August 2014
« May    

Featured at:

craftsterBest of Craftster 2008

Featured on The Crafty Crow!
As seen on

Fan of:


Harry Potter Birthday Gifts



My niece and nephew just turned 8 and 9, and since I know they love Harry Potter (and I’ve finally broken down and started reading the books myself), I decided to make all their gifts related to the books.

First, I created a Hogwarts-themed design using my Silhouette machine to make them t-shirts. The golden snitch is a shape purchased from the Silhouette online store. I used contact paper to make the stencils, and I’ll admit, it was a bit tricky to get the skinny little pieces in the “Hogwarts” lettering to cut cleanly and stick in place. I wanted the design to look distressed, so I brushed the paint on lightly, and left some bare spots.


The rest of their gifts were all about Quidditch. I ended up purchasing a dodge ball for the Quaffle and making the bludgers and snitch, using a pattern in Abby Glassenberg’s new book, Stuffed Animals: from Concept to Construction. The bludgers are made out of black fleece, and filled partly with poly-pellets to give them a bit of heft.



And I made a sack to put them in:


The Quidditch hoops/goals were a bit tricky. I was inspired by the awesome Harry Potter party ideas at Razzle Dazzle Your Kids. I bought the hoops at the dollar store, and my husband picked up the PVC pipe. (I think he ended up with 10-foot lengths for just a few dollars each). The main problem was that the hoops were narrower than the opening in the PVC pipe joint, so they wobbled. He suggested going out to buy some heavy duty epoxy, but we didn’t have much time, so we ended up squirting hot glue in the joint. It seemed to work OK.



And finally, the brooms! The inspiration came from a message board/forum HERE. The broom handle is actually an inexpensive ($9) replacement handle for an axe. For the “thunderbolt” version, I used some kind of long grass I bought at Michael’s, but it was really tricky to work with. I basically created the shape I wanted out of a styrofoam ball and some cardboard and tape, glued that to the end of the handle and then tried to wrap the grass around it. But it took more grass than I thought, and the extra package I bought had shorter lengths that kept popping out of place. Frustrating.

For the “Nimbus 2000,” I used raffia instead. Which was both cheaper and easier to handle, though the finished product is not as sleek.



I used my Silhouette machine to cut the lettering out of vinyl (I only had silver, so it doesn’t show up that great. For the flames, I colored over the vinyl with a Sharpie). 

Here’s my adorable niece!


Buntings Big and Small

I realize I’m several years behind in jumping on the pennant/bunting bandwagon … but after years of seeing pretty quilts, pillows and other projects, I’ve finally made a few myself. First, I made a sunglasses case for my best friend’s birthday:


Once again, I used a modified version of the Snappy Bag tutorial at Just Another Hang Up. And the bunting/pennant inspiration came from the Bunting Kindle Case tutorial on the same site.

Here’s the “snappy” part in action:


My other pennant project was a picnic blanket. Some of our friends just moved to a new house across the street from a park, so I made them a picnic blanket to take along as they enjoy the park. While there are several tutorials online (including this one), I mostly just made this up as I went along.


This was another great “use it or lose it” project since it is made entirely from scraps and fabric I had on hand. I started by just cutting a bunch of triangles, then I used a a piece of yarn to layout where I wanted each “swoop” to be. I then drew the line on the fabric using a disappearing ink marker. Since I seem to have ruined/bent nearly all of my straight pins making my living room slipcovers, I ended up using strips of Stitch Witchery to hold each triangle in place. That actually worked great, and made it easy to sew. I just sewed a straight stitch along the tops of the triangles first, and then went around and sewed close to the edge of each pennant. (I did this in one long zig-zag, rather than stop and start for each one). The result is a frayed-edge applique, which I think is fine for a picnic blanket.


Instead of batting, I just used fleece for the backing. And I kept the quilting to a minimum, just quilting the swooping lines along the top of the pennants and then a few more criss-crossing the quilt. I was in a rush, so I did a machine binding, which came out pretty messy, but again… it’s a picnic blanket.


