A Quick & Dirty Kilt

A few months ago my son, a high school senior, was debating trying out for his school’s production of Macbeth. He wasn’t actually in Shakespeare class but he had an independent​ study block that hour so it would work. I encouraged​ him in this venture as it would be something new and different for him; an experience. And for once he actually listened to me. He did it and got the part he tried out for; I’m still not even sure which. It’s a small one with just a couple lines, something just big enough to say he did it, that he was there, and just big enough to require a costumes. A kilt preferably, my almost man-child informed me over a month ago. Low and behold this week it was time to make the aforementioned kilt. Past time, really, since dress rehearsal/tech week had snuck up on us. It wasn’t just a case of my normal procrastinating ways that pushed the kilt making to the very last minute, this spring has been remarkably busy with multiple graduations in our family (mine, this kid’s, and my daughter’s 8th grade) and my return to working full time mixed in with the usual end of school year chaos and spring activities.

Naturally my first course of action was to Google “How to make a kilt”. As it turns out kilt making is a very specific age-old art. I did not have the time (or the funds for nine yards of plaid) to make an authentic kilt. And thus the Quick & Dirty kilt was hatched.

My Google research lead me to a wikiHow site which had comprehensive instructions on measuring, calculating yardage, and making proper pleats that I skimmed over and proceeded to follow only loosely. For example, instead of measuring my son’s waist and hips and calculating the pleat width to determine how much fabric I’d need to buy I went off my sons pants waist size, asked to see what two yards of the potential kilt fabric looked like and deemed that Good Enough. In retrospect two and a half yards would have been closer to ideal.

In keeping with the theme of in-authenticity I selected a lime green and navy purple-ish shirting flannel. It’s soft but not baby blanket soft. The main criteria was color (not traditional green or dark blue) and price. I didn’t want to break the bank on a one-time quick costume.

The fabric was about the right length straight off the bolt which made my life easier. I kept it folded over at the top (which became the waist) to give it a little more heft and thickness. After cutting a five inch strip off one end of the fabric I set to work making pleats. The instructions recommended a 16-20 inch flat front panel followed by pleats and some excess fabric to wrap under the front.

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I started with 17 inches for the flat front (but ended up pulling one more pleat over) and pinched about an inch of fabric to bring towards the front in a pleat. I think making the plaid look right on the pleats is more important than having a specific measurement for each pleat. For this particular plaid the pleats ended up covering the navy lines in the plaid.

Once the pleats are all folded and securely pinned ironing is a must. Spray starch would have been helpful here too but, alas, I didn’t have any on hand.

With the pleats all pressed in place I straight stitched across the top of the pleats and then down each one ending with a short diagonal that covered the width of each pleat. My original plan was to sew a line across the top parallel to the waist and then another about six inches down and call it good but after running the top line I didn’t think that was going to secure each pleat well enough. I was going for quick & dirty here not super crappy and likely to fall apart.

Now that all the pleats were all sewn down and in place it was time for the waist band. Remember the five inch wide strip I cut from the end of the fabric way back at the beginning? That was to become the waist band.

Basically I laid it out on the emergent kilt to match it’s width and make sure the plaids weren’t totally off before trimming it up to get semi straight lines. Then I employed the fold-press fold-press waist band construction method. What, you haven’t heard of that? Yeah, probably because I just made it up. It’s exactly as it sounds: Fold the band in half (wrong sides together) and press it good and hard. Then fold whatever seam allowance you’re going to use up on one long edge and press that. Repeat with the other long edge and tuck the raw ends of the short edges under. Press those too while you’re at it. And, voila!, a waist band.

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To attach the waistband pin it right side down along the top edge of the skirt part. Sew that down then flip it over, press everything flat, and fold the band over the other side of the top edge of the skirt part. This is wear all that pressing pays off. It should lay nicely with the midline press of the band at top and the pressed under edge over the part you just sewed. Pin it all down, press it (for good measure) and run your stitch across it.

Now all that’s left is the finishing touches. After making a button hole on the edge of the waist band and attaching a couple buckles I had my son try it on to see where the closures needed to be. It turns out the bottom edge of this kilt is a little sparse but he’s planning to wear shorts under. Again, we’re not aiming for authenticity here. Between that and a bit of velcro I think we’ll avoid unintentional flashings.

