Sorry I haven't been around lately, I think this is the longest I've gone without posting ever since I started this blog a little more than four years ago (yep, I missed my bloggiversary). I've been crafting up a storm, sewing, embroidering and knitting, but it's all been testing patterns for designers so no pictures yet until they give me the go ahead.
But while testing the sewing pattern, I had a 2" x 50" tube that needed to be turned right side out. And after the requisite swearing, trying various sized crochet hooks, and searching in vain for a safety pin, I finally found a quick and easy method to turn that loop. With a tool I have plenty of, readily available. If you have early elementary school-age kids, chances are you have them laying around all over the place, too.
Take your sewn skinny tube and start turning the edge right side out. Using your pinky or whatever, you can usually get about two inches turned before the cursing starts.
Now, grab your pencil, preferably with a new, pristine, unused eraser.
Insert the eraser end into the tube, and hold onto the layer of fabric that is already right side out. Using the friction between the eraser and fabric to your advantage, put gentle pressure downwards and ease the pencil back out. Since I'm right handed, I'm holding onto the fabric tube with my left hand, and pulling the pencil out towards the right.
See what happens? I easily turned this loop in under a minute.
Here's another photo (different pencil, same tube - don't use a mechanical pencil, duh!)where I think you can tell I'm pressing down while I'm easing the pencil out.
Hope this made some sort of sense, I'm afraid my photos made more sense to me as I was doing it than it does now that I have them all laid out. If you're ever in a bind though, give this a try, it worked like a charm.
My youngest is really into Nick Jr.'s latest educational kids show, Team Umizoomi, a math-related cartoon based on numbers and shapes. I signed up to "Join the Team" and got to print out a multiple-page activity pack, with a poster and some stickers and things for Jessie.
She's currently learning how to write her numbers in preschool, so I thought this would be great reinforcement of that activity. But how to make it last a while?
I'd just been cleaning out my cupboards and boxes the day before (okay, really I was trying to find something among the piles and stacks) and *almost* threw away the old, yellowing magnetic album pages (remember those things?) that I'd been saving for "something" someday. And here was the perfect use for them. I peeled off the plastic liner sheet, taped them together and used them to faux laminate the top of the poster. Now Jessie can trace and circle numbers with a dry-erase marker, and just wipe off with a tissue.
Then I stuck the sheet that was supposed to be printed onto sticker paper onto the sticky leftover part of the magnetic photo album page, and had some instant stickers. Well, almost instant. I did have to cut them *all* out first.
All finished and taped up on the wall within twenty minutes. And I didn't spend a penny. I don't think this will be the last of the Umi crafts, though. Jessie *really* likes this show.
Just kidding, actually I got everything finished before midnight, and my husband kept me company the whole time. Wanna know how I made them? You probably won't have time to do this in time for Christmas this year, but you can hold onto the idea for other holidays or Christmases to come, right? Thought I should put the instructions and little tutorial together now, while I remember.
Can you guess what the packages are made out of?
Yup. Empty toilet paper roll. So useful, those things! So, collect yourself some paper tubes, and gather your supplies. You'll need the tubes (one tube makes one package), some gift wrap (preferably 24" in length so you won't have any scraps at all - love the way that works out), something to measure with (I used my Omnigrid), something to cut with (I had an Xacto knife), double-stick tape, glue stick, and a paper crimper. Oh, and small little things to put inside, of course. You could use scrapbooking paper, too, but I think the gift wrap is a little thinner (which is good, because the toilet paper tubes are pretty thick), and probably works out to be a *lot* cheaper, especially if you're making quite a few. I had 24 of these done in about an hour.
Cut your wrapping paper into 4.5" x 6", use glue stick or tape to wrap your paper tube with the cute gift wrap, then put a strip of double stick tape on the inside edge of one end. Run it through the paper crimper, turning the handle about three times. You're crimping about an inch. Incidentally, Cindy has a great tutorial for this, too, only she made hers entirely out of cardstock.
Insert your goodies (remembering that you'll lose about another inch again when you close it up), and flatten the other end, making sure it's perpendicular to the first edge (whoa, what's that *math* word doing on my blog?!). I think you'll get it if you just look at the photo. I used a screw punch to make holes in the corners where we attached little "From Rebecca" tags. Turned out cute, but I hope the kids don't care that there's only stickers, mini erasers and peppermints inside.
I even got all the teacher gifts made and wrapped up, but I'll save that for another post. Did you notice the wrapping paper I used? How it says "Randolph" right next to the reindeer? Do you think that's a crazy, glaring typo? Is there a Randolph Reindeer legend I don't know about?
