Tuesday, December 2, 2014

DIY Family Activity with Kids - How to Make a No-Sew Christmas Tree Skirt

Ready to get crafty with the kiddos at Christmas time? Here is a fun and easy tutorial to create memories while making a felt Christmas tree skirt together (this can be transferred to stockings, Advent calendars, Christmas ornaments or other decorations).





Feeling excited and inspired, maybe a little hungry? Perfect - let's get started!

First you need a biiiiiig piece of felt, bigger than the little rectangles on the racks at the craft store. Bigger than the packaged "big piece" of felt next to the little felt racks at the craft store (unless you are making a small skirt for a small table-top tree, then the packaged felt might be just perfect). You'll have to get to a fabric store for this project. Big box fabric stores like JoAnn, Hobby Lobby, maybe even a good fabric section of Walmart have felt on the big bolts for 5 or 6 dollars per yard regular price (don't forget your coupon). It probably will come between 59 and 72 inches wide.

But before you go to the store, you need to crawl under the tree with a tape measure and figure out what you want your skirt radius to be (feel free to have a child do the crawling under part). Measure from the center of the tree bottom out to where you want the skirt to end. If you have a bulky tree stand, be sure to go over that because the skirt will, too. Double that measure to get your circle diameter, and have that much felt cut off the bolt - but you can't go bigger than the width. So if the felt is 72" wide on the bolt, that's your maximum skirt diameter. If it's 59" wide on the bolt, that's your maximum diameter.

For this tutorial I am making a tree skirt with a 35" radius, and the felt came 72" wide on the bolt, so I bought 2 yards (72") to have a square with 72-inch side lengths. Much of the time I find I lose a an inch or two in uneven cutting and/or ugly selvages when I bring fabric home from the store, so even though my felt was 72" x 72", I really could only use about 70" by 70" - just a tip.

First fold your big felt in half. Then fold in half again the other way. Now you have a square with side lengths about the size of the radius you want:



The corner with all folds is the center of your skirt. Remember this corner.

You can cut the quarter circle one of three ways:
(1) Grab a pair of scissors and free-hand it all the way. This option is not for the faint of heart.
(2) Find a circle the same size and use it as a guide. A round table is a good example, but my skirt is too big for my kitchen table so that option is out for me.
(3) Get an object or child to hold one end of the measuring tape on the center corner for you and mark your radius at intervals around the fabric, creating a little dot-guide for yourself. You're welcome, OCD readers!

Here's a picture of Santa sitting on the end of my tape for me:

Marking tip: Mark 1/8" past your desired radius so you can cut inside your markings and they won't be on your finished skirt. 'Cause that just ain't pretty.

About this photo: I realize it looks like a plain slab of felt. But if you look really close, you can see my dot guide going across the fabric.

Finally, you get to cut your quarter circle through all layers of fabric.

Again, you have to look very closely at this one to see my dot guide on the cut-off section. A perfect, non-marked circular edge is worth annoying the family for. It is.

DON'T UNFOLD IT YET! DON'T DO IT!

Next, get the kids to find something circular to put over the center corner - you've got to cut out a hole so the tree fits in the middle. And yes, while I was in the kitchen getting a bowl, I also fixed myself a cookie snack.


Now you can unfold that baby. I know what you're thinking: "For the love of Christmas, I must iron out the creases immediately!" But don't do it just yet. Unless you can lift the tree into the center, you still need a way to get your skirt around the tree. So pick your favorite crease and use it as a guide to cut a straight line from the outside edge into the center hole.

My favorite crease. This beauty is my ticket to a perfectly straight line. Don't judge a crease by its cover. Or something.

Yeah, baby.

Finally it's time to get your steam iron on and press this thang. And yes, you will need steam to get those creases out. (I finished my cookies while waiting for the iron to heat up.)


So there is your tree skirt base. Now comes the best part - decorating. Remember all those enticing colors and patterns of felt rectangles on the little racks at the craft store? Knock yourself out. Cut out shapes to your hearts content. Small shapes, large shapes, shapes that are details for other shapes (e.g. green felt stripes on a white ornament shape). Be creative and let your kids go wild.

