Wednesday, October 30, 2013

pillowcase dresses for craft hope

It makes me feel so good to be able to use my crafting talents for others, so last week I sewed a couple pillowcase dresses for Craft Hope.

pillowcase dresses for craft hope

You may remember my other projects (a sock monkey and aprons) that I have made for Craft Hope in the past. Craft Hope is an organization that distributes handmade items to people in need. Every few months a new project is posted on their blog. The current project is in cooperation with a charity called Sew Gorgeous that distributes simple pillowcase dresses to little girls in developing countries. These girls often have no decent clothing and to have something new and pretty to wear means so much to them.

pillowcase dress for craft hope

I used the pillowcase dress tutorial from Sew Like My Mom. It was super easy to follow. The fabric and ribbon was from my stash.

If you'd like to participate, the deadline for this project is November 8, so you still have enough time to whip up a couple dresses! 

pillowcase dresses for craft hope

I hope that these dresses make a couple little girls feel extra special and loved.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

denim olivia dress

I did it again... I just couldn't help myself and I had to make another Olivia dress for my daughter. {Olivia Dress by Craftiness is Not Optional... see my first Olivia dress here}

denim olivia dress

This time I made the sleeveless version in denim. It sewed up soo much faster since it was the second time around. I can honestly say I made the whole dress in one day! Can't believe that but it's true - during 2 short naps and the rest after my daughter's bedtime. Of course, didn't get much of anything else done that day... oh well, haha!

denim olivia dress

The cute mother-of-pearl star buttons are from my antique button collection. They have 2-way box shanks and are most likely from the mid to late 19th century. Yes, I'm that crazy button lady who actually does research. At first I didn't know if I should use antique buttons on a dress for my baby, but then I decided that she's totally worth it, and I think the buttons really make the dress! (Plus I still have two more of the same in my collection, haha.) Makes me wonder who else has worn the same buttons over the years and how many different pieces of clothing they have been sewn on.

denim olivia dress

I picked denim because it matches everything and it really does! I can pair it with tights or leggings or any color socks. She can wear a long-sleeved shirt or onesie underneath like a jumper and it looks super cute with a colored cardigan. Just wish she wouldn't grow quite so fast so that she can wear this for longer.

Oh well... if she grows out of it, I guess I will just have to make another. Darn. :)

denim olivia dress   

[Linking this project up to Kid's Clothes Week... a happy timing coincidence this time, but you can be sure that I will be sewing like mad during the next KCW!]

Monday, October 21, 2013

i love fall

I love fall. Have I ever mentioned that? (Oh yes, I guess I have... here and here and here.) No matter. It is different every year.

I'm still trying to get used to fall in Texas. It is certainly not as beautiful as fall in the midwest... the leaves change later or not at all, but I do still look forward to the cooler weather. It really makes me feel human again after a long, sweaty Texas summer. 


I haven't mentioned on here until now, but when my daughter was three months old, my husband and I had a long discussion and decided that I would be a stay-at-home-mom. At least while she is little. I feel so silly saying this, but it is HARD! I know working outside the home with a baby or children must be very difficult too, so I am in no way saying this is harder, just that it is way harder than I ever expected. I thought it would be a cake walk. I'd have time to crochet and sew and spend time outdoors, and plenty of time to play with a happy baby, and of course no trouble keeping the house clean and shopping for food and supplies and baking a beautiful healthy supper to put on the table each night. I'll just tell you right now... NOT ENOUGH TIME IN A DAY!! What was I thinking? I can't even go to the bathroom without a screaming baby in the background, let alone clean and cook... and hobbies??! what are they???! 

When you are a SAHM, there is just so much more pressure to be "perfect" and to get everything done. When I was working, if we went out to eat a couple nights instead of making dinner, or I didn't get around to vacuuming for longer than a week, or if we we were low on toiletries for a few days, or whatever, it was no big deal because we both had full-time jobs and we couldn't do it all. The thing is, taking care of a baby IS a full-time job, but people who don't do it all day just don't realize it (that's why daycare costs so much, dude!). Moms - ALL moms, whether they work outside the home or stay home with your kids - need to cut themselves some slack, because our job is 24-7. And that is hard no matter what.

