Silk Jammie Pants to Ruffled Scarf November 5, 2013

Filed under: DIY — VisibleBlue @ 2:40 pm
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DIY Pajama Pants to Ruffled Scarf

A few years back, my sister gave me some nice silk pajama pants for Christmas. After a lot of wear and tear, they developed a pretty big hole in a place too risque even for lounging around the house, so I retired them. It seemed a shame to throw away such nice fabric, so of course I had to think of a way to upcycle them!

Inspired by this blog post I found on Pinterest, I decided to try and turn them into a ruffled scarf. One pair of pants will make two scarves. Here’s how I did it.

First, I trimmed off all the hems and waistband, which left four vaguely leg-shaped panels.

Pants, trimmed of seams

I stacked the four panels and trimmed the wider parts until I was left with congruent rectangles. A rotary blade makes this pretty easy. The angle of the photo makes them look wider at one end, but try to make them roughly the same.

Long rectangles


Sew two of the panels together at the short sides into one long panel. The seams will not be very visible in your finished scarf. Don’t worry, when you add the ruffles, it’ll shrink considerably! Mine was about half the length after adding the ruffles. If you’d like a longer scarf, consider using three of the panels.

One long panel

At first I tried using all four panels, but it was too long – four are shown sewn together in this photo.


Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of this, but I finished the edges of the scarf with a rolled hem. You can do this on your sewing machine with a rolled hem presser foot, and it looks really nice on a lightweight fabric like this. If you need some instruction, here’s a nice video that should help. If you can’t do a rolled hem, a regular one should be fine!

Sewing rufflesThe final step is to sew the ruffles. The easiest way to do this is by using elastic thread on your bobbin (hand-wound, not too tight, not too loose!), with thread that matches your scarf on the top. Sew a line straight down your scarf, right side up, about one-third of the width of the scarf away from the edge. Repeat on the other side. Repeat in between your two lines, and you’re done! With three lines of elastic thread, my scarf is about three feet long. The more lines you sew, the shorter it will get. This lightweight scarf makes a great accessory for fall or spring.


Bowser Costume, Part 3 – The Head October 25, 2013

Filed under: DIY,Kids — VisibleBlue @ 12:13 am
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Alright, we’re in the home stretch now! If you missed part one (the body) or part two (the shell) of the Bowser costume series, head that way and we’ll meet back here! If not, welcome to the most nebulous, frustrating, and free-form part of the costume – Bowser’s head! If I were to do the whole costume over again, I definitely would have started with this part, when I had some momentum! Now, a week away from Halloween, I just want to get the damn thing done. And sadly, it shows. Oh well, here we go!

Remember our Simplicity 2506 pattern? We’re going to use that again for the head. Use the pattern for the dragon head – but don’t include the spikes. It’s basically just a regular hood.  Make sure you use the green fleece for his head – it’s not gold like the rest of his body. (Yep, I ended up making two hoods for that reason.) Also, cut out and sew the horns (using the cream felt) from the devil costume. Stuff, pin, and sew them onto the hood. You should set them slightly wider apart than I did.

Draw the hair shape, but be sure to leave room for the seam allowance!

Draw the hair shape, but be sure to leave room for the seam allowance!

For Bowser’s hair, draw a shape on the red felt that roughly follows the curve of the hood, with spikes on top. Make sure to account for seam allowance on the spikes when you draw them. Stack two layers of the felt and cut out your shape. Clip and fold up the bottom 1/4″ for a nicer finish (see fig. 1). Sew along the the top of the hair, turn, and press.  Stuff the hair with polyfill and pin to your hood. Faster option – instead of the spikes included in the pattern, cut out the shape of Bowser’s hair and sew it in the center of the hood, just like the pattern does with the spikes. All that hand sewing takes quite a lot of time.

Fig. 1 - Sew along the unfolded edges.

Fig. 1 – Sew along the unfolded edges.

Yes, astute reader, the hood should have been green! That is why it looks like an evil rooster.

Yes, astute reader, the hood should have been green! That is why it looks like an evil rooster.

While you have the red felt out, cut out two eyebrow shapes, like this:


Also cut out the parts of the eyes (two of each, obviously.) You’ll need red circles for the irises, smaller black circles for the pupils, and tiny white circles for the “shine”. Cut four sort-of-ovular shapes out of the white felt for the eyeballs. Sew two of them together, leaving space to stuff, and trim the edges. Firmly stuff the eyes and close the gap. I glued the parts of the eyes together, and ran a needle and thread through the iris where the “shine” would be just to ensure that they would stay put. Sew the eyes into place, and glue the eyebrows on top of them. Faster option – 2-D  eyes would be perfectly lovely, too!

