Friday, August 29, 2008

Last Splash of Summer

The added reponsibility and time constraints of our homeschool begin next week. Back to schedules (this can be a good thing) and two jobs -- official schooling and homemaking. So I plan to step away from blogdom for a few days and devote my undivided attention to my family. I plan to enjoy this LAST SPLASH OF SUMMER to the FULLEST!!!!!!
Have a great Labor Day Week End!

Sew Crafty Friday - American Girl Doll Swimsuits

As I mentioned last week, I have decided to post Sew Crafty Friday and Sewing Tips and Tutorials on separate days. To view this week's Tips and Tutorials click here.

Last week I joked about buying too much swimsuit material because it was only a dollar a yard. I said that I guessed I would have to make some AG doll swimsuits. Molly's mother thought this was a WONDERFUL idea. I should have known better. So this week for SEW CRAFTY FRIDAY , I'm going to share (what else?) Molly's new suimsuit.

Why is that MY projects always seem to take on a life of their own? I pulled out a pattern for a one piece swimsuit, but a plain pink swimsuit seems rather drab, even if the material does have sparklies in it. So I thought to myself, "Self, I think you have a small piece of black spandex among your fabric scraps. You could put a stripe of that across the chest. That would JAZZ it up!" Then Molly's mother said, "Mama, I REALLY wish you could make her a tankini." To which I replied, "Well. . .I guess we could alter the pattern a bit." And that's when I started to get all excited and lose perspective. "You know I could make the bottom black. That would pull it all together." You can see where this is all going, can't you?
Once I finished the pink and black swimsuit, I remembered that last year I had bought some green and black swimsuit material (again from WalMart for $1.00/yd.); and I found myself saying to Molly's mama, "I could make her another top from that green and black stripe material I have, and Molly could wear that with the black bottoms. "
I didn't want the second top to be the same style as the first one. (Can you see this whole thing snowballing?) So I designed the top pictured above.
After finishing that top, Molly's mama and I decided to make her of foam visor. Molly looked SO cute in the visor that we decided that what she really needed was a Beach Bag.

So when all was said and done, Molly had quite a few new pieces added to her wardrobe.

Now you would THINK after all this I would have had enough, but as I began to gather the materials to make the Beach Bag, another idea struck me. This is such an easy little bag to make. I could show everyone how to make a little tote bag sometime. I grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures as I made it.

But THAT post is for another day...

To view craft projects shared by other bloggers or to share your own creations, be sure to visit SEW CRAFTY FRIDAY on Shereen's blog .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


In my last sewing tutorial, I showed how to streamline a pattern to eliminate the need for making bias binding. However there are times when this cannot be done. For instance the method I last showed you would not work if the bias binding had to be placed on a curve. In addition there are times when bias binding is used as a decorative touch as on the collar in the above photo.

In the past I have found making bias binding to be time-consuming, but now I have found a "little helper" that eases the labor of making bias tape. So let's take a look at a relatively quick way to make bias binding.

Step 1: Gather the following tools and supplies: Cutting mat, rotary cutter, ruler, bias tape maker, iron, and of course, fabric.Step 2: Align 45 degree line on the ruler with the selvage edge of the fabric.Step 3: Rotary cut the fabric. Discard the inital triangular piece of fabric or save it to your scrap bag.Step 4: The width of the next strip will vary depending on the width of bias binding you are making. My bias tape maker makes 1/2 inch bias binding, so according the directions included with it I cut my next strip 1 1/8 inches wide. Continue to cut as many strips as needed for the length of bias binding needed for your particular project.STEP 5: After cutting all your strips you will need to sew them together. Place two strips together to form a 90 degree angle. Right sides of the fabric are facing each other. They should be placed on top of each other exactly as shown in the above photo. Pin together to prevent them from slipping out of place.STEP 6: Sew together using 1/4" seam allowance. I usually use a very small stitch and eliminate the back stitching.Step 7: Press all seams open.
STEP 8: Using rotary cutter trim away all extra fabric at the seams.

Ths is a photo of the bias tape maker I use. This "little helper" and the rotary cutter are what really speeds up the bias binding procedure. The bias tape maker is manufactured by Clover Mfg. Co. LTD. I purchased it at JoAnn Fabrics. I never pay full price for my sewing gadgets because in my opinion they are all over-priced. I usually wait until I have the store's coupon and purchase the gadget for 40% off. The bias tape maker is available in the following widths: 1/4", 1/2", 3/4" 1", and 2".

STEP 9: Insert fabric strip into end of bias tape maker.
STEP 10: Then pull the bias tape maker slowly while ironing the folded tape.

