Christmas Gifts 2017

Back in April, I decided I was going to try and make as many Christmas gifts as I could. My husband had been out of work since February and I was already panicking about how expensive gifts usually are because I am a worrier and like to make the worst of things. It was a lot of work and I was nervous giving homemade clothes as gifts, but these projects were a helpful distraction during a stressful time. Also, I made most of the clothes out of knit fabric so that a perfect fit wasn’t as important (I spent a lot of time stalking pictures of my family on Facebook to try to guess what sizes to use for them.) Here is a roundup of the patterns I used and where the fabrics are from:

Purl Soho Turtles

The very first, and simplest projects, I finished were these turtles for our 6 and 8 year old nieces. I used this free pattern from Purl Soho. The floral fabrics I used for the shells are scraps from old projects and the linen fabric for the head and top of the legs is from JoAnn. The felted wool for the underside is from the Etsy shop Benzie Design. I was relieved to find out that turtles are one of our 6 year old niece’s current favorite animals. My brother-in-law seemed to like these too. I might make one for him with some scraps of Star Wars fabric I have.

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This is a Fen Top by Fancy Tiger Crafts for my sister. The flannel fabric is Robert Kaufman purchased from Craftsy. This is the only garment I made out of woven fabric because I have already made a longer sleeved version for my sister and I know it fit her. This was originally going to have longer sleeves as well but I kind of liked the way this one looked with short sleeves after I had started working on it.

Carol's One Hour Top

This is another top from Fancy Tiger Crafts for my mother-in-law. It’s a free pattern called the One Hour Top and the french terry knit fabric is from Raspberry Creek Fabrics. It’s an easy pattern that goes together really quickly but the sizing seems really big.

 

Yes, these are matching shirts. And they were for my brother and sister-in-law. I made the Seamwork Eugene shirt, leaving out the placket, for my brother first using this white and grey heathered french terry knit from Koshtex and scrap grey ribbing for the bands and pocket. When I was done, I realized I had enough leftover to make the cropped version of the Linden Sweatshirt from Grainline Studio along with some leftover coral french terry knit fabric, also from Koshtex. I wasn’t sure who I should make this for at first, but my sister-in-law is probably the only one in our family who would have any interest in matching my brother.

This tie from Sew Over it London made out of some scrap Robert Kaufman chambray was for my dad. We wrapped this up along with some lottery tickets because I can’t let a gift-giving occasion go by without giving my dad some hope that he’ll become a millionaire. The grey top is for my mom and I used the Hemlock Tee pattern by Grainline Studio, which is free if you sign up for their newsletter. The knit fabric is from Fabric Warehouse in Rahway, NJ.

Jessica Martin's Ryan Top

This is a Ryan Top by Whitney Deal for my sister-in-law. I had some of that white knit fabric left from another project and thought it was so pretty and had enough to get the yokes out of it for this top. The purple french terry is from fabric.com. The pattern calls for woven fabric, but the first one I made was hard to pull over my head so I decided to try making it out of a knit this time.

Kathryn's Toaster Sweater

This is the last project I made. After my sister saw me wearing the first Toaster Sweater 2 by Sew House 7 I made, she said she liked. So I asked her if she wanted one and she said yes. I also asked her what color she wanted and she said black. So here is my sister’s black Toaster Sweater 2. After Christmas, she texted me to say she wore it work and then to bed for three nights straight because it was so comfy. And I have to agree. I love wearing mine also and I think this pattern is one of my favorites ever. Maybe I’ll just make one for everyone next Christmas because they’re so easy to make and they are toasty just like the name says.

 

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Here are all the gifts wrapped up and ready to go. That floral tote bag is also a homemade gift for my mother-in-law holding all of the things we got for her inside. Luckily, my husband started a new job in November so we bought some gifts for everyone just in case they hated the homemade stuff. Halfway through, I remembered sewing doesn’t really save that much money because patterns and quality fabric are kind of expensive. But it was nice being able to give everyone something other than a bunch of stuff we ordered from Amazon at the last minute and supporting small businesses like these pattern designers and fabric shops instead. So who knows if I’ll make everyone homemade gifts again next year. But at least I can say I did it once.