The scale will be totally dependent on the size of your hood, but in my version, the irises are a little larger than a nickel.

The scale will be totally dependent on the size of your hood, but in my version, the irises are a little larger than a nickel. Just eyeball it. Ha! Get it?

The longer I look at this, the creepier it gets.

The longer I look at this, the creepier it gets.

Now, the mouth. Ahhh, the mouth, my biggest challenge, and biggest disappointment. I’m sure I’ll spend the next week tweaking it to try and get it to look right, but for now, here’s what I have. I really had no idea where to start. My initial idea of molding felt around ping pong balls didn’t really pan out, so I had a glass of wine or two, didn’t come up with any brilliant ideas, and decided just to make a tube out of the cream felt.  I wanted to at least have some definition in the nose, so I sort of folded the edges in and sewed them in place. This created kind of a “point” at the bottom, which I folded back and sewed down. I wish I could explain that better, but I’m really not sure how.

This is the point at which I knew this would not end well.

Underside of the mouth. It looks strikingly like a sock. This is the point at which I knew this would not end well.

Closer version of the mouth - the blue is where nostrils would go.

Closer version of the mouth – the blue is where nostrils would go.

teethI stuffed the center firmly and the ends more loosely. I cut out three sets of triangles for teeth from the white felt, and sewed them onto the bottom of the mouth, pressing them down at the seam. Then I closed up the edges and sewed the whole thing to the hood.

So here are the problems I’m left with: The mouth is too low and makes it difficult for my son to see out. I’m going to add some elastic to the back of the hood in hopes that it will pull the front up a bit. Also, the mouth is too wide. I want it to fold down in the middle and up at the edges a bit. Tying the ribbons under his chin helps a bit, but it’s not what I had envisioned. Anyone have any ideas? I have a week left – I’d love to hear them!

Doing his best Bowser impression.

Doing his best Bowser impression.


Bowser Costume, Part 2 – The Shell October 17, 2013

DIY Bowser Shell for Costume

Did you miss part one of the Bowser costume series?

In part two, we’ll cover just the shell. This is a really flexible project and could easily be adapted as a pillow or turtle shell if that’s what you’re looking for. For a pillow, I’d advise against using the felt and instead stick with fleece or something more durable. I know I’d be making a million of these little Bowser shell pillows if there wasn’t so much hand sewing involved! The materials required for this project are discussed in part one.

A note before we begin – I was making this up as I went along, and did some things that perhaps weren’t necessary. Do as I say, not as I do!

First, you’ll need a large piece of cardboard. This will help with the structural integrity, as well as limit the amount of stuffing you need. If you’re making a pillow, you can skip this step! Determine the size of the shell (for a costume) by measuring the distance between the neck of the jumpsuit and the top of the tail. Sketch an oval roughly that size on the cardboard. You don’t need to be a perfectionist about it – this will all be hidden under quite a lot of material and stuffing. Cut out the oval and make four cuts, shown in the picture as red lines, where the corners would be if it were a rectangle. This will help us shape the shell.

Cut out the oval, and make cuts along the red lines.

Cut out the oval, and make cuts along the red lines.

Overlap the cut edges to pop the center of the oval up a bit and tape them together, as in the photo below. Place your oval on a doubled layer of green fleece and cut about two inches outside the oval. (The photo shows more than two inches, but the extra wasn’t necessary.)


Cut a piece of iron-on batting just slightly larger than the cardboard. Adhere this to the wrong side of the fleece that will be the top of the shell.

Now let’s work on the spikes. If you’re making a turtle shell, you can skip this step, unless it’s a particularly bad-ass turtle. Cut ten half-circles out of felt. The necessary size will vary based on the size of your shell, so try making them out of paper and setting them on your shell until it looks right. Remember that your felt spike will be a bit smaller after sewing and turning it, so make it just a little larger than necessary. Bowser has four spikes down the center and three spikes on each side of his shell. Fold each half-circle in half, corners together, and sew along the straight edge. Clip the point and turn the spike inside out.

My half-circles were about 4.5" in diameter.

My half-circles were about 4.5″ in diameter.


