Simple Spring Table Runner

Last week, one of my friends (we were in the same squadron in Jacksonville, and now the same one again in Pensacola!) invited a bunch of ladies over to play Keno.  We were asked to bring a $5 spring-themed gift to play white elephant.  Being the Martha (as in Stewart, a nickname given by my sister that I use proudly), I couldn’t just go out and buy a gift.  But I also couldn’t convince myself that I needed to buy supplies for my gift, since I have a craft room full of junk great stuff.  As I combed through my fabric, looking for anything with a spring feel, I realized I have some really great small pieces that would work well together to make something cute for the season.  So I decided to make a table runner!  Technically I didn’t spend anything at all on my gift, but I figure the cost of all the supplies I used would have been around the $5 mark, so I was good.

Supplies:

  • Scraps of 12 fabrics (or 48 if you want to go really eclectic!)
  • 1/2 yd of fabric for backing
  • 1/2 yd fusible batting
  • 2 12.5″ pieces of ric rac (optional)
  • Coordinating thread

(1/4″ seam allowances were used on everything unless otherwise noted)

You’ll need a total of 48 3.5″ squares of fabric; in my case, I cut 4 each of 12 fabrics.  You can do pairs, or all different, or repeat colors… it’s up to you and the look you’re going for.  Once you’ve got all your squares cut out, line them up in rows of 4 to decide how to place them.  My ironing board worked really well for this.

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None of these fabrics were particularly “springy,” but together they worked well!

I went for an arrangement of diagonal stripes in rainbow order, but how you lay yours out is entirely up to you!  Some of my fabrics were directional, so I paid attention to that, too.  Then start sewing your strips of 4 together.  When your 12 strips are complete, turn to the back side and press your seam allowances in alternating directions; for instance, I pressed my first row upwards, 2nd downwards, 3rd upwards, and so on.  This seems silly, but trust me, it will make putting it together easier.

For a little interest, I inserted a strip of my backing fabric 2 rows in on either side of the runner (cut 2 strips of fabric 12.5″x2.5″ of your backing fabric, keeping in mind that you’ll need a 14″x41″ piece later).  You can start assembling your strips now, using the seam allowances you pressed earlier to line up the seams – just butt them up against each other (see photo below).  As long as they fit together tightly, you’ll have perfectly matched lines in your finished table runner.  Don’t forget to add in your extra strips of fabric, too!

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See how you can just push those two little steps together? It’s really easy to feel that as you feed it through the machine, you don’t even really need to pin it in place.

Once the table runner top is assembled, turn it over and press all the seam allowances in the same direction.  Then cut out a piece of fusible batting to be the same size and iron it onto the back of the top (this is a good project to use scraps of batting, too, since you’ll never even notice if the batting isn’t perfect).  If you want to add the ric rac detail, now is the time to do it – just a straight stitch will do the trick.  Don’t worry about the ends, they’ll be covered when you bind it.  Lay the top with batting attached right side up on top of the backing fabric, wrong side up.  Cut the backing fabric to be about 3/4″ bigger on all sides than the top (mine ended up 41″x14″).  Safety pin in place like crazy (as usual, there’s no such thing as too many pins) in the centers of the squares.  Quilt the table runner by stitching 1/4″ to each side of each of the seams between the rows.  I don’t recommend stitching across the long way, as it will cut through your accent pieces on the front and won’t look so great – plus it’s more work that’s unnecessary!  Don’t worry about backstitching at the beginning and end, as long as you go right to the edges of the top side, it will be tacked down with the binding.

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This is after the next step, but I just wanted to prove that your stitches won’t come out – they’re secured by the binding

Once all of your quilting is done, you’re on the home stretch!  The binding for this table runner is just like what we did in the Twister quilt – if you need specific directions, just click the link.  Press the raw edges of the backing in to meet the quilt top on all 4 sides.  Then fold the pressed edge in and pin in place, creating mitered corners in the process.  Stitch in place, and you’re done!

Spring Table Runner

If my table were bigger (we have a tiny dining room table), I might have kept this for myself and still bought a $5 gift!

This simple table runner doesn’t have to be only for spring – use different themed fabric prints or colors for different holidays, or one to match your dining room decor to use year-round.  It’s also fun to make something like this from remnants – that’s what my backing fabric was, a piece that I bought because I liked it but had no specific project in mind.  I think I paid about $2 for it!  Although I said the ric rac was optional, it really makes the table runner pop – and it was left over from another project, so it was a win-win.

