Tag Archive | easy

All tied up

It’s easy to find things to sew for the girls. Skirt and dress patterns abound, plus hats, capes, coats, tunics, pants, leggings, blouses… you get the gist. Finding things to make for boys tends to be more challenging and the options not as interesting. Unless the boy is going to a disco or has a predilection for Rococo, ruffles and flounces are out. Embellishments and trims also look out of place on boys’ clothing today. Fabrics tend to be more somber, style lines more plain. I was feeling a little bad for Konik as I was planning to make fancy skirts for the girls to wear at Christmastime. Sew a new button-up shirt? Or pair of slacks? Big whoop. That’s not exciting for the maker or the wearer. But, I found a way to inject a little fun!

Konik enjoys dressing up. He especially loves himself some clip-on ties. He is always the dapperest little dude at church and he chooses his clothes himself. (Did I mention that he’s only 5?) So there was my ticket! A new winter-themed tie.

There are several little boy tie tutorials with slight variations among them. I ended up choosing the one by Vanilla Joy. I chose hers because I preferred the ways she suggested for fastening the tie around the neck. One change I will make if when I make another tie is to make it a tad narrower overall and taper it more severely about halfway up to make tying it easier (and so the knot doesn’t come out so big). It takes a miniscule amount of fabric and it’s a very fast project.

Konik was with me when I went to the fabric store, so I let him choose his own fabric. He found a small snowman print in several different colorways and settled on the blue one. Fine choice, my son. I did have to steer him clear of other, larger prints because the scale never would have translated to something as small and narrow as a necktie, and a little boy’s necktie at that.



For the lining fabric, I had a scrap of dark blue apparel lining that I had used in a cape for myself (oh man, I still haven’t written about that?!). You can just see a bit of it peeking out at the tips. Using actual slippery lining fabric makes it look pretty legit, I think! I was pleased with that.



For the tie closure, I decided to go with Velcro, mainly because that’s what I had and I figured it was easy enough for Konik to manage himself, which would not have been the case with button elastic. After measuring around his neck, I made a little strip out of the snowman fabric and put Velcro on the ends. Next time, I need to make the strip just a touch narrower to be fully hidden under his shirt collar. It’s not hugely apparent right now, but it could be better.

IMG_6347Here’s where things got interesting: you have to tie the tie around the little strip of fabric, which is not the same as tying it around one’s neck. I already knew that the latter skill eluded me, but it turns out the former does as well. I called in Mr. Gren for reinforcements. He got the tie tied appropriately and, with a little fiddling, we got the tail piece to mostly stay in the back. What I need to do at this point is just lightly tack it together so that it won’t accidentally come untied.

IMG_6318Konik was happy with his new little snowman tie and wore it proudly to church. He probably needs one for every season now…


A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.
— Oscar Wilde

Sparkly: expanded

I promised to tell you more about the sparkly fabric in Saturday’s photo, so let’s get to it.

I’ll begin with a little story. On Friday night, I went to a Christmas party — probably a lot of you are attending such functions this month. It’s all fun and games until you realize that your fairy godmother didn’t stop by to transform your shabby duds into a shimmering gown. That’s where I was Friday night, as I stood in my closet and looked at the faded, stained, wrong-sized, wrong season, entirely-too-casual clothes hanging there. What possessed me to eventually don a pilly brown sweater, I don’t know. At least my jeans were clean, which I can’t always say with four kids swirling around me throughout the day. But the moment I arrived at the party, my heart sunk as I saw all the ladies in their finery. Silky, golden blouses, high heels, fancy tights, sparkly fascinators in neatly-styled hair, even glitter mascara. And there I was, all brown sweater and jeans.

