Featured Tutorials

less is more: toys


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How can less really be more?

I've seen it come to pass in one particular category: toys.

You remember back a while when I went through the house and gathered toys and purged many?   It was thrilling to clean out the plentiful and unplayed with and non-imaginary toys, and yet, it was a new adventure, one in which I didn't know how it would end.

Now I know.

The biggest change came in me.  I came to not invest all of my intentions of their play into the toy.   It apparently was never about the toy.  Getting rid of many toys proved that.  They were really just distractions to my children's real play.  

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With the distraction of gadgets and noisy-blinking lights gone, this is what I've observed.  Having simple, basic toys, blocks, stacking cups, little cotton characters, wooden trees, dress up capes and dresses, dolls, and creative supplies is all they really needed.  They reuse these basic "toys" everyday in new ways.  One day to set up a dog vet in their bedroom, another day to set up a fairy house in the basement.

Their play is creative.  It reminds me of my childhood of riding bikes all summer and playing bank and making paper food.

I'm about to make my rounds again to clear out any distracting, unnecessary toys.  This time around I'm feeling more confident.  Sometimes I roll my eyes to Bobby and complain when the house has turned upside down from a day of intensive, creative play with paper dog food scattered on the floor, remnants of a doll hospital with glass jars filled with water, buckets turned into basins, and fabric scraps for bandages covering the living room.

Thankfully those days my kind husband reminds me that this is everything I wanted for them. It is everything I've set out to offer them in their childhood.  They intuitively turn simple things into something magical.  I never know what a new day will bring.  Paper lights taped onto their scooters for motorcycles? Homemade felt sunglass case made for plastic glasses earned at the dentist?   (I'm really hoping the sunglasses will actually make it another week for my excited daughter.)

I wanted them to learn to expand their minds early on and learn to be resourceful in a world of too much, too soon, and too loud.  This has become one of the most satisfying moments for me as a mother.  And has simply come from me removing distracting things.  Anyone can do it.  And the most incredible part is children will knew exactly where to follow from there...

the sleepy time gal

how to make fabric flowers

Remember the statement necklace I attempted? (And still haven't worn because I overestimated the length and really don't want the huge fabric flowers rested upon my chest. Ahem.)

Anyway, I had to come up with a way to make the fabric flowers.  It turned out to be easy and really fast--and there's no way to make a mistake.   Fabric flowers make a great embellishment to a skirt too, and quite feminine.

Cut a strip of fabric and experiment.  Start by tucking under the tip of one of the short ends.  Now with a needle and thread handy, start to turn the fabric around itself, leaving a lip up here and a lip up there.  Every half circle you make around the flower sew a thread through all of the layers to keep it intact.  Sometimes I like to expose some for of the raw edge.

Once you've used the entire strip, tie off the thread with a knot.  Now simply sew the base of the flower onto the bottom corner of the skirt, securing it well.  You could make a lot and create a wave of flowers, or just put a few on and add a touch of detail.  It definitely adds depth to a simple gathered skirt.

Also try:

  • Patterned fabric flowers on a solid skirt
  • Same size flowers around the entire hem of the skirt for a flower girl/bride's maid dress
  • Make a matching fabric flower that you attach (hot glue) to a barrette or hair elastic in your hair
  • Make two fabric flowers and adhere (hot glue) to inexpensive, plain flats or sandals
  • Add three matching fabric flowers down the bodice of a dress to mimic large buttons

how to make a knit skirt

Ribbed knit--such a versatile fabric.  The difference in using knit over cotton for a skirt is how it lays on you.  The form-fitting aspect of it means a bit more tailoring in the process of making a skirt, but no fraying or hemming.

Here's my take on a sporty knit skirt.


ribbed knit- 3 feet by 1.5 feet, contrasting knit- 3.5 feet by 8 inches  (for a girl's size 5 with lots of room to make smaller)


sewing machine with stretch stitch (usually putting length down to a 1)

You will need your little model quite a bit for this skirt.   Wrap the larger fabric piece around her, not snugly, to get an idea about where her hips round out and where the skirt should flow straight down.  Mark it on the skirt with pins her little figure from waist to hips to top of thighs.

With your length on 1, with right sides together, stitch down one side of the skirt, following the pins to keep her figure.

Beginning to sew with knits means some trial and error as you get used to stitching on stretch fabric and as you discover how it lays against skin.  Sew together the other side the same way.  Trim seam allowance.

Most important step: try it on your model!  I adjusted and brought in that curved seam around her hips a couple times to get it where I wanted it.  That's why I like to give myself extra fabric to work with so I can get the skirt to fit perfectly.

