Oct 28, 2013

DIY Rainbow Plush Alphabet and Drawstring Tutorial

Can you feel it? Christmas is coming!! Admittedly, my excitement for Christmas starts a tad early. I usually blame it on the fact that I hand make a bunch of our gifts and it just takes me longer to get ready. However, I can't really excuse starting a Christmas gift idea list in March. Can gift giving be an obsession?

On the list this year for my son and nephew (both under 2) are rainbow plush alphabets with a little bag to keep them corralled. After creating a patterned fabric letter version previously, I wanted to try a solid rainbow version. I'm thrilled with how they turned out. And bonus...they can be used to teach colors, ROYGBIV, and the alphabet! I promise not all my son's gifts are educational :).

If you are new to sewing, have no fear - these are a piece of cake to make with only basic sewing knowledge.

What you will need:
4, 6" x 6" squares of each color of 13 shades of quilting fabric covering the rainbow
100% cotton batting roll - 52, 6" x 6" squares
Pinking shears
Pencil/dressmaker's marker pencil/chalk
Sturdy material for bag (I chose a white twill)
Ribbon for drawstring
Accent material for bag
Sewing machine
Letter stencils (optional)
Fray Check (optional)
Button hole cutter (optional)

For the letters:

1. Iron fabric
2. Cut 4 6" x 6" squares per material color for a total of 52 squares. The squares do not have to be perfect or exactly the same so don't waste your time here. I just do this to help ensure that all the letters are roughly the same size at the end.
3. Cut 52  6" x 6" cotton batting squares.
4. Order your squares in color progression of the rainbow (ROYGBIV). Of the 52 squares, take 2 of each color and sketch (or stencil) chunky letters very lightly in pencil (I used a dressmaker's marking pencil which works particularly well on the darker fabrics). Your first color should be a red. Take two red squares and write an A on one and a B on the next. Your next color is likely an orangey red...write a C and D on two of these squares. Etc. I like to draw mine by hand - I think it gives them a playful, not perfect feel. Ensure there is at least a half inch buffer around all edges of the letters.
5. Sandwich two batting squares between two matching color squares. Ensure the square with the drawn letter is on top. You might want to pin through all four layers to prevent puckering or slipping. I apparently cannot use pins without pricking every single finger, so I went without and it worked fine as long as I was careful.
6. Use your sewing machine to stitch along the letter outline (be sure to backstitch at the beginning and end). Remove any visible stray marks.
6. Cut around the outside of the letter with the pinking shears. Don't get too close to the stitches - you want a little buffer here. You can also use fray check along the edge of the letters if you want to further prevent fraying. I don't use fray check because I figure these will go in my son's mouth at some point.
7. For the inside of the letters (like the middle of an A), you can either cut or leave solid. Use normal scissors if you do choose to cut (not pinking shears).

For the drawstring bag:

Disclaimer - I'm somewhat self taught as far as sewing goes. This might not be the most perfect way to sew a drawstring bag, but it is quick, cute and works. :)

1. Iron the fabric chosen for the bag and cut a 24" x 16" rectangle. Choose one of the 24" sides as the 'top edge' of the bag. The 16" edges will be referred to as the 'side edges'.
2. On right side of the fabric near the 'top edge' of the bag, mark a 3/4" long button hole starting 1.25" from the 'top edge' and 3/4" from one of the 'side edges'. Mark an identical button hole near the other 'side edge' of the bag 1.25" from the 'top edge' and 3/4" from the 'side edge'.
3. Sew the button holes using a small piece of the same fabric as interfacing. If you don't have an automatic button hole foot on your machine, I highly recommend it! A Button Hole Cutter also comes in handy to open up the hole, but scissors can be used also.
4. Turn the material wrong side up and fold the top edge of the bag down so the edge extends below the bottom of the button hole approximately 1/4" - 1/2". Seam below the button holes.
5. Fold the bag right sides together such that the 'side edges' come together. Seam along the side edge and bottom edge of the bag, backstitching at both ends. Turn the bag right side out.
6. Attach a bodkin to one edge of ribbon and thread through the bag, button hole to button hole. Trim the ribbon edges and use fray check to prevent fraying.
7. To dress up the bag a bit, I cut a rectangle of alphabet fabric with pinking shears and sewed it onto the front of the bag.

Oct 9, 2013

Teeny Tiny Pumpkin DIY Thanksgiving Place Card Tutorial

I unpacked my fall/Thanksgiving decorations this weekend and I realized something...apparently, I am obsessed with pumpkins. With the exception of one little turkey that hangs on the front door, every single fall decoration I have is a variation on a pumpkin. Oops. Perhaps I need to spice it up a little bit, but for now I am embracing it with these teeny pumpkin place card holders!

One of the things I love about having married a mechanical engineer is that we have lots of fun things in the garage. I was headed to the craft store to get some orange/coppery wire and Kevin pulled out a spool of 792 feet of magnet wire - leftovers from making a pulse jet engine. And get this....it wasn't a college project. This was fully a post-college just for fun activity. Haha, I love him so much. Who does stuff like that?