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kilt finished back

Check out those pleats!

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The Quick & Dirty kilt.

From start to finish this took about two hours to make. As you can see I did not hem the bottom edge. If it’s getting out of control I’ll go back and do that later…or maybe I’ll take the pinking shears to it. We’ll see.

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It even matches his socks.

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Apparently the flat front could be more narrow but overall not too shabby!

kilt on back

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The Price of Being Cheap 

I am thrifty frugal cheap. It’s one of my best worst qualities. Or maybe one of my worst best qualities. Either way, it’s a quality and I possess it. Usually it’s not a bad thing but every once in a while my cheapness comes back around and bites me in the ass. The Wonder Woman accessories I recently made for a niece of mine are a prime example of said cheapness and ass biting…

Along with most the other sewing stuff that was in my home growing up (including one of my favorite sewing machines), I inherited this 1978 girls super hero costume pattern. I don’t ever remember her sewing, but apparently my mom made the Bat Girl costume for one of my older sisters. The hood and cape, in all their turquoise broadcloth glory, were residents of our Halloween costume bin. It came up in conversation not too long ago. My oldest sister remembered the costume, I told her I still had the pattern our mom used to make it. She then asked if could I make some Wonder Woman accessories for a special costume themed reading day at her daughter’s school. She happened to have some gold fleece leftover from another project. Apparently cheapness runs in my family.

Of course I said yes. She didn’t want a whole costume, just the crown, belt, and cuffs. That was a forty-five minute project, max. I could squeeze that into my insanely busy schedule.

So I obtained the leftover fleece and pulled out the old pattern. Lo and behold all the Wonder Woman pieces were missing. Well, all the ones I needed (aside from the cuffs which are meant for Bat Girl) since I wasn’t making those cute little shorts. My first instinct was to draw the pieces I needed but seeing as my printer actually had ink I decided to splurge and print some off the internet.

It didn’t take me too long to find a printable pattern for the crown, emblem, and a few stars and then it was time to get this party started. (I don’t remember which ones I used but, seriously, just Google Wonder Woman costume pieces. There are tons to choose from.)

As suspected this was a quick make. Other than those bastard stars. Cutting small, precise shapes out of flimsy sequins fabric is not as easy as one would think. At least I wasn’t sewing them on as I had also found some fabric glue in my sewing supply stash. I always felt like fabric glue was cheating, not for people who knew how to sew, and stuff like that but it was super convenient to just stick all that sparkly adornment on. I got the stars glued before setting it all aside to finish in the morning.

The next morning I threw together a sparkly logo.

I both glued and sewed it to some scrap denim from an old pair of jeans.

And then sewed it to the fleece belt. Things were going well (even the back looked cool); all that was left was the Velcro.

I scrounged around and found a strip of Velcro, slightly sticky on one side, that I had saved from some packaging a while back. I don’t remember exactly what but I distinctly recall seeing Velcro adhered to a box or envelope that was going to be thrown away and thinking “I could use that for something!” Psh, who would just throw away perfectly good Velcro? Not this girl! I pried it off the package and set it aside. Sure it was stiff and a bit goopy but on the Wonder Woman gear it would be on the exterior or at least away from skin so it was no big deal.
I could even use the stickiness to help hold the velcro in place while I sewed it down.

But for some reason my sewing machine was not happy about this particular little bit if sewing. It kept skipping stitches and jamming up resulting in a hot mess.I changed the needle and checked the bobbin. It still wasn’t working and my frustration level was rising. I switched sewing machines because clearly that one just wasn’t working. Ugh!

The same thing kept happening with the next machine. I changed directions for a minute and sewed the ends of the crown together. Well that worked. Then I tried the Velcro again. More jamming and mess.

Finally, finally, it dawned in me that the sewing machine wasn’t the problem. The Velcro was. The sticky stuff on the plastic side of the Velcro was gumming up my needle and causing problems with.. well, everything!

After that realization I dug up some fresh, brand new Velcro, pulled out the gross stitches, and threw the reused stuff away.

