Stenciled Tank Top Tutorial

Ever have one of those clothing pieces that you just can’t bear to part with? Even if you haven’t worn it in quite some time? Well, meet my burnt orange tank top, worn for ?? years, a nice little layering piece that I can’t bear to part with. I recently splurged and bought a set of Martha Stewart’s new stencils and a couple bottles of paint from her new Plaid paint line which can be used on almost any surface. The stencil I bought was called Arabesque because I thought it may be very versatile and the paint color I used is called Metallic Copper, a perfect complement to my orange tank. Check out the results:

The process was so, so easy. Here’s what I did to breathe new life into my boring old tank:

First off, I laid my tank down flat on a table, putting a thin piece of cardboard inside so no paint would soak through to the back side. I chose to start at the bottom corner and taped it down where I wanted it. Then, using a foam brush, I tapped paint onto the design. Since this piece is a ribbed material, it took a little doing to get it evenly distributed. Probably if it was completely plain I’m thinking it would go on a whole lot smoother and quicker. Once that was complete, I just pulled the whole thing off, leaving this…

Then I kept on going, combining this larger design with a smaller one that I felt went with it nicely.

Now it feels like I have a new addition to my fall wardrobe. You’ll probably see me sporting this under a comfy cardigan or jacket!

Elephant Baby Gift Set

Need a cute baby gift to have on hand? Here’s a sweet idea that can be adaptable for a boy or girl–a plush baby elephant and cute burp cloth to go with. Even though my baby days are long gone, I still enjoy oohing and aahing over all the cute baby ideas that I see. Elephants seem to be popping up in baby apparel, shower ideas, and nursery decor, so I came up with this adorable elephant baby set.

As you can see, it’s a plush baby elephant, a burp cloth to match, and an antique glass baby bottle to add extra sweetness.

Want instructions to make your own? Here’s what I did:

Sketch out an elephant shape onto the fabric of your choice. Fold the fabric in half first so you don't have to trace and cut twice.
Cut out elephant shapes, two ear shapes, and gather two buttons for the eyes and a piece of rickrack or ribbon for the tail.
Sew on an ear to each side...
Then sew on buttons for each eye. Make sure to do these very securely! Or, as an option, use embroidery floss to create an eye.
Pin the two elephants together, right sides facing one another. Place the tail piece where you would like it, with most of it on the inside and a small piece sticking out. Sew around most of the elephant, leaving @2" open.
Flip right side out, stuff with polyfil, and hand-sew the opening closed. Now you have a cute baby elephant!

Now on to the burp cloth…

Start with a new basic cotton cloth baby diaper.
Using a matching or coordinating fabric, measure out a piece that covers the entire middle section of the cloth diaper. Cut, place over that section, press all edges under, and pin.
Sew around all 4 sides of the fabric, creating a nice crisp edge. You could also trim it out in rickrack or ribbon, but I left mine pretty simple this time.
Fold neatly so print is mostly showing and tie up. I used a length of the same pink fleece I used for the elephant's ears.

 Place into a basket or other container of your choice. As I mentioned before, I added this antique glass baby bottle with tulle around the top just as an extra touch, but you could add anything else that floats your boat. So there you have it–a cute touch of handmade goodness to pass on. I love giving gifts, don’t you?    –Rachel

Fabric Pumpkin Tutorial

Fall is officially here and I’m starting to see pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! Today I’m going to show you how to make some easy-peasy fabric pumpkins. For me, the beauty of using fabric (besides the fact that I just plain love it) is that it comes in such a variety of colors, patterns, and textures. This is also a great project to use upcycled pieces, like the sweater I used to make the blue pumpkin shown here.

My little line-up of fabric pumpkins.

Wanna make some for yourself? Here’s how I did it:

Choose the fabric you want to use. Just about any kind will work for this project!

Check out this fabric I found at a thrift store. I got @2 yards for something like $2! I just used some to make something for a friend and I thought it would make a sharp looking pumpkin.

