DIY Fluffies Whale Review

posted in: Dolls and Softies | 0
Whale pattern by DIY Fluffies


Pattern:  Whale

Company:  DIY Fluffies

Cost:  $9

I found this little cutie pie on Etsy when searching for a potential baby toy for a friend’s shower.  Their nursery theme was nautical with adorable little whales and sea creatures.  This not only fit the theme, but looks an awful lot like the whale motifs seen on cute baby things these days.  Perfect!

This softie can be made with polar fleece or a woven like quilting cotton, denim, etc.  The eyes are felt, but you could certainly embroider some on or use plastic safety eyes. I blanket stitched my eyes in place before sewing the sides to the top.  Finished, the whale is roughly 12 inches long.

I had found the perfect piece of blue baby wale corduroy, which I had planned to use on a whale toy at some point, at an estate sale.  The piece was big enough that I cut out two whale bodies and might just weasel out a third from the leftovers later.  It is so soft!  I also had some minky like fabrics from my mojo dolls which I used for the bellies—I love the different textures of the fabrics for baby toys.

For the baby shower, I made one with a yellow belly to go with their blue and gold colors.


This little guy is off to live with a beautiful princess!


And for the other, I used a soft mint green belly.  This one was immediately claimed by my younger sister (I know, right, how am I supposed to get stuff listed on Etsy if everyone locally keeps buying it all!?  LOL!)


I sat this one up a bit more so you can see the belly better.


I like how the green fabric has ribbing lines kind of like what you see on real whales.


Here you can see the belly fabric–doesn’t that remind you of what you see on real whales? I see now that one of his flippers is in backwards, shoot!


As far as the instructions for this pattern, there were places things could have been much clearer.  For instance, when you are sewing the sides to the top piece, it doesn’t really give a specifics on where to stop at the tail.  Also, sewing the shaping darts could have been better illustrated and explained.  There are actually two patterns included, one with seam allowances and one without.  I think someone brand new to sewing toys might struggle a bit due to lack of better specifics in both illustrations and instructions.   While it is a simple toy, one page only is really not helpful for a beginner.  I’ve sewn plenty of softies and dolls, and still had to stop and reread and fiddle with pinning to get what it was supposed to be, so take your time and don’t let yourself get frustrated.  It does all fit together.

Sewing got a little tricky with the tail when sewing the belly piece on.  The area where the top and two side pieces meet at the back isn’t well explained and I kind of had to guess on where to stop (maybe it would be more obvious to someone else).  The tail curves upward when finished, so there is some “extra” fabric in the way when sewing this—just keep an eye on it so you don’t accidently stitch it in the seam.  Also, the matching marks didn’t line up on mine very well, so what I did was pin the front, pin the tail and then adjust along the sides until the bottoms of the side pieces matched the belly piece.  It does match up, its the marks that don’t necessarily always get there.  I then trimmed my seams with my pinking shears which helped the curves turn smoothly.

Also, keep track of the fronts of the flippers, I got one in backwards on the green belly whale.  (He’s all sewn up, so its too late now…and not super obvious except when looking straight at the bottom.)  Incidentally, stiff fabrics like corduroy are not the easiest to turn so be prepared on those little flippers!

I think it took a bit more than half a bag of poly-fil stuffing.  I like to pack it in there so the toy stays firm over time, and this one takes awhile to finish stuffing!

Even though I would put this one at an intermediate level due to the instructions, or lack thereof, I think if an advanced beginner took it slow they’d do just fine.  If a child wanted to make this, I would definitely recommend some parental help with the tail piecing.  After making two, I would still make this one again, and plan to—wouldn’t a plaid whale be so adorable?  Maybe this time with big black safety eyes.


A Picnic Blanket for Stars

posted in: Family Life, Quilts and Blankets | 0

While Stars was healing from his super ear infection and aural hematoma, I worked on a little “picnic” quilt for him.  I thought it’d cheer him up to have something nice to lay on when he finally felt well enough to go outside.  (And it would help keep him from rubbing his ear in the grass and dirt.  Shh!  Don’t tell him about it’s sneaky dual purpose.)  Also, I needed something to keep me from worrying.  The first bit, he couldn’t even stand and it was really bad there for awhile.  I watched him around the clock, so having something pleasant to focus on was good.  The problem continued when the doggie ER didn’t give enough antibiotics to really clear the infection, so it came back and Stars shook his head which caused blood vessels in the ear to break leading to the big ol’ hematoma.  Draining helped relieve the pain some, but it just refilled.  Breaks my heart to see him so down.


When the antibiotics didn't clear up the infection, he started shaking his head which created the aural hematoma.  Here he's got his ear wrapped after draining.  Poor little guy!
When the antibiotics didn’t clear up the infection, he started shaking his head which created the aural hematoma. Here he’s got his ear wrapped after draining. Poor little guy!


