Kawaii Fox Lunch Bag

Kawaii means cute in Japanese, and that is just the right word to describe this vinyl bag!  I knew as soon as I saw this tutorial for a bear or cat that I could adapt it to make a fox for my secret fox.  The tutorial posted above is really great, and their pictures are amazing, but as usual, I tweaked a few things, so I’ll go ahead and post my own as well.  It took me only about an hour to put together (minus the distractions from the kids), and I’m pretty pleased with the results!

This was my first time working with vinyl, and if it’s yours, too, I recommend testing your machine with a scrap piece before you jump into the project.  I took a few tries to get the hang of my technique to keep it from sticking to the machine (tips on that later):

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: always test your stitching on a sample so you know what you’re dealing with!

Supplies:

  • 1/4 yd clear vinyl
  • 1 sheet each orange, white, and other color felt (you can use 2 sheets of orange, too, but I used light pink)
  • 3 black buttons
  • 1 inch piece of white Velcro
  • Fox Lunch Bag Pattern
  • Coordinating thread

Start out by printing the pattern and cutting out the pieces as directed.  I found for the vinyl, it was easiest to put the pattern under the vinyl and trace just outside with a fine Sharpie – you don’t want black marks showing in your seams!  If your lines are visible after cutting, you can always trim after sewing the first 3 seams (that’s what I did).

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I offset after I traced, just to show the lines. If your vinyl doesn’t lay flat, don’t worry – it will when it’s done. Just press it flat to trace.

I made the face and ears first, because they’re just so darn cute!  Place the orange face piece on top of the white, and sew around the edge with orange thread (you can see I have a zigzag down the fox’s nose, that’s because I didn’t have an orange piece of felt big enough to make the nose, so I stitched 2 together).  For the ears, place the white felt triangles in the center of the orange and stitch around the edge.  Then sew your eyes and nose buttons on.  Be sure the nose button is not all the way at the bottom, as you’ll have to sew a seam around the edge of the face in a minute.  Then use the face pattern to mark where the Velcro is supposed to go, and sew the hook side on the vinyl face piece.  Now you need to attach the vinyl face to the felt face.  The vinyl can be a little tricky on the machine, so go forth carefully!  The original tutorial suggests using Scotch Magic Tape on the machine and presser foot to allow it to slide, but we buy the dollar store stuff and it just made things worse when I tried it out.  I found that on my machine, if I kept the felt side up (against the presser foot), the vinyl side down (against the feed dog), and helped keep the vinyl from sticking by pulling a little from the back side, it worked just fine.  When I sewed 2 vinyl pieces together, just a little pulling on the backside also helped and I was able to sew it without problems.  Also, do not use pins with the vinyl!  It’s not like fabric – once it’s pierced, that hole will be there forever, and nobody wants a holey fox face.  The last step is to pin the ears right side down on the face (it’s easy to not go thru the vinyl, as long as you don’t stab too hard the pin tip will just slide along it).  Now set the face aside and turn your attention to the bag.

Fox Bag Face

Left: Completed felt face and ears. Center: Completed face piece, with vinyl and Velcro. Right: Ears pinned right side down to face.

To start the bag, alternate side and front vinyl pieces and sew up the long edge with a total of 3 seams (see photo below).  Turn the top edge down and sew to create a finished edge (you may need to help the machine out when there are 4 layers of vinyl – just tug gently on the back to keep it sewing).  Then place your bottom felt 2 inches from the bottom edge of the bag on the right side and stitch in place (2 1/4″ from the bottom); flip the felt over to create the bottom of the bag.  You may need to trim a little felt from the edge so it lines up with the vinyl on the sides.  Then mark the Velcro location from the pattern onto the front panel that is sandwiched between 2 sides, and attach the loop part of the Velcro.  Line the fox face up at the top of the other large panel, and stitch in place (I recommend backstitching at the beginning and end to make it extra sturdy).  Be sure to leave at least 1/4″ on the right of the fox face for seam allowance to complete the bag!