How to Make a Bunch of 8-year-olds Jealous

Today was my son’s last day of third grade! A lot of other schools around here still have a week or so left, but Parker’s school never has snow days, so he gets out a bit early. He has two awesome teachers this year, so I wanted to make them some treats to say thank you.

First up was a batch of handmade donuts for Mr. B. A few weeks ago, I tried this Muffin Tin Donut recipe from Cook’s Country magazine, and was surprised at how good they were. They really did have the texture and taste of cake donuts, without the frying (and in the shape of muffins). So I made another batch, this time using a donut pan and they came out great.




I packaged them in a cute box that was among a rather large collection of Martha Stewart Crafts boxes that her company sent my husband years ago. I’ve been hoarding them and saving them for special occasions :) And the super cute label was made using a free download at Confetti Sunshine.




For Parker’s other teacher, Miss Lisa, I made a little case she can put her sunglasses in this summer, and had Parker write her a note on the matching card. I used the Snappy Bag Tutorial at Just Another Hang Up, minus the ruffle, and making the bag longer and narrower. I had plenty of tape measure left over from the kids’ wallets I made using another one of Suzanne’s great tutorials, and I love how the top of the case snaps open and closed.


Parker also picked up some candy for his teachers at a great little candy shop. That’s a bag of gummy fried eggs and lobster (!) on the left, and lobster and candy legos on the right!


Speaking of candy, my husband (who packs all of Parker’s lunches, and is publishing a cookbook about lunches) has a tradition of letting Parker have whatever he wants for lunch on the last day of school. Here’s where the jealousy comes in… lots of Parker’s fellow students were quite jealous when they saw what he ended up with!



If I only had an owl…

This birthday gift would’ve arrived on time, instead of being a few days late! But like I always say, why not extend the celebration a bit?


This is a collection of Harry Potter-themed items for a friend who is turning 10 today. But Parker was so enamored with everything I made that he decided he wants a Harry Potter party when he turns 9 next fall, and has spent the last few days obsessively planning. We have a Harry Potter cookbook, and he decided to type a list of all the recipes he wants to include at his party. I finally stopped him when he was at about 65 recipes :)

The t-shirt was the easiest part of this project, though I had some missteps. The Hogwarts crest is a design I purchased from the Silhouette online store. For my first attempt, I printed it on regular iron-on transfer paper, but you really can only use that on white fabric. It didn’t show up well at all on the gray shirt. So I bought some iron-on transfer paper for dark fabric and tried again. For some reason, my printer was acting up, and the first time I printed it, I ended up with random black boxes printed across my design. So frustrating to waste a rather expensive sheet of transfer paper! But once it actually printed correctly, it was super simple to cut it out using my Silhouette and then iron it on to the shirt. (Note: I also duplicated the image in the Silhouette software and filled it in with gray, to make a background layer. That way, the parts that don’t get cut out — like around the top of the crest — aren’t bright white, and blend into the shirt a bit more.)

 I also used my Silhouette machine and designs I purchased to make the temporary tattoos pictured in the lower right-hand corner of the picture. (They look backwards, because the images are reversed and then appear the correct way once you stick them on). My mother-in-law had given me some of the Silhouette temporary tattoo paper for Christmas, and this was my first attempt at trying it. I did have to set my blade depth one notch up from the recommended cutting settings, but that could just mean that my blade is a bit dull. (I did not purchase the thunderbolt/scar … that’s just the letter “N” stretched a bit to look more like Harry’s scar!)

I made a bunch, to fill up the whole sheet of paper, figuring we can use the extras at Parker’s party. And I let him try one out just to make sure it worked:



And finally, the Golden Snitch! I browsed around online and saw a ton of different variations, though not too many were made out of fabric. I decided not to try to match the golden/feathery wings that appear to be on the movie version of the Golden Snitch, and just went with sparkly felt wings. (I brushed some glue onto a piece of white felt and sprinkled it with glitter). I think the gold fabric was leftover from one of my husband’s food photo shoots long ago… I knew it would come in handy someday!



