Posts by Sarah Woodard

Sarah Woodard is a freelance writer based in Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys bringing stories, issues and topics to live with words and pictures. In addition to writing, Sarah is a beekeeper, Reiki Master Teacher and black belt in Muay Thai Kickboxing. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with her boyfriend and playing with their four cats.
Sewing Baby Toys

Sewing Baby Toys

I just learned that a dear friend of mine is pregnant. After the announcement and our subsequent celebratory lunch, my mind starting thinking about what I could make to welcome her child into the world. It’s too early on to know if it will be a boy or a girl, which also means I’ve got plenty of time to make something by hand and from the heart. Here’s a few of the baby toys I’m thinking about making. I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

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Two-Sided Baby Blanket

I love this idea. I used to love my two-sided comforter because I could flip it around based on my mood (and also based on which side had less cat hair…) My friend and her man are super unique, so I know their baby’s room is going to have flair and style. A reversible baby blanket would be right up their alley. Of course, I’d want it to match the colors they choose for the nursery, so I’ll have to check about that before I start.

Super Soft Receiving Blanket

Like all babies, I’m sure my friend’s bundle of joy is going to want to be held A LOT. And I know my friend is up to the task. She’s going to be an amazing mom! The new arrival is due in the February/March timeframe, so it will still be cool where we live. It makes me think that a super soft, and warm receiving blanket will help new mom and baby snuggle and bond.

Crunchy Jellyfish

It won’t be long before that new bundle of joy is putting everything in his or her mouth. (By the way, I’m certain it will be a girl.) Between teething and the need to understand the world using all her senses, her mouth is going to be full of all sorts of stuff. I love this crunchy jellyfish pattern because it will give her something safe to mouth on and it’s so cute!

Sun Toy

Along the same lines as the crunchy jellyfish, this sun toy is super cute and great for littles ones putting everything in their mouths. It’s got loads of textures too, making it entertaining in many ways. And when baby decides it’s time to throw her toys, it’s soft and won’t hurt or damage anyone or anything.

So, if it was your friend having a baby, which of these cool baby gifts would you make?

Sewing with Cats

Sewing with Cats

You’ve seen posts about sewing projects for cats. I think I might’ve even written one. The thing is, I don’t know about you, but my cats would never tolerate most of those projects. Not ever! What they will do, quite gleefully, is attempt to help me while I’m sewing. Clawing fabric while I’m trying to lay it out, stealing pins (which terrifies me because they could choke or worse), and running away with the tissue paper pattern pieces just as I was about to grab them. Sound familiar? And heaven forbid I close them out of the room! With four of the fluffy babies running around, that’s a losing battle. So, instead, I’ve learned to sew with cats. Honestly, I think living with four of them and giving meds, special food, etc. only to those who need it qualifies me as an official cat herder!

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The secret to sewing with your cats is to make other things more interesting than what you’re doing. I’ve learned, the hard way, that that’s not always as easy as it sounds. Throwing catnip toys for them provides a short-term distraction for them, but it also means I have to stop what I’m doing. Not ideal by any means. I’ve gotten more creative with my solutions.

Play time

Tissue paper pieces are great! They think they’re getting the pattern pieces, only they’re not. The deal here, though, is you have to let them steal it so they think they’re getting away with something. Simply handing them the scrap of tissue paper is great for about 30 seconds until they see you’ve got a “better” piece. When you let them steal it, it’s a much more exciting, and long lasting, distraction for them.

And laser lights. What cat doesn’t love to chase the red light? I know, you’re probably wondering how I can play red light with them and still sew. Simple – I hang the light from the ceiling and give it a push. If I had a ceiling fan, I’d hang it off there. Just put a piece of masking tape over the button to hold it down and use a piece of string or an elastic to hang it. You’ve never seen cats this confused and excited. I love when they sit and look up at it with their head moving the same direction and speed as the light. Hilarious!

Fabric scraps. My cats love to make themselves a bed out of the fabric I’m trying to use. Super annoying! I deal with this by pretending like I’m using a large scrap piece and then letting them steal it from me. Just like with the tissue paper, letting them think they got what they want is key. Once they’re settled in on the fabric scrap, I can move on to my project without their interference.

Sewing with cats is challenging, but using these few distraction methods, it’s quite possible – and fun for both you and your furry friends.

The Mysterious Shrinking Pants

The Mysterious Shrinking Pants

My weight tends to go up and down, often in connection with my relationship status. I wouldn’t say I struggle with it the way that my mother does, though as I’m approaching 40, it’s getting tougher to shed the extra pounds. The first time I lost a ton of weight, I spend days, maybe weeks, altering all my favorite clothes so I could still wear them in a my new, much smaller, size. I stayed at that weight, my ideal weight, for a long time.

