The Rookie Seamstress (a guest post and tutorial)

I never thought I’d see the day. Our sister Erika, dubbed “the uncrafty one”, learned to sew! And get this, after only two hours at the sewing machine, she is here to offer you a tutorial! Seriously guys, this is how big sisters roll.  They also declare things like, “Watch me dominate the sewing machine,” and “Sweet! What What!”, as they go.

Erika and her adorable one year old, Sean, are visiting from Chicago for a few weeks, staying at our parent’s house. Since a terrible storm last week has left us (the Chang 4) without power, we’ve been squatting at casa de parentals too. 6 days and counting, people!

Anyway, I came back here with the kids after a pool day, and found Erika in our mom’s sewing studio, completed project in hand, looking oh-so satisfied…


 My jaw dropped. What just happened?
I will let E take it from here.

I admit that crafting isn’t my thing. It takes too long, gets boring, requires lots of clean-up, and I just don’t have a head full of creative ideas. However, I always admire the things my sisters and mother make and think, “Well I can do that too.”

Here is my first sewing project: Bibs!

Choose your fabrics. For this bib I chose a red gingham and a Dick and Jane print. I also used a piece of flannel fabric in the middle to give the bib some additional structure. However, the flannel is optional. I made some bibs without it and they turned out just as well.

The first step is to iron your fabric. Apparently this is the key to sewing, according to both my mom and mother-in-law. Did they have the same Home Ec. teacher??

Next, trace your pattern onto your fabric. (Who knew they make fabric markers that disappear when you iron it?! Love it!! I’m a gadget girl and I’ll buy anything that makes life easier and more convenient so this marker was right up my alley.) Make sure you trace on the wrong side of the fabric and make sure the flannel fabric is on the bottom, not sandwiched in the middle. I made the mistake of putting it in the middle and after I finished sewing and went to turn it right side out, I realized my error. This led me to my next “first”….the seam ripper. My sister and mother assured me they make mistakes all the time and have to take out stitches. Yeah right.

Start by tracing your favorite bib onto some card stock or heavy paper.


Place your fabrics on top of each other and pin together.  They should be inside out.   Trace around your bib pattern on one of the outside fabrics.


Don’t cut out the shape yet. Sew it first, then cut it out. Trust me. It’s much easier!

Sew along the line you traced on the fabric. Remember to leave an opening (2-3 inches) so you can turn your fabric right side out later.


Once it is sewn, cut out the shape staying about 1/4 inch from the thread.


Turn the bib right side out. Then use a tool like a chopstick to push out all the edges from inside the bib.


Iron your bib making sure to iron a nice seam at the opening.


Sew the opening shut.


Optional step- I went back and added a top stitch after I was done. I did it because I made a mistake sewing up the opening. Apparently, this is an “advanced” sewing technique

😉 Actually, it made the bib look more finished and I really liked it. It was easy with the aid of a quilting 1/4 edge foot in place.


Add a snap.



Hardest part- trying to fix my many mistakes: retreading the bobbin, switching feet, threading the needle, trying not to sew too fast, remembering all the steps.

All in all, not too tough and I’ll admit, pretty fun.  I plan on making more of these bibs to give as gifts to friends.  But this one, is for my little guy, Sean!


Thanks for having me!


Birthday Flags Tutorial

“Baby Sean” turns one in a couple weeks.  And, when our sister Erika said she was going to buy birthday flags on Etsy for $35, I volunteered to whip her up a set at cost. I’m all for supporting Etsy and everything (check out our mom’s new shop!), but when it comes to something this simple, ya might as well make your own. Image

This tutorial is for the beginner seam-sters out there.  Just a few years ago, this was one of my first sewing projects.  It’s a great skill builder, and allows for you to make use of bit pieces of favorite fabric.  Also, if your kids are like mine, they will feel super special each year when their birthday (or week) is recognized with a sweet family tradition.

1. Select your fabrics.  Go crazy!

2. Fold your fabric pieces in half, right sides together, and press.Image

3. Draw and cut an isosceles triangle (2 sides equal length, middle school math anyone?) out of cardboard.  Or, if you have a random, giant, see-through, plastic triangle like mine, by all means use it.  Where did I get this thing?  It just turned up one day and I use it all the time.  Quilters probably have buckets of these. Image

4. Trace your triangle onto your folded fabric, however it fits nicely.  I decided to cut two triangles out of each piece, for an extra set of bunting (now I have a ready-made gift stashed away for future giving).

