Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Kid-made Christmas Gifts

Another short post today to share some of the kids' handmade gifts. 

Kate has been dabbling in polymer clay this year. It all began when I gave her this book for Christmas last year. Before that, she'd been playing with Model Magic and leaving tiny little sculptures all over the house to dry. I remember playing with clay as a kid (we used Das Pronto) and loving it, and thought she might like the permanence and solidness of the end product. Polymer clay is much easier to work with, particularly for kids, and it doesn't harden until you bake it.

She loved it.

And all year, she's been making all kinds of tiny creatures from that book, as well as creating her own. And giving them away to everyone she knows.

Way back when I was in college (this was just before I launched my bag-making business), I made and sold jewelry. They weren't clay - I mostly used metal and leather and wood - but watching Kate at work on her tiny clay sculptures made me wonder if she'd enjoy a detour into simple clay jewelry. So we found a few youtube videos (which is  how my kids seem to learn a fair bit of their crafts these days) and I helped Kate make these:

Some of the steps were beyond the capabilities of a 7-year-old (e.g. attaching the hooks and other findings), but otherwise, she ran the show. Funny story: the kids were initially suspicious when I suggested that we could actually make "real" jewelry. When, as evidence, I showed them my stash of jewelry findings and suchlike, they were astonished. And when I told them I used to make jewelry way back in the day, they didn't believe me - as far as they'd known, I'd only ever sewed and played with cardboard. It's humorous how kids forget you had a different life before they were born, isn't it?

Anyway, another blast from my handmade past was this packaging. Again, completely different from how my own jewelry pieces were packaged back in the day, but while digging into that old stash, I found the little plastic bags I'd used and thought Kate might get a kick out of fancy packaging for her clay creations. 

We used scrapbook paper and this little Handmade stamp and made little packages. The girls were amazed at how "professional" they looked. 

And see - another pair of earrings. It appears Kate has caught the mass-producing bug!

These photos are all a bit funky because they were completely unpremeditated. We were in the middle of wrapping the clay packages for Christmas one evening when I thought I'd shoot them in whatever fading light we had left. More than just to document a fun crafting and learning session with the kids, I thought you guys might like to see how easy it is for kids could make really nice stuff in clay and package it in ways that do justice to all those hours of work and love. The girls did all the packaging, by the way - I showed them an example, and they stamped and stapled all by themselves.

Here are some of Kate's lockets. I could have strung them on actual metal chain necklaces but these were her projects, and we picked narrow ribbon so she - not I - could do the actual assembling. To mount them within the package, we punched two holes in cardstock, slit the top edge of cardstock to the holes and slid the necklace ribbon through them. 

Here are some buttons for another sewing-loving family member - we giggled as we mounted them like the ones in the fabric store, twisting flexible wire through their holes.

Here are two of Kate's non-jewelry sculptures, for her boy cousins: a monster

and an iBook.

Kate's older sisters, upon seeing us crafting, came to join in. Here are earrings Emily made

Jenna made this bracelet.

Finally, here's a non-clay gift. Emily has been hand-stitching scraps of fleece into 3D shapes recently, so Jenna made her a sewing kit, based on Abby Glassenberg's ball tutorial. She chose 12 colors of scraps, cut out pentagons and packaged them into this cute kit for her big sister.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

That Other Droid

Sharing some home-made Christmas gifts today. 

This is a shirt for the husband.

Freezer paper stencil,

It's like every time there's a fun droid, I have to make a shirt.

To answer the question I anticipate you asking: no, I'm sorry, I don't have the template for the BB-8 stencil. I found a random image on the internet, and redrew it to be stencil-friendly, then cut it out. And you know how freezer paper stencils are: once you cut it all out, it's in pieces. Unre-usable. Gone. :(

Here's another shirt I stenciled for Emily. 

Not an original swimming catchphrase, by the way. It's all over the internet. You can even buy ready-made shirts with this. However, I couldn't find one in a kid's size. So I made my own artwork - just five different fonts, one for each line. Easy.

In the next post, I'll show you what the kids made for each other, and after that, I'll share that cardboard kit I made for Jenna!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!


I am off to enjoy Christmas.

However, as of this moment, this is the status of my day:

  • 5 gifts need to be wrapped
  • 1 gift needs to be air-dried in secret
  • One tray of bars needs to be frosted
  • A lot of groceries need to be bought
  • The treadmill beckons 
  • I want to somehow also watch the entire Season 2 of Arrow
  • Dinner needs to be made 
  • Packing needs to happen for a trip out of town
  • The lefse needs to be apportioned into For Us To Eat and To Bring To Share
  • One child's library books need to be picked up.

So much to do, right?

So naturally, I'm blogging instead.


