Tuesday, September 22, 2009



Lately my son (18 mo. old) has loved playing in forts. But I got tired of repositioning the blankets when they'd fall off the chairs I'd set up, or just sitting under a blanket with him. When I was a kid, my mom made a tepee so I thought I'd throw one together too.

This tepee is really roomy, I can play in there with him and we have quite a bit of room, and I'm kind of a large frame chick. So you little petite moms could have room to spare I'm sure.
The sewing is really easy, just measuring and sewing straight lines so I'd say anyone could do this. The biggest challenge is working with such big pieces of fabric, especially this upholstery--it was heavy. It's also easy to take down, just scoop it up and lay it on it's side or prop in the closet or something. To set up, just sit it upright and pull out the legs until fabric is tight on all the sides.

  • My poles are 7 1/2 feet long, and there are 6 of them. I used electrical conduit piping that's 1 inch in diameter. They have two different hardness of pipe, I got the harder. The piping cost $15.00
  • The fabric I used was from THIS raid, so it was all free. The tan striped stuff was outdoor upholstery that is kind of waxy for the waterproof, the other two panels were just cotton blends. I'd guess you'd need between 10-12 yards give or take. Obviously fabric 60" wide you'd need less yardage.
So the tepee has 6 panels. Finished, it measures about 6 feet across inside, and has 5 1/2 feet tall in the center. So it's kind of big, if you wanted it smaller, you could scale it down.
1. So I cut out 6 panels with the above measurements. You can see that some panels were pieced together with other fabrics even.

****I decided to have 3 panels be cowboy themed, and the other 3 Native American themed. Mainly because I had this cowboy denim print and loved it, but never knew how I could use such a large print. So I cut out the steer heads and cowboys and just stitched them on.

2. Assemble panels together. I just serged 3 panels together, then the other three. So I had to halves then serged those together to complete the circle.

3. Serge or hem top and bottom. This is a play fort, so I just serged around the top, and then around the bottom.

4. Sew pole casings. I used poles with 1" diameter. Measuring around the pole, it was 4.25" that is why I cut the 2 3/4" seam allowance on each side. So for 1" poles, I measured 2 1/4" from the serged edge the whole way down. Then I straight stitched it to make the casings on the inside of the tepee.
You can see in the photo on the left, the serged seam on the right, and then the straight stitch on the left of the pole.

If you are fancy and authentic and use actual wood poles, I would think you might want to make even larger casings to allow for bowing or kinks in the wood, where these slid right in and are obviously all uniform.
5. Turn tepee right side out, slide poles in and set it up. I am currently using a bungee to hold the top together, but I have hopes to some day drill holes in the poles and lace them together with twine or something. But for now, greasy bungee from the garage is working great.

I left the Native American panels blank, and plan to decorate them with drawings, or wait and let him draw or paint on it later. I did draw our little family above the door. I planned to paint things, but decided this whole tepee is a little ghetto anyway, so just use the Sharpie and call it good. I was surprised how much he loves the little people drawings. He'll point to each of us and say "papa" "mama" and "RJ", then run inside. Didn't expect the little sketch to be that big of a hit.

If you have the means and resources, a more authentic, wood pole, canvas tepee would be AWESOME!

My door stinks. I just hacked out a slit and serged each side. It pulls funny and can't close. If I did it again, I'd probably cut a vertical slit in the middle, so you could easily go through, but it would hang pretty much closed. I don't know what I was thinking when I hacked it an an angle. It was kind of late I guess.

Well this was a thrown together project, so kind of sloppy, and my photos stink, but I guess my goal is to give ideas if you'd like to make one too. I'd love to have a nice camera, Photoshop, and time to make my images impressive and dreamy, but what you see is what you get....maybe someday.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I've been planning on making some bathing suits for an upcoming trip. I grew up with quite a few handmade suits my mom created, then I made one two summers ago. But it was a swim dress, so a lot easier. So this round I have a real swimsuit planned with elastic in the legs and everything.

Some blogs were having a sew along with swimsuits this summer and a lot of great ideas and tips can be found from their experiences:
Dana Made It

So to warm up to the real suits, I first made my husband a rashguard type top. Ever since his dermatology rotation, he is anti-sun and fears cancer and is ultra protective. So we'll see how this fits when he returns home in a few weeks. I just used a baseball-sleeve t-shirt as the pattern and didn't allow seam allowances, to make it slightly smaller than the t-shirt, being that it is intended for swimming and is made out of stretchy lycra.