Cut your fabric into a circle--pretty much any size will do.
Using needle and thread, sew a basting stitch around the perimeter of your circle. Pull slightly on it as you go--notice how mine is starting to gather.
Go the whole way around, leaving an opening at the top. Don't snip that thread yet!
Take a strip of burlap (or felt), fold in half lengthwise, and proceed to roll up a bit. This will be your stem, so you can decide how thick you want it to be. Use hot glue to hold together.

After this step, stuff gathered fabric with polyfil or fabric scraps. Hot glue around base of stem, insert into the opening of the pumpkin, and pull thread taut. At this point I made a couple of tiny stitches to hold into place as well, then was able to snip my thread.

One made from upcycled sweater material.
A trio of blue pumpkins.
Whooo....loves pumpkins?

My Pretty & Practical Pantry Makeover

I’ll be quite transparent here–my pantry has needed an overhaul for a long time now. It was one of those “I’ll get around to it” projects for me for quite some time. We’ve lived in our home for over 12 years now and I’ve probably never totally taken everything out at once and given it an overhaul. Well, I got the incentive I needed when the CSI Project ( announced that this week’s challenge was to make over a pantry or closet of some kind. So, I rolled up my sleeves, put my grungy work clothes on, and took on the challenge.

My newly painted, cleaned up, organized, and prettied up pantry.

Now, you can’t really appreciate the after until you’ve seen the before, right?

I also had piles of bags and boxes all over the floor in a big ole’ jumble. The only thing I really loved about my “before” is the cute grocery bag holder.

The first item of business was to take every blessed thing out of the pantry closet, including the shelves. I wiped each one down, wiped the walls down, and got to painting. I had some paint leftover whose color I loved, so that’s what I used on the walls (and ceiling!) of my pantry. Just as a fun aside, I also attended my kids’ Back to School Night last night, not realizing that I had blue-tipped hair. No one said a word until I got home and happened to glance in the mirror–oh well, it’s not the first time I’ve looked like a fool, and I’m sure it’s not the last either! I’ll walk you through the rest of my improvements, starting with the door:

The inside of the pantry door.
I sewed up a new grocery bag holder to match.
A thrifted tin measuring cup, a ticking birdie that I made, and a tin container to hold my bag clips. Resting inside of that is an antique embroidery hoop with a fabric & felt bird picture.
The very top shelf, holding cereals and breakfast items.
The 2nd shelf down containing pastas, rice, and beans. I used clearance decorative canisters as well as old Blue Ball Mason jars.
A closer peek at my homemade bunting--I simply took coordinating fabrics to tie everything together, cut triangle shapes, and hot-glued them onto a piece of twine.
The 3rd shelf down containing canned goods, peanut butter, etc.
I am so thrilled about this vintage tin bread box, already in a glossy red color--perfect!
An old wooden apple crate sits on the floor and holds all of the kids' snacks.
Probably my most favorite detail is this vintage embroidery frame that I put a piece of blue ticking in and embroidered the word SNACKS in red.

All in all, I am SO pleased with my new pantry. As I wrap this up, I also have to mention that I probably spent, at most, $10 on this makeover. The most expensive item was the cool tin bread box, which I got for $6 at an antique shop. Pretty much everything else I already had or made from something I already had. Oh, how I love to make something brand new without buying or spending much! So, what do you think?

Shades of Orange Fall Sampler

Terra Cotta, Apricot, Peanut Brittle, Fireside, Harvest Sun, Poppy….I often wonder who comes up with the names of paint colors? Actually, I think that job might be kind of fun. All the color names I just listed are a sampling (no pun intended, haha) of shades of orange. I think there are lots of clever paint swatch card projects out there, so I tried out one using all orange swatches to make a cute piece of fall decor. Oh, I also enjoy using embroidery hoops, so I incorporated one of those in as well.

Interested in making your own version? Here’s how I did it–again, no special crafting skills required!

First, I gathered up a bunch of paint sample strips, all in fall colors. I also picked up some other colors for a future project while I was at it! To relieve my guilt at picking up lots of free samples, I also purchased something so I wouldn’t look like I was just using the store for the free samples.

