Store each bag in your fridge. I keep mine on the bottom shelf, mostly because things near the top tend to freeze for some reason. (I hate my fridge, but that's another post.) As you need the herb throughout the winter, you can pull out what you need, zipper up the bag, and throw it back in the fridge.

Last year my lemon thyme lasted in the fridge until my herb garden started producing again. The mint and the basil only lasted about 6 weeks, but it's still better than nothing. I'm hoping for a good two months this year. Rosemary is also a hardy herb that will keep long periods of time. Don't even worry about trying to keep parsley for the winter. Parsley just doesn't keep longer than 2 weeks if you're lucky and it's cheap at the store anyway.

Happy harvesting, and enjoy your herbs without the hassle of pots on the window sill.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Home Made Christmas: Letter Blocks

Every year about this time I begin the process of truly driving myself crazy. I start choosing my Christmas projects, one for each child. In case I haven't mentioned it, I have five kids. That's at least five projects. Most years I end up doing two, pajama pants plus another home crafted gift. They can be anything as long as the materials are inexpensive and I think I'll like the end result. I sew, I paint, I build. Some things come out perfect, like my middle daughter's bed quilt, somethings not so much, like my son's Game Boy case.

This is one of those projects that came out perfectly:

They look a little rough because they've been loved for a few years now. My youngest son decided he loved spelling when he was five. He would spell words just for fun and appropriated his sister's alphabet Peek-a-blocks, which only had one block of each letter, most inadequate for a spelling fiend like my son. So for Christmas, I made him his own set of letter blocks. I made three or four of each letter with a lower case on one side and an upper case on the facing side.

The best part about these blocks is that they are so easy to make and I had quite a bit of the stuff to make them already in my house.

Materials Needed:
1 8' length of 2x2 pine lumber
sand paper and an electric hand sander
assorted letter stickers or rub-on transfers
assorted paint colors, spray, house, acrylic, whatever you've got is fine
sealant of some sort like spray fixative or polyurethane. This is optional.

1. Cut the 2x2 into cubes 1.5" x 1.5" x 1.5". You may not know this but lumber isn't exactly the size it's name would suggest. Because of the method of production a 2x2 stick will actually measure half an inch smaller on each side. To cut the cubes you can use a hand saw, but if you have a miter saw or a table saw with a fence the job will be a lot easier. I used a miter saw with the blade set at 90 degrees. Of course, you can always ask a man to do it for you, but where's the fun in that?

2. You need to sand the blocks thoroughly. These will be played with by children so you don't want any chance of them getting a splinter. Make sure you sand down each edge so it feels smooth and slightly rounded. Sand the faces of the block as well so the paint will go on smoothly. You can do this by hand, but I never do something by hand if a power tool will do it better. (I have a thing for power tools. Not Tim Allen level. Really.)

3. Wipe off the blocks with a slightly damp cloth or a tack cloth. You just need to get the saw dust off or the paint wont stick.

4. Paint. or don't. Your choice. If you are using these as decorative blocks, you can distress the edges or whatever. Make the blocks pretty. I also like the look of the bare wood. Doing a mix of colors and natural blocks makes a fun set to play with. Kids can play with creating patterns as well as spelling words.

5. When the paint has dried, apply the stickers or rub-ons to the center of two faces of each block. Make sure you have at least two if not three of each letter. You want enough that the child can make longer words and words with double letters with ease. Yet again, a mix can be fun. I just went through my scrapbook stash to find letters, full sets of the same typeface really aren't necessary.

6. Apply fixative or sealant of some kind if you are worried about how well the stickers or rub-ons will stay on the blocks. Mine have stood up well, but a few stickers have peeled off and the rub-ons flaked a bit (they are Heidi Swapp rub-ons though so that may have something to do with it.) If this or the rough look of the rub-ons would bother you, go ahead and do a fixative over the letters. It won't add that much time.

See? Easy. I spent more time waiting for paint to dry and digging through my scrapbook stash for stickers than I did actually putting the letters on the blocks. The only teadious part is sanding, but if the gift is for nieces or nephews you can enlist your own kids as helpers in the process. It's also easy to do while watching tv.