Stars is a trooper though, and put up with all the extra manhandling and pill taking like a champ.  Although, he much prefers to not have his ears wrapped.


You can see the puffiness of his ear, but he's such a cheerful bugger, he just keeps on smiling.  The hematoma got pretty big.  The blanket he's on is just a child's sleeping bag.
You can see the puffiness of his ear, but he’s such a cheerful bugger, he just keeps on smiling. The hematoma got pretty big. The blanket he’s on is just a child’s sleeping bag.  Do you think he’s smiling because he knows he’s getting a new quilt?


I wanted something durable, because I knew it would get a ton of washing.  The quilt also needed to have a little padding to it to help his old body not feel all the bumps of the ground.  I used some more of the denim rectangles that I had received from my grandma’s stash (she would approve, she loves Stars) for one side and a bright panel from Ikea on the other.  The panel I found brand new at our local Goodwill for $3.99!  (I know, happy dance, right?!)  For the batting, I went with the weighty loft Dream Poly Deluxe.  You can find it here at Fabric Depot.   I’d never used any of the Dream Poly battings, but the sample they had out felt very dense even though it was thin.  It ended up being a great choice because with the denim, twill type panel and batting, something thicker would have been difficult to fit under my sewing machine foot!


Super cute Ikea panel with great coloring.
Super cute Ikea panel with great coloring.  Thanks Mom for holding a really heavy quilt while I took photos!


I didn’t want to try to sew a binding on—-can you imagine fitting that under with the denim (and seams), twill and batting?  So, I did what I call a pillowcase finish.  I sewed right sides together of top and bottom leaving a space open for turning.  I also sewed the batting in at this point by simply layering it on the top.  Then I turned the whole thing right side out, quilted it, and top stitched around the edge.  I did go back and handstitch where the opening had been to make it more secure and better looking.  While not the most traditional way to get a quilt quilted, it was so much easier than attempting to add a binding!  My thumb and fingers were pretty sore after stitching that opening closed though.

For quilting, I just followed along the design lines of the printed panel like outlining.  I used some A&E Inc thread labeled Signature, Pixelles Size 30 in a variegated green.  I like how you can see the shapes on the denim side.

WIth the sunlight, you can see the outline of the design created by the quilting.  The green thread blends in pretty well otherwise.
WIth the sunlight, you can see the outline of the design created by the quilting. The green thread blends in pretty well otherwise.


Stars loves it!  In fact, if we go outside without it, he’ll go over to his favorite spot under the apple tree and wait for me to put it down first.  The quilt has been washed many times and is holding up wonderfully, so I would definitely recommend the Dream Poly and will probably make my own outside quilt soon.


Stars on his new quilt!  Look at that happy boy!  Why yes, that is my super duper raised bed garden in the background.
Stars on his new quilt! Look at that happy boy! Why yes, that is my super duper raised bed garden in the background.


We found a new vet (our old one had retired, which we hadn’t been told) who Stars loves (he actually bounds up the ramp to see her).  She gave lots of antibiotics (first an ointment, but then cephalexin pills) and some Temaril for his skin.  Strangely enough, when he started the Cephalexin and Temaril combo, his hematoma began to go down at a dramatic pace.  When we ran out of the Temaril (a few days after the antibiotic was done) the hematoma started filling back up, so we had him back on the combo again and it when down completely.  He’s finishing up a last round of antibiotics and some prednisone (yuck, I know, but they were out of temaril) and his ear is looking good so far!  I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

At least our boy is feeling better!


Stars is very pleased to be the recipient of a new quilt and has spent many cool mornings recovering under the apple tree, his favorite spot.
Stars is very pleased to be the recipient of a new quilt and has spent many cool mornings recovering under the apple tree, his favorite spot.

Craftsy Sale

posted in: Sewing | 0

You might have noticed that it’s been a long time since my last post (although, I hadn’t realized quite how long myself).  Our poor Stars has had quite a run of health issues, including a visit to the doggie ER, so I’m only just now getting back some sort of blogging free time.  (For a bit there I was doing around the clock meds and monitoring.)  Not complaining though, because he’s doing well now and we came close to losing him, only a few issues to work on, so it’s all good and he continues to improve back to his mischievous self.  I did, after a bit, continue to work on sewing projects (two quilts, a skirt, a dress and some toys) which I’ll show off later and watched a few of my Craftsy classes (full reviews later) in an effort to distract myself from worrying over Stars (I think he appreciated the break from constant checking so that he could sleep).  I also decided that while it was super hot weather I would rearrange my entire room and move lots of heavy stuff around (no wonder Stars thinks I’m crazy!).  But, I can fill you in on those things later, right now I just wanted to check in with you all, because. . .

