Sewing our Sanity

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ugly cabinet transformation

While our blog is called "Sewing our Sanity" Emily and I do more than just sew to save our sanity. Transforming furniture, whether it be with a new coat of paint or a slip cover, is another creative outlet for us both.

We have had this hutch for years - Paul had it before we got married. He bought it, another cabinet that is exactly the same but without the hutch, and a table and chairs. The table and chairs went a long time ago and the other cabinet has been transformed with red paint and our flat screen tv now resides atop it. This cabinet/hutch has been in our kitchen in both our current house and townhouse and I have always hated it. We need it for storage and replacing it has never been a high priority in the budget and I knew I could paint it. Painting furniture can be a daunting task, especially with little ones around. The sanding and priming and several coats of paint and all the waiting in between coats. I have painted furniture a number of times before. And rooms. Lots of rooms. And kitchen cabinets. And decorative painting on walls. Lots of that. I just was not looking forward to this cabinet because I would have to pack everything up that was inside so I could move it to the garage. And it is a lot of cabinet to prime. And the smell.

Then I discovered the most fabulous paint ever!

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

It is from England but I am lucky enough to have a store close by that stocks it - Laissez Faire & Company in Cockeysville.

There is no need to prime or sand before painting. There is very little smell. You can paint it on just about anything. (I painted right over the hardware.) You can layer colors. Sand to age. A coat of clear wax must be applied after painting and a dark wax can then be added to age the piece further.

The pictue above shows the before. Well, almost before. I was so excited to get started painting, I almost forgot to take a picture. I chose Aubusson. It looks almost like a peacock blue in the photo but really is a little more subdued. Because it dries relatively quickly and there is little odor, I could paint it right inside. Since I painted right over the hardware and hinges, I left the drawers and doors on. Latex paint can take a week or more to cure but once this paint is dry it is set. It was still wet when my toddler got up from his nap and he, of course, had to touch it. It cleaned up so easily, off both him and the brush.

After painting two coats and before waxing.

I finished the piece with the clear wax and added some dark wax to tone down the blue a bit. I can actually now say I love this piece.

And I love this paint. I have a china cabinet waiting to be painted - probably old white or pure white over French Linen. Also a fantastic trunk I saved from the neighbor's trash.


I am linking to Miss Mustard Seed's linky party.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Linen, Lace, and Camouflage.

Years ago I bought a gorgeous linen shirt from Eddie Bauer with inset lace.  I never really wore it because I found the fit to be too short waisted and boxy, but I just couldn't part with it.  It has been sitting in my stash of clothes to up-cycle for a while now and I always envisioned making Natalie something from it.  This weeks Earth Day Challenge at Project Run and Play was the perfect opportunity.  So, I made Natalie an a-line tunic.


I used this bodice pattern and extended the length and widened the sides into an a-line shape.  I used the shirts existing front buttoned placket and the hem (less sewing!) and sewed the front and back pieces together at the shoulders and side seams.  I made a pattern for a cap sleeve, and cut the sleeves out with the shirts existing lace running around the bottom edge of the sleeve and sewed the sleeve to the tunic.  It needed a little embellishment so I embroidered some lazy daisies following the shape of the the neck line.

She needed something to wear with her new tunic so I made her some shorts using a pair of her daddy's cammies using Oliver and S's puppet show shorts.  I had to take off two pockets and fussy cut the pattern pieces to fit over an existing seam to make them look "military".  I used the two pockets I removed instead of making new pockets, I cut them to shape leaving the existing top edge and button and sewed them in place. These particular cammies happen to be called FROG or Flame Resistant Operational Gear.  I removed the label from a shirt and sewed it to the back of the shorts just under the waist band. 

 I love the feminine details of these shorts.  If I had just made a regular pair of shorts she would look like she was wearing shorts meant for a boy.  And best of all she loves them and calls them her "Daddy shorts".  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Once Upon a Shirt

This week on Project Run and Play is Earth Day Challenge - to make something upcycled from all natural fabrics. I have had this men's XL cotton orange shirt for a while, having bought it a couple of years ago intending to make a dress for Caroline out of it.

