Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Toddler Pillowcase

My two-year-old has a yucky stomach bug. Which led to him waking up covered in vomit several times during the night. Which led to using towels in his bed because I was all out of clean bedding. Which led to the thought that I really do not have enough spare pillowcases for him. Which led to me sitting down and whipping up a new one. (Which, okay, led to me writing this post, but you already knew that just by looking at the title).

My toddler does not use a regular adult-sized pillow. We inherited a cute little pillow complete with pillowcase from an older cousin who grew out of it. I don't know where they got it from or what the size measurements are, but I do know that it's the perfect size and thickness for my toddler's little head, and likewise for his little bed. Groan-worthy rhymes aside, I love that it isn't so soft as to give me suffocation phobia, but not so firm as to be uncomfortable. I do know that my toddler loves it, won't sleep without it, and I have never seen any pillowcases in stores that would fit this little pillow. But clearly, we needed another one. So while I was waiting for the rest of his soiled bedding and pjs to emerge from the wash, I whipped this up from an old shirt. It didn't come out perfect, but it does the job, the kid's happy, and I learned something for next time. Because surely there will be a next time. Because it just so happens that I was given some nice fabric that would be perfect for making him a new sheet and matching pillowcase set. And his old sheets are really washed out and getting holey, being hand-me-downs and all.

For now, though, my husband had an old white mesh polo shirt that was full of stains and holes, so I decided to upcycle it into my new pillowcase. Obviously, it would have been way cuter if I had used a striped or patterned shirt, but I had what I had and that was that. Of course, I cut carefully so as to avoid the stained/holey portions. Originally, I was concerned that the bumpy mesh texture wouldn't be all that comfortable to sleep on. I had visions of my kid waking up with the texture of the fabric imprinted on the face. I decided, therefore, to use the opposite side of the fabric for the outside, and keep the bumpy mesh on the inside. Unfortunately yet typically, when I was pinning my pieces together for sewing, I got mixed up (cuz I'm awesome like that) and ended up sewing it together with the mesh on the outside. But I realized (rationalized?) that the fabric is already so soft and worn from countless washings and wearings, that you really can't feel the bumps much at all. I pressed my face to it and it did feel totally comfortable, so I decided to just leave it as is. The kid was perfectly happy with it, so that's a win as far as I am concerned.

Now, there are instructions out there for how to do a project like this.

But I only discovered those after I had already done mine. Before I started, I didn't even bother looking, so sure was I that I could do it just fine all on my own, without any instructions. I should've checked first, maybe I would have done a better job. But that's water under the bridge now. I just made things up as I went along.

So here's the method I used. First, I opened the side seams of the shirt in order to be able to lay it flat with the front and back hems lined up. I wanted my pillow cover to be an envelope-style, because I hate when the pillow tries to escape from the case during the night. I prefer the style that has the opening at the center back, so the sides look nice and clean and closed, unlike some pillows which have the envelope opening at the side end. In order to do this, you need to have the back piece cut into two halves with some overlap between them. I wasn't sure how much the two pieces are supposed to overlap, so I just guessed five inches, a somewhat random number I pulled out of my imagination. It was actually way too much and it's pretty difficult to get the pillow in and out of the case. After the fact, research revealed that the normal amount would be four inches for an adult-sized pillow. For this one, two or three inches would have been great. So, I figured that each of the two pieces should measure the same height as the pillow by half the width of the whole pillow plus five extra inches each for the overlap. For clarity, when I say height I mean the smaller measurement, from top to bottom of the pillow, and width, obviously, is the wide measurement from side to side. So if you, unlike me, use a normal three-inch overlap for the envelope, for a pillow that is 6" tall by 12" wide (totally made up numbers), you would cut two pieces that are each six inches by nine inches - same height by half the width, which is 6", plus three, giving you nine inches for the width. I cut these two pieces so that the original hem of the polo shirt was one of the short ends. This way, no hemming is necessary - all the cut edges are positioned at seams that are being sewn together, and the hem of the original shirt serves as the finished edges at the opening of the two overlapping back pieces. I don't even know how to do hems. So, that's the back done.