It took maybe five minutes to finish the set after switching Velcro. By that time I had spent upwards of half an hour messing about with sewing machines not working…all because I thought it was a good idea to re-purpose a strip of Velcro.

Sometimes it does not pay to be cheap!

Princess Anna Cloak

Just before Christmas I went on a project planning (and supply buying) binge. I bought yarn (of course) for hats meant to be presents, yarn for my daughter’s soon to be quilt, yarn just for fun, Sytherin cloak fabric, lovely print knits (that will eventually be shirts for my mom), and some fleece and felt for my niece/Goddaughter’s birthday present, a princess Anna cloak. You’ve heard of the Disney movie Frozen right???

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Of course you have. You don’t live under a rock.

My almost three-year-old niece had gotten an Anna doll from another of her aunts. Her mom mentioned that the tiny girl already had a dress that matched the doll but wouldn’t it be so cool if she had a matching cloak too? (I’m pretty sure I was chosen as her godmother mostly so I’d make cool stuff for my niece.) Yes, yes it would be cool. Felt and fleece happened to be cheaper just before Christmas than any other time of year and it looked like I was going to have some free time the first week of January. I could totally whip up a small cloak before my niece’s January 17th birthday…

Naturally I did not make the cloak before her actual birthday. Instead I started it the night before my family’s semi-monthly birthday dinners and finished it the morning of.

I found a free downloadable pdf pattern complete with tutorial at FleeceFun.com and for the most part I followed the pattern, except instead of just using fleece I layered felt and fleece. I wanted the cloak to have more stiffness than just fleece would have and I liked the idea of a two tone layered cloak with a cut out design along the edges. I cut the pattern pieces out of the felt first and then used the actual felt pieces as a pattern guide for the fleece. The plan was to just sew the magenta felt directly on top of the purple fleece and follow the construction guidelines of the pattern.

Both felt and fleece are fun to work with. They don’t slide around and neither fray so hemming isn’t necessary. However, fleece stretches and felt does not. This resulted in needing to trim the edges of the fleece under layer in a couple places after they were sewn together. For the scalloped edges we (well,my teenage son) drew the half circles around the border of the caplet and the bottom cloak with a purple Sharpie and then (I) cut around them. Originally I was going to cut out the half circles leaving the dark purple to show through but my scissors were not sharp enough for that level of detailed cutting.

I assembled the caplet (top cape thingy) layers separately first (sewed the front and back together at the shoulder seams), put the felt over the fleece with the seams facing inward (so they wouldn’t show), and sewed around the edge and through all the layers at the top of the shoulders to keep them in place. For the bottom part of the cape I just sewed around the edges of the two layers.

Attaching the top caplet, bottom cape, and collar was the most challenging part of this project. Apparently six layers of thick fabric is too much for my sewing machine to handle especially when two of the layers are gathered..

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As you can see the machine kept skipping stitches. My solution to this annoyance was to go back over the areas it skipped until they were fully stitched. That’s right, machine, you’re going to sew through those layers whether you like it or not!

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I decided not to mess with the binding that’s supposed to make the inside of the collar layers look neater and just trimmed the many layered seams.

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The closure is a hook and loop that I had purchased for a skirt that was going to be steam punk but ended up being a basic costume skirt (so no metal flair). It could be prettier but I didn’t think velcro would hold and I was not about to try a button in that thick mess.

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would  definitely will make at least one more of these cloaks…I way overbought on the fabric. There may even be enough left for two more and this was very easy to make. I would even recommend it if you have only very basic sewing skills. The Frozen fan in your life will be very impressed!

Annual Christmas Craziness

Like every year (especially since going back to school), the few weeks before Christmas in mid December were Kuh-razy with a capital K. Finals/end of term projects for me and pre-holiday demands and events for the kids have me running around nonstop like the proverbial headless chicken. Because this is an annual thing I’m mostly prepared for it, as much as one can prepare for an already intense life to kick into hyper-speed.

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At one point (Tuesday), less than half an hour before the class period it was due, I was finishing a hefty presentation …from home…forty minutes from campus. All I could think was “How the Eff did this happen?”