Let me share that I made one child a cardboard kit last night. I am very excited because it is a bit of an epiphany. See, cardboard toys are the best, and making them is even better, but sometimes the squaring and measuring, not the mention the cutting and hacking, can be beyond a kid's capabilities. Especially if it's good cardboard that takes more than scissors to make a dent in.

So when the child in question came to me some weeks back with a youtube video of a cardboard thing she wanted to make, which took 5 minutes to assemble (according to the video) but about 5 hours to prep, excluding overnight drying (conveniently omitted from the video), I had my epiphany.

For Christmas, I made her a cardboard kit, containing all the pieces she needs to follow those misleading 5 minutes of instructions, all pre-cut and labeled and ready to glue. Now to package it (of course in a cardboard box) and draw a fun picture on it, so she knows what it's for and doesn't think it's just random pieces of cardboard. Which I personally think would be an awesome gift in and of themselves, but not all people are as enlightened as I (yet).

Whoo! I should do this more often! Although maybe not the day before Christmas Eve. Maybe next year, with a bit of foresight and better planning. . . 


Like that would ever happen.

Anyway, have a wonderful Christmas, you guys! See you after the break with more zippered -bag tutorials!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Zip A Bag Chapter 2: Unfaced Zippers - Unlined Pouch

Welcome to the very first tutorial in the Zip A Bag series!

The purpose of the next few tutorials is to learn how to install zippers.

And since I promised that we'd begin at the very beginning, we will start by installing an unfaced zipper in an unlined pouch. Today's tutorial is to make a flat (2D) pouch with a zippered opening that is not along one of its natural edges.

Begin we begin, let's talk about two ideas:

1   Lining and Facing
A lining is an additional layer of fabric on the inside of a project. By definition, it extends throughout the entire project. It has many functions, including
  • providing an extra layer of thickness and structure for thin fabrics
  • providing an extra layer (in garments) for modesty in translucent or see-through fabrics
  • providing extra weight (in garments) for drape, so that the garment hangs better on the wearer
  • enclosing seam allowances and - sometimes - rendering a project subsequently reversible.

A facing is a piece of fabric that backs a particular area of a project. Being an additional layer itself, it also naturally lines that part of the project, but its main function is to reinforce seams in that area. It is called a "facing" because its literally lies against (faces) that part of the project.
Examples of facings are
  • a neckline facing, sewn to and stabilizing the neckline (and any opening, in general)
  • an armhole facing, sewn to and stabilizing the armhole
  • a pocket facing, sewn to the pocket opening to create a double-layered pouch
  • a zipper facing, sewn on the WS of the seam attaching the zipper, hiding the zipper tape.

Except in very, very rare instances, I always line my pouches and bags, and always face my zippers and, because those two features take care of all the hideous seam allowances, therefore never use the serger. There is nothing wrong with having an unlined bag with unfaced zippers, incidentally. It's just that I personally don't feel a bag is properly finished unless it is fully lined, and all the SA hidden from sight.

When then, are those aforementioned "very, very rare instances" that I might omit the lining, and leave the backs of zippers bare? 

They are
  • non-commercial mass-producing e.g. for freebie favors for my kids' birthday parties, in which I don't want to take the time to cut out and assemble additional lining layers, and
  • tutorials, for teaching purposes.

2   Stops
Here comes another idiosyncratic thing: unless there's good reason not to, I also always enclose the ends of my zippers with fabric stops. Sometimes I even remove the metal stops before enclosing the zipper ends in fabric. No reason other than to save my needle the risk of accidentally hitting the metal stops. Sometimes, however, the stops are so firmly wedged within the coils that I cannot remove them, in which case I will let them be.

Okay, so fabric stops. You can sandwich the ends of a zipper between two layers of fabric, so that both the RS and WS of the zipper are hidden. In the next chapter, we'll learn how (and when) to do this. But today we're going to cover only the RS of the zipper - the WS will remain exposed and untreated. 

Today's tutorial, unfortunately, involves an unlined, unfaced zipper, with only one-sided fabric stops. Three less-than-ideal features in one project. Erk. Please don't do this if you can help it, okay? 

Now, because I don't actually want you to learn to sew your pouches this way, I am deliberately going to skimp on the photos, and just speed through the process, saying just enough to convey how unfaced zippers are installed as a general practice.


Start with two pieces of fabric, each about the same width as the zipper tape. Fold each in half with RS out and lay their folded edges over (and hiding) the metal stops. The separation between the fabric stops should be slightly smaller than the finished opening. See the following pictures to visualize this. 

Topstitch across the fabric pieces, through the zipper underneath, to hold them in place. I did two lines of topstitching. 