The result is perfectly straight and pressed bias binding that matches and is ready to be used in your project.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Confessions of an Impatient Fidgeter

I have a very hard time sitting down and doing nothing with my hands. This is NOT because I am some kind of driven-overachiever. In truth my personality is sadly the very opposite. No, I have a hard time sitting down with nothing to do with my hands because I guess I'm a fidgeter. Even as a teenager it was very rare that I sat down to watch TV without a project of some kind before me. Even while engrossed in a sermon during worship, I often realize that I have been twiddling my thumbs. Like I said I guess I'm just a fidgeter. I fidget when I have to wait... fidget waiting in the car when I am picking up my kid's after some event, fidget in the doctor's waiting room, fidget while I ride in the car on long trips, the list goes on and on.
This basket is my answer to the problem. What's inside that could calm a fidgeter?
Inside the basket I keep some small project I am working on - nothing too complicated or difficult -- something that can be stopped or started at any point without too much difficulty. Usually, it's a crocheting or knitting project. The rhythmic motion needed to perform those tasks is very sootheing to me. That helps me to easily forget how much time has passed while I've been waiting. Helps me to feel as though I am not wasting my time doing nothing.
As I head out the door, I grab the basket. It's become routine for me. My kids probably love this little basket as much as I do, because it keeps me from becoming irritated as I wait for them. No more accusations from an inpatient mother, such as "What took you so long?"
Most of the time NOW my basket sits by the computer. "WHY THERE," you ask. Well, that's because I DO NOT have Highspeed Internet Service. No, I have snail line dial up which takes forever to upload photos to my blog. So while I wait, I crochet and crochet and crochet.
With all this waiting, perhaps I WILL FINALLY FINISH the lace for edge of my bedskirt.
Who knows?

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Well, it's SEW CRAFTY FRIDAY again. Boy, that week went fast! It was a busy week. Although I worked on other projects, I only have two finished projects to show. So here they are...

A Skirt

I am no longer a cute little size 12 and I am no longer 20-something – NOT BY A LONG SHOT! The result of this is that I hate going shopping for clothes – everything is made for teeny-boppers. (And even most of those styles I would not allow my teen-aged daughters to wear. Just a tad immodest!) When I do find a style that would look okay on me, it’s either black or black print or bright circus colors. Now I don’t mind an occasional black outfit – that can be very tasteful, but I don’t want every piece of clothing I own to make it look like I’ve gone into mourning. As for bright circus colors, I prefer to blend into the background.

Well, clothes shopping has taken a turn for the better – I found this great, reasonably priced, little shop – BonWorth. They actually have more classic and modest styles in nice REASONABLE colors.

It’s a rather unique store. It carries mostly three piece, coordinated outfits in average and petite lengths. The three pieces are sold separately so you can mix the sizes. (You know -- small on top, heavy on the bottom and sundry such combinations.) Also, you don’t have to buy all three pieces. These three piece ensembles usually consist of an over-shirt (or jacket), shell type top or tee , and slacks.

Not to worry -- I AM getting to my sewing projects for this week.

Now as much as I have fallen in love with this store, there is problem with it . . . They sell no dresses and very few skirts (and I do mean VERY few). So when I bought these two pieces (50% off -- HOORAY!)

I needed to make a skirt to match.

I chose Simplicity Pattern #4138 (a pattern I already had). I found 60” wide textured dark plum fabric at Wal-Mart for under $5.00 a yard. I used less than 1½ yards of fabric. The fabric is soft and has such a nice drape, and it is REALLY wrinkle resistant.

A Swimsuit Revamp

My niece recently shared this information with me one day when my older daughter was complaining about the PLUNGING necklines in every swimsuit she looked at. My niece said she had recently been watching a TV program where they had addressed the problem. They suggested wearing a colored sports bra underneath the swimsuit that would coordinate with the colors in the swimsuit. This gives that layered look that is so popular now-a-days. It also adds support for larger bosoms.

That was all background information – Now I'll get to the sewing project.
My younger daughter loved this bathing suit when she saw it AND it was on sale.
Problem: the infamous plunging neckline.
Also, the sides reveal just a little-too-much.
Here’s my remedy. I purchased 1 yard of 60” bathing suit material ($1.00/yd. from
Wal-Mart’s bargain fabric table. Matches pretty well, huh? I bought way, way too much material, but hey it was only a dollar. I guess I’ll be making AG Doll bathing suits with the leftovers. ; ) And besides, it’s a whole lot cheaper than buying a sports bra that matches the bathing suit.)
I made this bandeau that she can wear underneath. It even has shiny little threads woven into the fabric.

No Before picture – I TOLD you; it was TOO revealing, remember?

Here’s the after pictures.
Younger daughter’s happy; I’m happy.

What do you think?

SEWING TUTORIAL & TIPS: Since this post got a little long, I’m not including the sewing tips and tutorial today. I have been thinking about posting it on another day than Friday from now on.

To view craft projects shared by other bloggers or to share your own creations, be sure to visit
SEW CRAFTY FRIDAY on Shereen's blog .

