Dec 13

Deck the Door

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, I venture into town; not for manic holiday shopping, but to choose a wreath for our front door. For the last few years, I’ve been getting them at a local gardening and landscape shop called Peck’s Green Thumb Nursery. They have gorgeous wreaths, made from real winter trees and plants, handcrafted in their store. I love having real wreaths; you can smell the coniferous sweetness every time you go in or out of the door.

Wreath 2013-2014

The best thing about Peck’s is that they use all different kinds of greens for their wreaths: pine and spruce and juniper, and there’s some little blue berries in this one which I have no idea what to call; and pine cones! Not a proper wreath without pine cones! I added the fake holly berries which I picked up in Peck’s wonderful Christmas section full of displays and decorated trees and ornaments galore. I also added the obligatory silver jingle bells that I have to have on there every year — it’s so fun to hear the jingling when you open the door!

Wreath 2013-2014 (detail)

This wreath will stay up on our door through February and into March, though I will probably take off the holly berries and jingle bells once the holidays are over. The door wreath is hands-down one of my favorite holiday traditions!

Jun 12

Our Tire Garden

I just realized that I haven’t posted anything about our awesome-sauce tire garden setup that we’ve got going new this year. What the hell, ME?! So, yeah… BEHOLD, in all its raised-bed glory! <insert dramatic reveal music>

Tire Garden

We have a two-tiered jungle of potatoes (the first two rows of six tires); some table onions and scallions; two tomato plants (oh, man, I am so excited for fresh tomatoes); and there at the end, in the last two sad, empty-looking tires, there are actually a few carrots fighting valiantly to grow and become delicious.

tiny carrots


When planning this garden over the winter, I heard this a lot: “This is Iowa. Put something in the ground and it will grow.” And yet, not so is the case where we live. Surrounded on both sides by fields of rich farm land, our property is a former tract of railway line; built up artificially with lots of rocks, gravel, sand, and filler dirt. It is actually one of the more minor complaints you could have about a great place to live out in the country. We’ve got plenty of trees and other-such brush (and weeds), and we’ve got some nice prairie grass goin’ on, and even some flowers (and did I mention weeds?) — but I certainly wouldn’t run a tiller through any of it. Best keep your money in your pocket on that one.

The solution?
Raised beds, of course!

The even cheaper, easier solution?
Old tires! They’re FREE, modular, and virtually indestructible!

Though there is plenty of work involved in starting an old-tires-raised-bed garden, as there is work involved in any kind of gardening. We had to locate a “source” for about a dozen used tires (thanks craigslist), pick them up, haul them back, hose them out, and cut out one or both walls from each tire with a reciprocating saw (thanks to my FIL for that). Then we got two pickup-loads of compost from the local landfill (for “dirt”-cheap! HA!), and viola! Garden on the rocks!

And remember those weeds I mentioned earlier? NOT a problem in this garden. I’ve pulled out a few errant stalks of prairie grass, but haven’t had to do any “major” weeding whatsoever. I was quite surprised; I had planned on spending a lot more time “tending” to the garden, but starting from scratch with the compost-dirt from the landfill virtually eliminated any weed problems. Total score!

That aside, we chose an apparently pesky year to start a vegetable garden. It’s been an unseasonably comfortable spring and summer, which in Iowa means surprisingly low humidity, and unfortunately leads to little rain and borderline-drought conditions. It’s actually kinda crazy — here it is June 24, and its so NOT humid that it’s approaching 80°F this morning and I’ve got the house windows open, and with the breeze it’s actually quite nice. And yet, bizarre…

We’ve been trying to keep the garden watered, but without over-watering, which for us first-time gardeners is a delicate balance that we are yet unfamiliar with. Needless to say, we’ve had both our sets of parents coming out here to “check up” on the garden occasionally over the last few months, and to answer my seemingly endless supply of questions (thank god for that).