Kids love these blocks and they are super cheap. The lumber costs very little, and you probably already have paint, sand paper, and stickers somewhere in the house. Why not make a set?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Wedding Cake

So here it is. It is marshmallow fondant with ganache accents and real flowers. I'm not perfectly happy with all the swirls. They could have been better, but for the most part, I'm happy with the cake. It looked nice on the stand and the bride and groom loved it.

I don't know if I'll ever get asked to do another one. This was a freebie for a friend. it was fun to do once, though. I doubt I'll ever feel like I need to do cakes for pay. It was a bit stressful and not something I would want to do on a daily basis.

I'm glad to expand my cake skills. It was fun to work with fondant and piping ganache. Those were things I hadn't done before.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Territory--Marshmallow Fondant

A friend of mine has asked me to make her wedding cake for her. This is a new one for me. Around here, wedding cakes will consist of the main, three layer cake and two or three full sheet cakes. I've done the sheet cakes for three weddings now. Let me tell you, adding filling in a single layer of a full sheet cake is a interesting experience. I've never done a main cake before. I've also never worked with fondant before.

The bride wants a three tier cake with white fondant decorated with chocolate ganache swirls and fresh flowers. I have no experience in making something like that so I've decided that what I need is some practice before the big day. Yesterday seemed to be a good day for a practice cake because my oldest was coming home from her big trip. I baked a strawberry cake and hunted up a marshmallow fondant recipe.

Lesson one: check package sizes before making fondant. Big marshmallows are now being sold in 10.5 oz packages and small marshmallows are still being sold in 16 oz. I subbed a bag of big ones for small ones and ended up almost messing up my fondant beyond repair. It still ended up being very stiff and difficult to roll out.

Lesson two: make ganache well ahead of time to be sure it's the proper temperature for piping and make sure it's all the same temp. The cold spots/hot spots thing kept screwing up my piping. And of course I need practice shaping the swirls.

I tried making a fondant rose. It's ok. It needs work, but luckily I don't need to know how to make roses for the wedding cake.

A close up of the chocolate shell border on the bottom. This will be the decoration at the between the layers.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pattern Alteration

My oldest is leaving for Chicago tomorrow. She's going to spend a week with a cousin, her grandmother, and an aunt and uncle. She's thrilled beyond belief and has spent the summer earning money to go.

I've done some prep work myself. I decided she needed another pair of shorts. Last summer I made her a pair out of this pattern:

The walking shorts length with the little fake pocket tabs and the cuff. She likes them well enough but there were a few things she wanted done differently with the next pair. Like pockets. Do you see any pockets on those shorts? yeah, me neither. There are the patch pockets on the capris, but when was the last time you saw a teen aged girl in shorts with patch pockets like that on front? The shorts needed a scoop pocket.

Like this:

Cute huh? well that cute took me over an hour to put together. First I had to dig up a pattern with a scoop pocket because I had no idea how to make one. Then that pattern was to big for my girl plus the scoop was more of a slant, more old lady slacks than cute girl shorts, which makes all kinds of sense because that's the pattern with the pockets was for grown up slacks. So I traced the actual front piece of the shorts to create the pocket and yolk, then I traced the scoop off a pair of jeans I liked the scoop shape on, then I made the front pocket piece then I cut the scoop out of the actual front leg piece, then I put the whole thing together. It took some mental calisthenics to make it work. But I'm happy with the results.

Then after all that I decided the shorts needed some back pockets too. I thought to myself welted pockets would be cute, then I thought, "Self, how does one make a welted pocket?" This is when Google comes in handy. I learned you make one like this.

So I made two.

Then I added darts in back to stop gapposis.

Then she decided she didn't want cuffs so I had to cut them shorter.

Then we thought the legs would be cuter if they were skinnier. But it couldn't just come in more all the way around. Nope. I had to take apart the leg and pull in more off the back to keep the leg from pulling weird. Then I had to resew the right leg about four times to get it right. Then I had to try and make the left leg match. That only took twice.

Then I hemmed them with a cute 2 1/2" hem. I love the deep hem with a straight stitch. It just adds a nice little detail to the leg.