Then I chose a medium sized embroidery hoop and sandwiched a piece of linen in between, trimming off the excess.

I cut out a bunch of circles in two different sizes. After my trusty hot glue gun was fired up, I glued a ring of the larger sized ones around the perimeter.

Then, as you can see, I did another ring on the inside, this time alternating smaller and larger circles. To fill the empty center, I put one large circle topped off with a smaller one. It kind of looks like a flower to me!

So, there you have it–another quick, easy, cheap, and cute project to deck your halls this fall. Thanks for stopping by!

Rainbows and Promises

What is it about a rainbow that captures our attention when we are fortunate enough to see one? Is it the beautiful array of colors? The way it can seem to magically appear after a storm or rain shower? Maybe it’s just me, but whenever I’ve seen a rainbow it just brightens my day and lifts my spirits. It’s not just because I am a very visual person and appreciate beautiful things, but also because I’m reminded of the way God loves us and His promises for each one of us. Last weekend I was confronted with probably the biggest, brightest rainbow I’ve seen in my life and I’ve been wanting to share about it with you all. Sure, I wanted to share about how gorgeous it was, the brilliant colors that were on display, and the perfect arc it made in the sky, but the back story about what happened before the rainbow sighting made it extra special.

This story actually begins when we were confronted with the news that my maternal grandmother, my dear Mom-Mom, was diagnosed with a fast-growing brain tumor and was not expected to live for more than a couple of months. She wasn’t in the best health to begin with and at that point was capable of refusing treatments for this cancer, as she probably wouldn’t be able to withstand any major surgery or aggressive treatments anyhow. She seemed okay with this, and as a God-fearing Christian woman, was ready to go to her heavenly home. Our family had the wonderful privelege of going to visit her with all of her great-grandchildren in attendance and simply enjoy spending time together. After our visit, her condition worsened and two weekends ago, my brother and I went up to visit her for what we knew was our last time. When I say we went “up” to visit her, I mean North. We live in Southeastern PA and she lives in the very Northern part of our great state. It was extremely difficult to see her in lots of ways as she had lost many of her capabilities, physically, verbally, and in other ways as well. However, when she saw him and I walk up to the porch of her nursing home, her face lit up in recognition. Though she couldn’t say our names, she seemed to know exactly who we were and was delighted to see her grandchildren. We were able to visit for several hours and right before we left, she was very bright-eyed, animated, and trying to communicate with us both, alternately squeezing our hands. I was openly crying at this point and she clearly said to me, “You’ll be sad, but I’ll be okay.” Soon after this we reluctantly left, kissing her and saying goodbye. Two days later we got the call that she had indeed passed on to her heavenly home. When the kids got home from school that afternoon, I had to tell them what happened. My 5 year old niece was here too, and she matter-of-factly said, “She’s probably hugging Jesus right now.” I told her that she was probably right. My 10 year old son also piped up with “She’s probably hugging Pop-Pop too.” (My Pop-Pop had passed away @9 years ago.) I told him he was likely right too.

So, a few days later, off we went, this time as a whole family for the memorial service of my sweet, loving Mom-Mom. Unless you are also a PA resident, you may not have thought of it yet, but if you live anywhere in our area, you’ll know that the Susquehanna River had massive historic flooding that very week. A multitude of roads were closed, including lots of major routes that we usually used to travel upstate.

We knew it was going to take longer than normal to travel there, so we left extra early that morning. Well, I can say this now, it’s a trip we won’t likely forget. Quite literally every road we tried to travel on was closed due to flooding. My husband and I both were extremely frustrated as we tried different routes. Finally, finally! we were able to cross the swollen, muddy Susquehanna River. I kept pointing out different sights to the kids as that area was as I’ve never seen it before. We saw tons of flood damage and my heart went out to the folks who live along the river and other connected waterways. Well, we finally arrived at our destination–6 hours later! I am ashamed and embarassed to admit that I was literally late to my grandmother’s funeral. (Not for lack of trying, believe me.) At the short burial service the pastor focused on the promises that God has for us in His word and especially to those who believe and trust in Him. I have the absolute assurance that my Mom-Mom is worshipping at the feet of Jesus in heaven. She often loved to sing, so I can just imagine that that’s what she is doing right now! What a beautiful picture I can imagine of her, singing away and perfect in body and mind.