Bag Construction

Left: The bag is good side up (the top hem is on the underside), and I trimmed the felt on the left side. Right: A visual for the Velcro and fox face.

You’re in the home stretch!  Fold the bag in half, out-sides together, and stitch the last seam to make a vinyl tube.  Flatten the felt at the bottom, kinking the sides in like a paper bag, and stitch the bottom shut (again, I recommend backstitching at the ends to keep it from coming apart).  Turn the bag right side out – this is probably the hardest step!  The vinyl can be a little stiff, but you’re not going to rip it.  The bottom of your bag will look like the photo below.

Bag Bottom

Left: Sew a seam across the bottom, with the edges folded in like a paper bag. Right: Completed bottom after turning right-side-out.

And you’ve completed your adorable fox lunch bag!

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I made the bottom pink because it’s my secret fox’s favorite color, but you can stick with orange or choose another color to personalize it

Now I just need to stuff it with more fox goodies, and I’ll have my next secret fox gift ready to deliver!

DIY Mugs

So, like everyone else, I’ve been seeing all these pins floating around about using Sharpie markers to make your own design on glass or ceramic – just draw your design, bake it in the oven, and you’re done!  Seemed too good to be true, plus I had no idea what to draw, so I put this idea on the back burner.

Then, I came across this mug, and knew I had to make one to send to Radar.  I know he’ll love it!  It’s inappropriate without outwardly swearing, plus the fox is his squadron’s mascot.  So I started to do some digging about the magic of Sharpies and the oven.  Turns out, the key is oil-based paints, as I learned here.  Thanks to Ruth, I bought an orange DecoArt glass paint marker on Amazon (only 1 color, because it’s a little pricey for 1 marker!), and then waited 2 days for it to come in the mail.  When did I get so spoiled by Amazon Prime that even 2 days is unbearable now??  I also bought a couple plain white mugs at Walmart while I waited.

At this point, I just followed the directions on the pen packaging (which I will definitely hold onto for future reference).  I cleaned off the mug with alcohol.  Then I used a pencil to sketch my design.  It doesn’t show up all that well, so I didn’t take a picture, but it was enough to guide me with the paint.  Also, it just rubs off if you make a mistake, so it’s super easy.  I found a simple fox that I could actually draw on Google images.  Once my design was drawn in pencil, I carefully and nervously traced it and colored in with the paint pen.  It actually turned out pretty well!

The instructions for the paint pens are as follows:

Not for direct contact with food.  Clean surface with alcohol before applying.  Shake well.  To activate press down on tip until color appears.  Allow painted project to dry 4 hours.  Bake 30 min at 325F in a non-preheated oven for durable, dishwasher-safe finish.  Allow project to cool with oven door open.

I wanted to put a design inside the cup, but didn’t because of the warning about food contact.  I also had to press really hard for a long time before the color came down, but once it did, it flowed easily.  I drew my fox at 4 pm, so it was ready to go in the oven right after I put the kids to bed at 8.  I also drew on the bottom (just my signature and the year), so when I put it in the oven (remember, it has to be cool!), I just put it on the wire rack in the center so the bottom would also “cook.”  To cool it, I didn’t want the mug to crack from a fast temperature change, so I just cracked the oven door open about 3 inches (another reason it was better to do it after the kids went to bed) and let it cool slowly for a couple hours.

I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the results!  I think my drawing was pretty good, and the paint sure seems durable!  I haven’t tested the dishwasher safety (that’s the right verbage, right?), but Radar doesn’t have a dishwasher over there so it’s a moot point.

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Not bad, huh?

Now that I’ve had a taste of customizing glass and ceramic, I want to do more!  I smell fun, one-of-a-kind Christmas presents!