Once the skirt fits the model's body comfortably, grab your waistband.  Fold it in half, lengthwise, right sides facing together.  Sew a 1/2 inch seam, this time helping to pull the knit through the machine since you're sewing through the ribs horizantily.

Turn it inside out.

Try the waistband around your model, giving yourself about an inch of overlap.  Sew the waistband ends together 1/2 inch and trim.

Place the waistband around the waist of the skirt, right sides together, and pin.

Sew 1 inch all of the way around the waist.

Try the skirt on your model to determine the length.

Cut carefully because this will be your hem.  (Hemming knit is messy.  This is the best part of sewing with knit.)

Now the model can try it on complete!

This is how she's starting to feel about modeling for skirt week.  At least she gets a skirt out of it.  We won't tell her sisters.  (Or that she's wearing her sister's shirt.)

how to make a gathered skirt

The simplest girl's skirt, in my opinion, is the gathered skirt.  For a beginner sewer, it is easy to make, and for you experienced sewers, it can be whipped up in a cinch.

You'll Need:

fabric (lightweight cotton is breathable and perfect for spring)


bias tape

1 inch elastic

safety pin

Decide how "gathered" you want the skirt: I used one yard (3 feet) of fabric for a girl's size 5 skirt which made a very full, gathered skirt.  Cut two rectangles, mine were both 1 yard by one foot.

Sew the two short ends together (1/2 inch seam allowance) so you now have a tube.  Trim 1/4 inch with pinking shears so it won't ravel.

Now for the bias tape. Line up the edge of one of the folds with the raw edge of the wrong side of the fabric hem.  Sew along that line, as seen above, making sure to tuck in the inside piece of bias tape as you come back around to the start, so there is no raw edge of the bias tape exposed on the right side.

Fold the bias tape over the raw edge and overlap the front side of the skirt.  Now sew the bias tape in place on the right side of the fabric.  I used a coordinating thread.

Short cut to create the tube for elastic:

Hold up the skirt and fold over about 1/4 inch with your fingers, keeping the skirt taut.  While holding that, fold over another inch and 1/4 with your fingering keeping it taut.  Now, start to iron through both sides of fabric, the fold you just created, adjusting as you go, if necessary, making sure all the time that the elastic tube is parallel to the skirt's trim.

Now sew to make the tube for the elastic, stopping about 2 inches from where you started your seam.  Put your safety pin through one end of the elastic and now work the elastic through, pulling about 3 inches overlap elastic through the hole.  Fit the skirt to your child with both ends of the elastic pinned together.   Adjust.  Now lay both ends of elastic on top of each other and sew a rectangle, backstitching well to secure the stitch on the elastic.

Feed the sewn elastic back in to the skirt and sew over the opening now.  The skirt is finished!

With this basic pattern, you can create variations, try different trim, applique, etc., and totally change up the feel of the skirt.

the sleepy time gal

a spring hand towel

I finally found a way to use some new fabric that embodies spring to me: fresh colors, life, birds, motion, and growth.

I originally made this simple gathered curtain for my kitchen.  With a little remnants to spare I came up with this hand towel that just barely hinted at something else springy in the kitchen.

Try it yourself with this pictorial tutorial:

Iron edges for the base fabric to hide seams.

Pin and sew in place.

Decide where you want your accent fabric.  Play around with different widths and lengths--even shapes, if you want.

Cut out your accent fabric to (in my case, rectangles) and iron under the seams.

Decide the placement of your rectangles and make sure they are the same size.

Pin the rectangles.

Now sew them in place.  I didn't want to detract from the fabric, so chose a plain straight stitch in red.  I sewed as close to the edge as possible.  Just go slow to get a perfect (or close to perfect) line.

You can have a lot of fun with this pattern.  And don't sweat it if there are some imperfections--I think that makes it more artistic.

valentine's garland

I've had my mind on making something to hang every Valentine's Day-week. I put this together last night once the kids were down--so it doesn't require too much time. I picked a hand full of fabrics and began cutting hearts (double up your fabric to get a front and back) and varying sizes.

Once you have a pile cut out,

experiment with different decorative stitches. Above is the stitch setting for the following stitch.

Stitch the front and back of each heart together. Trim.

Beginning at one end of narrow bias tape, sew a seam down the middle, about a foot worth. Now add a heart: sew 1/2 an inch of a corner of the heart and backstitch. Trim. Now move the heart and bais tape along and sew the other corner about a 1/2 inch to secure. Backstitch.