After the services, we spent time with my Mom’s family for awhile. We had booked a hotel room for the night so we didn’t have to drive home that evening (thank God!). Driving to the hotel, my son Andrew called out loudly–“Look Mom, Look!!” There in the sky was that unbelieveable rainbow I wrote about. As I mentioned earlier, probably the biggest and brightest one I’ve ever encountered. I so wish I had my camera handy at that moment, but I did not. However, I did soak in the view and silently thanked God for allowing us to see that wonderful sight. I mused upon the fact that God first sent a rainbow as a promise to Noah that he would never again flood the earth. As we settled in our room for the night, the connections between all that had happened fired away in my head. The flood. The funeral. The mentions of God’s promises. And finally, the rainbow.







Girls’ Upcycled Sweater Scarflette

While I am in a scarf mode, I was itching to try out a different scarf idea that I had seen recently. It was a super cute tutorial on that I thought I’d give a go, especially since I had a couple of thrifted sweaters waiting to be upcycled. This idea is for a scarflette, a.k.a. a short scarf that hugs the neck. Again, like my infinity scarves, this one takes 15 minutes tops to make. Also, if you have an old sweater waiting to be used up, this one’ll cost you $0 to make! I ended up making a littler version for my daughter, which she graciously modeled for me before school.

My sweet Heidi girl, modeling her new scarflette.

If you’re thinking that this just looks like a sweater sleeve that’s been cut, sewed, and buttoned, give yourself a pat on the back. That’s because it is a sweater sleeve that’s been cut, sewed, and buttoned! Yup–simple, right?

The instructions are easy as pie. Take a sweater you are willing to cut up–in this case, I chose a chocolate brown cotton sweater from the Goodwill Bargain Bin. Cut out a section of it (in this case, a sleeve) that has the front and back. How long and how wide you make it is your choice. Including the bottom of the sweater or the cuff will give one edge a more finished look. Fold the right sides together lengthwise and sew along both long sides and one short side. I didn’t sew along the cuff end because that’s where I wanted my buttons. Turn right side out and decide on your button/button hole placement. Hand sew the buttons on to one short end and make button holes on the non-sewn end. That’s it! Wrap around your neck, button that baby up, and you have a new accessory to add to your fall & winter wardrobe.

Infinity Scarf Tutorial

If you would have asked me last year what an infinity scarf was, I probably would’ve given you a blank stare. Now if you asked me, I could give you a (sorta) lengthy explanation because now I have a clue what they are. Basically, they are a scarf with no beginning and no end, hence the name Infinity. They can be made out of a variety of materials and are very versatile. You will most likely be seeing these in lots of stores this fall and winter.  Please, please , please, do me a favor–do not go out and plop down lots of $$$ for these things.. They are SO extremely easy to make, and depending on the fabric you use, cost almost nothing either. I like wearing scarves some of the time in the fall and winter, so you know I just had to try these out.

Interested in instructions on how to make your own? It only takes about 15 minutes and has a minimal of steps.

My 75 cent striped Goodwill fabric.

First off, select the fabric you want to use. I had this one in my fabric stash for awhile and hadn’t found the right use for it yet. Honestly, it reminds me of a rugby shirt, which reminds me of fall, so I chose this one to use for my trial scarf.

Cut your fabric into long strips. How wide you make them depends on how wide you want your scarf. Some prefer more of a chunky scarf, but I was going for more of a long, loopy look, so I cut mine into @7″ wide strips.

Flip your fabric strips inside out, so that the right sides are facing one another. Sew along one edge, going down the whole length of the strip. I ended up sewing just two of those strips I had cut separately and then connecting them later. After this first scarf, I think it would be easier and look nicer if you sew what you want into a super-long strip first, then do this step. Hey, you live and learn, right?