This project is a great scrap buster, and makes an adorable, inexpensive gift.  You only need to sew straight lines, and it’s easy to make everything line up.  So don’t be afraid to try it out yourself!

Easy Little Girl’s Dress

There are so many cool fabrics out there these days.  And I don’t just mean cute prints, but the types of fabric you can buy sometimes blows my mind!  I recently discovered fabric that is pre-shirred – basically, it’s already smocked with elastic thread when you buy it!  How brilliant is that??  I found some adorable 19″ fabric to make Peach and my niece each a dress (because what’s cuter than little girls in matching outfits?), and I’m not even kidding, you can literally sew one seam and be done!  So read on to see how easy it is to make your own adorable dress!

To figure out how much I needed for each dress, I measured the kiddos around the chest and subtracted 2 inches.  Cutting this fabric is a little different than regular cotton, but the measurements are based on the shirred section, not the bottom of the dress.  I am generally not a fan of tearing fabric to cut it (in fact, I cringe when they do this at the fabric store), but in this case, you pretty much have to in order to get a straight line.  So, use your ruler to measure the fabric at the top, cut to the bottom of the shirred section with your scissors, and tear down to the bottom of the fabric (you’ll need the scissors again for the selvage).

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I cut with scissors at the end of my ruler, then tore to the bottom and trimmed the bottom part

Fold the fabric in half, right sides together, and line up the top, bottom, and the shirring threads.  I used a serger so that the seam would be finished, but a sewing machine would also work.  If you use a serger, jump on your regular machine to zigzag the tails in place, like we did on the pillowcase dress before.

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Serger tail secured with zigzag stitching

Technically, you’re done at this point!  However, I chose to add little straps made of 1/2″ ribbon, since it would be very easy for the girls to pull them down without straps.  For Peach’s dress, I used 7″ ribbons that were 2″ from the seam (which I centered in the back).  For my niece’s I used 8″ ribbons 2.5″ from the seam.  Just fold them over and stitch above the shirring.  For the front, line the seam up with the center and fold the ribbons forward; secure as on the back.

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The 2″ and 2.5″ numbers are to the outside of the straps (this one is my niece’s)

As usual, I bribed Monster to model the dress for me – I am going to have so many blackmail photos when he’s in high school!  Peach wasn’t as cooperative, but she really loved holding his hand.

Finished Dresses

I still think he would have made a pretty girl!

One of the really great things about these dresses is that they can grow with them.  As the girls get taller, the dress goes from full-length (like it is on Peach now) to knee-length (like it is on Monster now) to a cute shirt with leggings.  And you can always put a t-shirt or long-sleeve T underneath to be more weather appropriate.  That’s what I call a versatile piece of clothing!

In case you’re wondering, they also make shirred fabric in 45″ and 53″ wide options for adults… I have some already, so be on the lookout in the future for a similar post for grown-ups!

Sewn Paper Gift Card Holder

I always feel so lame giving people gift cards for Christmas… I feel like it’s a cop-out, and impersonal.  But for certain people, like Monster’s teachers (who I know put a lot of their own money into his education), a gift card is the perfect way to thank them for everything they do.

To make an impersonal gift a little more personal, I found this adorable idea on Pinterest!  Sewing on paper is one of those things that I always forget I can do.  And with all the cute scrapbooking paper out there, you can find just the right thing for any occasion – not just Christmas.

Standard gift cards are 3 3/8″ x 2 1/8″, but you can adjust the measurements if you have one that’s a different size – you really can’t mess it up!

Supplies:

  • Pocket paper: 2.75″x2.75″
  • Backing paper: 3.25″x4.25″
  • Thread

Place the pocket paper on top of the backing paper, leaving 1/4″ edge on the sides and at the bottom.  Lower your needle into the backing paper about one stitch length above the pocket piece.  Stitch around the side, bottom, and other side, leaving long tails of thread at the start and end.  Turn the card over and pull on the bobbin tails at the start and end to create a loop from the front, and pull all the way through.  Tie knots in both, and clip.

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Front and back for a standard size card, and the third one is non-standard – I just measured and “winged it”

Of course, you should probably use coordinating thread… I was super busy tonight and just used what was in my machine, which was black (boring, but it worked!).  Metallic thread would also be festive, or use your pinking shears on the pocket paper to give it some pizazz!

For my nieces, I ran out of Christmas paper (which Michael’s only sells in huge packages, unfortunately), so I used some Christmas-colored paper.  I also extended the height of the cardstock backing to make a flap to fold down and create a little envelope.  Super easy and cute!

