back to {un}school: diy geometric notebooks


Page 1 With a greater family focus this fall on  m a t h, I wanted to kick off our first math night recently with some new materials.  These DIY geometric notebooks were the trick!




"Geometric" math inspired!


These geometric notebooks can be filled with anything, besides math equations.  Use them for:

Math notebook (for equations + problem solving)


Field journals

Notebook for your child's bookbag/tote

Notebook for your purse/handbag



What you'ln Need to make these notebooks:

white printer paper

scrapbook/cardstock (8.5 x 11 or 12 x 12)

sewing machine + thread


  1. Start with GEOMETRIC scrapbook paper.  I found this 12 x 12 paper at Michaels craft store.  (If you use 8.5 x 11 paper you can skip some of the "trimming" steps and follow this tutorial, just doing it horizontal.)


2. Fold one piece of 8.5 x 11 printer paper in half down the center.  Open the fold and use the crease to stack it onto a pile of 15 sheets of white printer paper.  Now center that pile onto the wrong side of one of your 12 x 12 scrapbooking papers.


3. While holding the stack carefully in place, line up the center of the stack, that crease, with your sewing machine needle.  Sew a straight seam down the crease, beginning and ending with a backstitch.


4.  Trim excess thread from the stitching and trim around the two sides (the top and bottom sides) of the book.  Fold the notebook in half on the seam you just sewed.


5. Repeat until you have a ton of notebooks.  (Remember these are awesome as gifts, having different notebooks for different parts of the house, one for the car, one per child, etc.)


6. If you've made these for a specific task (say, homeshooling or to keep as a sketchbook in your child's backpack) find a pack of cool mechanical pencils that have a clip to clip onto each notebook.  I found these geometric pencils at Target. Page 2

Now you're set!  I keep our "Math Night" notebooks together with their pencils to bring out weekly.


Next on Back to {Un}School: How to Create A Fun Math Night with your Family


I hope you try the tutorial and use up all that extra cardstock/scrapbook paper you have lying around.

I'm telling you--these notebooks are such a luxury to have for me and my kids.  You've got to try them!


the sleepy time gal


diy velvet elastic headbands + floral ballet ribbons


Page 1 It seems like an eternity since I've created with my girls.

Yesterday, with velvet ribbon, sheer ribbon, flowers, and hot glue, we did what we do best: made stuff.



Our goal: make new hair pieces for daily ballet-hair and attempt some velvet/elastic headbands for me and the kids, for everyday-wear.

It was our project of choice for our Monday morning "project time" together at the dining room table.


The ballet floral ribbons are so easy and absolutely stunning, as you can see on sweet Annabelle.  Using narrow ribbon, you hot glue a few clipped silk flowers onto the middle of the long ribbon. Three to four small flowers look best.  Make sure you've clipped the stems off of the flowers as closely as possible so they glue easier onto the ribbon.



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And the velvet/elastic headbands are even easier!  Simply cut a piece of velvet ribbon about 9-12 inches long.  (I cut some of my wide velvet ribbon in half--lengthwise--so it wasn't so thick too.)  Turn down the raw corner pieces and hot glue in place to create a taper.  Now hot glue one end of some elastic cording--about 5 inches or so--to one tapered down end of the velvet ribbon.

Try it on your head to see how tight you want the headband.  Now glue the other end of the elastic cording to the other side of velvet ribbon based on your head size.  Trim any extra elastic cording.

Now you have a headband for everyday, the gym, or some pretty little things for your girls!


(Annabelle and Ainsleigh looking up "jack-o-lantern" on my phone to know how to draw a face on their pumpkins.  Their new headbands matched!)

Let me know if you try out some new hair accessories!  I'd love to hear.


Just experiment by yourself or with your daughter/granddaughter.  It's fun to see what kids come up with.  Caroline made a handful of headbands with glued on homemade bows.  She was quite proud wearing one to ballet last evening.