Then I discovered I had screwed something up with the waistband or the fly or something and there was no overlap at the waistband. Since I had ripped out about fifty things already, I said screw it, and made a little tab to be my overlap for me. Then I sewed it to the wrong side and had to rip it off and resew it anyway.


Next time I'm going to take the 20 minute drive to the fabric store and get the pattern we want in the first place. ;)

It was a pretty good lesson about working with patterns and changing silhouettes and adding pockets, though.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A different kind of paper craft

It's more like paper sculpture.

I recently discovered the paper craft area at I just had to make something. Since my parents had actually visited Himeji Castle in Japan, I chose to build it. It took about 30 sheets of cover stock paper, lots of ink, and over 20 hours of my time to build.

It's intensely detailed as you can see.
With lots of cutting and folding and gluing involved.
I love the little courtyard here.
And a close up of the tower.
and more courtyard. Isn't that insane? so tiny and yet so perfectly scaled.

this was my first project from Canon and I learned quite a bit doing it. The pattern recommends using glue stick, but I have learned from years of long experience that if you want your paper project to last, don't use glue stick. I used basic white glue applied with the pointy end of a bamboo skewer. Definitely use sharp scissors with a very pointy tip. And be absolutely sure you've got the folds perfect. Mine aren't quite and that's why my towers are a little to closely related to Pisa.

I gave this project to my mom for her birthday. I know. Crazy. It's been awhile since I cursed her with something handmade though, so I figured she could deal with it. She liked it. She even found a space for it in her knick knack cabinet just like she would have if I were ten. Yeah mom.

I've already started on another castle. It's a little easier, so it should only take about 15 hours to put together. I have no clue what I'm going to do with it, but it's a fun way to keep my hands busy while I watch a movie.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Step by Step: Spray painted salt and pepper set

A while back I stumbled across a post on a favorite blog that gave a how to I just had to try: spray painted salt and pepper mill. My only salt and pepper shaker is a set from my parents. They got them as a wedding gift several decades ago. The finish had become that grungy mess that old wood finish acquires around too much oil and kitchen grease. They were neither stylish nor kitschy. That blog post inspired me though. I decided that a bit of elbow grease and a little paint and I'd have a set I'd be proud to display on the table.

1. I cleaned the grime off with a terry cloth and straight white vinegar. I did not water that stuff down, it went on full blast and dissolved the dirt with no real problems at all. Then I lightly sanded them down, just to get a good surface for the paint. I didn't fill in the old dents and dings. Partly because I was feeling lazy and wanted this to be a quick project and partly because I wanted a little of the history of the set to show when i was done.

2. I taped off the sections of the salt and pepper that I did not want to be painted. You really have to be careful at this stage because you don't want the paint near your food. Make sure you also stuff something in the holes in the top of the lids. cotton, rolls of tape, whatever you can find that you are sure you can get out again. .
3. Start spraying. Follow the instructions on the paint can, meaning, do lots of light coats not just a couple of thick ones. Keep the pace steady and the distance even. You might want to also use an old cardboard box on it's side as a spray box to keep the paint contained. I also like to spray paint out on the lawn. Anything that gets out of the box is mowed off in a week or so. Oh and be careful when doing the tops. Mine aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination.

For paint I used Krylon Enamel in Chinese Red. It came out perfectly. Gloriously bright with lovely blue undertones in the gloss.
I love them! I'm really happy with this project. If you don't have a set of turned wood salt and pepper shakers around the house, look around at flea markets and thrift stores. They should be cheap but you can make them look like you bought them at a high end specialty shop.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Step By Step: Adding a Seperate Bottom to a Bag

There are lots of different ways to construct a bag, one piece or several pieces, it all depends on how you want the bag to look when you are done. Sometimes, either for aesthetics or for functionality, you need a completely separate bottom on a bag. Sewing that rectangle on can be a swear worthy proposition without one simple technique.

Stat with five pieces, two sides, front, back, and bottom. The bottom on this bag is a long rectangle, but this technique would work with any shape including ovals and circles.
Match a side to the front and pin. When sewing, do not start at the edge of the fabric. Start sewing one seam allowance from the edge. I tend to sew my bags with 5/8" seam allowances because I learned to sew on clothing and any other seam allowance just feels weird. It can be hard to guess where 5/8" falls from the top edge of the fabric so I use a pivot technique to find it. In the following pictures, side B is the bottom edge and side A is the side edge.

