Homemade Pillows


This summer, my friend (thanks, Kelly!) gave me some old fabric and a couple old quilt blocks that she found garage sale-ing (or thrift store-ing? can’t remember.) Anyway, I used them to make this pillow. I quilted the front with straight lines, cut it down to size (to the horror of the original maker, I’m sure,) and sewed on the back. Turned out pretty cute I think! I’ve made one of those hand-pieced 8 pointed diamonds and I think that will be my only one so it is nice to find old blocks to play with.



And last, but not least, zipper pouches.

My mother-in-law requested some custom-size bags to store her various electronic treasures when she travels. We took measurements and discussed her needs and came to the conclusion that zipper pouches were the way to go. I repeatedly mentioned the fact that I couldn’t DO zippers – at least not well. She repeatedly assured me that imperfect was OK. So – these are imperfect.

After making a couple pouches with a good tutorial (I gave these to my cousin), I experimented with different techniques – all of them with their own unique problems. OH WELL – they function and the fabrics are FAB (the linings equally so,) thanks Kaffe. I did finally figure it out as I mentioned before, so it was all fun time, well spent. We decided to label the bags and settled on stamping some twill tape and inserting it into the side and bottom seams.

And that’s it — handmade Christmas. Now, how about handmade birthdays all year?

Continue Reading

Bags For Christmas


Yes, here is the post where I get to brag about the things that I made for my family for Christmas this year. I’ve been sewing for months and finally I can share…

I made three quilted totes this month and I think bags are sorta-kinda starting to make sense to me. At least this type of bag. I even boxed the bottoms. And they are lined. Yeah, I’m braggin’. I told you I would. But as they say in Texas, “It ain’t braggin if it’s true.”

This tote was for my mom. She likes butterflies so I used my coveted butterfly print along with a skinny strip of an old olive green fabric she gave me from her stash. I changed my mind a hundred times on the fabrics but the final result was worth it I think.


I made another bag for my cousin, another one for a church friend (argh – I forgot to take a picture and it was so pretty), bean bags/carrying bag for my Dad, a table runner set for my sister, lovey blankies for my niece, a kit apron for my aunt, and embellished a dish towel for another aunt. You can click on those links to take you to my Projects Photo Album if you want to see pictures of these projects or read more about them.

I didn’t officially take the handmade pledge this year but I sewed up a storm and did what I could to support artists, craftsmen, and local farmers as well. It made Christmas merrier for me and I hope for others as well.

Continue Reading

Plate of semi-random P goodness and babbling on about sewing


1. Thank you for your empathy with my softie sewing pain above. It was not my intention at all to criticize the wonderful ladies that write & share the softie patterns nor all the crafty folks that whip up the creative variations. It was only to say that they make it seem easier than it looks. WAY WAY EASIER. Like one commenter said, I am evidently missing that part of my sewing brain. And yet, I keep trying new ones as some sort of self-flagellation ritual. The comments of empathy have made me smile and outright laugh this weekend and I really appreciate them.

2. And let me just say that if attempting any of the projects from any of my tutorials has given anyone of you similar trauma I AM SO SORRY. I didn’t mean it, I swear.

3. There are a few things that are easy to learn over the internet but I really don’t think sewing is one of them. I for one am looking to take another in-the-flesh class after the holidays. Anyone know who teaches DEALING WITH $%*# ZIPPERS 201? (I can do the parallel to the zipper sewing — its the perpendicular end installations that have me beat.) Anyone? Bueller? Mom?

4. Mom – I have a good idea for a Christmas present for me. 2 hours. You and me. At the sewing machine. With zippers. I know we tried once before…but it didn’t take. Maybe 3 hours.

5. And I think I am getting a repetitive stress injury on my foot pedal leg to top it all off. What is up with that? Oh aging, you are not so fun.

6. The plate of random P goodness that has served as my dishwashing vision-therapy this week is mostly thanks to Emily and the PINECONES and other thingies (very technical) that she sent in the fall. Aren’t they the most beautiful? The PECANS are from the park and the PEARS are from the grocery.

7. And speaking of a good thing that starts with P, on Friday I got our building PERMIT for our screen PORCH addition. We are very PLEASED.

8. (I didn’t talk about the weather.)

Continue Reading

Getting into it now


It might be 80+ degrees here* but we are getting into the Christmas mood anyway. The advent stockings are up again (well, 8 are down…) Nothing like a piece of chocolate to start your day right!