Rebecca started the second grade today, and I've been feeling ridiculously anxious about it for over a week. Also, lately, there have been some worries regarding relatives on both sides of the family, so I crafted up a storm to distract myself.
Rebecca needed a new lunch tote, so after *much* time spent looking at my books, magazines, internet bookmarks and saved files, I finally settled on the oh-so-awesome Vintage Pillowcase Lunchbox tutorial from Oh, Fransson! I skipped the iron-on vinyl, and instead of a vintage pillowcase and fusible fleece, I used yardage I had on hand (look familiar?) and some insulated batting from an oven mitt project I never got around to.
Shoelaces (washed, of course!) from a pair of sneakers I just threw away serve as the drawstrings, and I rubber stamped her name with a fabric inkpad on twill tape, hand tacking it to the interior.
The lining was also hand sewn into the exterior, while sitting on a quilt under a tree in the park, watching the kids ride bikes and have their scraped knees and elbows tended to by Daddy. Rebecca loves the bag, and it's quite roomy. This was just the trial run, actually. She (and Jessie, too!) has fabric picked out for her "real" one. Next time, I'll probably add a small pocket just below the name label, a safe place to store the notes I include with her lunches. She told me she and her friends love reading what I write, so "please keep doing it but nothing too mushy or embarrassing, okay?"
I also wanted to give her another first day mascot, so I sewed up two teeny little softies, one for Jessie, too.
I used this amazingly adorable fabric I got on clearance at Hancock's of Paducah a while back. It's by Timeless Treasures, and was unbelievably cheap so I bought like 5 yards. I cut out two of the same kitties (they aren't mirror images, but pretty close), held them up to the light and lined them up with right sides together, and then just hand sewed them together with a really small running stitch with the occasional backstitch thrown in for good measure. Left an inch open, turned it right side out, stuffed with the teeniest bit of batting, slip stitched the opening closed, and the softie was born. You could add a little ribbon loop for hanging, too, if you wanted. I made both last night watching TV and putting positive thoughts into every stitch. It did the trick, soothed me... and of course Rebecca had a great day today, as expected.
My kids love Uno, and this summer we've played a lot. Even took it to the beach with us on vacation, and got the grandparents in on it, too. But it's hard for Jessie and even Rebecca sometimes, when they get a lot of cards and have trouble holding them. I've tried making holders out of CDs (not very successful), picking them up and showing each card one by one while keeping my eyes closed (very time-consuming though pretty much guaranteed to crack the kids up), and just letting them spread them out on the floor face up (no fun knowing what everyone's cards are).
The solution was actually very simple. A simple set of Lego stairs and voila! Fun times. She had to extend it quite a bit... but that's the beauty of it, even if you need three rows of stairs, no problem at all.
I've had this idea kicking around in my head for years now, and this summer I finally was able to get it together in time for our road trip North. It's an I Spy game for kids (and adults, too!) to help while away the hours in a car with no built in DVD player. A few simple and inexpensive materials, and you can change the game from trip to trip to keep it interesting.
You'll need a small, inexpensive photo album, paper, glue stick, removable sticky dots, and clip art or pictures from magazines or whatever. Almost everything can be found at the dollar store, and that's where I got my photo holder that fits 4x6 photos. It has about 20 pages, and can easily be covered with fabric or decoupage if the tackiness of the printed design starts bugging me or the girls too much.
I quartered letter-sized sheets of paper, then glued cartoon pictures cut from my daughter's old workbook, images found on the computer, and an alphabet die cut from my Sizzix machine to make an ABC I Spy book. Once you slip the individual pages into the album, you use the office dots to mark off the objects that are seen as the trip progresses. I made two different books so that the kids could help each other and switch off, but if your kids have different dispositions than mine (encouraging competitiveness with these two wouldn't be a good thing, trust me), you could make identical books and see who finishes faster.
Of course I had to combine a few letters on one page, since there were only 20 pages. I had at least one image for each letter, some had two or three. Depending on where you're going, you can tailor the images to your specific trip (more urban, include more logos, or if you're going to the beach, more seaside things). Here are the ideas I came up with, I'm sure you'll have plenty!
A airplane, AAA logo
B Burger King, balloon
C cow, cheeseburger
D dog, deer crossing sign
E exit sign, engine trouble
F fence, freeway entrance sign
G gasoline pump, grocery cart
H horse, helicopter
I Icee, ice cream
J Jack In the Box logo
K Burger King
L lamppost, ladder
M mailbox, motorcycle
N Nevada license plate, no smoking sign
O Oregon license plate, orange tree
P police car, pig (I don't know what I was thinking. I think the image from my daughter's workbook was so cute, I had to include it... my kids are still scratching their heads at that one)
Q Dairy Queen
R radio tower
S sailboat, sand
T train, tractor
U U-turn sign
V Volkswagen beetle, van
X railroad crossing sign (there's a big X in the middle)
Y yield sign
Z sleeping passenger
The whole family got in on the action, it really was a fun and inexpensive way to be entertained. Made everyone more observant and reminded us that there is an awful lot to look at out there instead of just asphalt and the rear ends of cars passing you by. I love road trips!