5. Tip from Mom: Do not cut your triangle out yet. SEW FIRST!  Luckily my mom stopped by while I was starting this project.  This tip was crucial.  I didn’t have to worry about my pointy flag tip getting sucked under like a toga party on an escalator!  Sew along the two equal sides, reinforcing stitches at the tip. Don’t bother sewing across the top of your triangle, as that is where you will turn your fabric. Image

6. Cut out your triangles, about 1/4 of an inch around the stitching. Cut closer to stitching as you near the point. Image

7. Turn your triangles right side out.  Use a knitting needle or chopstick to get at your point.  Children may enjoy helping with this task!


8. I forgot to tell you, buy some coordinating double-fold bias tape.  Or make your own, you do not need to cut your fabric on the bias.


9.  Press your flags, trim the tops so that they are nice and straight and matched up.

10. Order your triangles how you like. Lay them out to see how they will fit along the bias tape. I used 12 flags per 3 yard bias tape.


11. Open up your bias tape and shove the open end of your triangle to the top of the main fold.  You are welcome to use pins, but I think it is best to just go one flag at a time, holding it in there a bit as you run it through the machine, about 1/8″ from the bottom edge of the tape.


12. Tidy up your project as necessary.  I added some jute rope to my ends for tying up.  Ribbon would be lovely too.  Voila you are done.  Enjoy inside…


or out!


~ Caroline

felt patch baby books

I thought I’d share with you my favorite baby gift ever. 

We have some good friends who have given us these darling felt patch photo albums for each one of our children.  They have become so special to us, and I was super excited the other day when a box arrived on our doorstep.  I smiled as soon as I saw the return address- knowing there would be another sweet book for our little lamb, Corinne.

The patch is made from hand-dyed wool felt, and the book is covered in canvas.  It’s quality.  The books come from here.  I urge you to visit Kata’s site and take a look at all she offers… so inspiring (well, to me anyway… i seriously love felt!).

Here is Grant’s- I just finished putting photos in his book a few weeks ago- just in time for his 2nd birthday (go me!).

And Ellery’s.  I wrote a little something under each photo in her book, almost so it would read like a story. 

She loves to find it on the bookshelf and have us look at it with her.  Often. 🙂

And check this out- no packing peanuts here!  These felt scraps kept my little ones busy for a solid 20 minutes.

So, keep these cute books in mind if you know a special little one is coming! 

OR… Get crafty! 

You can buy Kata Golda’s book, Hand-Stitched Felt and learn how to make tons of cute things.  I’ve made the finger puppets (shown above) twice, and they were so fun to make and personalize for each baby. 

My first experience with sewing ANYTHING was when I made things from this book.  Learning to hand-stitch inspired me to learn how to use a sewing machine… but looking back at these books, I’m getting the itch to sit on the couch and work a new project from this book- you know, once things get settled in around here.


baby girl

Crazy to think that I was sporting this baby bump just over a week ago….

….and three days later, I finally got to meet this beautiful little girl!

Corinne Marie was born on March 28, tipping the scales at 8lbs 6oz. 

We had a fairly quick labor and delivery, and though there was a lot of pain involved, I did managed to crack a few jokes during my breaks between pushing to lighten the mood. 

“What… you guys waiting on me?” 

Corinne is such a little bug.  So tiny, and new, and soft, I pretty much eat her up any chance I get. 

Here she is hanging out in Ellery’s doll stroller.  It’s just her size.

Ellery is such a helper and is ALL about the baby girl clothes.  She keeps saying, “Mom.  Isn’t the baby sooooo cute?”.  Yup! 

I see a LOT of pink in my future.

Grant is also being a good boy, though it’s confirmed- he does have a kissing addiction

 (Caroline has said he has Bret Michaels lips …awesome, right?….)

His expression here is priceless.  But, tell me I’m not the only one seeing a smidge of Dr.Evil in that grin?!  Watch out Corinne!

Anyway, we are all doing well, kickin’ it at home and learning how to live as a family of five.  Naps are hard to come by (unless you’re a kid of course).  But luckily we have a lot of family and friends who have come by to play with the older two, or hold sweet Corinne for an hour, or feed us, or just hang out on the couch and talk. 

We are so happy she’s here.

Babies are the best!





Shirt to skirt

I may have mentioned before that my adorable mother-in-law, Arlene, is a bit of a shop-aholic.  Like everyone, she loves a great bargain, and like most grandmothers, she loves to spoil her grandchildren.  Every few months a package arrives that is packed with kids clothing.  Awesome, I know!  We can typically expect lots of graphic tee-shirts for Jet, and for Avery its girly-girl to the max!  I think it is fair to say that Arlene’s taste is sparkalicious.  In fact, she crafts in sparkles every day (I plan on featuring her work with Swarovski crystals in an upcoming post, look out.).   We love that her hairstyle is different every time we visit, often shades of purple!  You get it, she rocks.  Here she is with my hubby.

