Friday, March 01, 2013

Soft Toy Carrier/Mat

The Lego Bags are still going strong. So strong that one is being used to hold a bunch of Lego sets for the school's big fundraiser tomorrow night. The crochet t-shirt bag is also being pressed into service. It's the perfect home for the pile of crafting supplies. Both are part of a silent auction to benefit the school's PTC. (We're too frugal to pay to license the letter O.) Someone else is finding colorful plastic bins to hold two more sets of stuff, and the teachers are putting together a couple of book baskets.

Which left a pile of educational and preschool toys. Knowing that I had a pile of cute animal print fabric at home, I volunteered to make a bag for that. I found a pile of quilting fabric for the outside and a sheet from my grandfather's medical practice for the lining. (He had lovely linen sheets that softened with age and are still quite thick. It was light therapy, using giant lamps to treat skin and respiratory ailments, so nothing in the way of bodily fluids in his office.)

I decided to make a playmat bag, similar to the Lego ones, but without the plastic signs for stiffening. I did add one layer of stiff painted canvas in the center, to help things stay a little neater. I'll leave it up to the bidders to decide whether that's enough. The center fabric, a chalkboard theme, is left over from the sashing of a retirement quilt for our retired and now out of retirement interim principal. The cats and dogs and dinosaurs were purchased with an eye to making clothing for the girls. I think there's one finished skirt and a dress that got cut out but never sewn. I'm glad to see the fabric get used before they completely age out of it.

I really don't like velcro, so I went with a giant button to fasten the sides up. The handles are wide grosgrain ribbon doubled up for strength. My one concern now is that it is too gender-neutral and might be perceived as being too babyish. Then again, the toys include Wonder Pets and Thomas the Tank Engine Colorforms, so it may play beautifully to an age group that hasn't gotten too gender segregated yet. Now to buy the block and tackle off the winner to use in our house!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going to the Dogs

The first half of February was completely filled with cookies. One daughter sold over 350 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. We picked up 32 cases on February 2 and still have a few boxes left to mail out to family nationwide. The other daughter sold Doggie Do-Right Biscuits, to benefit World Wildlife Fund and the Northeast Animal Shelter.

One very generous dog-loving friend ordered 10 packs of biscuits for her dog and her dog-in-law. Well, with an order like that, ziplock bags just were not going to be enough. A quick trip to the fabric stash revealed some dog fabric! Purchased for the dog-loving daughter but never used. On the Monday after the blizzard, when I knew I had to get the biscuits out or they'd never make it to California in time for Valentine's Day. So I measured the bags of biscuits and the box they had to fit in. And I whipped up a couple of these bags. Simple construction, unlined, sewn mostly with the serger. They're a bit long for a lunch bag and a bit small for a grocery bag, but they served their purpose and maybe the recipients will find them nice enough to save or to use to wrap a present for another dog.

The verdict on the biscuits is in already.

" "WOOF, WOOF, lick, lick, slurp, WOOF, WOOF" a thousand licks more from Macy. She is not a treat dog, but she is going crazy for your Doggie Do-Right Biscuits. Thank you and I LOVE the bag."

"My cookie order was spot on, but I just wanted to tell you how much my pup enjoyed the peanut butter dog treats.  She’s very picky about food in general, but wolfed these down with no delay.  Thanks!"

So if you have a dog that you want to make treats for, try this recipe. It seems even dogs appreciate fresh, top quality ingredients. I used uncured bacon (no nitrites) and all-natural peanut butter without any added salt. The recipe is adapted from one that came with a bone-shaped cutter, from the days before we even had kids. We used some fun shapes, too. A pig for the bacon biscuits. A peanut shaped cutter for the peanut butter biscuits. I took a pair of pliers and bent an egg-shaped cutter to make the peanut shape. Or you could make little balls and press them with a fork so they look like peanut butter cookies for humans.