So that was an easy project and quick. It gave me a little confidence to try my first swimsuit, a takini. Rather than typical boyshorts, I decided I wanted more coverage. I HATE having to babysit bathing suits, pulling out wedgies so my butt cheeks don't hang out, or adjust the tops to keep my chest in. I think that is why I make them the last few years. So anyway, I wanted bottoms that covered my butt and kept my junk in my trunk. Another thing I loathe is crackage. My anatomy can't handle low rise bottoms or I will have crackage, just the shape of my bum.

So back to the boy short bottoms. I didn't want a center seam on the front, or a seam through the crotch either to prevent the shorts going up my crotch. I HATE that too. So the front is one solid piece, and the crotch is a diamond-ish shaped piece that goes from hem to hem, making the seams at the crotch of the shorts go side to side rather than front and back. I love this feature. So much more comfortable in my opinion. There is a back seam, then elastic waist.

I couldn't decide the length of the shorts to hem them. I ended up just hemming them 1" from where I cut them. They are probably a little longer than what I originally planned, but I like it, I guess a little extra coverage in cellulite city. I didn't need to add elastic in the legs, just hemmed them and they fit snug.


On to the top. I got this lycra that has wide green stripes. I decided to cut everything on the bias at 45 degrees so the stripes are on diagonals rather than across or up and down. Hopefully this is more flattering, that was my hope. But I didn't think things through exactly, and ended up with two body pieces, one with V's, and the other with A's. Hopefully you won't really notice the stripes are different directions from the front to the back. I ended up liking the A's for the front, which I hadn't planned, so this mistake ended up being a good thing in the end.

On to the hard part, the top of the takini, starting with another thing I HATE--swimsuits with no support! As a kid, this wasn't a big deal, and a "shelf bra" which is just a piece of lining with elastic on the bottom, sufficed. But since having a baby, my chest changed like many women's do and went from normal tissue to saggy boobs, or more accurately described: ROCKS IN SOCKS. Nursing the recommended full year probably didn't help either. The little shelf bra just doesn't cut it anymore. I need more than socks for my rocks I guess, so for this, I sewed in a bra to the bathing suit. I bought a cheap $5.00 bra in my size to use.

First, I cut of the straps and the hook/eye closures, and replaced them with 3/4" elastic.

To design the top, I knew another thing I hate about purchased bathing suits: CLEAVAGE. People have different plans when they have the occasion to wear a bathing suit, I am usually with my kid, and not wanting to attempt sex appeal. So I wanted to cover up my saggy cleavage. But it's hard to make a pattern on your own body, so this is what I did. To make the top so everything I wanted covered would be, I actually went in the bathroom and put a big square of tissue paper on my chest. Then I put the pink bra on, so I could see where it would be and drew on the tissue paper as I looked in the mirror where everything should be. After, I folded the tissue paper in half, and made it symmetrical to use as the pattern to cut out the top pieces that would cover the bra. It worked pretty well, allowing enough fabric to accommodate the chest and everything.

I then basted the bra on the lining of my top. Sewing right sides together, I sewed the top exterior pieces on and flipped it right side out, making the bra hidden between the two layers, and casings for the straps all at once. It worked pretty smoothly. From there, I put on the top and pinned down the top pieces, and sewed across the bottom, sewed up the neck and back so I basically had a bra all sewn together. Then I just had to attach the body tube to the bra part and it was done.

Some tips that I used:

-sharp needles , not necessarily "ballpoint" but sharper than universal
-zig-zag: rather than straight stitching I used a very narrow zigzag, like .5 to allow a little stretch before seams break for the lycra.
-double needle: hem with double needle. I found this double needle that is extra wide to look more professional and I love it. I actually reinforced all the seams on the shorts by top stitching with the double needle to flatten the seam and make it stronger.

So at this point I have a bathing suit that's modest and not:
crackage, cleavage, saggy chest, bum hanging out, high price tag, etc.
But now I can't decide on black trim. I originally wanted black on the top to show it does coordinate with the solid black bottoms. But I can't decide.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lunch Kits

Earlier this spring, I was watching my neices/ nephews for a , couple weeks. These are my two neices, who are turning 12 this year and going into 6th grade, one day when . While we were there, their maturation program contents came up in conversation. It was so funny. Brooklyn said: "Jess, do you think it's a good idea for us to keep pads and stuff in our locker in case we start our period? Because now that we're almost 12, I feel like we're walking time bombs." I told them I thought it was a really good idea, or maybe one of their friends would need something if they don't. Then I remembered my junior high feminine hygeine code.

