Archive of ‘tutorial’ category

valentines day card 2013

meet the 2013 valentine’s day card!  this guy really needs love, can’t you tell?

he wants love

this little guy was actually born during a stamp-making project with the kids.  we made our own stamps using precut adhesive foam objects and cardboard blocks.  the cardboard actually came as packaging material with some furniture that we had delivered a while back.  it is thick and while it originally came in large slabs, it was easy to cut into smaller pieces that worked as the base for our stamps.  I think any thick cardboard would work just as effectively but it does help to have it be on the thick-ish side.  making the stamps was pretty simple.  each kid got a base and then free rein to put the foam objects on it with one important rule: words need to be on backwards.  also, some of the adhesive isn’t very strong so we glued most of objects on, even if they had adhesive backing.  a quick note: I quickly created an example for them because it can be hard for my boys to visualize that kind of thing…with backwards words and such.

happy stampthis was C’s creation.  as always, he was more interested in this project than little J.  C is learning to read and write and wanted to spell out the word ‘happy’ because he knew how to spell it himself.  and, that pretty much settles the debate…5 is, in fact, the awesomest age.

but, back to valentine’s day cards.  as the boys were doing their thing I started making my own stamp and settled on my little, stoic mustache’d heart with a simple message of hugs and kisses. I love me a little mustache man! I had some plain white cards so I stamped onto those cards and voila! valentine’s day cards.

vday card 2013I cut the heart and the mustache out of a plain sheet of foam but the eyes and letters were pre-cut and I used a glue stick to glue it all down.  easy, peasy.  to add color I used a stamp pad to stamp right on the stamp before placing it down on the card.  my cards all have little smudges of ink on the edges (even a little fingerprint) but if you aren’t lazy like me you could certainly wipe away the edges of the stamp before stamping onto the paper.  I also used the same colors for every card because I enjoy the look of uniformity but it would be fun to mix it up, too.

many mustache'd men I happen to think that a little smudgy patina adds character…or at least I like to tell myself that.  I do know that I love the serious longing in this guy’s little face.  like a hipster burt reynolds.

I mentioned yesterday, I also made decorative envelopes to carry these dudes in. (they looked a little lonely in a white envelope).  I thought I would be able to put everything in one post but I will have to save it for tomorrow.  there is an important superhero forklift operation that I absolutely MUST check in on right NOW!

art projects for kids :: design your own t-shirt!

this summer we did a few art projects that the boys really loved and I haven’t yet blogged about them so I thought I would.  this one—design your own t-shirt—was a huge success.    I got the idea from pinterest and this post.  the project calls for fine sandpaper, crayons, and a t-shirt with some degree of synthetic fiber mixed with the cotton.  most t-shirts are a mix anyway.  we bought the sandpaper and the t-shirts at the dollar store.  we happened to have fabric crayons so I used those, but they said regular crayons would work just as well.

[the reason that we happen to have fabric crayons is that if I see something that looks interesting (and by interesting I mean ‘in a crafty way’) I will buy it and cart it around with me for ages.  I have no idea how long I have had these fabric crayons but I do know they have survived at least one move…so over 8 years.  I will purge a lot of things but not craft supplies.]

back to the tees.  the technique is really simple.  the boys drew their designs onto fine sandpaper so that the wax of the crayons would really scrape off onto the sandpaper.  we also had to remember that any words needed to be written backwards because the image is flipped over to transfer it onto the t-shirt.  C wanted some words on his tee so  I wrote down what he wanted on a piece of paper backwards for reference.  I also reminded both boys to draw really hard because the image needs to be very strong to transfer effectively.

the sandpaper drawing is then placed, image side down, onto the front of the t-shirt and I put a piece of paper in between the two sides of the tee, just in case it leaked through.  with the iron at the cotton setting I pressed the iron down and held it for a good 10 seconds, then lifted it and did the same thing to cover the entire image…be sure to lift and press rather than move the iron along the surface of the image because that could blur it.  you can tell when the image has transferred onto the fabric because it starts to leak through the back of the sandpaper. and here is how they turned out:

