Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In the sewing news...

First up, I urge all of my Canadian sewing readers to head over to From an Igloo and enter a really generous giveaway for a new Brother NS 80 sewing machine.  If you don't already follow Christine's blog, I'd urge you to take care of that too. She posts from Northern Canada and her blog is full of amazing tutorials and uses for adorable fabric.

I absolutely love the alligator clips she posted about here.  Can't get them out of my mind.

Second up, Ikat Bag and My Measuring Tape are teaming up for a pattern drafting series.  Be sure to check it out.  I am really excited about this series.   I am overly reliant on commercial patterns (drafting is just out of my comfort zone) so can't wait to follow along.

Keep calm, sew on.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Guest Post: The humble sandbox

I am getting ready to go on vacation, but I wanted to take a moment to feature this guest project in case you are looking for any outdoor DIYs.

While sandboxes have always been a backyard staple, their design has come along way. 

Here is a photo of me and my BFF in my 70s childhood sandbox (built by my dad).  Note: we are sitting on two very large rocks.  My dad excavated those rocks especially for that sandbox. It was a special design element which started and ended there.

Jump ahead thirtyish years and there are now so many ideas out there to make the humble sandbox a feature in your space.  If you have big yard that might not be necessary, but if you have a small city yard, you may want each element in that 12 foot wide space to have some aesthetic appeal. 

My pal was inspired by this post on Crazy Daisy and this outdoor space on Ohdeedoh featuring a sandbox in the shape of a sailboat.

Here's more about N's project which uses an existing plastic sandbox:

Rather creating a free standing sandbox like Crazy Daisy's, I retrofitted cedar to an existing Little Tykes sandbox.    In addition to a plastic sandbox, you will need:

** Note: the measurements of your wood will depend on the dimensions of your sandbox.  This is what I used for the Little Tykes sandbox.
(4) 2” x 8” x 8’ cedar deck boards
(1) 2” x 4” x 12’ cedar deck board (cut in half)
(4) steel eyelet hooks
(1) 48” x 1 ¼” wooden dowel
(2) yards outdoor fabric
(4) grommets
(4) 10” bungee cords or some alternative such as rope *
(5) bags of play sand
(1) box of 3” deck screws (for cedar)

We had all the lumber cut at the store, which saved a lot of time and effort since we don’t have a saw!

First, we cut two 8’ deck boards to make a box or frame around the sandbox and secured the deck boards with the deck screws. (No predrilling was required. Bonus!)

We cut the remaining two 8’ deck boards and secured them to the top of the box as a ledge. Not only does this prevent little feet from getting caught between the cedar box and the plastic sandbox, but it also provides the children with a ledge to sit on.

We then took the 2” x 4” which we had cut in half, and secured it to frame. These posts will act as the “masts” for the sail. We measured between the two “masts”, had the dowel cut to size, and secured it with the deck screws.

All that was left to do was to sew the sail, install the grommets* and the eyehooks, and set it up. We placed the cedar frame on top of the plastic sandbox. This was actually easier and more secure than trying to wedge the sandbox into the frame.

It was an instant hit with our boys and we no longer feel land locked.

*An alternative to using grommets and bungee cords, is to simply sew a casing, thread some rope through it, and tie it to the eyehooks. {You should routinely inspect for your bungee cord for safety so that it is not stretched too tight or that it is not compromised in anyway to avoid risk of injury}

One note: this is not an inexpensive project. Cedar is pricey, but safe for children and looks great. A few extra dollars bought us peace of mind knowing that we were not exposing our boys to the harmful chemicals that are present in pressure treated lumber.

Thanks N, I think your sandbox looks fabulous! I really like the fact that it is covered (city yards have raccoon problems).  N has been talking about getting a little anchor or life preserver to embellish the lumber holding up the sail.  It will be a nice touch.

Other great ideas for sandboxes can be found on flickr.  Three of my favourites are

Pink Lemonade's colourful market umbrella sandbox
and scrap timber posts at Milkmaid 1979
Thanks for stopping by and have a great week,

This post is linked to


The DIY Show Off

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tea and Crumpets

Image via Anthro

I know a number of my readers like to keep current on apron trends.  You may be interested in an article in today's Globe and Mail.  According to the article, the Tea and Crumpets apron, above, is the best selling apron at Anthropologie. 

I hope you are enjoying the weekend,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Edible Flowers: Let's Talk Borage

Today, we are taking a break from needles and threads.  The Baking Barrister is back.   You may recall the Barrister's bib cookies, some of the darling bibs were decorated with small purple flowers.  This flower is known as the borage flower.  Today, the Baking Barrister is going to teach us how to dry this edible flower.
I started growing the borage plant four years ago when I curiously let a hairy lettuce plant develop in my garden. The leaves and stem are edible and I often blanch it to use as a spinach substitute. However, the real star of the plant (literally), is the flower. With its five-point petals, purplish-blue colour and sweet mild flavour, borage flower is a darling of the molecular gastronomy scene. It was also recently used by Top Chef du jour Michael Voltaggio.

The borage plant re-seeds itself every year and the flowers bloom and wilt daily during most of July. An average plant will have about 15-20 flowers in full bloom each day during mid-July.