. . . there’s a great sale going on over at Craftsy right now–up to 50% off of classes!  (Oh, how they know my weakness!  Did you see that Alison Smith teaches two couture classes? And that Suzy Furrer has a new patternmaking class on sleeves?  Be still my heart.)  Probably wondering what to sign up for, so many choices, so I have a few suggestions.  I recently finished watching two quilting classes:  Playing with Curves by Ann Petersen and Finishing School:  Edges & Bindings by Mimi Dietrich.  Both are fabulous and will get you excited about those areas of quilting.  Both are beginner friendly, but still interesting for those with some experience in quilting.  Or, maybe you’re looking into some sewing classes?  I recently finished watching Suzy Furrer’s Patternmaking Basics:  The Skirt Sloper which was fabulous (still watching the Bodice Sloper one, which is also wonderful) and am also about to start re-watching Pam Howard’s  The Classic Tailored Shirt class as I need to make some new shirts and its been awhile since I watched the first half.

So which ones am I considering?  Well, in sewing, I’ve narrowed it down to Suzy Furrer’s Patternmaking + Design:  Creative Sleeves, both of Alison Smith’s Couture classes, Steffani Lincecum’s Coatmaking Techniques (I really do need a dress coat) and the one by Sara Alm on sewing sheer fabrics.  In quilting, there’s a precision piecing class by Norah McMeeking, a foundation piecing by Carol Doak, and Sarah Fielke’s class.  I’m also sure I’d love some of those classes on free motion quilting too.  They’ve also got a couple in the cooking section that have drool worthy images that make me hungry just thinking about it—I mean Thai food, Mexican street food, Italian pasta, so yummy—who doesn’t want to learn to cook any and all of that (or order take out if you live near a decent restaurant which I currently do not).  Anyway, there’s a lot to choose from, so I hope you’ll treat yourself to a class whether it’s for something you are currently working on or something you’ve always wanted to learn.  If you’ve enjoyed any of the classes I’m considering for myself, I’d love to hear your opinion—might help me make up my mind.



In the interest of full disclosure:  the above banner/links are affiliate links (which is why I didn’t put links to all the other classes mentioned, no need to overwhelm you).  I appreciate the support when you use them, but if you aren’t comfortable with that, you can also go to their site on your own and still see the sale.

Etsy Has Instant Downloading Now

posted in: Digital Scrapbooking, Family Life | 0

When Etsy modified its setup to include instant downloading for digital purchase, I was like “Woohoo!” because that’s what I love about digital–it’s instant!  Nothing like being able to start on that new pattern right away.  And, truthfully, I really don’t mind taping patterns together (I know some people dread it).  I just watch some tv while cutting and taping and it’s done in no time.

But, l was also excited because that was the one thing making me hesitate on selling patterns and digital designs.  Let’s face it, internet service out here hasn’t always been the most reliable and the last thing I wanted was for someone to purchase something and being all excited to get it and then have my internet down and not be able to send it.  Not cool.  Now I can upload, list and forget (well, almost, I’d still keep an eye on things just for good customer service and all).

So this past week had me digging out old files of digital scrapbooking creations (didn’t know I was a scrapbooker did ya?), printables and patterns.  I’ll be going through them, doing any little touch ups or add-ons I think necessary and then getting them listed.  And while I was looking, I came across some scrapbooking pages to share.  These are all digital (I get them printed through a photo lab).  No glue and cutting and piles of stuff for me…okay, I mean in the scrapbooking department.  I save the mess for the fabric world.  I like it!  Digital scrapbooking lets me reuse my favorite “papers” and embellishments without running out or ruining it by cutting wrong.  If I want four of a page, I make it once, that’s right, once, and then print what I need.  So nice when everyone wants a copy.  It also ties in nicely with the photo restoration that I do and the graphic design junk from my photography days.  It all blends into a lot of fun for me and doesn’t take up a ton of time.  I also started creating scrapbook layouts of favorite family recipes, kind of makes it fun. Anywho, here’s a few for you to see.
I used to participate in the scrapbooking challenges over at DSP (Digital Scrapbooking Place) which is disappointingly no more. If you like scrapbooking, I suggest you find a forum and participate, it really pushes you to get those layouts done. No UFO’s in the scrapbooking department!


Bath time with Dad. This one was made with the Orange Marmalade page kit by Rene Bross and the Bit of Both page kit by Lauren Bavin. I like how the colors completely fit the time era (and would have worked well in my grandma’s kitchen décor at the time).


I do a lot of genealogy and when I can get a photo of someone, it really makes them come to life. Not just names and dates, but stories of people. This is one of my favorite photos. I’ve got to contact my great-aunt and see if there are any others. So see, scrapbooking is a great way to capture a visual history not just of what’s happening now, but telling the stories of the past before they’re forgotten. Always makes me a little sad to see photos of people in antique stores, forgotten family.