I have seen a few dresses made from men's shirts on different blogs but wanted to do something a little different. I wanted one with a more defined waist - I am not a big fan of the tent dress or no-waist dress.
I cut the sleeves off and cut two rectangles from the body of the shirt, leaving the button placket in place, and sewed the rectangles up the sides. I made a band the width of Caroline's chest and gathered the top of the rectangle to fit the band. I made a casing for elastic just above her waist and sewed that on the outside. I made two straps with button holes on each end and sewed buttons to the band of the dress. She loved it and wore it the rest of the day, even though it was a little chilly for no sleeves. (Of course, this is the little girl who spent most of last winter, when she was three, in princess dresses with no sleeves and nothing on her legs. I told her constantly to put on more clothes. She said that when she grows up, she is going to live in a castle and only wear dresses and nothing on her arms and legs.)
Gabe wanted to get in the photo shoot. In the first picture he is saying "that dress is gorgeous!" (actually, he had just looked up at the sun).

Notice the bunnies in all the photos.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Knitting Bug

So what do you do when your husband is deployed, you are pregnant, the kids are asleep and the lonely hours before bedtime stretch out in front of you?  You teach yourself to knit!!

I decided that I needed to be more productive after the kids went to bed, and sitting in front of the TV surfing the web was just not cutting it.  Plus, I can sew, cross stitch, embroider...shouldn't I be able to knit?!?  I tried once to learn to knit and was totally unsuccessful and I found it to be so frustrating.  But I was determined that I could learn.  So I grabbed a set of knitting needles and some yarn and hopped on-line to  In one evening I taught myself the English method of knit and purl stitches.

For my first project, I decided to knit a hat for the new baby.  I found this adorable pattern from The Mucky Macbook and knit one in blue and one in pink with Martha Stewart Extra Soft Wool Blend, since we didn't know the baby's gender. We got to use the blue one for our precious Mikey and I saved the pink.

And I was officially bitten by the knitting bug.  I knit a baby sweater, a shrug for Natalie, hats for the big boys, a hat for Natalie, a hat for Sam, and I am finally getting around to knitting something just for me.  I am knitting this gorgeous tee with my interchangeable knit pick needles (I love these!) in Knit Picks Cotlin colorway whisker.  


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Too much fabric, so little time!

I hauled out some of my fabric today that was on the top of the pile of fabric to make things for the kids. I have quite a pile. More things for Caroline because there are more girly fabrics out there than fabric for boys. Like this one I found last week that I couldn't resist:

I am envisioning an overalls jumper.
It was tough finding time to meet my one hour challenge today. Gabe had a slight fever and wanted to be held a lot. I am wondering if he is getting his two year molars. I did manage to get the top to a two piece outfit cut out for Caroline. If tomorrow is as productive as today maybe I will be at least able to cut out the bottoms.
- Monica

 My original idea floating around in my head, did not pan out because I didn't have enough fabric in the shirt I was upcycling.  Oh, well, I went back to the drawing board and started all over and was actually able to complete an entire outfit today!!  I was sure that I would not get anything done with our crazy nap schedule, but Mikey and Natalie both took long naps this afternoon and all Jack wanted to do was watch TV since it was really too chilly to play outside.  I felt rather productive.  Since I will be single parenting it this week we will just have to see how much I can complete in the next few days. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kids Clothes Week Challenge

This week is Kids Clothes Week Challenge  at Emily and I are up for the challenge - to sew for our kids for one hour a day for seven days. I have a pile of fabric and patterns and ideas in a bin by my sewing machine. (Well, the ideas are not in the bin - they are knocking around in my head. I think that if they were all written down the list would be too overwhelming.) I know Emily has a bunch of stuff she wants to get busy working on. Making ourselves set aside an hour each day will help whittle down our lists of things to sew but it will be a challenge to find that one hour each day. Nap time will probably be the time. Not bedtime. By then I am often too exhausted to sit at the machine and sometimes when I do, I end up with too many seams that need to be resewn. I often save sewing buttons on or finishing a hem for the evening when I can sit with the hubs and watch some tv and unwind. Sometimes I will cut out a pattern or knit. I recently learned to knit and my first finished knit project was a purple hat for Caroline. By finished, I mean one that I did not rip out several times and start over or abandon. I only restarted this hat once. I think I did pretty well except for the button hole that is not supposed to be above the brim.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Floral Skort and Tee

So excited to be sending photos of this skort and top to Project Run and Play! This week's theme was sports wear and here is what I did for the sew along:

I have been picking up a yard of this and half a yard of that fabric for a couple of years, usually not knowing what I am going to make with it but knowing (hoping) I'll come up with something.. This skirt fabric had been sitting in my stash for about two years. Caroline had a plain pink tee that needed some embellishment and a skirt. This fabric fit the bill perfectly.