Tzatziki

My sister’s husband’s mother (think about that… got it?) makes the world’s best tzatziki with home-made Greek yogurt.  I mean, it’s probably one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted in my life, it’s that good!  My brother-in-law and his family are from Albania, so they know good, home-made tzatziki!  He taught my mom, who taught me, how to make our own so that we aren’t always asking them to make it.  We cheat and use store-bought yogurt, but it still turns out pretty tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz plain Greek yogurt (nonfat or low fat are both fine)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic (about 4 large cloves)
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Stir up the yogurt and drop into a mixing bowl.  Finely mince the garlic and add it in.  Peel the cucumber and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then dice into cubes about the size of a pinky nail and drop it in the bowl.  Pick the dill off the stems, give it a quick chop, and add it to the mix.  Then add the oil, salt, and pepper.  Stir it up really well, and enjoy your fresh tzatziki!  Store it in the fridge for up to a week, if it lasts that long!

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It should fit right back into the original yogurt container for easy storage

A couple of tips: first of all, I know that English cucumbers aren’t supposed to have seeds, and their skin is edible.  But the seed-like stuff in the middle will make the tzatziki watery as it sits, so it’s best to remove it.  The skin also changes the texture of the finished product, so we prefer to remove it.

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The half on the left has the “seeds” scooped out; I’m about to do the one on the right

Also, if you don’t want to buy fresh dill and chop it, you can get the dill in the squeeze tube as an alternative.  My mom uses that kind, as she has some crazy allergies that push her into anaphylactic shock when she chops dill (she can eat it, just not cut it).  You can find it near the fresh herbs in the grocery store.

As far as how to enjoy it, well, that’s entirely up to you.  One of my favorite ways to eat it is instead of sour cream on a baked potato.  Talk about bumping up the volume on something generally very bland!  My mom makes a lamb roast every time I go home, and it’s great with that, too.  But I have to say my favorite application is instead of ranch dressing for dipping raw veggies in – yum!

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Snow peas and tzatziki make a healthy and delicious snack!

I hope you enjoy this simple, authentic-tasting tzatziki recipe!

Deployment Bucket List

As I’ve mentioned before, Radar is on deployment to Japan for the second time.  One of the things I learned the first time is that even though I do a lot for the kids and for him, I need to take care of myself, too!  So this deployment, I’ve come up with a sort of “bucket list” of things I want to do while he’s gone.  For the most part, it’s things that he either doesn’t like, or single-person activities – so I can enjoy having the house to myself in the evenings after the kids go to bed!

So tonight, on a very rainy evening in Jacksonville, I’m starting on the first item on my (ever-evolving) list: re-watching (and eventually re-reading) the Harry Potter series!

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The actors were babies in the first movie! And my wine glass is awesome – it says “Deployment Survival Glass,” from one of the other squadron wives 🙂

We don’t really keep popcorn in the house, so I’m enjoying these veggie straws that I bought for the kids, and, of course, a glass of wine (which may or may not be my 3rd tonight)!

Drinking Alone

This one is for all my fellow military wives out there!

So I leave you all now, to enjoy my evening with Harry Potter…. that is, if I can stay awake!

Christmas (Ornaments) in July

This week we are heading to Arizona to celebrate Christmas in July with my grandparents!  As I mentioned earlier, my grandmother has cancer and hasn’t been doing well, so we want to make sure we get to see her and celebrate, you know, just in case.  My mom, sister, brother-in-law, and niece will be meeting me, Monster, and Peach out in Phoenix.  Of course, the Christmas gifts will be mostly about the kids, but I wanted to give my grandparents a little something, too.  I saw these adorable hand-made ornaments, and fell for them!  They use the same quilt-as-you-go method as I used in the triangle bag, and took less than an hour to put together.  I had some Christmas fabric that was given to me which was perfect!

