Monday, September 19, 2011

Patchwork Penguin Baby Blanket and Plushie

Some friends of ours are expecting a baby next month, a little girl. I wanted to make something fun, and decided that a nice monogrammed taggy baby blanket would be just right.

I love making taggy toys for babies. From the very beginning, the Monkey has loved the tag on his little stuffed dog, Spot. When he was younger he would suck on it. As he grew, he started playing with it and putting his fingers in it to hold it close as he sucked on his fingers. In fact, Spot's tag got so much love that it fell off, and the Monkey said he didn't like Spot as much without the tag. So I made spot a new tag with some soft satin ribbon. There's just something about tags that lots of babies seem to love.

I figured a taggy blanket could provide warmth over a car seat, be a good tummy time floor mat, and also be a good toy, with all the tags to pull on, suck on, and twiddle.

I wanted the blanket to have a patchwork feel to it, and I wanted a mixture of fabrics and textures. I also knew the mom-to-be dislikes pink as much as I do. So I walked into JoAnn's looking for some really cute, fun, not-boyish, not-pink fabrics. After loading up my cart with a bunch of different things, I found this wonderful patchwork penguin fabric. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was a winner!

The fabric included some woven cotton, some flannel, and some nice soft minky. And since it was already pieced together, it saved me from having to patch something together myself. With such a fun patchwork fabric on one side, I felt a nice, simple, coordinating solid flannel would make for a good backing. After finding the off-white flannel, I found the black ribbon with white polka-dots and knew I had everything I needed. I pulled some solid black fabric from my stash and some nice fuisible to monogram the blanket.

When I went to the cutting table, I discovered that there was just over a yard left, and the remaining end-of-bolt 15" would be half price. I couldn't pass it up! That was just enough to make a couple of plushy toys!

I free-handed a penguin shape and cut it out of the fabric. I pulled some orange fabric out of my stash and made a diamond for the beak and free-handed some feet. I then stitched it up, stuffed it, and closed up the opening, and I had a cute little penguin plushy to go with the blanket. (There was even enough fabric left that Baby Brother got a penguin too!)

This was a fun project, and the blanket with matching plushy made a great gift for a special little girl.

Ring Sling

I love baby carriers. I carried the Monkey in my Ergo from the time he was big enough to fit in it until I got pregnant again with Baby Brother. We'd use it to walk the dog every morning. And it made travelling so much easier!

When baby brother was born, I got a Moby. I love how close and snug I can carry him in the Moby. Especially when he was itty bitty. There were times I even slept in the Moby because it was the only way Baby Brother would sleep. But as much as I loved carrying him nice and snug in the Moby, it took a long time to get on properly. And sometimes it didn't work right the first time and I'd have to start all over.

I wanted a carrier I could get on quickly, and wear comfortably. For those times when Baby Brother was fussy and needed to be held right away, but I needed my hands to play with the Monkey. Or do dishes. Or cook dinner. I started checking out ring slings, but didn't want to pay $85 for essentially a piece of fabric and some rings. So I decided to make one.

There are lots of tutorials for making a sling. I read through tons of them then got to work. I chose a cute little puppy fabric in a heavy weight cotton, and lined it with a coordinating gingham. I ordered some rings online. Then followed the instructions for one of the pleated sling tutorials. I was almost done with the project when my sewing machine (which was badly in need of repair) gave out on me. Fortunately, Suzanne at Hip Stitch let me spend a few minutes on one of her machines to finish up the project. And while I was there, another customer/friend came in to chat. Turns out she used ring slings for all of her kids, and gave me a few pointers on how to use it.

Look how cute and cuddly he is snuggled in there! This sling has been wonderful. So easy to get on and off, and Baby Brother is happy and content held tight against my chest. It's been a life saver on many occasions. And I like having a one-of-a-kind sling for my little guy. I've gotten lots of compliments on it, and love wearing him in it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kitchen Storage: A Fabric Box Tutorial

Last Christmas, Santa brought the Monkey a kitchen, and lots of food to go in it. He loves his kitchen, and is actually rather particular how it's "organized" (Gee, I wonder where he gets *that* from...). So, I decided to make some boxes for him to put his food and kitchen stuff in.

I knew I wanted food-related fabric, so when I saw this fruit fabric at JoAnn's I couldn't resist. It was even on sale! The Monkey picked out the cherries, grapes, and bananas for his kitchen boxes. For the lining, I found an old canvas curtain I'd saved, figuring it would make its way into a craft project sooner or later. It was perfect for this project.

While there are many different fabric box tutorials out there, I figured I'd throw my own into the mix. So, here goes...

Outer Fabric
Lining Fabric
Stiff, heavyweight interfacing (I used fusible, but you don't have to)
Needles, thread, sewing machine and other sewing essentials

1) Determine the size of your box. Then, from the outer and inner fabrics and interfacing, cut panels the size of your box plus one inch. (For example, my boxes were 8"w x 10"d x 9"h. So my box had a base of 8" x 10", two sides of 8" x 9", and two sides of 10" x 9". So I cut a base of 9" x 11", two sides of 9" x 10", and two sides of 11" x 10".) It's not as confusing as it sounds.