I place the fabric in the machine so the needle is 5/8" from the edge of side B using my seam guide on the machine itself. I guess the distance to the edge of side A hoping I'm close to 5/8". Then with the needle down and without sewing, I pivot the fabric like so:
Side A is the side I intended to sew. If the edge of side A is not lined up with the seam guide on the machine, I back the needle out and carefully adjust to maintain the 5/8" distance from side B. Then I sew the seam, making sure I reinforce my stitching at the beginning of the seam. For me, this means reverse stitching back to the beginning of the seam and then sewing forward.

Your seam should look like this:

notice how there is that 5/8" that isn't sewn at the end of the seam there? Now you sew the other three sides leaving that 5/8" gap every time.

Then you are ready to pin on the bottom piece. This is where all that careful stitching really makes the difference. When you go to pin the bottom in, the corners sides will match up with no wrestling because the corners of the fabric can separate allowing the purse sides to turn at 90 degrees to each other.
Like this. See how I can match up the long edge and the short edge just folds neatly out of the way? When you sew the bottom seam, start and finish the width of the seam allowance from the edges again. Notice how in the next photo the stitching is rectangular. It never runs to an edge. Like this:
Now you just trim the seam allowance and flip it inside out. Sew the lining exactly the same way, but leave a gap in the stitching on one long edge to turn the bag through. When you are done your bag will have a structured defined shape. Like this:

And that's it. Simple, huh?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A structured version of an unstructured bag

This is my newest purse. I love the fabric! I picked up half a yard in the remnants bin at JoAnn. Then of course I had to go back and buy lining. I found some adorable polka dots that were designed to go with the outer fabric. The shape is a modification of the reversible gingham purse. I kept the pleats and top curve exactly the same but gave it a square base. It's also got a titch more width than the other one. Changing the front was a piece of cake, but the sides proved a bit more difficult. I held the whole thing up for over a week while I stressed over the perfect curve into the square ring. Then I went and sewed it at a very quick clip and the perfect curve doesn't exist on the purse anyway.

The previous two sentences say more about my personality than anything else I've ever written on my blogs.

I love the size and the handle length. I've gone a bit short with straps lately and it's nice to have a purse that hangs at my hip again. The size is perfect for fitting in all the crap I like to carry around in my purse these days. I used to be a minimalist, wallet and keys. Then I discovered all the lovely inconsequential stuff that makes life easier: safety pins, hand loition, sun glasses, note pads, lip glosses (in the plural), etc. Of course, once you start carrying all that stuff around, your purse can be quite a mess.

Unless you do this:

Pockets! I love, love, love interior pockets in a purse. They make me happy. I have pen pockets and sunglasses pockets and key pockets, and lip gloss pockets (in the plural), and note pad pockets, and if I had a cell phone I'd have a pocket for that too. The only thing hanging out without a pocket is my wallet and hand lotion. I love not digging.

Today while walking out of Walmart, I was able to reach in my purse and pull out my sunglasses without even looking at the purse. Then when I got to my car, I reached in and grabbed my keys, again without looking. There can be no higher praise for a purse than that.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vanilla Fudge and all it's wonderful variations

If you are unfamiliar with candy making, or just want a refresher course, you might want to read the post on Chocolate Fudge.

the ingredients:

3 T butter
3 c sugar
1 1/2 C cream
1/4 c corn syrup
and a dash of salt
2 t vanilla

1. Add everything but the vanilla to a 4 quart heavy bottom pan. Cook while stirring over medium heat until the mix comes to a rolling boil. Place a lid on the pan for about 3 minutes to sweat the sides of the pan.

2. Remove the lid, place a candy thermometer in the pot, and continue to cook until the mix reaches 236 degrees.

3. Carefully pour the syrup out into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Only pour out what comes easily from the pot. Do not scrape out the pot! Let sit until it cools 110 degrees. (warm but not hot to the touch.)