For your last step, flip the strip(s) right side out and tuck in the raw edges at both short ends. Tuck one end inside the other and sew the two strips together. Then you’re done!

A line-up of my scarf making efforts.

As you can see, I usually can’t just stop with one! Once I discovered how quick and easy these are to make, I went a little crazy and tried it out with some different fabrics. From left to right in my picture, I used: basic cotton, cashmere from an upcycled sweater, the knit striped cotton, flannel, and jersey knit. Each have different qualities and ways of draping once you wear them. For instance, I liked the coziness of the gray cashmere and the flannel, but liked how the jersey knit draped the best.

There are so many possibilities using this type of scarf. Depending on the length, you can wrap them one, two, three, sometimes four times around. This was my first time wearing one, and I have to say that I liked how the ends didn’t hang all over the place like a traditional scarf. So, go on and whip up a bunch of these for yourself. Or, since Christmas is really not that far off, they would make a fabulous gift.

Where Were You?

For any American, just a two word statement can immediately bring up a whole host of memories that have been imprinted into each of our minds. That two word statement is actually a date on the calendar as well–September 11th. What comes to your mind when you hear that specific date mentioned? I imagine you can quickly conjure up the place you were when you first heard that America was being attacked, what you were doing at that moment, and what the rest of that day was like for you. Most of us have other dates or events that bring up such specific memories as well. Perhaps a good memory, like the birth of a child or a wedding. Others have memories that are linked to something bad or tragic that have happened. At 33, I wasn’t around when JFK was assassinated or Pearl Harbor was attacked, but I know that folks living in America at those times have specific memories linked to hearing of those events. However, I was 23 when the United States was attacked by terrorists on 9/11 and I can remember that day quite clearly. In fact, even if I live to be a ripe old age, I can’t see ever forgetting that day. I know you probably have your own story about that day, but this is mine:
September of 2001 was a little bit unusual for me to start out with. For me, it was the first fall that I wasn’t going to some kind of school. In fact, it was the first in 18 years that I wasn’t headed off to school, as I had graduated from college a few months before. I remember that it was really strange for me to see kids going to school and schoolbuses on the road, college kids headed back for classes, and so on. I had given birth to my first child in June and was adjusting to being a mother and staying at home with my baby. What I remember of that morning was feeding my son, showering and eating some breakfast myself, and settling on the couch to catch a little news and weather while the baby played on the floor. I turned on NBC to watch the Today Show and was confused to see that there was live footage of a smoking building in New York City. I had no idea what was going on and at that point they were trying to describe what was happening as a plane had hit one of the World Trade Towers. Not long after turning the TV on, I saw the second of the World Trade Towers hit by yet another plane. At that point I think everyone knew that this was by no means an accident, that our dear country was under attack, and we had no idea whether this was it or not. Like probably most of you, I was shocked, saddened, angry, bewildered, scared, worried, and a whole range of other emotions. I had the TV on literally all day as the rest of the tragic events unfolded. Both Towers fell down. The Pentagon was hit. A plane went down in another part of Pennsylvania, most likely headed for Washington. What else was going to happen? When? Who was doing this and why? There was so much uncertainty everywhere. My husband called to check in on us. My Mom called. Other calls were made back and forth. Who knew what was going to happen next? Being used to living in a so-called “safe” country, this was such a shocking experience for all of us. Though I didn’t personally know any of the victims,  I was so saddened for the many, many families that lost loved ones that September day and had their lives forever changed.
Looking back, an entire decade later, I’m so thankful that we have been protected from other such attacks. I’m proud of the heroic actions of many other Americans.  I lift up all of the families that were affected by this tragedy in prayer. I highly respect and am thankful for all of the people who defend this country everyday, especially those who have paid for our freedom with their lives. Though it’s not a good memory that we hold of that day, I don’t want us to forget it. I never want us take our country and our freedom for granted, as we are apt to do. And most of all, I want us to abide by the words printed on our currency, put on there by our forefathers many years ago for a reason: In God We Trust.