(Base and sides cut from outer fabric, inner fabric, and interfacing)

2) Fuse (or baste) outer fabric to interfacing and set aside.

All fused together

3) Take your lining fabric. With right sides together, sew sides together, leaving 1/2" seam allowance. Stop sewing 1/2" from the bottom edge of the box. (This will become important later). Press seams open.

Fold in half and sew ends together, leaving 1/2" seam allowance, and again leaving 1/2" at the bottom.

Look, you have a bottomless box!

4) With right sides together, pin the base to the sides. This is where that 1/2" you left at the bottom comes in. Start sewing, with a 1/2" seam allowance, leaving 1/2" at the beginning and end of the seam.

Getting ready to sew, starting 1/2" in

Sew each side of the base to the sides in the same way. The 1/2" you left on each seam will make it much easier to maneuver the corners of the box.

Look, you have a box!

Repeat the process with the outer fabric/interfacing. Turn box right side out.

Look, now you have TWO boxes!

5) Here's where it gets fun. Place outer/interfacing box inside the (inside-out) lining box. Make sure side seams are aligned, and pin. You may have to do a bit of pulling and tugging to get seams and edges to line up.

6) Stitch around top edge with 1/2 seam allowance, leaving 5" - 6" open. Reach in through opening and turn box right side out.

Your Box is almost done!

7) Tug lining down a little and top stitch around the edges. This will keep the lining in place and close up the opening you used to turn the box. Top stitch again about a 1/2" away. You can match your thread to hide the top stitching, but I thought it would be neat to use a contrasting thread and use some decorative stitching to jazz it up a bit.

You're done! Enjoy your box!

This is how I intended the boxes to be used.

But this is how the Monkey likes to use them :-)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trick Or Treat Bag

(I wrote this post in October of 2009, but with Halloween coming up, I thought it might be a good time to repost. Once the Halloween fabric goes on sale this year, I'll be picking some up to make one of these bags for Little Brother. Enjoy the pictures of the Monkey as a little 15 month old!)

We took the Munchkin trick-or-treating this year, and I wanted to make him a bag for the occasion.

You will need:

--primary (outside) fabric
--liner fabric
--applique fabric
--fusible web
--sewing machine/needle/thread/other sewing basics

How much of each fabric you need depends on the size of the bag you want to make. I bought a yard each of the orange fabric and the black skeleton liner fabric, and was able to make three bags, measuring about 9 1/2" x 11 1/2."

1. Determine how big you want you bag to be. I decided that 10" x 12" was about the right size and the numbers were easy to work with. Cut primary and liner fabrics to measure the width of your bag (plus ~1/2" for seam allowance) x two-times the length of the bag (plus ~1/2" for seam allowance).

Here are my primary and liner fabric, cut to 10" x 24" and then folded in half to measure 10" x 12"

2. Fold fabric in half lengthwise, right sides facing, and sew along the outside edges of the fabric, leaving 1/4" to 1/2" for seam. When sewing the liner, leave a hole at the bottom corner of one side (In the picture below, you can see the orange fabric sticking out of the hole at the bottom of the liner).

3. Turn liner right side out (leave outside of bag inside out). It might help to iron the liner at this point to crease the bottom and flatten the seams. Place the liner inside the bag, so that the right side of the liner (outside) faces the right side of the bag (inside).

4. When placing liner fabric inside of bag, line the seams up as best you can (This is where ironing the lining fabric really pays off. When it's flat and well shaped, it's much easier to slip it into the bag). Sew lining to bag along the top of the bag, leaving 1/4" to 1/2" seam allowance.

5. This is where the magic happens. Reach into the bag and pull the bag and liner out through the hole in the bottom of the liner.

6. When you are done turning the bag inside out, sew up the hole in the bottom of the lining, then insert the lining back into the bag. Iron the bag to flatten seams and shape the bag. You now have a lined bag.

7. At this point, use the fusible web to applique whatever design you like. I chose this happy Jack O' Lantern Face. (Follow instructions on whichever fusible web product you are using to complete this step).

8. Now it's time to make the handles. 1) Determine how long you want your handles to be. Cut the fabric equal to the length of the fabric x 4 times the width. My handles were 14" long by 1" wide. 2) Fold strip of fabric in half, and iron to press crease along center of the fabric. 3) Unfold fabric, and then fold edges of fabric into center and press creases into fabric. 4) With edges folded in, fold fabric along center crease, and you have your handle!

9. Determine handle placement and pin handles to bag. Sew handles onto bag using a criss cross pattern to add extra stability. Don't forget to keep the back of the bag away from the sewing machine! You don't want to sew the bag together when sewing the handles one. We'll just pretend I didn't learn that one the hard way ;-)

Now your Trick-or-Treat bag is finished. Hand it off to your favorite little Munchkin and enjoy your Halloween!