Friday, November 10, 2017

Connecting - Books with Baby Gifts

Owls and Bears and Elephants

A few weeks ago my friend found out that her nephew and his wife were expecting their first children - twins, a girl and a boy.  Now I don't normally subscribe to the idea of pink for girls and blue for boys but the mother-to-be was going to decorate the joint nursery using an owl decor and I found just the right fabric.
On the back side of the pink and grey fabric I used a pink rosette minkie and on the backside of the blue and grey fabric I used a grey velour smooth minkie.  Both were soft and cuddly.  I lightly quilted each of the blankets and bound each with a variegated binding of either pink or blue.

I made two cloth bibs to coordinate with the pink blanket and two more to coordinate with the blue blanket.  I appliqued larger owls on each of the flannel bibs.  Since I thought burp cloths would not be child specific I created four burp cloths that used pink, blue, and grey fabrics with an applique of owls that mimicked the owls appliqued on the bibs.

The final piece for this package was to identify books that would contribute to the overall theme.  I did not want to chose stuffed owls or books about owls - that would be too obvious.  So I selected two books each by Philip C. Stead (author) and Erin E. Stead (illustrator).  The first book was A Sick Day for Amos McGee which was award the Caldecott Award in 2011.  In that book a small owl appears as one of the animals that follows the zookeeper home, and later follows the zookeeper's wife back to the zoo.  The second book is Bear Has a Story to Tell.  While an owl does not appear here the fall tree certainly seems to be a perfect home for an owl to spend its days or nights.  Erin E. Stead actually uses an owl as her logo on her website.

Stead, Philip C. (2012) Bear Has a Story to Tell.  Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook Press.
Stead, Philip C. (2010) A Sick Day for Amos McGee.  Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook Press.

With the Amos McGee book I added a stuffed elephant with a blue ribbon around it's neck; and the stuff bear received a pink ribbon around it's neck.

Arranged in a wicker basket the gift basket was ready to give.  The last item to be inserted was the Read Aloud brochure that is the standard insertion for all gifts created and given to young families.

The goal of the brochure - is to encourage parents to read to their children – regardless of age (Read Aloud brochure) and to encourage young parents to make their house a “book house.”


Monday, November 6, 2017

Sewing Hack - Inspired by Margaret Knight

Sewing Hack - Thanks to Margaret Knight -- 

If you haven't ever heard of Margaret Knight, it would not surprise me -- many have not.  Men of European origin tend to dominate the history books when it comes to inventors, but Margaret Knight is one that should be in those history books - front and center.  Some of her inventions were created when she was still a child - as young as 12, After the Civil war she created a machine that folded and glued a flat bottomed paper bag.  Until she figured out a folding pattern to create a flat bottom all sacks were envelope style.  The invention was very well received but a man attempted to steal her idea and even attempted to steal her patent.  Margaret took the villain to court AND WON.  She received her patent in 1871.   You can find out some basics about Knight from these two books:
Kulling, Monica.  In the Bag!: Margaret Knight Wraps It Up.  Illustrated by David Parkins. Tundra, 2011.
McCully, Emily Arnold.  Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventor.  Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2006.
And if you want more check out Famous Women Inventors: Margaret Knight. Online at

So how does Margaret Knight fit into this sewing hack.  It's really quite simple.  A few weeks ago I went to a blow-out sale at a quilt shop and found some banners (on sale) featuring Laura - and The Little House on the Prairie.  The shop had a bag made up using part of the banner as the featured masthead for the top of the bag.  I thought it was very clever and thinking that I surely needed the pattern I purchased one for $10 -- turns out it was a waste of money as in the meantime - before I got the bag started I went to a 2 hour workshop to learn how to make a gift bag.  Lo and behold - no pattern necessary as all one needs to do is cut into one of Margaret Knight's flat bottomed sacks - and the pattern is right there. (and besides the pattern I purchased really did not have a pattern per se), just provided dimensions for the various strips.  If you have sewn at all it  is fairly easy.  Take a look at the following pictures and if you are having trouble figuring it out ... take a look at this 2015 video from Sew Very Easy: DIY: Fabric Gift Bags. 
The technique for the bag is the same.  Smaller bags are easier to handle than the larger ones but be creative and inventive in terms of the fabric you use.  I discussed the making of a smaller bag at a blog entry at - < >
This is the banner (I bought two) and the pattern from the quilt shop that I purchased.  It is from "Pink Sand Beach Designs" - the company has several variations on the patterns for putting the fabric together.  In my opinion most people will not need the pattern.  But if you have not ever sewn it may be a safety net for you.