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And then one day it happened, the mysterious shrinking pants showed up! I don’t know where they came from, but my pants started to get tighter and my shirts and undergarments weren’t far behind.

Has this happened to any of you? Sound familiar? So, I had a choice – spend crazy amounts of time putting my clothes back to bigger sizes, lose the weight, or accept it and buy new clothes. Of course, I chose to lose the weight and keep squeezing myself into shrunken pants…I’m cheap and I don’t like gaining weight!

Let me tell you, it’s been tough this time around. I’m eating great since I’m not eating out on a regular basis anymore, drinking far less (cause I’m not stressed and upset), and working out more (cause I don’t feel responsible for taking care of anyone else’s demands). Yet, the weight just doesn’t want to go. Don’t get me wrong. I’m just over halfway to my goal. It’s happening. Just more slowly than I thought it would and my tight clothes are starting to feel a little silly.

Still…I don’t want to alter them. I want my pants to mysteriously expand the same way they mysteriously shrank! That would be far less time consuming and much more fun. At least I think so… My jeans could use some patching in the seams – I like to do this with fun fabric scraps to add a little flair. Plus, then it makes it look like I did it on purpose, not that I’m too cheap to buy new ones!

I’m not ready to replace them yet, but when I do, I need to make sure I don’t buy pants that mysteriously shrink!

Seeking Your Input: Sewing a Giveaway

Seeking Your Input: Sewing a Giveaway

You may or may not know this yet, but besides writing and sewing – and writing about sewing – I’m also a children’s author. My newest book is about a rock with a crazy big dream – one that will transform her life. The main character, Adri – which is Sanskrit for rock – is captured so beautifully by my illustrator that I feel inspired to create giveaways. Giving a rock personality without humanizing it is a real challenge, as I’m sure you can imagine, so I was completely blown away by the illustrations.

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To capture Adri in 3D, I’ve been playing around with gray fabrics. And let me tell you – there’s A LOT more shades of gray than you might think. Anyway, I’ve been playing around with gray colors and different fabric textures and combining it with different stuffing types to create Adri giveaways. But here’s the thing – and this is where I’d love some help from all of you – a stuffed rock is soft. On the one hand, that’s good since it’s a kid’s book and I don’t want anyone getting hurt. On the other hand, rocks aren’t soft so anything I sew and stuff won’t be too realistic. I’m torn about what to do.

There are other characters in the book, though they don’t have names. Flowers, mainly. I’m wondering if it’s better to make a soft giveaway that recreates one of the flower characters and use actual rocks, maybe with glued on eyes, to make Adri. For those of you my age and older, you may remember pet rocks. I’m thinking something along those lines, though hopefully it’s not a copyrighted toy.

What do you think?

As sewers, readers, parents, would you prefer a soft, sewn “rock” or an actual rock giveaway? Is it even necessary to have a giveaway? I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and any other ideas you have for helping engage kids and their parents in my book.

Sewing with Confidence

Sewing with Confidence

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced sewer, there will always be projects that seem too tough, that are hard to feel completely confident about taking on. Without a way to approach projects confidently, it can be tempting to skip doing them all together. What a shame it is when we miss out on making something special simply because it seems too hard. Instead, try using these tips to build your confidence and get that project done.

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Break it Down

Often, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by a project if I try to look ahead at all the directions. With simpler projects, I can do that and picture the whole thing coming together in my mind. With more complex projects, reading ahead sometimes makes me feel like it’s too hard. I won’t see the project. Instead, I get lost in the words of it and panic at the sight of terms I’ve not seen before.

The simplest and quickest way to overcome my fears and boost my sewing confidence is to take it one step at a time. Instead of reading through the whole thing, I only focus on the step I’m currently working on and the move on to the next. This makes it easy to look up any terms I’m not familiar with and complete each step successfully. And, of course, doing this generates more confidence. I have a hunch it will be the same for you. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Ask for Help

Although sewing is largely a solo hobby, that doesn’t mean you have to work through every project on your own. If you’re stuck, bring your fabric and the pattern to your local fabric or sewing machine store and ask their experts to help you out. They may be able to give you an explanation that’s easier to understand than the one written in your pattern instructions. Also, having the corresponding fabric pieces may help to show you a way to pin or cut the pieces to match what the instructions are asking you to do. And once you’ve learned it, you can apply it, confidently, to future projects.

These two tricks have helped me tackle everything from a sundress to a wedding dress with confidence and wind up with gorgeous completed projects that I’m proud to wear. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by a project, don’t fret. Try these two tips and get the confidence you need to complete the project without stress.

