the gifts of 2016

it seems all i heard myself say during the month of december was “i’m not ready”, and by the end of the month i found that i had mental lists constantly running through my head…all negative.  the lists of what I didn’t accomplish, didn’t bake, didn’t decorate, didn’t make time to visit with.  they were heavy lists, and i’ve decided to let them go.  i’m trading them in for lists of how many strangers i wished a happy holiday, how delicious the pizzelles were with my morning and evening coffee, how much i enjoyed each stitch in each gift i was able to make.  and of course the biggest list of all (and the one i usually ignore until november!)…the list for next year!!

to start the new year i want to share a few of the handmade gifts i managed to eek out in 2016.  the last of the gifts were just now opened due to scheduling conflicts, so i’m finally able to share them all.

first up….the turtles!  i had these planned for quite some time and actually had them completed quite early.  one for each great niece.  a big old floor pillow with personality.   hannah is a pink and purple sort of girly-girl who loves to dance, so for her…a pink and purple turtle with a bit of glittery fabric thrown in for fun.dscn7031

brooklynn is more of a whirlwind of action…karate kicks, ninja moves…that’s more her style.  so she got a blue and green turtle (there’s a bit of glitter…i couldn’t resist), with a surprise underneath.  the bottom of the turtle is girl super-hero fabric…super girl, wonder woman and batgirl.  no, the red doesn’t really “go” with the blue/green top, but does that really matter?  i hope it said to her “i get you…I know who you are”dscn7033you may not be able to tell from the pics, but these guys are BIG!  they stand about 10-12″ tall and from head to tail measure about 48-50″….perfect for propping you up for movie time.

my sister (turtle girl grandmother) has eyed my messenger bag for quite some time…offering to take it off my hands, so i made her one of her own.  it’s amy butler’s first messenger bag pattern…a very simple bag with a pocket flap.  i use mine all the time and it’s just right.  once i made it i decided she needed a heigh-ho laptop sleeve to match, so she got a set.dscn7046picking out the buttons was, of course, my favorite part of the project.  at one point i think i had every button in the studio spread out across the rug…and that’s a whole lotta buttons!

dscn7043sister also got a kerchief shawl.  i can’t sit and watch a movie without picking up a knitting project.  i made one for myself first to test the pattern and then made hers…after blocking i’ve decided that if i make this pattern again i’ll add an extra repeat since it feels a bit short when i wrap it around my neck.


last year elizabeth made recipe towels using a spoonflower tutorial here on the blog.  i knew then that i wanted to make some too.  instead of using a single recipe, i stole borrowed some the favorite family recipes…ones that even the grandsons would know…mostly handwritten (i think each side had one printed recipe) and had fabric printed at spoonflower.  i made towels for everyone, 18 in all!  every generation got a towel…even the great granddaughters and i have a few left that just need hemming in case there is ever a towel emergency.


dscn7041i saved my favorite project…or shall i say my latest sewing addiction…for last.  the rope bowl craze has been happening for a while now but i seem to show up a bit late at these sorts of things.  i’ve had the clothesline in my studio closet forever (planned on making a bag with it), but it wasn’t until days before christmas that i pulled it out and began my first bowl.  jeff walked in to find me forming the bottom and asked what i was making…actually it was more “what are you making NOW?” and i replied “a bowl”…he didn’t even comment, just walked out.  but nothing would dampen my enthusiasm for this project.  i’ve seen them made with fabric strips covering the rope, with ribbon accents, but i had yarn…plenty of yarn, so that’s what i used.  iI didn’t try to make the accents symmetrical, i just added them whenever i felt the urge to add color.  i also started out with the standard loop handle, but tried what i call “the casserole handle” on one and loved it!  some are lightweight rope, some are a bit stiffer…i’m still trying to find just the perfect clothesline because i’m hoping to make a LARGE basket for myself and need it to stand up to a bit of weight.  have you tried these?  OMG…you must!  the process is so easy and the possibilities are endless (unlike the clothesline…i ran out a couple of times and had to make emergency trips to the hardware!)

so that was 2016…i can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.  what’s on your list for the year?





the elves and the shoemaker

I MADE SHOES!!  i know i’m a bit late to the party, but hey!  i made shoes (without the need for elves!).

