Deployment Begins

Well, it’s here… the day we all dreaded but knew was coming.  Radar left this weekend for 7 months in Japan.  Goodbye was impossible, as always, but we know we will make it.

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Before the waterworks started flowing…

This is our second deployment.  In some ways, this one is going to be harder than the first.  For one thing, it’s a month longer.  The kids are older, and I’m outnumbered this time (Monster was only 2 months old when Radar left last time, and 8 months when he returned).  This will be our first Christmas apart, too, which I know will be much harder for Radar than for me.  We also know what to expect this time – we aren’t going in with blind faith, but rather with the knowledge of how hard some moments are going to be, and just how long half a year is without seeing each other.

But in other ways, this deployment will be easier.  Because his squadron transitioned from the P-3 to the P-8, we had an extra 6 months of home cycle (instead of 12 months home, we got 18).  The kids may be older and more numerous, but they’re still too young to have any concept of time or to understand how long Daddy is gone.  They’re also always on the move, so all 3 of us will stay very busy!  We’re also very lucky that in over 5 years in the Navy, this will be our first Christmas apart… and as soon as Radar comes home, we’ll be moving to a new duty station for a shore tour, which means no deployments at all!  We know several other military families who have missed more Christmases than they’ve been home for, so I’m grateful that we’re the other way around.  And lastly, we know what to expect.  I know I put that in the negative column above, but it’s reassuring knowing that we’ve done this before and know we survived.

Radar is super lucky this deployment – he is going back to the same place he was last deployment.  So he already knows the lay of the land, what to expect on base, and how the deployment will be.  He will have high-speed internet for calling us on the Magic Jack and Skyping, access to a BX and Commissary that are arguably better than what we have here in Jacksonville, and instead of being low man on the totem pole, this time he’s one of the “top dogs” among the junior officers.

I’m incredibly lucky, too – I have the best OSC (officer’s spouse’s club) ever!  This group of ladies and gents always has each others’ backs, and I know that no matter what happens to me or anyone else, we will take care of each other through these months.  My favorite part of deployment is something we call Secret Foxes: like Secret Santa, you are assigned to another spouse and get to spoil them with gifts every month during deployment (the fox part is because that’s the squadron’s mascot).  I will take any excuse to get crafty and creative!  It helps pass the time, I hope it brightens someone else’s day, and I know it brightens mine when I get a gift, knowing somebody is thinking of me.

So to kick off this deployment, I’ve made my Secret Fox (who, luckily, does not know about my blog!) a life-size greeting card full of awful puns to make her smile.

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Terrible puns, right?? But I hope she’ll like it 🙂

I hot-glued the lollipops, wine, and Ziploc bags of candy to a foam board.  I didn’t want to wreck the book and Nutella, so I punched holes in the board with Radar’s awl and threaded sewing elastic through the holes, securing it with hot glue on the back.  And the Fox Racing vinyl sticker is just taped on, again so I didn’t ruin it.  I got a questionnaire with info about my secret fox, so I knew she liked wine, chocolate, and pink is her favorite color.  I’ve also seen her wearing Fox Racing gear, so I know it’s a brand she likes.  And when I saw that little book at Target, I knew I had to get it!

I’m already trying to think of what to give her in July – I just love giving somebody secret presents!  Keep an eye out for more posts with Secret Fox gifts!

(I’ll get back to the quiet book in my next post!)

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This is how Radar “walked” to the plane… good to know he has good friends to make this deployment pass quickly for him too!

Quiet Book, Part 2

Here’s the 2nd of 3 posts for my quiet book pages!  If you want to take a peek at my first tutorial, check it out here (includes a parachute buckle page, bead abacus, balloon color matching and play telephone).

Another next page I knew I had to have in my quiet book is a marble maze.  I included one in each of my original quiet books, and knew I had to make one again – it’s such a fun way for the kids to practice their fine motor skills (it’s also one of the easiest pages to make!).  After that, I came up with the idea to make a two-page spread with train tracks and a “station” to park a train for my train-obsessed boy.  Technically, this is a removable part, but the train will not belong to the book, it will just be the one we grab on the way out.  As a side note, the measurements for the train page work for the standard wooden trains with the magnets; they may not fit the longer/larger Thomas trains.  And the 4th page in this post is a frog who “catches” bugs with his tongue, using snaps.  Let’s dive on in!