Supplies:

  • Scraps of fabric, cut in 1.5″ strips (your choice if it has a Christmas theme or not)
  • 12″x12″ backside fabric
  • 12″x12″ batting (fusible optional)
  • Coordinating ribbon
  • Coordinating thread

Line up your 12″x12″ fabric on your batting, right side facing out, and flip it over to start quilting on the batting side.  I started by copying the method in the link above – I cut my 1.5″ strips into 3″ portions and did a strip across the batting in one direction, followed by the rest of the strips in the other direction.  But for my long strips, I didn’t have enough of some of them – mostly the red – so I started piecing them together to add more variety.  You can see my finished “quilt block” below.  Once your quilting is done, print out the Ornament Templates and cut out the shapes; pin them to the block and sew around them.  Then repeat – you should have room on your block to fit each shape twice.  Be sure to leave enough space for cutting between shapes, though!  Then use your handy-dandy pinking shears to trim about 1/4″ outside of the stitching and sew on a loop of ribbon for hanging.

Christmas in July

Left: My quilt block, using quilt-as-you-go plus some pieced together strips. Center: Sew along the template to get each shape. Right: Completed ornaments!

Even if you’re not celebrating Christmas in July, you can work on making some of these ahead of the holidays!  I will definitely be sending a few to Radar in a care package as Christmas approaches.  Merry Christmas!

Binding and Covering a Quiet Book

We made it to the home stretch!  So far, we’ve made 12 pages (6 front and back pages) for a quiet book: check out tutorials part 1, part 2, and part 3.  Now it’s time to put it all together and complete the project!

There are many ways to bind a quiet book.  You can use a combination of grommets, binder rings, ribbon, button holes… the sky is the limit!  I prefer a more kid-proof method, though, inspired by this post, where you sew the pages onto a binding which is then attached to the cover.  It may be a little more work, but it’s super sturdy and I don’t worry about it coming apart!  So let’s dive in and finish up this book so the kids can play with it.

Supplies:

  • 9″x3″ piece stiff fusible Pellon (like we used for the fabric postcard)
  • 10″x4″ fabric to cover Pellon
  • 2 pieces 21″x10″ fabric (can be the same or different)
  • 21″x10″ batting
  • 2 pieces 2″x5″ (again, can be the same or different)
  • 2″x5″ fusible interfacing
  • 1.5″ piece Velcro
  • 1 package jumbo rick rack (optional)
  • Coordinating thread

To create the binding, iron the Pellon into the center of the back of the 10″x4″ fabric.  Fold the edges back and sew around, tucking in the corners (first picture below).  Then turn it over and attach each page with a straight stitch, being sure to backstitch several times at the top and bottom (this is where the stitching will undergo the most stress).  You can see the first page attached in the middle below, then each subsequent page was about 1/2″ further to the right.  When you’re done, you’ll see it’s starting to look like a book!

Binding Collage

Left: The binding piece. Center: Attaching the first page. Right: Binding complete!

Once you’ve bound it, you need to make the cover.  Place one of the 21″x10″ pieces of fabric on top of the batting.  Lay your rick rack around the edge, lining it up with the edge (you can see, my choice of one-sided rick rack wasn’t the best… but it’s sort of a neat effect in the end).  The corners are a little tricky – this was my first time using rick rack in this type of application, so I folded and flipped at the corners.  If you’re more experienced, you probably have a better method!  Baste it in place a scant 1/4″ from the edge all the way around.  Then place the other 21″x10″ piece of fabric right side down and sew around the edge with 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving a 3″ opening on one edge.  Clip the corners, turn right side out, and topstitch 1/4″ around the edge, folding the opening in before stitching it.  Then place the bound pages in the center of the cover and sew around the edge of the Pellon twice to secure (I found the zipper foot was handy, and had to go at it from an angle at some parts).  See the photos below for a visual:

Cover Collage

Left: Baste the rick rack onto the fabric (batting below). Center: Completed cover. Right: Outside of cover once bound pages have been attached.