It’s not entirely my fault — I do know how to dress up and I actually really like it. Sadly, my life is sorely lacking in glamorous occasions at which to dress up. So that, combined with the leanness of what I dub “the cabin years” resulted in me having a less-than-glamorous wardrobe. Even though we’ve been out of the cabin for a year with Mr. Gren at his new job, we still feel like we’re recovering from that time in our lives. It’s kind of like when a tornado rips through a town — life doesn’t just resume as normal once the storm is gone; there’s a rebuilding phase, and that’s where we’re at right now. I mean, heck, we’re excited when we can replace holey socks these days, so there had been zero thought in any of our minds about fancy occasion clothes.

henry clarke 1959

How I imagine my life

Back to the Christmas party and me looking the wallflower. I thought to myself that, as lousy as I felt sitting there under-dressed for the event, I could fix this. Saturday morning, I went to the fabric store to see what I could find. And what I found was… sparkly. Sparkles and holidays go together! Even better about the sparkly was that it was pre-elasticated and it was on the half-off rack. A little mental calculating and I realized that if I got about a yard and a half of the fabric, I would have enough to make a skirt for myself out of each color and one girl-sized skirt per color.

The fabric has a wide, black elastic waistband attached to an over-layer of tulle spattered with silver stars and a satiny lining. I sewed the tulle layer separately from the lining layer so that they would hang nicely when worn. I think it took me about ten minutes for each skirt. Four skirts in under an hour? I call that a successful sewing day!

The girls were happy to model theirs. You’ll have to wait to see mine until I can sew myself a suitable top to go with them! Old t-shirts just don’t cut it.

Rana chose aqua

Rana chose aqua

Granota in black

Granota in black


Monday’s post was long, wasn’t it? Whew. I think all of us need a little breather after that behemoth. So look here: I sewed a tablecloth!


It barely counts as sewing. This length of fabric (a generous gift from a friend in France) — genuine Provençal, I might add — was perfect in width for our table and nearly so in length (that is, sans leaves). I let the selvedges be the long edge and then trimmed and hemmed the shorter ends. Ta dah! I know, I know, I have such a pretty table now. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to change things up! The bright blue and yellow and the smattering of sunflowers make me happy.

Sleeping bag bag

No, that’s not a typo. I suppose I could have said sack or receptacle. But that’s not as fun.

Last week, Konik and I were in the fabric store (buying my pristine cardboard cutting mat) and I spied a roll of Curious George fabric in the remnant bin. For a little boy who loves monkeys, Curious George is tops. I checked the remnant and it was just a little under a yard. Definitely enough to use for something. For the next several days, Konik pestered me about what I was going to make out of it. I didn’t give him any hints because I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it. At first I considered a pillow case, but… meh. He has pillowcases. He kept begging me, “Don’t cut George!” So what could the boy use?

Then I remembered when I was a kid, my Aunt E made me a bag to keep my sleeping bag in. I still have it and use it (Thanks, Aunt E!)! It’s a little faded and dingy, but it has served its purpose well for the past 25 or so years. Konik got a sleeping bag for Christmas and really didn’t have anywhere to keep it, nor does it have any straps or ties to keep it rolled up. It’s kind of a pain. But a bag! He could use that.

The sewing is so easy it’s barely worth mentioning. I put in some elastic on one end to be the top and then sewed up the side and bottom. Done!


Elastic top keeps things inside

Elastic top keeps things inside

Konik demonstrates how to take out the sleeping bag.

Konik demonstrates how to take out the sleeping bag.

And how to stuff it back in.

And how to stuff it back in.

Soft and squishy

Soft and squishy, good for hugging.


And I didn’t even have to cut George.




Christmas gifts: They were cones!

The last of the Christmas gift round-up! This was another Rana project and definitely not something I would have done with the younger kids. Finding homemade gifts for men can be tricky — it’s easy to find all kinds of cutesy, frilly, girly projects, but something that a man might want or find useful can be a real challenge. Rana had pulled one of her uncle’s names for this last one. Knowing that this uncle uses a wood stove to heat his house, when I found this project for pine cone fire starters, I thought that this was something we could do.