For the front, I just cut out a piece that was the same size as the pillow. Now, here is one mistake I made. I wanted the case to fit snugly, not all loose and saggy, so I decided that since it is a knit, it would stretch and therefore I did not need to add any seam allowances to my measurements. This was a mistake because it turned out just a little bit too tight and difficult to put on the pillow, though it is usable with effort. I believe this is in part due to my inability to cut or sew in perfectly straight lines. I tend to have to trim fabrics a lot because the two halves that are to be sewn together are not actually lining up due to my poor cutting skills. Then, when I sew, I end up leaving a very large seam allowance, both to make up for the poor cutting and because I simply don't have good control of my fabrics as they move with the feed dogs when I'm sewing, leading me to sometimes sew off the edge and needing to correct with an oversize seam allowance. The other thing is that a pillow is not just flat pieces of fabric, it needs space to accommodate the stuffing. So, lesson learned: don't skip seam allowances when you're making pique/mesh knit pillowcases! At least when I'm the one doing the sewing, anyway.

Anyway, back to the process. So you have three pieces cut out, one for the front and two for the back. Place the the front piece right side up. Take one back piece, turn it right side down, and line up the cut edges with the cut edges on the front piece. The hem portion should NOT be lined up with a cut edge, it should run down somewhere between the center and one of the cut side edges of your front piece. Do the same with the other back piece, only the opposite way around. Meaning, place it face down and arrange so the cut ends line up with the uncovered cut edges of the front piece, the ones which the first back panel is not covering. The hemmed portion of this second back piece should be on the opposite side of the first hem part, which should now be covered by this second piece.

Pin together all the pieces, and sew carefully around all four sides of the pillow cover. I used a zigzag stitch because that is what I read you are supposed to do in order to keep seams of knit stretchy like the fabric. I have no idea if it actually works or not, or even if I did it correctly at all. There are three different buttons on my machine that have zigzaggy-looking things on them. I have no idea if the one I picked was actually the one I was supposed to use. And I know nothing about stitch length, stitch width, or tension, so I just go with random settings. Ask someone else if you need more detailed information than that. I also read that you are supposed to use a ball point needle when sewing knits, but I don't own one. Maybe I should get one. Maybe I will. Or maybe not. Who knows? Either way, you sew it all together, clip the corners, and turn right way out. Ta-da! It's a pillowcase!

My new pillowcase actually did not stay in use for long. My toddler anointed it with a vomit avalanche soon after going to bed. For the record, he did not wake up with an imprint of the fabric on his face - just vomit :(. But it was certainly very useful to have a backup pillowcase.

I would love to add some pictures to this post, but the pillowcase is still in the dryer at the moment. I do plan to add some later. Until then, here's hoping this stomach bug passes really quickly. My husband is afraid I might have to cut up another one of his polos.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Nagorie Feather Baby Headband

So, it turns out making headbands for little baby girls is one of my favorite crafty things to do, and I'm excited to share another one today. I am really thrilled with the way this project turned out.
Have you heard of nagorie feather pads? I hadn't, till a short while ago. These are sort of like bundles of feathers glued to a felt backing in a sort of large flower petal shape, tapering at the bottom. And the edges of the feathers are curled elaborately. They come in all the colors of the rainbow and even multicolored. Some have rhinestones glued to them. Here is an example:

So these nagorie feather pads have been popping up on a lot of hair accessories lately. Mostly for babies and toddlers, but you see them for women as well. Ask Google if you want to see. Headbands with these feathers are considered couture or boutique-style headbands, and I think they are really cute. They sell for about $10 to as much as $20 on etsy and I have seen them for even more at other online retailers.  I decided to try my hand at making one or two. I ordered the feather pads off of ebay for $1.99. The pink one with rhinestones became an awesome headband for my adorable little niece (I have a lot of nieces, so there's always someone I could make hair accessories for!). Aaaaaaand, here it is!