 The tee had a tiny pocket that I removed. I wish I had a picture but it was really tiny. Like only big enough for a peppermint candy and that's it. I found some coordinating fabrics in my stash for the flowers. I ironed some fusible interfacing to the fabric and used my Silhouette Cameo to cut the flowers and leaves. I cut all the shapes out in black also, slightly larger, ironed them on and stitched around the flowers with a straight stitch. I added buttons for centers - the kids had a good time helping pick out the buttons. And sorting them in muffin cups. And dropping them on the floor (Gabe). I gave up keeping the organized by color a long time ago. Did you know that a big jar of buttons and a couple of muffin tins can keep your kids busy for at least an hour, if not more?

The skort was super simple. I made a pair of shorts from a commercial pattern I already had but did not finish the waist band. I made the skirt from this tutorial on Make It and Love It but again did not finish the waist band. I sewed the two together at the waist, tucked the shorts into the skirt, stitched a seam an inch from the top to make casing for elastic and ta da! its a skort! 
I'll take a picture of my girl wearing it later and post it. 


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Berry fun!

Natalie is a very active little girl and her legs are generally covered in scraps and bruises, but she still loves her dresses and her skirts.  I wanted her to have something that she could wear for playing but that  would be a bit more dressy than shorts.  I was inspired by these simple skirts from MADE. So quick, simple and very customizable.  

I chose this adorable green and white seersucker embroidered with strawberries and got to work making a skirt and since it was so quick and easy to whip up, I made one for Caroline too!  For the top, I used my Silhouette to create a stencil and Martha Stewart craft paint to lightly pounce the paint onto the shirt with a brush since I wanted more of a screen printed effect.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Welcome Home!

Sam came home from a 5 month deployment at the end of January, just 3 days before Mikey was born and to a house full of family.  Not exactly the welcome home we were planning but what can you do when you are having labor pains?

After the dust had settled a bit and he was unpacking his gear in the garage he discovered this

He came into the house and asked what in the world this ugly piece of furniture was doing taking up room in his garage.  I informed him that I had purchased it at the thrift store and I was going to put it in our bedroom so I would have something to rock the baby in but I just hadn't gotten around to it yet (you know how it goes). He looked at me and my 38 week baby belly and said, "Can I take it back?"

"NO! " I said, "I paid $25 for it!!" I knew I would eventually get around to recovering it!

Well, I finally did in between naps, feedings and new baby snuggles.

I was originally going to paint the wood but decided that I liked the wood tone and it was in good shape and the little bit of scarring just added to its character.  Since the back was tufted I added some batting to the chair back before making the cover.  I had been eyeing this fabric from Hancock Fabrics for a long time and just didn't have the place (or piece of furniture) to put it on.  I was thrilled to find it and at 50% off!  If you are looking for a great tutorial on making slip covers then check out this series from Miss Mustard Seed it really takes the intimidation out of the process. 

I just love my "new" rocking chair and it makes a nice addition to our room and I love having a place in our room to rock my babies in.  


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Plain closet door to chalkboard

In the kitchen we have a short and skinny door to a closet under the stairs.  A boring short and skinny door. But it is a Harry Potter closet. 

Of course the angel Gabriel made by my 1st grader, Anthony, was anything but boring. That I saved in the overflowing file box of school papers. What am I going to do with all of that stuff? 

 I decided to jazz the door up a bit with some chalkboard paint in a fun color. First I used magnetic paint. It was very sticky and there was a big glump in the can. I stirred and stirred but the glump would not budge.  I took it back to the store to have it mixed at the paint counter in the paint can shaker. The glump (is glump a word? if not, it should be because it was not a clump but definitely a glump) was still there after getting mixed several times. I swapped it for a new can and had the girl at the paint counter mix it well and then I went straight home and used it right away. Open a window - it is stinky stuff! I followed the instructions on the can and painted 3 thin coats with a small foam paint roller.

Once the magnetic paint was dry, I painted three thin coats of this chalkboard paint, tinted in "peapod." 

I put chalk and a rag in a little tote from Target's dollar section. Who else can't go into Target and not stop at the dollar section? 
All three kids love it and there is always a line of chalk dust right under the edge of the door. No big deal - it just means they are using it and my work has paid off. 