First things first: you need pine cones. Pine cones are plentiful on the other side of the state, but over here on the Western side of the mountains, mostly all we get are fir cones. Fir cones, while bountiful, are worthless, acidic clumps of mush. Some people have to rake leaves from their lawns; we get to rake fir cones, or else they burn up your grass and you have no lawn. Actual pine trees are in sparse supply around here, so in order to get the aforementioned pine cones, we used several of those cinnamon-scented pine cones they sell around the holidays. One advantage to this versus foraging for cones in the wild is that the cones are already dried and opened up.

Other supplies you’ll need are wax (we used an old candle) and wicks (cotton yarn). The basic idea is, you put a wick on the pine cone and coat it in wax, then you chuck the whole thing into the fireplace to get your fire going. We melted down a white candle in our pseudo-double boiler (tuna can in a pot of water). Little known fact: tuna cans float. That made the whole cone-dipping process more exciting. Bobbing for pine cones.

Rana did make a cute video for this, too, but Konik is yelling at me in the background while my mom tries to shush him. Oh well.



I had visions of the cones looking as though they had been frosted with snow. Unfortunately, white wax doesn’t look white unless it’s in a solid chunk, so our pine cones just looked kind of greasy. Hm. Another one of those “live and learn” moments, I guess. Even if they didn’t turn out as pretty as we had counted on, we hope that they are at least functional!

Christmas gifts: warm hearts, warm hands

We’re on the last batch of homemade Christmas gifts now with Rana’s contributions. It is fun doing this with a little bit older child since she is capable of more. Since she jumps at the chance to use the sewing machine, I chose a project with some easy sewing: pocket handwarmers.



For each of the kids’ projects, I took little videos where they explained what they were doing and who their recipient was. After Christmas, I shared those videos with our families. But Rana’s video is so funny because she goes into full-on TV hostess mode. And she explains the project as well as I can, plus, she’s cuter. Take it away, Rana! (The picture below will link to the video. Click it!)

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

After adding the lavender and rice to the little handwarmers, we sewed up the hole and called it good. But then I started thinking that maybe the recipients needed something to store them in during warm months when handwarmers aren’t needed. I whipped up some little pouches while Rana was at school, but let her choose the ribbons for the drawstrings. There! Now they were ready to send off to cousins. Just a few seconds in the microwave, pop them into their coat pockets, and they’ll have toasty fingers.



Christmas gifts: soapsicle

What is it about making everyday things into unexpected shapes that is so appealing? Square crackers: eh, that’s alright. Circus animal crackers: fun! Straight drinking straws: gets the job done. Twisty straws: fun! Chunks of breaded chicken: edible. Mickey Mouse-shaped nuggets: fun!

That’s the principle at work here. A bar of soap is purely functional. No fun to be had. But soap shaped like little popsicles: that’s funny.

This was a really easy project that Konik and I made for his cousin. We started with two bars of transparent glycerin soap. I couldn’t find uncolored soap, so I was hoping that the orangish-tinted soap we did find would take on more interesting colors. You can see our supplies: soap, a popsicle mold, popsicle sticks, and food coloring.


The hardest part of the whole project was getting the soap to melt. After I chopped it into smaller pieces, Konik loaded up my Pyrex measuring cup and I heated it in our little NuWave oven.



It took several minutes of cooking, stirring, cooking some more to get the entire batch liquified. In retrospect, this probably would have gone much quicker in a saucepan. I think the reason I chose the Pyrex cup was for ease of pouring, but the thing was so dang hot, that I had to do it instead of Konik anyways. The soap was surprisingly stubborn when it came to melting.


He was happy to drip food coloring into each little popsicle mold. Then we took a stick and stirred the coloring around. You can see that we didn’t always get it mixed through and that was due to all the contours and divots in our particular mold. If I were to do this again, I would choose a simpler mold.