last fall at quilt market  i was fascinated as i watched carolina moore (craftmoore on ig) working on espadrilles while shuttling back and forth to our hotels. i could tell she was hooked and i even offered my feet just in case she felt like making a few extra pair (sadly, she did not).  so…i had to do the next best thing…make my own.

make them i did, but not for me.  this inaugural pair was a birthday gift for my sister.  she’s one i can always count on to appreciate my handcrafted gifts (yes, even the ones i promised 2 years ago and have yet to produce….i knew you’d bring that up sis, so i beat you to it!).




i used dritz soles along with their exterior fabric and thread for the hand stitching.  first time on a new project i like to follow directions as much as possible. i did not however purchase their package of lining fabric…there’s plenty of fabric to choose from in the studio.  i debated about using the purple lining…it used to be her favorite color, like 3 decades ago, but maybe people change…i wasn’t sure if i liked the purple with the multi stripes.  it wasn’t until the shoes were complete that i noticed the picture on the packaging….multi stripes with purple lining…talk about subliminal advertising!!

if you’re late to the espadrille party too, i highly recommend the process.  i mean, you make shoes!!  for the most part they were very simple, but here are a few techniques that made it just a bit easier on my hands.

* i used a curved upholstery needle…the curve made stitching much easier!!

* wax the yarn/thread very well…it really takes a beating going through the soles and the wax helps it not only glide, but keeps it from fraying

* i tried many thimbles!!  i have all kinds, leather/metal/plastic/rubberized, but i kept taking them off to pull the yarn through the stitch.  so i donned a latex glove (which i admit was stolen from my father’s hospital room) and it worked “like a glove”!!  i wore the glove on my “working” hand and it really gave me great grip on the needle.  my fingers were grateful!



the espadrilles have been presented and were well received….enough so that she was willing to allow me to photograph her feet.  now that’s sisterly love!!



throwing in a valentine’s towel

one more valentine’s project before the big day arrives!

valentine’s day always meant a huge “formal” dinner when my boys were young.  i would cook all day, set a formal table complete with gifts and cards at each place setting.  there were individual heart shaped desserts and candles…the works!  i sort of miss that dinner…while a dinner for two can be romantic, you just can’t beat the simple joy of watching a little boy’s eyes light up over a hot wheels car.  come to think of it, my grown up boys would probably still enjoy receiving a hot wheels car!!

my last project is a flour sack dish towel…..something that would have brightened up those times when i spent the entire day cooking and baking.


needed: a dish towel (my flour sack towel came from joanns), assorted cotton prints for the hearts, wonder-under fusible and your sewing machine.


you can fuse your hearts in place OR you can applique them….i did both.  apply the wonder-under to the wrong side of your heart fabrics.  cut various sizes of hearts and lay them out on your dish towel.  i started in one corner and placed mine in a sort of waterfall pattern to the opposite corner.  once you decide on placement, remove the paper backing from the wonder-under and fuse the hearts to the towel.  you may want to stitch around the outer edges of the hearts to make them more secure.

finally, you will connect the hearts with a line of machine stitching in a contrasting color.  if your machine offers decorative stitches this is the place to use them!


whether it’s for your own use (yes, it’s totally acceptable to give yourself a valentine’s gift) or for some special cook on your list, i hope you enjoy “throwing in the towel”!!



put your ♥ on a pillow

need a perfect little valentine’s day accent for your home?  or something quick and easy to give a special friend?  this little pillow is the answer!  with a single row of 3-d hearts, it’s not “over the top” so you can use it all year long.  or make one for a young girl in your life using her favorite colors.

my finished pillow measures 8″x11″ mostly because that’s how much wool i had on hand.  you can make this any size and basically using just about any type of fabric.  it works best with a solid pillow and print hearts…although i’m betting you could reverse that combo if you have good color contrast.

here’s how:  measure and cut 2 pieces for the pillow (adding 1/2″ seam allowances all the way around).  cut heart shapes from your print fabric.  since the edges of the hearts aren’t stitched down you’ll need to back them with a fusible to keep the edges from fraying.  i used sf-101 (probably my favorite interfacing!!) because it’s woven and gives the backs of the hearts the look of fabric.  place the hearts in a single row along one side (or center them right down the middle) of one pillow piece.  use a contrasting color of thread and stitch a line straight through the hearts, beginning and ending at the very edge of the pillow.