This is my gorgeous great-grandmother. She was only 4′ 11″ tall. She had red hair, loved herbal medicine, gardening, and literature . Her father was a shoemaker (I always wondered how many pairs of shoes she had). This one was made with Bohemian Beauty page kit by Nicole Young.


Marla and I did everything together, but this photo kind of sums up our personalities. Marla, sweet and kind, always helping. Me, giggling and playing–helping, not so much.


Yep, that’s me on the left–don’t I look like a mischievous bugger! Don’t you love that 70’s era dress Marla is wearing? Made with the Fun Lovin’ page kit by Rene Bross.


I don’t get to work with many current type photos of kids (none of my own, yet) so I took full advantage of having two adorable cousins to photograph and scrapbook. Sadly, they moved (rather cruel of their parents, don’t you think), but I would have kept them if I could have. Miss A and I were like two peas in a pod.


For awhile, my little cousins lived nearby. This is Miss P and Miss A playing in the backyard, fascinated by the maple twirly seeds. Sure do miss those little ladies! Made using the Plum Dandy page kit by Rene Bross.


I’m just getting started on pages of Aleea.  She always had a delicate fairy princess look about her so I’m anticipating some fun girlie layouts.


Aleea in this one too–so tiny! The poem is one I wrote specifically for this page. I used Lauren Bavin’s Precious in Pink page kit and Baby Papers backpack. I thought they were a perfect match with the roses on her little sleeper.


I’m having such fun using old family photos mixed with the newer digital scrapbooking styles. The bonus is, the original photos stay safe and untouched in their archival storage. You have no idea how many old photos I’ve restored that have been glued to album pages or cut!


If you know Marla, then you recognize that big smile. She still has it—and can get even the grumpiest of people to lighten up. I used the Splendid kit from Shabby Princess.


As far as I know, this is the only photo of Marla and Dad doing this little trade. It was pretty far gone too, but a few hours of restoration got it back to passable.


Dad and Marla used to “trade” socks, so, of course, I had to write a little poem about it. This one uses some ribbon from Marcee Duggar’s Vintage Santa page kit, a paper clip by Becky Soto and some paper and beads from Celebrate Life’s Moments by DSP Designers. I made the tan cardstock and the base shape for the tag.


These are some of my favorites. There’s also a couple of me from the same day. So I need to make a coordinating page with those ones.


Marla smelling Spring blossoms at Grandpa Henry’s house. She’s so cute in pink (not that you’ll see her in it much now). This is the Spring Style kit by Marcee Duggar.


Here’s one of those pages everyone in the family wants a copy of, good thing its digital and I can just have more printed.


You know I had to include one of Stars! Yeah, that’s the look I get whenever I get my camera out. This one uses the page kit Lil’ Sleepyhead by Nicole Young.


I restored these photos of my parents. Colored photos are usually the hardest to do because those old photos start changing and fading far earlier than black and white ones.


Yes, Mom and Dad met at 16—and they’re still together! Wow, right?! I got a nice compliment from a lady on the forum, she said the writing sounded like a really good romance novel (maybe I should write one, just kidding). I used the page kit and backpack My Shabby Valentine by Rene Bross.


Okay, I’ll stop now. I don’t want to turn into one of those grandmother types who show you a billion photos of their grandkids. Maybe seeing a few of my layouts will inspire you to give digital scrapbooking a try. It was getting into digital scrapbooking that got me into designing my own kits and graphic design layouts, so you never know where a craft will take you. I miss getting to interact with the wonderful ladies who designed the kits I used in these, hopefully, they’ll return to scrappin’ one day soon. I had fun finding these and bringing back some great memories…I need to get back to making scrapbook layouts.

Taking a Break in the Garden

posted in: Family Life | 0

Last week, I was asked to teach the ladies of our church ward some gardening.  Didn’t know I had a bachelor’s degree in horticulture science, did you?  Yep, under that pile of fabric-y goodness is a college education, shh, don’t tell!

Raised bed garden
Stars is enjoying some time in the garden…behind him you can see some of our raised beds.


I decided to focus on gardening in containers, intensive gardening, and square foot gardening type of methods.  This year, our family is using intensive gardening in raised beds—high yield intensive gardening, but oh so much easier on the back and knees!  Most people no longer have the time. space or desire to have a huge tilled plot and, quite frankly, there are far better, more economical and earth-friendly ways to go about growing food.  Not to mention, the mess of compacted clay soil left behind in new construction when they scrape of the nice top soil and sell it elsewhere at a premium…sometimes I’m surprised these new houses can grow grass!