One Day Sewing Projects

One Day Sewing Projects

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Sometimes I don’t want a big sewing project. If I’m pressed for time or simply need to fill an afternoon or one day out of the weekend, I don’t necessarily want to start a project that will take days, weeks, or months to complete. Nor do I want the hassle and expense of shopping for supplies for a larger project. I just want to sew for a couple of hours and have something to show for it. If that’s ever happened to you, these sewing projects you can do in a day are the perfect solution.

Circle Skirt

Make this for yourself or your daughter…or making a matching mother/daughter pair. This circle skirt can be done in just a couple of hours and it’s perfect for whirling and twirling when it’s done. Unless you have large amounts of the same fabric on hand (cause you just buy fabrics you like when you see them, maybe?) you’ll need to hit the store for material. If you’ve got enough fabric on hand, you’re good to go.

Vendor Apron

Are you the one they ask to help out with bake sales, garage sales, and other school fund raisers? You need this vendor apron to keep your notepads, pens, and other supplies close at hand. It’s super simple to make with an old pillowcase or one you fell in love with at the thrift store and now need a use for. Make a bunch so the whole PTA will have one.

Trendy Fashion Tank

With this awesome pattern there’s no need to spend your hard earned money on brand name t-shirts and tanks. The trendy fashion tank is patterned after a popular JCrew top, but made by you. You’ll need jersey sheets or another source of that same material to make this pattern. Flat jersey sheets can be bought at discount stores for around $7, so it’s well worth the investment to make this shirt yourself.

Hair Bows

Not only do these work up fast, they’re a great way to use up your scraps. Hair bows never really go out of style, so make a bunch. Give them as gifts or sell them at craft fairs. Depending on the material you choose they can be vintage, modern, or anything in between. No matter what, they’re sure to be a hit!

The next time you’re looking for a quick project, try one of these projects. They take a day (or less in most cases) and leave you with a great finished piece, a feeling of accomplishment, and instant gratification. Many of these projects are also great for sew sewers since they can quickly see the results of their efforts.

Sewing Buddies

Sewing Buddies

Among my group of friends, I’m the only one that sews. We all figure it’s a skill that they’ll all turn to me for after the Zombie Apocalypse. Kidding! I am the only one who sews and it is a valuable skill, but since I don’t have a group of friends to sew with, I’ve made my own sewing buddies. Really, they’re just stuffed animals I’ve made, but they sit in my swing area and keep me company when the cats take off at the sound of the sewing machine. If you need some sewing buddies too, check out these cute stuffed animal patterns and make some for yourself.

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Stuffed Fox Sewing Pattern

Made from fleece, these little guys work up quickly and are loved by kids and adults. When finished, they’re about 15” tall and have the sweetest faces. I used buttons for the eyes and nose, since there aren’t young children playing with them in my house, but the applique idea is great for homes with kids. Make a girl one and a boy one so they can keep each other company.

Sock Monkey Pattern

I’m not sure why, but people seem to give me wild sox for birthday or Christmas gifts. I don’t wear crazy socks, never have. I re-gift them when I can, but that’s not always possible. So, this sock monkey sewing pattern is the perfect way to use those crazy socks and get myself a sewing buddy. Make two and they can cuddle with intertwined arms. Add some Velcro to their hands to keep the cuddle pose in place.

Fat Quarter Bunnies

I love these! So often when I’m at the fabric store, I see fat quarters and want to buy them, but typically, they’ll wind up sitting in my fabric stash, never used. These sweet bunnies are the perfect use for those fat quarters and they’re so cute in my sewing area.

Sock Dragon Sewing Pattern

Yet another awesome use for all those crazy socks I seem to get. The sock dragon is a bit more challenging than his cousin sock monkey, but it also uses an additional pair of socks! I love dragons, so having one, or several, in my sewing space is great company.

If you’re looking for some sewing buddies, these stuffed animal patterns are a great way to make some company for yourself. Try them and let me know what you think!

Sewing Themed Books

Sewing Themed Books

I don’t know about where you live, but in New England, we’ve had a lot of storms this summer. Thankfully, we haven’t lost power. But we’ve been stuck inside quite a bit. That means there’s been lots of time to sew! So much time, in fact, I’m out of projects! Horrors! Has that ever happened to you? It’s left me feeling a bit adrift. There’s another storm going on as I write this and I’m looking at my sewing machine with desire and my heart and no idea what to make. Even my scrap stash is pretty depleted. Boo! So, I’m going to read sewing themed books and mysteries instead! Here’s some of my favorites!

