31 July 2011

Free Little Girl's Dress Pattern from JAME

I just found out about this free pattern from JAME, and I thought you might like to hear about it, too.  The pattern is for a cute bandana dress, and it fits little girls from preemie to 9 months and beyond.  I love free patterns, so I'll be trying it out!  At almost two years old, Boo's probably too big to fit it, but that's what nieces are for, right?

Happy sewing!

27 July 2011

How to Add a Favicon in Blogger

I think it's really cool when blogs have a favicon appear before their url--it just seems so professional.  But the tutorials I'd found on how to add my own seemed too complicated.  (And I don't think Photoshop can save a file as an .ico, which the favicon must be.)

Then, as I was working on my blog one day, I saw a new feature in the Page Elements section:  I could now add a favicon right from there!  Awesome!  No complicated html coding, no hosting images on other sites, and guess what?  It doesn't even have to be a .ico file!

Are you as excited about this as I am?  I think this rocks.

A favicon is 16 pixels square, so use your favorite image editing software to make a really awesome (and tiny) icon.  Remember that since it is so small, simple is best.

I tried uploading my favicon as both a .jpg and a .png, and I don't remember which one ended up working. Sorry!  Maybe either would work?

Once your image is ready, just go into Page Elements, and click to Edit your favicon.  Upload your favicon and save.  

It took a few minutes for my favicon to actually appear on my blog for some reason, but it did work, and it was really easy.

Have fun making your awesome blogs even better!

25 July 2011

Five Star Chocolate Marshmallow Ice Cream Topping

Monday evening in my family means Family Night!  Family Night is a  time we set aside to be together as a family (go figure), play games, learn about Jesus, and--this part is very important--have Family Night Treat!

Last week, we didn't have any treat planned, so I just looked around my kitchen to see what might inspire me.  This is what I found:

mini marshmallows
peanut butter chips
semi-sweet chocolate chips
Heath English Toffee Bits

Add graham crackers from my cupboard, and I think I can make that work.

Prep time:  5 minutes, maybe less (I love quick cooking)
Total time:  20 minutes, maybe less

Crush graham crackers and spread them out in your baking dish.  (I used 3 graham crackers for a 6 x 8 1/2 inch casserole dish.)  Add all the ingredients listed above in whatever amounts you like.  It's a flexible recipe.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until marshmallows are puffy and start turning golden brown and delicious.

Serve hot over ice cream.  It is also good (four stars, says Mr. MadeIt) eaten by itself.

(I always like it better when recipes have pictures with them, but none of my pictures turned out nicely.  Sorry!)

20 July 2011

Easy Swimsuit Cover-Up Tutorial

I've seen some cute swimsuit cover-ups floating around Blogland, particularly from MADE (see here, here, and here).  I think these cover-ups are great, but I like to not only make my own stuff, but also design my own stuff whenever I can.  So, how could I put my own spin on this?

Sleeves, I decided.  (And I'm not quite ready to try elastic thread.)  Cover-ups never seem to have sleeves, but I prefer to be wearing sleeves when I'm not actually in the water.  And sleeves would help prevent sunburned shoulders, too.

So the checklist:  sleeves, dress-style (not a robe, etc), attractive (why make something that you don't feel pretty in?), and easy.  Here's what I came up with.


And my favorite part is the back.  I love how the stripes look gathered like that.  I don't know why, but it just seems ... almost elegant.  

Ready?  Here's what you need:
Two five-foot long beach towels
One yard coordinating fabric (I ended up not needing the whole yard)
Basic sewing supplies

(My materials came to about $12, and I think I have enough left over to make a cover-up for Boo, too!  Six dollar cover-ups, baby!)

Note:  While I was writing this tutorial, it just seemed to go on and on.  But the cover-up really is easy!  So here's my simplified tutorial first:

If you'd like more details, read on.

First, cut out the neck hole from the tops of the two towels.  I recommend using a shirt you already have to help you know how big to cut it.  Also, cut the back first, then cut the front to match at the sides.  I cut the front first and didn't use an already-existing shirt as a pattern, and ended up cutting the front way too wide.  I had to pleat the back in order for the two pieces to fit.  But at least you can learn from my mistakes and do it right in the first place.

Before stitching the front and back together, staystitch around the newly cut neck hole halves.  (Staystitching means to just stitch a line around cut edges that may otherwise stretch out of shape while making the project, such as neck holes.)

Remember that the towel won't stretch when you put it on, so be sure to cut the neck hole big enough that you can pull it over your head without any stretch.  That's why I gave mine a deep V-neck.  (And also to show off the swimming suit!)