 

Scrap Fabric Coaster Tutorial

I’m always looking for projects to make in an attempt to get rid of fabric scraps I don’t know what to do with. I feel so bad throwing fabric away because of it’s impact on the environment but haven’t been able to find a place that takes fabric scraps yet. So one day this past December, I came home from work early and an idea hit me. I decided to use some of the scraps (from what’s becoming a very overwhelming pile!) to make coasters as Christmas gifts this year. Here is how I made them.

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Supplies Needed:

  • Scrap fabric- (Ideally a stable woven of some kind. I used flannel to fit the winter season.)
  • 1/8″ thick sheet of cork (Tip- try to go to your local craft store if you can seeing as it’s about triple the price on Amazon to compensate for the free shipping that comes with Prime.)
  • Two circles to trace, one slightly smaller than the other. For my bigger circle, I used a container of dried cranberries that measures 4 3/4″ in diameter and for the smaller circle, I used the lid of a candle that measures 4″ in diameter.
  • Fabric scissors
  • Craft scissors
  • Chalk
  • Mod Podge
  • Cheap brush

 

  1. Iron your fabric (this will make it much easier to handle) and use the larger circle template to trace as many circles as you like, one circle for each coaster. Use your fabric scissors to cut them out.

 

2. Use your brush to apply a generous, but even amount, of Mod Podge to each circle and then press it onto your sheet of cork. Since the fabric was cut in the shape of a circle, the bias of the fabric may cause it to stretch and misshapen. Don’t worry about it though, this will be corrected later using the smaller circle template.

3. Let dry for 30 minutes. (The fabric absorbs the Mod Podge much more than paper would, which means more is needed and drying time is longer.)

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4. Apply generous, but even amount, of Mod Podge as a top coat. Let dry for one hour.

5. Cut out each circle.

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5. Use chalk to trace the smaller circle template onto the cork side of your coasters.

6. Cut coasters around new edge.

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This is what your coasters should look like when you’re all done! The only thing left is to get some ribbon and tie each set of coasters together to gift to a friend/family member or forget the ribbon altogether and keep them for yourself!

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I decided to include these in gifts for my Aunts and Uncles this Christmas along with a pretty mug from Anthropologie and some good ol’, classic Swiss Miss. I think they went over pretty well.

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An Army of Emerys

Over a year ago, I decided to start making some special occasion dresses because 2017 was very busy with weddings and wedding related events for us. I hadn’t made a dress for myself for a special occasion since senior prom because I decided to make sewing my career and for a while it was hard to want to sew for fun at home. Thanks to TrishStitched, I now love indie patterns and the online sewing community but am lazy when it comes to cutting and assembling PDFs so I called on Christine Haynes’ Emery Dress (yay sleeves and a high neckline!) to get me through and just stuck with this one pattern. For all of these dresses, I cut a straight size 4 and then took out 2″ from the top and tapered to 1″ at the waist in the center back. I like to call them my little army because this pattern really pulled through in getting me through all of these special events!

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I made this first dress for my friend Larry’s wedding in October. At first, Larry’s cake was supposed to be gold and navy and I wanted to match the cake because cake is delicious and who doesn’t want to dress up to match a pretty cake? So I bought this Rifle Paper Co. Fabric from Cotton + Steel…and then when I got to the reception the cake was a different color. White, I think? Doesn’t matter. I still really liked wearing this dress and it was a really beautiful day watching one of my best friend’s marry the man of his dreams.

(Pictured above are some details from the wedding but not too many because I’m awful at remembering to take pictures. Everything was so beautiful and there was a live band that really got people dancing.)