Doggie Do-Right Biscuits

2 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp fat (bacon grease, plain peanut butter or more butter)
2-3 strips bacon, finely minced, optional
1 egg
3 cups whole wheat flour, plus some for rolling
½ cup non-fat dry milk powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp wheat germ
1 ½ tsp nutritional yeast (not baking yeast)
2/3 cup cool water

Cream butter, fat and egg until well blended.  Blend in the minced bacon, if using.
Stir together the flour, milk powder, salt, wheat germ and nutritional yeast.
Add flour mixture and cool water alternately to wet mixture. Knead 2-3 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼” thick. Use cookie cutters or a pizza cutter to cut out shapes.
Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 25-30 minutes.
Allow to cool thoroughly before letting your dog in the kitchen.

Duct Tape Clutch (guest post)

My 4th grade daughter made this clutch.

My school had a Beat the Blues Breakfast yesterday. They also had crafts. One of them was working with duct tape. A lot of kids were making purses, so I made one too. It's really simple, except for the bow. First I made a sheet of purple "fabric". (Here's a basic tutorial to make the "fabric".)  Then I folded it over not quite half way to make the pouch part of the purse. I put silver tape along the ends to close it up. I put a strip along the edge of the flap to make it look pretty.

For the bow, I folded a piece of turquoise tape and folded it in half. Then I folded it in half again and "tied" it with a thin strip of pink tape. My mom figured out how to attach it to the purse flap. She cut a slit and used another strip of pink tape to go around the bow and through the slit. Then I put a square of tape over the ends of the strip and another on the other corner so it would match. I taped a length of green cord to the inside of the flap and I was all done!

January 2013 - Presidents' Day Comes Early

I have this friend. She's British but took US citizenship a few years back. For some reason, she's absolutely obsessed with the New England Patriots and most everything American football. She's also a committed Democrat and quite fond of the President. Her daughter suggested that if one could find something with Tom Brady and Barack Obama on it, that would make the perfect present.

Well, her birthday is coming up, so I took up the challenge. You might not be surprised to find that such a product does not exist in the commercial marketplace. I was momentarily excited when I searched for Brady + Obama and got a hit, but it was campaign gear for some Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania. Humbug.

To Spoonflower I went to find some Obama fabric. What do you know, there are artists who designed fabric with his image! I was surprised, but only at the small number of designs available. So I went with the antique looking one in the linen-cotton canvas. Then I searched for Tom Brady fabric there. Not so much overlap between artists and football fans. And probably a whole lot more copyright issues. So I got some basic licensed Patriots fabric from Again, surprisingly little selection, so I went with the one that matched the PoTUS stuff.

A simple small tote, with handles made of the last of the Patriots material. Reversible. Washable. Very Vanessa. Don't tell her yet, because her birthday's not for another 10 days. Hint hint.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Week 50 or (Teacher) Goodie Bags

We're heading off for a few days, including Christmas, in the mountains. Not that we're necessarily going skiing or hiking or snowshoeing. Or really anything involving the outdoors. The hotel has a fancy pool, with big and little water slides and a hot tub. There's an indoor water park at another hotel in town. And there are outlets. Shopping as well as electrical.
That's an 18" ruler. I cut the round piece freehand.

Ready for a roller skating sleepover.
With gifts like these, you need a fancy bag.
Before we leave, we need to get through one more day of school, though. Which means I need to kick it into gear with the goodies for the teachers. Most people stick with a small something for their child's teacher. But I was raised by a teacher and a crafter/student. And my husband was raised a giver. He always overspends on gifts and he'd rather err on the side of generosity, be it in sending MP3's, tipping waitstaff or giving to teachers. So we get something small for every person who has contact with our kids. This year that's 12 people. Make that 14, but it's too late to make another 2 bags, so gift certificates it will be for them.

My dad gave us some lovely shiny material a few years back. Maybe he wanted me to make him a vest out of it. Maybe it was for a dress for the girls. In any case, it has been sitting and now it is going out. Last weekend, I made a gift bag for a birthday party my younger daughter attended. I dare say, I would not have minded getting that bag with my own birthday present in it. (It's not the same when you make it for yourself.) A simple not quite perfect circle as a base. A rectangle for the body. A bit of satin cord. An hour later, there was a bag.

