Thursday, December 17, 2009

Making Dollhouse Beds from foam and fabric

Making Little Dollhouse Beds:

A few Christmases ago, we got my daughter a Fisher-Price Loving Family Dollhouse. We've given her additional rooms over time for birthdays and such. Now it's almost Christmas again, and I recently went shopping for the bedroom for the parents and the little brother. It appears that they don't make a bedroom for the little brother. They make a dog house for the family dog, but not a room for the brother! So I thought I would take a stab at making some beds myself.

I browsed online and found some nice tutorials about how to make a wooden dollhouse bed, but I was looking for something simple I could make with materials on hand. So, I decided that with some foam, felt, fabric and a glue gun, I'd see what I could do to make one myself.

These are very basic and simple, which is just what I was looking for.

Necessary Materials:
utility knife or coping saw
hot glue gun
fabric scraps
craft felt
polyester fiberfill

MEASURE: First, I found a hunk of foam that's been lying around the house since I did a small repair on a couch cushion a while back. I put the dolls on top and made some general measurements. I wanted the beds to be almost the same size as the dolls, as the dollhouse rooms are very small.

CUT: To cut thick foam you'll need a sharp utility knife, or better yet a small hand saw. It's a MESSY job; I was covered in tiny hunks of foam and so was my work table, floor and little helper (that would be my 5 year old son). Once you have the pieces cut, you can use sandpaper to smooth them out. We tried this for a few minutes and decided we didn't mind that they were a little rough since they would be covered in fabric.

COVER: I used Eco-Fi Craft Felt to cover the beds. It's cheap and readily available (Walmart or Joann's Fabrics, and comes in a ton of colors). I used whole pieces as there was plenty of overlap to tuck around to the backside. I used a little bit of hot glue to secure the piece down to the foam. Then I turned the bed over and secured the ends with hot glue like wrapping a gift. Then I added a little bit of lace trim to the parents bed, and a blue ribbon to the boys bed.

To make pillows, just cut a small scrap of fabric, turn it wrong side out, sew around 3 sides, turn it right side out, fill with a bit of polyester fiberfill and then sew the ends up. To make a bed cover, I used a small piece of fleece and I sewed a zigzag stitch around the outside so it didn't fray. For the boys bed, I used two small scraps of orange and blue striped fabric - cut the fabric, add a layer of cotton batting, and sew the pieces wrong sides together around 3 sides. Turn rightside out and sew up the open section. Make a matching pillow and your done!

Measuring for the Boys Bed:

Stuffing the wee Pillow with fiberfill:

Sewing the Bed cover:

Added the ribbon trim with more hot glue. Now the boy's cozy in his bed!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pumpkin Goodness

I love the fall for so many reasons. The cool crisp weather, the beautiful foliage, and the harvest of great food. I have two favorites, apples and winter squashes. My favorite squash is definitely pumpkin and pumpkin puree is great to bake with in lots of different recipes. This adorable pie graphic is from

You can buy canned pumpkin puree or make it yourself. I like to stock up when it's on sale, usually around Thanksgiving in preparation for all the pie baking.

If you want to make your own pumpkin puree, you'll need a sugar or pie pumpkin. They are generally smaller, sweeter, and less grainy than the kind you carve into jack-o-lanterns. It's a bit time consuming and messy, but you'll yield a larger amount of pumpkin than you'd get in a standard 15 oz can, and it has a fresh bright color and taste.

Look for a pumpkin at the farmer's market or grocery store. There are several cooking methods - bake, steam, or microwave. To get started, rinse the pumpkin in fresh water and dry it off. Then remove the stem and cut in half and scoop out the seeds and gunk. Then cut it into a few large pieces.

To microwave it, just put it in a safe pan with a little bit of water, cover and cook until it's soft.

Put a few inches of water in the bottom of your pan, add the steamer basket and put in the pumpkin pieces. A large pumpkin might need to be cooked in more than one pan. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat and cook covered until pumpkin is soft.

Place the cut up pieces in a large pan with a little bit of water, and cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil, bake at 325 until it's soft. A few years ago, I found instructions on how to bake a whole pumpkin from Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Basically, you just poke a few holes in it, and put the whole thing in the oven in a shallow pan, then bake it until it's soft. Once it's soft and the skin has shriveled, you take it out of the oven and let it cool. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and guts, cut it up,then peel the skin off (which practically falls right off).