The soap begins to harden fairly quickly. We had to hold the sticks steady and centered for just a minute before the soap had congealed enough to support them. Then we set the whole mold aside for a couple of hours to finish hardening all the way through. Aren’t they pretty?


Getting them out was a little tricky, again due to the shape of the molds. A few careful jabs with a table knife was enough to release them, though, and they looked none the worse for the wear. I don’t know why I didn’t get pictures of the finished project. I wrapped each soapsicle — or “pocksible” as Konik calls them — in cellophane tied with a ribbon so that they wouldn’t stick together.

Konik is a pretty good little crafting partner. He follows directions well and really tries his best. I’ll have to try to come up with more little crafts for us to do together throughout the year just to keep his crafty spirit alive!

Nighty night

Sometimes a person needs new jammies. The ratty t-shirts and faded flannel pants are a pretty sad combination anymore. Coming into warmer weather, I thought a nightgown sounded comfy. So I made one today.

I had a couple yards of ivory cotton sateen that I had originally bought to make a dress for one of the girls before I came to my senses about dressing them in white. It was just enough to make what I had in mind. I was aggravated, though, at the lousy cutting job the person at Joann’s had done. I had to cut off four inches on either side just to straighten it out. Does anyone else wonder if Joann’s fabric cutters have ever actually sewn anything in their lives? Most of the time, I just want to crawl across the counter and demand their scissors so I can do it myself.

Were they blindfolded when they cut this?

Were they blindfolded when they cut this?

On the same pattern that I used for my flannel pajama pants, there is also a pattern for a bias-cut nightgown with spaghetti straps. I’m not a big fan of spaghetti straps while I’m sleeping. But I had something else that I thought would work and could be fun.

Simplicity 5726

Simplicity 5726

This is a historical pattern based on undergarments from the Civil War era. The chemise would have served as a slip by day and a nightgown by night. It doesn’t quite cover the shoulders, but if that ends up being a problem, I’ll just tack it a little further up. The pattern only uses four pieces — front/back, sleeves, front band and back band. It’s not a difficult garment to make. I did find it interesting that, with the exception of the bands around the neckline, all other seams were flat felled. But it makes sense that in the 1860s with no sergers and the like, a smooth finish like this would give strength and a clean finish to clothing, not to mention comfort, especially in the case of the chemise. For some reason, I always thought flat felled seams were some kind of difficult, mythical thing. Turns out, they really aren’t difficult at all, they just take a little extra care.

Flat and felled

Flat and felled

I was surprised at how loose the chemise is considering that it would have gone under a corset as shown in the picture. Wouldn’t all those extra folds of fabric have felt lumpy and uncomfortable underneath something as tight-fitting as a corset?


I bought this for the corset pattern — which I have made for a Halloween costume, just not with boning. Someday I’ll make a real one.

I didn’t have enough lace of any sort to trim around the upper edges as the pattern called for, so my night gown is as plain as plain can be right now. I briefly considered making a trip out to buy some lace, but polyester lace is so stiff and scratchy and I don’t want to have that anywhere near my skin while I’m sleeping. So right now I’m thinking that I will crochet some lace with cotton thread and apply it once I’m done. Which could be awhile because the pattern requires 2.5 yards. I’ve been dying for a crochet project, though, so it will be nice to have something to do with my hands while we watch TV in the evenings besides obsessively clicking back and forth between Facebook and Twitter (which really isn’t that exciting of a pastime).



So here it is, all done. I kind of want to go to bed right now just to have a reason to put it on.

Black and white

If you’ve been following my blog at all, you’ve seen an assortment of dresses that I’ve made for myself. One thing those dresses all have in common: they are all lightweight. I’ve shivered through the last few winters going to church in thin cotton dresses, but there’s only so much layering you can do before you just give up and wear jeans. I needed a winter dress. I knew this several years ago and bought a couple of yards of black & white houndstooth corduroy. The pattern it was intended for was a vintage 60s sort of military-inspired dress. I don’t know what I was thinking. That style uses a lot of folds and tucks, which 1) would not have worked with corduroy and 2) would have induced eye-crossing optical illusions with the houndstooth print. Sometimes I don’t plan things out very well.