For the ball, I used a pattern in Abby Glassenberg’s new book, Stuffed Animals: from Concept to Construction. I will write a full review later (if there is one thing I HATE it is seeing “reviews” of craft books written by people who have not actually tried any of the projects), but I was so happy to stumble upon this ball pattern. I really liked how Abby shows several different ways of making the same shape _ I have made ball-shaped things before using the “orange peel” method … sewing a bunch of peel-shaped pieces together, but I liked the simplicity of the “baseball” method and thought it was perfect for this project because it doesn’t involve so many seams.

My first attempt did turn out a bit wonky, but when I tried again, and hand-basted the pieces together instead of pinning, it came out much better. I filled the ball with a combination of polyfil stuffing and rice, to give it a more bean-bag like heft. For Parker’s party, I’ll need to come up with a waterproof version, because he is planning a Quidditch match at our summer cabin, in the water!



Selfish Sewing



This little project reminds me of the saying “The cobbler’s children have no shoes,” though in this case, it would be “The cobbler herself has no shoes.” For YEARS, I have been using a small, leather wallet that does not work very well at all. It has slots for cards, but when I actually put cards in it, the fold-over flap doesn’t snap. Yet I have kept using it, despite the fact that I know how to sew and have seen probably dozens of free wallet tutorials online over the years.

I finally decided to do something about it on Sunday. My husband kindly took Parker to visit his mother for a few hours, so I figured, why not use that precious free time to make something for myself for a change?


I used the Zipper Card Pouch tutorial at Craft Passion. I have to say, I found the directions pretty confusing. At several points, I had to zoom in on the photos to get a better idea. The most tricky point was the first step involving sewing the lining to the zipper. Miraculously, I did not make any major mistakes, but the whole time I was making it I was thinking, “I will never make this again. Too fiddly.”  Yet, now that I have a bit of distance from it, I’m starting to re-consider. (I think if I make another one, I would not use such heavy fabric/interfacing). I used quilting-weight cotton and heavy interfacing for the exterior, and leftover twill/canvas from my never-ending slipcover project for the lining.

I didn’t have an metal zipper, which I think would look nicer, or any twill tape, but I stuck to my “use it or lose it” mantra and did not go out to buy new supplies. There is supposed to be a strip of twill tape on one side of the lining, to make a divider. I used strips of wide elastic on both sides instead, which I think would’ve worked great had I not inserted the lining pieces upside down (so the elastic is almost at the bottom of the pouch), and had I made the elastic just a bit tighter.

I also did not have twill tape to cover the raw edges inside. I tried using narrow seam binding, but it was a bit too narrow given the thickness of the fabric layers. So I just zigzagged the raw edges, and that worked fine.


All and all, now that I’ve used my wallet a bit, I do like it. It is smaller than my old wallet but more functional, with plenty of room for a stack of cards and a bit of cash. 


Quilts for Boston and Giveaway Winner

Before we get to the giveaway winner, I wanted to encourage any quilters out there to submit a block to the Boston Modern Quilt Guild, which is making quilts for those injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. The deadline is May 24. (click on the image below for more details)


The guild is asking for quilts using the colors of the marathon: blue, yellow, white and gray.

I used a pattern that was part of the Modern Block-of-the-Month sew-along at Sew,Mama,Sew! And what was great about that series is that all the blocks use the very same color scheme I was looking for!

It turned out I did not have enough yellow fabric, so I ended up piecing together leftover charm squares from my camp quilt, plus a bit of polka dot fabric. I liked it so much I did the same for the blue pieces.



Now… back to my giveaway. The random number generator picked #19, which was Susan, who said: “So pretty! I love peanut butter and chocolate. mmmm.”

That actually is one of my favorite flavor combinations as well. I loved reading everyone else’s comments, too. There were quite a few flavors I have never seen here… like licorice! (I would not like that one, however).

Thanks to everyone who entered! Susan, I will send you an email to get your contact information!



I completely forgot about Giveaway Day at Sew, Mama, Sew! until this morning, but lucky for you, I also finished up a little project last night. I actually was going to give this to my mom for Mother’s Day, but instead, it will go to one of you lucky readers! (Don’t worry, I will make another for mom).