I can not find a regular chalkboard eraser anywhere! Okay, maybe not anywhere, but at least not at Walmart or Target. We have a brand new Big Lots opening today, maybe I'll find one there.

Apparently "glump" is not a word. Spell checker wants me to change it to clump or grump. If ginormous can be a word, so can glump.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Shirred Shirt

Say that fast five times!

I was going to do a follow-up post to Emily's bunny tutorial and write about my experiences with my daughter's "bun-bun," made from the same pattern. She is on her 6th or 7th, she has lost most of those somewhere - they are probably with all those single socks. I was going to post pictures of what is left of her favorite, an arm and an ear, but all I could find was the faded little arm. I decided to post something a little more interesting.

Shirring has always intrigued me. I tried it once but it was a disaster. I recently bought a ruffle-tiered black skort and plain lime green t-shirt at Walmart for my girl. I put a flocked black butterfly on the shirt using my Silhouette.

It is a little hard to tell in this photo, but the shirt was a little long and needed something else to give it some shape. I had an uncooperative model. This was the best photo. The other two were sassy and I left out the one where she was sticking her tongue out at me. She has never done that before! Aren't four and a half-year-old little girls full of surprises!

Back to the shirring and the point of this post...
This was the perfect shirt for a little bit of shirring so I decided to give it a try again. I drew four lines 1/4 inch apart at the waist in the middle of the back, two inches from each side seam. I wound, by hand, elastic thread on my bobbin with a little bit of tension, inserted the bobbin in my machine and started sewing (and held my breath). It worked! I used the Acufeed foot on my wonderful Janome. (The Acufeed foot is a built-in walking foot.)

(Not the greatest photo - I have been playing around editing my photos. My camera isn't as nice as Emily's. Mine is a pin hole camera compared to her's.)

I did three rows instead of 4, putting the middle row in-between the two outside rows. Three rows was plenty. The photo below is of the inside; make sure you sew on the outside. There is a fantastic tutorial here.

A close-up of the back:
I cut the hem off and just left it as is. T-shirt fabric doesn't unravel and leaving no hem makes it curl up a little. I might go back and cut another 3/4" off.

The finished top on a much more cooperative model:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bunny Grabbit

When you have a fourth child and that child is your third boy, you really have everything you need.  All the clothes and all the equipment. But everyone likes something new and something all their own.  Our mom made these bunnies for us when we were little and the tradition carries on.  When Liam (my oldest) was born she made him a red gingham one and my husband immediately started calling it a Bunny Grabbit because the legs and arms are just perfect for tiny fingers to grasp.

These bunnies take very little fabric and little time to whip up.  So go raid your scraps and lets get started.  You can download the pattern here

In general, I think that small prints and ginghams work best.

Cut two pieces of fabric about 6"x9".  On the wrong side of one of your pieces trace the bunny pattern with a pencil or disappearing ink pen.

Now, pin your two pieces right sides together and sew on your traced line leaving a 2" opening on one side of one leg.

Cut your bunny out about 1/8" from your stitched line and clip where shown in the photo.

Now, turn your Bunny Grabbit right side out.  Go slow starting with the feet.  I like to do my turning with a chop stick.

Press the ears.  Cut 2 ear linings from white felt and pin them to the pressed ears.

Slowly sew the ear lining close to the edge.

Now, stuff your Bunny Grabbit.  You don't want to stuff it too full but just enough to make it squeezable.  Then sew your opening shut.

Pin the mouth and eyes to your bunnies head and sew them on with a blanket stitch.  Embroider a mouth and eyes and you are finished.

Just right for grabbing and maybe a suck.  Who needs a paci when you have a Bunny Grabbit?  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Birth of a Baby and a Blog

Last June when I was visiting my sister Emily, she had just found out she was expecting. I was there for a week with my three children and we spent the week entertaining her three and mine. In between we chatted about sewing and crafting and even found a little time to do some sewing. I don't remember what, except that we taught our cousin, Anne-Marie, how to make a skirt.

We are always bouncing ideas off each other, sharing projects and ideas, and looking to the other for inspiration. The internet has provided a wealth of ideas for both of us and we have become avid blog readers and Pinterest posters. During our July visit we decided we could start a blog. While the baby gestated, so did our blog. Since the baby arrived in early February, it is time for our blog to arrive as well. (Plus, our husbands are getting tired of hearing "we should put that on The Blog.)