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I love the metallic paper on the left one! If you have fancy Christmas stickers it would be way cuter than tape for keeping them closed.

So, if you forgot to get someone a gift and it’s the 11th hour, this is the perfect way to dress up a gift card.  Merry Christmas!

Back Ice Pack

When I was in Arizona back in August, my grandfather’s lower back was a little sore and he pulled out this crazy-looking ice pack that strapped around his waist.  I noticed that it was starting to come apart, and no wonder – he’s had it for about 15 years!  Since then, he has really done a number on his back, so I thought that making him a new version of his favorite remedy would make the perfect Christmas gift!  It’s a simple design, but definitely useful for anyone who suffers from a sore back.  Also, it’s filled with feed corn, so you can also pop it in the microwave for some heat therapy… I love a multi-tasker!  So read on for how to make your own back ice pack!

Supplies:

  • 1/2 yd fabric
  • 1/3 yd medium weight interfacing
  • 2 12″ strips of 3/4″ Velcro (1″ would also work)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Feed corn

Measure the waist of your recipient – if you can’t measure it, just give it a good guess; it doesn’t have to be perfect because you’ll add 12″ of Velcro later, giving lots of wiggle room.  The length of each of your straps will be that waist measurement, divided by 2, with an extra inch added; for me, that was 32″ (my Zaidy is ridiculously skinny), divided by 2 to get 16″, and add 1″ to get 17″.  Cut 2 pieces of fabric and 2 pieces of interfacing 10″x13″, and 4 pieces of fabric 4″x(whatever you just calculated).  Following the directions on the interfacing, iron it onto the back of the fabric rectangles.  Press one end of each of the 4″x(calculated) strips in 1/4″.  Then, press each strip in half long-ways, unfold, and press each of the raw sides into the center crease (you know the drill, to make a “strap” that’s 1″ wide).  Line one side of one of the 12″ Velcro pieces up with the turned in end of one of the straps, and stitch in place.  Also, stitch down the sides of the rest of the strap, just to hold it in place.

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Two pieces for the corn (with interfacing), and 4 straps

Now it’s time to start assembly.  Start with the two straps with the Velcro hooks.  Place them on the 10″ edge of one of the body pieces, hook side down, about 3/4″ from the top and bottom.  Repeat for the loop sides on the other 10″ side, but make the straps loop side up.  Baste all 4 in place.  That sounds confusing, but check out the photo below to clear it up.

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Loop pieces are on the left, loop side up; hook pieces are on the right, hook side down

Now, pin the other 10″x13″ piece right sides together on top, making sure all the straps are contained so they don’t get caught in the seam.  I pinned about 3/4″ from the edge to keep it all under control.  Then sew around the edge with 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving an opening about 4″-5″ for turning.

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Pinned and ready to sew! The pins sticking out on the left are to remind me to stop – otherwise I end up closing it all up!

Turn right side out.  Stitch two lines across the middle of the ice pack, each 3″ from the 13″ (now 12″) edge, beginning and ending 2″ from the 10″ (now 9″) edges.  Again, look at the photo below to clear up my wording!  Then fill with corn, and stitch the opening shut.

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Those tubes help keep the corn from all sagging at the bottom. It also keeps you from having to use 10 lbs of corn, making the ice pack too heavy!

Unfortunately, the feed corn (whole-kernel type) usually comes in gigantic bags – the minimum I could buy at my local feed store was 50 lbs!  The good new is that it’s cheap… I think I paid $8 for all that.  So use the rest to make some corn hole bags or bean bags.  Or you can make some fun animal ice packs for the kids!  And if you just don’t feel like dealing with it, feed corn makes good bird feed too 🙂

Chalkboard Serving Tray

Radar’s brother and his wife are notoriously hard to shop for.  If they ever want or need something, they always just get it for themselves!  So I have to get increasingly creative each year to give them a special gift for Christmas.  This year, I was really excited when I found this idea for a chalkboard serving tray on Pinterest!  It’s the perfect gift for them – they often have friends over for wine and snacks, and a cute serving tray makes the perfect way to share your favorite goodies while letting people know what they are.  (It can also come in handy if you have friends with allergies – what an easy way to label ingredients!)