Use your food processor to puree it in batches until it's smooth. This is probably too big of a job for blender. A hand blender would also work well. You could also mash it by hand, but you won't get the same smooth consistency as with a food processor. If the puree ends up very watery you can drain it out. The easiest method is to line the bottom of a large colander with a few overlapping coffee filters and plop the pumpkin puree on top. Put a large bowl underneath to catch the excess water.

What to do with all that yummy pumpkin puree? Not a problem! Here are a few of my favorite recipes (any extra puree can be frozen in zip top bags, plastic wear or my preference glass Pyrex containers).

I made some super yummy pumpkin strudel topped muffins a few days ago using the recipe below. You can also make it into two small loaves. Strudel topping elevates even the most boring muffin, and here it's super yummy.

Pumpkin Bread or Muffins with Strudel Topping
yields 18 muffins or two loaves

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Strudel Topping:
3/4 cup flour
3 tbls butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and brown sugar, beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, then blend in pumpkin puree

2. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients with wet ingredients, blending slowly. Scrap sides of bowl and mix again. Spoon batter into greased muffins tins or loaf pans (or use muffin paper liners).

3. In the same bowl you used for the dry ingredients, combine strudel topping ingredients. Using a pastry blender tool or the back of a fork, cut up the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the top of each muffin or loaves.

4. For loaf pans bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. For muffins bake 20-25 minutes. Cool on cooling rack 10 minutes then remove from pan.
Extras can be frozen.

My friend Heather can't eat gluten so recently I made this yummy cheesecake to bring to one of our girls nights out get togethers. I modified the crust of this recipe from Libby's Pumpkin.
I used Mi-Del's Gluten Free Gingersnaps. I think the gingersnaps give it a little something special, as opposed to a standard graham cracker crust, which can also be used. Cheesecakes are super easy to make and they are always a show stopper and delicious!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Cheesecake

Gingersnap Crust:
1 1/2 cups Mi-Del Gingersnap cookies (grind up first in the food processor)
1/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Blend crust ingredients in a small bowl, then press onto the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan. Bake 6-10 minutes until set and just slightly golden brown. Set aside to cool.

3 8-oz packages of Neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese) at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 tlbs cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Beat cream cheese in mixer until very smooth, add sugars and blend. Add eggs, beating well, and scraping sides after each. Add remaining ingredients and blend well.

Pour batter into crust, smoothing the top. Bake for 55-60 minutes until it's set and the middle is ever so slightly jiggly. While cake bakes, prepare the topping.

2 cups low fat sour cream at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Spread evenly over the top of the cake as it comes out of the oven. Then bake (still at 350) for another 5 minutes. When done, shut off oven, leave oven door open and let cake cool very slowly. After 30 minutes, remove from oven and cool on wire rack, then cover tightly and chill overnight.

Then there's always the classic Pumpkin Pie, which is a staple at most Thanksgiving dessert tables. I use the recipe from Libby's, because it always comes out great.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Upcycling Wool Sweaters into Plush Animals

Have you ever accidentally shrink one of your favorite wool sweaters? It's so disappointing to ruin something so nice. But wait, don't toss it out! You can 'upcycle' it - that means turning it into something new and different. Not just reused, but repurposed. I love the idea of upcycling. Me, personally am drawn to all things small and cute, so I use old sweaters to create cute plush animals.

Don't know how to felt a sweater you no longer use? Ignore all the labels that say to handwash or dryclean only! Instead, just pop it in the washing machine with a little detergent and hot water. Some sweaters will shed A LOT, so first put the sweater in a mesh lingerie bag or pillow case (close with rubber band). Too many little fuzzies in your washing machine can cause damage to your machine. Choose the longest wash cycle. Check it once or twice during the wash to see if the fibers are getting tighter. You'll know if it's working, if you can no longer see the rows of knitting, and the sweater has shrunk. As the fibers shrink, they lock together. Heat and agitation are key. When it's done washing, check to make sure it's shrunk and then put it right into a hot dryer which will shrink it up even more. When it's dry, you are ready to work with your fabric.

I bought this sweater at a second hand store for less than a $1 because it had holes on the elbows.