Lay the green fleece with the batting on top of your cardboard oval, right side up. Place your spikes in their desired positions, if you’re using them. With white chalk, draw hexagons on the fleece – around the spikes or however you like. Remove the spikes and machine sew along these lines and through the batting.

hex quilt

When I did the next part, I sandwiched the two layers of green fleece, right sides together, and sewed around the edges. Then I turned it inside out. What I would do differently is stuff the spikes, pin them in place (bottom edges turned under slightly, seams facing the bottom of the shell), and hand sew them on. Then I would have basted the two layers together, WRONG sides together, with the cardboard and stuffing in place. There is really no reason to turn the shell inside out since the raw edge will be encased anyway, and it would have been a lot easier to sew the spikes on with access to the back, not to mention sewing through half as many layers for the edge. If you choose to do it the hard way for some reason, be sure to leave a gap large enough to insert the cardboard oval and stuffing. Don’t be surprised if your shell looks like a giant misshapen blob at this point – the binding should clean and tighten it up a bit!

pinspikes stuff

For the binding, we’re basically going to make some giant single fold bias tape (though I didn’t cut mine on the bias). Measure the circumference of the shell and add four or five inches. This is the length of felt you should cut. The width will just depend on how fat you want your binding. My tape was about four inches wide, plus an additional 1/2″ on each side. Fold and press the edges toward the center.
If you need a little help sewing bias tape on a curve, here’s a nice video that explains it. It’s worth a watch before trying this, as this is the method I used. First, unfold one edge of the tape and pin it to the top of the shell, right sides together, all along the edge of the shell. Start at the bottom of the shell. When you reach your starting point, trim the excess tape and make sure to fold the end of the tape under a bit, positioning the folded edge under the raw edge so you end up with a nice seam. Sew the length of the tape, staying right on the fold line.

pinedge sewedge

Fold the tape over to the other side and stuff it with polyfill, pinning in place. Stitch it closed along the seam. You may need to do this by hand – I did, but of course I had more layers to sew through after turning the shell and my machine couldn’t hack it!

Stuff the edge pretty firmly

Stuff the edge pretty firmly

You can see the folded seam where the ends of the binding meet.

You can see the folded seam where the ends of the binding meet.

We’re in the home stretch now! Remember those upper arm straps we made back in part one? All we need to do is sew them in place! (And hey…if you made a pillow, you’re already done!) Grab your child (or dog, or whoever you’re making the shell for – I have to admit I’m pretty tempted to make a Koopa Paratroopa costume for my Corgi now) and pin the straps into place (think backpack). Hand sew them, and that’s it! Of course, I know there are red rings around Bowser’s spikes, but that’s just not a priority for me right now. I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to add some red cord around the spikes if you just have to have it! I’ll see you in a few days for part three (Bowser’s head) – assuming I finish it!



Can a 3-Year-Old Be King of the Koopas?

Filed under: DIY,Kids — VisibleBlue @ 12:02 am
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**2019 Update** The Simplicity 2506 pattern I used for this costume is no longer done2available. I haven’t tried it, but Simplicity 1765 looks like a good replacement option. Please let me know if you try it out!

**2017 Update** Every year I get a few requests to sell this costume or make new ones, and I regret that I am unable to do so. I wish you all the best of luck in finding another costume or making one for yourself!

Halloween is a busy time here at VisibleBlue. I get more traffic during October than any other month, no doubt thanks to the Cookie Monster costume series. But hey, that’s not really a surprise, considering I’m a terrible slacker during the rest of the year and I’ve updated….oh….only 4 or 5 times since then. Pathetic! Now I’m just going to go ahead and drum up some more Halloween traffic with this latest series – homemade Bowser costume!

This year, after some particularly inspired costume ideas (“tree,” “floor,” “mystery”) my son landed on Bowser – you know, the villain from the Super Mario Brothers franchise. Why pick a villain? Straight from his mouth: “I like monsters, and Bowser has spikes and I don’t have spikes.” Let’s remedy that, shall we?

I thought this would be a fairly simple purchase. I see tons of Marios and Luigis every Halloween, so surely one of the most recognizable video game villains of all time would have his own costume! As it turns out, he does not. The only one I could find was a full-size adult mascot-style costume. Hey, at least I have some practice at this costume-making thing!

I decided to break the costume down into parts, and I’ll do the same with these posts. The first post will focus on Bowser’s body, the second part of the series will be his shell, and in the third, we’ll construct his head. I’ll try to get the other two posts out before the week is over, but I’m actually still working on the head as we speak.

So let’s take a look at the main body parts. Hey, look! He’s basically just a dinosaur. Now where have I seen this costume before…Oh yeah! My new favorite purchase, the Simplicity 2506 pattern! Last year I modified the devil pattern to make Cookie Monster, and this year I tweaked the dinosaur pattern a bit and came up with a pretty passable Bowser! I used gold and cream fleece for his skin, and felt for everything else. I followed the pattern mostly as directed (minus the head), with a few exceptions.