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At another point, a day or so after the presentation procrastination, I was hustling my cranky kids out of the car to (quickly!) pick out a Christmas tree so we could get to the sledding hill across town where their aunt who was visiting from out of town was waiting for us with some cousins. It was cold, windy and already dark but gosh darn it we were going to get some sledding in. And we did. Just a bit before it was time for me to make dinner for 11 people. Directly following that I squeezed in an hour and half nap and headed to work for the night. Over the next couple of days I got six hours sleep. Total. In a span of 48 hours. I made it to my last test (it could hardly be called a final), attended my little guy’s school holiday concert, got the tree up and decorated before the kids left for the week, finished a paper, and worked another shift before finally crashing for 11 hours straight (and subsequently being an hour late for work Friday night).

But then my semester was officially over and a very strange thing happened…  end-of-finals-week-meme

I had free time. Well, relatively free time.

So I did what any sane person would do and began making some Christmas presents. There was just under a full week and making a list of things I wanted to make was as far as I had gotten.

First there was the Slytherin robe one of my sisters asked if I could make…

I used soap and drew the “pattern” out on the fabric. Other than the sleeves being a bit long (for growing room of course), it turned out perfectly and I expect I’ll see my nephew wearing this for a few years.

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And then there was a random hat made with chunky yarn for my mom, a scarf/cowl thing for my brother’s girlfriend, a “fallen leaves” baggy hat (for the same brother’s girlfriend), and a “Little Sister” hat for my God-daughter. (The other God-daughter got some My Little Ponies but she’s getting an Anna cape for her birthday in January.)

Sadly, I only got pictures of the Little Sister hat. It’s a bit big but should be perfect this spring or fall.

After that it was the holiday.

(Okay, that’s actually the before-Christmas craziness there.)

And that, dear readers, sums up this year’s round of pre-Christmas/finals week craziness.

On Castles and Capes

Did you know there are castles in Ohio? OHIO! Of all the places!

My kids and I took a trip to Dayton over Labor Day weekend to visit our friends there (well, my friends really but I’m working on making them my kids’ friends as well). A few weeks earlier my daughter had pointed out that we hadn’t really gone anywhere this summer and asked for a road trip. Any kind of road trip would do but she’d like to leave the state. So we made plans to trek south to the Not-as-great-as-Michigan state of Ohio. Shortly before our trip I made the serendipitousl discovery  of castles in Ohio (on Pinterest of all places). Granted some of them are more castle-esque manors than actual castles, at least one of them is a legit castle.

 

While definitely a castle this thing is relatively young. Some super smart dude who was very into architecture, like five degree into it, moved to Ohio after serving in World War I and started building The Loveland castle in 1930. He worked on it until his death in 1981.

castle-j-5He might have lived there and the place was and is open to Boy Scout groups camping on the grounds and also is the world headquarters for this order of knights the guy started. Now it seems to mostly function as a tourist attraction and wedding site. The inside of the castle is not very ornate but it’s done in tenth century Normandy style so that seems appropriate. The gardens are pretty cool though and it has an active bee hive area. That’s not open to visitors but my daughter claims to have snuck back there. In addition the castle is located on one of Ohio’s many rivers and a small county park with canoe access is right in front of the castle. So one could theoretically canoe to a castle. How cool is that?

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My daughter, always the explorer, found some hike-able terrain near the river bank.

On Labor Day, the day after we returned home, my family was having one of its massive birthday dinners. This time it was only for four people and I had gifts for three of the four with the fourth being my one-year-old niece. I figured I could whip something up in the hour of free time I had Monday morning but was having trouble (and wasting precious making time) deciding what. A series of random texts to my sister revealed that the birthday girl did not have use for bibs and was not need any clothing items. I thought about making an apron or some baby doll clothes but wasn’t thrilled with contributing to the socialization of little girls to be the cookers and cleaners-up of the world while ..I was slightly stumped until I remembered the cape I had made for my daughter when she was little and how much she loved it. I’ve made other capes as quick birthday gifts over the years and they’re always a hit. Plus they’re pretty quick to make. Bonus!