Depending on what you plan to make, you may need to cut the sweater apart to create one large piece of fabric. To do that, cut up the side seams and carefully cut the arms off. The ribbing at the bottom and cuffs is handy and can add a nice detail to finished pieces. The fabric is wonderful to work with. Not only is it soft and fluffy, but the now felted fabric won't fray or come apart and it's thick and will hold it's shape.

I am thrilled with how this crazy Orge came out and I even made him a little buggy friend. This sold in my Etsy Shop a few weeks ago. This sweater had a zip up neck and a zip chest pocket. I carefully cut so that I could use the chest pocket as the critters mouth. I still have the long zipper that was part of the neck, but haven't decided what critter is waiting to be made from it.

I love the zipper mouth and the little bug friend!

If you have a sweater that is a mix of wool and another fiber, like cotton, you may still be able to felt the sweater. It just won't be as tight as 100% wool.

You can make pillows, a small case for your IPod or cell phone, purse, or a plush animal (my favorite). The felted wool also lends itself very well to hand embroidery and applique.

Here are some simple sweater blocks I made for a friend's baby.

I just finished making these totally cute baby rattles. I've also made this plush cat, plush mouse, a funny bunny, and another critter monster.

One of my favorite Etsy Shops is Pogo - so many adorable little animals all made from upcycled sweaters.

I found this really cute brown bunny plushie, from ChurchMouseStudio. It even comes with a little skirt.

This is the latest little critter I made, also with some silly hair and a rattle inside.

I love Owls and this stuffy from BlackBirdFashion is just adorable.

You can also create tons of other items like wallets, purses, handbags, etc. Here is a fun Halloween Frankenstein Monster Handbag from

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

buy one get one half price sale

I am running a special sale in my Etsy Shop for the next week and a half!
This deal is effective on Passport Sleeves and Mini Wallet Pouches. Check it out!

This week I'm working on getting a big consignment order completed and delivered up to Kindred Gifts in Damariscotta, Maine. Earlier this evening I also washed, dried, ironed and cut Christmas fabric for making some really fun Jumble Balls especially for the holidays. Last year I made a batch of super cute felt gingerbread men ornaments and I'm looking forward to making some of those this year too.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Wanted: Your Super Duper Cute Baby with a Jumble Ball!

Do you have the cutest baby ever? Of course you do! Do you have a Jumble Ball? Want your baby to be famous? Okay, maybe not famous, but how about shown online in my Etsy Shop, happily playing with their Jumble Ball? I could use your help, moms! I need some great closeup pictures of little kiddos playing with my Jumble Balls and my own two kids (now 6 and 4 1/2 are way too big to get in on the action). I would love to hear from you!
- Jennifer

Thursday, September 24, 2009

MamaSource - advice for moms from moms

I'm a featured blogger on Mamapedia Voices

Do you know about MamaSource? It's a cool website where parents can post their child-related questions, and real moms give advice. Small business owners can also have their business listed for free and are also able to provide special offers to members. Check it out!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Quilted Drink Coaster How To

This tutorial will show you how I make quilted cotton drink coasters. These are relatively quick and easy to make and are an ideal house warming or hostess gift. It’s fun to choose seasonal or special occasion fabric. When complete the coasters are 4” square. For this project I used Henry Alexander's Diamond Eye fabric.

Supplies and materials

One 4 ¾” by 10” piece of fabric for each coaster (yields four 4" coasters)
Natural cotton batting
Cotton thread


Use 1/4-inch seam allowance

  • Wash, dry, and iron the fabric.

  • Cut fabric: Cut four 4 ¾ inch by 10 inch pieces of fabric (one for each coaster). If you want to make your coasters double-sides, cut four 4 ¾ inch by 5 inch pieces of Fabric A and four of Fabric B.

  • Fold each 10” piece of fabric in half the long way, right sides facing (or for double sided, place fabric pieces wrong sides together and sew up 3 sides)

  • Assemble coaster: Fold the fabric in half, right sides together, to form a 4 1/2-by-5-inch rectangle. Sew the two 5-inch sides closed so that only one side of the rectangle remains open.

  • For faster sewing, use the continuous sew method: instead of sewing each coaster individually, sew the first side of the first coaster, starting with the folded edge going into the machine first. When you complete this first side, and come to the end of the fabric, continue to sew and 1/8th of an inch and then without stopping, insert the edge of the next coaster. When you have sewn all four coaster on one side, then will be connected together like a little chain. Flip them over, and sew up the other sides. When you’re done, just snip the pieces apart. See Photos 1 and 2. This saves a lot of time!