I am in love with the way this oversized piece looks on a precious little baby head. I found this beautiful pink and white elastic at a local store and knew it would be just the perfect thing to complete this. I made the flower out of satin ribbon. I gently rolled and twisted it in a somewhat spiral but not quite so structured fashion. This post gave me the original idea for how to do this, and I experimented on my own and discovered that I could get different effects by altering the materials used, or how tightly I rolled or twisted, or whether I rolled it in a perfect spiral shape or just kind of more freehand, getting several layers of larger and smaller rolls, which is what I did here. Then, I experimented with using a warm iron to lightly press down the flower, giving a bit more sharpness and structure to the twists but not flattening it out. I liked the effect very much, but if you try this, be sure not to make the iron hot enough to melt your satin. And I stuck a large craft gem (from a 99-cent pack of 100 different gems of various colors, sizes, and shapes) on the middle of the whole thing. While the flower seems very large, it is quite loosely twisted so it is just a puffed-up piece of ribbon, and I used a plastic gem for the center, which weighs a lot less than metal or glass.  So, even though this is a large, showstopping hairpiece, it is not at all heavy on the baby's head. Some of the ones I have seen for sale use large, elaborate metal buttons or even vintage brooches, which seems to me like they must be way too heavy for a baby to wear comfortably, not to mention the weight pulling the whole thing down over the baby's eyes. This one doesn't do that!
It may be difficult to tell from the picture, but I also did a tulle layer to accent the flower. I basically just cut a bunch of 1 1/2 inch tulle strips longer than the width of the flower and arranged them like overlapping spokes of a wheel, gluing at the centers. This went underneath the flower.

I find it difficult to sew elastic, so I usually hot-glue the ends together, overlapping slightly. I glue the elastic to the embellishment with the seam part of the elastic at the felt underside of the flower or whatever I'm making. Then I glue another piece of felt on top of that, sticking to both the elastic and the underside of the flowers, so the elastic seam is sandwiched between the two pieces of felt. It is very secure and looks so clean that way. Also it's smoother and probably more comfortable on the baby's head. The elastic is nice and stretchy, so even though I made it to measure for a three-month-old, it will probably fit at least through baby's first year. DONE!

And here is a cute little person to model it for you.

No babies were available, but I think it works great for a toddler, too!
In a future post, I will share a more grown-up version of a nagorie feather headband I made with the other pad I bought.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fancy French Fabric Flower, aka Rose Tutorial Translation

Scouting online for some more flower tutorials, I came across a photo of a flower I loved, and I really wanted to make it. But it turns out the blog it comes from is in French. Using Google Translate, it's hard to follow the instructions because a lot of it makes no sense. The sentence structure is all mixed up, and also what I think happens is that some of the words have multiple meanings and the wrong one is used in the translation, making a whole lot of nonsense. So I tried to redo the tutorial in English. I'm pretty much a blogging newbie, but I'm assuming this is ok to do as long as I am giving proper credit and linking back to the blog it originally came from. All photos, except for the very last one, come from the blog Les dentelles de Segolene

First, you need 9 circles of somewhat stiff (or stiffened) fabric 4" in diameter and 3 of  2.75" in diameter.

Start making the heart of the flower. Fold the smaller circles in half and pin them shut. 

Place one folded circle on top of another at a right angle, and repeat with the third circle.


Next, stick the free end of the top piece underneath the piece near it, so all the pieces overlap, like when you fold the flaps of a cardboard box, only with three flaps instead of four. This will cause the center to point up a little, forming a small hill shape. 

Now take a needle and thread and run a basting stitch all around the bottom edge of your hill, making sure to catch all of the layers of fabric as you go.

Then pull one end of the thread to tightly gather the bottom, and tuck it in towards the center, similar to when you make a fabric yo-yo.

This is how the top will look.

Knot the thread in place, cut off excess, and the bud part, or the heart, of your rose is finished. Moving on...

Take four of your large circles and fold them in half as you did with the small ones. Lay each one on top of another at a right angle, cut edges lined up, so they all overlap to form a new circle. Then gather the edge of the circle they form and tuck it in just as you did before, only don't gather quite so tightly, as seen in the photo below on the left.
 Now, in the photo on the right, we see that the folded edges of the overlapping quarters you made are folded over a little bit toward the outer edges of the flower, giving the petals some dimension. I think that these folds would hold better if they were made before the gathering stitch is sewn. This way, you could catch the fold in your stitches as you are basting for gathering so they are secure and don't open. I hope this makes sense, it's kind of hard to explain.