But how will they stick? Let's talk about glue.
For felt on felt, I find that Felt Glue works well (I know, who'd have thought it?). At Hobby Lobby next to the felt, they have sheets of fleece and also a kind of glitter fabric. The Felt Glue didn't work very well for adhering those onto felt. Fabric Glue worked, as well as hot glue gun. In fact, hot glue gun also works for felt on felt, but you might get little smudgy flat places where the glue is applied.

I'm actually working on a blog post all about different kinds of glue with different fabrics. I know many of you will lose sleep in anticipation! Seriously, though, I'll report on my experiments and we'll compare and contrast. It's going to be awesome.


********Shameless Etsy shop promoting to follow*********

If you are wondering how you can find the cut-out felt shapes in my photos, a digital downloadable pdf pattern file is available for $2.99 in my Etsy shop here. All the shapes you see in both skirt themes are in that one file.

If you feel daunted by the felt search and acquire mission and/or don't feel like cutting things, two different tree skirt activity kits are also available in my shop. Each kit contains a pre-cut red felt 70" tree skirt, decorative trim, and 26 pre-cut pieces to arrange as you desire. Nothing is glued on (glue is not included in the kit). They are activity kits for you to do with your family. One is a Traditional Holiday theme and the other is a Christian Nativity theme (shown below).

Traditional Holiday theme pieces:

Christian Nativity theme pieces:






Merry Christmas and happy crafting!
Looking for more ideas? Check out 733blog's Inspire Me Wednesday page


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No-Sew Fleece Prayer Knot Blanket

A wonderful thing about fleece is that, in most cases, no edges need to be hemmed. Fleece is great for no-sewers who still want to make handmade gifts like blankets.

One of the most popular ways to "finish" a fleece blanket is to make slits around the edges and then tie each resulting strip into a knot. But to make these blankets extra-special, say a separate short prayer for the recipient during the tying of each knot.

It's a simple gift that will clothe someone in prayer. What a meaningful, personal birthday or Christmas gift this would make, as well as for births and baptisms, and even charitable donations such as to the homeless or soldiers. This is also a something children can help with (well, theoretically - mine didn't work out so well). It's a wonderful way to get kids to practice praying for others with a hands-on project.

We are awaiting the births of two very important baby girls in our lives: one is our niece, and the other is our goddaughter. 

I found cute baby girl fleece in the 50% off remnants bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics, enough for two baby blankets, and planned to make these blankets together with my 4 year-old son. Although in the adorable photo below it appears that my son is tying a knot, he, in fact, is not. He tried, and perhaps the strips were too short for his beginning fingers, but he wasn't able to do it, then declared it "boring" and didn't want to keep trying. So I ended up making them alone, and that's okay, too!



The prayers I said were for different parts of the baby's life. For example: 
Gestation/Birth
Infancy
Toddler years
Preschool years
Elementary School
Middle School
High School
College
Career
Courtship
Love/Marriage
Fertility/Children
Relationships with parents
Relationships with siblings
Relationships with extended family
Relationships with friends
Relationships with children/grandchildren
Health
Safety
Provision
Death

I also took prayers from the 31 Biblical Virtues to pray for your children on keepingitpersonal.com.
(I actually have a printout of the color poster on the linked page which I keep next to my calendar, and each day I can pray the matching number prayer to the day of the month.)


Stay prayerful, my friends.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIY Kids' Place Mats or Art Mats, Inspired by Dot Paint!

A few years ago I needed a mat for my son to play with play-doh, paints and other messy things I don't want directly on the kitchen table. So I took about half of a large poster board and covered both sides of it with plain white contact paper leftover from shelf-papering. Contact paper: the lazy-man's laminator.

Last week my kids were playing with dot paint, and they were sharing that now dingy place mat. (Hello cuteness!)

I realized that my baby is now...a TODDLER! And although it's perfectly fine and wonderful for them to share, I had an idea, inspired by dot paint, for new place mats for the kids. It turns out that I had on-hand two stencils that had come in two packages of small-sized poster board. I also had a large black poster board (I had bought a couple when we needed one to make a solar-system model. You never know when another one will come in handy!)