You can slow layer narrow, sheer ribbon onto the velvet ribbon or hot glue little gems too.  Talk about a little girls' wildest dreams coming true--designing her own hair accessories!


the sleepy time gal



life is good


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 {Burp cloth for baby.  Hair tie for big sister.  German Chamomile powder for baby. }

I'm super excited that I will be beginning to give a little tour of my "new place" very soon.  One week left of my goal to have completely "tidied" my main level and upstairs before the big bridal shower here.

Room by room I'm beginning to enjoy real living again.  Yesterday I sat down briefly to sew a few things for a friend's baby shower last night.  Yes, I've sewn a little in this room since it went from "art room" to "art/sewing room" but since then I've sat for an hour and gone through the enormous box of special art and special stories my kids have written that I've been holding onto.  One by one I sat and decided what few things I would keep for each of them.  I know that what is more important than keeping bins of my kids art for years is the process, the experience, they had in the creative process.

80% of the pieces were recycled.  I'm sure that paper, once recycled, will return to our home for many more hours of focus and creation.


 {One of my favorite girl fabrics and designers--for babies and older girls alike: Sarah Jane Fabrics}


In less than 24 hours my husband will return from being away for a week.  I always like to challenge myself with some big project when he's away.  Little does he know it but the entire kitchen will be completely tidied before he returns.

That means I've already loaded the garage--our donation docking station--with many dishes, kitchen gadgets, and even small appliances I know he'll never miss...hopefully.  ;)


I am leaving him with the huge spice cupboard.  That'll be his baby.


Today is the last day of my girls' intense 5 week ballet program.  After their incredible hard work and yes, my incredible hard work with the house these past 5 weeks, we are super excited about having a special night out for ice cream.  We all have known since breakfast what flavors we'll choose and boy, are we ready!

Life.  Is.  Good.  

Life is so busy and I'm learning so many lessons.  Things are about to slow down a bit but I can't wait for what August will bring.  New plans and goals.  A major shift in how our days look.  And new experiences await.

Life is so very, very good.


Happy weekend to you friends.


the sleepy time gal

the weekend + linen baskets






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IMG_1767 Page 2

IMG_1837 Page 3 IMG_1816 Happy belated Easter!

We have had a wonderful week of transitioning from adventures + family in NYC to Easter + family back in Pennsylvania.

I've been excited to finally make some simple linen Easter egg-hunt baskets for my youngest three this year.  The morning before we left for NYC I quickly finished sewing off the last basket.  I left the simple initial embroidery for Sunday morning when the house was still quiet from sleeping-in, worn out travelers.


My kids enjoyed their first Easter egg hunt with their out-of-town cousins in years.   The pictures tell it all.  And the little linen baskets held up well to swinging, twirling, and the load of filled eggs.  We watched our Church's annual worldwide conference, went on sunny walks, and spent the whole day at Grandma + PaPa's.  A wonderful family Easter.

I was inspired by these cute mini linen baskets but they were way too small.  So I made up my own pattern for the bags using linen, heavy-duty iron-on stabilizer interfacing, lace trim, and some vintage fabrics for the handles.  They turned out simple and sweet, just the way I wanted them to be.

I hope you had a special weekend with your loved ones as well.


(Wanna see highlights from our family adventures in NYC?  Check out my Instagram feed @nshiffler.) 


the sleepy time gal







rowan's no-sew felt quiet book


Add a little bit of body text (1) I'm very picky about felt projects.  There are so many felt projects out there that look too crafty or not well thought out.  Not that I'm a felt snob but if I'm going to use felt for something I want the project to maintain high quality and craftsmanship.  This may be why this felt quiet book took so long to finish; I would start a page and a week later totally change it because it looked too cheesy.  (Do you creative people know where I'm coming from??)

I remember putting a lot of time and love into Annabelle and Ainsleigh's special personalized soft books when they were young.  They treasured them.  Rowan somehow missed out on getting one of those, still doesn't have a baby book filled out, nor has a first year photo album like his sister have.