Jun 12

Weekend Project: Dog Mattresses

I resolved this weekend to complete a simple project: cushions for our three dogs’ kennels. You see, our dogs used to have a couch — a couch we got for free from my husband’s grandmother — but they systematically destroyed it to the point where it was just black lining over box springs with clumps of shredded upholstery and foam clinging to jagged staples and nails sticking out everywhere. Not exactly the best place for dogs to sleep. We considered trying to find another “free” couch, but my paranoia of bringing bed bugs or cockroaches into the house from some “stranger’s” couch, and the fact that we knew damn well the dogs would do the exact same thing over again to a “new” couch, we decided against it. Instead we moved the old couch out (to be sacrificially burned at some later point this summer), and moved the rarely-used-until-now kennels over to where the couch used to be.

My job was to make cushions so the dogs will be comfy with this new arrangement. I can’t remember the last time I completed a project within 48-hours of initial planning… but it actually happened!


I would call these “dog beds”, but they’re not so much “beds” as they are giant-pillowish-cushiony-thingies. These were great for using up some large chunks of fabric from the stash, specifically the “I don’t know what the hell I was thinking or what I’m going to do with this weird fabric” part of the stash. They’re basically giant pillowcases; I didn’t want to screw around with adding any kind of closures (zippers, Velcro, buttons, bleh) so I just added an extra 12 inches to the length and folded the excess under and secured with safety pins. Hooray for cutting corners!


The “filling” is 90″W batting (7 yards for all 3 cushions), folded and refolded to fit the proper dimensions of the kennel. I can’t believe this all worked out so well, considering how haphazardly it was planned and how quickly it was executed. I’m really thrilled with the results! The “mattresses” fit perfectly into the kennels!


The dogs were too busy running around outside to pose for a picture in their new sleeping arrangements (ungrateful so-and-so’s), so in case you’re wondering what they look like…

Festus, Hutch, Daisy

Awwwww… Now to get them to understand that these are their new “beds”… that may take a bit longer.

Apr 12

Bunny Poops & Bunny Tails! Free PDF

Do-it-yourself snacks for those Easter baskets! Fill snack-sized plastic zipper bags with 1/2 cup cocoa puffs for “Bunny Poops”, or 1/2 cup miniature marshmallows for “Bunny Tails”. If you’re buying a fresh bag of marshmallows, you may want to spread them out on a paper plate and let them air-dry for about 30 minutes; they tend to clump together in sticky lumps if you put them in the zipper bag too fresh (learned the hard way).

Bunny Poops & Bunny Tails

The PDF file contains three pages, with two labels on each page in different configurations. Select the page(s) you want to print, and print out the labels onto cardstock (preferably, or regular printer paper is fine). Cut out the labels, fold them in half and staple over the tops of the plastic zipper bags. Prepare for giggles! (and sugared-up kids!)

Click Here to Download
Bunny Poops/Bunny Tails PDF

Mar 12

Kids Clothes Week Challenge

I will be participating with the Elsie Marley Kids Clothes Week Challenge for Spring 2012 (April 23-30). This sounds wonderful! (and cathartic) — February and March have been so hectic and stressful, I’ve barely had time for any “leisure” sewing (or much leisure any-crafts or anything else). I’ve got pants to convert to shorts and summer dresses to make! This challenge will be a great impetus. Can’t wait to see what everyone does!

Elsie Marley Kids Clothes Week Challenge Spring 2012 (April 23-30)

Feb 12

Nola is 2, and has a “new” room

Nola is now 2-years-old, and continues her refusal to both sit still and smile for pictures. 75% of her photos are either exuberant-grinning-blur or disinterested-curmudgeon-stare.


She really is a happy kid, I swear!! Just seems like whenever I get my camera out she puts on her poker-face, lol. We found her a Cabbage Patch kid at Goodwill that I could not believe — excellent condition… with clothes on, even! So of course I had to make her new baby doll a blanket.

Doll Quilt

I knew I was keeping all those strip-scraps for a reason, and not just because I’m some kind of fabric hoarder… because I’m not… I also made her some fresh new pillowcases for her big girl pillow that she has now!


I put in some extra effort to put French seams on them, which easily doubled sewing time, but WOW was it worth it! So nice… I think I’ll put French seams on everything from now on… lol yeah right like that’s going to happen!