Train Tracks Page (2-page spread)

Supplies:

  • 2 yd thin black ribbon
  • 2 4″x4.5″ pieces of fabric (train theme optional)
  • About 15″x2″ piece of brown fabric
  • 2 9″x9″ squares green fabric
  • 2 9″x9″ squares batting
  • Coordinating thread
  • Heat N Bond

Rather than use interfacing to stabilize and strengthen the fabric for these pages, I just used the batting that I was going to use between the pages anyway – saved a little work, weight, and money!  So the first step is to lay your green 9″ squares on top of your batting 9″ squares.  Then you need to make your train pocket.  Fold over and iron 1/4″ at the top (the 4″ side) of each of the 4″x4.5″ pieces, then stitch in place.  I used a zigzag, but straight is fine too.  Then place them right sides together and sew around the other 3 sides.  Measure 1/2″ square from the seam in each of the two bottom corners and cut it out (see photo below).  Open up the holes to make the seams match up and sew them to make a flat bottom (exactly how I explained for the paper bag in my felt lunch post).  Then pin the train pouch to the bottom corner of the page (at least 1/2″ from the edges for seam allowance and topstitching) and sew it on.

Pouch Collage

First: Hem top, sew around the other 3 edges, and cut squares 1/2″ from each seam. Second: After sewing the bottom corners. Third: Sew the pouch to the page. Fourth: Completed pouch with train.

Now it’s time to make your tracks.  Add Heat N Bond to the back of your brown fabric and cut it into 1/2″x2″ strips.  I used 28, but you may use more or less depending on how you place them.  Once you’ve placed them the way you like, peel off the paper and iron them onto your green squares (again, remember that you’ll lose some of the green to seam allowances and binding the book).  I didn’t worry about stitching each one partly because I’m lazy – who wants to sew 28 railroad ties?? – and partly because the ribbon tracks will provide some stability anyway.  Speaking of tracks, it’s time to pin it on!  Pin the black ribbon along the ties, making the tracks about 1″ apart.  At the ends where they meet the train pouch, fold over the ribbon and sew it to keep it from unraveling; the ends that go off the page will get sewed into the seam, so you can just cut those.  Then use black thread to sew a stitch along each of the tracks (zigzag would be great, but I just used a straight stitch).  Just leave the “tails” of the tracks for now, you’ll cut them later.

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Pinning the tracks on

 

Marble Maze Page

Supplies:

  • Marble (or button or glass bead, like you’d put in  the bottom of a vase)
  • 2 9″x9″ squares of solid color fabric
  • Contrasting thread
  • Maze Patterns (or you can make your own)

This is quite possibly the easiest page ever to put together.  Draw your maze pattern on one of the 9″ squares (it won’t show, so just use a pen or pencil), keeping in mind that your marble/button/bead has to fit through the maze pretty easily.  Then place the other 9″ square under the one you drew on and sew with contrasting thread along the maze lines.  Before you seal your maze off, don’t forget to insert your marble!  Use the applique method to tie off the ends of your stitching so it doesn’t come undone.  And that’s pretty much it!  Your maze will come out backwards from how you drew it, but that doesn’t really matter.  The pattern above includes a simple back-and-forth maze and a more complex one with a couple dead ends.

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You can see the button in the dead end towards the bottom.

Frog Catching Bugs Page

Supplies:

  • Frog Pattern
  • Green fabric for frog
  • White and black fabric scraps for details
  • 2.25″x7″ red fabric
  • 3 small sew-on snaps
  • 9″x9″ fabric square, bug pattern if possible (if not, you can make some little bugs out of felt)
  • 9″x9″ interfacing
  • Heat N Bond
  • 2 black buttons
  • Coordinating thread

Start by cutting out the frog body in green, eyes in white, and mouth in black.  Attach pieces to Heat N Bond.  Iron the 9″ fabric square and interfacing together, and iron the frog and details onto the front.  Applique around the edges of he frog, eyes, and mouth (for a reminder about technique for the corners, click here).  Then hand-sew the male part of the 3 snaps to bugs on the background fabric, the buttons for the eyes, and one female part of the snap onto the right side of the end of one of the red strips.  Place the two red strips right sides together and sew up the side, rounding around the snap (using the zipper foot may come in handy here), and down the other side, leaving the end open.  Turn right side out, tuck the raw edges at the bottom inside the tongue and topstitch 1/8″ from the edge around the seam.  Attach the tongue to the frog’s mouth by stitching back and forth several times – and now he’s ready to catch some bugs!