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This Emery dress is also made out of a Rifle Paper Co. print for Cotton + Steel. A couple of months before Larry’s wedding, I realized I might need a dress for his rehearsal dinner. So I made this dress but without sleeves because I was a little short on fabric since I only bought two yards to make the free shipping requirement from Fabric.com when I was purchasing fabric for other projects I was sure I wanted to make. But I love tea, so anything with tea related paraphernalia on it is A-OK with me. It also fit the Beauty and the Beast theme of my friend Rose’s bridal shower the month before Larry’s wedding!

(Pictured above are some of the gorgeous details from the shower. Her bridesmaids really did a fantastic job! (And if you look closely, you’ll notice that my chalkboards got some more time in the spotlight at this shower as well!)

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I made this dress over the summer for a wedding we attended on Labor Day and then took it out again to wear for Rose’s rehearsal dinner just this past Saturday. I decided to try the half sleeved version for this one and then thought it looked weird on me so I gathered the bottoms just a little bit to 1/4″ bands to bring them in a little rather than cutting them shorter. I probably should’ve just made a casing and inserted elastic because the bands were just a little too tight but I always get a lot of compliments when I wear this dress so whatever. (If you look closely, you’ll notice my shoes are soaking wet from the snow that was falling the night of the rehearsal dinner!)

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This final dress was made for Rose’s wedding. I liked the look of the metallic fabric from that first dress in this post so much I decided I wanted another metallic dress for Rose’s wedding. So I just went ahead and ordered the first thing I liked from Mood Fabrics. Then it came in the mail…and it was SHINY! I guess the first dress was a lot more subtle because the metallic is just printed on but this one was woven with gold lamé. So I was nervous I’d look like I was trying to upstage the bride and bought this cardigan to wear over it to try to tone down the shininess of it (and also because it’d probably be cold out and it was!) But since it was around Christmas time, there were a lot of women wearing shiny dresses also so I had nothing to worry about! The front neckline was a little poofy because this fabric was a little difficult to work with and I guess something funny happened when I ironed it or cut it out. I really should have scooped it out a little bit but, again, I’m lazy so I left it and I swear it was fine if I threw my shoulders all the way back. I just panicked when Kevin took this picture because I’m awkward and at the last second decided to just pose with my hands in my pockets as I usually do in these dresses.

So here are some tiny pictures to prove that the neckline was fine if my shoulders were back. I swear! Also, doesn’t Rose look GORGEOUS in that center picture?!

Above are just some of the beautiful details from this wedding. It was probably the most gorgeous wedding I have ever been to and there was SO much food! I was really hating my dress towards the end of the night because I could hardly breathe after all the food I stuffed in my face!

So there it is, 2017 wedding season is officially complete and it was such an honor and joy to be a part of so many of my best friends’ big days!

A Tale of Two Toaster Sweaters

When I first bought the Toaster Sweater 2 pattern by Sew House 7 from Indiesew last year, it was because it reminded me of the sweater in the pictures above that was for sale at Anthropologie at the time. Seeing as that sweater was somewhere around $80-90, I decided to try make my own instead.

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My first go at this pattern, I used this ponte knit that I found at Chic Fabrics in the Garment District. As a big fan of Marcy Harriell‘s blog, I’ve seen her talk about this fabric shop a lot. So one day while I was killing time during my dinner break, I ventured into the Garment District and when I saw the sign for Chic Fabrics, I decided to go in based on her recommendation. I found this fabric that I thought would make a great Toaster Sweater 2 because I thought it had nice structure and the color was pretty. (It reminded me of my favorite sweatshirt that I accidentally got bleach on at work once and then desperately tried to repair. The agony!) I really wanted to copy the sweater that inspired me to buy the pattern to begin with, but that would have to wait until…

Striped Toaster Sweater 2.3

I bought THIS fabric from Stylemaker Fabrics that STILL doesn’t match the original. I was torn between the red striped print and the blue striped print of this knit terry cloth fabric and in the end, I decided to go with the red because I wanted to be a little different and I feel like I already have a lot of blue in my wardrobe. However, I didn’t anticipate this one coming out looking a little bit like a candy cane. But, hey, at least it’s the right season for it. The stripes on the shoulder seams match up in opposite colors, but I’m pretty happy with how my stripe matching throughout the rest of the sweater came out. It took so many pins it looked like a torture device while I was working on it though.