It has been a really satisfying feeling putting the finishing touches on his felt quiet book, though, and having him on my lap this past Sunday playing with it for the first time.

I hope my felt page designs and tips give you the confidence to make your own no-sew felt quiet book.  Come and see...



Why no-sew?

I wanted to put more emphasis into the details of each page of this felt book and not be constrained to the machine.  That is the advantage to working with felt: you can cut felt without needing to finish off edges.  I decided to do absolutely no sewing (except the binding) so the entire book would be consistent in terms of tension/stretch on each page of the book.  

Hot glue is the key for this whole project.

For the quiet book, all you need is different colors of felt (I used both craft + wool felt), sharp fabric scissors, metal snaps (for closure) , and hot glue gun + glue stick refills.

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 {The winter scene activity: 3 snowmen, rainy day gear, sneakers, small pieces for buttons + noses, hats, arms, and cold weather gear.  This activity page has the smallest pieces on it.}


Tip: To make your felt book project even easier, buy a precut package of craft felt sheets at any fabric or craft store.  These felt sheets (usually around 10" x 13" sheets) can be used as your book's pages--no need to cut felt pieces into pages.



 {The summer scene activity: the beach scene!  All of the elements from our beach trips like seagulls, a crab, bucket with sand, shovel, sandcastles, puddle, little boy + his beach ball, and clouds.}


Tip: Glue down the basic backdrop of your felt play scenes onto your felt sheets.  This makes it easy for a child to build onto the scene with the moveable felt pieces and not have to remember what the scene is supposed to be.  In the beach scene, I hot glued the ocean, sand, sun, and birds.  Rowan simple adds to the scene with extra details in his play.

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{The create-a-face activity: there are multiple hair styles, eyes, glasses, noses, lips, a beard + mustache, crown, and bows.}

Tip: Play around with your felt pages in terms of vertical and horizontal layout.  I liked my face activity vertical so there was room enough for the beard, bow tie, and tall hair.



{The favorite foods plate activity: fruits, vegetables, chicken leg, eggs + sausage, BACON, dark chocolate, gingerbread cookie, hot cocoa, ice water, and utensils.}

Tip: When making a narrow felt piece, hot glue a felt detail onto the piece to make it more sturdy and less flimsy, like my utensils.

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{The loadable dump truck activity:  add the truck's wheels and load the truck (which really is a pocket) with either rocks or shapes.}

Tip: Make your felt pages more realistic by adding depth.  You add depth by hot gluing another layer onto the base felt piece, like the outer piece with cut-out squares I added to the dump truck.


{The birthday ice cream shop activity: load your bowl or cone with your favorite scoops of ice cream!  Don't forget the celebration balloons.}

Tip: Add glitter, ric rac, beads, and other decorations to create a 3D effect.  I added hot glue + glitter to some of the ice cream scoops to create the drizzled topping effect on the ice cream.


 Where do I store all of the felt pieces?

After you've created each felt page and its pieces, cut out large felt pockets, one per activity page.  Hot glue the sides and bottom of each pocket onto the back of each activity page (excluding the last activity page--it won't need a pocket on its' back).

Fill each pocket with the coordinating pieces for the activity page that the pocket faces.  That means the first activity page's felt pieces will be stored in a pocket you secure to the inside of the book's cover.


How do I bind + close the book?

You have two options for binding your book.  I chose the easiest which was using my sewing machine.  I know this is a no-sew book but if you can machine sew the binding it will be your quickest, easiest option.

Simple sew the pages together with a seam and then sandwich the pages into the cover and sew one more seam.

Handsewing option:

If you don't have a sewing machine, simply hand sew the binding to create a strong binding.  I do not recommend using hot glue for the binding.


Add a few metal snaps to the cover flap for closing the book.  Follow the no-sew snap instructions which will require a hammer.  A few snaps will do the trick.