4. Add the vanillla. Whip the fudge with the flat beater until the fudge looses it's gloss. If desired, add 3/4 c chopped nuts. Scrape fudge out into a buttered 8x8 baking dish and let sit until cool.

I adore vanilla fudge. It's been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl, so there's the nostalgia factor. There's also the fact that vanilla fudge is the perfect base for half a dozen different flavors of fudge. Make plain vanilla the first time, but after that have a little fun. Try one of these versions:

maple nut fudge: reduce vanilla to 1tsp. Add 2 tsp maple flavoring (I like Mapline, it's sold next to the vanilla) with the vanilla. Mix in 3/4 cup walnuts.

Opera Fudge: omit nuts. Mix in 1/2 c chopped maraschino cherries instead.

Pumpkin Fudge (yes! Pumpkin!): reduce cream to 1 cup. add 1/2 c pumpkin puree and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice. Proceed as usual.

Penuche (brown sugar fudge): use brown sugar instead of white sugar in the vanilla fudge recipe.

Peppermint fudge: reduce vanilla to 1 tsp. Add 1/2 tsp mint extract with the vanilla and stir in 1/2 c chopped candy canes. (after chopping the candy canes, place the candy in a sieve and shake to remove candy dust. You just want the larger pieces.) Eat within a couple of days. The candy canes will soften over time.

Experiment. We live in a world with so many wonderful flavors and cooking ingredients, it's almost criminal to not play around with them. My next few fudge flavors take more complex changes to the recipe so I'm still perfecting those. Watch for butterscotch, coconut, and peanut butter in the coming months.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A different kind of pillowcase dress

This is my style of pillowcase dress:

I found this lovely pillowcase at a thrift store about six weeks ago. It had the pretty flowers all over the front but not the back. I saw it and instantly knew it needed to be a little dress.

A dress like this. With a real bodice and puff sleeves.

So I cut the beautiful hand crocheted lace edging off the end of the pillowcase. Then I cut the front in half. and sewed the sides together to create a skirt. Then I sewed the edging back on the bottom of the skirt. When I cut the embroidered front in half, I discovered there were an odd number of rows of embroidery. I saved that odd row and did this with it:

It was perfect. All that ric rac is really there to make the necessary seams look purposeful and decorative rather than utilitarian. The ric rac definitely looks decorative, doesn't it?

This is the beautiful lace that originally edged the end of the pillowcase. It made the pefect hem for the dress.

The bodice and sleeve fabric all came from the back of the pillowcase. I lined the bodice with some spare muslin. that and the ric rac are the only new parts of this dress. Everything else is vintage and I think it makes the whole thing more beautiful.

Just for the record, there are 75 flowers and 40 inches of lace on that dress. Someone somewhere put at least 10 hours of labor into this piece. I'm so happy that I could preserve it like this and make an heirloom for a lovely little girl.

The dress was delivered this morning to a friend for her little 20 month old girl. I can't wait to see her in it on Easter Sunday. Sadly, I don't think I'll ever be able to get pictures of the girl in the dress. It's a little harder when it's not your girl being the model. I was glad to get these pictures, though. It will be great to remember exactly what I did if I ever run across a similar pillowcase.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Playing with Magnets

We have been needing a chore chart at our home for a while now. The kids often got stuck doing the same chores for weeks and that meant bored kids and undone chores. Steve, my husband, got productive the other day and started a chart for me. It was just the kick in the pants I needed to make the chart I had been planning.

Steve took our big magnet board in the kitchen and made a grid with colored electrical tape. Yeah, it's a bit cheesy but I love it because when we decide we're done using the board as a chart, the tape will come off without a mark.

I made magnets for each chore the kids were expected to do every day and a magnet for each of their names. The everyday, non-rotating chores, like clean your room and brush your teeth, are color coded by name. The rotating chores are in black. This helps the rotating chores stand out and it helps the kids quickly see which column is theirs. When they've done a chore they turn the magnet sideways. The kids decided that when they've done part of chore they could turn it 45 degrees.