The evening was fun with lots of questions and laughter, so, I’m sorry if you didn’t get to attend.  However, I thought maybe there’d be some of you interested in the handouts.  They’re charts and information related to the topics.  I also have a Pinterest board set up just on gardening with inspirations, information and ideas that you can check out if you want.  Just a side note, there are lots of charts out there and information on these topics—plenty of opinions and styles to go around, so do some reading, check out extension service sites (being in Oregon, I like to check out ours, Washington’s and Idaho’s as a starting place, although here’s a Wikipedia link that will show you a page with links to all the states’ sites) and don’t be afraid to ask people questions, most gardeners will happily share tips with you (some will even share plants)!


Intensive Spacing Guide

Natural Insect Repellant Tips

Square Foot Gardening Guide

Vegetable Container Growing Guide

Vegetable Shade Tolerance

I’m a big believer in having at least a tiny garden…the benefits are just so high. Not only do you know exactly what your food has been through (chemicals, exposures, etc.) but you can pick food when its actually ripe instead of picking early for shipping which means you’ll actually have real flavor!  Gardening, despite what some people may say, is actually a very economical way to put fresh food on the table.  And who doesn’t like to save money and be more independent of stores?  Most vegetables require little water when properly mulched, especially those in raised beds.  Grow them in an intensive manner and once they get beyond tiny seedling size you almost never weed (a big plus in my book!).  Another benefit of these methods is that any fertilizers or pest control methods are concentrated to just the areas of actual garden, not the pathways and in between rows.

My current raised beds were made from some free wood shelves salvaged when the local school decide to remodel and some precut rebar.  We put down some cardboard to block weeds (it’ll break down over time) and used compost we had made ourselves to fill almost all of the boxes (we finally ran out on the last two) and then mulched with straw (we’re still using the same bale, so it goes a long way).  We added a little of that Miracle Gro potting soil to add some slow release fertilizer to get the seedlings going.  The cost for the large boxes was around $35–that’s less than the pair of corner brackets they sell to make boxes with!  The smaller boxes were even less.  With a little creativity and effort, you can build a container garden of some sort on the cheap–especially if you make you’re own compost.  (We keep a small bucket in the kitchen to toss veggie scraps and such in and then take it out to our compost pile each day.  Start this year and by next season, you’ll have a lovely pile of clean beautiful compost to use.

I hope you’ll give some of these alternative gardening methods a try!

Stars in the garden
Stars is always excited to hear that its time to work in the garden (I pretty sure its because he knows I’ll be outside for a long time.).

Tutu Lulu the Dancing Cat Softie

posted in: Dolls and Softies | 0

I was working on some new patterns this winter, playing around with the idea of a wolf or fox softie, when I came up with this pattern for a cat softie doll–I’m naming her Tutu Lulu.  I was going for a simple, yet pleasant lovie in the style of so many of the Japanese type patterns.  I admit, I’m not normally a cat person…but, I think Stars will forgive me this little gal as she’s such a sweetie.


Tutu Lulu designed by Shayla Sharp
Meet Tutu Lulu, a cat that will dance her way into the heart of a little girl somewhere.


She has a face, arms and legs of linen and a body made from an upcycled over-priced brand name shirt (some of the best fabric can be found in over-priced fashion) that I found at the Good Will here in town.  Her face is hand embroidered.  Tutu Lulu is about 18 inches tall from ear tip to toe, making her a perfect sized companion for a child.  Her arms have a slight curve to them for hugging and ballet dancing.


Tutu Lulu designed by Shayla Sharp
Tutu Lulu is practicing her pirouettes!


Lulu’s ballet pink tulle tutu has a bit of sparkle to it and is removable by untying the satin ribbon (I wanted an easy on/off tutu for times when a child doesn’t want a fluffy tutu on such as during naptimes).  That tutu is sooo fluffy!  I’m quite pleased with how this one turned out and have another one cut and sewn that has the entire cat made of linen–I’ll be designing a little outfit for that one.


Tutu Lulu designed by Shayla Sharp
Sparkle pink tutu with satin ribbon–who wouldn’t want to wear one!


Tutu Lulu will make an appearance in my Etsy shop once I get some fancier photos taken, but for now she’s sitting in my sewing area telling me I need to dance more.



Choochie Monkey Review

posted in: Dolls and Softies, Reviews | 0

Still catching up on posts here (this sunny weather has me outside starting the garden, but more on that later…), this time a quick review of what is considered a Prim doll or primitive style item.  For those who aren’t familiar, its a doll or softie type creation made to look old or done in an antique type style.  Usually modern versions are usually made of muslin or cotton and grunged up using coffee or tea, some sanding and maybe some sprinkled cinnamon.  This gives them a found-in-the-attic kind of feel.  But, here’s the thing–you don’t have to make a prim from a prim pattern.  Use different fabric and skip the grunging for a cute modern version.  That’s exactly what I did for the Choochie Monkey.


Aww! This Chestnut Junction pattern makes up an adorable little monkey that could go with a child anywhere. Of course, we adults love him too!


