crafts, holidays, sewing, style, tutorials

a wearable handmade valentine: minkee heart wristlet

One of my favorite times of year is here—making handmade valentines with the boys! This year we’re going with this supremely cool idea from I am Momma Hear Me Roar. Photos, construction paper, staples, and Pop Rocks:

Jack valentine copyJack rocks with all the energy of a late '80s hair band (without the hair).

Charlie valentine Charlie rocks, too. Straight-up three-year-old grunge. See the angst?

I also took on a handmade challenge at work and made a special valentine gift for… myself!

Minkee heart1

This simple wristlet is made from a scrap of denim and a scrap of fuzzy Minkee. If you have button-sewing, hand-appliqueing, and scissor-wielding skills, you can whip this up in less than an hour.

Seven other staff members joined me in the handmade valentines challenge at work. Talk about getting creative on the job!


You can get the how-to for all of these Valentine’s Day projects on Martingale’s Facebook page (scroll down to the February 6th posts). The projects are all of the quick-and-easy variety, which means there's still plenty of time to create something special for your sweetheart. Even if your sweetheart is you.

If you'd like to stitch up a wristlet, read on!

a wildcards tutorial: minkee heart wristlet

Denim heart bracelet
  • Large scrap of denim from jeans
  • Small scrap of pink Minkee fabric
  • 3 small pink buttons
  • Dressmaker’s measuring tape
  • Washable or air-soluble marking pen
  • Hand-sewing needle and thread to match Minkee and buttons
  • Seam ripper
  • Freezer paper
  • Glue stick
  • Tweezers


1. Measure around your arm, 4" up from the bottom of your wrist (my measurement was 8"). Cut a rectangle that is 3" wide and as long as the measurement around your arm (my rectangle was 3" x 8").

2. Lay the rectangle flat, right side up. Space the buttons evenly along one short side of the rectangle, 1/2" away from the edge. Mark button placement with a pen; hand sew the buttons to the rectangle.

3. Using the button placement as a guide, mark placement of the buttonholes on the opposite short edge of the rectangle. Make small slits in the fabric for the buttonholes using a seam ripper. (Make the slits small—you should have to work to get the buttons through the holes.)

4. Machine wash and dry the bracelet so the edges fray; clip and pull the frayed edges until you like the look. Clip any stray threads away from the buttonholes.

5. Print out this heart pattern (it should be 2" high):


Cut it out, trace it onto the freezer paper, and cut it out again. Iron the heart template onto the back of the Minkee scrap, shiny side down. Cut the heart shape from the Minkee, adding a 1/4" seam allowance.

6. Center the Minkee heart widthwise and lengthwise on the bracelet; glue to baste in place. Hand appliqué the heart to the denim, turning the 1/4" seam under as you go.

7. Fuzz up the heart edges by rubbing the tip of your seam ripper quickly and lightly along the appliquéd edges. This releases the fuzzy fibers from the sewn edges and softens the look. Cut a 1/2" vertical slit in the center of the denim on the back of the wristlet where the heart has been appliquéd; pull the freezer paper out using tweezers. Whipstitch the 1/2" slit closed.

If you don't like the frayed-edge look, you can turn the long edges of the wristlet under 1/4" and press; then topstitch the folded edges down.

For more more repurposed projects, check out my book ReSew.

Thanks for stopping by. Cheers to an extra lovey-dovey Valentine's Day!

crafts, family, holidays, thrifted!, tutorials

a wildcards tutorial: hand-wrapped snowman ornament

Last Saturday was a lazy one. How nice are those? Me and the boys were looking for something fun to do at home. Jack said his teacher brought a Christmas tree into the classroom, and she'd asked the children to bring ornaments to decorate it.

Ornaments? Hey, that’s what we can do! I thought.

I looked to our own tree for inspiration. I found this:


My brother made this when he was in elementary school. Somehow I lucked out and now I own it. It's precious to me.