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I have yet to wear my striped Toaster Sweater 2 because now I’m saving it for Christmas since it seems so seasonally appropriate. But I did wear the first sweater for my friend Rose’s bachelorette party where we took her to see The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and then went backstage to meet the camels afterwards! (You can just barely see it under my coat and everything, but it is so toasty. Marketing is real and this one definitely lives up to the name because the name is partly why I bought it…Hmm…Toasty…) So just for fun, here’s a picture of some camels…

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A Flurry of Fens

A little over a year ago, I decided to treat myself to my first printed copy of an indie pattern for my birthday. I decided on the Fen Dress by Fancy Tiger Crafts, which I purchased through Indie Sew. I had seen it featured in a lot of Instagram posts and loved the relaxed, loose shape of it because I am really lazy when it comes to getting dressed and I want to feel like I am in my pajamas at all times- even when I am trying to look more pulled together by wearing a dress. The first one I made, I used this cute quilting cotton print I got at City Quilter in Manhattan a few months before they had closed. For whatever reason, I was really drawn to the print even though it’s anything but refined and I had just turned 28 when I bought it and should probably have been thinking about dressing more like an adult. As Kurt once said on Glee, “Rachel manages to dress like a toddler and a grandmother at the same time,” and when my sister and I first heard this quote, we felt like it perfectly described the way I dress as well.

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The second Fen dress I made was out of another quilting cotton by Cotton + Steel that I purchased from Craftsy. I probably shouldn’t have made so many dresses using quilting cotton because it doesn’t move very well. Whoops. This one has softened up a bit after being washed a couple of times though. When I made this one, I wanted the skirt to be a little longer because I felt like the front of the skirt on my first one was just a little too short. So I thought I’d lengthen it from the top but I forgot to lengthen the pockets as well! So I had to re-cut them. But now I have longer pockets to put more snacks in. So it was worth it.

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(^ That’s me wearing this dress on our mini-moon. I added swing tack belt loops to the sides so I could wear it with that belt without it sliding around.)

The third Fen dress I made, I used this cotton fabric that I purchased during our mini-moon from The Old Country Store in Pennsylvania. For this one, I thought I’d try to be a little different and add some piping to the pockets. For some reason I really, really wanted to buy some polka dot piping at one point and purchased three different colors from the Etsy shop On Trend Fabrics. So I used the navy blue yardage that I had in my stash. This time, instead of lengthening from the top of the skirt, I added length to the bottom and straightened it out.

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Unlike the first two Fens I made, this is a nice lightweight cotton and I love having a homemade memento from our mini-moon.

The most recent Fen dress I made is probably my most favorite. I had bought this Robert Kaufman gingham fabric from fabric.com with another project in mind but once I had washed it and kept looking at it sitting on top of my fabric pile, I decided it would probably make a nice Fen dress instead.

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I tried to pattern match the fabric around the pockets, and it is just the tiniest bit off, but not enough to bother me.

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I left this one hanging for a while because I just liked the way it looked in the corner of our apartment next to the pom pom wreath I made.

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And I was SUPER happy to wear this dress in front of a bunch of old ladders while Kevin and I were out antiquing last July. I don’t want to show my face because my hair looked bad, but just trust me, I’m wearing a BIG smile in this picture.

I just indulged in a lot of fabric sales online during Thanksgiving  weekend and I bought some grey double gauze from Miss Matatabi Fabric and I think it’s already telling me it wants to be a Fen dress as well…Maybe I’ll try the longer sleeve version this time though.

