Fabric-Backed Bookcase

Now that we have a baby boy on the way, I decided it was time to re-do Myla’s room - giving her a “big girl” room - since we need the crib and other furniture for the nursery. Myla, super-lucky girl that she is, inherited my bedroom furniture from my young teen years. It’s a beautiful, white, vintage-country-esqe style. It’s much like what you see advertised for young girls and teens in Pottery Barn. (Glad I had such good taste so many years ago… wink, wink). It’s in pretty good shape and sure to grow with her throughout the years… which is exactly why I finally decided to finish her unfinished bookcase. 

Finished bookcase.

I actually got this bookcase years and years ago… it’s made its way through my many apartments and different rooms throughout our old house before it landed in her nursery. Since I knew the nursery was only going to last a few years, I decided to hold off painting it until now.

I thought it would look best if I painted it to match the furniture - PLUS I wanted to add a splash of color to her room. But, I didn’t want to paint the bookcase itself with a ‘pop’ color, but instead add a color backing to it that would be visible when viewing it from the front. And, I wanted to make sure that I could always change out that ‘pop’ of color if Myla decides that she wants to re-do her room down the road.

I started by filling in the screw holes on the bookcase with wood filler and painting the entire bookcase with a primer. I followed that up with two coats of paint that I matched to the furniture (an off-white, slightly creamy color) and finished it off with a spray clear, gloss coat. (Don't worry, I used the spray finish outside and wore a respirator to protect the lil' bub in my tum - it's probably a good idea to wear one even if you're not pregnant... those fumes were wicked). 

For the backing, I picked up some fabric that matched some colors in the quilt for her bed. A bright pink with polka dots seemed like the perfect fabric to not only add a ‘pop’ of color, but also some fun, to her room. Next, I went to the hardware store and bought a sheet of plywood which I had them cut down to size (slightly smaller than the actual width of the bookcase and long enough to cover the openings in the bookcase). 

Once I brought it home and tested it against the bookcase, I cut the fabric a bit bigger than the board. I mixed together Modge Podge and water (about a 1:1 ratio) so it looked like milk. I used a large, old paintbrush and spread it over the entire piece of wood. Then I carefully laid the fabric down on top, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases in the fabric. Once set in place, I brushed another layer of the Modge Podge mixture on top of the fabric making sure it soaked completely through. Once dry, I applied one more layer of the Modge Podge mixture. 

After I let that dry overnight, I used a piece of sandpaper to rub along the edge just enough to break the fabric fibers, while slightly tugging on the hanging fabric, leaving a perfect edge around the board. After that, it was simply a matter of laying the bookcase down, positioning the backer board (nailing in diagonal corners first to make sure it was square) and then nailing around the rest about every 6-8 inches. 

What I love about doing a bookcase this way, is that I can always pull the backer board off and apply a new fabric color on a new piece of plywood without ruining the painted part of the bookcase. I loved this bookcase so much that I just ordered one (although shorter) for baby boy’s nursery (from Wood Bin in Brookfield, CT). I will once again wait until his “big boy” room to finish it to match the furniture we buy for him then.

I also used the same fabric to make simple curtains for her windows (hung with tension rods - I love the wide molding too much to cover it). I still have extra fabric which I plan on using to make a few toss pillows or covering some frames for some artwork we created. We’ll see how far I can stretch the leftover fabric. 

Ocean Creature Bean Bag Toss

Here’s a perfect example of my craft to-do list being too long for the amount of time I actually have. The idea for this project came to me last fall, which is also when I bought all the materials… they’ve just been sitting around until now.

Over the summer, Myla and I spent most mornings at the playground - at least three hours each time we went, if not longer. For most of that time, Myla would be going non-stop at full speed - she’s a climber and a dare devil. There were times she even did cartwheels down the big-kid slides, hardly phased by the experience - always going back for more. After these mornings, Myla started napping like most kids her age - it just took a lot of work to get her there. Which is why as soon as the cooler months set in and I knew it would soon become too chilly to play outside for very long, I became really worried - how was I supposed to help Myla with all this energy that she clearly needed to release? (And to make sure Mommy got a few hours of peace in the afternoons.)

For starters, there are certain gifts we requested for her birthday and Christmas which we knew would help her: a ball pit, a trampoline that is great for jumping and hanging up-side-down on, a tricycle and a push bike - both of which we let her ride indoors. In addition, we have a big couch for doing superhero-flying jumps and lots of items to jump off of. Luckily, between those and indoor “playgrounds” - we survived this winter as it has been brutally cold.  

Anyways, I wanted to make her this bean bag throw toss game to help direct her “throwing energy” away from balls and toys to the bean bags instead. And perhaps use the numbers 1, 2 and 3 as the number of times she would have to do something like jump, spin or stomp, each time a bean bag would land on that number. As it turns out, all the other activities were enough, but I still thought this would be a good game to help hone her throwing skills. Girl’s got a good arm. Down the road, she could also use it to practice simple math by adding up points.