then put the two pillow pieces right sides together and stitch around the outside edges (1/2″ seam allowance), leaving an opening along the bottom for turning.  clip the corners, turn it right side out and stuff!  pin the bottom opening closed and hand stitch.

since i was using a solid off white wool i felt i needed just a tiny bit more color, so i used red pearl cotton to whipstitch along the edges of the pillow.  i began in the lower right hand corner, left a long tail and when i came back to that corner, i tied the thread in a little bow for an accent.

i love how the hearts pop away from the pillow just a little giving it a three dimensional look.   i think when i make another one i’ll use topstitching thread to secure the hearts to make that line stand out a bit more.

what it everyone making for day?

love note pockets

valentine’s day is upon us.  it began bearing down the day after Christmas, and if we believe all the hype, we’re not really loved (or showing love) if we don’t buy diamond jewelry, candy, flowers and cards.  there are times though that hallmark falls a bit short and I prefer to write my own sentiments….words that might not make sense to anyone but me and my valentine.

this year i’m delivering my “love note” in a handcrafted heart.  and i thought i’d share it just in case you’d like to leave a love note for someone in your life.  these take only minutes to make….deciding on the fabric will take longer than construction!


i chose to make mine from an old quilt, some red/white dotted cotton for the pocket, and used pearl cotton and a sharp tapestry needle to blanket stitch an edging.


cut your heart from the quilt…any size you choose (maybe you’re leaving a love letter instead of a note!)  then cut a pocket big enough to hold your note and stitch a narrow hem across the top straight edge.  i used a blanket stitch to finish the outer edges of my heart, not worrying about a few threads pulling loose on the edge of the quilt (this version is rustic). tie a loop of the pearl cotton at the top of the heart so you can hang your note on a doorknob or closet door.  now, write a note!!


prefer a more “finished” version?  just use two fabrics, fuse them using wonder-under (or just stitch them together using a decorative stitch) and make the hanging loop using a pretty ribbon.

DSCN6663you can even mail these intead of sending a store bought card…letting your valentine know that you’re thinking of them and took the time to put your own heart into their special message.

last of the christmas projects

a few days before christmas i was scrolling through my instagram feed and saw that someone (sorry…wish i had noted who it was!  thanks for the inspiration!) had made several of these cute little triangle pouches.  forgetting ignoring that i had a ton of things already on my to-do list for the day, i headed down to the studio to play with the idea.  i figured it couldn’t be TOO hard….they’re little triangles!!  actually, they are rectangles, and i was correct….they weren’t hard…but they were addictive!!  i planned to make 3…one for each of the girl stockings…and finally stopped after an even dozen, mostly because i ran out of zippers.  i’m sure there’s a tutorial out there somewhere, but i just sort of winged it.


i didn’t realize until i was done that every single pouch was made with dear stella fabric scraps that were left from making fabric baskets….sweet!!

one last pouch…this one for amy, lover of all things water and fish, made from fish fabric that i’ve had in the stash just waiting for a great project to come along.  there’s still plenty of that fabric left…let me know if you have a project idea i could use it for!


so…they ended up in everyone’s stockings!!  the great nieces got a few goodies tucked inside…lip gloss, coins and a hankie that originally belonged to their great-great grandmother (they may not appreciate them now, but someday they will).

i’m keeping the pea pods!


keepin the babies warm

i have 2 babies arriving soon…both girls.  don’t get me started on finding out the sex of babies before their birth…let’s just say if god wanted us to know, we’d be pregnant on the outside!!  i must admit that i knew my third boy was a boy early on, but it was an accidental discovery.  as my doctor was explaining his ‘strange’ position i recognized a “certain part” that gave it away.  anyhoo….2 wee girls will soon join the family and i decided that it was my job to keep them warm and cozy.  thus…baby sweaters.  gotta love knitting baby sweaters…the yarn is soft and pretty….and it’s not a huge time commitment.  before you have a chance to be bored with the project, it’s done!!


the tweedy grey one before weaving in the ends.


they joined each other for a quick dip with a bit of “soak”.


a little blocking and it’s on to the fun of buttons!