Geez, it must be blankety-blank years old. (You’re welcome, Jason.)

Anyway, my brother’s ornament got me thinking about snowmen and pom-poms. I didn’t have any ready-made pom-poms, but I had an old skein of wool yarn that I’d thrifted long ago. How do you make a pom-pom from yarn? I wasn’t entirely sure.

After a quick online search, I realized that the task was more difficult than the boys wanted it to be. Wrapping yarn around doughnut-shaped cardboard didn’t seem like a big deal to me, but it sounded like a major chore to the boys. I decided to try their hands as a template instead. And on that lazy Saturday, two little “hand-wrapped” snowmen were born.

If you like, follow along below and I’ll show you how we did it. It’s super simple—and if your kids are like mine, they’ll get a kick out of being wrapped up in yarn.

a wildcards tutorial: handwrapped snowman ornament

Snowman10What you’ll need: yarn, scissors, a yarn needle, buttons, a glue gun, and scraps of fleece. In place of fleece you can use felted wool or any other bulky-type fabric that will hold its shape. Oh, I almost forgot—you also need little hands!


Here’s that old yarn I mentioned earlier—it needed winding. The upside-down barstool worked pretty well (although one day I hope to be like normal knitters and own a swift).


1. Leave a 6" to 8" tail to start. Begin winding yarn around two fingers.

2. Wind the yarn until you find it difficult to keep the yarn on the fingers—the more yarn you wind, the fuller your pom pom will be. Cut the yarn, leaving a 6" to 8" tail.

3. Use the end of a spoon or fork to push the tail through the two yarn-bound fingers. (Charlie’s mitts were too small for this step, so I just wiggled the loops carefully off his fingers.)

4. Wrap beginning and end yarn tails around the center of the loops once. (If you wiggled the yarn off fingers, lay the loops in your lap and carefully wrap the tails around them). Tie the beginning and end tails together in the center of the loops. Tighten and knot the yarn.


Cut through the center of the loops.


Cut yarns until you end up with a spherical shape.


We made six pom-poms–three from each boy’s hand. I wound the first pom-pom using two fingers; then three; then four to get a small-to-large look. Jack’s pom-poms are on the right; Charlie’s are on the left.

Charlie’s pom poms all turned out to be about the same size. I’m okay with that. So is Charlie.


Using a long length of yarn and a yarn needle, sew three pom-poms together from small to large. Poke right through the center of each pom-pom and pull the yarn through.


Stitch through each pom-pom again, this time from large to small. You should end up with both ends of your yarn coming out of the top of the snowman's head. Knot the two ends at the head; then knot the two ends again 3" to 4" above the head to create a loop for hanging.

I used a hot glue gun to adhere buttons to the snowmen. I cut two layers of fleece into identical triangle shapes and glued them together for the hat. Then I ran a strip of glue along the bottom of the hat only, and pressed it onto the head.The sides of the hat are left loose.

No hot glue for the boys. But they did get to choose colors, sift through the button jar, and watch mom hot-glue herself to the table. Only briefly.


Our pom-poms aren’t perfect, but they sure made for a lazy Saturday well spent. Charlie's ornament is pictured; Jack's is now proudly hanging on the classroom Christmas tree.

Thanks Jacky, thanks Barley—let’s give ourselves a "hand," shall we?

And thank you for dropping by. Happy holidays!

crumbs, family, holidays

Thankful 2011

Thanksgiving launches such a flurry of activity, doesn’t it? Feasts ready to be eaten. Gifts ready to be given. Songs ready to be sung. Stockings ready to be hung.

The holidays are beginning. Before you know it, they’ll be done.

The cute couple over at Young House Love recently shared a way to capture and save your own thankfuls on paper during the month of November, with printables to boot:


A jar, slips of paper, and a pen. I love their idea so much; it’s such a simple concept. We missed the opportunity to start this idea up during November. But hey, November doesn’t own a patent on thankful. So I think I’ll start today and go through December instead. And instead of paper—just for today—I’ll save my thankfuls right here.