Oh, hello, hello, finally! That was a painful three weeks without the internet, no dial tone through my home phone, and hours upon hours spent dealing with nice but completely freaking clueless customer service representatives and those blasted voice activated menus. Will someone please tell me why a machine will instruct me to dictate my name, address, ten digit account number, service issue and blah blah blah, put me on hold, transfer me six times, and then, twenty minutes later, direct me to an operator who asks me for the exact. same. stinkin'. information? I just deleted the whole novella I just wrote about the saga, I don't need to relive it. Let's just hope my internet stays connected or my head seriously might explode.
Anyway, moving on. See how magnanimous I'm being? How I haven't even once mentioned which incompetent, royally screwed up company I've been dealing with? I'm so good, huh?
So now it's summer vacation for my 6 year old (the baby still has preschool two days a week throughout the summer because I can't risk losing her spot in the program) and we both are looking foward to a slower, lazier few weeks ahead. This last month and a half I spent most of my days helping out at Becca's school. There was Teacher Appreciation Week, Book Fair, Open House, library inventory, yearbook distribution, taking down the students' work from the walls, submitting another bunch of Box Tops and Campbell's Labels before vacation, and the classroom work I'd been helping out with all year. Rebecca's first grade teacher was just spectacular, the kind you dream of for your
children. She is dedicated, loving, enthusiastic, energetic, patient, and encouraging, and with all that she did for Rebecca and her students, she even took time to make Jessie feel welcome and comfortable.
For the last day of school, I made her a Craft AppleMini Patchfolio, included a brown Sharpie (to match the fabric), and I'm proud of the way it came out. I quilted the flower motifs and that was an easy way to acheive a nice design without having to do any marking or think about it too much. I didn't include the final step of adding cardboard between the layers before topstitching around the whole thing, because I figure this way Rebecca's teacher can throw it in the wash in case it ever gets dirty. I covered the original header of the little notebook pad with a strip of excess fabric and some gluestick, which I think made a really nice finishing touch. Much better than an office supply store logo blazing away up there on top.
And each one of Rebecca's classmates received a little sewn notebook, personalized with their first initial. These were made from some bright copy paper, cut into fourths. Each quarter sheet (4.25" x 5.5") was folded in half individually, corners rounded with my new cool toy (which my husband still can't quite believe essentially performs only one function), unfolded, stacked into groups of eight, placed inside a cardstock cover (4.5" x 6" folded in half and then unfolded), and machine sewn down the center. The initals were taken from scraps of the cardstock, or cut with my Sizzix, and raised with a bit of foam tape.
I actually had all of my year-end gifts completed and ready to go well before the last week of school. Didn't have to stress out or stay up late one single evening, nearly a miracle for me. And I'm sure entirely due to the fact that the vortex that is the internet wasn't available to me. So I guess it wasn't all bad, huh?
I've been scrambling, trying to come up with some fast, easy and inexpensive items to donate to my daughter's school's fundraising Winter Boutique next week, things that can be sold for anywhere from $1 to $6. I was only told about it a little over a week ago, and what with the fires and the holidays and life in general, I was a little stressed.
But thanks to a wonderful friend, Michele, I
had these amazing machine-embroidered panels just waiting to be made up
into covered buttons. Some will be made into buttons for pencil rolls and notebook covers, but others were destined to be ponytail holders.
And the ponytail holders seem to me to be the best thing for this fundraiser. With the pre-embroideredpanels, all I had to do was cut out circles, assemble the buttons, loop on a ponytail elastic, and pop it into a little zippy bag. Done! I made 20 of these in no time at all (seriously, like less than two minutes apiece). They're a little over 1" in diameter, and I would price them at $3 each but I think the people in charge will probably lower that amount. I really think three dollars is fair, but people are so used to Wal-Mart and dollar stores these days, it's hard for a handmade kinda gal to compete.
Aren't these completely adorable? Of course, we had to keep one (or two) of each for ourselves. But I hope the rest sell well, our poor school really could use the money. We haven't had a field trip yet, and as far as I know, there aren't any planned due to lack of funds for the bus fees.
Maybe this Winter Boutique can help change that. I'm trying to do as much as I can, so I also made a batch of my little sock animals to donate. But I'll save that to show you another time.