i tried a few combinations…white pearl buttons, plain pink, plain white, pink bunnies, white bunnies, pink bows…and finally decided that i loved the little pink bows on the grey one and the white bunnies on the scandinavian.


and they’re ready for wrapping!!  the grey is going to my niece and the scandinavian to my cousin.  now i’m thinking that i may need to make some socks for those tiny little feet.


last minute lotion bars

while searching for something quick and different to make as stocking stuffers for the girls in my family i came across this great tutorial from melissa of mellysews.  i’ve always enjoyed making soap (from lye and oils, not the melted glycerin variety), lip gloss, sugar rubs and all those wonderfully girlie, good smelling things…so melissa’s lotion bars struck a chord and i dove in.  not familiar with lotion bars??  pretty simple concept…take a shower, rub lotion bar over skin.  the heat of your body will soften the bar.


surprisingly i found everything i needed in my closet, with the exception of scent.  i only had cranberry and lemongrass on hand and just couldn’t imagine rubbing cranberry all over my body after a shower…..might work….might not.  it was too late to order anything, so i used the lemongrass.  i went light on the scent and on the second batch i went totally scent-less.  (and i think each and every recipient KNEW that but sniffed anyway!!)

i used a regular muffin tin as a mold and it worked just fine…although it did require quite a bit of really hot water to get the oil residue out.  i’ll keep my eyes open for a silicone mold of some sort at a thrift shop.

melissa’s tutorial included these adorable bags with fusible vinyl lining….but since i was working late at night (and very close to gift giving day) i opted for simple packaging in plastic bags, trimmed down and tied with ribbon.

wishing now that i had photographed the process…or even the finished product….what i do have is a shot of the smaller “leftovers” that i kept for myself.  scratch ‘n sniff would be cool right now!



jaws ate the pencils!

i made very few gifts for christmas this year…fewer than normal and the ones i did make were small ones.  i loved elizabeth’s tea towels!!  i’ve already made a note to make those for mother’s day (mom…avert your eyes!).

adult coloring books were definitely the “hot” gift this year, and the girls in my life each got them.  amy received tula pinks book along with an ocean themed one while brittany got one with tattoo designs since she is beautifully inked.  i made each of them a pencil case to hold their colored pencils, but i had a difficult time letting this one go.


jaws!!!  i spotted this pattern and tutorial quite a while ago, but knew that i HAD to make it to hold amy’s pencils.  it was quite simple until i got to the zipper.  i had read the comments from other makers, so i was aware that the zipper posed some issues.  in the end, i widened his mouth a bit and hand basted the zipper in place…then added the lining separately. it worked, and i love his big mouth!!


it’s safe to go back in the water…just don’t carry any pencils!


Recipe tea towels

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were lovely and that you are looking forward to a fantastic 2016.


I wanted to share one of the Christmas projects I did this year that would be good for almost any occasion. I came across the idea on Sew Mama Sew and then a little more searching turned up Martha Stewart’s tutorial for recipe tea towels. I played around with both layouts and liked Martha’s version better.

I borrowed some recipes from my mom and aunt that were in family members’ handwriting and settled on two recipes from my great grandma (baked apples and apple pudding), one from my grandma (her signature lemon meringue pie) and my great aunt (pecan pie- my mom’s favorite). I won’t belabor the design part since I just followed the tutorials listed above and had the fabric printed by Spoonflower, but in case the interwebs need another tutorial for hemming a square or rectangle here is how I did it.*


Iron a crease around the image.


Cut off the corners at a 45 degree angle about 1/2″ from the corner of your image, then fold that corner in and iron a crease. Repeat for each corner.


Re-iron your original fold on all sides.


Turn the raw edge under to hide it in your fold and press. Repeat for all sides.


Your corners should look like this.


Pin twill tape, ribbon or ric-rack across the top left corner at a 45 degree angle with the ends in your seam allowance for a hanging loop.


Stitch around the perimeter and you’re done! (Ignore the weird tension issues in my seam above. I stitched from the top and didn’t notice the tension problem until I had finished stitching this one.)


Enjoy your finished tea towels!


I made eight (two yards of printed fabric), which was enough for my mom and her sisters, my sister, sister-in-law, cousin and cousin-in-law to have one with one left over for me. They were a hit and I am itching to make more

What were some of the handmades that went over the best in your family this year?