Houndstooth and corduroy!

This past spring, I decided that I needed to work through a lot of the fabric in my stash that didn’t really have patterns to go with them. I bought a bunch of patterns on sale and one of them was McCalls 2401. It’s a simple sheath dress: a front, two back pieces, two sleeves and the facing. The construction is very simple. The fit is gained through four darts in the front and two in the back.


I had to let out the hips a tiny bit and take in the two vertical darts near the top to really get a nice, close fit.

Pretending that I’m not freezing to death.

I didn’t notice during all my multiple fittings that the back neckline was not lying flat. I think next time, I will pinch in small darts on either side of the zipper to take out some of the excess. I can’t do it on this one because the facing is already in and it would require a lot of deconstruction to do that. I’ll just tough it out and count on my hair to cover the gaping.

Pretty proud of my invisible zipper, though.

I wore the dress all day Sunday — to church and an afternoon of Christmas shopping. It was warm and comfortable!

I don’t have anything all that interesting to say about it. I will be using this pattern again with some navy blue wool.

Mr. Gren told me to act natural. Now I want to make a sailor dress.

From trash to treasure

Does anybody remember the show “Decorating Cents” on HGTV? I always liked that one. And I’d justify my TV time by folding laundry while I watched it. One of my favorite segments of the show was when they’d visit some antique/junk store in Minneapolis and show how they turned “trash” into “treasure.” Of course this appeals to me; I think it’s an inherited trait — my grandpa is a self-styled dumpster diver and is always finding new uses for old things. I’ve already shown you my tin-can lanterns and wine rack. I’ve also been known to make wrapping paper from meticulously flattened Hershey Kiss wrappers (just to wrap a cd; I don’t hate myself enough to make a whole roll of the stuff). I’m all about using what’s on hand! Which brings us to today’s project.

My kids have been acquiring coloring books like crazy lately and we’ve been running out of places to keep them. Time for a new coloring book holder. The supply list is pretty simple.

$1 for the contact paper, however much for Cheerios that we already ate, and scissors I already have. Cheap.

  • Costco-sized cereal box
  • Contact paper
  • Scissors
  • And maybe a pen for marking

I’ve also used large oatmeal boxes. The box just has to have enough depth to accommodate the width of the coloring books (or magazines or notebooks) and the cardboard should be somewhat sturdy.

Step 1a: Cut off the top flaps of the box.
Step 1b: Cut off excess height from the top of the box, leaving a couple inches above the height of the book for protection.

See how your box and book compare, size-wise

Step 2: Cut down about 1/3 off the front of the box to make it easy to remove the books (and to put them back, of course! Because that’s the whole point of this thing).

Ok, so I forgot to take a picture of the opening until after I'd finished it.


Step 3: Lay the box on the wrong side of the contact paper to measure out how much you will need to wrap around the entire thing. Leave an inch or so to fold over the cut edges and a couple inches to overlap on the bottom of the box.

Look! It's actual Contact brand!

Step 4: Slowly begin peeling back the contact paper and rolling the box over it to make it nice and smooth. Before you fold down the extra flaps at the top and bottom of the box, make a snip into each corner for the flaps of contact paper to fold over smoothly.

Inside top of the box

Bottom o' the box. I suppose you could cover the whole thing if you were so inclined. I am not.

Step 5: Fill it up with all those stray coloring books! Ta dah!

Ahhh, nice

Super easy and it looks so much better than just having a Cheerios box permanently on display. The contact paper makes it look nice enough that the kids no longer perceive the box as  fair game trash. Other boxes I’ve made like this have actually lasted for years, which is longer than some of their toys.

So there you go. Start rounding up all those flimsy books and magazines and make them a new home!