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Midnight Village Advent Calendar :: a printable activity advent DIY

Printable Advent Calendar :: Midnight Village activity advents designed by a happy stitch

For the past three or four years our family has celebrated the build up to Christmas with an activity advent calendar.  As much as I love chocolate (and I really love chocolate! Make no mistake) I find the advent calendars with candy add unnecessary sugar to our diet and the holiday season is already a super-charged sugar-fest.  Plus, the spirit of Christmas is so much sweeter when we spend time together and do things for others….see what I did there? So, last year, when I was invited to create a holiday post for Skip To My Lou, I decided to design a printable advent calendar with activities; calling it the Midnight Christmas Village Advent Calendar.  I created easy activities intended to encourage family time and neighborhood and community connections. Some of them are a simply as giving each other a hug while others are more complex, i.e. “bake cookies for the neighbors”.  These are, after all, the things that really remind us how much we love each other.  A bit of chocolate or a toy just doesn’t have that lasting impact.  (Of course, if you use my design to make an advent calendar and fill it with toys and chocolate I won’t judge you.  Dude. I get it.).  Anyhow, this year I thought I would share this project here along with a few other alternative ways to use the same printable in a different style. (more…)

Paint-Dipped Plant Stool

Yellow Dipped Step Stool REscue Mission | a happy stitch project

It has been nearly a year since we moved, can you believe it?! Last year at this time, everything was chaos with boxes all over & I had a minor panic attack.  For real. Not saying that as an expression. I really thought buying a new house had been a huge mistake and nothing was ever going to be put away or organized and it just wasn’t worth it.  Someone casually mentioned that it takes a year to really settle into a house and my panic spiraled deeper. I need it all settled RIGHT NOW (like all of it settled immediately), NOT in a YEAR!  It seemed helpless to try at all.  I finally confessed my agitated mental state to a girlfriend and she suggested I make one area peaceful; she called it ‘making a sanctuary’.

The only spot I could find for this little patch of peace was the tiny landing at the turn of the stairs.  It’s so small it felt pathetic and sad and I thought it almost didn’t count.  I laid down a rug from my travels in India and filled it with plants.  Every time I passed through the landing I was reminded that one day the whole house might actually come together, too.  It worked. I could take a deep breath and calm down. Because of this, I have an odd amount of affection for our landing…just a tiny bit of real estate but boy do I love it.  The landing is a place I want to fill with plants and color and keep it my lovely sanctuary.  So, when my neighbors tossed out an old-beat up stool I snatched it up, repaired it, painted and polyurethaned it for the landing. (more…)

Silver & Gold, Charley Harper Christmas Stockings

In the swooping rush of the holiday season and the unwinding that followed, I never got around to blogging about these Christmas stockings.  My apologies for still talking about Christmas stuff but I had so much fun making these; our silver and gold, charley harper stockings.

Silver & Gold Charley Harper Christmas Stockings by a happy stitch

I knew that I wanted to make new stockings as soon as I opened up our box of Christmas and almost gagged looking at all of the bright red and green.  Our old stockings were made a long time ago and I was just sick of them (and all of our “overly Christmas-y” decorations, to be honest).   I fell in love with Nurture; the new Charley Harper line of fabric while shopping at my favorite fabric shop and nabbed four prints along with silver and gold Cotton + Steel basics.  As you can see, we don’t have a fireplace, so I put small hooks into the underside of our side table and placed wooden animals on top of the table to hide the hooks. (more…)

Happenings at Home

Oh dear. I didn’t expect to be away from this space for over a week but it has been a while, hasn’t it? Thanks for all the kind words about my poison ivy, it has mostly cleared up.

It’s no excuse for my absence but we do have lots of exciting happenings at our house right now. The biggest is that we are heading on vacation to Ireland in a week! We leave the day  after school ends for C. (J is already done with preschool, which is lending itself to a real, true ‘summer’ feeling around here. He and I have already gone for pedicures, which are his favorite thing now.)

My husband’s extended family live in Ireland so we will be visiting lots of family in addition to the regular touristy stuff.  I think we all have that mix of insane excitement and mild trepidation that precedes a big trip.  It’s hard for us parents to get our heads around how our picky eaters will survive when faced with restricted food choices but surely we will be ok.  Right?  That aside, it’s our first international trip as a family of four and what better place to go to than the lush and green Ireland!  It’s going to be a true getaway.