I cut the large poster board in half, then also cut a bit off the short ends because it was still too long. I took some colored paper and wrote each of my kids' names on it, then had the kids dot paint the stencils before punching out the pieces for the letters and numbers. I helped with my daughter's, and you can see in the third picture where my son was so over changing colors after three colors, and so went with purple for what was left. That's my practical boy. He's the one that, when "coloring", makes a single mark on an area, signifying that the entire section is that color.




Next, my son and I punched out the painted letters & numbers of the stencils and glued them to the poster board.


Then comes the part where I re-ignite my love/hate relationship with contact paper: time to cover each side of the poster board completely with a sheet of it (transparent version this time), get out the bubbles and wrinkles, and trim the edges.
I hate you, contact paper!

I don't hate you, contact paper.

I love you, contact paper!

I know, the letters are out of line and the "S" is wonky, and part of the "$"came apart.
I don't want to talk about it.

Back view - for the stuff that won't wipe clean (like dot paint!)


Monday, January 6, 2014

Save Money in Ten Seconds or Less: Paper Towels

In honor of a new year, I've decided to start a new category on my blog. (Remember this blog? The one I barely write in anymore? Yeah, that's the one.) The category is called Save Money in Ten Seconds or Less. The idea is to share some of the small, simple ways I save money around the house, especially by minimizing spending money to replace disposable household items.

Don't get me wrong, we are not living on a self-sufficient organic farm, weaving our own cloth and wiping our arses with orange peels, but small savings add up to big savings over time, and foster a habit of being mindful stewards of our money rather than wasting without thought.

So without further ado, I now present to you the first installment of Save Money in Ten Seconds or Less...

GRAB A DISH CLOTH (OR DISH TOWEL) INSTEAD OF A PAPER TOWEL


Each time I use a paper towel, it costs money because it has to be replaced. I haven't done the math on how much a single paper towel costs, but I do know this: if I use a dish cloth instead, that roll of paper towels (yes, we do use them - especially for cleaning up a dead bug or something) will last longer. And the longer they last, the longer I go before having to replace them. The longer I can go before buying more, the fewer I buy altogether.

Start small. Start with one. Once during the day, instead of using a paper towel, reach for a dish cloth instead. If you need it for cleaning up a mess or spill, then simply rinse it out, let it hang dry on the oven handle or something, and either use it again for cleaning or toss it into the laundry.

I keep a plastic basket on top of my dryer, which happens to be near my kitchen. When I feel that a dish cloth is no longer clean enough to use again, I drop it in the basket. Then I toss whatever is in the basket into the washing machine the next time I do a load. If I already have one (or two) dish cloths out for wiping counters and need a clean one for washing veggies, then I grab a clean one the same way I would grab a clean paper towel. Typically I go through several during an average day.

They make great gifts, if you want to bulk your stash a bit. But even if you only use a few, you are saving at least that many paper towels from having to be replaced, i.e. purchased with hard-earned money.

Dish cloths can be used for anything a paper towel can (and is arguably more effective in most cases), including but not limited to:
- wiping vegetables
- general kitchen cleaning
- cleaning spills/messes
- as napkins (see my future post about cloth napkins)
- drying hands
- drying dishes

Plus, they're much prettier in the kitchen than a roll of paper towels.

*Note: I'm using the term "dish cloth" interchangeably with the term "dish towel".

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell for Halloween!

Even though I'm finally getting around to posting this mid-September,  I actually finished making Halloween costumes for the kids in AUGUST! Who does that? Why, me, apparently! Once I had decided what to make, I was too excited to wait!

This year the kids are going to be Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. HOW STINKIN' CUTE IS THAT!?

I also have to tell you about my new favorite sewing blog, Make It And Love It. Most of what I did for these costumes came from her tutorials/inspiration, and this post is loaded with links to tutorials on her blog. Her children are DE.LI.CIOUS. and she has tons of great ideas for children's clothes as well as stuff for adults.

I followed the Make It And Love It tutorials for the Peter Pan costume almost to a T. The main adjustment I made was to make the shirt a bit larger than her measurements. Her bambino was younger than mine when he wore his.