The Materials

For the whole project – not all of these will be used in part one. This list assumes you’re making the costume for a small child – for a larger kid or adult, you’ll need to increase the yardage accordingly!

  • Gold fleece, as per the pattern
  • Cream fleece, as per the pattern (contrast)
  • Green fleece (about half a yard)
  • Black felt (one sheet)
  • Red felt (two sheets)
  • White felt (one sheet)
  • Cream felt (about half a yard) ( I used white, but wish I had bought cream instead.)
  • Batting (1/2 yard)
  • Polyfill (10 oz.)
  • Thread (green, black, cream, red, gold)
  • Notions as per the pattern
  • Studs or spikes (I salvaged mine from an old belt-turned-bag, but I have seen them at Jo-Ann Fabric)
  • Black ribbon, nylon webbing, or another material suitable for straps

The Feet

Stitching toenails

Three toenails per foot!

Like last year, I omitted the bottom of the booties so he can wear them like spats over his shoes. A strip of elastic holds them to his feet. I cut six teardrops out of white felt and sewed them to the front of the booties for toenails.

The Stomach

I added a few extra lines of quilting to the stomach, though in hindsight, I only needed to add one. I got a bit overzealous, I guess!

The Tail

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of this process, but it wasn’t too difficult. Where the pattern directs you to cut the tail spike pieces, I chose to use white felt, and I only cut two pieces. I sewed and turned them like directed, but stuffed them firmly before sewing them into the tail. I prefer the 3-D spikes over the flat ones.

The Jewelry

4 upper arm pieces (to be joined into 2 strips), 2 wrist pieces, 2 neck pieces (to be joined into 1)

4 upper arm pieces (to be joined into 2 strips), 2 wrist pieces, 2 neck pieces (to be joined into 1)

Bear with me a bit, because here’s where the science goes out the window and the art comes into play. To make Bowser’s bracelets, necklace, and arm bands (which actually are not used in this section, but will come back in the shell tutorial), I cut strips of black felt approximately one inch wide. If you prefer, you could use something a bit stronger than felt for the upper arm straps, as they will be supporting the shell. If I had to do it over again, I might use ribbon or nylon webbing.) For the bracelets, I measured the distance around the wrist and was able to cut the felt an inch or so longer than that measurement. For the upper arm straps and neck, I had to sew two strips together to get the appropriate length. Here’s a photo of the strips after cutting – wrist pieces are labeled in chalk with “W”, upper arm pieces with “U”, and neck with “N”. I just guessed on the length of the upper arm pieces – you want to end up with something around the same length as backpack straps. For the spikes, I salvaged an old bag from another lifetime. They may not be as pokey as Bowser’s, but you get the idea. Plus, my son has to wear this to preschool.

It is.

This may or may not be me.

Did I think, 12 years later, I'd be using these on a Halloween costume? Not in a million years.

Did I think, 13 years later, I’d be using these on a Halloween costume for a kid? Not in a million years.

After putting all the studs into the felt (they have little prongs on the back), I hand sewed the bracelets onto the costume wristbands, and the necklace onto the neckband, leaving about half an inch of overlap. I added a piece of hook and loop tape to each side of the necklace.

Bring on the shell!

It'd be cuter with a kid in it.

It’d be cuter with a kid in it.


Egg-Free No-Cook Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream March 22, 2013

Filed under: Food — VisibleBlue @ 1:41 pm
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Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream

A few months ago, my husband got me an ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid stand mixer. Since that time, I’ve made a number of tasty ice creams, but none have been so easy with such good results as this one – described to me as “Cinnabon in ice cream form.” I served it with fresh apple crisp, but honestly, I think it’s better on its own. Maybe a smidge of caramel sauce, if you’re into that sort of thing. A few almonds wouldn’t hurt either. Without further ado, the recipe:

Cinnamon Roll Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart

  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (chilled – I stuck mine in the freezer for about 20 minutes while I made the apple crisp)
  • 1 1/4 c whipping cream
  • 1  c whole milk
  • 1/4 c sugar (I used raw for a richer flavor)
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 t almond extract
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  1. Add all the ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk rapidly to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  2. Freeze according to ice cream maker directions, 20 minutes or so.
  3. Transfer to sealed container to set in the freezer, at least 4 hours.

To be honest, I had pretty large granules of sugar at the bottom of my mixture and if you wanted to heat the milk separately and dissolve the sugar and salt, you could absolutely do that, but you would need to chill the mixture for several hours before churning. At that point, you might as well use eggs! My mantra for ice cream is (almost) the same as the one we repeat when brewing our own beer: “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew homechurn(?).” The ice cream turned out fine – creamy and rich – and I haven’t even once crunched on an un-dissolved sugar or salt crystal. It stays scoopable after freezing and has a lovely subtle buttery flavor that reminds me so much of my Mom’s cinnamon rolls!