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He has crazy eyes in this picture because the flash caught his button eye! See the snaps sewed on the bees?

Assemble your pages the same as described in part one of the quiet book tutorial: place the pages right sides together (in this case, just make sure you don’t put the two train pages together because you want them to face one another), stitch around the edges leaving a 3″ opening on the binding side, clip the corners (and extra train tracks), turn right side out, and topstitch around the edge with coordinating thread.  The frog and puzzle finished pages are above, and here’s the train:

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Ready for a little boy (or girl) to play!

Stay tuned for the third installment of quiet book pages, followed by making a cover and binding!

Quick links to Part 1, Part 3, and Binding/Covering

Quiet Book, Part 1

I love quiet books.  They’re such a great way to keep the kids busy when they need to be still and quiet for a long time – like in church!  I made a quiet book for Monster and one for his cousin right after Peach was born (ok, so it actually took me about 3 months to make them, but that’s when I finished them)… to see pictures of my niece’s, click here.

The nice thing about the quiet books I made is that they’re silent – no velcro, no zippers, no snaps to disturb anyone else.  But the down side is that they had lots of removable pieces… that are now all over my house, probably never to be assembled in one place again!  Some of the pages were also a little too difficult for the two kiddos (my niece is 7 months younger than Monster).  So, being the crazy person that I am, I decided to make another book!

I’m going to do one post for every 2 pages (which is actually 4 pages), so this is the first of 3 posts for the pages, then I’ll finish up with a post about how I bind and cover my quiet books.  This time around, I’m trying to keep the activities simple, but still interesting as the kids grow.  And no pieces that come off!  They won’t be 100% silent, but they should be pretty quiet for a church or other silent environment – although I can’t promise your kids won’t celebrate as they complete the tasks!

To start off, I knew I had to do a page with parachute buckles.  Monster is OBSESSED with them.  He even insists on doing up his own chest clip in the car!  The link above is to something similar to what I found at Walmart, although I bought a 10-pack for about $2.50 with half small and half larger.  I got my inspiration from a posting on Etsy, where the seller made a whole page just of buckles!  He can’t open them back up himself yet, so the more I could squeeze on the page, the longer he can go without help.  I saw the next idea for beads on a string, similar to an abacus, also on Etsy.  Monster is just starting to count, so these will provide good practice for that.  The next 2 pages have balloons for color matching and an old-school rotary phone to play with (although I’m still having a hard time convincing Monster that this is actually a phone!).  So without further ado, I will jump into my tutorials!

Parachute Buckle Page

Supplies:

  • Parachute buckles (as many and whatever colors you want)
  • Long skinny fabric scraps for bands holding buckles
  • Coordinating thread
  • 9″x9″ piece of fabric

I used a cow print for my 9″x9″ fabric for the buckle page so that the colors would really pop since I had such bright buckles.  For each of the bands that hold the buckles, I cut a strip at least 12″ long by 1.5″ for the little buckles and 2.5″ for the large buckles.  Then I folded and ironed them hot dog style, opened it up and folded in each of the raw edges, then refolded and ironed flat (exactly what I did on the strap for the triangle bag).  After sewing 1/8″ from each of the edges, I cut each of these in half, folded them around the end of the buckle, and stitched forward and backward a few times to make sure it was secure.  You may want to use the zipper foot – it will let you get closer to the buckle with less difficulty.  Then I lined them up on my 9″ square and pinned them down.  They got sewed in when I assembled the page, which is described below.

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You’ll cut the tails off later – for now, just leave them! Be careful not to stick yourself with the pins!

Counting Beads Page

Supplies:

  • 55 pony beads, assorted colors
  • Thick embroidery thread, assorted colors
  • Coordinating thread
  • 9″x9″ piece of fabric, plus 2 pieces 5.5″x1.25″ of the same fabric

The first step is to make your strings for the beads to slide on.  You can use ribbon, but I chose to use braided embroidery thread.  For each string, I cut 3 strands of thread 15″ long, then folded them in half and tied a knot in the middle to make a small loop at the top.  Then I braided the strings, 2 per section, and knotted again at the bottom.  Each braid ended up being just over 4.5″ long.  Once all the strings were ready, I marked where they would be attached.  I started by marking a line along the top and bottom of the 9″ square, each 2.25″ in from the edge.  Then I added tick marks every 1/2″, starting 2.25″ from the left, until I had 10 (this will center it up pretty well – see the left photo below).  Next, I hand basted the strings at the top and bottom on each tick mark (center photo below).  Last, I sewed the 2 5.5″x1.25″ pieces to cover the knots.  These pieces will fray a little since the edges are raw, but that’s what I was going for.