  • Trim the corners, but don’t turn them right side out just yet. Iron to set stitches and so the sides are nice and flat.

  • Cut four 4” square pieces of cotton batting. Place one square on top of one of the coasters (still wrong side out), then flip both the coaster and the batting, holding them together, right side out. See Photos 4 & 5

  • Use a blunt object, like a dull pencil to carefully push the corners square. Then, carefully fold in the extra fabric, covering up the batting, and make sure it measures 4”. A second method is to turn all four coasters right side out, and then tuck the batting smoothly inside the fabric (though the first option is easier). I iron the coasters again at this point, so they are nice and flat.

  • Begin quilting about 1/8 inch from the edge on a side neighboring the open edge (you'll close the open edge when you quilt along that side). Sew a few stitches, and then take a couple of backstitches to anchor the quilting. Stitch along the side of the coaster, consistently staying about 1/8 inch from the edge. At the first corner, stop sewing with your needle in the down position. Lift the presser foot, and rotate the coaster 90 degrees; lower the presser foot, and sew to the next corner.
  • Repeat stitching along each side and turning the corner as instructed until you're on the fourth side, then stop sewing 1/4 inch before you reach the last corner.

  • With your needle in the down position, lift the presser foot, and rotate the coaster 90 degrees; lower the presser foot, and sew 1/4 inch inside the previous stitching line to within 1/4 inch of the next corner. Keep going, following this process until you reach the center of the coaster – backstitch a few stitches and you’re done. Snip away all stray thread, give it one more touch up with the iron, and your done!

Here is a picture of my work space - yup, it's one giant table! There are also shelves up on the wall, and a bureau where I store my fabric. On my work table I have a cutting area, small ironing board, sewing machine, and a bunch of bins where I (try to) organize the different projects I have going on.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Handmade Plush Organic Toy elephant and puppy dog

Early last spring I had several customers on Etsy ask if I could make an organic cotton Jumble Ball. I researched organic fabric and wasn't sure if it was going to work. My worry was that the plush fleece would be too thick to work with. The Jumble Balls are tricky to squash through my sewing machine already just using regular cotton fabric. Plus the fabric was really expensive.

I didn't want to commit to buying an entire yard so I searched Etsy for remnants. I found another shop (Organic by Nature) who was willing to sell me some smaller cuts of fabric. The thing I love about Etsy is working with other shop owners. In my experience, other sellers have been very helpful. Now that we know eachother we have had lots of email exchanges and traded items back and forth. When the scraps arrived I was so happy! The fabric was terrific - there was a cotton fleece, a sherpa fleece, and some velour. I was thrilled with how fluffy and soft all of the fabrics were. I've made several Jumble Balls from the fabric - and as per customer request, some I stuffed with all natural Bamboo fiberfill. They came out really great! The fabric was so nice, I figured I would try my hand at expanding my creations.

What better to create from super soft plush organic cotton than a plush critter. I made the sweetest organic plush cotton puppy dog - and it came out really nice. Shortly after I added it to my shop, it was featured in the Etsy Blog (The Storque) on July 21, 2009 (which was also my 9 year wedding anniversary). The item was very popular in terms of views and sold within minutes! I received many requests and have made 6 more since. I ordered more fabric and then completed a slew of cute critters and bears - mostly for my kids. One little plushy I made in no time (and it has almost no features), but oddly it came out super cute - it doesn't even have legs. My son named him Stuffie.

Then last week I came across an old pattern for a stuffed elephant and decided to give it a try. I'm really happy with how it came out. I know it's a nice one when my kids beg to keep it for themselves! I detailed each leg and the end of the trunk with hand stitching, which also helps it stand up nicely. The legs are stuffed rather firmly so it can stand up on it's own, but the body is a bit more squashy.

I plan to make several more elephants and I'm going to add printed fabric to the underside of the ears, bottoms of the feet and end of the trunk. That way it will look more personalized and I can make them specifically for a boy or a girl. Might even be fun to add a rattle in the trunk.