The gift tags are this free printable.
Crazy detail: teacher's names used to finish the drawstring casing.
(Zoom in if you need to see it for yourself.)
The other material lent itself better to flat, square bags. More random pattern. More easily cut randomly. Which is what you need when you want to just slice across and down and not worry about whether you cut a giant motif in two different directions. I meant to get more ribbon for drawstrings on Monday. Luckily I had ribbon lying around waiting for a project.

Four larger bags for the teachers in the homerooms and 9 small bags for the rest of the staff. Yes, 9+4=13. One bag went to the younger child before I realized my miscount. Note to self: make the gift list from the staff list, not from memory, next year.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Week 49 or Double-Upcycled Super-Fancy Gift Bag

Some time in college, I thought it would be fashionable to cover the yoke of a dress in shimmery black buttons. They were in the nickel bin at Windsor Button. (Ooh... shiny.... buy now, find purpose later...) I made a simple green/black iridescent sheath dress. I sewed 40 black buttons on around the neckline. But only in front. It looked fine lying flat on my bed, but the weight in front couldn't be overcome. And nobody but a stick-thin model with a padded bra will ever look good in a sheath dress. So I wore it once or twice and then packed it away. By the time I got it from the basement of my parents' house 20 years later, it was musty smelling and had mysteriously gotten holes in random places.

Fast forward to Sing Along Mary Poppins 3 weeks ago. (Time flies. I thought it was months ago, but Thanksgiving weekend really was just 3 weeks ago.) Older daughter simple MUST have a costume. She goes rummaging through her stuff and finds nothing. Then she hits my closet and finds The Dress. Which she is astounded to find I am willing to cut up for her. So I do, taking the bottom 8" to make a ruffle at the hem and shortening it to girl length. Except I made it TOO short and now she needs something else to wear. Grr... we need to leave for the movie in minutes and she still doesn't have a hat! Take one mom-sized white Oxford cloth shirt. Turn button-down collar into Peter Pan collar and do some fancy buttoning on the cuffs. Add Mom's sleeveless dress that's maybe too short for a proper mom but is below-the knee and really drop-waist on a 9 year old. Run like heck to the hat store downtown to find the perfect flat-brim blue felt hat. Make it to the movie in time for the costume parade!

All this left me with a completely unwearable shiny green dress with 40 buttons on it. Not even the little sister will wear it. So I cut off all the buttons, along with the top of the bodice. Which happened to be where most of the mysterious holes were. (Perhaps there's some silk in there and some weird decomposition happened. The holes don't follow perspiration or wear patterns. Some are at the edges and others in the center. You may even be able to spot the patches in the top photo.) I sewed it shut roughly along the line of the armpits. (No potential for perspiration-driven decomposition now!) A strip from the lining became a casing for a drawstring. The end of a roll of black ribbon left over from... some craft project from the turn of the century. And now we have a very shiny drawstring gift bag to fit somebody's Christmas present in.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Weeks 47 & 48 or Fancy Wino Bags

Uh. Oops. I got swamped and then I got sick. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

The craft fair I've been dithering over is coming up this weekend, so I got down to business. I finally called the organizer and got the correct date. Thankfully it wasn't last weekend, because I don't think passing out, coughing raucously or sneezing on the merchandise is all that good for sales. Especially when they're also holding a luncheon in the same room. So if you're in the area, stop by Grace Church, across from the library, between 10 and 2 on Saturday.

After making the call, I promptly got sick. Yet another perk of having kids. Although they do force you to get "better" a lot faster. Or at least to get out of bed. There went the weekend, Friday noon to Monday noon, pretty much stuck in bed. Luckily I was able to bookend it with trapeze classes because the other thing going on this weekend is my superhero-themed show. Saturday night, 7:30, at Jordan's. And if you can't make that, the staff is putting on a more comprehensive holiday show, with several very talented performers putting on additional acts, on the 15th at 8:00. There are some serious professionals among them, so it's absolutely worth the price of admission, which is nothing beyond putting up with SRO accommodations and the horrendous acoustics of the Jordan's lobby.

