Introducing Pencil Cases!
You can find them in the zippered pouch section of my shop. They are sewn with a stabilizer to make them nice and sturdy, but still machine washable (press with an iron if the stabilizer wrinkles at all during washing). They also have a flat boxed bottom allowing them to stand up on easily on their own.
They are roomy while still being compact. Look at how many things one little bag can hold! The interior lining is a coordinating cotton, kind of like a cute little surprise each time you reach inside for a pen.
I had a lot of fun designing the first one for my 3rd grader (with a bit of her own embroidery), then a second by custom request (thank you Katie!), so the final design has been thoroughly road-tested by a range of students from kindergarten to college.
Some other ways you can use this handy-sized bag:
The possibilities are endless!
Back in February, I shared my latest idea for eliminating plastic when it comes to deodorant. I was happily using the LUSH deodorant bar which comes as a solid block without any packaging at all. Several issues have surfaced since then. 1) I have a hard time getting into Providence to buy the product (making it extra time/gas/parking fees); 2) if you order online, it arrived packaged in quite a bit of plastic, 3) the bar gets so very crumbly when there is about 1/3 left making it difficult to apply; and 4) the bar is a bit irritating on freshly-shaven skin, which honestly is when I tend to apply. I can report that the scent is lovely and it seemed to stand up well on a humid summer day.
Next, I tried a completely non-toxic product from Ava Anderson. While it worked well, held up in the hot summer weather, the scent was ok, but I was looking for something with zero-waste. Their deodorant comes in the traditional plastic container. (Ava Anderson products are wonderfully non-toxic, and if you're interested you should follow this link and buy from my friend Stacy!)
Enter my latest find: Organic Essence deodorant.
Finally--something that smells great, works really well, is organic, made in the USA and comes in compostable packaging!
It comes in a cardboard tube that can go into my compost bin when empty. There are four different scents: lavender, lemon tea tree mint, natural and wood spice. I ordered it online, but I would bet there are stores that carry it, I just haven't investigated that far. Paying for shipping is a pain, and it is certainly more expensive than drugstore deodorant at $10, but I think I have found my go-to deodorant. This tube is about 1/3 used, which has lasted me well over a month so far.
Ingredients consist of coconut oil, arrowroot, beeswax, baking soda and essential oils. That's it. They also follow through with sustainable packaging when shipping, using paper tissue and a cardboard box. Love it!
My search has officially ended for effective, sustainable and plastic-free deodorant.
In my last post I shared some ways that I make my children's pants last longer. Those tips work really well for woven fabrics like denim and twill (most khakis). What about knits?
I'm not that experienced working with knits, but this is pretty simple. The big obstacle is allowing your seam to stretch with a stretchy fabric like knit. Here is a pair of pants that were far too long for my son, and I put a huge hem in them. This shortened them by about 5 inches.
The hem is *really* noticeable. But, for a pair of athletic pants that will most likely have a hole in the knee within a few days, who cares? To me it looks intentional because the seams are straight and the legs align. My 5 year old certainly does not care! Here's a closeup:
If you're not ready to dive into sewing with knits, how can you make a quick and dirty hem in a pair of knit pants? There are two different methods I use. One is a straight basting stitch. Since the hem will be removed in a few months' time, you want this temporary seam to be easy to remove. A basting stitch is a straight stitch with the stitch length set to the highest number, producing the largest possible stitches. On my machine that is a 5.0, though it may be different on your machine.
The second quick stitch I use for hemming knit pants is a version of a zigzag stitch found on my machine. It looks like a lightening bolt, stitch #5 on my machine.
This allows the fabric to stretch a bit at the seam. If you don't have this stitch, then a zigzag stitch set to a very narrow width will produce similar results. You could also use a twin needle, but I'm not going to get into that today.
A hand basting stitch would also work really well, and you would have more control over what the seam looks like on the outside of the pant leg.
I hope you find this helpful!
If your children grow lightening fast like mine do, you probably buy a lot of pants. I've come up with a few tricks to make those pants last longer which saves money at the same time.
Start by buying pants that are too long for your child with straight legs (tapered or flared will not work). Make sure they have an adjustable waistband (best...invention...EVER).
Adjust the waist so that it fits well, then mark where you need to hem the pants. You can use a variety of methods to hem, but you do NOT want to cut off any of the length--we will use it later. Two methods for hemming pants, jeans in particular:
Simple Double Rolled Hem
Hemming Jeans while keeping the original Hem (the method I used here)
Since there was so much excess tucked inside the pant leg after hemming, I hand-sewed an extra seam to keep the fabric tacked down. It would be quite easy for toes to catch it and pull all that hidden length out the bottom of the pant leg.