* * *

Thankful for a new little one in our life—found in our backyard, just before the first major freeze of the season—who is reminding all of us to slow down, be gentle, and stay playful:

Dash1Meet Dash (or DJ, if you ask Charlie).

Dash2Yes. He does feel as cuddly and cozy as he looks. (Or she. Not sure just yet.)

Thankful for a fun furniture upcycling project that has happily turned my attention away from all those boxes still in the garage:
Cabinet1Before. (Those white streaks in the photo? Snow.)

Cabinet2After. I like! (The boxes are still in the garage. And that’s okay.)

Thankful for these people:

MomMy mom.

DaddyMy dad.

And their wonderful, caring new partners in life.

Thankful for a heck of a Black Friday sale. On books. Of the quilt and sew and knit variety.

No shirt? No shoes? No problem. (Unless a really weird mood overtakes me, however, I’ll be wearing a shirt Friday morning.)

Thankful for new ideas:

FlowerFlowers at Your Feet, part two, in progress.

LogcabinLog-Cabin-loaded thoughts scratched on sticky notes (and cool notepad pages from October’s Sewing Summit—did you know they just announced dates for 2012?).

After a creativity block during the move, the ideas are starting up again. No matter how they turn out, welcome back, ideas—I thought I’d lost you forever.

Thankful for these beautiful boys:

TheboysWho I want to spend every Thanksgiving with, always. And every other day of the year, too.

Thankful to you, for stopping by.

A cue to be thankful. A reminder. Because no matter how lucky, fortunate, or blessed we are—or how stressed out, bummed out, or down in the dumps we get—prompts to be thankful from time to time are good.

Toss your slip of paper in the jar—what are you thankful for today?

Wishing a very Happy Thanksgiving to you in the states, and a very happy day to you everywhere else!

crafts, holidays, sewing, thrifted!, tutorials

a wildcards tutorial: happy towel-o-ween!

Towel16Several years ago during the Halloween season, I drove by a house that had spooky paper ghosts hanging from the rafters. Back then I didn’t have children; I didn’t really *do* Halloween. But the fun, floaty look of those ghosts stuck in my mind. When Halloween came around after Jack was born, I remembered the ghosts. I wanted to make them. But you know how life gets in the way sometimes? Yeah, that.

Fast-forward seven years. During the craziness of our recent move, I came across a pile of old towels. I had planned to cut them up for cleaning. Somehow the idea of the ghosts matched up in my mind with the towels. What a great stroke of luck—at that very moment, I was able to hold two thoughts in my head! And these quirky little “towel-o-ween” ghosts were born.

Towel13In this tutorial I’ll show you how to make two small ghosts from one towel. I also made two big ghosts; they each got their own towel. So I made one ghost for each family member. I’m thinking they’ll last for several Halloweens—maybe even until I go back to not really *doing* Halloween again. Which I will. (I like the wacky parts of Halloween, but not the spooky parts. I scare easily.)

Want to learn how to make ghosts from your old towels? C’mon! It sounds kind of weird, I know, but let me show you how—it’s easy!

Happy Toweloween! tutorial

Towel1What you’ll need: A towel, a ruler, a marking pen (I used a yellow, washable Crayola marker), fabric-cutting scissors, a spoon, one 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. (You don’t need a squash. I just thought it made the ingredients look festive.)

Towel2Cut away any embellishments/special stitching from both short ends of the towel.

Towel3Fold the towel in half widthwise; cut along the fold to yield two smaller rectangles of the same size.

Towel4On one of the rectangles, mark 3 1/2" from one short edge; repeat on the opposite short edge. These will become the arms of the ghost.

