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?

Getting Through a Sewing Lull

Getting Through a Sewing Lull

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You’re a little bored. You’d love to work on a sewing project, but you’re also in between projects. You don’t have any events coming up and you don’t have the urge to create something new for your wardrobe, or anyone else’s. I call this a sewing lull. In my freelance writing and book writing careers, I sometimes experience the same thing. Over the years, I’ve found some techniques to get through those lull periods without going stir crazy from boredom.

Go Back to Your Joy

Go Back to Your Joy

Why did you start sewing in the first place? Was it to make something specific or was it simply because it was a skill you wanted to learn? Think about what gives you the most joy when you sew. For me, it’s one of two things: either wearing something I’ve made and getting complimented on it or giving something I made to someone and seeing their joy. Tap into what you love about sewing. Then…

Expand Your Repertoire

If you’re like me, you usually have a few favorite things to make. Use your sewing lull to expand your repertoire. If you usually make clothes, try making a stuff toy or blanket. Maybe go really big and learn a completely different sewing skill, like quilting or embroidery. As long as it taps into the reason(s) you started sewing, love sewing, in the first place, you’ll have a winner.

Run with Scissors

Okay, don’t really run with scissors. It’s dangerous.

Okay, don’t really run with scissors. It’s dangerous.

Okay, don’t really do this. It’s dangerous. What I mean is step outside your comfort zone, disregard what usually holds you back and leap into a new sewing skill, project or technique without taking time to talk yourself out of it. Maybe there’s something you’ve been wanting to try for years, but your pragmatic side has been holding you back. This sewing lull is the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and give it a shot.

I find these three things get me through any lull, sewing or writing, and I learn some new things along the way. At the same time, it also helps me reconnect with why I love what I do – we all need that reminder sometimes, right.

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Gifts to Sew for Dad

Sometimes it is hard to think of a great gift to sew for dad. It might seem like endless project options come to mind for most any other recipient, but gift ideas to sew for men don’t come quite as easy. Between the holidays, his birthday, and Father’s Day, you need a few good gift ideas each year—and that’s if you only have one dad to sew for!

Gifts to Sew for Dad

To help solve this perennial problem, here’s a long resource list of ideas to sew for men, including your dad, your children’s dad, or any other dad you might love.

Pillowcase

I seem to list pillowcases in every gift idea post I write! That’s because they are easy to make in a hurry, everyone uses them, and none are as nice as those that you make. So they make a nice gift to sew for dad, too. My dear always loves a gift of a new pillowcase, especially for his jumbo XL long pillow. Last year, I made him one with Star Trek fabric, it is covered with line drawings of the Enterprise.  I used a vintage yard I’ve been saving and some vintage trim, too, and made him a new one today.

I think he'll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

I think he’ll love this for his jumbo pillow. I love the extra bit the sparkly trim adds to this.

Pajamas

Simplicity and other pattern makers make super easy to follow patterns for pajama pants. Or you can trace a favorite pair to make a pattern, or you can follow an online tutorial.  Make them extra nice by adding pockets and drawstring waist. My dear prefers these cut quite loose and made from plaid flannel shirting; these look great on him, too.

Handkerchiefs

Make these from soft cotton; they are nice in flannel, or even knit.  Use a serger to finish all sides. For knit fabrics, you don’t even have to hem them at all. To save a step, buy these pre-made and make them more fun with tie-dye or personalize them with embroidery.

Handkerchief detail.

Handkerchief detail.

Quilt

A quilt is a perfect gift to sew for dad. Make him a lap sized or larger quilt in his favorite colors if you know them. If not, you know he loves his college or pro team’s colors, or go with a muted and manly collection of scrap fabrics. My favorite quilt I made for a man was a corduroy scrap quilt, with brightly colored squares alternating with khaki squares in a Streak of Lightning pattern. Choose a high quality, super soft cotton flannel for the quilt backing, and use cotton batting for maximum comfort quilts.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Streak of Lightning quilt, Ashley Van Haeften, from Flickr.

Bedside or chair arm organizer

Sew an organizer pocket to go over the side of his chair and hold his remotes and things, or under his mattress to keep glasses and reading material safely at hand.

Comfy his couch

Besides making a quilt, you can make his couch even cozier with custom cushions, perhaps one which includes pockets for his remote. Or make him a cuddly plush sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

Two layers of Cuddle Plush fabric make an ultra cozy sofa blanket.