C, our resident artist, drew a man whose whole body is an eyeball and is named milo (he also needed to sign his artwork so the arrow is to show which one is named milo! I know! so cute.)  J, who is definitely more of a truck man, joined in the fun with some scribbles.  they are both mad about these shirts.  as in bouncing off the walls crazy about them. so, I proceeded to dig up some plain white placements (see above note about the purchase of any and all craft supplies) and C made a placemat for each family members except for papa who was delegated to me.  my placemat featured a woman who is basically just a belly with legs…I am working on not taking it personally.  there was also a guy playing banjo in a tent and a kid next to a rainbow.  I made papa some stars and what turned out to be a backwards moon.  in my defense, I was pretty focused on making sure nobody bumped into the hot iron but it was still not my most creative work.

around the time of these t-shirts I was, in truth, prepared to write off the whole ‘project’ thing altogether.  over the summer I felt like I planned lots of activities that took 30 or even 40 minutes to set up and clean up but only occupied their time for 5.  then C got really earnest about his future (yes, at 5 years old) and was in a serious quandary about whether he should become an artist or not.  so, I declared it “art week” and we did an art activity every day that week, starting with these t-shirts.  and something amazing came out of it.  just by declaring it “art week” it gave each day a purpose.  the boys were telling strangers at the grocery store “it’s art week at our house!”.  everything un-fun that we did during the day was a little more tolerable because later we were going to have an art project.  and C took each project so seriously.  I followed his cue and did the same (I promise to share them all).  I even declared the next week “truck week” just to throw a bone to little J who loves trucks to no end.  I was reminded, once again, of how much these two boys love a good solid routine.

world’s best man for our dad

the boys and I woke up early this morning (well, ok, they always wake up early but I happily bounced out of bed with them this morning rather than trudging behind).  we were all still groggy from our vacation but we had important work to do.

it was father’s day, after all.

I had a very specific project in mind, inspired in part by all of the awesome garlands I’ve been seeing around, like this one here.  I wanted to make a clothesline-style garland with photos of papa being a papa.  then it occurred to me how much I love the way the boys say things.  so, I decided to ask them to tell me what they wanted to write and we added these quotes to the garland.  however, because we had been on vacation up until yesterday all of this was done quite swiftly in the wee morning hours.  this might have been a good thing really, because it came together quite nicely and I could have spent way too much time on it…if I had the chance.  and that is a pretty silly thing that happens to me a lot.

anyhow, the boys loved this project and came up with the most amazing things to say about their papa.  my favorite is this post title and some of the others are :

I love my papa and I love him from home.

I loved papa, cuddling with him when I was a baby.

papa is my father. I am very excited I am his son.

kieran is a lucky man we have for a dad.


papa woke up just as we were finishing and the boys could hardly contain their excitement.  they were literally running in circles and pointing at things.  it was a great, great start to the day.


we try to make a real effort around here to ensure that our experiences around holidays and birthdays are about making sure someone feels special and loved.  we don’t always get it right but for mother’s and father’s day I’m particularly keen to keep things handmade and heartfelt.  parenting, for all of its challenges, is nothing if not from the heart.

happy father’s day to the world’s best man for our dad.

make it :: sewing weight

one of the women in my fantastic tuesday night class this week enthusiastically reminded me of how wonderful it is to sew with weights.  (it’s not sewing while pumping ironing, which is how I’m making it sound.)

so let me explain because sewing weights are fantastic.  by weighing down a pattern rather than pinning it, you can trace directly onto fabric (with tailor’s chalk or another marking tool) and skip having to pin things down.  then you just toss the pattern aside and cut the fabric along your easy to see lines.  no more fussing with straightening the pattern, pinning its fussy self down only to find it has puckered up and needs to be re-pinned.  who has the time or patience for that?  technically speaking, anything can be used as a handy sewing weight…soup cans, scissors, pincushions, etc.  but, c’mon that isn’t very fun or very pretty. and, every once in a while it ought to be ok to indulge in making even the sewing process pretty.

so, now that you are sold on their unbelievable usefulness and the need for more pretty in the process, let’s get down to making one. I used random scraps of linen to make mine…it’s amazing how beautiful a little scrap of fabric can be and there is little more of a useful feeling than using up some scraps.