Towel5Fold your  8 1/2" x 5 1/2" sheet of paper in half widthwise. (Or use anything around the house that fits that measurement, like your 2nd grader’s weekly reader from school.) Center the short edge of the paper in the center of the rectangle, along the same short edge where you made the marks for the ghost’s arms. Make marks at:

  • the top edge, on either side of the paper
  • 1" below the top edge, on either side of the paper
  • the bottom of the paper, 1" away from either side of the paper

Towel6Cut out a rectangle shape from the top center edge, following the four dots you made. This will become the top of the ghost’s head. Now, connect the remaining dots you drew, curving them a bit as you go, to create the arm shapes.

Towel7Cut out the arm shapes.

At this point I decided I wanted the ghost’s head to be a little more curved and concave, so I dotted and cut the fabric on the head sides one more time. You can see the concave dots above, on the left.

Towel8For the eyes and mouth I wanted to have more of an oval shape than a circle shape. Couldn’t find anything oval to trace in the spice cabinet or the fridge. But ah, the silverware drawer! A common spoon did the trick. Trace the spoon onto your paper to the handle; remove the spoon and connect the lines together. Cut the shape out.

Towel9Lightly trace the oval shape on the head to create the eyes and mouth shapes. I used a pen, as it’ll let you get a little more detailed than a marker will.

Towel10(This is a creepy photo. Even though creepy is fitting for Halloween, apologies.)

To cut out the eyes and mouth, simply make a slit in the center of the shape, cut out to the edge, and then cut around the shape. Make sure to cut just outside the drawn lines so the pen marks are cut away, too.

Towel11To make the second ghost, lay the first ghost on top of the second rectangle shape. Trace the arms, head, eyes, and mouth, and cut out.

Towel12Second ghost is even easier than the first!

A quick note: If you used a washable marker and can see still see some markings when you're done, simply run those edges under water to erase them. Let your ghosts air dry before hanging.

Towel13The toughest part of this project isn’t making the ghosts—it’s hanging them. My ghosts are rigged up with thumbtacks, twine, and safety pins.

Towel14I love how they sway with the breeze.

Towel15Here’s a bit of swaying, see? Whooo-ooo-o-oo-ooo! (Trying to spell out the sound a ghost makes just then. Not very successful.)

Towel16Perhaps you can see a little more spooky swaying here.

Towel18Oooh. Spooky at night. But in a cute way.


As always, you can find more recycled/refashioned/revamped projects in my book, ReSew.

Thanks for dropping by. Happy Towel-o-ween!

crafts, holidays, sewing, tutorials

A WildCards tutorial: Loopy-Loo Holiday Garland

When I left home for college, my mom gave me a box of old holiday decorations. A few ornaments, some Santa knick-knacks, and a charming strand of Christmas-tree garland made from bright red yarn. The garland was handmade by my mom. She was in college herself when she made it. As I rummaged through the box, she explained how she had made the garland all those years ago.

Although a competent sewist, my mom never had a passion for it. (Her passion is abstract painting. Rebel.) So I was happy to inherit something sewn by her hand, as it was quite rare. And every year since I received the garland, it’s been on my Christmas tree. This year it has accented some of our favorite ornaments that we’ve collected over the years…

Loopy-Loo-1Our honeymoon ornament.

Loopy-Loo-2Our “we used to live in Washington, and it was cool” ornament.

Loopy-Loo-3And our first “Baby’s first Christmas” ornament.

But the past four years? The garland has been getting harder and harder to drape. I’ve been draping the garland around the tree to form the illusion of one continuous strand. But in reality, it looks more like this:

Loopy-Loo-4 The garland has broken into so many pieces I can’t even count them anymore. So this year, I decided to try my hand at sewing a new garland. I wasn’t sure what I would end up with, but I remembered the simple technique that mom shared with me.

Hmm. Things went better than I expected. I like how this new, vintage-vibe garland turned out! I felt confident enough about it, even, that I thought I could teach someone else how to do it. So holy happy holidays, here we go!