Measuring and pinning to mark cut lines for back neck--I measured from a t-shirt.

 And pleating to make the front match...

Sew the two halves together across the top.  I left the finished edges of the towels on whenever possible, but if the fabric is too bulky for your tastes, you can cut the hems off and use an overlock stitch to finish the edges.

Try on the cover-up.  If the sleeves are too long, run a basting (long) stitch across the top (left and right sides separately) and gather the material until you like the fit.  I didn't need to do this because the pleats took care of it.  (At least something good came out of the mistake.)

If you leave the existing top hems (and maybe if you don't), sew the shoulder seams down opened flat.  It's a lot more comfortable, believe me.  

I finished the edge of the neck hole like I would bind a quilt.  You will want to cut the binding on the bias so that it has some stretch to it, to allow ti to make nice curves.  You could buy bias tape instead, if you wanted.

Click over to this post if you'd like a refresher on how to bind a quilt.  Of course, some of the post isn't relevant (how to do the corners, for example), but it's the same general method.  Feel free to ask me if you need any clarification.

The next step is to make your tie.  I had some binding left over from finishing the neck hole, so I used that.  (Your tie does not have to be cut on the bias.)  Cut out a rectangle of fabric 2 1/2 inches wide and about twice the width of one towel.  Fold in half, lengthwise, with wrong sides together.  Iron.  (The first time I tried this, I folded it right sides together, stitched down one side, and tried to turn it right-side out.  It was enough of a pain that I unpicked my seam and did it this way instead.)

Now fold the raw edges to the inside (about 1/4 inch) and iron in place.

Like so.

Next, sew around the edges (less than 1/4 inch from the edges).  I used a straight stitch because the pattern on my fabric is just straight lines; pick whatever stitch will look the nicest for your project, because this will be visible.

(For an easier cover-up, you could use ribbon or some such thing for the tie.)

Now, decide how large you want your arm holes to be.  I made mine open to the empire waist.  (This cover-up was originally going to have a drawstring at the empire waist, but I thought it looked like a maternity outfit...)  

Pin the long edges of the towels together with criss-crossing pins marking where the arm holes will start so you know where to stop sewing.  (Don't sew yet.)

You also need to decide where you want the tie to go.  (I put mine at my natural waist.)  Tack it down in the inside center back of the cover-up, wherever you want the tie to be.

Lay the tie out straight across the back of the cover-up.  Mark where it crosses the sides of the towels with criss-crossing pins--you want to leave an opening for the ties to come out.  Basically, you will be making really-super-easy buttonholes.

Sew your side seams, remembering to stop and start (and reinforce with backstitching) at all your places marked with criss-crossing pins.

Thread the tie through your super-easy buttonholes and try on the cover-up.

Mark where you want your hem.  If you are adding a border, remember to shorten the cover-up accordingly.  (My border added about four inches of length.)  Also remember to leave length for seam allowances.

For a flat border (like mine), cut out of your coordinating fabric two strips, each the width of one towel by whatever thickness you want (adding 3/4 inch to that thickness for seams and hemming).  Sew the strips together at both short sides.  

For a ruffled border, cut out your each of your two strips 1 1/2 or 2 times the width of the towel, and sew the strips together at both ends.  Gather to fit around the bottom of your cover-up.

Here's how I added my border.  The method is a little unusual, but it was easy and there were no exposed raw edges.

Fold the bottom of the cover-up up 1/4 inch (on the inside).  Tuck the border, wrong sides together, into the fold, matching the side seams.  Pin in place and sew.

Turn the border down so it is laying where a border ought to be.  Topstitch in place.

The last step is to hem the cover-up.  Fold the bottom up 1/4 inch, iron, and then fold that up 1/4 inch again.  Topstitch in the same way as you did the tie.

Now all that's left is to tie a pretty bow in the back and hit the lake!

18 July 2011

How to Bind a Quilt

Here's a quick tutorial on another sewing basic:  binding a quilt.

Measure around your quilt.  Add several inches (for seams and just to make sure you don't end up short!).  Cut out enough 2 1/2 inch wide strips to add up to this measurement.  If you are binding a quilt with curved edges, you will want to cut the binding on the bias (at a 45 degree angle) so it will have enough stretch to take the curves nicely.  But if your quilt has straight edges, cutting from selvage to selvage is just fine, and more fabric-efficient.

Note:  All seams are 1/4 inch.

Sew your binding strips into together (right sides together) at a 45 degree angle.  For some reason, the slanted seam line is less noticeable in the finished quilt.