The labels for the magnets were made in a MS Word table. I kept the lines on the table to be sure I could cut each one exactly the same size. I printed out full sheets of the labels and then cut them down into blocks of three by three so they would fit in my Xyron 510. I bought a laminate/magnet cartridge yesterday to create the magnets. They are easy to cut apart with a heavy duty pair of scissors, but don't use your good ones because the magnet will dull the blade.

And since I had that spendy Xyron cartridge, I had to come up with another good use for it:

Paper dolls! Aren't they cute?

I just printed them out, ran them through the Xyron and then cut them out. Of course, when you cut them out, you also cut the tabs off the clothes. Don't forget to cut the slits in the hats so the girls can wear them.

For our paper dolls we used the ones at this link: Paper Dolls from Kid Fun You might also want to try the paper dolls from The Toymaker. You could, of course, just Google for more fun free paper dolls or even draw your own. The best part about this project is that it works for so many things. You could add clip art of things like watering cans, flowers, beach balls, toys, whatever you want to imagine with. Try making a small magnet board for a little girl with a frame and sheet metal (most hardware stores will cut to size for you. If not, tin snips aren't hard to use.) She could carry the dolls with her where ever, a great travel toy, and it would get the girls off your fridge.

With magnet boards being so popular now, it's a lot of fun to customize them with your own art. The magnet cartridge for a Xyron is a bit on the spendy side, but if you buy it on sale it's a lot easier to justify. Just think of all they fun you can have with one.

Personally, I'm going to make a really cool refrigerator poetry set next.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cream of Chicken with Leeks

I have been playing with my kids this week instead of being crafty so I haven't actually completed anything new. I did however create a lovely soup recipe and I'll post that. You'll have to forgive me for once again not having pictures a la Pioneer Woman. Just trust me, it's worth it. And since it only takes 30 minutes to cook, you could say it's more than worth it.

Cream of Chicken Soup with Leeks

1/2 T olive oil
2 leeks, chopped
1 t salt
2 t minced garlic
2 celery stalks chopped
5 c chicken stock
1 1/2 c cooked chicken
3 carrots, sliced
3/4 c heavy cream
1 t chopped lemon thyme

heat the oil in a heavy bottom 4 quart pan. Add the salt, celery and leeks, cook over medium heat until tender and transparent. You want to sweat the aromatics, not saute them. Stir often and turn down the heat if they get a little color. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so to release flavor. Dump in the cooked chicken, chicken stock and carrots. heat to simmer and cook until the carrots are tender. Gently stir in the heavy cream, then add the thyme. Salt and pepper to taste. heat through, but do not let boil. Serve.

This soup is really heavenly. It has a distinctive flavor and is very different from your average chicken soup. It is very thin however. If you like your cream soups to be thicker, add 1/3 c flour with the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the stock to reduce the raw flavor in the flour.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another dress

I had some fabric left from last year's Easter dresses, so I decided to whip one up for my Etsy's shop. This is Sarah's color scheme and the design from Libby's and Rilla's dresses.

I of course needed photos to post in the shop, so I asked Libby to be my "fashion model."

She jumped into the job with fantastic enthusiasm. She mispronounced model at least five times.
But she just kept posing.
and posing. Don't you think she did a good job?

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I'm working on another purse. I've modified the pattern I made for the last one to create a deeper purse with a new shape. This one won't be reversible; it's going to have organizing pockets because I'm tired of digging through a bunch of stuff to find my keys.

I'll of course, be making smaller bags to put stuff in my other purses. I've got too many that are just big open bags. I figured a bag for my lip glosses (something colored and something not) a nail file and clippers, safety pins (they are just handy to have around), etc. and another bag for things like gum, a pen, and that sort of thing would make switching purses a breeze and keep them all more organized. I just need to choose the fabric for those. Something neutral, but still cute, of course. I'll be using the square end style of bag to make it easier to get things in and out of these bags.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quick Sewing Tip

I love the look of double needle stitching. I just barely bought double needles a few months ago, however. (I may be Princess of Projects, but I'm Queen of Procrastination.) I held off using the needles for a while because I kept forgetting to buy a second spool of thread for my projects.