I hope you make a no-sew felt quiet book.  Make pages based on activities and themes that your child/grandchild loves.  Rowan's favorite pages are the dump truck and food pages, of course.


Which page was your favorite??


the sleepy time gal

meet little miss, her playable pillow + wardrobe



Meet the happiest pillow on the block.

She's soft and huggable and quite fashionable.  Ainsleigh chose this adorable project for their young friend turning three.  I haven't made any dolls recently since Rowan's birthday doll last fall so was excited about familiar and unfamiliar steps that this project required.

The pattern is from one of my favorite sewing books [amazon_link id="1584798580" target="_blank" ]Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew + Love.[/amazon_link]  I've made many dolls from this book for my kids, their cousins, and some of their friends over the years and the concept of a felt doll sewn onto a pillow (with a pocket to hold the doll's dress-up clothes) sounded like the cutest gift for a beloved little friend.


It started with sewing a soft fleece pillow with the doll's felt body and hair sewn to the front of the pillow.  (The twins cut out the patterns and felt.)  I spent a quiet, early morning huddled around my space heater in the basement carefully embroidering the doll's face and split embroidering her hair.


The best, most surprising part of the little pillow is the elastic pocket in the back.  I chose a vibrant, colorful fabric that would accentuate all of the colors in the doll's clothing.


Once the pillow was sewn, it was time to meticulously trace and cut out all of the doll's outfits first on felt and then on fabric.  (That was more time consuming than I expected.  Isn't that how special projects always turn out??)

Here is Little Miss' raincoat, rain hat + boots.




Party dresses, bobby socks, a linen top, cords, pajamas and variety of tops were simply edgestitched to the felt and embellished with ribbon, fabric marker, or applique.

My favorites are her pajamas + gathered pink party dress.  I'd like the dress in my size. Page 1

It was no surprise to me that after Little Miss' pillow + clothes were finished my Annabelle and Ainsleigh were not only over-the-top proud that they helped make it but were over-the-top excited giving it to their little friend at her birthday party.  I mean, over-the-top.  Including Rowan.


I've been going back and forth if I should commit to making two Little Miss pillows for A + A's upcoming spring birthday.  I can just see them spending hours up in their bedroom switching out outfits and adding the best dialogue to their pillow dolls.  It sounds so nice right now but I think I'm going to take a break from meticulous cutting/sewing for a bit. ;)


the sleepy time gal





{with new bulk velvet ribbon from the amazing PA Fabric Outlet that is devastatingly going out of business}


{poetry and riddles and rhythms inspired by the older girls' homeschooling poetry class}


 {miniature embroidered treasures like fairy houses, snails, and balloons--now to find a way to display them all}


 {a special gift with Annabelle and Ainsleigh's tracing/cutting help for a little friend's birthday this weekend}

"It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life."

Julius Caesar


Happy weekend, friends!


the sleepy time gal

the (updated) winter embroidery basket



In January, during my one-on-one winter planning meeting with Annabelle and then Ainsleigh, they independently added "doing embroidery" to their list of things to do/make/learn.

It's taken me a month to get around to compiling the materials for them to have their own inviting basket.  I wanted something simpler and more open compared to Johanna's embroidery basket I made her years ago.  For two almost six year old girls (and me) I decided a simple organized basket of basic cotton fabrics, hoops, book of needles, scissors, and floss would be perfect for them to use (mostly) independently.



Our updated winter embroidery basket is now organized, out, and inviting for one and all.  (It is just high enough for that Rowan to not handle the super sharp scissors.)  I love[amazon_link id="0811861287" target="_blank" ] Little Stitches: 100+ Sweet Embroidery Designs, 12 Projects.[/amazon_link]  It is a favorite book of mine that has inspired me (here and here ) and now, I believe many of the second generation embroiderers are ready to use its more intricate designs.