To create the closure, iron the fusible interfacing to one of the 2″x5″ pieces of fabric; place the 2 pieces of 2″x5″ fabric right sides together and sew around 3 sides (leave a short side open).  Clip the 2 corners and turn right side out.  Roll the open edge into the tube you just created, and topstitch all the way around the piece 1/4″ from the edge.  Attach the hook piece of Velcro to the end of the tab.  Attach the other end of the tab to the center edge of the back cover (see photo below).  Sew the loop part of the Velcro onto the cover, at a 90 degree angle – this gives you some wiggle room for closing the book.  And that’s it!  Your quiet book is complete!  Now sit back and admire your work 🙂

Finished Product

Up-close photos of the closure are in the bottom right picture

I meant to add some applique to the front, maybe with the kids’ names or something, but quite honestly I got so excited about doing rick rack that I forgot!  I may come back with some puffy paints and add a design later, but for now I’m happy with the finished product.

I have armed you with the instructions – now go make a gorgeous quiet book for a special little someone in your life!

Quick links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Fabric Postcard

I make a lot of things myself, but it never occurred to me that I could make a postcard until Patchwork Posse posted a link to her tutorial.  Radar and I have a friend who has RSD and has recently started a new treatment where she has to stay in the hospital for several days at a time.  I’ve been wanting to send her something, but didn’t know what, until I saw these great, 100% customizable postcards!  So my next step was to decide what to put on it.  Cue Pinterest, and the convenient option to stalk someone else’s boards!  I found this adorable heart and pawprint design that she pinned, and knowing how much she loves her pup, Starbuck, I knew I had the perfect inspiration to get started!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own fabric postcard:

  • Peltex, or other very stiff one-sided fusible interfacing (this stuff is like cardboard)
  • Fabric for the background and appliques
  • Heat N Bond
  • Cardstock
  • Spray adhesive
  • Coordinating and/or contrasting thread

Before you get started, you’ll want to get familiar with the USPS rules for mail.  These are not cheaper to send, like standard postcards, but you can definitely get away with a regular “forever” stamp as long as you stick to a few guidelines:

  • No smaller than 3.5″x5″
  • No larger than 6″x11.5″
  • No thicker than 1/4″
  • Not square (they charge more for square because the machines don’t know which direction is up, so they have to be handled by a person)

I opted for 5″x7″ because it was big enough to make my design pretty, but not so huge it was gaudy.  4″x6″ would work well, too.

First thing you need to do is cut your Peltex to the size you want, iron it onto your background fabric, and trim the excess fabric off.

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I can’t draw to save my life.  Yes, even a heart is too much for me!  So I jumped onto my best friend, Google images, and searched for the shapes I wanted.  Once I found what I liked, I saved them to my computer, and when I opened them up was able to zoom in or out until I had the size I wanted.  Then I flattened my laptop and carefully traced the image from the screen onto the paper backing of some Heat N Bond.  Note: if your image has a right way and a wrong way, like a letter, you’ll want to flip it backwards using the technique described in my applique post.  Then I ironed the designs to the fabric, cut them out, and ironed them onto my postcard.  Then I used coordinating thread to applique the heart, and contrasting thread for the pawprint.

Once you’ve completed the front of your postcard, turn your attention to the back.  Go outside (for fumes and overspray) and spray a light coating of adhesive onto the back of the postcard and stick it to your cardstock.  Use a ruler and PAPER rotary cutting blade (in my case, it’s just an old fabric one that’s too dull for fabric, but I don’t want to dull my current fabric blade by using it on paper!) to trim the excess cardstock off.

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I keep my old rotary blade in the package from the new one, but it’s labeled for paper!

To finish off your postcard, use a zigzag stitch to stitch around the edges.  Do not use too short a stitch length, or it will perforate your card and it might come off!  Add any details to the back of the card that you wish; I chose to just add a line to separate the writing from the address, but you can add other postcard-like details if you want!  Also, I used a stamp I made with my Silhouette to show that I made it.  I’ll do a tutorial for that another time.

Finished Postcard

Did you know they make Harry Potter forever stamps?? I had to give my friend a special stamp for her special postcard!

It’s a pretty simple item to make, but I’m hoping it will make her day!  Do you have someone special who would like to receive a fabric postcard?  Get sewing and make them smile!