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Southern Sewing Circle Mystery Series

Main character, Victoria “Tori” Sinclair is a transplant to Sweet Briar, SC. She joins the sewing circle and takes a job as head library. The series currently runs to 12 books and it’s highly likely that author Elizabeth Lynn Casey will keep them coming! With all the storms we’ve been having, I can curl up with a cup of tea and finish all 12 books this summer!

Magical Dress Making Series

Texas hospitality, a haunted dress shop and a Manhattan fashion designer. All the elements of a great story! Book six of this series by Melissa Bourbon was released in 2015. Hopefully the rain will stop and I won’t be completely done with the series before she releases the next one!

Deadly Notions Mystery Series

No sewing project is complete without the perfect notions. Turns out, no sewing mystery series is complete without them either! Cate Price weaves tales of Daisy and her husband Joe living in Pennsylvania. Joe renovates their house while Daisy has found her calling working at a quaint shop that sells sewing bits and bobs, antiques and jewelry. Book number three was released in 2015. With the rain raging, I might get through all of these just this week!

At least by reading about sewing I won’t feel like my sewing machine is missing me too much! What are some of your favorite sewing themed books?

Sewing Through a Crisis

Sewing Through a Crisis

Like me, I’m sure many of you find sewing to be a relaxing, calming activity. Something about the personal space it affords along with focusing on the details of your project instead of whatever else may be going on is a great relief. When life gets to be too much, I often retreat to my sewing space. It makes sense, then, that when a personal or professional crisis occurs, I’d sew my way through it.

Freelance work

Being a freelancer is a walk on the line between comfort and professional crisis. Not all clients communicate well and sometimes they make changes which impact my income. In some cases, they give me no warning and leave me in panic mode trying to replace the money I made writing for them. As you can imagine, this is stressful. It feels like a crisis.

Crisis mode!

Crisis mode!

Yes, I work hard to replace the income. I spend time seeking new clients, asking existing ones for referrals and going to networking events. But in between these efforts, to keep my sanity in check and my professional demeanor in place, I sew.

I sew anything. It doesn’t have to be a project I’m excited about. In fact, in these moments, it’s often better if it’s something I’m not planning to wear for a special event. That way, I won’t feel any internal pressure to make it come out perfectly.

Scrappy solutions

I sew fabric scraps in my stash pile together to make funky shapes and patterns. Sometimes they get made into a pillow or another decorative piece. Sometimes they don’t. The point isn’t to create a masterpiece. The point is to calm my mind and emotions. It’s to keep me focused and reasonably calm, despite the professional crisis of losing a client and the need to quickly replace the income.

An hour of sewing at lunch gives me the inner peace I need to spend the rest of the day working hard looking for new clients without the grip of anxiety grabbing me at every step.

When you’re facing a crisis, personal or professional, try sewing your way through it. You might just find you’re better able to cope and be the person you, and your loved ones, need you to be.

Cat Sewing Projects

Cat Sewing Projects

I love my cats. They’re like children to me. I wake up in the morning to purring and got to bed at night with them cuddled around me. Some people think cats are aloof, but mine are anything but! I think the more affection you give cats, they more they give you. Since my cats are my family, I can’t think of a single reason not to sew for them. Can you? I didn’t think so! I love these cat sewing projects, but I make no promises that your cats (or mine) will enjoy them as much as we’ll enjoy making them.

Purrty as a Flower

Add a little pizzazz to your cat’s collar with this adorable flower collar pattern. Your fur baby’s sweet face becomes the center of the flower while the soft petals surround them. It’s perfect for spring and summer. See if you can pose them with some flower cuttings and post a picture in the comments.

Ball Toy

To reward your sweet kitty for tolerating the petal costume, make them a patchwork ball toy. This is also a great way to use up some fabric scraps. If you’ve got young children, they can help stuff the balls and then play with kitty when they’re done. Add a bell inside to grab kitty’s attention and they’ll likely play with this for hours.

Cat House

Sometimes cats just need a space of their own. With this neat cat house pattern, you can give them their own special hiding place. Put it next to their favorite heat source and they might even use it the way you expect! And with fleece inside, you can bet they’re going to paw and claw it.

Catnip Mouse

What cat can resist catnip? These catnip mice are easy to make from fabric and ribbon scraps. In less than an hour, you can provide your feline friend with a toy that will give them hours of joy.

Chair Cushion

My cats are constantly sitting on my dining room chair cushions. I don’t mind, but my guests don’t always enjoy standing up and walking away with their pants full of fur. Here’s the perfect solution! Non-slip cushions just for the cats. When I have guests, I can simply replace these with clean ones for the humans. Best of all, the cat cushions have a removable cover for easy cleaning.

Show your cat some love and sew them one, or more, of these projects. If nothing else, you’ll smile while you do!