I love that embroidery has become tradition in our home for many young ladies during the cold winter months.  I've been feeling drawn to its calming affect and craving having a little project to work on when I need to refuel and relax.  And, I get excited to introduce embroidery in it's most basic form to my Rowan with a little time.


Want to learn the benefits of children's embroidery?  Read here.  How to start a simple embroidery kit?  Read here.



the sleepy time gal

a child learns: "mixing things up" without technology


IMG_0438  Winter.

Winter means more time spent indoors.  Especially for my kids lately.  There has been a coyote in our neighborhood recently and so, needless to say, my girlies haven't had their daily fill of fresh, outdoor air.

Before I even begin to write this post I must clarify.  Our family uses technology.  My kids use the iPad.  We have movie night.  The kids love Wild Kratts on Instant Amazon Prime and they've loved [amazon_link id="B007I1Q4MM" target="_blank" ]The Magic School Bus collection[/amazon_link] we gave Annabelle for Christmas.

We use technology.  But we do limit it so there is more living and producing rather than consuming.

This is definitely one of those seasons in parenting, specifically homeschooling (thank you, three-legged coyote), when the normal routine needs an exciting, sporadic mix up, for the kids (and mom) without heavily relying on technology.

Here are some simple ways to bring life, excitement, and inspiration to those monotonous days that will actually deliver more positive results than you'd think...



Two things I've observed about kids and technology:

  1. When my kids have been "consuming" too much technology (even good stuff), they become bored, less creative, less innovative, and less able to come up with their own play/work after being entertained visually.
  2. When my kids are given new materials, old materials in a new way, or a new situation to discover, their minds expand, they problem solve, create, and, always, are further inspired for hours or even days later, in continuing something that stood out to them during that previous inspiring session of play/learning.




I try to reserve my kids' time on the iPad or watching something for specific times during the week.  So when I can tell that the natives are getting restless, I have a mental grab bag to pick from of inspiring activities for them to try out, maybe love, or use as a starting place for further inspiring play at that critical moment.

Create your own physical list or "mental grab bag" of ideas to refer to so you'll never have the excuse that you couldn't think beyond the television.  Your children will have more fun and you'll have a happier, more content household. :)

Here are some of our favorites.


My mental grab bag for "mixing things up" for younger kids:


"Mixing things up" for older kids:

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Every family's approach to "mixing things up" will look different because every family gravitates to different interests/skills/priorities.

Here are a few more specific ways to change things up without using technology.

More specific ways of "mixing things up":

  • Encourage focused "collage play": Set up a workspace with a variety of art mediums (pastels, crayons, paints, clay), scissors, stack of colored paper, dry beans/noodle, beads, etc., and glue
  • Encourage restaurant/store play: Set out a variety of canned food, boxed food, fruits + vegetables, and non-food items set up around a room with shopping bags, and cash register + money, if possible
  • Bring out that project you've promised your kids you'd help them with they received from Christmas or a birthday and inspire their problem solving capabilities


(I love these girls' end product of some "mixing things up" that we did recently.  It started with fabric paint and fabric and ended with these much needed personal clutches for all their tiny, important little things that go here and there with them.  Don't you love them??)



What started out as a fun paint on fabric project turned into an afternoon project of simple sewing, clipping, ironing, and such pride for these two girls.  And now, after having the sewing machine out and new ideas floating through the air, the older girls have a list of "things to make" and are excitedly focused on them this week.  Inspiration and creativity is contagious.  And something that expands everyone's mind.

Try out something new this week for your kids before you reach for the remote.  I promise magical things can happen.


More on the series:

 a child learns: stop comparing

a child learns: how to get started

a child learns: in the car

a child learns: why I unschool

a child learns: socialization pt. 2

a child learns: socialization pt. 1 

a child learns: owning your life / planning

a child learns: owning your life / dreaming

a child learns: trust yourself

a child learns: trust children

a child learns: the decision 

a child learns: the series

the sleepy time gal