Notice that I overlapped the two strips with a 1/4 inch hanging off the sides?  This is to make sure the edges match up properly when you open it up.

Trim to 1/4 inch seam allowance, and iron open.

Once all your strips are sewn together, fold your new long binding strip in half, lengthwise, wrong sides together.  Iron it down nicely.  I like to have the binding doubled like this to add durability to the finished quilt.

Now pin your binding along the edge of your quilt, raw edges together.  Sew it on, going through all the layers.  I like to sew the binding onto the front of the quilt initially; I think the final quilt turns out nicer.  But you could sew it onto the back if you'd rather.

When you come close to a corner, backstitch a few stitches to reinforce the seam, then don't sew around the very tip of the corner.  Start back again, backstitching, just after rounding the corner.  When you fold the binding around, arrange the fabric into a nice mitered corner.

When you get back to where you started, fold back the corner of the binding strip (as pictured) to make a 45 degree angle.  Make sure the end of the binding overlaps the corner you make by at least 1/4 inch.  A little extra overlap wouldn't hurt anything.

Now fold the binding around the edge of the quilt.  Pin in place, making sure to cover the sewing line from the previous step.  There are three ways to finish from here.  

Option One:  You can use a straight stitch and sew (from the front, since that's the most important to look nice) as close as you can to the inside edge of the binding, as you want to catch the binding on the back.

Oops!  Need to go back and stitch that down by hand.

Option 2:  You can use a decorative stitch and sew across the inside edge of the binding.  This method makes it a lot easier to always catch the binding on the back.  And it looks nice, anyways.

Option 3:  You can sew the binding to the back of the quilt by hand.  

For a baby quilt, or any other quilt that will be washed often, I would recommend one of the machine-stitching methods of finishing (for greater durability).  If the quilt will not be washed often, hand-stitching will work great.

And now your quilt is finished!

(P.S. I was working on two quilts at the same time; that's why the binding was made with pink fabric that miraculously turned blue when attached to the quilt.)

13 July 2011

I love getting free stuff in the mail!

A while back, Homemaker on a Dime hosted a giveaway from WholePort.  It was really cool--I could pick from several options what crafting material I'd get for free.  All I have to do is "Like" them on Facebook, and when the material arrived, make something and post a picture of it on their Facebook page.  Free supplies and all I have to do is show off my project?  Deal.

Yesterday, it finally came!  Isn't it pretty?  It has a kind of shabby chic/vintage feel to it.

I wondered what color it was going to end up being; they called it "Vivid Pink Rose Lace Trim," but the picture on the website didn't match that description.  But no worries; if it was vivid pink, I'd make a dress for Boo.  If it was a more subtle color, I'd make something for myself.  

Looks like I win!  Now, what should I make?  I was thinking about making myself a maxi dress, like this one I saw at DownEast Basics, maybe as a swimsuit cover-up, maybe as a regular dress, and use the trim at the waist.  But I haven't decided yet.  I have about a yard and a half of the trim.

What would you make?

Update:  If YOU want to get free stuff, too, WholePort is still giving crafting supplies away, but the deadline is tomorrow at 11:59 EST.  Click here (quickly!) to join the fun!  

11 July 2011

How To Tie a Quilt

There are so many ways to quilt a quilt, and the fastest of all is probably tying.  You could use a regular square knot to tie your quilt, but I like to make the yarn stand up off the quilt, rather than laying flat.  So here's how you tie that kind of knot.  (Sorry--if it has its own name, I don't know it.)  

Stick your threaded needle through the quilt and back up again a very short distance away, as pictured.  If you pull the yarn all the way through, and then all the way back up, you'll have a much greater risk of the yarn getting knotted up underneath.  Leave a short tail (whatever length you want--3" is a good starting point) on the first side.  

Tie a regular overhand knot (like you're starting to tie your shoes), and then tie a second overhand knot around the first.  

Pull tight, arranging the knot so it is just barely above the first knot, and so holds the yarn poking up.  Cut the yarn to your desired length.

See?  Nice and fluffy.

How far apart your knots can be depends on your batting, so read on the packaging.  It should tell you the maximum quilting distance; remember that you can tie the knots closer together if you want.  I like to arrange the knots so that they complement the pattern of the fabric.

Happy Quilting!

05 July 2011

4th of July in Review (and a Quick Photography Tip)

I hope everyone had a safe and fun 4th of July!  We had a great day.  It started off with a fun church activity--a pancake breakfast at the park.  Of course, Boo was only interested in the playground.  (We fed her ahead of time--the breakfast was a little too late for her tiny tummy.)