A large grocery bag was actually the very same size as the one described in the pattern.  The only thing the pattern did was to give the dimensions.  This one ends up being 20 inches wide and as tall as you want it.  Straps are 31 inches.

I used the banner - cut it apart for the top and bottom - reversing the top banner so it would be the right side up on the back side of the outside of the bag.  Once I had the top and the very bottom (or what would be the top of the bag's back side) I began to piece together strips of fabric- in the picture the strips look work of wonky but that  is more my photography rather than the sewing.  The hexagon patterned material is actually cut from a vintage quilt that was never finished.  The pieces were hand stitched and created a lovely focal piece for this patterned bag.

Once the outside construction was pieced and sewn together I clipped the fabric to a piece of soft and stable.  This piece came as a 20 inch wide piece so I only had to square up my fabric and cut the correct length.  Notice the white section on the left side of the photo here.  That white portion will be cut out as that section is what is sewn together to create the flat bottom.

Simply cut out the unneeded stablizer to make a notch in the "bottom"
section of the fabric pattern.

Top stitch the finished fabric piece to the stabilizer.  Stitch inside (narrower) what would normally be the seam line.  Then use the top stitched layer as a template to cut the lining from the inside material.  I used another banner.  I did not worry about which way anything was inside as it would not really be read but rather just provide a glimpse of the pioneer fabric.  While the lining is still flat sew any pockets or zippers that you wish to have inside the bag.  Then stitch down the sides of the outside of the bag, and across the top - joining the outside and the lining.  Be sure to leave an open seam to turn the bag.  Before seaming the top put in the handles - I made mine out of the fabric left from the first banner.  I was able to get the handles and a large ipad pocket for inside the bag from the parts not used for the outside of the bag.  The video referenced above will explain how the sides and bottom are joined together. Sew Very Easy: DIY: Fabric Gift Bags.

The placket for the zipper so that the bag stays closed.  This was sewn in before the sewing of the sides was completed.  The placket was 2 inches shorter than the bag on each end to allow for the seams.  Since the bag's bottom was 5 inches the packet for the zipper was also 5 inches total in width.

The finished Little House on the Prairie bag.  The bag is actually the same width top and bottom.  My photography just makes it keystone and look narrower at the bottom - not so.  I will be making more bags - using patterns created using a paper bag - thanks Margaret Knight.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Gift bag - or small ditty bag for car or sewing room

Gift Bag

One day this past September I attended a workshop at the Vinton Sewing Center (Vinton Iowa)  Great workshop and we learned how to create a small gift bag.  
Since the pattern is created from a paper gift bag the bag can be made in any size you wish.  

I made mine using a small paper gift bag as a pattern.  The fabric needed was two coordinating fat quarters, and shaping material.  The workshop leader had thin satin ribbon for us to use as handles.  I did not think the ribbon looked substantial enough for the handles.  So by placing the pattern to one side of the fat quarter I was able to cut two strips of fabric along the edge - strips that were used then to make a pair of cloth handles.

I was intending to write out the directions however, Laura Ann Coia  has created a great tutorial for Sew Very Easy and uploaded it on YouTube. 

Coia, Laura Ann.  (30 April 2015) DIY Fabric Gift Bags. Retrieved from 

Coia uses the paper bag nylon handles as the handles for the new cloth gift bag.  I didn't particularly like that option either so I would still create cloth handles for the gift bag. 

The Soft and Stable that Coia refers to can be obtained at a number of places but is available from these online sources:

Joann's fabric offers the stabilizer in a project pack of 4 sheets 13-1/2 inches x 18 1/2 inches for $14.99 (often on sale)

Walmart offers the same square inches of Soft and Stable in a continuous roll (18x58) for $10.46.

Amazon offers Annie's Soft and Stable in a a 72 in x 58 in roll for $36.04
or in a 36 x 58 inch roll for $17.16

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sewing and Quick Gifts

Sewing and Quick Gifts
8.5 x 8.5 Squares

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."~ Helen Keller.
A gift created with one's talents and creativity, and given with love is one of those times when the gift given is "felt with the heart."