BBQ Apron / tocque / oven mitts

Use appliqué or a fun novelty fabric to make and personalize an apron just for him. I like this reversible pattern from Michael Miller fabrics best. Make the gift even nicer by pairing it with an easy-to-make, matching chef’s hat (tocque is the proper name for these) or an oven mitt.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Reversible, adjustable apron & chef hat.

Handyman apron

Help him around the house by sewing a full-coverage handyman apron or an easy pocketed waist apron for holding nails or a few tools.

First aid kit

Everyone needs one. You can make it roll-up style, or with a zipper.

Zip bag

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Zip bags I made for guys yesterday.

Make him a small and simple zippered pouch for holding his cufflinks and jewelry, sketching pencils, or other small items. For something a bit roomier, here is a tutorial for a boxy toiletries bag that will work well to sew for dad.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

You can sew an easy zip bag in 15 minutes, or less.

Phone or glasses case

These are simple and easy to make. If you prefer, make a hanging charging pouch.

Tablet tote

This one is really easy to make; scroll down to see a manly looking option. The iPlaid is a good choice for a guy, or you could make one from scrap jeans.

Laptop sleeve or bag

If you can get your hands on his laptop to take measurements, then you can make this easy laptop sleeve in an hour or less. For something with a strap, make him a messenger style bag to fit his laptop.

Lunch bag

He’d probably rather not carry a cutesy lunch sack, so here’s how to sew a reusable brown bag with waxed canvas.

Wallet

Make it bifold or trifold. Or make him a simple business card wallet.

Other kits or bags

Make a tool roll or tool bag, a cord roll, a battery bandolier organizer, a monogrammed suede bag for his liquor bottle if he carries one to go, a shoe bag for travel. I’m making a patchwork quilted ukulele bag and a drumstick bag for my hubby this year. A soft padded guitar bag is a great idea, too.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

This fabric is perfect for lining his ukulele case.

Cup, can, or bottle cozy

Here are free tutorials to sew these for a can, a bottle, or a coffee cup.

Keychain

Lanyard type key fobs make useful gifts. You can make them with webbing, leather, even recycled jean denim. Here is a neat tutorial that includes a way to make these with a zipper for a place to stash cash. Or make something else useful to hang hang on his keychain, like a chapstick cozy or earbud or iphone pouch.

CD visor or book

Plenty of dads still keep their music on CD. If yours does, you can sew him a place to hold them on his car visor. I made one with a patchwork dive flag and ocean blue fabrics for my diver dad. You can also use felt to make pocket pages and sew a folder or book for holding CDs.

Baby carrier

Dads love to wear babies, and babies love it when they do. For a new dad, make a sling type, mei-tai, or a toddler sized soft structured carrier in a manly color or fabric.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

A mei-tai style baby carrier is super easy to sew and comfy for both dad & baby.

Sporting gifts

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Stadium blanket, photo courtesy Fons & Porter.

Hat

There are lots of ways to sew a hat. Here are tutorials and free patterns for a few different styles:

Shorts

Buy a simple pattern, or use my 10-minute way to make shorts. You can make the bandana style shorts in that link for men using four bandanas instead of two.  Just use two bandanas instead of one for each leg, and add side seams to sew these together. Add length at the rise with a matching or coordinating fabric, or cut a couple more bandanas in half and sew these at the top. Or choose a funky fabric and whip up some board shorts for him.

Tie / bowtie

Buy some silk and make him a stylish tie with a pocket square to match. Here are tutorials for a bow tie and how to add a secret wallet pocket to the back of any tie, too.

Scarf / cowl

Unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you probably won’t want to give dad a scarf for Father’s Day. But for winter holidays or birthdays, a scarf or cowl makes a great gift.

Do you have other ideas?

I am sewing all my Father’s Day gifts this year. What about you? Which of these ideas will you sew for dad? If you know any good gifts to sew for dad or men that aren’t on this list, please add them by commenting below.

DIY Car Seat Poncho

DIY Car Seat Poncho

Did you know it is not safe to put kids in winter jackets in car seats? It’s true. Winter jackets are so puffy that parents need to loosen the seat belts to accommodate them, however this loosening makes the child unsafe in their car seat should they be in an accident. The jackets would compress but the child would move too far forward for safety due to the loosened seat belts.

Snow day!

So what’s a parent to do who lives in cold weather?

So what’s a parent to do who lives in cold weather?

So what’s a parent to do who lives in cold weather? The good news is that you can still put snow pants on them. So use a pair of snow pants and a car seat poncho and all your problems are solved!