What you will need:

Magnet Wire or other easily formable orange wire (Kevin's was 24 gauge) - Magnet wire is the cheapest option I have found so far. Copper wire at craft stores is more expensive.
Wire Cutters
Small Pliers (optional)
Green Card Stock
Silhouette Cameo or Scissors/Leaf Stencil/X-Acto Knife
Small Stick for Stalk
Bamboo Skewer (optional)
Sharpie Pen - these have a really great fine tip

1. Leaving a tail of about 4 inches, wrap the wire around two fingers. I found that about 100 loops made a nice full pumpkin. The 24 gauge wire worked really well forming it by hand, but was sturdy enough to hold its shape.

2. Leaving another tail of about 6 inches at the end, cut the wire to disconnect from the spool.

3. Gather all the loops together. Take the 4" tail and thread it through all the loops.

4. Wrap the 4" wire several times around the gathered wire center and hide the end in the wrapped wire.

5. Spread the loops evenly around the gathered center to form the pumpkin body. Use your fingers to round out the loops to get a nice shape. Leave the 6" tail sticking out the top of the pumpkin.

6. Cut your leaf from the green card stock and add the name. I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut the leaf and added a little slit in the top to thread the wire. If you add a slit by hand I would suggest an X-Acto knife.

7. Thread the 6" tail through the slit in the leaf.

8. Squeeze the small stick into the center of the pumpkin for the stalk.

9. Curl the remaining tail and cut off any excess. I curled the wire around a bamboo skewer from the kitchen and used the pliers to straighten out any kinks.

And that is it! Teeny Tiny Pumpkin Place Cards that can double as decorations and party favors. 

I made 10 of these little cuties for Thanksgiving. Until then, they will sit among my other pumpkins looking adorable and reminding me how excited I am to see my family :).

{you can check out my attempt at a non-pumpkin Thanksgiving decoration here}

Oct 5, 2013

Happy Engagement Mini Gift Mini Post

I struggled with a title for this post. What do you call a little something to say 'Hey, I am super excited for you!!' ? I wouldn't necessarily call this a full-fledged gift. More of a mini-gift? Anyway, a friend (and one of the sweetest people I know) recently got engaged. We were meeting up for drinks to celebrate and I wanted to bring a 'little something'.

I find that I most often give bridal magazines to newly engaged friends. There is such a short period in your life in which browsing one is acceptable and I think they should enjoy it :). My favorite bridal magazine is probably Real Simple Weddings. I couldn't find it at the time I gave this gift so I substituted a Martha Stewart. While at the store I picked up a few other little things that always come in handy for a bride to be - thank you notes and to do lists. I know I went through my fair share for our wedding.  I tied some twine, added some washi tape, and a few little notes - and that's it (like I said - mini gift).

A mini-post for a mini-gift. :)

Oct 4, 2013

DIY Nursery Plush Letter with Hanging Star Tutorial

If I had to pick a favorite room in my house it might well be my son's nursery. I didn't choose a traditional 'theme' for the nursery. I don't like things that are that matchy-matchy. Instead I just picked colors and it kind of came together from there. Of all our rooms, this one has by far the most number of handmade and custom items. Some by me, some by family, some by friends...all adorable. I'm sure I'll talk about other parts of the nursery in the future, but for today I'm sharing a fun little (and super quick) DIY nursery letter. This is pretty versatile. I first had it on a shelf with his green giraffe, but after moving into our new place it found its place prominently on the wall over his crib with my fabric hoops. My favorite part of this letter...the little star hanging on a string. 

(Note - this letter is not intended as a child's toy, just as a decoration)

What you will need: 

Fabric of your choice for letter
Scrap of accent fabric for star
Scrap of batting for star
Coordinating embroidery floss for hanging star
Chalk or pencil
Letter Stencil (optional)
Sewing Machine
Hand-sewing needle

1. Start by ironing your fabric. Then fold it with right sides together. Your letter should fit comfortably on the folded fabric. I'm not including dimensions because you can make this letter as big or small as you want. Just remember - the stuffed letter will be much smaller and thinner than the letter drawn on the fabric. Make your letter big and chunky to account for seam allowance on both sides and the thickness from stuffing.

2. Pin the material to prevent shifting. Draw or trace your letter onto the wrong side of the fabric. 

3. Cut out letter.

4. Sew around ALMOST the entire border of the letter (I used an 1/8" seam allowance) but leave enough open to allow turning the letter inside out. The amount needed will depend on the letter. Think through how you will turn out your letter - some may be more difficult than others (like an A). You may have to hand sew parts shut after turning the letter right side out. For the C I left the top of the horizontal bar open and it worked great.

 5. At this point you can snip off the corners of the letters to make them lay better after turning them right side out. Just be sure to stay away from the seam.

6. Turn your letter right side out. I found two tools very helpful for this: a point turner and a bodkin. Bodkins are used for things like stringing elastic through a waistband. I pushed it through the letter, clipped it on to the far side and then pulled it back through to turn the letter right side out. Then I used the turner to push out the corners of the letter.