GameCube Overhaul March 21, 2013

Filed under: DIY,Net Neighbors — VisibleBlue @ 12:59 pm
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Hey! I guest blogged over at my husband’s computer programming blog, Don’t worry, it’s not about coding! We’ve been working on a neat little project with a Raspberry Pi and an old GameCube, and I go over the methods we used to paint the plastic case, and a little logo mod. I hope you guys like it – here’s the finished product!

Quart's New Skin


Super Easy Play Stove from Food Crate January 28, 2013

Filed under: DIY,Kids — VisibleBlue @ 9:55 pm
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Finished Stove

I live in a small house. It is so easy for my son’s toys to absolutely overrun the living room, and that is why he doesn’t have a play kitchen, even though playing with his play food is one of his favorite activities. Today, while he was unpacking his Melissa and Doug Cutting Food, I had an inspiration. He’s storing his food in this sturdy crate that comes with the food, why not turn it into a stove?

Thirty minutes later, we had a (still slightly sticky) easy-to-store stovetop, ready to make peanut butter-and-zucchini soup, or whatever it is he likes to cook. All it took was some construction paper and glue. There are no three-dimensional knobs, so it stores flat on the shelf, with all the food inside. Of course you could make this with a cardboard box or whatever you have lying around. On another day, I’ll make a little cardboard oven to set this stovetop on, with a door and rack, but this was enough crafting for today.

The whole process is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’d like more detail, read on!


  • Crate or cardboard box
  • Construction paper: 2 sheets of each – orange, black, white
  • Mod Podge or other glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • Compass (optional)
  • Paint pen (optional)

Cut your white paper to fit the surface of the crate. Don’t worry too much about overhang, you can trim it later (I really should have done that before taking pictures. That’ll teach me to try and crank out a tutorial quickly.) Spread a layer of glue on the surface and adhere the white paper. Try to smooth out any wrinkles (again, I did a horrible job of that.) Paint on another layer of glue.


Draw a spiral slightly smaller than the black circles you cut out.

Draw a spiral slightly smaller than the black circles you cut out.

Cut out four identical circles from the black paper – you can use a compass, or trace something round like a small bowl. My circles were about 4 3/4 inches in diameter. Glue these onto the white paper. Draw a circle of the same size onto the orange paper. Inside this circle, draw a spiral, freehand, keeping the negative space slightly larger than the desired width of the finished “coils.” Cut along your line. Don’t worry too much if it’s not so smooth – you’ll even it out in the next step. After your spiral is cut, trim a small amount (enough to let the black show through all around the coils) from both the inside and outside edges. Center your coil on one of the black circles, and glue it all down. Repeat for the other three coils.

This cap is around an inch in diameter.

This cap is around an inch in diameter.

For the knobs, I just found an object roughly the size I wanted (I used a lid from an almond milk container) and traced it onto the black paper. I cut all four out at a time and glued them to the bottom. Afterward, I gave everything another nice thick coat of Mod Podge. When it had all dried, I marked “hi” and “low” on the knobs with a white paint marker.

All glued!


Tutorial: Tablet Cozy November 17, 2012

Filed under: DIY — VisibleBlue @ 10:28 pm
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Our wedding anniversary was this week, and my dear husband got me a Nexus 7. (As well as a custom app that tells me how long we’ve been  married – 7 years, 4 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes, and 50 seconds as of this writing.) With a toddler in the house and a notoriously cluttered purse, I knew I needed a protective cover of some sort if it was to survive until our 8th anniversary. Enter the DIY tablet sleeve.

You’ll want a little more room for seam allowance on the side.

I’ve had some lovely, soft, green minky in my fabric collection for some time, earmarked for baby blankets but sadly neglected. I paired it up with a pair of scrap-pile flannel pajama pants. I wanted a little padding for the case, so I also grabbed some leftover thick fleece to go between the layers. You need very little fabric to make a sleeve for a small tablet like the Nexus 7 or iPad Mini, so scraps are great for this project. You will obviously need thread as well, and a closure of some sort and interfacing if you like.

The first thing you need to do is cut out your fabric. If you’re using a rotary cutter, you can cut all three layers at once. I was constrained by the width of my pajama legs (I wanted vertical stripes) so I had to cut it really close, but you can measure your tablet, double the width and add about an inch for seam allowance and ease, and add about a half inch to the height. For the Nexus 7, that’s about the size of a sheet of paper.  If you’d like to use a tab closure, cut a strip about 1 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long from the lining, outer fabric, and interfacing. (I didn’t use interfacing, but I wish I would have. This tab will take some abuse.)