As usual, though, I put my own spin on the project.  The biggest problem I had with the original is that she suggests using super glue to attach the handles… and I just can’t get myself to trust glue to hold a tray loaded down with heavy food and breakable serving dishes!  So, even though Radar is gone and I usually leave power tool work for him, I braved the garage (with my helpers, as you’ll see) and came up with my own, sturdier version!

Supplies:

  • 1″x12″ board, 4 ft long (get the nice wood – you’ll be able to see it around the edges)
  • 2 drawer pull handles, whatever variety suits your recipient
  • Stain, with cloth for wiping
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Rustoleum spray-on chalkboard paint
  • Pencil
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver
  • Drill with standard bit and Forstner bit (I’ll explain in a minute)

Cut your board into 2 foot sections.  You can go longer, but it’s going to be harder to carry and also larger to store, so I kept mine on the smaller side.  If you’re like me and don’t feel like making a trip to the ER because I tried to use my husband’s saw and took off a finger, they will cut your wood for free at the hardware store – take advantage!  Use the drawer pulls to mark where the screws should go.  Use your standard drill bit, which should be about the same size as the screws that came with the drawer pulls, to drill 4 holes in each board (one for each screw).  Then, to keep the tray from rocking when it’s set down, use the Forstner bit that’s a little larger than the head of the screws to drill a little trench for the screw heads, so they’ll be recessed.

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All your supplies, minus the kid! He’s obsessed with screw drivers…

You’ll see, when you insert the screw into the hole, the head will be flush with the board, creating a flat, stable surface on the bottom of the tray.  Don’t drill too far with the Forstner bit, though – your screw will stick out too much and you’ll have trouble getting it all the way into the handle.

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Drilled holes with recessed spaces for the screw heads

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Side view with screw inserted – no head sticking out!

Take your screws out and stain the top, bottom, and sides of the boards.  The stain I had was really dark (it’s called Jacobean if you like my look!), so I painted about 1/3 of the surface at a time, then wiped with a rag to keep it from seeping in too much.  Let it dry overnight.

Then, tape up your boards.  I used extra-wide tape and just lined it up with the bottom of the side, then folded up onto the top.  I definitely recommend taping the sides, because there will be overspray when you add the chalkboard paint.

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Two serving trays, ready to get their chalkboard addition

Once you’re all taped up, spray away!  I usually do this on the grass, because it grows and goes away, but if there’s snow on the ground, an open garage with a drop cloth works too!  Follow the directions on the can; I sprayed a layer, left it 24 hours, then did another coat.  Then carefully remove your tape, screw the handles on, and voila!  You have a beautiful serving tray for yourself or to give someone for Christmas!

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The bottom and the top of my serving trays; one went to a friend who is moving in to her first house on Thanksgiving!

Don’t forget to include something to write with for your recipient!  They make these great chalk pens nowadays, too – so much better than traditional chalk!  They make such neat lettering, and come off with a damp cloth.  You can also personalize around the border of the chalkboard surface – add a name and wedding anniversary, or a playful quote.  As usual, the sky is the limit!  This versatile, useful gift is sure to be a hit with whomever you give it to.

Onesie Quilt

As moms, we get attached to a lot of the things our kids wear.  We’ve made great memories with them in these clothes, and they just look so darn cute in them!  Like most moms, my sister had a stack of onesies that she couldn’t part with, but my niece had long outgrown.  So for Christmas this year, I’m making her a onesie quilt!  Getting one on etsy is super expensive (at least $100 for a small one), but making one isn’t too hard at all!

Just like a standard T-shirt quilt, the first step is to cut your onesies up.  I found that a 7″ square is about the largest I could do, especially when there were 0-3m onesies in the mix.  Keep in mind that you’re going to lose 1/2″ from each side of the square, so if there are some seams in there, they likely won’t show on the finished product.  Once it’s put together, that leaves a 6″ square, which is big enough to see whatever design is on the shirt.  But unlike adult T-shirts, onesies are a lot more varied in their designs, so you have to get a little creative with how you make your blocks!

My niece also lives in Florida, so there were several onesies that were adorable spaghetti straps.  I could have just used the design on the shirt, but the straps are part of it’s appeal, so I didn’t want to just cut them off!  I cut my usual 7″ square, but left the straps long.  Then I measured how far down the arm holes went, and cut a piece of coordinating fabric a little larger.  I ironed that onto my fusible batting (carefully so I wouldn’t get the glue on my iron), then layered the onesie on top and ironed the bottom part on.  But the top of the onesie was still flapping in the breeze, so I cut a small piece of Wonder Web (Heat N Bond would work too) to “glue” the shirt onto the overlapping fabric.  Then I stitched around the neckline and straps of the shirt to complete the square, and trimmed the extra strap length.  This same method can be used for bibs!  (Check out this shirt on the finished quilt below – I love how the frilly straps went over the spaces between the squares!)