I’ve never sewed a hood before so I was excited to try something new and make one with this project. I used the pattern for the hood from Oliver & S’s Little Things To Sew Book and then attached the hood to my own design for the poncho.

I used the pattern for the hood from Oliver & S’s Little Things To Sew Book and then attached the hood to my own design for the poncho.

I used the pattern for the hood from Oliver & S’s Little Things To Sew Book and then attached the hood to my own design for the poncho.

Cozy pockets

I also wanted to make lined pockets on the inside of the poncho, so she could slide her hands inside them and keep toasty while the car warmed up.

I also wanted to make lined pockets on the inside of the poncho, so she could slide her hands inside them and keep toasty while the car warmed up.

I also wanted to make lined pockets on the inside of the poncho, so she could slide her hands inside them and keep toasty while the car warmed up.

I’ve been trying very hard lately to make my projects with materials I already have on hand. Everything you see for this car seat poncho, I already had in my stash.

If you’ve never sewn with minky or cuddle fabrics, I’m here to tell you that it’s time to try. They are so warm and cozy and people always like when you make gifts with minky. If you have a walking foot, use it when you’re sewing fabrics like these. For more on how to sew with minky, check out my post here.

Grab that pincushion

If you have a walking foot, use it when you're sewing fabrics like these. For more on how to sew with minky, check out my post here.

If you have a walking foot, use it when you’re sewing fabrics like these. For more on how to sew with minky, check out my post here.

When working with minky, you definitely need to pin things in place. I’m not a big fan of pins, except when you really do need them; sewing the hood and the neckline of the poncho was a definite need.

Tip: if you are going to add a ribbon so you can hang the jacket from the back of the neckline, this is the moment to do it.

When working with minky, you definitely need to pin things in place.

When working with minky, you definitely need to pin things in place.

Ta da!!! The hood is lined with a gorgeous cuddle fabric that looks like rose swirls. I used minky dot fabric on the underside of the poncho. The butterfly fabric is left over from a baby quilt I made last year.

The hood is lined with a gorgeous cuddle fabric that looks like rose swirls.

The hood is lined with a gorgeous cuddle fabric that looks like rose swirls.

Tales from the hood

When I tried the poncho on my youngest, the neckline was too big. No problem. I used my buttonhole foot to make two button holes right at the v of the neckline like this.

The butterfly fabric is left over from a baby quilt I made last year.

The butterfly fabric is left over from a baby quilt I made last year.

Next I threaded elastic through two buttons and tied knots on each side. This tightened up the neckline but still allowed her to easily pull it over her noggin.

Next I threaded elastic through two buttons & tied knots on each side.

Next I threaded elastic through two buttons & tied knots on each side.

Lovely, no?

Lovely, no?

Lovely, no?

Once the hood and neckline were complete I smoothed out the top and bottom fabrics and made sure they fully matched. Any parts that extended past each other got chopped. Then I pinned the HECK out of the entire poncho before adding binding (See all those pins?).

See all those pins?

See all those pins?

Put a clip on it

I used these awesome Wonder Clips by Clover to keep the edges in place as I added the binding.

I used these awesome Wonder Clips by Clover to keep the edges in place as I added the binding.

I used these awesome Wonder Clips by Clover to keep the edges in place as I added the binding.

This binding was extra I had made for a quilt last December. It matched the project perfectly.

This binding was extra I had made for a quilt last December.

This binding was extra I had made for a quilt last December.

Momma’s little helper

When everything was sewn, I enlisted the help of my six year old to remove all the pins and then get off any remaining fuzzies from sewing with minky.

I enlisted the help of my six year old to remove all the pins & then get off any remaining fuzzies from sewing with minky.

I enlisted the help of my six year old to remove all the pins & then get off any remaining fuzzies from sewing with minky.

Lastly, I ironed. Always, always iron. It takes your project to the next level!

Pro Tip: never iron on minky directly. Do not press too hard because you’ll ruin the pattern on the minky dots (you’ll flatten the dots). I ironed the top side with steam on a wool setting.

Never iron on minky directly.

Never iron on minky directly.

Here’s the finished project. My 4 year old absolutely loves what she calls her ‘car blanket.’

My 4 year old absolutely loves what she calls her ‘car blanket.’

My 4 year old absolutely loves what she calls her ‘car blanket.’

Safety first

See how she is safely buckled underneath the poncho?