LoopyLoo Holiday Garland Tutorial

Here’s what you need:
Loopy-Loo-6Poster board. A pen or pencil. An acrylic ruler. A rotary cutter with a blade for paper only and a rotary mat (or scissors). Tape. Thread to match your yarn. And yarn.

Note: You do not need ONE POUND of yarn. One skein is plenty for a garland that will wrap and drape and then wrap some more around your tree. Or your mantle. Or your door. Or wherever you plan to drape and wrap.

One more note: When it comes to yarn and knitting, I love using natural fibers. But in this case, I suggest using acrylic yarn. Natural fibers tend to break more easily, and we want garland that will last at least as long as my mom's garland did. That would be close to 40 years.

Wow. Yeah, just did the math. That is freakin' old garland!

Here’s what you do:
Using your ruler, draw lines parallel to the short edge of the poster board, spacing them 1 3/4" apart.

Loopy-Loo-8Cut the poster board into strips, following the drawn lines.

Note: For me, each strip yielded about three feet of garland. So do the math—don’t do like I did and cut up the entire posterboard. It’s unlikely you’ll need it. I can’t imagine anyone would want that much garland for anything, ever.

Loopy-Loo-9Tape the yarn to one short end of a poster board strip.

Loopy-Loo-10Begin wrapping the yarn around the strip.

You can wrap the yarn one of two ways: 1) Let your right hand wrap the yarn while your left hand holds the paper steady; or 2) Let your right hand hold the yarn steady while your left hand turns the strip around and around. (Switch those lefts and rights around for lefties.) I did a little bit of both.

Loopy-Loo-11The strip should look something like this when you’re done. Leave 1" to 1 1/2" at the end of your strip unwrapped. Do not cut the yarn.

Loopy-Loo-12Sew along the center of the poster board strip using a very short straight stitch—as short as you can get without sewing in place. Here we are at the beginning of the strip…

…and here we are at the end. Backstitch well at the beginning and end.

Loopy-Loo-14Tape a second strip to the first strip.

Loopy-Loo-15Begin wrapping the yarn again.

Wrap the yarn to cover the second strip within 1" to 1 1/2" from the edge. When you are done wrapping, tape the yarn to the strip to prevent unraveling. Sew along the center of the second strip, making sure to backstitch over your previous stitching when you begin.

Now you have this long, gangly, double strip of posterboard. Time to take out the paper! You can do this one of two ways:

1) Cut the yarn along the long edges of the strip; then gently pull the paper away from the center seam. I’m guessing this is easier than what I did (and it’s what my mom did too).

2) Keep the loops in the yarn by ripping and wiggling the paper strips out of the loops a little bit at a time. More time consuming for sure, but I like the effect. Here’s how I did the ripping and wiggling:

Fold the strip in half lengthwise along the seam to further perforate the paper.

Fold it in the other direction, too.

Loopy-Loo-18Tear the paper to the sewn seam at 1" to 2" intervals. Pull a few loops off the edges of the paper so you can get a good grasp on it.

Loopy-Loo-19Gently wriggle the paper out.

Loopy-Loo-20After lots of wriggling, it will start to look like this.

Note: You can remove the paper from the yarn almost up to the point where the second strip ends. But leave a couple inches of the sewn yarn and paper intact; you’ll need it to tape, wrap, and sew the next length of garland.

Continue taping, wrapping, and sewing until you have the length of garland you want. I used four strips and it made about 12 feet of garland.

I had planned to set up some fun shots of the garland in holiday action, but GOSH DANG IT if my boys couldn’t keep their mitts out of the bowl ‘o beads:

Loopy-Loo-21Big mitts.

Loopy-Loo-22Little mitts.

Love those mitts.

And also, beads are messy.

I would love to make my mom’s bits of garland into something new. Any ideas? I’ll be thinking…

Loopy-Loo-23 Happy holidays, crafties!