Until I realized one day I didn't need two spools of thread, I just needed two thread holders. Which leads me to my sewing tip:

When doing double needle stitching, wind a second bobbin to act as the second thread source. So you would have a spool of thread and a bobbin on top of the machine and a second bobbin loaded in the bobbin case. It works great and it saves you having to buy a second spool of bright pink thread for 6 feet of hem work.

(This one was probably obvious to quite a few people, I'll try to make my next tip not quite so easy. )

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reversible Doll Jumper

Isn't she cute? (please excuse her hair. Her mommy is four.) Today I'm going to walk you through how to make that jumper. It's reversible, so your little girl gets two jumpers and you do half the work. See how I'm always looking out for you?

The first step is choosing the fabric. Your two fabrics don't have to coordinate because only one side shows at a time. I like lightweight fabrics, but you can use bottom weights as well if you like. If you do choose something heavier, like denim, twill, or corduroy, be sure your second fabric is lightweight or you're really going to struggle with those straps. Lightweight fabrics are easier to work with and might be the best choice the first time through if you haven't sewn doll clothes before.

Choose your pattern. I used the jumper pattern from Simplicity 7083, but any simple jumper pattern will do (and technically you can use this technique on any similarly designed jumper. I just haven't gotten the hankering for a reversible jumper for myself lately.)

When sewing doll clothes, always use a quilt piecing foot. Doll clothes have a 1/4" seam allowance just like quilts and that 1/4" foot is fabulous for making sure the seams are the right width. I don't really even quilt, by the way. I bought mine just for doll clothes. I love the little red hash marks every 1/8" on it. It makes turning corners so much easier.

1. Ok, back to the fabric. Cut out a front and back pieces from both fabrics. One front and two backs, just like the pattern recommends.

2. Sew them together at the side seams and press your seams open. On one side, press the top of the jumper straps down 1/4" to the inside of the fabric. (I'll show you what that looks like here in a second.)
3. Now matching right sides together, sew the two jumpers together all the way around included the back center seam, except leave a 2" opening at the bottom edge:
and don't sew the tops of the straps. See how the pink fabric is folded down? I also sewed right over the top of the folded fabric. You now have a little 1/4" tab on one side and a folded section on the other. Trim your seams. (for the non-sewers, this means clip the corners close to the seams and clip the seams along all curved edges. If you need directions on this, check out the basic instructions section on most any pattern.)

4. Using the gap you left in step 3 at the bottom of the jumper, turn the jumper right side out. You'll pull it all through all the way to the ends of the straps, just like this:

5. Press flat, making sure you keep the seams perfectly even so one side is not visible from the other.

6. Now we're going to sew the jumper straps. Match the straps so right front strap is matched with right back, etc. Sew the tabs right sides together on each strap. Do not catch the folded edges in this seam. I used my machine, but if you are nervous about using a machine in a small space, feel free to hand sew this step. (You'll be hand sewing from here on out anyway.)
7. Fold the tab ends back inside the strap like this:
and hand sew the folded edges closed using an invisible slip stitch:
8. Sew the gap in the bottom edged closed and sew up the back center seam using an invisible slip stitch. You want to sew the back up enough that the dress is easy to get on, but doesn't gap when put on. In this pattern (Simplicity 7083) that means sewing up about 4" from the bottom edge of the jumper. Then you'll want to hand sew a small snap at the top center back corners, be sure to not catch the other side of the fabric as you sew so the snap stays invisible.

9. Dress the doll and show her off. You might want to throw her a tea party so she has somewhere to go in her snazzy new togs.

Side two is just as cute:
Here you can see the inside and outside at the same time. I would show you the tiny snap on that top edge, but I lost my snaps and I haven't sewn one on this jumper yet. whoops.
This is a super simple jumper that takes about an hour to whip up, including the hand sewing. You could also alter the pattern by adding 3/8" to the center back seam and not hand sewing the bottom together. Just add velcro, snaps, or 1/4" buttons up the back to fasten. Of course, you could also move the seam to the front and make the back one piece and use really cute buttons . . . .

Sorry. I'll stop now. I'll also refrain from saying that the possibilities are . . . you know. I will say there's lots of stuff to do with this once you get the hang of it. I hope you have fun with it. If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comment section. thanks!