"I'm eating lunch today" = I'm on my period
"Can I borrow a hamburger?" = Can I borrow a pad
"Can I borrow a carrot?" = Can I borrow a tampon

I explained how my group of friends devised this code as to eliminate embarrassment in case someone overheard the conversation at your locker, in class, or the cafeteria. They agreed it was good idea to have a code. Looking back, our code isn't that great, but I love the memory and hope it passes on to my neices and their middle school friends.
So as a gag gift (but kind of serious gift) for back to school/ welcome to middle school, I made each girl a little "lunch kit". It's pretty small, about 4" wide and 8" tall. So they can put it in their locker in case the time bomb explodes this next year. I'm filling it with the essential feminine hygeine products.

I thought it was funny that the bags are shaped like a lunch bag....so secret to continue the code. I understand this gift idea wouldn't be an appropriate gift for all tween girls, but I am super close with these two so they will love it--in a joking way...but maybe in a thankful serious way sometime too.

Basic sqare bag construction. "Lunch" painted with fabric paint using the freezer paper stencil. Fully lined with the opposite fabric, so the two match with the other's lining. Snap closure.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Big Butterfly Backpack


This is one of two custom backpack orders for two sisters. It needed to be durable and large enough for elementary school. After it was all done, I jam packed it to see how much it could hold, and I was surprised how much I could jam in there.

It's made out of thick duck canvas. I decided to add a pocket on the front to hold pencils and smaller stuff. I debated between snaps, or a button, but ended up using a zipper just so it was more secure and like a real backpack.

It's fully lined with yellow/ white stripe cotton print.

The straps were an issue for me because my usual toddler backpacks just have buttons to adjust the straps. But since these will be carrying more, I ended up using D-rings and got actual strap length that you can buy per yard by the ribbon.

The butterfly flap is held down with a toggle and elastic cording, because the backpack is so large it needed the toggle so it could adjust to an empty backpack and a full backpack.

I needed to have a drawstring or something to tighten the load in the backpack to the back so it wouldn't fall out. I used eyelets and looped elastic cording through and had a cord pull to hold it, then a pink bead to grab onto to make it easier to quickly tighten it.

Overall I'm happy with the way everything turned out, I just wish I'd been able to find white eyelets instead of black.

Where the Wild Things Are Backpack

I decided to put Moishe up in the shop here if you want him for yourself.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Highchair Make-over

My mother in law has used this highchair since 1969. She loves it because it's obviously durable, folds up, and all metal. I actually don't know how long the cushions have been worn, torn, or completely gone. Every time we visit and pull it out, she comments on needing to recover it. For a while there were towels taped to the seat, but it just didn't cut it.

So I thought I would recover it for her as a Christmas gift, but when I found this cowboy fabric I got too excited and couldn't wait. My mother-in-law pulled out an old card table tent she'd made when my husband (her youngest) was a boy. The walls of the tent were this red/blue cowboy print. I loved the vintage fabric, especially thinking of the memories attached to it being their tent. So I asked if she minded if I cut off a wall of the tent for the highchair.
Since my husband and his brother just above him are the only ones in the family with young children to use the high chair, I thought this fabric would be great. Passing on the high chair and the fabric to the next generation.

The project was quick and quite easy:
1. Remove seat and back from high chair frame
2. Clean metal surfaces
(all the tape required Goo Gone, which I couldn't find and ended up having to use gasoline to get the sticky off)
3. Trace & cut 1" thick foam for both back and seatyou can find foam near batting in the fabric store
4. Trace & cut fabric and vinyl sheet to allow 1" extra to wrap around backPlastic vinyl sheeting is anywhere from $3 / yd and up, with different thicknesses. I found a remnant in the clearance box for $.90 so I was excited. I've seen this on a free standing rack with horizontal rolls, Walmart even has the plastic.
5. Sew the fabric to the plastic 1/4" from edge
6. Hot glue foam to metal
7. Position and center fabric/plastic on, wrap fabric around, and tack it to metal with hot glue, continuing all around until it's tight and fitted, corners were a pain.
8. Once it's all glued, reassemble high chair

I added the star applique to the fabric, I thought it would be like a sheriff badge, I'm not sure that's what it ended up looking like.

We haven't used a high chair, just clip-to-the-table seats and boosters. I hope one day I'll find a vintage metal high chair at a garage sale or something for myself.


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