See how she is safely buckled underneath the poncho?

See how she is safely buckled underneath the poncho?

The back of the poncho just drapes up and over the back of the car seat.

The back of the poncho just drapes up and over the back of the car seat.

The back of the poncho just drapes up and over the back of the car seat.

Here she is modeling it next to her daddy. Adding the elastic and buttons at the neckline was the perfect solution.

Here she is modeling it next to her daddy.

Here she is modeling it next to her daddy.

Under the hood

And here you can see the pockets that are on the underside.

And here you can see the pockets that are on the underside.

And here you can see the pockets that are on the underside.

Yep, this project was a hit. And she has plenty of room to grow with it.

Yep, this project was a hit. And she has plenty of room to grow with it.

Yep, this project was a hit. And she has plenty of room to grow with it.

I’m so glad I took the time to add something to hang it with.

I’m so glad I took the time to add something to hang it with.

I’m so glad I took the time to add something to hang it with.

Have you made your own car seat poncho? How do you like it? Let us know in comments!

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Charlotte Kaufman is a writer and sewist in Mammoth Lakes, California. She specializes in marine and home interiors and continues to fall more and more in love with quilting. You can follow her at charlottekaufman.com.
Sewing for All Seasons

Sewing for All Seasons

One of the things I love best about sewing as opposed to some of my other creative ventures is that I can do it any time of year. In the fall and winter, I can make blankets, jackets and other warm items. During the spring and summer months, I can make cute skirts and dresses and flowy decorative items. The different material weights and textures means it’s never too hot or too cold to sew! Here are some of my favorite projects for each season.

Sewing for All Seasons

Sewing for All Seasons

Winter

When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than lighting a fire and sewing something with warm, cuddly fabric.

Flannel Blanket

I absolutely adore flannel. It’s always warm and gets softer with each washing. This cozy blanket is easy to do and can be made in any size you like. We’re big on throw blankets in this house, so that’s what I did. Because flannel is available in so many colors and patterns, it’s easy to find something that will match your home and your personal style.

Dinosaur Hoodie

The challenge with winter is that kids are stuck inside. This sewing project will keep you warm and provide them with hours of imaginative play. Can you say “roooarrrr!”? Your kids will love playing dinosaur with this hoodie. Make a couple of the neighbor kids too and have a dino party!

Spring

Spring is a time of renewal. The weather warms up and life starts to return to the great outdoors. It’s still a bit cool to go out and enjoy it without a light cover up and there can be days on end of rain keeping you indoors. That’s where these sewing projects come in!

Napkins

Spring is often a time when we entertain more. We can open the windows and doors and guests can flow in and out without tracking snow, ice and dirt. Depending on the occasion, setting a pretty table can be part of the deal as hostess. Check out these colorful napkins. They’re perfect for spring and summer and a conversation starter too!

Picnic Blanket

It might be a bit cool yet to have a picnic, but it’s never too early to plan for one. This adorable picnic blanket is a great spring sewing project. While you’re inside working on it watching birds and other life return to your yard, you can daydream about that first picnic of the year. Won’t it be great with this new blanket?

Summer

Summer is all about hot days, trips to the beach and keeping cool. You may not be spending too much time with your sewing machine, but that’s okay. These quick projects won’t get you overheated – instead they’ll help you keep cool once they’re done.

Towel Wrap

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of getting out of the pool or ocean having to struggle with my towel. This fabulous towel wrap means I can keep my hands free for a drink and a book while still staying dry. Even better – it upcycles towels that might otherwise get tossed.

Wine Bag

To go with that lovely picnic blanket you made during the spring, you need a wine bag to tote your bottle for that elegant picnic. You could also use it as a wine gift bag if you need to bring a gift to a house party. It works up quickly and can be made for any style you can imagine.

Fall

I love fall! The changing leaves, the crisp air and the smell. It’s somehow romantic in a way. While I’m going to spend as much time outdoors as I can, there are some great fall sewing projects for those dreary fall days when I can’t get out.

Pillow

I love this! Making this pillow means I can bring some of the fall colors inside while using up some of my scrap stash. Don’t have all the colors? No problem! Remnants are cheap and easy to find in every color and pattern you’ll need.

Coasters

As much as I love fall, I dislike rings on the coffee and end tables as strongly. These adorable leaf coasters solve the problem while bringing all my favorite fall colors into the décor. I personally went for more realistic fabric colors, but you can do whatever you like.

What are some of your favorite seasonal sewing projects?