Spaghetti Straps

Left: 7″x7″ square, but straps left long. Second: Adding the back piece. Third: Shirt has been ironed on the bottom. Right: Adding Wonder Web to attach the top of the shirt.

Another popular onesie design has a faux skirt over the snapped bottom.  In this case, the onesie had a cute design near the bottom of the skirt hem.  So I cut the skirt to be about 6″ long instead of 7″ and used a piece of fabric from the onesie below the skirt to finish off the block.  You can see there is a flap again, but I stitched it in place along the hem of the skirt, so I didn’t need to glue it down.

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I used the underside of the onesie below the skirt to layer it and show off what the onesie used to look like

My niece had the cutest outfit for the 4th of July (Peach actually wore it the day Radar left) with a tiered skirt.  I wanted to show off one of the tiers, so I let the ruffles lay naturally when I cut, so it’s a little 3-dimensional.  It gives the square the girly feel of the dress without compromising quality or stability because it was layered in the original garment.

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It’s like a skirt still!

Often, the embroidered design on a onesie is right up near the collar; if you were to cut it to exclude the collar, most of the quilt block would be empty space.  Plus, you are cutting off those cute little bows that girls’ onesies often have!  So I used a similar method as I showed above with the spaghetti straps to incorporate a collar into the quilt block.  Measure the width and depth of the opening of the shirt (once your block is cut out) and cut a piece of coordinating fabric to fill the gap.  Iron it on the fusible batting, then layer the shirt on top and iron on.  There should not be so much overlap that Wonder Web is necessary, but you’ll definitely want to stitch along the collar line to keep it in place.

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Just a little fabric below the collar, but it shows off the pretty bow and keeps the design from being right at the top of the block

And don’t let zippers or snaps scare you – you can still have them in your quilt!  A zipper won’t come undone once it’s sewn into the quilt, but I would stitch down the sides of the snaps to keep them from coming open.

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Zippers are not a problem!

My sister didn’t give me hers, but it would be super cute to include a square with your child’s hospital blanket – I don’t know about you, but I can’t part with them, even though I don’t use them any more!  You could also add hats using the fabric layering method and Wonder Web – the sky is really the limit if you’re creative!  Another great idea to include in a onesie quilt is the cute animal faces they like to put on the little butts of onesies and pants these days – adorable!

To assemble the quilt, I used the same method as I detailed in the T-shirt quilt tutorial, so I’m not going to go into super detail about that and risk being redundant (if you don’t understand the method for putting it together, you can also check out my king size quilt, which uses the same method).  I didn’t actually quilt the individual squares this time, though – they’re only 6″ square finished, so the backing doesn’t really need to be held in place, and the designs on the onesies are so tiny and intricate I felt that quilting would detract from them rather than add.  I just layered the back square pieces with the front of the quilt blocks as I assembled the quilt.

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I think it turned out pretty well 🙂

One more super nifty thing about this method is that with a little work, it can be added to!  All you need to do is pull off the binding, and more squares can be added!  I bought too much of the panda fabric on purpose with this in mind, so as my niece continues to outgrow her adorable clothes, the quilt can grow with her!  It’s an easy Christmas gift that keeps on giving!

Grinch Cookies

It’s that time of year again – Christmas cookie baking season!  One of my all-time favorite flavor combos is mint and chocolate… I mean, what’s not to love?  Cool, refreshing mint with sweet, rich chocolate.  Yum!

I discovered this super easy recipe for mint chocolate chip cookies last year, and I don’t even know how many batches I’ve made.  They’re incredible!  I haven’t made many changes to the recipe, but I did kick the mint up a little!  So do yourself a favor, and make these cookies!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pouch Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp mint extract
  • 12 drops green food color
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package mint and chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, mix butter, egg, mint extract, food color, and cookie mix until a soft dough forms.  Stir in the mint and chocolate chips.  Use two tablespoons to drop dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 17-20 minutes or until they start to brown.  Serve warm or cool completely; store in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

I made two batches of these the other night to send to Radar’s crew with their skull caps (tutorial to come).  I know they’ll love them, and it will start to get them into the Christmas spirit even though they’re halfway around the world.

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It was really hard to not eat the cookies myself!