When the pants get too short, remove your stitches. You will want to wash the pants after removing seams as this will make the stitch holes disappear.
When the pants get too short again, provided the adjustable waist is still fitting well, you can add a fun cuff to add even more length. Plus, you get a "new" look from the same pair of pants.
One type of plastic that I still occasionally use in my kitchen bothered the daylights out of me: plastic wrap. Usually it comes in direct contact with your food, is one of the only things versatile enough to conform to any shape and need, but it was so very plastic. Yuk. In many cases I was able to substitute wax paper or parchment, which is great. But I still found myself turning to the dreaded Saran when I couldn't think of anything else. You can guess how excited I was to learn about a product from a company called Abeego.
It's a small Canadian designer/producer who came up with the brilliant idea to coat fabric in beeswax (and some Jojoba oil and tree resin). I bought a set of three single flats in three different sizes, and one of the multi-use wraps.
So how do you use them?? The flats will seal the top of a glass bowl, just like plastic wrap would. You conform the wrap to the surface of the bowl and the heat of your hands causes the wax to create a seal. It's a waterproof fabric (though I wouldn't try turning a bowl upside down) that is easily wiped clean with regular dish soap. Lay them flat to store in between uses.
The wrap has a closure that works very well folded up to contain food like a sandwich.
Why would I share this product with you when it could compete with snack bags that I make and sell? Honestly, my reusable snack and sandwich bags are great--but the lining is still made of a derivative of plastic. Abeego is a completely plastic-free option that is worthy of excitement. And, something that really made me happy was reading the word "compostable" on the packaging.
About the packaging--they send your product in wax paper with a recycled paper tag. I've found a lot of "eco-friendly" companies dropping the ball when it comes to packaging their product. Either putting something like this in a plastic bag to display in a store, or putting an organic cream into a plastic bottle. Abeego has thought through their process well. Though an order shipping from Canada takes a while to arrive, their shipping rates are incredibly reasonable. They are also expanding into new retailers all the time, so you may find a location near you.
I'm a fan and look forward to putting these wraps through some real challenges. Check them out! I think you will like them as much as I do.
**All opinions expressed are my own. I am not affiliated with Abeego in any way; they did not pay me to review their product. I like sharing products I think are fantastic!
The web has been a tremendous teacher for me when it comes to expanding my sewing skills. Here are some great online resources that I turn to again and again for various sewing techniques.
Amy Smart's blog Diary of a Quilter is my favorite for all your basic quilting techniques. Her writing is clear, the photos are very helpful, and she doesn't needlessly complicate anything.
Two resources: Craftiness is not Optional and MADE by Dana. Two incredibly creative mamas worth following.
Abby Glassenberg's website While She Naps is a wealth of information not only for sewing softies, but also for starting and running a small creative business. The number of free tutorials is impressive. I've bought her book Stuffed Animals and, while not sewing stuffed animals with any frequency, have learned so many handy techniques that I can use for all of my sewing.
Couture Garment Sewing
Colette Patterns maintains a blog called Coletterie with more garment sewing advice than I think I will ever tap in my career. It's fabulous!
Many parents went out in July and August and bought their children new wardrobes to start the school year. I did not. One of my children got new shoes (because his were falling apart) and the other will continue wearing closed-toe sandals until the weather cools. It doesn't make sense to me to buy fast-growing children fall clothing in August that they won't wear until at least late September. Most of it will no longer fit! See, I've got tall kids. And they have a knack for sprouting up an inch or two overnight. There's no way I'm buying/making anyone pants until the absolute very last minute. Plus, by now, clothes are on sale in stores, so win-win.
I'm also not one of those sewing Moms who will create a fall collection for her third grader from scratch. That's nearly impossible with a family/home/business to run. But I do find this time of year refreshing and inspiring to start new projects. Labor Day signifies the start of a new year moreso to me than January 1. Maybe because I was a student myself for so very long making it all the way through graduate school. Maybe because so much else has changed in our house now that my youngest is in all day kindergarten. Or maybe it just seems that going from summer to a brand new grade makes my children seem older. My Mom always used to say that. Birthdays didn't make us seem older to her, but that first day of school always did.
Today I wanted to share some project ideas that are rattling around my brain this late summer day. Since I have more flexibility in my schedule and a bit more time to think about personal projects with school back in session, this is what I'm calling my Back to School Sewing List.