 1. hold up a piece of paper and trace this triangle.  yep, right on the screen.

 2. cut out 4 triangles

  3. with a 1/4″ seam allowance sew together one side of two      triangles.

  4. along another side of the triangle sew another triangle.

  5. folding the middle triangle in half, match the final open sides        and sew shut to form a three dimensional triangle.

 6. it should look like this.

 7. take the final triangle and set it along one side of the triangle you have already sewn.  sew with the same 1/4″ seam allowance you’ve been using all along.  this can get a little tricky, just be sure to sew only what you intend to and don’t miss something you mean to sew. (ha! I just realized that the preceding would be the rule for just about every stitch ever.)

 8. do the same stitch with the next side.

 9. sew a 1/2 an inch or so at the beginning and end of the final side, leaving an opening of about 2 inches in the middle of the final side.  then turn the whole thing inside out, exposing the pretty sides. (take a quick moment for a victory dance. it’s awfully pretty isn’t it!)


10. now…fill it up!  you may want to fill yours with something heavier than beans (which is what I used but it doesn’t end up all the heavy…heavy enough but not super heavy). you could use metal bits from the hardware store, I’ve heard of people using that to give it some heft. i digress a bit.  to fill, cut a corner off an envelope and fill it with your weight of choice.  this forms a convenient funnel for pouring into the opening you made. it works best if one hand is holding the funnel while the other is holding the sewing weight opening.

  11. last, hand sew the opening shut using a slip stitch or other hand stitch.

now…go sew like mad with your handy-dandy weights!

p.s. filled with poly-fill this would make a great pincushion for a gift to someone else or yourself.

a very mustache valentine

happy valentines day all!!

this morning my three boys (the two littles and the one big) got a little morning chocolate (!) and a love note in their felted pillows. but, we celebrated valentine’s day officially on sunday.  we had smoothies and pancakes for breakfast at our heart filled and decorated table. then we went bowling, it was big brother’s idea and it was great fun.

I had some last minute inspiration and pulled together  this year’s valentine’s card on saturday.  I’ve been seeing so many great uses for handlebar mustache props and then one night at dinner the boys made up an imaginary guy named Mr. Mustache and they couldn’t stop laughing about it. it gave me the idea to make them mustaches for their valentine.  it seemed a little more ‘boy’ than the hearts, sweetness and light I’m typically drawn to.

I made the mustaches out of shrinky dinks by drawing big mustaches and coloring them with permanent marker.  once it was cooked, I superglued them to popsicle sticks and stuck it through two slots I cut in the card. the card is just a flat red card stock I had around the house.  I printed the note on regular paper, cut around it with fancy scissors, cut out a heart in the middle and glued it on the red paper, then I used an exacto knife to cut two slits for the popsicle stick. it was easy enough that I was able to accomplish all of it while they were at the library with their papa.


we had a pretty good time playing with them.


hope your valentine’s day has a good dose of silly, too.

p.s. I have identified one thing that can suck all of the joy out of valentine’s day and it’s forcing my kids to crank out what felt like hundred of valentine’s for school friends.  sheesh! that was a little scary.

make it :: felted heart pocket pillows

this year, the three boys in my house are getting heart pocket pillows with a love note and candy tucked inside.  I made two different kinds…two hearts with the seams inside and one (for my husband) with the seams kept outside for a ‘raw edge’ kind of look.

it all started with a pretty honest moment between me and my closet.