This adorably goofy monkey pattern was created by Chestnut Junction, which has several other patterns I want to try, and is so simple to make up, you’ll be wanting to try a few yourself.  I made mine by upcycling some old jeans.  The felt is some of the skin tones pack that I got from Retro Mama and the buttons are a mix of vintage and modern.  The only change I made when sewing was to use machine stitching for attaching appendages and such rather than hand sewing.  I thought sewing the arms down (multiple layers of denim) with a machine rather than by hand would be easier and very secure.  A lighter weight fabric would not have been a problem to hand stitch.  I machine stitched down the felt pieces first and then handstitched over that (it just makes me feel like its more secure that way).  The red button on the heart is one of the few I got from my grandmother…so a little grandma love in the heart.

Sewing was a breeze.  The pattern doesn’t include seam allowances, so if you trace the pattern shape, be sure and leave room for seam allowances (I uses a 1/4 inch seam allowance).  I liked having a traced line to follow on these little curves—I don’t have to worry about whether I’m staying even with the edge or not…just follow the line.  It’s much easier to get accurate curves, especially little ones, this way.  Ears, arms and tail were all stitched and turned right side out.  Nozzle and heart were stitched down, embroidered with blanket stitching (or buttonhole stitch), the mouth and nostrils were stitched on and then the buttons were attached.  I also attached the tail before the body pieces were stitched together so that I could use machine stitching (again, multiple layers of denim + handstitching = sore fingers).  Finally, I pinned ears and arms in place, sewed front to back, stuffed and sewed close.  Easy, peasy!


You know you want to make one for yourself! Picking just the right buttons gave this little monkey a sweet, non-scary face that complimented the denim.


This is a great little softie which would look adorable in any style fabric…I’m thinking minky would be lovely.  The face is sweet and brings a bit of a smile to your face.  I think a careful beginner or advanced beginner could handle this project.  Honestly, it took me longer to decide which buttons to use than to sew the whole thing up!  The Choochie Monkey was a fun way to let go of some favorite jeans!

Greta Doll Review

posted in: Dolls and Softies, Reviews | 0

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post!  I’ve been so busy sewing and designing some patterns, that time just flew by, but this week you’ll be getting extra posts so that I can show you some of the lovely items I worked on, starting with a pattern review.

The Greta Doll

The Greta Doll designed by Retro Mama

I purchased this pattern. called the Greta Doll, on Etsy from seller RetroMama.  (Currently, the pattern cost is $12, which is a bit more than some, but not really out of line.  The pattern is well drafted and the pieces come together correctly.  The pattern includes the doll, three hair clip designs and a little apron.)

She’s got some great patterns (I’m dying to snag that adorable ballerina doll!) and also sells high quality felt.  I ordered the felt packs called the Skin Tone Collection and the Greta Doll Wool Blend set, but only used the Greta Doll one for this pattern (the other was for a different project).  Just a side note, the felt is very nice to sew with, nice and thick, and each sheet is 12″x18″, which gets you one doll’s hair per sheet, plus some extra for a different project.  I used the white for collars and hair clips and the black for shoes.

As you can see from the photo, she makes for a cute, huggable doll.  Don’t get me wrong, I love American Girl dolls, but they’re not exactly a doll for snuggling in bed with a child.  Kids need softies for such things.





This particular one was going to a baby shower, so, because it would be eventually in the possession of a very little one, I did not add a button to the collar.  Some felt buttons or flowers would be wonderful, but I didn’t have any appropriate ones on hand at the time.  I also did not make the apron for this one.

A simple hand embroidered face gives this doll its charm.

Greta’s face is hand embroidered, but very simplistic so that even if you aren’t the best embroiderer in the world, you can manage to get an adorable face.  I like that the face is not sad or scary, perfect for little ones.  I did some additional hand stitching around the hair clip and collar to add some color to those pieces, but I did machine stitch them in place first to make them extra secure.

Retro Mama has you interface the face piece, which gives a nice smooth face—this is a little touch that makes a big difference in a face this big, keeps it looking nice.

The hair on the front and back of the head are cut from felt.  Felt was also used for the hair clip, collar and shoes.  The rest of the body is made up of regular quilting cotton.  I used some Kona for the flesh tones and some Denise Schmidt for the dress and tights.  This would also be cute with some wool plaid, although watch the bulk.  Also, it took almost an entire bag of poly-fil, so be prepared to stuff and stuff and stuff some more!  You could also alter the hair shape, change the tights to socks, make a head band and other such changes to make a completely unique doll.

I used Denise Schmidt fabrics for the dress and tights. I think the long limbs and body shape of this doll make it adorable.

All of the pieces are simple in shape, making them easy to sew and stuff.  I also like that you triple stitch the seams, making them durable and less likely to show the stitches when stuffed.  The pattern also calls for topstitching on the felt parts, which gives a nice professional finished look.