Bead Collage

Left: Marks for aligning strings. Center: Hand baste strings with beads on the page. Right: Cover ends of strings with fabric rectangles.

Next, I put together these two pages to make a complete page for the book!  Start by placing the pages right side together.  Add a 9″x9″ piece of batting (on the underside of the photo below).  Pin all the way around, leaving a 3″ opening in the top or bottom.  Clip the corners (careful not to clip the seam!) and the buckle tails, remove the pins from the buckle page through the opening, and turn right side out.

Page 1 Assembly

Pin the pages right sides together and sew around the edge, leaving a 3″ opening; clip the corners, trim the buckle straps, and remove the pins from the buckles.

Sew 1/8″ from the edge with coordinating thread all the way around, turning in the raw edges at the opening you left.  And you’ve completed your first page of your quiet book!

Page 1 Complete

Parachute buckle page and bead counting page complete!

Balloon Color Matching Page

Supplies:

  • 5 pieces of thin elastic, 9″ each
  • 3 circles, each 2.25″ diameter, of 5 different color fabrics
  • Coordinating thread
  • 9″x9″ piece of fabric (again, I used black so the colors would pop)
  • 9″x9″ iron-on interfacing
  • 12″ piece of embroidery thread
  • 10 magnets

The first step for the balloon page is to iron on the interfacing to the back of the 9″ square fabric to provide stability.  Then use a hot glue gun to glue the magnets to the page and balloons.  I recommend using a small dab of glue on both sides of each magnet to attach it to each surface it touches – the balloon or the page.  Press it flat while it’s still warm so it doesn’t get lumpy.  Then zig zag or applique stitch around each balloon on the 9″ square (one of the few times you’ll see me applique without Heat N Bond).  Then make your balloons on the strings by using a dab of hot glue again to attach 2 more matching circles, right sides facing out (glue on both sides and flatten when warm again).  Then straight stitch 1/4″ from the edge to attach the front and back circles, inserting a piece of elastic at the beginning and stitching back and forth over the elastic a couple times.  Gather your balloon strings at the bottom of the page and tie with a double knot and a knotted bow; stitch back and forth a couple times just above and below the bow to secure the strings.  Like with the buckle page, don’t worry about the balloon tails until after you’ve assembled the page.

Balloons

Left: Applique the balloons with magnets to the page. Center: Straight stitch around balloons with magnets, attaching elastic strings. Right: Tie and secure elastic strings.

Rotary Phone Page

Supplies:

  • Phone pattern (click here: CCF06242014)
  • Fabric for phone and rotary dial
  • Heat N Bond
  • Coordinating thread
  • Curly shoe lace
  • Polyfill or other stuffing
  • 3″x1/2″ piece of velcro
  • Buttons (optional)
  • 9″x9″ piece of fabric
  • 9″x9″ piece of batting

After you’ve cut out the phone pattern, iron the phone onto the 9″ square using the Heat N Bond (you can do the dial at this point too).  Pin the 9″ square batting to the wrong side of the fabric to provide stability.  Center the hook part of the velcro about 1/2″ above the phone cradle and sew on securely.  Then center the loop part of the velcro on the right side of one of the handset pieces and sew on securely.  Place the curly shoe lace on top of this piece (with the aglet sticking out) and pin the 2nd handset piece right side down on top of it.  Sew around the edges, leaving about a 2.5″ opening on the outer part of the straight edge.  Clip the corners and the inside of the curves, being careful not to cut the seam (if you don’t clip the curves, it will pull and look funny when you turn it).  Turn right side out, stuff, and ladder stitch the opening closed.  Then peel up some of the Heat N Bond attaching the main body of the phone and insert the other end of the curly shoelace.  Zigzag or applique stitch around the outer edge of the phone.  You can also go back and add some more straight stitches right at the edge of the cord on the page – which I recommend because it’s going to get tugged on a lot!  Then, if you want, you can add buttons to act as the numbers on the rotary dial; if you don’t add numbers, you may want to sew along the edge of the rotary circle just to provide insurance that it won’t come off.