Anyway, I'm happy to tell you that I have finally gotten into something of a groove... though it took a good 6 or 7 months to do. I really don't know if it is my daughter's age, or the change in season or what, but it feels good. I have a schedule for cleaning and cooking that I rarely veer from. I try not to stress if something doesn't get done. I have gotten back to crafting (after baby's bedtime, of course!). We get out of the house almost every day. Life is good.

That is not to say I won't be thrown curveballs here and there. Life with a child is never predictable and things are always changing. But I am trying to roll with the punches. And man, this beautiful weather helps so much!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

perfect caramel brownies

Ok, let's talk about brownie language. Not love language, but brownie language (though it's perfectly understandable for the two to be confused). Some people's brownie language is cake-like, others prefer nutty, still others like brownies with frosting and some might even like theirs crunchy. My brownie language is chewy, gooey, chocolatey and caramel-y. These brownies have my brownie language written all over them.

My mom has been making these brownies for years (even before Pinterest if you can believe that, haha) and I just can't get enough of them. I know there are already a million different caramel brownie recipes out there, but this one is so good that I just have to share. I'm not even afraid to call them the perfect. caramel. brownies.

perfect caramel brownies

To start with, you only need 5 ingredients! Can't beat that! [disclaimer: If you prefer to add nuts, you will actually need 6 ingredients... remember to be true to your brownie language!]
perfect caramel brownies

Ingredients:
  • 1 box Devil's Food cake mix
  • 1 bag caramels (you can use caramel bits like I did (so easy!), or the little wrapped square caramels - be sure to unwrap!!)
  • 1 - 5oz. can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (optional)

perfect caramel brownies

First preheat your oven to 350° F. Start by melting your caramels over the stove on low heat along with 1/3 cup of the evaporated milk, stirring occasionally. This is approximately half of the can of evaporated milk. Be sure to save the rest for the next step!
perfect caramel brownies

Once your caramel is melted, keep it on warm over the stove for a few minutes while we attend to other matters.
perfect caramel brownies

Now, mix the cake mix with the melted butter (or margarine) and the rest of the evaporated milk (~1/3 cup), stirring until moist.
perfect caramel brownies

Grease and flour a 9x13" pan (annoying, I know, but you'll be glad you did it!) and then add half of your batter mixture. It won't seem like enough and you'll have to spread it out thin with a spoon to cover the pan, but I promise it will all work out in the end!
perfect caramel brownies

Now, pop that pan in your preheated oven for 6-8 minutes. It will just start baking and begin to puff up.
perfect caramel brownies

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the mixture. 1 cup is recommended, but I find that more is always better. Remember your brownie language!
perfect caramel brownies

Then pour the melted caramel over the chocolate chips. You'll probably need to carefully spread this to the edges with a spoon or a knife. Looking good... can't go wrong here!

Ok, now this is the kind-of-messy part. You need to dollop the remaining batter on top of the caramel by small spoonfuls. You can use a spoon or you can butter up your hands and make flat little patties of dough to set on top. I've done it both ways, but this time it was really too sticky to do by hand. Just make sure that none of your batter "islands" is too thick. It will spread out during baking, but you still want it spread out over the caramel as evenly as possible. Here's what my brownies looked like at this point:

perfect caramel brownies

Now, just pop it back into the oven for another 15-18 minutes, and you're golden! 

A word to the wise: These brownies are waaay better after they have cooled. I will not stop you from eating them straight out of the oven (I still do the same thing, even though I know better). But they will cut nicer and be much yummier after they have cooled and firmed up a bit.

Enjoy!! :)

perfect caramel brownies

Perfect Caramel Brownies

Ingredients:
  • 1 box Devil's Food cake mix
  • 1 bag caramels
  • 1 - 5oz. can evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup nuts (optional)
Melt caramels with 1/3 cup evaporated milk over low heat; keep warm. Mix cake mix with butter/margarine and remaining (1/3 cup) evaporated milk. Stir until moist. Spread half of mixture in greased and floured 9x13" pan. Bake at 350° F for 6-8 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with chocolate chips and half of the nuts. Spread caramel over all. Drop remaining cake batter by teaspoonfuls onto the caramel. Sprinkle with remaining nuts. Bake an additional 15-18 minutes. 

 perfect caramel brownies

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

nursery details: ruffle curtains (plus a tutorial!)