We’ve also gone completely World Cup crazy.  Have you been watching the games? We are living and breathing World Cup 2014.  I’m not even a sports fan and I’m keeping track of who is playing who on every given day with genuine thrill about the whole event.  C & J both have these sticker albums that you fill with stickers of each player on every team, they get a pack of 7 stickers a day for an album with over 600 stickers…the albums fill sloooowly.  But, it’s all the boys want to talk about.  I was getting a little worried that they were too obsessive.  They are literally doing one of three things at any given moment: 1) watching one of the World Cup games, 2) pouring over their World Cup sticker albums and discussing teams or 3) playing soccer in the back yard for hours on end.  They have never slept so hard at the end of the day, their brains and bodies are facing pure exhaustion.  Parents are approaching me at the end of the school day to report their kids are coming home full of analysis of upcoming games, all information gleaned from my sons.  J wandered over to our neighbor’s house at 6:50 this morning to report yesterday’s scores in the USA game. Seriously, it’s obsessive.

I decided to stop worrying about future OCD and bring a little craft to the craziness.  So, on a quiet afternoon this weekend, I pulled some toilet paper rolls and egg crates out of a bin I keep in the basement and I cut out 24 little men in soccer uniforms.  My husband even helped make some of the faces because he is a great dad and great at drawing.  The plan was to make two soccer teams that the boys could decorate.

soccer players made out of TP rolls

We didn’t finish all 24 players but we all sat down together and made some toilet roll men for a good hour or so.  Team jerseys were invented as were referee jerseys and goal keeper colors decided.  The boys got excited about making fans and using the egg cartons as bleachers and, well, the ideas were grand and involved but the interest waned early.

Toilet Paper Roll Soccer Players for the World Cup 2014

And wouldn’t you know, the next afternoon J was building a castle and our soccer men had been reinvented as knights protecting the castle.  Finally! A non-World Cup related activity!  Never would have guessed at that result.

I’m hoping to squeeze in a tiny bit of sewing in between teaching my last class, preparing for vacation, caring for J and everything else that needs doing around here.  I’ve also made lots of clothing lately and hope to find some time to share all of it here before we are off next week. That’s what our summer looks like! Why does it feel like it’s already over? Is there a name for that phenomenon? Over before it started, I guess.

Pink Piping Eyeglass Pillow

Super Awesome Eyeglasses pillow with pink piping! | made by a happy stitch

Every time I make a pillow I think of that scene from Sex in the City when Charlotte is getting ready to go to bed and she just keeps pulling pillow after pillow off the bed.  A scene invented to point out how ludicrous it is to have so many bed pillows.  Yeah, that one. My husband loves that scene, it proves one of his long-standing beefs with my love of decorative pillows.  But, how could I resist this pillow? This pillow is not to be denied.

Super Awesome Pink PIping Pillow | made by a happy stitch out of echino and Liberty piping

It’s another sample for one of my upcoming classes at Rock Paper Scissors. I was so excited to get to work with more echino fabric. The pattern is my own design and super simple, as pillows usually are. I decided to make my own piping for the pillow and couldn’t resist playing with some Liberty of London Lifestyle I’ve had for a long time.  Somehow the small print with hot pink and hints of bright green were just exactly what this mostly-neutral pillow needed. I love this pillow. Really, the eyeglasses print is just too great.  As a four-eyed person myself, I really appreciate being able to celebrate the nerdiness sometimes. Especially with a little pink thrown in, huzzah!

Super Awesome pink piping echino pillow | made by a happy stitch

It has a zipper closure on the back so it can be removed and washed.  This class is considered a part of the Beginner Sewing series because I teach how to easily put in a zipper and add piping but everything else is a cinch.

Like I said, this is a class sample so it is living at the shop right now but you had better believe I plan on placing it on my bed as soon as I get it back home.  Prepare yourself to be amazed, husband.

In addition to this pillow and the smolderingly adorable Geranium Dress I talked about yesterday I’m also teaching The Washi Dress and PJ pants starting soon.  So, go sign up you! You know it will be an awesome time!

classes collage spring 2014 |  happy stitch at rock paper scissors

A handmade, portable performance stage

The handmade stage from a happy stitchMove over Partridge Family! We are nurturing some serious musical talent over at our house these days.  Ah-huh because this lady made a portable stage that transforms the living room (or any room) into a performance space.

portable instant stage from a happy stitchIt was just about the simplest thing ever.  In fact, except for one trip buy two tension rods, I made the stage in 20 minutes while sick with the stomach flu.  That’s how easy it was to make.