Once I recovered, I had to think of something I could make, and sell, en masse. So I decided to make wine bottle gift bags. I still had large sections of a wine-red gown, so I dug that out. Then I saw a hideous sparkly green velvet shirt that I had thought might turn into a winter church dress for one of the girls. They never bit and I never pushed, so now was its time. Target had some little spools of ribbon in otherwise useless lengths, so I got those for drawstrings. Who else needs 18" of ribbon? Seriously, that is just rude. You know some poor kid found that in the dollar section and was all excited to wrap things in it. Then they got home and it ran out before they even got it off the roll. Grr... great for me, though.

I didn't want to go out and buy fabric to line the bags with, so I folded over a large section at the top. I figured the chances of anyone ever looking below the neck of the bottle were pretty slim. The bags look fully lined when they're tied up, and presentation is what it's all about anyway.

So, the super quick, not for beginners tutorial. Cut a rectangle of fabric 14" wide and 21" long. If you're using material with a finished edge, put that along the 14" side. Fold it right sides together and sew along the 21" and now 7" edges. Make box corners on the bottom. Fold over (to the inside) about 4" of the finished edge and sew it down close to the edge. If there's a wide hem, use that as a casing. Otherwise, sew about 3/4" from the first seam to make a casing. Turn the bag right side out. Use a seam ripper to make an opening in the casing and insert your aforementioned otherwise useless 18" snippet of ribbon. Insert bottle and you're good to go for a party on Park Avenue or in Park Avenue. It's the world's classiest paper bag. And I've got 10 of them, 6 red and 4 green. But only one has the sparkly buttons.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 46 or After the Election

I made or fixed or started a bunch of projects this week, but none of them were bags. I patched the knees on some kids' pants. I started knitting a purple penguin. I almost finished a sock. I started a second sock for a different pair. I wrote a bunch of grant award letters and sent out award ceremony invitations. And I made a couple of little boxes as tests.

During the election season, I noticed hundreds of corrugated plastic signs littering people's lawns. (not that they swayed my vote, I just saw them. As raw materials.) After the election, I don't know where they all went, but they sure disappeared fast, and very few of them were in trash cans or recycling bins. Believe me, I looked for them. It's not like they fit in a regular barrel.

I did see a truck driving around collecting some of the more outlandishly large ones, so if I want those, I'll need to make a phone call (shudder) to a political campaign office (shudder some more) sooner rather than later (oh, just forget it). I got a stack of small signs from friends, so I'm all set for bag liners. I'll stiffen up the Lego bags that are filling my life now. I added stiff bottoms to the bags I made last week.

I wanted to see how well they'd work as boxes, so I made some little prototypes. Here's one of them. It only took up half a sign, so it's about 4" x 6" x 4". I figure if I use a whole sign, I could make a waste paper basket. How very appropriate! The giant signs could make an entire trash barrel. Or a compost bin, with a little duct tape to seal the seams and a gasket around the top. The circle of nastiness would be complete. And all for the low, low price of $5,000,000,000 every four years!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 45 or Lined Lunch Bags

I didn't even think about it until I sat down to write this, but these bags sum up our household politics. Red and blue. Pretty evenly split with white flags at the ready. It's been a tough week, but we seem to be coming out the other side still stitched together and ready to make lunches.

It's a standard size bag, copied from little shopping bags and apple picking bags. Perfect for Mom and apple pie. Lined with rip-stop nylon. Durable, washable, wipeable, small enough to carry, large enough to hold a small picnic.
A bit late, but not too much. And once again, I've made multiples. Three this time. Each just like the others. And stiffened on the bottom with discarded lawn signs from the election.

As I approach the end of the year, and the end of my initial commitment to this project, I need to remember that the last few weeks I've been over-producing bags and have actually sewn enough to finish out the year. But I'll keep going for at least a few weeks. And probably, because that's just the way I am, into the new year.