The first is an edgestitch (i.e. very close to the fold line) to prevent the zipper pull from slipping underneath the fabric stop and getting accidentally stuck. In the next tutorial, we will attach the fabric stops a little differently, which automatically prevents this from happening. 

The second is to further stabilize the fabric stop, and for aesthetic purposes. 

The zipper is now ready to be installed. Notice the top stops of the zipper protruding way beyond the fabric square on the right? Ideally, if you always use zippers much, much longer than your opening, you will never need to remove the metal stops - they'll stick out so far that you can just cut off the excess zipper tape with them in it. 

Back to the pouch now. The front piece of this pouch is cut into two pieces to create the opening.

We'll be inserting the zipper in the seam between these two separate pieces. Note that the separation between the fabric stops i.e. the usable length of zipper coil, is smaller than the finished opening.

Step 1
Lay the zipper on one of the pouch pieces at its seam edge so that
  • the RS of the zipper is touching the RS of the fabric
  • the lower edge of the zipper tape is lined up with the lower edge of the fabric.

Stitch in place, using the zipper foot to get close to the zipper coils.

Step 2
The RS of the zipper is against the first fabric piece, so flip that fabric piece (leave the zipper where it is) downward to expose the RS of the zipper. Lay the zipper, RS down on the seam edge of the second fabric piece so that
  • the RS of the zipper is in contact with the RS of the fabric and
  • the upper edge of the zipper is lined up with the upper edge of the fabric

Stitch in place, again using the zipper foot to get close to the coils.

Step 3
Separate the two pieces of fabric, folding them back along the stitching lines to expose the zipper coils between them. Press the seam open and, on the RS of the fabric, edge-stitch through all layers, close to the folds to hold the fabric in place.

Trim off the excess bits of zipper tape on either side.
The (unlined) zippered front panel is now ready for assembling into a pouch.

All you need to do next is pair it with a similar-shaped back panel and stitch both pieces together around their outer edges, with RS together. Finish (serge, bind, zig-zag stitch, etc.) this outer edge and turn the pouch RS out through the zippered opening. 

Incidentally, these were monster pencil cases I made for the girls to decorate for their teachers for Valentine's Day. 

Like 10 months ago Valentine's Day. 

That's how long ago I took these photos for this tutorial series. Cough.

As earlier mentioned, this is not at all an elegant method for installing zippers into pouches. However, if you can live with the internal messiness of the finish, it is very efficient for mass-producing.

Next up is a much more refined way to install a zipper in a pouch. See you back soon!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reversible Christmas Stockings

A quick tutorial today on how to make the reversible Christmas stockings from Jenna's Christmas Swimming birthday party.

Disclaimer: the only reason these stockings are reversible is laziness.

See, I wanted contrast cuffs on which to applique those initials, but if I were to simply fold down the top of the stocking, the WS would show, along with the seam allowances. And since I am allergic to exposed seam allowances, those cuffs needed to be fully lined to enclose them.

Fully lining the entire stocking, however, turned out the be the fastest and least fiddly way to make this work.

And since fully-lined = practically reversible (see this post for my Theory of Reversibility), all it took was a second ribbon loop on the inner layer to make it fully reversible. 

Long story short:
it wasn't ingenious,
or even original.
It was laziness.


Right, let's get's started, then.

What you need for a reversible stocking:
  • Two stocking shapes in one fabric, cut in mirror image
  • Two stocking shapes in a second fabric, cut in mirror image
  • Two lengths of ribbon
  • Whatever embellishment you want.

Step 1
Complete all embellishment.

If your embellishment is on the cuff, mark the fold line of the cuff (dashed orange line in photo) and position the embellishment on the RS of the inner fabric and
  • equidistant from the top edge and the fold line (see orange arrows) and
  • upside down

Step 2
Take the two stocking shapes of ONE fabric and, with RS together, sew along their outline (except the top edge) to make a complete stocking. Partway during the process, leave an opening in one side seam for turning out. Also  fold one ribbon piece in half and insert 
  • in the heel edge of the stocking, 
  • pointing inward between the layers and 
  • just below the fold line, as shown.

Repeat for the other pair of stocking shapes in the second fabric and second ribbon piece to make a second stocking. You do not need to leave a gap in this second stocking.

Step 3
Turn one completed stocking RS out and insert into the other stocking (still WS out).

Step 4
Line up their top edges and sew all around the opening, through both layers.

Step 5
Turn entire stocking RS out through the opening you left in Step 2 and ladder-stitch the opening shut. Stuff one stocking inside the other so that you get a single, two-layered stocking.

Step 6
Fold down the cuff. Finished!

Here is the other side.

We'll resume the Zip A Bag series in the next post. 
See you soon!