And, we are having so much fun with this thing!  Both boys are busting out the instruments and making up songs.  The singing is long & the tunes are totally aimless.  The kind of songs that mark childhood.  The kind of songs that don’t make much sense and sort of just trail off only to gain a second wind as soon as you start clapping because you think the song is over.  That kind of song.  It’s awesome and providing for many wide grins on the grown-ups faces.

Performing on the adjustable, portable stage in our home - a happy stitch

Look at that lovely face so intent on his guitar picking!  The cuteness just kills me. I love it.  Our guys can be pretty shy about performing in front of others. At home they want to dance and sing and play instruments but at school…no way.  So, it has been extra sweet to create a little place they can do all of those things to their heart’s content.

performing in front of our portable, instant stage - a happy stitch

This guy has started writing out his songs and practicing them.  This song was about Ireland and all the things you see in Ireland like rocks and cows (!).  It was basically the best song ever.

performing in front of the portable stage - a happy stitch


Portable, instant stage - a happy stitch

I made this instant, portable stage out of a product called Smart-Fab.  The company got in touch and offered to send me a sample.

Smart-fab is basically the ‘fabric’ that they make reusable grocery bags out of.  You know it kind of feels soft but also like it might be made of plastic?  Anyway, you can glue onto it, sew it, staple it and it is malleable and pretty durable.  It doesn’t fray so it’s great for something quick and easy.

After I measured our archway and purchased two tension rods long enough to fit the whole distance, I simply cut up the Smart-Fab to the appropriate size & folded over the top  just enough that the rod could fit through.  That was it. Done!  Oh, and I did cut out some stars for the decorative portion at the top.  I did a terrible job cutting stars.  It’s kind of hard to cut stars without drawing them ahead of time.  I was sick, remember?  I wasn’t really into perfect little stars. You could do a better job with the stars.
making the instant, portable musical stage from a happy stitch

Anyway, hang that puppy up and we are ready to perform.  Since the stage uses tension rods, we can move it anywhere we want.  The living room, a bedroom, anywhere we need a stage.  It would obviously be very easy to make this same thing with plain old fabric but I do like the vibrant colors.

performance stage discussion

They also make for a nice background to pictures, don’t you think?

I might use the remaining sample of smart-fab to make a photo-booth kind of thing next.  Or, I was actually thinking it would be great as a kind of muslin fabric for difficult patterns because I could sew it and fit it on me so quickly and easily.  We’ll see.

P.S. Smart-fab has a pretty great Pinterest page and Facebook page that does lots of giveaway.   From what I can tell, a lot of teachers are finding it useful & teachers need free supplies so watch those giveaways!! Smart-fab sent me their product for free with no additional compensation and asked me to write about it.  My opinion about it is honest and wholly my own.

P.P.S. Can you tell I took these pictures on two different days before and after the boys got haircuts?  Ha!

How To :: Make a Faux Roman Shade

faux roman stades

Our house is tiny and we are always in need of curtains that don’t demand too much attention or space.  I was visiting a friend’s house recently and she had made ties to hold up a panel-like curtain shade and I thought it was brilliant.  I copied her idea and made a faux roman shade for our bathroom.  It fit the bill perfectly so I thought I’d share how to make it.

Supplies you will need: Curtain fabric (yardage depends on the size of your window so measure before you buy fabric), 4-6 yards of 3/4″ cotton twill tape, a good iron, sewing machine, thread and a tension curtain rod.

Measure and Cut:  Begin by measuring your window.  You will essentially be making a panel to fill the window so measure the height of the window and the width but don’t measure any crown molding.   Now measure once more…you know what they say about ‘measure twice, cut once!” Write these measurements down because measuring thrice is just silly.

To figure out how much fabric you will want to cut take the measurements you wrote down and add 2 inches to the width and 4.5″ to the length.  Cut that out of your fabric.

Next you will want to cut your twill tape.  Cut four pieces of twill tape to the length of your window plus 4″.

Start by hemming the sides of your fabric panel. Use your iron to press the long sides of the fabric over one 1/2″ and another 1/2″.  Sew both sides.
Making Faux Roman shades-a happy stitch

Repeat with the bottom of your fabric panel folding over one 1/2″ and another 1/2″ and stitching along that fold.