Anyhoo, following her annual trip to Taiwan, we never know what we’ll find in the package that arrives.  We get a kick out of the ruffles and bows on everything, and the odd little phrases that appear on many of the garments like, “happy lifes come around…” or “can you see the little ones?”

Sometimes there are outta-the-ballpark hits like an Angry Birds jacket for Jet, or this little get-up:

And then there are the misses:

I actually really like these pants, they are lined with microfleece on the inside.  Avery is clearly not a fan.

There was a gender ambiguous tee-shirt in the box this time, I think meant for Jet, judging by the size.  But he wanted nothing to do with it.  It was just begging to be turned into a hip little mini skirt for a sweet baby girl I know of.  I think the fabric must be interlock jersey (I am learning from Rea’s Kniterview series) because it is very sturdy with a nice stretch to it.  Below is the already severed shirt, I forgot to take a “before” photo.

The simple pockets are made from the one missing sleeve, using the hem as the pocket top.  She can “keep her weed in there” (I’m sorry I had to.  It’s funny because this is for a baby.) .  I included a tag for a more signature look.

I was imagining this skirt would fit a 6 month old, but I suppose I was a little off, seeing how easily Avery slipped into it.  Maybe more like 12-18 month size.

I picked a white onesie out of my stash, and made a little embellishment out of the leftover jersey.

I think this outfit will be worth waiting a year for, don’t you?

And now, since he doesn’t get much bloggy-love, a photo of the Jet-man with his buddy Sam.  Next project is for you kiddo!


Halloweens Past

I didn’t make the kids’ halloween costumes this year… I think it was something I wanted to do, but sometimes you have to just give things up and not feel bad about it!  Ellery wanted very much to be Cinderella.  I bought her a dress a month ago when I saw it was on sale nearby, and she’s worn it day and night ever since.  Sometimes sleeping in it, sometimes sleeping next to it… sometimes sleeping next to the shoes… you catch my drift.  So while part of me feels guilty that she’ll be rockin’ a dress that’s slightly torn at the bottom/some holes/stains, etc. here and there, the other part of me is just glad that she’s so in love with it and doesn’t notice!

Here are our Halloween photos from the past few years.  Starting with Ellery when she was 6 months old… A furry little angel:

The next year, my Mom made Ellery and my nephew, Jet’s costumes.  Both of their dads are chefs, so it was kind of a no brainer!

Here’s Ellery with “the boys”…she had no problem acting like the boss!

Seriously…. I MEAN….

Last years costumes were based on one of Ellery’s fave books…. Can you guess?

Her little bro was the sweetest, cuddliest big bad wolf…

We’ll be recycling the chef outfit for Grant this year.  I haven’t gotten them together for a photo-op yet, but hopefully they’ll pose for me later…. if I give them candy of course. 

Have a fun Halloween, and remember- Raisinets are NOT candy! I don’t care what your Mom says!!!!


Baby Bibs

I stopped by a friend’s house last week with some baby-warming goodies… some post-natal comfort food for her and her family, and some homemade bibs for her new boy, Cole.  These bibs are a cinch to make and are actually the very first things I learned to sew… (the pattern is from Amy Karol’s book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing).  The back of the bib is made with soft cotton flannel.

I wanted to use fabric suitable for a boy of course, but that didn’t look babyish.  The owl fabric is one of my favorites.  I got it from an upholstry fabric store (U-fab here in C’ville) and I’ve used it to make Grant a pair of overalls, a pillow for our living room, and a tote (you’ll see another version of the owl in the last picture).  You can’t really see it here, but once I appliquéd the owl, I used gold thread and stitched all around the square- it really made it look cool. 

These cute bugs have crazy bugged-out eyes!  Love them!  The fabric was a great clearance buy from   It’s by Jay McCarroll for Free Spirit.  I love his designs, and have used his garden bunnies for Ellery and my niece Avery’s Easter Dresses.  His kooky alien-bird is on the appliqué below:

For the appliqué, I cut a rough shape with my desired image in the center.  I then ironed on some lightweight interfacing to the back of the image.  Then, I cut my shape out into a clean square (or oval) and placed it on the bib.  I ironed it again and then pinned it in the center.  Stitched around the border with a straight stitch, and then using my gold thread, zig-zagged all around it to add some bling. 