The hard part is when it comes to sewing the body up.  The instructions have you start just below one arm, go up around the head and down around the body, putting the arms and legs in as you reach those points.  (You also switch thread color for the hair area, which I like as it blends, just in case any stitching shows after stuffing.)

I found, though, that by the time you get to the legs, there are so many limbs in the way that it was difficult to get them sewn in nicely and I had to re-sew the leg area twice after much fussing.  I’m sure others had a less difficult time, but for me this was a bit frustrating.  Maybe I’m too gentle on the limbs and just needed to squish them in?  The limbs are long (hey, she’s an 18 inch doll after all) which, while cute, make for a lot of bulk inside the body while trying to stitch down everything.



The second doll I made, using the same fabrics except for red hair, was for my sister, so it got a button which is just perfect!

The second doll I made, I tried a different routine.  I basted each limb in place, but left them hanging out until it was time to sew that particular one.  I also stitched in a different order:  first, I stitched across the bottom to make sure that I got those legs sewn down with a nice straight base ending up on the side where the opening for stuffing would end,  then I stitched down the side from the neck to the bottom on the side that is completely closed (I also stitched in my tag then too) making sure I connected to the previous stitching, then I stitched the last arm from the neck to the start of the opening (some of the limbs stuck out the head to make it less bulky), finally, I switched thread colors and, while poking some of the limbs out the stuffing opening, I sewed the head.

Whew!  That worked much better even though it was a few extra starts and stops.   I think for a third doll, I’m going to try leaving a little opening on the bottom of each arm and not stuffing the arms until after I sew and turn the body.  That way those long arms won’t be in the way and the hand stitching won’t show there or affect the durability of the doll for being played with.

She’s so adorable, who wouldn’t want this little sweetie?

Even though the first doll caused a little hair pulling over the final stitching, I have to say, she’s a cute doll and well worth the effort.  The second one was even easier and I think a third one will be a comparative breeze, so I do think she’s worth the effort and I already have the felt parts cut for two more and fabric chosen for dresses and tights.

I also appreciate that purchasing the pattern includes permission for cottage industry type crafters to make and sell the items, so you can use this for your own personal gifts or for making a little money.  On Etsy, you can also find Retro Mama’s pattern for a little cape and tie-on dress, so your Greta can have a wardrobe.  I would say that an advanced beginner could make this if they took their time and for those more advanced, it shouldn’t be a problem to sew up.

Retro Mama has created a pattern that can be used over and over, yet can also constantly change to personalize it (great for those with more than one child to make for or for those making dolls to sell).  The Greta doll is a nice classic shape so five years from now, it won’t look out of style (depending on your fabric choices of course).  I would definitely recommend giving the Greta doll a try!


Craftsy Weekend Sale!

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You know how I love me some Craftsy classes–give them a try!




This is an affiliate link, however, if you prefer not to use it, you can go to Craftsy instead, but I do appreciate the support.

Pant Hem Alterations: Adding Trouser Kick Tape to Pants

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blind hem trousers with kick tape sewn in
Check out those hems—blind hem and kick tape make for a professional trouser.

I recently finished watching a Craftsy course called Tailoring Ready To Wear with Angela Wolf as an instructor.  I really enjoyed it–Angela is a great teacher with lots of experience.  She shares a lot of helpful techniques and tips.  (My entire review is here on PatternReview if you want to read the details.)  The best thing about this class is that it is a good start towards earning some extra money through alterations and it will allow me to do a better job at altering clothing finds for myself.  I’m hoping there’ll be some more advanced alterations classes in the future.

One portion of the class that I’ll be using often is the various pant hemming techniques (yes, lots of shorties in this house).  Particularly, the blind stitch hem which I can use on purchased pants that need hemming, but also for the hem on pants I sew myself (or plan to sew in the future).

The whole point of a blind stitch hem is that the hem on the pants is not readily apparent.  The pant leg flows smoothly without that visual break that comes from a stitch line going across the bottom.  The best use of this type of hem is in nice slacks or suit pants and skirts.  It looks particularly good on wool as the fabric hides the little bit of thread that does show.

(The Craftsy class does an excellant job of showing you how to use a regular blindstitch foot, including the all-important method of folding the hem prior to stitching.  If, however, you’re using the vintage Singer attachment like myself, you’ll need to follow the instructions for the attachment which is a bit different from modern feet.)

See that fraying? That’s what happens to your pant hem as it comes into regular contact with the ground and your shoes. Not something you want to see on your nice trousers. Kick tape or heel guard tape helps prevent this by taking the wear instead.

I decided to add some trouser kick tape to my sister’s JCrew slacks while hemming.  What is kick tape?  Well, so glad you asked.  It’s a little ribbon (kind of reminds you of cotton twill tape only thinner) that high-end trousers often have on the inside of the hem to take the wear and tear on the pants.