 .Then place this part over the center you made before, letting the center peek out a little bit from the center opening. Stitch or glue in place, taking care to place glue or stitches where they won't show.

Now, at this point you can leave it at this, or add petals to make a larger rose.

For the petals, fold the remaining circles in half. Use pins to fold the two sides of the semicircle inward, then make a little dart down the middle of it, starting from the round cut age and going about 3/4 of the way down toward the fold edge, but not all the way there, and stitch in place, as the picture shows. 

Stitch and gather lightly along the cut edge, curving the upper and outer edges inwards with the pleats and folds on the outside of the curve. Kind of like a hunchback with a sail sticking out of his back!

Overlap the petals all around the flower and stitch or glue in place. Here's how the bottom should look...

...and here's the finished rose!

You can glue a felt circle to the bottom to secure and hide all the stitching.

So cute in different fabrics!

Thank you Les dentelles de Segollene blog for the awesome photos, and I hope the instructions make it all clear and easy to follow!

And of course I had to test-drive the tutorial myself to see if it works, so here's my version. Nowhere near as pretty or neat as the one in the blogger's photos, but that I attribute to my abysmal sewing skills and possibly my poor choice of fabrics, as mine was not really stiff. And my outer petals were probably folded in too much and gathered too tight, so they are kind of narrow and it looks as if there aren't enough of them.

Also, I confess to using absolutely no pins at all during any part of this process. That's just how I roll :)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Food Post: Yummy No-Bake Creamy Chocolate Chip Cheesecake in a Mug

Nothing of major craftiness here today, but I'm loving a new indulgent snack I've concocted and I just gotta talk about it. I was craving cheesecake but had neither the inclination nor the ingredients to actually bake some, so I set out to come up with something crave-worthy. What I ended up with was loosely based on this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Dip posted by Cyclone Mommy on, reduced to the size of my craving only with no leftovers. Here's what I did: I took my cream cheese and butter out of the fridge to let them soften for a while. I then microwaved 2 tablespoons of butter in a deep glass mug till it was melted. I added 2 ounces of cream cheese, stirred it all together till it was smooth. I had some lumps so I stuck it all back in the microwave for just a few seconds and then it came together nicely. After that, I stirred in 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar. When smooth, I added a scant 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract. I let the stuff cool and then when it was no longer warm I stirred in 1/4 cup of the teeny-tiny mini chocolate chips. I let it get nice and cold in the fridge, then I grabbed a spoon and dug in. It was yum. Totally satisfied the cheesecake craving. My husband passed by, I served him a spoonful, and he stayed right there until it was all gone :). So I definitely wanna file this one away for future cheesecake emergencies. I'm thinking it would go well on a tea biscuit or maybe graham cracker stick. Or just on a spoon, like I had it. That's great too. So here's the whole recipe:

No-Bake Creamy Chocolate Chip Cheesecake for One
aka First Aid for Cheesecake Cravings

2 tablespoons butter
2 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
scant 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature. Melt butter in tall mug in microwave. Add cream cheese. Microwave again for a few seconds if too hard to blend smoothly. Add sugars and vanilla, stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature, stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate. When cold, enjoy! Try with fruit, cookies, graham crackers...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Another Baby Headband