So, if you’re like me and have lots of friends makin’ babies these days, give these a shot.  They are quick and unique and stay nice through many washes- my kids have been wearing the same ones for a year and a half and they still look pretty darn cute (the bibs too!).  🙂 



It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted.  We got wrapped up in August with a weekend trip to NC, a visit from my sister and her new baby, some super-cool houseguests, and other Summer fun.  Oh, but mostly I got wrapped up in morning sickness… yup, baby #3 is on board and has officially knocked me on my arse!  (That said, we couldn’t be more excited to add another babe to the mix, and I am inspired to do some more baby sewing once these icky feelings pass!) 

Besides 3 straight weeks of nausea, the fatigue hit me right away… By 3 o’clock most days I’m a pile of yawns, doing all I can to keep my kids entertained as I rest on the couch.  I didn’t touch my sewing machine for a month.  Literally.  And as much as I wanted to make things (especially a new wardrobe for my preschool bound girl), I had zero energy!  The past couple of weeks have been better, so I will share a few recent projects in the coming days, but for now I will share some things I didn’t make.  A good day at the thrift store makes me happy- it brings me back to the time I got my prom dress (AND my date’s 3-piece suit) at Goodwill… for like $16.  And yup, they were actually cute!  Anyway, here’s what I acquired on my most recent trip….

A sweet hand-smocked dress (maybe for baby # 3?) in excellent condition…the color of orange sherbert.  yum. 

Another adorable smocked dress, in even more excellent condition.  Lemon curd, anyone?  (Yea, I’ve got me some cravings!)

This little number was actually a freebie from a yard sale, but I had to throw it in… it’s really old, and really short, and super cute on my 3 year old.  But, I probably need to soak it in a little oxy clean to brighten it up!

A cute corduroy dress that I have grand plans to dye deep red (and to snip off the shoulder bows too, I think).  A good Fall dress for Ellery.

A vintage sheet that I have already hacked up for pajama pants… and maybe a matching pillowcase for E.

My most expensive item at a whopping $3 was this fluted tart pan.  But really, what is a (temporarily retired) pastry chef without one? 

…and a couple of hand-painted Made-in-Japan plates.  Perfect for a slice of lemon tart!

My total for my thrifted purchase was $11 and some change.  Dang good if I do say so myself!  Any other savvy thrifters out there?? 


for my best customer…

Actually, she’s my only customer.  Her name is Amanda and I met her in ’03 when we worked together at a Belgian patisserie in the little town of Kent, CT.  When we weren’t enrobing chocolates (looking like Lucy and Ethel I must add), we were listening to Iron & Wine, baking eating Madelienes, imitating our interesting bosses, and making each other laugh hysterically. 

Since I moved to Virginia, we only see each other maybe once a year- but we talk on a very regular basis.  Oh, and she was the recipient of my first Awesome Bag.  Lately, those talks have been about fabric- since Amanda has “ordered” some things.  This bag is a birthday gift for a friend of hers…Naturally, she gets a friendly discount.

The solids are Kona cotton in charcoal and artichoke.  The print is Amy Butler.

The strap is adjustable on one side… the vintage buttons were part of the yard sale score from a month ago. 

Amanda also requested a nursing cover for her friend who is also expecting a baby soon.  Again, I used Prudent Baby’s tutorial for this.  It’s so quick to make.  I hope Amanda and her friend like these goods!

I’ve really been into bag making- here’s a colorful tote that is sturdy and roomy…

I repurposed a dress for the pocket- the fabric looks like a watercolor- and it looks much better as a pocket.  Once when I wore the dress, Caroline told me I looked like I was going to Sunday School.  She was totally right- I never wore it again!  It has also been repurposed into a swim cover up for Ellery last year…

 Just goes to show, you can find lots of usable fabric in your own closet!

 Hope you’re all enjoying your Summer…

This is our favorite way to beat the heat.

– Erin

It’s all about this guy…

It’s been a while since I’ve sewn anything for Grant… He’s gotten a couple of pairs of overalls and a mobile, a few other random things along the way…but nothing as of late.

 I went to a great yard sale a few weeks ago and after chatting with the owner for a bit about making clothing, she brought out her gigantic secret stash of buttons, adorable vintage girl’s dresses, and a few yards of fabric.  I paid $20 for a piece of furniture, and she “threw in” some goodies.  One of them being this awesome fabric by Painting Red Rhinos:

 How cute are those little surfboards?  The first thing that came to mind was to make my boy a bucket hat:

The pattern came from the book, Oliver + S Little Things to Sew

There are so many great little things to make from this book- I highly recommend it!

The hat is reversible- I lined this one with yellow twill. 

I love the glimpse of color that pokes out…

 I had enough fabric to make a pair of comfy pants… I drafted a pattern from an old pair of pants and they seem to fit him perfectly. 

Future romance-novel cover model?? 😉

Where’s the beach? 

– Erin