Of course I wanted to make this simple game visually fun - so what would be more fun than throwing sea creatures into an ocean? To begin, I didn’t want another large toy to find a home for so instead of the traditional cornhole wooden box, I opted to make a point target out of fabric that could be rolled up and put away. I just needed to figure out how to make sure the fabric target stayed flat when the bags hit it. As for the bean bags, many, many years ago I was given a sand-filled, little man bean bag (pictured at right) which served as my inspiration for making the bean bags into fun shapes.

For the point target and bean bags, I used fabric quarters from Joanne’s (an inexpensive way to buy small quantities of a certain fabric). For the bean bags, I chose to stuff them with crystal fill for vases. Although rice, beans and sand all make good fillings for bean bags, the thought of them getting wet (rice/beans) or exploding all over our wood floors (sand), just made my skin crawl. I did find some plastic bean filling online, but preferred to just buy something available in the store - and this crystal fill actually works really well. For the underside of the point target, a single roll of cabinet drawer liner worked perfectly. Non-skid carpet padding would work good too.

I drew my pattern pieces leaving extra seam allowances. After stitching each piece, I trimmed and made notches so they flipped inside out nicely. I decided to sew some of the extruding parts by themselves and keep them flat rather than stuffing them - figured it might help avoid a bean bag explosion. I made sure to leave almost an inch unstitched which I hand sewed closed after filling them. For the point target, I simply folded over one edge of the fabric and stitched a wavy line which I later trimmed, notched and flipped inside out. I then top-stitched it onto the next piece and repeated that one more time until I had my three sections. I traced numbers onto some steam-a-seam (same material used on the baby onesies, father’s day t-shirts, gnome costume, and homemade patch) and ironed them onto the the front of the point target. Then I laid out the drawer liner, sticky side up, on the reverse of the point target - folded and stitched around the whole thing.

Here’s Justin explaining to Myla how to toss the bean bags onto the point target. After tossing a few from a distance, she started running up to the point target and slamming down the bean bags on the numbers as she screamed them out: “ONE… TWO… THREE!!!” 

Oh, and see that shirt Justin has on? It’s the Pint t-shirt I made him for father’s day - He still wears it!!! I also made a matching Half-Pint t-shirt for Myla, which made for some really cute father/daughter pictures.

Choo-Choo Myla is Turning 2 (Part 2)

The birthday girl most certainly needs a special party hat. And what better than a train engineer hat for a train themed party? I looked into buying Myla a pink engineer hat and found some online. However, all the reviews I read talked about how flimsy they were and how they weren't made very well. I wanted to make sure her hat was going to last through all her rambunctious play. Therefore, I decided to make her one.

I've never attempted to make a hat like this before… or really anything that even resembled a hat but figured I'd give it a shot. I tried my best to document what I did so you can make one too for your little engineer if you so desire.

I started by measuring Myla's head circumference and added one inch to that measurement. I drew a circle on scrap fabric with that circumference. After some testing, I decided that drawing a larger circle 2.5" from the inside one would give me the right height for the hat once the pleats were in place. (See diagram below)

For the brim, I experimented three times with different curves and it turned out the one that worked seemed to match an invisible third circle if drawn another 2.5" from the original outside circle. (See diagram below)

And for the third and final piece, the band, it's simply the length of the circumference plus seam allowances and the width is double the width of the final band, plus seam allowances on both sides. (See diagram below)

Please note: Diagram is not to scale.

Here is the sample hat I created which I used for my pattern pieces.

I laid out the pattern on my fabric (pink striped seersucker), cut the pieces, and then sewed the brim fabric together. I made sure to cut the seam allowance down to 1/4" where I sewed the two pieces together before I flipped them inside out. I cut fusible interfacing for the main hat fabric and band (minus seam allowances). And, I cut a piece of the fuse-n-shape for the brim which is quite stiff but still soft. It's the same material I used for Myla's Garden Gnome Halloween Costume. After some tugging and adjusting the fabric over the fuse-n-shape, I ironed it for a permanent hold.

For the pleats, I took them in enough so once sewn, the circumference would match the inside circle which is Myla's head measurement plus 1". (See diagram above for direction of pleats.) After sewing the pleats in place at about 3/4" from the edge, I sewed the ends of the band together to form a circle and pinned it into place on the hat. I sewed that around at 1.25" (the final band width). Then, I flipped it into the inside of the hat and tucked the seam allowance under and pinned it into place. I hand stitched it so the stitch marks would not show on the outside of the hat. Then, I tucked the seam allowances in on the brim and pinned in place. I ran the edge through the sewing machine. Once that was finished, I pinned the brim in the place on the hat and hand stitched along the edge AND also took slightly wider stitches where the edge of the hat meets the brim so everything is secure and there are no lose edges to cause irritation. In retrospect, I probably should have made the band in two pieces so the brim edge would be completely hidden inside the seams. And perhaps I could have made the hat slightly bigger than she needed and added some elastic in the back too. Ah, all the things I think about after finishing a project.