My favorite thing about this Christmas season with Bea so far has been the revival of the box of Christmas/winter books. They are full of STORIES which she enjoys & are fun for me to read and quite different from the non-fiction nature/science books that are our mainstays. When we get to a part of the story when someone does something, well… unrealistic… or perhaps just a bit risky or out of the ordinary, she always says, “Are people not gopposed to do that?”


I made this little doll as a part of an early Christmas care package to get two special girls in the mood for Christmas too. It turned out cute I think, but wow was it a booger to sew. It’s probably just me, but the fact that all those ears and arms and legs flipped right side out through the hole — well, it was a Christmas miracle. Oh – it was the Mini Moopy pattern, as you can tell. Most people say it is really fun and easy and they proceed to make a half dozen cute variations. Moving on.


The plants are even getting into the spirit too — all the berries are turning red just in time to be used as a festive entry decoration. Thanks neighbor that cut back their pyracantha bush and left it on the curb. I’m so in the festive mood I think today we’ll go get a tree.


Continue Reading

It’s all about the making


A few months ago David and Bea hatched this wild scheme that somehow culminated in me spending a Saturday morning making an eggplant softie. Bea was so excited about it, so insistent that I make it, so interested to monitor my progress during the sewing and stuffing (and unstuffing and unsewing and resewing and restuffing.)

And then it was done and she was on to other things. The eggplant has just been sitting there, “rotting” ever since. This is actually pretty typical, no? I think for Bea it was all about wielding her power over Mommy to get me to sew something for HER. And besides, she and eggplants go way back.

It was a challenge for me. I’m not spatially gifted so envisioning the flat pieces of a 3D object does not easily compute. I made one round one (Emily – I wish I had known then your daughter’s interest in purple pumpkins!), one long skinny one, and then finally got it right-ish. It felt pretty much like magic when those crazy pieces were turned inside out and…eggplant!

And so, one slow week in December I am writing about this eggplant here, remembering that for Bea and for me, it isn’t the end result that was important. It was just all about the making.

Continue Reading

2 more eye spy quilts; a little twist this time


Two more quilts for the Linus Connection, my November & December offerings. I made my goal of 12 quilts this year, just barely. The tops have been done since mid October and then SOMETHING HAPPENED and I didn’t turn on the sewing machine for over a month. ARGH. Anyway, I’m back sewing and it feels great. I finished these guys this weekend.

These feature a little twist on the eye spy theme inspired by my cousin Kristen. There are 2 of each of the squares so kids can play concentration (find the matching square) as well as eye spy… Fun stuff. I got sick of making eye spy quilts for a while, but truly the kids will never get sick of them, so I’m back on the kick.


Luckily for my time management crisis, my machine finished binding skills are slowly improving. I did these all by machine and they look pretty much decent. No wisdom to share I guess except try to keep everything as straight and even as possible and just keep trying… Oh, and cutting the binding a little wider than usual helps too.

Continue Reading

Sewing (when I’m not baking, erranding, wrapping, packing)


I took a little break from sewing gifts a couple of days ago to sew this stack of orange and pink blankies for Linus. I got an email from the founder that many of the service organizations were short on blankets, especially for infants/preemies. Since I had my baby near Christmas perhaps I am a bit more sentimental, but the thought of having a baby in the NICU at Christmas and then not getting a blanket was more than I could resist. I could only do so much though – but 4 more is 4 more.


It was hard to pull myself away from my other sewing to do these blankies because I am finally having some successes, just in time for Christmas. Thanks to a bit of help from my sewing friends ¬†and a lot of stick-to-it-ness (not my strong point, I’ll admit) I finally figured out the zipper pouch problem. Three years into my sewing career, I think I am finally ready to notch up my techniques — get things looking a bit more polished. I was under the impression that there was some secret* to doing this but it looks like it is just lots of time, patience, seam-ripping, experimenting, and more time & patience. Funny – that seems to be the case with most of life’s little challenges.