Talented artists who sew certainly can sew elaborate gifts for those they know well but at times we want to give a small gift to friends as an acknowledgement of our friendship, and our pleasure at having them in our life.
Here are a few gifts a person who sews might consider creating for those friends: birthdays, holidays, new year, special occasion, or just because.  Each of these gifts have at its beginning a magic square - 8.5 inches x 8.5 inches.

Omnigrip by Omnigrid - The Quilt Department
Fiskar Ruler -
Invest in a template to enable you to quickly cut the 8.5 inch squares from remnant fabric, scraps, or purchased especially for the project.  This Omnigrip quilter's acrylic ruler template (with neon colored line markings) may be purchased from most major fabric / craft sellers such as Jo-Ann's, even Walmart and K Mart, and online at The Quilt Department.  Fiskar also offers an 8.5 x 8.5 quilters ruler which is available from sources such as Dick Blick's and others on the web such as  Price for either will be approximately $12.00 - $15.00 depending on source.

An Eye Glass Case

THREE magic squares
1. Some type of inner fabric that is soft and which will protect the lenses of the glasses - flannel or minky fabric, or anything soft to the touch. 
2. Bondable batting - Batting with an adhesive on one side seems to work best.
3. Top fabric - choose something fun and unique for the recipient.  Sports fabric for a preschool boy; a vibrant purple for a special friend who loves purple.

Most cases can be made as a slip in model, but for young children you may wish to sew in an elastic tab to go over a button.  (A tab with a button hole makes the case more elegant but it is also more cumbersome to open.  I much prefer the elastic loop and button closure.

 Step 1:
The construction is simple: First fuse the bondable batting to the top fabric.

Step 2:
Wrong sides together - sew the top seam and turn down the sides about 3/4 to 1 inch.  (If you are going to use the elastic or tab enclosure this is the time to sew that into the seam. Place between the layers and sew into the seam.) Turn the fabrics to conceal the seam. Press and top stitch.

Step 3:
Add any embellishments desired to the outside of the case.  (This is also the time to sew on the button if you have decided to create a closure to the eye glass case.)

Step 4:
Fold square in half, right side (or top fabric) inside and seam the bottom edge and side up to the point where the top seam has been sewn.  Turn case right side out.

Caution: If the glasses are wide you may wish to use a wider piece of fabric so the finished product is ample for the glasses.  For example: One toddler had a wide head and needed an adult width in glasses.  Those would have fit but since the bows were very long, and the child didn't need the length the bows were adjusted downward and necessitated a wider case to accommodate the bend of the bows.

Making these cases personal is as simple as selecting fabric that reflects the personality or interests of the recipient.  For the quilter you might even quilt fabric to create the 8.5 inch square, others might be simply a selection of fabric from your scrap stash that might be just the perfect selection.


Travel Sewing Kit 

Every traveler needs an emergency travel kit and this one is simple to put together and serves the need to fix those simple tears, lost buttons, a hem pulled loose, and so forth.  The case is small enough to fit into a purse or a cosmetic or toiletry bag.

The fabric will reflect the personality of the recipient.  A more masculine fabric would make this a suitable gift that would fit easily into a toiletry bag.

Materials Needed:
  • Two Magic Squares - same or contrasting fabric.
  • 1/2 Magic Square - fusible bonding (4.25 in. x 8.5 in)
  • Button and either elastic tie, or tab w/button hold made from fabric.
Step 1:
Cut off a strip of 3 inches from one Magic Square (Piece A).

Step 2: Using the 3 inch strip, cut off 2.5 inches from the length making the piece 3 in. x 6 in. - fold with right sides together, sew side seams (leave bottom unseamed) to make a 3 x 3 inch pocket.
Step 3: The remaining piece is 5.5 x 8.5 (Piece B) - fold and press.

Step 4: Sew the 3 inch pocket to the longer folded Piece B.

Step 5:
  • Iron the fusible batting to the inside of one-half of the fabric.
  • Line up the Piece B pocket to the front of the bottom of the full magic square (the 1/2 that has the fused batting.)
  • Fold the right side of the unfused portion over and line up the bottom edges. 
  • Before sewing the three sides, place the elastic or the tab for closure in the center of the end furthest away from the small 3 inch pocket.
  • Sew the three sides leaving an opening us use to turn the kit right side out.