Since I had to once again use the TV to get good (yet very serious looking) shots of Myla wearing her hat (at top of post)… I had to share these silly pictures of her too. When she's not mesmerized by the TV, she's trying to steal the camera.

As I've been crafting away this last week, I've got so many more fun train-themed surprises to share in the coming weeks… So check back next week!

Running Down Hills

Earlier this week I decided to go through my "fix-it" pile of clothes. It's all the clothes that I love and can't part with, but that need some fixing… from broken zippers, missing buttons, rips and tears, to simple things like hemming. 

I ended up hemming two pairs of my jeans. Until this point, they were pseudo-hemmed with safety pins. Usually when I buy a pair of pants that are too long, I wear them a few times "hemmed" this way, until I know for sure they are still at the right length, especially after a few washings. These just happened to be psuedo-hemmed for many months (life got busy). Then I came across a pair of Myla's jeans that I absolutely adore from Naartjie - and knew would still fit her after all these months. She had put a rip in one knee awhile back which I was able to stitch closed. Then she had put an even bigger rip in the other knee… so bad that it needed a patch. 

I wanted to make my own patch. I looked through some fabric that I had and found one that had butterflies on it. This material is actually from the first pair of pants I tried making Myla for her pavlik harness before I made her little balloon bloomers. I wanted to back the butterfly up with another fabric and had just bought this pink and white seersucker material (for another project in the works). I used Steam-a-seam, the same fusible material I used on the Onesies, Father's Day Tees, and Myla's Gnome Costume, to make the layered patch. Since the hole was so large, I cut an extra piece of the butterfly material to fuse to the inside of the pants.

I was so happy with this patch. Not only was it custom and fun, it seemed to hold up well and did the job of covering the big hole. 

However, I guess I shouldn't have been quite so excited. When the afternoon came, Myla had a little friend come over. As they were playing in the backyard running down the hill, they discovered a rock wall around one of the planters and how fun it would be to climb up that instead of the hill… just to be able to run back down the hill again. Through all this climbing and a couple of rolls down the hill, TWO new holes appeared in the jeans… I guess I should have known better. She's my daughter and after all I was never able to keep holes from appearing in my pants growing up. Still not sure why I'm surprised when this stuff happens. At least they held up all morning - but I think this is a lesson that I should invest in some play clothes for her outside adventures.

Ghosts, Ghouls & Gnomes

I told myself that I wasn't going to make Myla a Halloween costume until she was old enough to tell me what she wanted to be AND ask me to make her costume. I figure since I'm a crafty momma, that most likely I'll be spending lots of time over the next several years making costumes for her so why not just save up all that craftiness for the future? Last year I bought Myla a ladybug costume from a consignment shop. It was cheap, cute and since I wasn't sure if she would even allow me to dress her up, it was perfect. I promised myself that I was just going to find something used again this year as I still don't think she understands what Halloween is - plus, she's defiant about EVERYTHING including getting dressed even in regular clothes. But alas, I broke down… I made her a costume. 

Myla has always had a super round belly… which is now slowly beginning to disappear. It's because of that adorable belly that I decided to make her a costume. All I think of when looking at her belly is Garden Gnome. I was mainly thinking of the male garden gnome with the pants pulled up under that round belly, and the red little nose and cheeks. I pictured her with white eyebrows and a beard too - and giggled. However, regardless of how tom-boyish she is, I couldn't dress her as an old man at the age of 23 months. If she decides to be something like that in the years to come, that's fine. But since this costume was all my decision and not hers, I decided to make a female version of the garden gnome. She needed a big, pointy red hat, a pair of gnome-y shoes, and an outfit that screamed cuteness. Just look at her… you know there's not a cuter gnome out there.


It took a lot of convincing to get her to try on the costume... including Elmo on TV and some Smarties... the costume stayed on just long enough to get a few shots. 

Here are my super technical design techniques: I measured Myla's head, waist, and length for suspenders and laid out some simple designs on scrap fabric. After cutting them out leaving basic seam allowances, I hand basted the pieces and tried them on Myla. I marked some adjustments on the fabric pieces and used those pieces as my pattern. I left room for additional seam allowances, cut the pieces out from the actual fabric - all while crossing my fingers that it would come out OK. I did make a mistake on the sample hat - apparently late at night when I divide 19 by 2 - I get 8… therefore the hat was only 16 inches in diameter and wouldn't fit her head. Doh! Anyways, I made the necessary adjustments on the real fabric and again, crossed my fingers. Back in college I was able to eye-ball any measurement an inch or less and be right on... I continued sewing hoping that I still had that ability all these years later.