Phone Assembly

Left: Velcro and phone pieces placement. Right: Assembled handset, before turning (note the clipping – click to see larger).

To assemble this page, just place the two pages right sides together and stitch around the edge, leaving a 3-inch opening at the side.  Be sure to tuck your phone cord in!  Clip the corners and trim the extra elastic, then turn right side out and sew 1/8″ from the edge with coordinating thread, folding in the raw edges of the opening.

Page 4 Complete

Ta-da! Another page is complete!

So we’ve done 2 complete pages: the parachute buckles page, the bead counting page, the balloon color match page and the rotary phone page.  Stay tuned for the next 2 pages in my next post!

Quick links to Part 2, Part 3, and Binding/Covering

Quilted Triangle Bag

As soon as I saw this bag on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it.  Her tutorial is amazing, so I’m not going to try to top it (although I’ll post my own version with pics, just so you can see how mine was put together).  I am, however, going to include another tutorial for a variation on the quilt-as-you-go method, which I first introduced here!  This little bag is perfect for a casual evening out, when you just need some cash, a phone, a couple cards, and some lip gloss.  It’s easy to hook around your wrist, and its unique shape makes it special.  I’ve made one for myself already, but the one in this tutorial is for my niece, who will be turning 12 at the end of next month.  What could be better for a tween girl??

Supplies:

  • 2 6.5″ squares of quilt batting
  • scraps of fabric in desired colors
  • 2 6.5″ squares of lining fabric (can be the same or different)
  • 7″ or longer zipper
  • 2 2″x4″ pieces of fabric
  • 1 4″x15″ strip of fabric
  • coordinating thread

Note: seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise specified

So the basis of this bag is 2 6.5″ square quilt blocks.  How can 2 blocks become a 3-dimensional bag?  That’s a little magic I’ll share with you later.  To start off, cut 2 6.5″ square pieces of batting.  You want something that’s low loft (i.e. not too fluffy), because it’s going to be the base for your quilt blocks and you’ll be running it right next to your feed dog.  On a side note, I used this project to use up some scraps: they weren’t big enough, so I used 2 thin pieces of iron-on interfacing, one on each side, to attach 2 pieces of batting butted up against each other.  You’ll see what I’m talking about in the picture below.

A little background on the choices I made before I really get into it… first of all, I used 1.5″ strips for my quilt blocks.  It was big enough to see patterns in my fabric, but small enough to get enough strips in.  I also opted to go asymmetrical with my pieces, which was really hard for my OCD to handle but made the bag more whimsical in the end.  There is no right or wrong way to place or size your pieces – whatever works for you is perfect!

To use this quilt-as-you-go method, start off with your piece of batting.  Place your starting fabric in the middle, right side up.  I used a 2″x2″ accent piece, but you can use a strip or really anything you want.  Place your first strip right side down and sew along where the two overlap (it’s ok if you go further, extra stitching will be hidden in the end).  Then, fold your new addition to face upwards, and secure with a topstitch 1/8″ from the seam you just sewed.  I recommend adding a second line of stitching, maybe 1/2″ or so outward, just to secure it.  This will also give your block a more quilted look.  Then do the same with the next piece: place right side down, sew where it overlaps the pieces already on the batting, fold back, and secure.  Continue this process until your whole square of batting is covered with fabric (if you do it like I did, working in a circle seemed to make it easiest).  Then just flip it over, admire all the stitching you’ve done, and trim off the excess fabric from the edges.  And there you have it, a pretty quilt block, ready to be made into a triangle bag!

Quilt Method Collage

Top left: Right sides together, stitch where they overlap. Top right: Flip the yellow right side up and topstitch to secure. Bottom left: My block in progress. Bottom right: Completed and trimmed quilt block.

Something to note about this quilt-as-you-go method, you only end up with a block front and batting.  If you flip it over and look at it, it’s not pretty with all that stitching, so you won’t want to attach the back side at the same time.  But it does make for a pretty, easy, and stable quilt block!