This is a jewelry roll from the book “One-Yard Wonders.” It has two zippered pockets, plus a ribbon that you can use for rings and earrings, to keep all your jewelry safe and organized when you travel.
(jewelry NOT included!)


For those who are new to my blog, I hope you’ll come back and look around! As a bit of background, I’m a reporter for The Associated Press by day, crafter by night. Sometimes the two intersect and I get to write sewing and craft columns for AP, but my main job is covering politics and other topics in New Hampshire. My husband is the national food editor for AP, and we have an 8-year-old son who enjoys sewing as long as it involves jamming his foot down on the sewing machine pedal as hard as he can!

For a chance to win, please tell me your favorite ice cream flavor. (Mine is coffee oreo… I used to work at an ice cream shop in high school, and that was one of the flavors there. I don’t come across it too often, though).

I will close comments at 10 p.m. EST Friday, and will announce the winner Saturday. I will ship internationally.

Please check out all the other great giveaways by clicking the image below:







Why crafting with a friend is a bad idea…

If you want to have anything new to post on your blog :)

OK, I can’t blame my entire lack of blogging on my friend and fellow crafter, Annmarie. But it is true that during our most recent get-together, I sewed a bunch of the squares for my postage stamp quilt together the wrong way and didn’t get nearly as much done as I thought I would. But I don’t mind a bit because we had fun, as always!

So here is my unfinished quilt top … I think I’m about two-thirds done and I really like it so far!


Since I don’t have any other projects to share, please indulge me in a bit of spouse promotion. My husband’s next cookbook is now available for pre-order on




And here’s a little promotional video about it, featuring Rachael Ray. She has a new imprint with Atria Books, and Jason’s book will be the first to be published as part of that new venture.

Better Late than Never

My best friend has a young daughter whose late-March birthday always catches me by surprise. I have no idea why, but I always forget it’s coming. So my gifts are always late. (See the cute bear carrier from two years ago, or last year’s Cabbage Patch Kid doll clothes).

This year was no exception, but I’m glad I procrastinated. It turns out that the birthday girl got an American Girl as one of her gifts, so I decided to make her an outfit for her new doll. I had purchased Simplicity 3547 and another similar set years ago thinking I would make clothing for my niece’s doll, but I’ve only ever made one set of pajamas. So this was a great chance to cross off another “use it or lose it” project and actually use some of the many patterns I bought on impulse when they went on sale. I also knitted a little sweater/shrug to go with the dress using this pattern.


Not bad for my first knitted “garment.” I had the yarn leftover from another project, so altogether, the only thing I bought for the entire outfit was the ribbon for the sash on the dress.

This is one of my niece’s dolls modeling the outfit. This doll is actually a bit larger around the middle than an American Girl doll, so the dress doesn’t fit exactly right, and the shrug is a bit snug. But it gives you a better idea of how it looks.





A pair of mittens, eggs and pigs



I finished my thrummed mittens for my sister! March 28 may seem late for new mittens, but we do still have a bit of snow on the ground, so they will be an appropriate Easter gift! The mitten on the right is turned inside-out, obviously, so you can see the bits of fleece roving that are knitted into the mitten.

This is my first pair of completed mittens, so my standards are low. Are they perfect? No. (The little white “puffs” of fleece on the right hand glove are much bigger than those on the left, so they don’t actually match very well). But are they warm and wearable? Yes.


Parker wanted to do some crafting with me last weekend, and though I would’ve loved to make some kind of cute, pastel, Easter decorations, he wanted more Angry Birds accessories. (I previously made him a few birds and a pig using the patterns and tutorials at Obsessively Stitching). I used the baby pig pattern from there, and an egg pattern from Martha Stewart. 

You will note the eggs are rather lumpy. I was determined to make sure Parker actually helped, so I had him cut out the pattern and trace it onto the fabric, and he handled all the stuffing for both the eggs and piggies.

We also made a nest, loosely following this tutorial at AlphaMom, though we didn’t cut our paper into such tiny strips. In retrospect, doing so would’ve looked a lot better, but Parker was thrilled with our version anyway.