7. Now you stuff with Poly-Fil. I ended up using a combination of a pencil and the point turner to get the stuffing all the way into the letter. It takes a little bit to work it all in there evenly.

8. Lastly, you have to close up the letter by hand-sewing an invisible stitch. If you are unfamiliar, it is much easier than it sounds. Just look on Pinterest and there are lots of tutorials/pictures.

9. Now, you could stop there, but I wanted to add a little something extra with a hanging star. Take a small scrap of fabric and cut it in two. Place a scrap of cotton batting in between the two pieces and stitch a star shape. Then cut around the edge of the star leaving a buffer outside the seam. Thread a hand-sewing needle with the embroidery floss and string the star onto the floss. Put the star at the desired hanging length and tie a bow with the two ends of the floss. Cut the floss ends of the bow. Place the star loop over the letter and position as desired. Finally, use a bit more floss to hand stitch the hanging star loop to the back of the letter.

If you want to hang your letter from the wall, you can again use the embroidery floss to add a little hanging loop on the back of the letter. The letters are very light so you don't need anything too strong.

I smile every time I see this little letter :).

A 'Don't Go Crazy While Getting Better' Activity Care Package

Have you ever known anyone to sit there peacefully and recover from being sick or getting surgery? Me neither. What are you supposed to do all day while letting your body get better? I would go out of my mind.

Recently, my sister in law had to have surgery and spend a few weeks taking it very easy and doing a lot of sitting. Sadly, I live too far away to be any real help in the situation, but I decided to address one of the less critical needs...she was bored out of her mind. Definitely some cabin fever setting in. Thus the 'don't go crazy' care package.

I've always loved care packages. Who doesn't want to get a surprise box in the mail? Especially when the contents have been hand picked for you. Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

So back to the box...The Lord has blessed me with three of the most amazing sisters in law you could ever hope for. The recipient of this box is an adorable preschool teacher who loves reading, puppies, crafty things, and my brother (aww).

The contents of this box are:
1. Some Teddy Grahams for snacking. She loves these (who doesn't?).
2. An amazon giftcard for a new book to read.
3. A skein of yarn for a crochet project.
4. A penguin needle felting kit. I've never tried needle felting, but it looked cute.
5. A doggy toy for her new puppy
6. Fun nail polish
7. A 'to do' list I got at Target for a 1$ - notice all the 'who' blanks are filled in with my brother's name:). Hint hint.

Next came the really fun part. Decorations! I wanted the box to feel like a little party when opening it. I wrapped each item with bakers twine and added a note. Then I made a garland from the same bakers twine, a few paper pinwheels, and washi tape flags. Hot glue worked perfectly to fix it inside the lid. I added a paper flower, threw in a note, and sealed it up. The box looked a little plain so I painted teal polka dots and added more washi tape.

Hopefully, it brightened her day and made getting better a little less boring.

Like this care package? Check out my most recent care package here.

Oct 2, 2013

A DIY Argyle 30th Birthday Surprise

This summer was a big one in our family...the Big 3-0 to be more specific. Both my husband and I took the jump into our 30's. His birthday came first, so I took the opportunity to make a big deal out of it and surprise him.

Searching online for a party theme brought zero inspiration. All the 30th birthday party decorations I found were either way too cheesy or too focused on 'getting old'. I wanted the party to have a more joyful, celebrating 30 great years vibe.  The final look for the party came together when I combined two of my husbands favorite things...bright colors and argyle. The result was joyful, modern, and fit my husband perfectly.

My favorite decoration from this whole party was a timeline of his life. With the help of parents and friends, I collected photos from every year and printed 5x7s at Costco. The pictures were clipped with tiny clothes pins along a blue ribbon with big colorful numbers for each age (cut on my Silhouette Cameo). Have you ever looked at 30+ photos of one person chronologically? Very cool. I tried to capture all the big events of his life (like meeting me of course!). It gave a great personal feel to the decorations.

It was hard to get a picture of the entire timeline :).

My second favorite thing about this party was the cake. Apart from being delicious (Mexican Chocolate Cake), the decorations turned out even better than I had pictured in my head. The argyle pattern was crazy easy. I used fondant (which is basically like play-dough for cake, if you are unfamiliar). Using a square cookie cutter (slightly pinched to make it more of a diamond), I cut out the shapes from blue and orange fondant. Then I used some of the chocolate icing from inside the cake to pipe on the dotted lines. The '30' took the longest as I hand cut the numbers from the fondant and then made the orange detailing also by hand. The cake garland is felt balls strung on embroidery floss and tied to two bamboo skewers. Voila...festive and super easy cake garland.

To round off the decorations I added some blue and orange diamond garlands, balloons, and plenty of '30' cutouts hanging from trees. To give a little southern charm we had pulled pork sandwiches, sweet tea, and lemonade. Add in some perfect CA warm weather, a pool, and good friends and it was a birthday to remember.