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The lavender material was left over from a fabric dying project in my daughter’s art class last spring. I butted the bottom of the cape up to the already hemmed edge to minimize mundane sewing and maximize construction efficiency. After doing a small rolled hem on the sides, I cut a two inch wide strip of fleece for the neckline. Rolling that over the top (which I roughly hemmed to prevent fraying and fabric degradation)made a nice soft neckline which was finished off by a couple of pieces of red ribbon.

I fee handed a large block M from some other leftover fabric, attached mid-weight fusible interfacing, and used a zig-zag stitch around the edges to attach it to the center of the cape.

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Ba-da-bing, ba-daBang!

While it’s rather large for the one-year-old, it fit her big sister perfectly.

 

Methinks another cape might be in order next spring when this girl has a birthday. Different letter of course.

Some castle garden pics for the road…

 

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The actual birthday girl who will be swimming in her new cape for at least another year.

What to Wear to the Masquerade

Between running a half marathon the same weekend, prepping for the DAT, trying to get my kids through the end of their school year (which is still yet to happen), and cramming dental shadowing hours into my already crazy schedule I forgot to share about the super cool coat I made my oldest son for his Junior prom that happened back in May.

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The prom theme  was “Masquerade Ball” (It was that or Under the Sea…or Knight of Enchantment..prom themes are known for their originality. AmIright?) so my son and his date thought it would be fun to take the prom theme literally and go to in costume, fancy costume.

It all started with a Clockwork droid costume and a ponytail. My son thought his hair looked colonial when he pulled it back into a ponytail and my kids are slightly obsessed with the Broadway musical Hamilton. So naturally he wanted to go to the Masquerade prom in a colonial type costume like the one I had made a couple years earlier for a Halloween costume.

He thought it would be simple, he’d just wear the coat from the Clockwork Droid costume I had made for my second to oldest son a couple years ago.             wpid-IMG_20131031_182317.jpg

I had to explain that he could wear a costume to prom but it had to look and be nice so as to pass as formal wear. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I have to explain the rules of appropriate dress to a teenage boy.

I approached this project the same way I did the costume and started with a large men’s suit coat. I think this one was a 42 though I have no idea how sizing of those things works. For the prom coat I paid more attention to the structural details of the jacket, I wanted it to actually fit my son well. With the costume coat I just made some large darts down each side of the back which brought the shoulders in a bit and shortened the sleeves while creating that sort of fit-and-flare silhouette. On the prom coat I actually took the sleeves off, took it in a couple inches at the sides, and then made pleats at each shoulder. Instead of sewing down the pleats I tacked them down at the shoulders and the waist and pressed the shit out of them in hopes it would stay in place.

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The back pleats gave the coat it’s colonial-esque shape and helped the previously giant suit coat fit my very thin teenager.

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After I had the basic shape figured out I took the sleeves down in width and reattached them. It sounds pretty simple but that was probably the most difficult part of the whole remake, getting those dang sleeves back on in a way that didn’t look goofy. Remember, I took in the sides of the coat. I took in the sleeves too but it wasn’t by the same amount so they didn’t quite match up. At first I tried gathering the sleeves across the tops of the shoulders but that looked pretty funky. Plus there are about fifty layers of fabric, interfacing, and odd stuffing like material in the shoulder of suit coats. I had no idea there was so much in there until I opened up this coat. After two or three attempts I finally got one sleeve right. There was some random tucking and easing and more than a little luck involved. Then I had to get the other one to match it. Symmetry is a bitch sometimes.

Once the sleeves were reattached it was time for some trim. This, of course, was started the day before prom and finished day of. That’s just how I roll.

I got the good, expensive trim this go-round, like I said, I wanted this one to really look like a nice, fancy dress coat. On the costume coat I had glued the front bar trim on. It worked for a costume but the glue showed, that wouldn’t do for this. I did glue the ends of the thicker gold trim to prevent fraying but it’s all sewed down with straight stitches in yellow thread on the top and bottom of each bar. It surprised me how well the stitching blended in. I could have been a little more precise when sewing down the red ribbon trim but it’s not too noticeable on the finished coat.

prom front coatWe pairedprom side coat the coat with a grey vest and suit pants, dress loafers with tassels, a white button up, the ruffle collar I made for the Clockwork droid costume, and masks made by my son and his date.

