handmade holidays :: gifts for family

this was my surprise gift for family members (and one friend, too). rice packs, sprinkled with a bit of lavender oil.  the rice itself is in its own separate sack.  the linen shell is to make it all look nice.  it closes neatly with velcro.  in the microwave for half a minute or so and they transform into an aromatic, cozy heat source. imagine one of these in the bed before you crawl in…mmm, warm toes! now that is what winter is about.  i got the idea from this tutorial at the ever-inspiring sew mama sew.

I have been crazy about linen lately. I love, love, love the way it feels and how it creases so easily…makes it easy to work with. it’s got such fluidity and softness. also, it’s made from flax. and, that is just neat. check out this incredible site with one of a kind linens. oh, so hard to steer clear from needless fabric shopping!

I will admit it was a little hard to let these go because, of course, I didn’t get around to making one for our family.  but, that is one of the best things about January.  it’s a big strip of time, energy and efficiency stretching out in front of me. so much that can be done! and, it will be done well! and cleanly!  and I will be fitter! I promise to keep you abreast of how that all works out.

in the meantime, watch for more handmade holiday gifts to come. and, happy new year!

advent and adios

our advent calendar was a raging success. both of our boys love a predictable routine anyway and the morning draw of the day’s advent only added to their joy.  it was really fun to have an activity each day even when it was a simple one.  we did lots of ‘making’ and they loved knowing that an activity was coming in the afternoon, it made everything run smoother.  no lie.  I’m trying to figure out how to keep up something like that during the rest of the year…maybe a really big family calendar of some sort. anyway, her is the run down on some of our favorite activities:

*two kinds of snowflakes…one made of paper (a major success!!) and the other from a way-too-fussy Martha Stewart thing that was mostly a disaster.


* decorating really big snowmen to hang up on the wall. this activity was actually an on-the-fly response to having an advent activity that read “build a snowman” on one of the many warm weather days we have had in these parts.  (it’s getting really old.  I’m starting to shake my fists and rant “we need snow!” to no one in particular).


* we built a ‘snow castle’ from white christmas lights  in a cardboard box. i got the idea here, which incidentally is a fantastic site full of great kid-craft ideas.  in fact, I think most of my ideas might have actually originated here.

* a door wreath out of a wooden wreath with pom-poms glued onto it. we used clear glue, which is really impressing me these days.  it honestly dries clear.  I got the inspiration for this from here, even though ours is nothing like that, it is what sparked the idea.

  *and shrinky dink ornaments! I am pretty sure that I let out a little squeal when I saw shrinky dinks in an art supply store. and, they are just as much fun as I remember. both boys loved how they shrink and they were able to color on them the way they would like to and still have the final product turn out small like a real ornament.  word! next year might be the ‘year of the shrinky dink filled Christmas tree’.  we will see.


but, this year is nearly done and all remaining energy is now being diverted to the cooking and kitchen fussing…it must be done. so, we are unplugging (mostly), grabbing the cookbooks and the wine.  it’s Christmas time! have a beautiful and relaxing holiday friends!

music to sew by

I realized today that I do not remember a Christmas season that didn’t involve making things by hand.  I just simply cannot think of a time that needle didn’t meet thread in the name of Christmas.  I know it happened because I didn’t really start sewing in earnest until after college but I just don’t remember what the lead up to Christmas was like then maybe instead of sewing I was baking or making something out of paper (I’ve had lots of weird phases).  maybe I just went shopping…and that was that. maybe it just wasn’t very memorable…so I don’t remember it.


but, in the years since then they have become memorable…I mean who could forget the year I was wrestling blue flannel or decided at the last minute to make a quilt.  making is now ingrained in the tradition for me and the hum of the sewing machine is ingrained in Christmas for my family.  this week got busy on me…I thought it was all under control and then it just wasn’t.   I got a few commissions and decided to join an arts market this coming friday and KAZAAM! there went the calm and collected and in blew a frenzy.  but the good kind of frenzy.  and good music has made it even better.  so, since I can’t share what I’m making (I want surprises, damn it!) I thought I would share what has me shaking my head in my swivel sewing chair.  enjoy!!