no melissa, it really isn’t appropriate to wear a sweater that requires you to keep one hand permanently on your hip and never raise your left arm because of two ever-widening holes. give up the ghost, these sweaters are done.

so, fine.  the sweaters landed in my ‘felting’ pile and instead of lingering there I took charge and did actually felt them along with a few others that were waiting patiently.  to felt them, I cut the sweaters apart at the seams and threw them in the wash on a hot, heavy soil setting.  then, they were shipped off to the dryer on the highest setting.  I had to repeat that whole cycle once more to get them to truly felt.

they went from this……………………………………………………….to this.


once wool is I felted it holds together tightly and the edges don’t fray so it can be used for a gazillion crafting purposes. to make the pillows with hidden seams I used a pretty conventional method: cutting out two hearts from the felt; sewing a pocket on the front of one side and sewing them right sides together; leaving a small opening; turning it inside out; putting in some stuffing (and even shredded sweater bits for heft); and finally hand stitching shut the opening.

to make the raw edged felt heart I came up with an easy method that I’m going to share with you just in case you also have an honest-closet moment:

cut out a heart from paper (fold the paper in half and cut out a half of a heart; open the paper to reveal a heart just like grade school!!)  position two pieces of sweater felt and one small triangular swatch such that it will form a pocket at the bottom of the heart. place the paper heart on top of your sweater felt and pin it in place.


don’t cut around the pattern, simply sew around the pattern.  keep the paper in place, just pulling pins as you sewed like a conventional pattern but leave a small opening, about 2.5 inches without any stitches. it should look like this:

then, cut around what you’ve sewn and stuff in polyfill fiber as well as some of the remaining sweater felt cut into tiny pieces—it’s a great way to use up the sweater scraps and gives the heart a little heft.  last,  sew the opening and there you have it, a felted heart pillow pouch.

just for fun I hand-stitched on a little heart from another piece of sweater scrap. voila!

valentine idea :: from the archives

I thought I would share of my past valentine creations this week starting with these cards from last year.  I’m particularly proud of them because I got to use up fabric scraps AND sew on paper, which is a weirdly satisfying thing to do…it feels almost naughty. they are pretty simple and it’s probably pretty obvious how to make them but indulge me while I share what how I went about it.


I started by ironing my fabric scraps (cut cleanly using my trusty clear ruler, rotary cutter, and cutting mat) onto freezer paper.  freezer paper is this crazy stuff with paper on one side and a waxy coating on the other side and it just so happens that it sticks to fabric superbly when ironed.  you can find it in the grocery store, sometimes it requires a bit of hunting but most places seem to carry it.  I used the freezer paper to stabilize the fabric so that my cutting and tracing could be more precise.  next, I traced some hearts using cookies cutters onto the fabric using a fabric marking tool to make uniform heart shapes.

after cutting out my hearts, I peeled off the freezer paper and held them in place while I sewed them onto the paper.  you can’t really pin through the paper without actually making things more difficult and/or sloppy.  other than that, it’s just regular sewing, except it makes a cute punch-y sound while you sew.  I used alphabet stamps and standard stamping ink to print the letters.

easy-peasy.  and, so cute and modern looking…in my humble opinion. I had a few clear vellum envelopes leftover from some other card-making escapade and I especially liked how those looked when you could see through to the card as below. 

valentine ideas

I’m crazy about valentine’s day. it’s got none of the heavy expectations that come with other winter holidays.  and, in all honestly,  I’m just better at pulling together something special without all that pressure.  in fact, it’s not impossible that I have friends out there who have never received a Christmas card from me but have been getting hand-crafted valentine’s cards for years now. I plan to share more of what I’m making soon but, for now, here are some of the love day craft ideas that have got me inspired to make away.



top to bottom: {felted heart garland} {fabric heart cards} {heart zipper pouches} {danish heart pockets} {love mobile} {love song stenciled pillow} {heart enclosure envelope}

p.s. all of this (and so, so, so much more) is up on my pinterest page.

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