Jennifer -

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Swells from Hurricane Bill

My brother and his family are visiting from Vermont this weekend. They haven't been to the beach this summer so when they arrived yesterday we headed off, with a weather forecast of probable rain, to Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine. When we arrived we were told at the State Park that the beach was closed to swimming due a strong riptide caused by Hurricane Bill. The Hurricane was far off shore but was still causing coastal flooding, big waves and strong currents (whoo hoo).

Well, we just had to swim, so we proceeded about a mile down the road to Fort Popham where we could access the far end of the beach, just after the boundary of the state park. It was overcast but still super hot and muggy, not much of a beach day, but hot enough for a swim. This is a protected area of beach and though there was a current, the waves were not that big. The water was freezing cold - about 55 degrees (brrrr). Seriously, it is August, right? Maine waters are always cold, but I think the water was extra cold due to the hurricane. We all jumped in too cool off even though it was numbing! The kids jumped in waist deep and decided that was plenty, then busied themselves chasing waves, catching floating seafoam, popping seaweed pods and digging holes in the sand.

Today we decided to head south to Portland Head Lighthouse, a beautiful lighthouse and Maine summer destination. The place was packed with people all hoping to get a glimpse of the huge storm wells caused by Hurricane Bill. The National Weather Service had issued warnings to stay away from the coast, which of course is why we, along with hundreds of others, had flocked to the coast!

It was well worth it - there were huge swells, which even a little bit out to sea didn't look like much, but came ashore and smashed into the rocks below, with sea spray shooting up 50' in the air. There was a group of photographers with enormous camera lenses just waiting for the perfect shot. Volunteers from the South Portland Fire department were also there to warn daredevils who were watching the waves atop ledges too close to the water for their own safety. It was amazing to witness the power of the ocean. Luckily we had finished our ice cream cones just as the raindrops started to fall. Then on our way home, we drove through an incredible downpour (another effect from the Hurricane).

The waves and beach, coupled with a great dinner at the Back Street Bistro and some delicious homemade pizza, red wine and salad foraged straight from the garden, made for a great weekend.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Great Rangeley Lake Area getaway

Last week my family and I (husband and two kids) spent the week on Mooselookmugentic Lake in Maine. Most people just call it Mooselook, since it's pretty much a mouth full (especially for my 4 year old!). The name Mooselookmeguntic is said to have originated from an ancient Abanaki word which means portage to the moose feeding place, or moose feeding among the trees. The lake is HUGE - 16,300 acres, the second largest in Maine. We already live in Maine, and thought it would be fun to explore our own beautiful 'vacation' land. Since we moved here several years ago, I haven't had the chance to travel any further north than Augusta.

We rented a house through Morton & Furbish rental agency and were very happy with our small rustic camp. It was in a super quiet, cool and shady forest of pines, with tons of low-bush blueberries ripe for the picking. The kids thought that was great. Plus we were right on the water and could just sit out on the deck and listen to the gentle waves and the loons calling at night.

There was no cell phone or internet service for miles, which was a little hard to get used to. We took our kids on a tricky to locate, but well worth it, hike up Angel Falls (just north of Byron Maine) which has a huge waterfall at the top. We had to cross the stream several times on the way up by jumping over giant boulders. It was a fun hike and we were impressed that our kids did so much climbing without being afraid or complaining.

In fact, they were so good, we decided to make them hike up to the top of Bald Mountain 2 days later! That was a 1000' elevation gain over 1 mile, and through one of the muckiest, muddiest trails I've seen in a long time (and I've done a fair amount of hiking). Luckily the kids feet were comfortable wearing the brand new sneakers we just got them! Oh well. I had intended to save those new shoes for the start of school, but realized we had to break them out since they had been wearing sandals all summer and had outgrown their sneakers since the beginning of summer. So with mud and muck all over, we hiked on. The very top was a scramble over giant rocks and boulders and we were rewarded with amazing mountain and lake views. We could see Rangely Lake, Mooselook Lake as well as Cupsuptic Lake.

After our hikes, we were ready for some low key fun - a half day with a rented pontoon boat from Oquossoc Cove Marina, hanging out at the Rangeley town beach, and relaxing at the lake house. We also watched a ton of movies on DVD, roasted marshmallows on the hot coals after dinner and generally kicked back.

Hopefully next year we can convince some friends (which shouldn't be too hard to do) to come up and join us for the week.