Thao Nyugen–Bag of Hammers

Stornaway–I Saw You Blink

The Decemberists–This is Why We Fight 

Basia Bulat–In the Night 

and, if you are in town pop by and see me on friday at the artisan market off main street!!

bring on the Christmas kitsch!

I was lucky this year when a burst of creative Christmas spirit coincided with some organizational forethought.  it doesn’t always work this way.  in fact, far too often those two seem at odds with each other.  but, not this year! no sir. I ordered Christmas fabric (from here) in early November rather than thinking of it mid-December and then deciding it was too late.  it was a proud moment.  and, with that fabric I made us a table runner in full Christmas glory.


I like how this came together but I’m not exactly sure that I love it.  it’s a little bright and kitschy for me, in some ways.  but, I like the patchwork look and the mix of prints and solids.  the olive green adds something a little unexpected that is nice, I think.  but, I know the boys are going to love it. and, that isn’t something that can always be said about a table runner.

 I also used some of the scraps to make stockings for my husband and myself.  the top two in this photo.  the bottom stockings were made for the boys a few years ago and I like them a lot.  but, the stockings I had made for my husband and I were getting ratty and were pretty poorly made a long time ago.  so, time for an update! (thank goodness I had Christmas themed fabric on hand! what great forethought on my part!)


the quick and dirty guide to making these is as follows: I drew a basic stocking onto paper and then extended the top by 3 1/2 inches for the fold over and added a 1/2 inch all around for seam allowance. then, I cut 2 of liner, 2 of the outside fabric, and 2 pieces of light batting.  I decorated the outside fabric with appliqué circles–cut using my compass fabric circle cutter that is amazing and a little bit life-changing, by the way. also, with lightweight interfacing ironed to the back of the circles, they are much easier to sew on straight.

the lining stockings were sewn right sides together.  the now-decorated outside fabric was sewn the same way but with the batting sewn in at the same time–acting as the wrong side of the fabric.  then, place the lining stocking inside of the outside stocking with the wrong sides facing each other.  to finish, turn over the top 1/2 inch of the stocking and sew with a topstitch.  to apply the letter, I used a freezer paper stencil.  to add the ric-rac, I basically copied the way this tutorial applies it to cloth napkins.

our oldest, C, is in hard-core pre-reading stage and is constantly stringing random letters together and asking if it constructs a word.  “mama. what about L-Y-I-S-R? what does that spell?”  a part of this phase involves showing off his growing knowledge of letters and so he sometimes calls everyone in the family by the first letter of their name.  the other day on a walk when his little brother ran ahead and I sped up to keep pace he said, “Hey! M! J! Don’t leave C behind!”  at dinner, he said to Papa…”I love you K.” it’s totally awesome.  so, the fact that our stockings are hung with all initials is making me really, really happy. the fact that the house is filled to the brim with Christmas kitsch is also making me really happy.  I’m sure it is all going to make me undergo some kind of minimalism freak-out in january.  but, that’s ok.  that’s what Christmas is for, right?

sew mama sew giveaway winner!

thanks to all who are checking back after giveaway week! the winner was Rebecca from Our Busy Little Bunch! I hope you do get the time to make yourself a cross-body pouch, it sounds awesome.

it was so much fun to get to know new people, see new blogs and get into the insanity that is the SMS giveaway.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about what everyone is making and what they made when they first started crafting.  I’m blown away by how many of you made boxer shorts in school. really?! it seems an odd place to start with middle and high school students. but, hey. who am I to judge. maybe boxer shorts were proven in some scientific study to be the gateway into future crafting.  who is to say.

my favorite part, by far, though was reading about how many of you still have the very first thing you ever made.  it’s so precious, isn’t it?

as promised I will be posting a tutorial on making your own sewing weight and a recipe for lentil soup…just because. so, check back for that early next week.


dear spouse…

has your loved one developed a love of sewing? not sure? here are some tell-tale signs:

are they inspecting the seams of all textile-based items in your home? have they started turning paper bags upside down and muttering ‘just not sure how to account for the seam allowance’?  have you heard them cracking jokes about the blind hem stitch? noticed a lost look in their eye while they browse the crafting section at the bookstore?  are they frequently searching for places to ‘put a little table that no one will disturb’? did this blog post somehow land in your email inbox?

if you answered yes to any of these questions you should really consider surprising them with some sewing supplies this holiday. here are some good ideas:

1) a sewing machine (I know this is daunting. you can do it! look for one with regular and stretch stitches; the ability to drop the feed dogs; and a drop-in bobbin is extra nice…the Janome 2212 is a fantastic option as is the Janome Magnolia 7318. they are sold here as well as on amazon.)