I hope you're not sick of all all the posts detailing my daughter's nursery... because I have another one for you today! This is a project that took me seven whole months to complete. Yes, I literally formed the idea for these curtains about a month before she was born... and I bought all the materials at that time. Then I didn't get my butt in gear and actually start working on them until she was about six months old. Pathetic, I know. In my defense, however, she didn't actually start sleeping in her nursery at night until she was four months old and we didn't really start spending much time up there until she was close to six months... That's when I realized how pathetic and empty it looked without curtains.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

Aren't they lovely??

I am very happy with how they turned out. At first I wasn't so sure, but that was only because I had seen the windows bare for so long that it looked weird when they were finally covered in curtains. I'm over it now and I love them!

ruffle curtain tutorial

And that's why I've decided to create a tutorial so that anyone who likes these can make some for themselves. If you're much of a sewer, you probably looked at the photos and know exactly how they were made already... if that's the case, good for you! This tutorial is geared toward the novice or occasional sewer who is less familiar with common sewing techniques (ruffling, for example!).

These curtains would be cute in any little girl's room... not just a baby's. They would even look great in an adult room, depending on the color scheme you choose!

Materials:
Curtains
Fabric for ruffles [I used 2/3 yard of fabric for each ruffle per pair of curtains, but this will depend on the length of your curtains and the width of your ruffles]
Thread

To start with, you'll need some curtains. I used Vivan curtains from IKEA because I wanted a bright, airy look. They are only $9.99 for a pair and to me it was totally worth it to avoid making the curtains myself. Oh, the hemming.... cringe. However, if you prefer to make your own curtains, please do. There are many patterns and tutorials online. You may even be able to find a better deal on fabric.  Oh, and just so you don't think I got off totally scot-free, however, I did have to hem the bottoms of my store-bought curtains to fit the windows.

Ok, now that you have finished and appropriately-lengthed curtains, you are ready to start adding ruffles!

First, you need to determine the length and width of your ruffle strip.

For the width: The strip will be folded in half width-wise, so cut the width twice as wide as you would like your ruffle to be. I cut my strips 6 inches wide because I wanted 3 inch ruffles.

For the length: You want a length about 1.5-2 times the width of your curtain section. A longer length will result in a tighter ruffle. Each of my curtain pieces was 57 inches. My fabric was 45 inches wide. So... for each curtain section I cut two strips and the sewed them together (right sides together!) to make a final strip that was 90 inches long by 6 inches wide.

ruffle curtain tutorial

Now that you have your strip, you're going to sew it into one long tube. Fold the strip in half along its length, right sides together (pinning if necessary) and sew with a 1/4" seam along the open side.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

Then, starting at one end, gently turn the entire strip so that the right side is out and the seam is on the inside of the tube. This will take some coaxing because the tube is so long, but just have patience. It may help a little to attach a large safety pin to one end of the tube and work it through.

ruffle curtain tutorial

Now that your ruffle tube is turned right-side out, you want to flatten it with the seam in the center of the back. If you want, you can iron it down. I didn't bother because ruffles don't really need perfection, but if it makes it easier for you to sew, go ahead and iron it.

Then tuck in the ends and sew them shut.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

Ok, now for the actual ruffling. We'll be sewing a two gathering stitches down the entire length of the tube. Use the longest straight stitch on your machine and sew a seam down one side of the center of the flattened tube. Do NOT backstitch to secure the ends. Then sew another down the other side of the center. Make sure to leave a length of thread on both sides. Sew your gathering stitches as close to the center seam as possible without crossing each other.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

Now, take the the top thread of each seam and gently pull while gently pushing the fabric up, gathering the fabric into a ruffle. This part can be very trying, but be gentle and patient and it will work. The reason we sewed two gathering stitches is that in the process of gathering them, one of your threads will probably break... and then you will have a second to fall back on. Trust me. I think it happened to me every. single. time.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