It is unfortunate that the flower wilts and shrivels quite quickly and I recommend that you soak the flower in water for half an hour before using it in a fresh application. My normal treatment of the flower is to line it up (after a quick wash) on a tray and hold down the petals with chopsticks to dry. If you decide to try this, make sure you leave the flower a bit wet so that it sticks on the tray better for drying.
After it has dried, you are left with a perfectly flat flower that has the texture of rice paper for your various decorating needs.
Once a year, I sugar the flowers to use for slightly more important events:

All you need is borage flowers (cleaned and dried), 1 egg white (beaten till loose), regular sugar and parchment paper for drying.

 I brush the petals with the egg white, cover it with sugar and let it dry on the parchment overnight.
You may also use special finishing sugars that are used for sugaring, though I find regular sugar perfectly fine for this project. I note my sugar this year was from the bottom of the bag and slightly finer, leading to more coverage. I personally prefer the larger sugar crystals that I used in past years.

Good luck and happy growing, drying and decorating!

Thanks Baking Barrister!  Come back soon!

PS. I am signing off for the weekend, wishing you a happy one,

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Monkey Business

I am posting a little late today due to a hiccup with my phone and internet service.  

I wanted to share this birthday project.   My Pal's littlest guy, Bodhi (means Peace. I love that name), turned two last week.  For his celebration, she made a sweet little bunting from brown felt and a fat quarter of P&B textile's Safari So Good

She carefully cut out the letters and affixed them to the felt using heat'n bond.  There was enough fabric left to make matching bias tape. 
She also made the birthday boy a number 2 shirt using the same method.
The project had great impact and made a great birthday memory. 

Aren't those little monkeys fun?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dollar Store Hooded Towel

My pal alerted me to the fact that you can purchase lightweight beach towels at the dollar store (who knew?) and you can turn them into hooded towels.

I found my towels at Zellers [which is technically not a dollar shop, but carries much of the same stuff] for $2.98 a piece. The towels measure 22 inch by 45 inch.   The pal found hers (blue) at Dollarama for $2 each.

It's summer time and I have to send a towel everyday with each kid. I only have time to do laundry on the weekend and I am not going to insist my kid uses the same towel two days in a row so a few of these towels solved the shortage problem.

While these towels would not appear on your wedding registry for that spa retreat bathroom, they are perfect for the daycamp backpack. They are lightweight and don't take up the entire pack.

I made two hooded towels with three towels.  One towel (the middle one above) is used for the hoods.  I cut two rectangles 10 inch by 22 inch.  If you make your rectangle hood cuts on either side of the towel (you will end up with excess in the middle that you could use for another project), you can incorporate the finished edges in your project and you won't have any hem sewing.  Easy peasy.

Here are the kids in their Coleman Puddlejumpers.  I absolutely love these devices.   They were recommended to me by a neighbour and I am so glad I purchased them. Sadly, neither of my kids love the water (boggles my mind), but the Puddlejumper has instilled some water confidence.  Miss Lily was "swimming" independently this weekend.  She was so proud of herself!

By the way, I have washed my towels and they have held up fine. 
Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Handmade and Useful Baby Gifts

I hope you have had a wonderful weekend.  The weather was gorgeous here. We spent most of the weekend outdoors and we were able to catch up with family outside the city.  It was the sort of weekend that I hope my girls remember when they think of summer.

For some time now, I have wanted to a post a mini-round up of handmade baby gifts that my pal N and I have sewn over the past few months using tutorials we have found around the blogosphere.

First up is Crap I've Made's $44 Hooded Towel Tutorial (sewn by KJ).

This project requires one bath sheet, one hand towel, and a coordinating fabric.  Note, the thicker the terry, the more needles you will break. I think I broke four needles on this one - but that doesn't matter because photos like these are the reason I sew.  This project was for my BFF's fourth baby!

Next up: a couple of change pads sewn by N. 

This one is from a book (you may have heard of it :) One Yard Wonder's Latte Changing Pad.  This project turned out beautifully.  I love her choice of Michael Miller fabric.

The next change pad is slightly different as it is in all one piece. The tutorial is Cluck Cluck Sew's Baby Changing Kit Tutorial (again, sewn by N).

Inside, N included a little message on sewing tape!

Now, two more towels that I finished. 

This hooded towel is a slight variation on Purl Bee's Hooded Towel and Lotta Jansdotter's Sewing for Baby.  Both patterns call for applying the binding right to the towel and sewing through all three layers. I found that everything did not stay together very well even when pinned. The next time I attempt this project, I will apply the bias tape differently (the old fashioned way) or maybe a zig zag as recommended by a recent Sew 4 Home hooded towel tutorial.
Last up is Prudent Baby's Hooded Towel.  As far as construction goes, this hooded towel is, by far, the easiest of the lot (no bias tape).  The most difficult part is attaching the hood to the bath towel.  I chose a plush towel.  Broken needles: 3.

Anyway, seven broken needles later and that's the round up. 

Do you have any standby handmade gifts for new moms?  The sort of gift that comes out perfectly everytime, can be personalized and is useful?

Please share! 

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week! Be sure to check out all of t the sewing projects at

SYS Thurs