Stack order and orientation

Stack the three pieces of fabric that will compose the body in this order: padding on the bottom, lining (RIGHT side up) next, and outer fabric (WRONG side up) on top. If you’re using snaps like I did, you will want to put the snap on the body at this time, before you make any stitches. This way, you can put it only through the outer fabric and avoid having the hard back rubbing against the screen of your tablet.  Put your tablet on the fabric and fold it over to determine where the center (and thus the snap) will need to go.  Don’t forget to account for seam allowance along the top! Make sure to position the snap with the business side down, like in the picture. If you’re using a magnetic or hook and loop closure, you can do those the same way. (Curious where I got these snaps? I’ve ordered from and have always been happy with my experience. If you’d like a referral to be used toward a future purchase, let me know in the comments!)

Topstitch it if you’re good at that sort of thing – I’m not, but I did it anyway.

You will also need to make the tab at this time. Fuse the interfacing to the back of one of the pieces. You can add the other half of the closure at this time, if you want it to be invisible, or wait until everything else is done in order to line them up exactly how you’d like. With right sides together, sew close to the edges on the two long sides and the top. You can make this a curved edge or leave it square. Trim the seam allowance to make it easier to turn and less bulky. Turn the tab inside out and press. I chose to topstitch, mostly because I didn’t want to iron, but that’s optional.

Brought to you by a litre of beer.

Put the tab on the opposite side of your snap, open end matched up with the top of your fabric stack, between the outer and inner fabric layers, with the side you want to face out (contrasting lining for me) facing up. Unfortunately, we went for beer and brats in the middle of this project and when I came back and finished it, my photo-taking suffered. I blame Oktoberfest. Anyway, please refer to the graphic instead. Pin the top edge and fold the outer fabric over, to make sure everything is properly placed and the tab has the correct side up. Unfold it if you’re happy!

Top edge and snap, seam allowance trimmed.

Stitch only the top edge. Trim the seam allowance. Fold the outer fabric over the seam, to encase the padding. Press the seam, and topstitch if desired. You’re almost done! Lay the fabric flat, right (outer) side up. Place your tablet on one side and fold the other side over. Line it up vertically (do you want the top peeking out or hidden?) and pin around the tablet, making sure your closure is centered. Take out the tablet and sew up the side and bottom. Trim the seam allowances and clip the corners. Turn out the bag. Attach the other closure if you haven’t already.

There are a lot of ways to customize this case. You could add a pocket, appliqués, or even quilt the fabric after stitching the top edge. Make a flap or use a zipper  instead of a tab to keep it closed. Add a little charging port. This is a great way to upcycle old clothes – I’m planning on making another from old felted cashmere sweaters. Whatever you use, make sure to use something soft to go against the screen – bonus points if you can use it to clean the screen!


Square Foot Gardening – Post Mortem November 1, 2012

Filed under: Food,Gardening — VisibleBlue @ 10:29 pm
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Last weekend, Hurricane Sandy brought a cold front through my neck of the woods, and with it, an end to my gardening season. Sure, I still have a few squares of lettuce and the kale and nasturtium are going strong, but pulling down yards and yards of (still flowering!) tomato plants broke my heart. Still, with the end of one season comes the planning of the next, so here’s what worked and didn’t work for me, and what I’ll do differently for next year.

For the record, I live in zone 6a.

Garden, late June. You can see the tomatoes on the left side, already at the top of the trellis, and pumpkin on the right side, already invading the neighbor’s yard.

General setup: Two 3′ by 4′ boxes, each 6″ deep, filled with the Mel’s Mix recipe. Two 4′ by 6′ trellises, on the east side of the boxes, against a fence. (I know, I know, horrible placement for a garden, but I have a small yard in the city, and not a lot of choice on where to locate!) I did not add fertilizer or anything other than water throughout the season. When replanting squares, I replenished with compost.