It worked best for me to gather the ruffle toward the center from one side, and then when that side was completely ruffled, to start from the other and gather that one toward the center.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

I prefer to gather the fabric as tightly as possible, but you just need to gather it enough so that your ruffle piece is slightly shorter than your curtain width.

ruffle curtain tutorial

Now that you have your ruffle ruffled, you need to mark where you want it on your curtain. I did a little experimentation and decided it looked best if the bottom ruffle was 15 inches from the bottom of the curtain. So I measured 15 inches from the bottom and made a light-colored line across the entire curtain.

ruffle curtain tutorial

Now pin your ruffle to your line, seam side down. I suggest finding the center point of your ruffle and pinning it to the center point of the line. Then gently loosen the gathers of your ruffle until it is the same length as the curtain width and pin it to the curtain.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

Now, just sew it on! Start on one end, and making sure to backstitch to secure, sew down the length of the ruffle.

ruffle curtain tutorial

ruffle curtain tutorial

You did it!

Now do this for each ruffle on the curtain. I spaced each of my three ruffles 6 inches apart.

ruffle curtain tutorial

Tips:
* As with any sewing project, be sure to determine the amount of fabric needed and purchase enough for the whole project at once. I didn't have enough of a couple of the colors and when I went back, the bolts of fabric of the "same color" were actually quite different because they came from different dye lots. This is especially noticeable in solid colors.
* When sewing the ruffles onto the curtain, be careful not to catch any extra fabric from the backside of the curtain in your sewing machine. I did this several times and had to pick out some stitches with my seam ripper. Annoying.
* Ruffling can be tedious and frustrating, especially if your threads keep breaking (just me? no?). If you are getting discouraged, scroll back up to the top and look at how cute your curtains are going to be! Then just keep trudging on.

Good luck and happy ruffling!

ruffle curtain tutorial

To see more details from my baby girl's nursery, please check out:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I sewed a dress!

I really, truly did! Hopefully this post doesn't come off as too much patting my own back... but I have to say I am really proud of myself right now! I always thought I would NEVER be the mother sewing clothes for her kids, but here I am... and I kind of love it!


This sewing journey has changed me in all kinds of unexpected ways... Now, every night after I put my daughter to bed, I just want to sneak up to my craft room and sew, sew, sew. Also, I could spend a fortune at Joann. Though that one is not new, I guess.

Anyway, back to the dress. 

I purchased and used the new Olivia Dress pattern from Jess at Craftiness Is Not Optional. I love her blog because she is so talented and also because I'm totally jealous of her 3 beautiful girls (though much less so now that I have one of my own). I think it's because I come from a family of 3 girls, and so does my mom!

I picked out the Croquet Tile Orange from DS Quilts Collection at Joann. I wanted something that was fall-ish in color without being covered in leaves or pumpkins or something, you know? And the buttons are from Joann too. Heaven knows I already have enough buttons to last a lifetime, but of course I didn't have the exact color I needed so I had to go buy some.

I just love how it turned out. The instructions were super clear and I was surprised at how quickly it came together after the fabric was finally cut (probably my least favorite part of sewing). I did my share of picking out seams after sewing things together wrong (it was my first time...), but in the end it turned out just perfect. Just look at how cute it is! You can tell Baby loves it too!



My only complaints: The pattern recommended a yard and a half of fabric and I could have easily gotten by with a yard. Also, it's a little tight going over my daughter's head. Not sure if she just has a big head or what, but if I make this size again (6-12 mo.), I will probably trim a little off the neckline just to be sure it lasts awhile. Both very minor issues.


She's not standing yet, so I thought the dress needed a matching diaper cover. I sewed one up using the tutorial over at MADE. Works great.


Also, I whipped her up a cute no-sew Fabric Farfalle Bow that I found through Pinterest from the blog Craftaholics Anonymous. Sooo easy but super cute!


So there you have it. My first dress ever. Don't be surprised if you see more posts like this. I think I see much more baby/little girl sewing in my future.