Fair warning: This is going to be a pretty long post. I guess I just have a lot to share today, and a lot of that requires background information to explain it properly. So here've been warned!
Been working on a few new hair accessories lately and some other projects I haven't got around to posting yet. First off I want to share a cute little headband I made for my adorable baby niece because I already have pics uploaded for that. The reason for that is twofold: number one, one of my kids has a performance coming up at school and I needed to clear space on my memory card to record it, which is how come I had to upload all the pics on my SD card to the computer. But the second, and SUPER EXCITING reason, is because I finally got a new laptop! Woohoo! Just so you understand how huge this is, allow me to provide some background. When my ancient desktop died of old age several years ago, I couldn't afford a new one. I was lucky to get a laptop gifted by a very special person who got a new one and didn't need the old one any more. I have been using that for the past few years and it's been through a lot with me. Spills, crumbs, drops, and two babies who liked to sit on my lap all day long while using it. At some point, the battery quit working and it could only be used while plugged in. Then the cord got ruined, fixed up with electrical tape, ruined again, fixed again, ruined again fixed again, several times until I had no choice but to order a cheap new Chinese power pack off of ebay. The little metal thingy that goes into the hole in the computer (correct terminology sadly eludes me) to connect to power did not fit tightly in the hole, so you had to be really careful lest it moved slightly and you cut power to the computer. Happened several times. Then I scored a used but name brand factory original power supply from someone who was way past using computers of advanced age and no longer needed it. The kids attacked the keys several times over the years and quite a few were broken and could not be replaced, so I have been living without a space bar, window key, number four, and several letters for a long time. That computer also does not have a memory card slot, so in order to upload pics, I had to pull out a separate memory card reader that consisted of two parts that had to be fitted together and then plugged into the computer. This reader was getting on in years, so it was tricky getting it to communicate with the computer, and then you had to hope the connection would not be suddenly dropped while using it. Plus there was always the danger one of the kids would pass by and pull on the thing, aborting the whole process right in the middle of it. And, it took FOREVEEEEERRRRRR. So you see why I hated it so much, right? Best of all, my old laptop is still running....wait for it...drumroll please....WINDOWS XP! For realz. So...yeah. By the way, XP is my favorite operating system ever. I still love it and I don't think I missed out on anything by skipping Windows 7. I used 7 frequently at my mom's house and I totally prefer XP over that. Bite me. Anyway, three years ago I started saving up for a new laptop. Bit by bit, slowly slowly. I did not want to just buy some cheapy thing the minute I could afford it...I don't buy laptops every day (you got that from this post already, right?) and whatever I get had to be up-to-date enough to last me several years at least. So I knew I needed a fairly reasonable budget to work with. Finally this year I was able to take advantage of some really great holiday season sales and now I'm working Windows 8.1 on my sleek new compu-buddy as we speak. It has a nifty little memory card reader hidden right inside its shiny new body and the process is now painless, so I can cautiously tell you to expect an increase in pictures moving forward. No promises, though! Anyhoo, back to business. The headband I made for my niece - great-niece, actually; her mom's my actual niece - is made of charcoal grey felt and has two cute little flowers on a narrow black elastic band.

 I'm not sure how well you can see because it's such a dark color, but they are two different types of flowers on there. The one on the left, it looks like a wild rose to me, came about after much trial and error. I was desperate to make a pretty little rose, and collected several tutorials from around the web. But none of the styles I tried came out looking anything like the picture. I couldn't possibly allow anything so flawed to touch that sweet baby's head, so I kept trying. Finally, I came upon THIS one, and I felt like I'd hit the jackpot when it actually WORKED. I added a lighter grey leaf at the edge of it which I just freehand cut out of a piece of fake grey leather I had lying around from an old school project one of my kids brought home a long time ago (no they did not mind getting rid of the project and harvesting its usable body parts, I would never destroy something precious to a child). The other flower is actually modeled after a store-bought headband I have. I cut a wide strip of felt, folded in half lengthwise to create a narrower strip, and cut little horizontal slits about 3/4 of the way through the width of the folded strip at equal intervals all along the fold line. Just like this (right edge is folded edge):

 Then I just rolled up the folded strip, gluing along the edge without the slits. I then turned a little scrap of striped grey and white fabric into two little leaf-triangles just by folding and gluing under the edges. When I put the two flowers together side by side, I decided it needed a third, larger leaf on the side from the same grey faux leather as the rose. I glued the leaves to the backs of both flowers and glued the flowers to a wide strip of felt. I used a plain adult-sized black elastic headband from a multi-pack (either from Goody or scunci, can't remember which) and cut it down to size. I glued the open edges to the bottom of the felt strip that had the flowers on it, added extra glue for reinforcement all over the top of the seam, and then glued an identical strip over the elastic, sandwiching the edges in between the two pieces of felt. Aaaaaaaaand, done! I would love to post a picture of my niece wearing this headband, but unfortunately she was being a diva and refused to let me get a good one. I think she wanted me to bribe her, like with diamonds or something. But I was too afraid she might swallow them, being only seven months old. Ha! Whatever, you'll have to take my word for it - it looks really, really cute.