Spring Planting: 

  • 2 squares red onions (variety unknown) – 30 small-medium sized onions harvested. Next year I will do a smaller variety or plant the larger ones 9 to a square, as well as plant a sweeter yellow variety.
  • 2 squares ‘Super Sugar Snap’ peas – Harvested occasionally until hot weather, but never enough at one time for a side dish. Next year I will do at least 4 squares. Peas are my favorite!
  • 2 squares ‘Winterbor’ kale – Still going strong, in November, and nearly 3′ tall at this point! They have escaped the box and are annexing the sidewalk.
  • 2 squares ‘Short ‘n Sweet’ organic carrots – around 25 harvested.
  • 1 square ‘Salad Select’ spinach – A handful of leaves harvested. This was one of my bigger disappointments, and I’m not certain if it was lack of light or something else, but I will try at least one square next year.
  • 2 squares ‘Rainbow Blend’ microgreens – I never really ended up using these, but I could have harvested plenty…
  • 3 squares ‘Burpee’s Looseleaf Mixture’ lettuce – Very prolific, and I was able to harvest well into the hotter days of summer. I will do at least 2 squares of this next year.

Summer Planting:

100% garden-sourced salad.

  • 2 squares ‘Jewel Mix’ nasturtium – 50/50 results on this. One plant limped through the season, producing really weak foliage and just a few flowers, while the other plant did great and is still going. I’ll probably do these in containers next year, but it was nice to have some color in the garden beds.
  • 3 squares ‘Bush Blue Lake 274’ organic beans – These did horribly. The cucumber beetles devoured them and I never got a single bean. If I have some open squares next year I may try again, but these will not be a priority.
  • 2 squares unknown squash – One turned out to be a pumpkin, and the other never produced fruit. This was a fantastic example of why not to plant volunteer squash in a square foot garden, though. The two plants completely overtook my trellis, started in on the other trellis, ended up over the fence in my neighbor’s yard, and sprawled about 12 feet into the rest of my yard. We had every pest imaginable, including squash vine borers, cucumber beetles, squash beetles, and what I think was powdery mildew. It was a mess, but for my trouble I got 5 cute small pumpkins, which were actually fun to carve instead of the tedious giant ones we usually do at Halloween. These plants also completely blocked the light of the surrounding squares, essentially rendering that box unusable until fall.
  • 1 square basil – I only had one plant left after something ate the other four. It did okay, but didn’t get much light after being shadowed by enormous tomato plants.
  • 1 square cumin – Never sprouted (thanks, giant squash plant.)
  • 1 square dill – Ditto above.
  • 1 square serrano pepper – Harvested about 20 peppers. I probably would have been able to get more, but the plant produced one pepper, and didn’t flower anymore until after I harvested that one. I wish I had cut it sooner. The plant was still flowering when I pulled it over the weekend.
  • 1 square ‘Rose de Berne’ tomato – Least favorite of the tomatoes I planted. Harvested a handful around mid-summer, and just a few since then. I’ll pass on this one next year. Still, even the smallest and least prolific of my tomatoes was over 6′ tall and still flowering at the end of October.
  • 1 square ‘Valencia’ tomato – We loved this one, and got a lot of tomatoes off the plant. They look so pretty in a salad or salsa!
  • 1 square ‘German Johnson’ tomato – Very prolific, very HUGE. This one went all the way up the trellis, then folded over the top and went all the way back down, and started going up again! We got some nice fat tomatoes, at least 6″ in diameter, as well as some smaller ones.
  • 1 square ‘Sungold’ cherry tomatoes – Definitely my favorite garden item this year. I could not believe how big this plant got, and we’ve been swimming in cherry tomatoes since before the fourth of July! They are so juicy and sweet, my son ate handfuls every time we went outside.

Side view of garden in mid-July.

Autumn Planting:

has pretty much been a failure this year. Everything went in kind of late because I had to get rid of the squash first, and everything’s getting eaten up by animals of some sort. (I hope it’s not my dog!) Still, here’s what went in:

  • 2 squares carrots – Maybe I’ll see them next year?
  • 1 square looseleaf lettuce – 2 plants survived.
  • 1 square ‘Tom Thumb’ butterhead lettuce – Still holding out hope for this one.
  • 1 square spinach – Another miserable failure.
  • 2 squares (8 heads) hardneck garlic – So excited about this one! See you in 2013…

So what will change for next year? First of all, I plan on putting in 2 more boxes, on the other side of the yard. (Yes, next to a fence on the west side. Sigh.)

One 2′ x 4′ box will be only for tomatoes, and I’ll do a taller trellis (using the entire 10′ length of conduit, I think) perpendicular to the fence. I’ll be making this change for several reasons: first of all, the foliage of the tomatoes shaded everything in the box except the kale, which escaped onto the sidewalk. Secondly, 6′ was just too short for even the smallest tomato plant I grew this year! And orienting the trellis perpendicular to the fence will make harvesting easier – on a few occasions, I had to have my monkey-armed husband reach the tomatoes on the very inside of the plants. I need to be more careful with pinching the suckers – I was very good about it, until we had to abandon our house for a powerless week. When I came back, it had grown so much that I just gave up and let them go. I’d like to do 6-8 different plants next year, and add a paste-type tomato or two.