So once you’ve made 2 quilt blocks, it’s time to get sewing on your bag.  Assemble all your supplies…

IMG_2580and turn on your iron!  Fold the 4″x15″ strip in half “hot dog style” and iron it; open it up and fold and iron each of the sides in to the fold, then re-fold in half and iron again, making a 1″x15″ 4-ply strip.  Then, for each of the 2″x4″ pieces, iron in half to make a 2″x2″ square, then open them up again and press 1/4″ in on each of the 2″ sides.  You’re done with the iron now, so remember to turn it off!  Now you’re going to prep your zipper and strap.  Sandwich the open end of the zipper in one of the 2″x4″ pieces, pin, and sew 1/8″ from the edge (make sure those metal pieces are not in your seam – they’ll break your needle).  Then zip the zipper closed and cut it 5.5″ from that seam, and repeat on the other end.  Last, you just need to trim the zipper end pieces to the same width as the zipper to remove bulk from the final product.  To complete the strap, stitch about 1/8″ from the edge along the two long sides; this is a great time to use some of those fancy stitches on your machine – you can see I used the hearts stitch for my bag.  That was a lot of words, so here are some pictures to make it more clear:

Strap Zipper Collage

Top: How to iron the strap fabric. 2nd: How to iron the zipper end pieces. 3rd: How to attach the zipper end pieces. Bottom: Completed zipper and strap.

How that all the prepwork is done, it’s time to start to assemble the main part of the bag.  First, you’re going to attach your zipper.  Lay one of your quilt squares right side up.  Center the zipper piece right side down lined up at the top of the quilt square.  Then place one of your lining pieces right side down, lined up with the quilt square.  Use your zipper foot to sew along the top where all 3 overlap.  It may help to sew a little and move the zipper pull (with the needle down, you can raise the presser foot if necessary).  Then fold the top and the lining back from the zipper, and topstitch them to hold.  Repeat with the other quilt square and lining piece on the other side of the zipper.  Switch back to your standard presser foot.  Then pin the two lining pieces right sides together and sew on the opposite edge of the zipper, leaving a 2.5-3″ gap in the center and backstitching at the end.  Pin the two quilt blocks right side together and sew the whole edge on the opposite edge of the zipper.

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Line these three pieces up on the top edge (quilt block, zipper, lining piece)

Put Together Collage

The first two photos are what the bag looks like once you’ve done the zipper assembly. The bottom photo shows the next step, sewing the lining pieces and the quilt blocks together (don’t forget the opening in the lining!)

Now the assembly directions start to get a little hairy – not hard to do, but tough to describe, so make sure you check out the pictures for each step!

OPEN THE ZIPPER, and flatten your bag by opening both the quilt blocks and the lining pieces you just sewed, with the zipper in the center and the pull on the end you’re about to sew.  Pin and sew along the whole edge.

3D Assembly Collage

Top photo: What I mean by flattening with the zipper in the middle (note it’s the side where the zipper pull is when it’s open). Left bottom: Quilt block side. Right bottom: Lining side. (You can see the zipper end sticking out in both of these pictures)

Now, flip it around to the only open end left.  Pin your strap about 1.5″ from the zipper, looped inside the quilt block side.  Then pinch the zipper end towards the quilt block side, pin it, and pin the lining right sides together and the quilt blocks right sides together (don’t forget to take out the pin that held your strap temporarily).  Lastly, sew along the whole length you just pinned.

Final Assembly Collage

Top: Temporarily pin the strap in place. Middle: Pinch the zipper end towards the quilt block side. Bottom: pin the lining, pinched zipper, and quilt blocks (including strap) and sew with 1 seam.

We’re in the home stretch!  Turn your bag right side out (you’re welcome for telling you to open the zipper!) and pull the lining out.  Topstitch or handstitch the opening in the lining closed, and tuck it back in.  You may need to poke and prod the corners a little to get the bag looking right, but you’re done!

Final Product Collage

Your unique bag is done!

I know that looked complicated, but it’s really not bad.  And the results are so adorable, it’s worth the work!!

Easy Maxi Dress

As soon as I saw this tutorial for a maxi dress, I knew I had to make one.  I always swoon over them at the store, but those suckers are EXPENSIVE!!  Instead, I bought 2 yards of fabric (I think it was $8 a yard, so I spent all of $16 on this dress) and got to work in my sewing room.  It took me only a few hours, and if I hadn’t had 2 starving, pooping, crying, crazy kids wandering around the house I probably could have put it together in an hour and a half.  The tutorial I’m going to post will also include a couple optional additions, so you can really make it your own!