I really need to take pictures in the mornings more often.  I think this lighting is just beautiful!  The sun is behind Boo, lighting up her hair prettily and not making harsh shadows or squinty eyes.  I also like the effect the backlighting has on the background.  Everything just has this nice, soft, golden glow.

So my photography tip from today:  Shoot portraits in the morning, and face your subject away from the sun.  (Supposedly this works in the late afternoon, too, but that hasn't been my luck so far.)  Set your camera to Spot Meter if you can--this will tell the camera to determine the exposure based on just the center of the picture.  Then when you focus on the person's face, the camera will expose for their skin tone, rather than being distracted by the brightly lit background.

And what's Independence Day without fireworks?  We just got some little fireworks from the grocery store, but Boo loved them!  She kept telling us, "Again," and "More."  

And after the fireworks, there was still a little time to play in the pool before bedtime.  Boo loved for her daddy to pour water from her bucket so she could splash in the waterfall.

Have a great week, everyone!

04 July 2011

American Flag Wall Hanging Tutorial

Happy 4th of July, everyone!
To those of you in the States, I hope you have a great Independence Day!  For those of you elsewhere, have a great Monday!

So, remember the wall hanging idea I told you about last week?  I got it done!  With one week between getting the idea to needing to have the project completed, I am really proud of myself for being able to finish.  And here it is:


Okay, so here's the tutorial like I promised.

You need:
Red, white, and blue fabric scraps--several different prints for each  (you can check out the pictures of my fabric options for inspiration)
batting--at least as large as the finished top (22 x 14 inches)
backing fabric--23.5 x 15.5 inches
and the usual sewing supplies

Start by cutting your fabric into 2.5 x 2.5 inch squares.  You will need 12 blues, 36 reds, and 29 whites.  Remember to use a variety of fabrics for each color.

In order to get my wall hanging done within the time frame, I took my bag of fabric scraps and my scissors and cut my squares out while playing with Boo.  I measured one square, then used it as a template for the others.  But doing it this way, my squares turned out a little...unsquare.  This made stitching them together--and matching seams--a little more difficult.  A rotary cutter would give better results, but takes time dedicated to cutting, rather than slipped in where possible.  So, whatever you choose.  Both methods work.

Now lay out your squares so you can arrange them in a nice pattern.

Notice how I'm using very different fabrics, but they blend together nicely.  I have creams and clean whites, dark reds and bright reds, navy blues and--well, no light blues--just dark and medium value.

Sew the squares together!  I recommend the continuous thread method.  All that means is you sew as much as you can without cutting the thread--when one pair of squares are sewn together, send the next pair through,  This is more efficient with your time and thread than stopping and cutting in between each seam.

Iron the seams in alternating directions; this helps the corners fit together nicely when you sew it all together.

Once you have all your squares sewn into their rows, sew the rows together.  (Now you can see why I had you iron the seams in alternating directions.  Iron again.  (This time the direction isn't really important.)

Take a minute to stand back and admire your finished quilt top...wall hanging top...whatever.

Next, center the ...wall hanging top...on the batting and backing.  Cut the batting to match the top.  Pin in place.  This is called sandwiching a quilt.

(Yes, I pieced my backing.  I couldn't see cutting a large chunk out of my usable-for-other-projects blue fabric when I had several large scraps.  It's the back; no one will know except for you, so don't tell!)

Now you can quilt your wall hanging however you'd like.  I was planning to machine quilt the words "E pluribus unum/out of many, one," but my machine had other ideas.  She didn't want me to put the feed dogs down (kind of important for that quilting design), and she won the argument.  So instead, I outline quilted down the stripes and around the blue section.  I also quilted a star in the blue.  I used monofilament thread, so the quilting would be subtle.  If I did it again, I would use a more visible thread; I like how the quilting turned out, but it's a shame that you have to be only six inches away to really see it.

(Yeah, it's hard to see the quilting.  But it's there, I promise.)

Next step:  Binding.  I usually cut separate strips for the binding, but I wanted to try folding the backing over for binding this time.  Here's what I did:

From here, I did a decorative stitch around the entire thing.

As you can see, there's a little flap at the corner.  You could leave this as is, hand-sew it down, or tuck the flap back into itself and then sew that down--a faux mitered corner.

Now your wall hanging is complete! ...Except for anything needed to hang it.  I confess, I'm not sure what to do about that.  So I guess for now it's a table runner...

How do you hang your wall hangings?