It sticks out just 1 mm from the bottom edge of the pant leg, so any brushing against floors, sidewalks and shoes is mostly on the tape which can easily be taken off and replaced rather than wearing a whole in your nice pants.  I had a hard time finding anything in the USA, although there are a few sources in the UK that will ship to you.  Not wanting to wait for the shipping, I thought I’d try the heel guard tape offered by WAWAK (which also is a great source for zippers and Maxi-lock thread, btw).  They only have black, white and a dark grey (the UK sources also have brown, navy, light grey and tan), but as her slacks are a dark charcoal that was okay.  I ordered both the dark grey and the black.  I ended up using the black as the grey was not as dark as what I’d hoped, but as it only sticks out 1 mm, this is not an issue really.

When I went to add it, I could only find this one tutorial on Sew Divas (a great blog for sewing techniques), which I followed with what information was provided, but I thought maybe you would like more step-by-step detail, so I should warn you that this tutorial is by no means the authority on trouser kick tape and, in fact, I am sure there is some London Saville Row tailor who would completely freak out at me over my method.  But, it worked for me, so maybe it’ll help you.

Because I was hemming the pants at the same time, I opted for machine stitching the tape in place prior to the final hemming (pants already cut to the correct length and pressed).  If I was adding kick tape to a pair of trousers that were already hemmed at the correct length, I think I’d just hand stitch it in place using a catch stitch rather than mess with opening the hem and redoing it, unless the pants would be worn a lot.

To add the kick tape to your pants at the time of hemming, you should have already measured and cut the trousers to the desired length, finished the cut edge (I serged these pants) and steam pressed the hem up into place.  Do not sew the hem yet…we’ll add the tape first.  We’ll be working from the public, or right, side of the pants, so after pressing, turn them right side out again.

Warning:  Dark charcoal pants and black kick tape were used, so I used slightly lighter thread and I used a flash (along with some Photoshop-ing) to lighten them up enough so you could see, but in real life there isn’t such a visual disparity in colors!

You can see the serged edge of the pants at the bottom and the ridge of the pressed edge at the top of the tape. Double check that when folded back into place the tape just barely sticks out.

Step 1:  Using a measuring tape, measure along the pant leg at the fold.  This will give you the length of tape needed to go around the entire inside, add an inch for overlap.  It’ll probably be something like 24-25 inches per leg, so don’t be surprised.  Cut the tape.  (I cut the ends of mine at 45 degree angles, I think it helps with fraying.)

Step 2:  Begin at the inseam and pin the kick tape in place along the fold.  You may need to fold the hem in place to check that the tape will be only peeking out 1 mm.

Carefully measure so that when you pin the tape in place it will be straight.

Step 3:  Now measure the distance from the serged edge of the pants to the bottom edge of the tape.



Step 4:  Now, simply pin tape in place around the entire pant leg.  Keep it straight and be careful not to catch the opposite side of the pants when pinning.





I found that using a sleeve board or pressing clapper inserted into the leg was helpful in keeping the hem area flat while pinning and avoids accidentally pinning the opposite side.






The 45 degree cut and 5/8 inch overlap at the end not only will help with future wear and fraying (I think), but also creates a graduated ending so that you won’t have a noticable lump at the overlap.


Step 5:  When you reach the inseam again, simply overlap the tape by about 5/8 inch and trim at a diagonal.  I added some Fray Block to my ends for added measure and let them dry.










Step 6:  Fold under and double check that only 1 mm peeks out.  You may need to carefully adjust the tape in some areas.  At this point you are ready to sew the tape in place.  (I hand basted my tape down because the pins kept sticking me and were in the way.)  Before sewing unfold the hem again.






Step 7:  Now stitch the tape along each edge all the way around the leg.  I prefer to start and stop a little bit before and after the cut edge just to keep the tape edge from getting messed up from all the needle action.

kick tape machine sewn to hem
I’ve machine stitched the heel guard tape along each edge to prevent the tape from gaping which could catch on a shoe heel.

If you are adding these to already hemmed pants and prefer to just handstitch the kick tape in place, you can simply use a catch stitch (here’s a great tutorial, but it costs).  Be sure and only stitch through the kick tape and one layer of the pants.  No stitching should show on the outside of the pants when actually folded into place.  You can also use the catch stitch to hand hem your pants!

Step 8:  Although not really necessary, I did do a little quick handstitching to tack the end down for added measure.

You’re now ready to proceed with blindstitch hemming your trousers.

Hopefully, with the sunlight and angle, you can see the little prick points of the blindhem. You’ll notice that the kick tape is not even visible.

See how you can’t even tell its there when done!  Add that blindstitch and you have a lovely unbroken line on professional looking trousers.



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