Nola also got a bedroom makeover “for her birthday” (not that she would really know any better, but that was my manic justification, anyway). Remember a-year-and-a-half ago when I was all like, “I’m gonna make Nola’s room all awesome!” with grandiose plans? Well none of that really happened until just recently…



Yes, those are the same Alphabet Wall Cards as mentioned in the original post, finally up on the wall! They are so wonderful, great quality, and create a nice large-scale effect that fills a lot of space (’cause empty wall space is what we had!) — and for less than $20, you really can’t go wrong. The Discovery Kids Lunar Phase Moon Lamp is pretty effing sweet, as well. I also got one for Gunner’s room, and now I’m thinking I need to get another to put in our (the “grown-ups”/parents) bedroom.



Lots of toy storage, with room for more (dear god please, not too much more). Plus a couple shelves dedicated solely to BOOKS — Nola’s absolute favorite things ever.



(Note the dotted-line silhouette in there where bunting will eventually exist.) The picture hanging at the end of her crib was drawn by her big brother especially for her! There’s also a sneak peek at the crib bumpers I’ve been working on (sheesh, by the time I get them finished she won’t be sleeping in the crib anymore).

Zippered Reversible Individual Crib Rail Bumpers

I’ll be posting a blog entry with more pics of those when they’re all finished. The fabrics are “Fandango” by Kate Spain for Moda; and yes, they are now out-of-print — and now you know how long I’ve been picking away at this project. Diligence!

Jan 12

Update: Made Things

I’ve added a bunch of stuff to the “Made Things” album on my Facebook page, and I wanted to post them here in the blog, too.

Scandinavian-print Tote Bag

Scandinavian-print Tote Bag, made for my mom

Scandinavian-print Tote Bag

Scandinavian-print Tote Bag, detail

Deluxe Marker Roll

Deluxe Marker Roll with Velcro closure

Deluxe Marker Roll

Deluxe Marker Roll, detail rolled

Superhero Mask

Superhero Mask, felt

Impromptu Dog Toys

Impromptu Dog Toys, flannel and fleece

Jan 12

Adventure Time!

I made a 4-foot Finn doll for Gunner! This was my first attempt at a real “plush” sewing project, and it turned out pretty darn good (and big)! I call him Proto-Finn; I’ve made some planned adjustments to the pattern so I can make another and fix some of the wonkiness. He’ll still have the same noodle’y limbs, though — that’s the best part!!

Gunner & Finn

He’s got magnets in his mouth and buttons for eyes, so we can make some other facial expressions for him, too! He still needs a backpack, and Jake the Dog will be made sometime in the future. Mathematical!

Dec 11

Christmas Tree Skirt!


Thanks to thundymac for the inspiration — I was looking for a good Christmas project and this was perfect! Also thanks to Hancock Fabrics for having the best selection of Christmas fabrics in town! (and for having them on sale for 50% off) I checked at least three other places, and ended up getting all these prints from Hancock.


Also thanks to Leah Day for her binding tutorial. It was super-helpful and the binding was done right this time! I almost decided to make this into a circle skirt for Nola, but I think next year I’ll rework it into a skirt for her and make another tree skirt from some fantastic Michael Miller Christmas prints.

Dec 11

Christmas Tutu! Falalalala

Finished up Nola’s Christmas tutu this morning! And might I say, what a pain in the butt. But what a wonderful result!

Christmas Tutu!

Next time I think I’ll try the tie-method, as it seems a lot more simple. I went all old-school (à la le ballet), sewing together two continuous yards in four layers of each color, and bunching it with an elastic waist. It was less than dramatic at first, looking more like a netted circle skirt than a tutu. Then I used what I can only think to call the couture method to fluff it up: kind of a separating-rolling-smashing-twisting motion. After about 30 minutes of that, it is now puffy and fabulous!

I’ll hopefully get some pics of Nola modeling her Christmas tutu to post here in the next week-or-so. I tried to take a photo holding it up a little bit so you could see more of the underside layer, but I couldn’t hold my arm still enough.

Shaky Christmas Tutu

Thank goodness for the low-light setting on my camera. Considering this is what it looks like outside today:

the weather outside is frightful

Now I’m off to do more holiday house-cleaning!