My son’s prom date rented her dress from a costume shop. They looked awesome…but as we pulled up to the door of the country club they both hesitated to get out of the car. The girl said “I think I might be a little overdressed.” (She was the only girl at prom wearing a crinoline.) and the looks on their faces said “What did we get ourselves into?” It takes a fair amount of courage to go to prom in costume when in all likelihood no one else in your school will. For a few minutes their fun, creative idea was looking somewhat less appealing. I reassured them that they looked super cool and the outfits would be a hit but the teenagers still would not get out of the car until they confirmed via text that friends would be arriving in the next few minutes. Luckily I was not wrong and everyone was impressed with their unique and literal interpretation of the prom theme.

 

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These two, they might be weirdos but they’re MY weirdos.

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Don’t forget the obligatory group selfie.

Third Time’s a Charm

The third of my five kids is my one and only daughter and, let me tell you, she is an amazing person. She’s in her second year of middle school and her teachers tell me that other students look up to her and respect her, that she has the ability to direct and guide them while still maintaining friendships with many of them, in short she’s a natural leader. She doesn’t have to shout direction (although she still does when it’s directed at her brothers), her classmates just listen to her and value what she has to say. This year she stepped out of her shell a bit more and joined the school government as an elected class representative. As a parent it’s so great to hear stuff like that about your kids but it doesn’t really surprise me. My daughter has always had the ability to make friends wherever she goes even if it’s only for a short while. One of her friend’s parents summed it up best when he said “If I didn’t know her I’d want to be friends with her, she’s just got a friendly face.” Now that my daughter is (barely) officially a teenager it’s even more fun to be her mom. Now we can geek out and fan girl about the same shows and stuff. She’s totally into Doctor Who, Supernatural, and Sherlock (and of course super heroes, Harry Potter, and Star Wars…that’s just a given in our household)  and has even introduced me to some fun things like Nightvale (though I do’t have nearly the time to keep up on it that she does). Like I said, she’s all round awesome….but enough Mom-bragging.

When my daughter’s thirteenth birthday was approaching I wanted to do something fun and special.
At one point she mentioned wanting a tote bag she could put patches, on I knew that was going to be at least part of what I would “get” her for her birthday.  Then she sent me a picture of a Princess Bride themed bag complete with a link to the website I could buy it from. As if I’d buy a cloth tote bag! Over the years I’ve made a variety of sizes and styles of bags. They used to be my go-to birthday present for children and adults. I’ve even made a few to sell along the way.
I was thinking about a Doctor Who/Sherlock themed bag. Maybe one side would be the TARDIS and the other would look like Sherlock’s door. As I was planning it out in my head, picturing what the lay out would be and which types of fabric would achieve the desired effect, I walked in the fabric store and saw this rack of  appropriately themed fabrics. My life got a little easier. And easier is always better…or so I hear.

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Since Van Gogh is one of my daughter’s favorite artists I chose the exploding Tardis print fabric (not shown in that picture). I loved the weeping angels fabric but it seemed a little thinner than the others. That’s no bueno for bags that are going to get a lot of wear. I did still include a Sherlock reference on the one side of the bag (it’s solid black with 221b on it) and made it reversible to be able to incorporate as many fun fabrics as possible.

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Luckily bags are pretty fast to make. Just measure, cut the five sides (back, front, two sides, and a bottom)…

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…sew the sides together…

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…add a strap or straps and there you have it….A bag!

Being a birthday we had to have cake too. Well, actually, peanut butter pie because it’s my daughter’s favorite.

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It’s very easy to make too so it’s ideal for a single mom trying to host a five-teenage-girl-sleepover while also attempting to run the four boys to their respective activities and friends’ houses (that was one seriously crazy afternoon right there!).

I also managed to whip up a baggie beanie style hat for her the week before her birthday. The girl loves her baggy hats…and mine too. I found the pattern for this one on another WordPress blog but it’s on Ravelry too.

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Gratuitous fuzzy winter pony