Harry Potter Themed Bridal Shower

Back in April, my friends and I threw our dear friend, Lauren, a Harry Potter themed bridal shower because she is the ultimate book worm and this particular book series is a favorite among all of us. Since these books were such a vital part of our childhoods, this shower was a lot of fun to plan and I thought it’d be fun to share about it in my first blog post because so many hours went into the execution of it all (lead by our fearless leaders, bridesmaid MVPs Sara and Sahar!)

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First of all, I was so excited to get to reuse some of the chalkboards I made for my own wedding. My intention when I first made these chalkboards was to hopefully reuse them for some aspects of my friend’s upcoming wedding related events and I was so happy we got to reuse them so soon because weddings can be so wasteful sometimes (there, I said it!) Also, Sahar’s handwriting looks so cute!

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There was a bookshelf off in one corner of the venue, which served as a perfect nod to the restricted section of the library at Hogwarts. Sahar’s so clever! Isn’t she clever?

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Each of the guests had a golden snitch waiting for them at their seats. Sahar created the file for this treat and one of my favorite projects at one of our crafting meetings was cutting these out.

The contribution I’m proudest of is this combination of the Harry Potter placemats underneath the book page floral arrangements. I made these mats using fabric purchased from fabric.com and the flowers are made of book pages from an actual Harry Potter book using the ranunculus template from liagriffith.com. I felt bad cutting up one of Sara’s old copies of Harry Potter, but I felt better about it once I got home and realized the book was missing the first three chapters. This was a time consuming project and things got really busy at work, so luckily Sara and Sahar came to my rescue in the last few weeks before the shower to help me get enough made in time to fill out all the vases. Team work really DOES make the dream work! (Haha…)

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Another time consuming project was these bottles. Each one had to have the original labels scrubbed off (which was really hard!) and then Sahar made these new Harry Potter themed labels to go on them instead. Then they stuck a candle in the top, lit it and waited for the wax to melt and drip down the bottle. (Side note: If you’re wondering what that word on the cover of that book is, so am I. This edition of Harry Potter is from Rose’s awesomely extensive collection of international HP books.)

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This is The Three Broomsticks! And Sahar made actual butterbeer on the day of and it was delicious!

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Who doesn’t love taking Polaroids?! This is our photo booth station and I was also happy to finally unload all of this extra Polaroid film leftover from my wedding. (I really over bought…I still have two packs of film left at home. Whoops!) There are also Harry Potter themed props in that case!

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One of the coolest backdrops I’ve ever seen. Sara strung all of these envelopes together on fishing line and then hung them to the ceiling behind the bridal party table. Sara even hand wrote Harry Potter’s address on each envelope! Isn’t she the cutest?

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Speaking of the bridal party table, here it is, adorned with Sara’s beautiful handmade sign! She made stencils for each letter on the computer and then spray painted them onto this burlap banner and I think it came out so, so great.

Another cool touch was these potion bottles. Sahar mixed water and food dye into bottles and then applied these labels she made to them. I think it added a really cool touch to the atmosphere like “Ooh!!…Potions…!!”

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Some games were played and the winners got to take home these really cute succulents in these adorable little vases Sahar found at Party City. It’s like we’re in Herbology! Get it?!

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Honeydukes! So much candy!

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And last, but certainly not least, the party favors! Each guest took home a bottle of Amortentia, the most powerful love potion, with their very own wand attached! And it tastes exactly like Prosecco! The girls spent hours and hours squiggling really cool designs onto some dowel rods using a hot glue gun, painting them all brown and then finally, sealing them with varnish. This might have been the most time consuming project of all and I wish I could’ve been around to help out on this one more but…you know, life and stuff.

All in all, the shower was a success and Lauren seemed really happy with all of it. *High fives all around!* Planning a shower like this only takes 4 1/2 months, a lot of man power, and five friends who all really enjoy each other’s company! Phew! (And maybe also a mother of the bride who didn’t bat an eye when we handed her a butt load of receipts…!)

 

UPDATE:

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The gorgeous thank you card my sister designed for Lauren to send to guests after the shower is now available in our Etsy shop as a PDF download and can be found here.