Casual pants for my husband. I've been following this indie Canadian pattern designer at Thread Theory for a few months, and I *love* that she designs for men. No one does that! Kids and women get all the sewing attention. This will be a challenging project for me, but I'm looking forward to learning some new skills and garment construction techniques. One day I may attempt her pea coat pattern, but cutting into all that expensive wool scares me right now.
The Staple Dress for myself, from April Rhodes. I think this dress will work for many seasons. As-is for summer, but layered with tights and a long sleeve tee or cardigan for cooler weather. The possibilities are endless. Hence the name, I suppose. Whether to make it in a neutral or bold print...or maybe even both! I think it's a flattering cut that will work on many body shapes. You can play with the hem and not make it so contrasting in length from front to back (you do know you don't have to follow a designer's pattern to the letter, right?)
As you can tell from the above two project ideas, there's more to life than Simplicity and Joann Fabrics. I have many posts brewing in my head about that!
Our children got a new desk this summer that is long enough for both of them to work comfortably side by side. My husband built it from something else in our house that he dismantled (I'll have a post about it soon). They need some chairs, and I plan to make really fun chair cushions. The playroom is evolving with the addition of this desk, and I plan to do some heavy re-decorating this fall and winter. The desk is step 1. Cushions are step 2, and buckets of white paint to cover the ugly walls are step 3. Maybe there will be a rug in there somewhere too, but one thing at a time. I have no idea what kind of cushion I will make them yet, but this is something that looks bright and colorful. The shape won't work for a chair, but I'm still in the gathering inspiration phase of this particular project.
Boy pants. My boy grows so very fast right now. Pants only seem to fit for a few weeks at a time. Since he's still just in kindergarten, I think I will be able to get away with making him a couple of pairs, adding cuffs as he goes vertical. Cuffs are still cool at his age. This is the tutorial I will most likely use to make the pants, and then this is a source for making fun cuffs to add length as the child grows.
One more project I would like to tackle before the weather gets too cold is a quilt for my daughter. It's a giant project, but we are both looking forward to it. I bought a copy of this magazine back in the spring, showed her the above photo and she loved it! I've got the cream yardage in Kona cotton ready to go, and the rest I plan to improvise from fabric already in my stash. I just need to get started.
What sewing do you have planned for the fall? Or spring...I might still be working on those men's pants in March.
Did you know I do weddings? Neither did I until a brave soul asked. This intimate wedding welcomed about 35 couples, so the bride needed 35 favors. She asked if I could make small zippered pouches. Of course! I would love to! I gave her some fabric ideas based on dress color and flowers. Isn't her choice of fabric gorgeous???
Exquisite taste, Noreen.
She also wanted a special gift for her two bridesmaids. The wristlet clutch worked perfectly as a bag for the big day.
I'm so glad that the lovely bride had the confidence to ask me to make her favors--I loved the whole experience! If you or someone you know is having a small wedding or other gathering in need of favors, I would love to talk with you about it. No bridezillas or guest lists of 200 please. Plenty of lead time also please, since I'm not a sweatshop in China. You know, in case you forgot that for some reason.
I'm glad I bought extra yardage of this fabric. I might need to make a farmer's market tote. For myself!
I grew up in Maryland, just north of Baltimore. I've lived in Rhode Island for 9 years now, with stops in Philadelphia (undergrad), the Boston suburbs (first job out of college), Newport (first duty station as a Navy spouse), and Virginia (grad school and Navy livin'). But Maryland will always feel like home.
One thing I miss is steamed crabs. I never dare to eat a crabcake outside of the state of Maryland. Even ones I've tried in Virginia, along the Chesapeake Bay using blue crab don't hold a candle to a Maryland crab cake. As a fun little birthday gift for my Marylander nephew, I decided to make him a cuddly stuffed crab. I used the free tutorial from Abby Glassenberg's blog While She Naps, Casey the Crab. It's a fairly simple and straightforward pattern, a good introduction to making soft toys.
Of course I had to make one for my niece's birthday as well. And maybe my Rhode Island children with Maryland lineage will get their own too. I give them away before I get the chance to take a decent photo, so this will have to do for now.
I don't know too many steamed crabs that wear a smile like that...
Today I'm going to share some of the sewing studio inspiration from my Pinterest boards. Consider it mid-week eye candy. I have plans to paint my studio next month, which will most certainly result in an organizational overhaul. Oh, the possibilities!!
Feeling inspired yet?
As co-owner of Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, I teach sewing classes to children and adults. Welcome to my blog Dancing Threads RI.