For the shoes, I used Myla's crocs as a template of sorts. I figured they would make a good shoe to wrap the gnome "shoes" around. This way, Myla could still wear a pair of shoes she was used to wearing and I would just slide the fabric "shoes" over the top of them and they would still have the grip on the bottom.

The shirt was a hand-me-down I found in a box of clothes - just so happened to be the perfect color and style to add to the outfit. Just added the flower.

I used a lightweight fusible interfacing for the suspender straps and a stiff fusible interfacing for the hat. I found the thick, yellow ric rac trim which screams "cheesy cute" and used Steam-a-seam for the flowers. It's the same material I used for the Baby Onesies - I told you I would find other uses for that miraculous product.

 Now for the real test… to see if Myla will actually put on and keep on this costume for a little trick-or-treating fun. Happy Halloween!!!

My Little "Hip" Baby

There are so many things I never knew were possible, during pregnancy, birth and with newborns in general. Myla was a breech baby - and I'm pretty sure she was that way from 20 weeks on. Her little bottom was wedged into place and she refused to turn and flip - despite the amount of headstands I was doing - and was born by cesarean. Due to her breech presentation, the doctors ordered an ultrasound on her hips at 6 weeks old to check for Hip Dysplasia. (Isn't that something only dogs get?) On the spot, she was diagnosed with DDH, Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip. In short, what this meant was that she had to wear a pavlik harness for the next 6 months. For most of those six months, she had to be in this harness for 23 hours a day, which left one hour per day for a bath, tummy time or the most delicious little infant cuddles a new mom could ever imagine.

Clothing her, let alone diapering, carrying, and playing, was quite difficult with velcro and fabric straps tied all around her little 7 pound body. She was diagnosed mid-winter and I needed a way to dress her warmly as only a onesie was allowed beneath this harness. (Say good-bye to all those brand new, super cute, little newborn clothes - that I already clipped tags off of and washed). I decided to embrace this experience and sew her some balloon bloomers. I made these outfits out of soft cotton fleece in funky patterns (easily paired with solid-colored, long sleeve onesies) and added snaps for easier diaper changes. Besides her being super cute - the best part was that they kept her warm and allowed her freedom of movement. At a little over 7 months, we declared freedom from the pavlik harness - what a glorious day for both mommy and baby.

Details of the bloomers and the "fancy" patterns I made... with paper bags. I didn't have any pattern paper and these actually worked out great! And because of the style of these bloomers, they didn't need to be sewn with precision and grew with Myla as she put on weight and lengthened.

UPDATE (February 2015): Since receiving several requests for the pattern/measurements, I'm SO happy to say that I finally got some time to clean up the pattern and turn it into a PDF to share with fellow 'hip' babies (although it may still not be perfect - it was 3 years ago that I originally made it). So, you can now download the Balloon Bloomer Pattern. I hope to work on the directions and helpful tips page soon. In the meantime, please make sure to print the pages at 100% scaling. 

Some images of Myla rockin' her balloon bloomers. 

Two images of Myla in her Pavlik Harness. The first is when we brought her home from her first orthopedist appointment, and the second is right before we put her to bed on her last night before saying Good-bye to the harness. As of today, her hips are still looking really good and her next appointment is a year and a half away!!!

Having a Baby

(Rewind a few years) Boy? Girl? I know, we'll just say Baby K. With the unknown ahead and my obsessive nature to have the nursery complete before baby arrives (or at least nearly complete), I needed to pick a theme that could be swayed toward girl or boy. I knew I wanted bright, happy colors. I had seen the Skip Hop Treetop Friends bedding collection and had to have it.  Based around Owls it soon turned into a slight obsession in the nursery.

At the time, Skip Hop did not offer a crib mobile - a nursery must-have. I decided I needed one that matched the owl/bird theme. I found a very simple and inexpensive plastic mobile (with music and wind-up motion). I bought fabric squares in different patterns that matched the colors of the bedding set. I disassembled the mobile and sewed covers for the plastic pieces, made stuffed owls and birds, added some ric rac trim for strings and "Ta-Da"… the perfect mobile. Surprisingly, this mobile hypnotized and calmed Myla for a long time and still hangs, out of reach, high above her crib.

With the extra fabric I made curtains to match (another accessory not available for that bedding collection). I took some old Ikea drapes, which just so happened to match the crib dust ruffle, and I cut some fabric from them. I used the extra fabric remnants from the mobile to make the tabs at top. 

I still had extra fabric so I decided to make some custom wall decor. I found some simple and inexpensive wood frames. Then I sewed the fabric to fit around the frames and glued the backs. I used Adobe Illustrator, and the bedding theme as inspiration, to create these silly images.

With those last remaining remnants, I decided to add some ABC shadow boxes next to the bookshelf.