2) a gift certificate for some awesome fabric. try Hawthorne Threads or Sew Mama Sew.

3) a crafting book! Bend the Rules Sewing is a wonderful beginner book but any of these will be delightful and swoon-worthy.

 4) a subscription to Stitch Magazine (it is hip, fun and comes with free patterns.)

5) thread. trust me on this…it sounds boring but is, in fact, the opposite.  a colorful pack of good quality Mettler or Guterman thread is like eating buttercream icing without the calories. btw, you want polyester thread in an assortment of colors.

6) a day of fabric shopping at this shop or this shop. this one is a double win…time away from all responsibilities and surrounded by scrumptious fabric.

7) a gift certificate for a happy stitch classes! oh yes, this is possible! just let me know how much and I will make a listing for you on the etsy shop. this is a super option because it means your lovely sewing-obsessed loved one can just pick the class she wants when the class schedule comes out and doesn’t have to worry about getting the payment in….p.s. $65 would be enough for one classes with a sewing salon thrown in! $95 would buy two classes.

UPDATED TO ADD** If they don’t already have it…this is a real winner: a 36″ X 24″ self-healing cutting mat, rotary cutter, and a clear ruler (photos below)!  sounds crazy, right? but these three items are otherwise known as the essential supplies for quick, proper cutting. they can get expensive so some sewers hold out on buying them. as a result, they would be an amazing (and super thoughtful) addition to a new sewer’s stocking. added bonus is that it makes you look like you really know about sewing!

essential supplies    

good luck! by the way, this year you will rock the gift giving! I can feel it.

are you looking for the giveaway? it’s one post down. sorry about that, I couldn’t wait too long to hand out these hints.

sew mama sew giveaway: a baby’s happy stacker kit!

WE HAVE A WINNER! It’s Rebecca from Our Busy Little Bunch! I’ll send you an email soon, Rebecca.

 it’s giveaway day! and I want to kit. you. out!

welcome to the happy stitch giveaway! this little kit of sewing goodies is intended to flesh out your sewing supplies with some good stuff and get you well on your way to making this beautiful ‘happy stack’ toy for a wee one!

let’s get to it.  this sewing kit includes:

A  Heather Bailey ‘happy stacker’ pattern (retails at $13).  I love getting people sewing and this pattern makes it nearly irresistible! to help you with your project, the kit also includes:

*) a happy stitch original…a handmade linen sewing weight so you can weigh down the pattern and skip pesky pins (if you’ve taken my classes…you know how I feel about pins).  it’s cute, very cute and I’m not just saying that.

*) some ribbon for the happy stacker.


*) a seam ripper with a bright light at the end (includes a new battery to help light up your seams as you rip them out…not that this is going to happen, of course…you won’t need it, I’m throwing it in just in case. wink.).

*) an assortment of quirky, vintage buttons…just for fun. you probably don’t want these on your baby toy but they are just pretty. and, pretty is good.


I’m also throwing in: a purple bobbin holder to keep those bobbins tidy (woot!) but it isn’t particularly photogenic so I don’t have a photo.

here is how to win:

*) leave a comment in this post (you have until December 16th and I’ll announce the winner by the 18th.  make sure your email is current so I can contact you if you win!) telling me about the very first thing that you ever made and what you want to make next! answer long or short, tell a story or a poem or simply write up a list of two! I don’t mind.  I will make my husband pick a number out of hat so the winner is random.

And, yes! I’m willing to ship internationally. Why not?

Don’t forget to check out all the other amazing giveaways this week! click below:

good luck! (and, don’t worry…because everyone is a winner in my book, I’m cooking up a little tutorial and a recipe for everyone that checks back on the 18th!)

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