*Commercial plug alert: Well, if you want to try something other than patience, I should also say that I highly recommend buying Kathy’s patterns. Although she does not have a pattern for a zipper bag for sale now (nor immediate plans for one) her patterns are so well done that unless you are a very accomplished sewer, you will undoubtedly learn techniques that will improve your sewing. She has a real talent for figuring out better ways. I wish I could go to Washington and take a class from her — but, in the meantime…

Continue Reading

Tie One On — November — Aprons and cookies


The November theme for Tie One On asks us to picture an apron and share a family recipe for the holidays. This is one of the many aprons in my Great grandmother’s apron collection and was my first choice when the collection was divided last week. It is made from feedsack/floursack fabric and pieced together in a really complicated way that makes you realize that people with fabric shortages had some great problem solving and sewing skills. You can see me wearing it here.

My Great grandmother (Thelma Alzina) was a terrific baker — I remember her for her cookies. As a girl, my mom remembers helping her often in the kitchen but was never allowed to help without choosing an apron from the bountiful apron drawer. During a lull in cookie consumption between the grandchild and great-grandchild generations, Thelma wrote this poem.

The Lonely Cookie Jar

The cookie jar sits in the same old place,
But it looks sort of different somehow;
I wonder if it could be lonley,
As I am lonely now?
It used to be raided by small, eager hands
And emptied so quickly, too;
It kept me busy, keeping it filled
With cookies, fresh and new.
Someday, I hope they’ll come home again,
Although it may be from far,
And bring other small, eager hands
To raid Grandma’s cookie jar.

We came, lots of us in turn, and we raided for sure. Her special Christmas cookie recipe was peppernuts (pfeffernuss). She ordered special, heavy-duty, anise oil from the pharmacy that made them extra strong and good. She was also the master of making the cookies really tiny. If you make them too big these days, you’ll be reminded that yours are not as tiny as Grandma’s.

I love these cookies and I am doing my part to keep up the tradition. They are yummy and fun to make if you are not in a rush. I’m not going to lie – they are tedious, especially if you aim to make them as small as Thelma’s.

Great-Grandma’s Peppernuts (Pfeffernuss)

1 lb butter
3 cups sugar
4 Tbsp. dark corn syrup
4 eggs
Continue creaming until smooth.
2 tsp. anise oil (or more to taste. I use more.)
6 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp. soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. ginger
Add above mix to 1st mixture until all flour is blended.

Chill dough. Roll dough in thin rolls (snakes) and slice or pinch off very small amounts to make very small cookies. Place on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until done. Store in a tin and enjoy by the handful.


Peppernuts are pictured in the blue snowman tin. Think penny size. (Can you see that our family takes holiday sweets pretty seriously?)


Continue Reading

And so it begins


I resisted for as long as I possibly could. But thanks to a most excellent lesson this afternoon from my mother-in-law (not to mention the needles and yarn), I have now started down the slippery slope of knitting. I CANNOT believe I am doing it.

I am not good enough yet of course for it to be relaxing or second nature – but I can definitely see glimpses of the zone. I don’t have high aspirations – I’ve set my sights on scarves for the homeless at Christmas. (After Bea’s beautiful rainbow scarf, of course!)

Now, I have to get back and knit a few more rows. It has been more than an hour and I’m getting nervous I might have forgotten how. I joked I couldn’t go to sleep or I might forget how to do it. Bea says I can knit in my dreams instead. I just might.

Continue Reading

Log cabin-ish scrap squares, rainbow set


I made more squares of the same style as the ones from Bea’s big quilt – enough for a few more baby quilts. For this one I tried a rainbow set and I like it except the white line just “falls off the page.”

If you haven’t done an easy, no fuss type log cabin block, Krommama posted this tutorial. Her explanation and photos are good. I don’t do everything just the same way as her and you won’t probably either and that is just perfect. Anyway, this will get you started if you need help.

I tried a new-to-me wavy line quilting pattern, inspired by Pocket Farmer’s newest quilt (which was in turn inspired by Caro’s quilt which I somehow glossed over without noting that neat quilting. I really pulled on the quilt more than I do with straight-line quilting so I was concerned it would be too loose/puckery and wouldn’t lay flat in the end but it really turned out OK! Yay. And it certainly was easy. You can’t see the quilting very well in either of these photos but if you click onto the links above you can get a better idea of what I attempted.

And the back is cute and orange. I originally got this fabric for another project from the nice ladies at Sew Mama Sew. (It is the Katie Jump Rope line – and it’s on sale right now!) On the computer it looked red red red and that, along with the coloway name “Geranium” had me expecting a totally different color than it is. I have never seen an orange-red geranium. Oh well – it was a treat to have some cute new fabric to bind and back this colorful quilt!


Continue Reading