Step 6:
  • Top stitch all around
  • Sew vertically to help the item fold 1.5 inches from the elastic tab; and 3 inches from the other end.  
  • Making two stitching lines (for each vertical stitching) with only a fraction of a space between will help the kit to fold neatly.
Contents to be added:
  1. Scissors
  2. Sewing needles (could thread some of them with a light and a dark thread)
  3. Selection of thread
  4. Safety pins 
  5. Buttons
If you are making several kits you may wish to purchase the mini-scissors, thread packets, pins, buttons, etc. in bulk. 

Otherwise select inexpensive items that will fit into the kit. Make your own thread packets by cutting notches into a piece of cardboard - and wrap various basic threads around the cardboard.
If you are making your own it is always nice to thread some of the sewing needles to make the use handier.
The fusible batting that was included in the kit helps to simply stick the needles to the kit, pin the safety pins to the kit etc.  The scissors will fit nicely into the 3 inch pocket.  Loose buttons can be wrapped into a waxed paper "envelope" and tucked into a pocket.

If you want to purchase in bulk - follow these links:

Mini-scissors (50 in a pack) - Amazon $18.99

Contains: thread, needles, buttons, threader 

Travel Sewing Kit 

Every traveler needs an emergency travel kit and this one is simple to put together and serves the need to fix those simple tears, lost buttons, a hem pulled loose, and so forth.  The case is small enough to fit into a purse or a cosmetic or toiletry bag.

Button Button - Who has the Button

Visit Greenfroggifts on Etsy for the latest choices. 

Order cookie cutters, aprons, and baker's cloths from Green Frog Gifts -- unique gifts -- many $10.00 or under.


Friday, June 23, 2017

It's Peach Season - Peach Cobbler

Here in Iowa the fresh peaches are just arriving from Georgia and Colorado.  It's time to make some fresh peach goodness.  This recipe for peach crisp is one of my favorites.

Visit Greenfroggifts on Etsy for the latest choices. 
Order cookie cutters, aprons, and baker's cloths from Green Frog Gifts -- unique gifts -- many $10.00 or under.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sewing Tips & Ideas: Storing Sewing Machine Presser Feet

At a recent meeting of our local Cedar Rapids Area American Sewing Guild several members demonstrated the tricks and uses of various pressure feet for the sewing machine.  I have a Husqvarna Viking® - the 140th Anniversary limited edition - The Tribute 140C.  The special offer included many accessories including extra presser feet.  The storage section that fits on the back of the machine platform is not handy, in my opinion.  However, during the demonstration of the pressure feet one of the demonstrators showed how she stored her pressure feet and kept them organized.  While most of them have a "letter" on the foot - that letter is difficult to read.  Other specialty feet do not have any markings, only a small folded paper that shows the foot and give the use in VERY fine print.  So this storage solution seemed to fit the need.

At the Dollar Tree I found these storage containers with lids. Online one has to purchase in bulk but most Dollar Tree Stores in our area have the square containers.

On the tops of each one I marked the letter of the foot, and an indication of the intended use.  My sewing machine guide book provides extended notes about the use of the pressure feet.

The most difficult part was finding a storage spot for the containers once the feet were in them etc. But they fit nicely in the corner of the Fat Quarter drawer in the sewing room.  They will be handy - won't fall over.

The demonstration of pressure feet was excellent - but appreciated this side sewing tip and idea as well.
Visit Greenfroggifts on Etsy for the latest choices. 
Order cookie cutters, aprons, and baker's cloths from Green Frog Gifts -- unique gifts -- many $10.00 or under.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Beyond Chocolate: bananas and butterscotch

St. Patrick's Day is a day for chocolate and mint - don't ask me why but that seems just right for St. Patrick's Day but when one doesn't like chocolate (can you imagine how boring life could be), I wanted to bake something special so here is today's muffin recipe - Banana and Butterscotch Muffins -- makes 18 muffins.

Visit Greenfroggifts on Etsy for the latest choices. 
Order cookie cutters, aprons, and baker's cloths from Green Frog Gifts -- unique gifts -- many $10.00 or under.