Supplies:

  • 2 yards of cotton knit
  • Coordinating thread
  • T-shirt whose fit you like
  • Pattern paper (or taped-together printer paper)

The first thing you’re going to do is draft a pattern for your t-shirt, which will act as the base for the dress.  I really need to invest in some pattern paper!  I flattened my shirt out really well, and folded it perfectly in half.  Then I lined the fold (middle) up with the straight side of the paper and traced.  You can see below, I also made a note of where the front collar lies, as tracing it gives the back collar only.

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Check out my post (linked above) for details on drafting a pattern.

Once your pattern is ready, it’s time to get your fabric ready.  Having a large table available makes this process much easier!  Lay the fabric out flat, and fold the selvage from both sides to the center (where the fabric was folded when you bought it).  Try not to let it wrinkle at all, but also try not to stretch it.  Lay your pattern with the center at the fold at the top of one of the sides, like below.

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Once you’ve got it folded, place your pattern at the top to start cutting out your dress.

My t-shirt pattern didn’t include the seam allowance, so I used a pen to mark my fabric 1/2″ beyond the pattern piece all around (except the bottom).  You won’t see the marks, so it doesn’t really matter what you use.  Then, you want to extend your shirt down to make a dress, so start widening from about the middle of the shirt.  I used my tape measure and plexiglass ruler together – the tape measure guided me, and the ruler provided a hard surface to draw my lines (see picture below).  As far as length, you’ll want to make it a little longer than you think you’ll need it – you can hem a dress, but making it longer is a lot harder!  I measured myself to be about 52″ from shoulder down to my ankle, so I aimed for about 55″.  It’s not exact, and you’ll fix it later.  Your pieces may also be a little different (mine were about 3/4″ different length) – again, you will make it uniform when you hem it.  Try to get as close to the selvage as you can at the bottom to maximize space for moving your legs!  Do the same thing on the other side, flipping your pattern over, but make sure you cut one front and one back!

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You can see I’ve flipped my pattern up-side-down, revealing that I used recycled paper 😛

Finally we have 2 pieces – one for the front, and one for the back.

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Front of the dress on the left, back on the right.

It’s time to start assembling!  Place the front and back of the dress right sides together, and sew TWICE along the shoulders (along the same line).  Why twice?  It helps to stabilize the shoulders.  Knit is very stretchy, and you don’t want it to lose its shape.  Then sew up the sides from the armpit to the bottom.

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It’s starting to look like a dress!

To complete the simplest version of the dress, all you have left is finishing edges.  At the neckline, turn the raw edges inward and use a straight stitch to sew them down.  Pay attention to the distance between the fold and the stitch, not the raw edge and the stitch – you want it to look uniform when you look at the right side!  Same goes for the sleeves, although you’ll want to use a zigzag stitch to allow for stretch.  I recommend starting and stopping in the armpit because nobody should be looking that closely there.  And finally, figure out where you want to hem your dress (this is easier with help, but possible alone), and turn up the hem.  Be sure to cut off the excess fabric!

You can stop there and have an adorable, fully functional maxi dress.  But I wanted to have a belt to give it a little dimension.  So I cut a piece of fabric 40″x2.5″ (from the strip left over in the middle of the fabric) to make a tube, and another piece 60″x1.25″ to make a cord.  Your lengths may be a little longer or shorter, but as always, if you make them too long, you can always shorten easily!  Stitch the 40″ piece with a zigzag stitch (right sides together) to make a tube, and turn right side out.  Stitch the 60″ piece right sides together (a straight stitch will do) and turn right side out.  Put on your dress, and figure out where you want your belt to lie.  You can mark it with pen, as your lines will be covered by the tube you just made.  Then pin and stitch the tube onto the dress by zigzag stitching on the upper and lower parts of the tube (you need the cord to slide through it).  At the ends (the front middle), turn the raw edges inside the tube before sewing.  To complete the cord, turn the raw ends over themselves twice and hand stitch.  Then use a safety pin to thread the cord through the tube.

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Here is the finished tube, waiting for the cord to be threaded through.