I will also be building one deeper box, for root vegetables. I really want to try growing potatoes next year! I’ll put the carrots and onions in there as well.

With the squash out of the picture, I’ll have room for cucumbers on my trellis. I grew a few of the ‘Homemade Pickles’ variety in a pot, but I’d like to see how they’d do in the SFG, with proper support. I also want a bell pepper plant (we got tons of these in the CSA this year, but we won’t be joining next summer) and possibly another chili pepper. I’ve also got  a whole list of herbs I’d like to try, though I’m not 100% sold on doing these in the boxes if I don’ t have room. Even though space is an issue for me in my yard, square foot gardening helps me to get a ton of different crops into the limited area I have!


Homemade Cookie Monster Costume, Part Deux October 23, 2012

I’m going to go ahead and post this without a proper finished project picture since we’re just a week away from Halloween right now, and some of you (slackers!) might still be looking for resources to help you craft a homemade Cookie Monster costume for a child. If you’re super short on time, just make the eyes and attach them to the hood of a blue sweatshirt, throw on some blue sweatpants, and you’re done!

You will need:

  • Pattern for jumpsuit-style costume with headpiece (I used Simplicity 2506 and modified it to suit my needs)

    Simplicity 2506

    Do you see Cookie Monster in here somewhere?

  • Blue or white shaggy faux fur in the amount the pattern calls for (for my 2T-wearing son, it was about 1 5/8 yard)
  • Notions, as per the pattern
  • Blue fabric dye for the fur, if it isn’t blue already (I used iDye Poly)
  • One set of googly eyes

I was able to find everything I needed (except the eyes) at my local Jo-Ann.

Major disclaimer before we begin – I did end up saving money by making the costume myself, but it was a huge investment of time and energy – don’t underestimate the value of your own time! It may not be worth it to save the extra $10-$20 when you need to put ten or more hours of work into the costume. (I’m a pretty amateur seamstress so your mileage will definitely vary on that estimate. You will need basic sewing skills and the ability to make sense of a pattern.) That said, I still enjoyed this project, and of course I’m happy to be able to say that I made it myself. My mom always made my Halloween costumes as a kid, and I’m glad that I can do the same for my son.

"After" picture of blue fur

Previously white fur after dying with blue iDye Poly

First things first – if your faux fur isn’t blue, you will need to dye it. Since it is probably polyester, nylon, or a blend, you won’t be able to use traditional (Rit) dye. I found some iDye Poly in the dye aisle of the store, picked up a blue pouch, and crossed my fingers. My faux fur was a long-pile, 60% polyester, 40% nylon white fabric, and the dye actually turned it the perfect shade of blue. You need to boil the fabric for up to an hour, however, and it is stinky, messy business. You will need a stainless steel pot big enough to boil the fabric – for me, that was a giant stock pot that we use to make beer. DO NOT let it boil over – you will end up with blue everything. I boiled the fabric for about 45 minutes. After rinsing it thoroughly  I washed it with a gentle cleanser and hung it to dry in my bathtub. If you need to clean up after – my stovetop and bathtub were a little blue, as well as the inside of the stock pot – Mr. Clean Magic Erasers seem to do a good job. My fabric ended up pretty warped at the selvedges unfortunately, but I was able to pull it into shape along the bias well enough to cut out the pattern.

After the fabric has completely dried, follow your pattern to make the jumpsuit portion. As I said above, I used the Simplicity 2506 pattern and modified it. I used the jumpsuit from style E without the tail, the headpiece from view A without the ears (which ended up being oddly small, and I will need to go back and fix,) and made the booties into spats, without the soles. I sewed a piece of elastic to the bottom to keep the toes of my son’s shoes covered. Make SURE to follow the nap of the fabric when you cut out the pattern pieces – otherwise, the fur won’t lie the same on all pieces, and it will look weird.

The final step is to attach the eyes. (If you missed the post on DIY googly eyes made from ping-pong balls, click here.) I used my Dremel to make two small holes in the bottom of each eyeball and sewed them to the headpiece with embroidery floss. They move around just the right amount when you walk! Now all you need to do is get your child to practice saying “OM NOM NOM!”

Finished Cookie Monster Costume

My husband suggested that this would make a great Cookie Monster-skin rug when Halloween is over.

It was 39 degrees and raining. Couldn’t get the head on while he was wearing the hood, but at least the dye stayed fast and he didn’t come home all blue!