Continue until all of the hearts are sewn onto the bias tape, making sure to stitch the bias tape in between each heart and finishing with about a foot of just stitched bias tape, in order to hand the garland.

It is nice to have it hanging in the kitchen because it's keeping me on my toes to remember Valentine's Day is Sunday!

make a writing box

With the great innovations of the last century, pen and paper are seldom used in modern day correspondences. To sit down and write a letter means having the paper, pen, penmanship, and real thoughts to share. It means thinking through your thoughts before they are passed from mind to pen.

Write. And write some more, I'll tell my children. Write your thoughts and send them. Send a note, write a thank you, grow with a cousin miles and miles away through a personal letter.

This writing tray (which is a resurrected Amazon box) holds a stash of homemade cards, envelopes, stamps, and pen; everything all in one place to inspire writing.

Some of my favorite cards:

Sometimes emailing is too easy to communicate by. Too impersonal. At least in this household I want to spend some quiet afternoons writing, the old fashioned way, my feelings and actually using my mailbox for outgoing mail instead of just for bills.

how to make a high chair mat

Structure in life does a lot for me: I can do things I love if I'm creative enough with my time, I can cook and bake for my family the way I've always dreamed of doing, and mostly, I feel confident. Like I can balance all aspects of my life. This structure, of course, comes in seasons. Right now, we're it an all time high since the move. Settled in a new place, two daily naps I can expect my babies will take, they're eating three meals a day, playing and rolling until they're tuckered out, etc. All of these elements have given me the structure I've longed for.

One of the most exciting parts of the day for me is in the morning. After breakfast, getting dressed, and the likes, we're all off to the basement for a time. Kids play, babies suck on anything within a foot of them, and I can run around and organize or sew.

Sew. It really is therapy. I pull fabric from my shelves, get input from the girls while they "cook", and I can whip something together. There is always a running list of things to make for children, friends, and our home.

Of course, vinyl sewn on fabric for this high chair mat. Super easy.

Press the back of your fabric to the vinyl, to get both sets of materials wrinkle free.

Sewn together, using tissue paper on the top layer to keep the vinyl from dragging. No fancy binding necessary. I think it would of taken away from the bold fabric.

And it is an easier size to clean than those store bought highchair mats. And talk about super instant gratification to start and finish by the time lunch comes around!

create a children's restaurant

The first customers arrived about half past 5 and were seated upon arrival. Orders were taken and meals prepared.

The head chef at the Blueber Restaurant was pleased with her menu and service last night.

There was a line wrapping around the basement staircase of hungry customers waiting to take a peek inside the newest establishment.

Now this customer wasn't really served. She sucked on forks and recently pressed table linens.

I'm not quite sure who the dish girl is, but whoever it is will be up late cleaning up from the grand opening.

Try your fancy-- the Blueber Restaurant is becoming the talk of the town.

children's art as decor

There is something about beginning life again in a new home full of new walls, corners, and little crannies that begs for fresh ideas you've always wanted to try, but haven't had the excuse to. You've always heard that paint is the easiest and cheapest way to change up a room, I would add wall hangings to first runner up.

I've been gathering interesting frames for the last month. Some new, some repurposed. By repurposed I mean like taking out Caroline's first year photo with me and replacing it with new life, life now: her incredible soft/oil pastel piece which depicts her own species of flowers including pinkies, orangies, and blueblees. (see above)

I've always hung my childrens' artwork in the typical places like the fridge or on a bulletin board. Now I'm doing what I've always wanted to do: framing their art and placing it with the other things that I value in my living space, like the envied space on the mantel, for example. Framed behind glass for all to see and admire, including that particular artist.

A floating frame is an all around great frame for changing out their art through the seasons of their creating, like Johanna's first use of real paints. That's a green and yellow sun up there in that corner of her artwork, in case you were wondering.

Besides framing artwork, there are lots of recent photos I'm planning to develop, to change up what we look at day in and out. I love the past, the photos from the past, but life keeps moving. I want myself and my children to stay connected to life most recently lived as it keeps the memories real and close, close enough to still encourage conversation about the image and its life. And I'm tiring of the constant black and white trend everywhere. Bring on the super saturated photos of kids playing and intimately close portrait shots where you can see deep into your child's eyes.

A small change: Take down a framed photo you've had up for ions and do something risky-- change out the photo to something fresh, recent, artsy, something that triggers happy emotions. Then hang it up again, step back, and let the photo inspire you a bit more in your daily life as you pass by it over and over again.