I didn't use her complete tutorial for the Tinkerbell costume, though, mainly because I have an infant and hers was for a preschool age child. I certainly did use her tutorial (and others) for inspiration though.  For my little Tinkerbell, I used one of my daughter's dresses as a pattern for a strapless dress body, and I used shiny green stretchy fabric. I used the Make It And Love It tutorials for the sleeves, but instead of gathering the sleeves the usual way, I put elastic thread in my bobbin and did two rows of shirring along the edge I wanted elasticized (shirring tutorial here).

And, of course, I made a tulle tutu skirt. What Tinkerbell doesn't need a tutu skirt? I put mine on the outside of the dress though. Just because.

For the wand I used the dress material to make a star and tube stuffed with polyfill. Then I added a few one inch wide strands of tulle just under the star (though you can't see it in the photo) to match the tutu skirt.

The wings I ended up buying. What can I say, I had a great coupon and didn't want to make them. And that's okay.


In case it is cold in late October (in Houston one never knows), she has a pair of tights she can wear, but I did go ahead and make a diaper cover in the same material as the dress (here's another MIALI tutorial for that). Instead of elastic casing, I used the same two-row shirring technique on the waist and leg openings as I did on the sleeves.
Look at that adorable tiny tooshie!

I can't wait for Halloween season! My son loves to wear his costume - I think he would wear it all the time if I let him!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How to Turn a Cute Onesie Into an Even Cuter Dress/Shirt

Maybe I'm the only one, but unless it is summer and my baby is 3 months or younger, onesies are not my favorite thing ever. In fact, they mostly annoy me. (Although for some reason I'm a total sucker for a baby/toddler in a romper!) Several people gave me some cute onesies as gifts, though, and I converted them so I can still get lots of use and enjoyment out of them. Here's how I did it.

First, I cut off the bottom section of the onesie (and of course hoarded saved the snap part for some other not-yet-existent project I may or may not ever need it for):

At this point, you could simply hem the shirt - or not, and just let it roll naturally where it was cut - and leave it at that. But to add some length back, I attached wide lace to the bottom:

Sew or serge with right sides together. When I had circled around the shirt and was back where I started sewing on the lace, I overlapped the end over the beginning about an inch before cutting it. I may hand sew the lace together there. Maybe. That sounds like a lot of work, lol!

Press the lace down with the iron and ...ta da! (Update: On this one I did end up top-stitching the lace onto the seam allowance because of the double-layered lace I used. The short top layer kept flipping up.)

Ooh la la! Or, as my son would say, "OH! (pause) La la la!"

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Awesomest T-Shirt Skirt Ever!

We have a huge pile of my husband's old white t-shirts that have yellowed and stained too much to wear anymore, except for working in the yard or on the cars.  A person only needs so many cleaning rags. I have a skirt that I love, but it's really long and the excess material kind of gets in the way when I'm up and down picking up kids, giving baths, and other mom stuff.

A pile of old white t-shirts + skirt style I love = The Awesomest T-Shirt Skirt Ever!!
This is my superhero pose.

Start with several t-shirts. I used Men's size Medium. I usually wear size 0 or 2, if that helps. This also fits my wider postpartum hips and thighs though.

Cut the bottom part off under the arms:

If you have a baby, save the upper part and cut off the arms...voila! A bib!

Cut the hemmed edge off the bottom of the shirt - we are going for awesome raw edges for this style:

Save 2 of these as-is to use as a double sewn-in slip. Otherwise the skirt is see-through. Don't want that!

Using a few other shirts, cut this part into 1 8-inch wide panels and several 4 1/2-inch wide panels, depending on how long you want your skirt to be. Cut around stains!

Layer the panels top-over-bottom, with the 8-inch one at the top where the waist will be. Raw edges will show. That's what you want:

Sew the panels together. You will have raw edges on both the outside and inside, but the t-shirt material should only curl when washed, not fray:
This is INSIDE-OUT

3 inches from the top of the 8-inch panel, sew on the two slips. These should both be long enough to cover your skivvies.
This is a picture of the finished skirt INSIDE-OUT

To make the elastic waist, fold 1 1/2 inches of the top of the 8-inch panel to the inside to create the casing and sew. Leave an inch or so open to thread a 1-inch wide elastic through the casing. The length depends on the size of your waist. Once the elastic is in, sew the elastic closed and sew the opening closed.

In order to keep the elastic from twisting or turning, I sewed a vertical seam across the waist in four equidistant places.