The last finishing touch that’s optional is to add a 2nd row of stitching to the hem on the bottom of the dress.  This just makes it look store-bought – most manufacturers use a serger to complete a hem, so it leaves 2 lines of stitching.  It also helps keep the fabric from flopping around after you’ve trimmed it.

And that’s it!  You have a beautiful maxi dress that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg, and took less than an afternoon to put together!  Now go show that baby off 🙂

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When Radar saw the dress on the bed when he got home, he asked me why I needed to buy myself a dress today! What a compliment – for someone to think something I made was store-bought!

Deployment Wall

It’s that time for us that all military families dread: deployment is upon us.  Radar will be leaving before we know it to spend 7 months in Japan.  This is our 2nd deployment with the squadron to the same place.  Last time he went, Monster was only 2 months old… this time it’s a whole new game with a 2 year old and a 10 month old!  To help Monster and Peach remember their Daddy, and to help us all track the time as it passes, I’ve put together a “deployment wall.”

Most of the parts were pretty easy to put together, and I think it turned out pretty nice, if I do say so myself!

  • At the center is a photo collage (only $15 at Walmart) to help the little ones remember the good memories they have with Daddy.  I plan to update these pictures while he is gone with photos of him having adventures.
  • I included a clock for each country; at this time of year, they’re 12 hours apart so it seems a little silly, but after daylight savings it will be 13 hours, and when Radar goes on detachments to other countries (in other time zones) it will be nice to have that constant reminder that it’s 5am where he is, and not a good time to call!
  • Then I made a calendar that Monster and Peach will get to put a sticker on before bed every night to mark the passage of each day.  I’ll also be adding big trips and whatnot that we plan to go on, so instead of one long stretch of time, it will highlight all the fun adventures we’ll be having here!
  • And lastly, I want to keep a box going all the time for things to send to Radar, from the kids’ artwork to whatever he has requested, so nothing gets forgotten when it’s time to mail it.

So after a long explanation, here’s the finished product:

IMG_2535To make the pennant banner, I bought some burlap on a roll from Walmart.  I cut it into about 6-inch-long segments, then split each in half along the diagonal.  This didn’t quite make the isosceles triangles I wanted (yes, I’m a math and science teacher), so I cut the top so the two other sides were equal in length.  I made 12 total with this same method.  Then I got some foam stickers on sale at Joann’s during Memorial Day and used them to create patterns on the burlap.  It doesn’t matter what color they are, just that they stick temporarily.  Then I took them outside and used red and blue spray paint to color the pennants, and finally removed the stickers!  To put it all together, I used some navy blue paracord we had on hand – but any cord or string will do.  I tied a knot in each end and hot glued the pennants to the cord, then used pushpins to stick them up on the wall.  Not too hard, but gives a neat effect!

Pennant CollageI over-engineered the clocks a little… but I couldn’t help myself, I’m a perfectionist!  The clocks are just the cheapies from Walmart.  I used my Silhouette to cut out the flags with a little hole in the center (for the part that holds the arms) and a slit (to get it onto the clock).  I used the registration marks feature on the Silhouette software to make each flag perfect (I’ll post a tutorial on doing this at a later time – in the meantime, there are tons of resources out there to help you try it out!).  Each clock had some screws on the back that allowed me to pull of the glass to add my flags.  You can find the Silhouette file here.

Clock CollageFor the poster, I downloaded a simple pdf calendar for the date range I needed here.  I printed it at 50% and glued it onto a posterboard.  I used the BodieMF Flag font for the poster heading.  For the mail sign, I used the KG Uncle Sam font.

Poster CollageAnd that’s it!  Just FYI, USPS offers these large flat rate boxes that are especially for APO/FPO addresses… a regular one will work, but it’s nice to have one that’s easy to fill out!  And don’t forget your customs form!

IMG_2541I found a ton of other deployment wall ideas online; check out my Military Life board on Pinterest for more inspiration, from care packages to general information.

One more thing I want to add before I sign off, is you need to consider your kids.   One of the other wives in our squadron recently pointed out that for older kids, being constantly reminded that Daddy (or Mommy) is gone can be detrimental, despite your good intentions.  Because my kids are so young, I am going to be working hard to help them remember Daddy; also, time passes without quantity for them, so they don’t remember whether it’s been 1 month or 6 since he left.  While a deployment wall may be great for you, it may make things harder for your children – so just do what works for your family!

If you are part of a military family, I hope your deployments pass quickly and safely!!