Once the sides and bottom are hemmed, fold over the top of the shade one 1/2″ and another 1.5″ inches down.  Press with your iron but don’t sew it just yet.  This will create the casing for the curtain rod but before we stitch it closed we need to attach the twill tape ties.

In order to be sure our twill tape doesn’t unravel we need to fold over the ends of the twill tape and sew them shut.  Now, this is just the kind of project that can be unnecessarily clumsy and frustrating because making tiny, bulky stitches is never easy.  To help us along, however, we will chain stitch the ends of the twill tape.

Chain-stitching the twill tape

Take each of the 4 twill tape pieces and fold over one of the ends twice. Pin in place.  Using a scrap bit of your curtain fabric begin sewing and then once it gets going feed in your twill tape ties, going one at a time until you have sewn them all (see picture above).  This helps them feed into the machine much more smoothly.  Go ahead and cut them apart from each other. Now you should have four pieces of twill tape that have one end sewn shut and one end raw.

Returning to the fabric panel, tuck the raw end of one of the twill tape ties on the wrong side of the fabric 2″ in from the side hem and pin in place.  Repeat on the right-hand side of the curtain top. How to make a faux roman shade 3

Moving to the right side of the fabric, take another twill tape tie and pin the raw end 2″ in from the side hem with the length of the tie facing the top hem. DSC_0095

The result will be one twill tape strip pinned to the inside of the fabric panel and one pinned to the outside of the fabric panel.  Repeat the same on the right-hand side of the fabric panel.

how to make a faux roman shadeNow you can go ahead and stitch along the top hem. Be sure to sew across all of the twill tape ties as you stitch.

making a faux roman shade

All in one go you will be creating a casing for your curtain rod and securing your twill tape ties.  Turn the curtain to the right side and fold the front-side twill tape ties down securing in place with one more stitch to enclose the raw edge.

how to make a faux roman shade

That’s it!  Now you can put the curtain rod through your casing, tie them up to the length you want and hang them in your beautified house!

making a faux roman shade

The fabric for this project was provided to me for a featured tutorial at Terry Fabrics where I am a contributor.

(gluten free) french lentil stew

Yeah. I know.  You are super busy making desserts and turkey glazes for your holiday meal.  But what, I ask you, are you going to make all the other days?  Huh?! What will you eat to counteract all the rich and sweet stuff?  Here is your answer: my gluten-free french lentil stew.  It’s also easy to make it vegan.

french lentil stew

I’ve been avoiding gluten, in earnest, for a year or two now and have been a vegetarian for decades.  To be honest, I long for a bagel and a beer like nobody’s business.   But, I love how good I feel.   Honestly, I’m a much healthier eater now that I can’t just fill up on bread & pasta.  This stew is the kind of meal that feels really filling but energizing at the same time.  Lentils are packed with protein and iron and nothing is quite as satisfying as a good, hearty stew for those days when you are working your butt off getting ready for the holidays.

A few quirky things:  I hate celery and avoid it at all costs.  I often replace celery with the stalk from broccoli.  Peel off the rough outer skin and the inside is sweeter and soft and yummy.  It provides the same watery addition as celery does but without the gross taste (did my celery-hate just pop to the surface?).

lentil stew prep

Also, french lentils are smaller and very different from regular green lentils.  They stay firm when cooked and are more toothsome.  A much better taste, in my opinion, in a stew because they don’t dissolve into a mush like green lentils.  So, don’t cheat…make sure you use french lentils!

Here it is, the iron-rich lentil soup that makes my house smell amazing and makes my vegetarian soul sing:


  • 1 finely diced onion
  • 3 cubed carrots
  • 2 stalks from broccoli, just the stalk, with the rough skin peeled off and finely cubed (or replace with 2 stalks of celery)
  • 2 Tablespoons oil (coconut or canola, whatever you like)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup french lentils, rinsed and sorted
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • splash of red wine vinegar
  • splash of worcester sauce (omit if you don’t eat fish)

In a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed saucepan sauté, over medium heat, the broccoli stalk, onion and carrot in the oil until the onion is transparent.  Add in diced tomatoes and the bay leaf cooking for another 4-5 minutes.  Throw in the lentils, vegetable broth, spices and splash of red wine vinegar and worcester sauce.  Bring to a boil and then cook for 20-25 minutes at a slow boil.  Enjoy!

Once your tummy is filled with this goodness, you will be ready to tackle the holidays head on! Go tiger!


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