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Let The Games Begin

The world focus of late is on the Olympic Games. Everywhere I go I hear bits and snippets of the latest accomplishments there. Is there anyone who does not recognize the name of Michael Phelps? We marvel at his accomplishments. Spurred by the dedication of the competitors I have decided to develop a new event for the 2012 Olympics. Let me describe it to you.


First, in the preparation of this event the participant must put off ironing clothes for a sufficient amount of time in order that a LARGE amount of ironing accumulates. A basket may be implemented for this accumulation. The technical term for this phase of preparation is PROCRASTINATION.

Next, the participant continues to make excuses for why the mountainous pile of clothing is not being tackled at this very minute. (i.e. writing one’s blog o reading someone else's blog) The technical term for this phase of training is RATIONALIZATION.

Lastly, the participant reacquaints and familiarizes herself with the main piece of sporting equipment to be used in this event – the IRON. So as not to confuse those who also participate in the sport of golfing, we offer here a photo of the IRON used in this event.

As I have not yet decided what the technical term for this phase of training should be, input from the readers would be appreciated. Now on to the event itself.

* * * EVENTS * * *

Goal: The goal of this event is to properly iron the entire basket of clothing in the shortest amount of time.

Participants: This is a one-man (or should I say one-woman) event. Those who have trained properly (see above for training and preparation for the event) are qualified as participants.

Penalties: Points will be lost for burning oneself with the iron. In the event that the basket is not completely emptied, the participant will be disqualified.

Of special note: This IS a marathon event.


Because I firmly believe in the learning process of “Show me, tell me, let me do it myself” I demonstrate some of the particulars of this event.
In the procrastination phase I have accumulated an ample supply of laundered (but un-ironed) shirts belonging to my son and husband.

My rationalization phase included sewing a skirt for myself and taking my older daughter to CVS. (Where else?) In additon, the following excuse was used: Why iron these shirts now? The guys have one or two shirts left before they must go without.
Here I reacquaint myself with the iron. Now I am not entirely unfamiliar with this piece of equipment. After all, I DO have to press seams when I sew.

And now showing my style in the actual event.The empty basket to prove I have not been disqualified.The thrill of victory!
Thirteen ironed shirts!


Monday, August 18, 2008

Homeschool Beginnings

Mid – August, si-i-i-i-i-i-i-gh! I always get a little reflective around this time of the year. It’s usually about now that I begin to have thoughts like this…”once again summer has slipped by too quickly”, “I planned on getting this and this and this done”, “I really need to get the school area back in order”, and my thoughts go on and on.

Our summers are a little less scheduled and a little more laid back. Along a more selfish-line, there’s a little more “me” time, chances for me to delve in and create. It seems I never seem to complete all the things I planned to get done over the summer.

You see, we’re a homeschooling family. We have been for the last eight years. This year I seem to be a little more reflective than in other years. This is my older daughter’s senior year. I’m in shock – how did we get here? I remember when we first started homeschooling with a fourth-grader, a second-grader, and an early kindergartener. It was a rough year, I was ready to throw-in-the-towel more than once. I cried, and prayed, and asked God, “How am I going to do this?” Somehow God kept before me my conviction that this was best for our children. My sweet husband was a constant encouragement.

My older daughter was easy. We’d go over a lesson; I would give her the practice work for that lesson or a reading assignment to complete, and she’d DO IT while I worked with her brother or sister. She was conscientious and would often go on to work on something else when she was done with the given task.

My son, the second-grader, was a different story. We’d go over a lesson. I would give him the practice work for that lesson or a reading assignment to complete, and while I worked with one of his sister’s he would DAYDREAM. I would return to him only to find the work undone. I can't begin to count the many evening’s after supper that this little guy and I would have do the work that he was to have done during the day!

The youngest was an eager learner. She often parroted things she heard me teaching the older ones.

The two older children had attended a Christian school until that time. They already knew how to read. In fact, my older daughter loved to read. The year before we began homeschooling, she had received an award for reading the most books in the school that she attended. While my son really didn’t like to read books, still his reading comprehension was good.

My big worry that year was “Will I be able to teach my youngest child to read?” (I believe this is a very common concern with new homeschool moms.) Well, of course, she DID learn to read, and she is also an AVID reader. Ever notice how most of the things we worry about never come to pass?

So here we are eight-years later with two in their highschool years and one in her junior highschool years. I now pray “Lord, I can do this as long as you want, but only with your help. You have never failed me.” I want to encourage any of you who have started homeschooling, stay with it.

The first couple of years are the hardest, then you begin to “settle in”. Somehow, it becomes more natural, a way of life. The rewards are great. A strong bond develops as you all learn “together”. From what I have seen, most homeschool families are very close. The kids don’t seem to think that their parents are from outerspace. They actually enjoy being around their parents. Are there exceptions to this? I’m sure there are, but this has been my general observation.

If you have been homeschooling for a while and have any encouragement or tips for those thinking about homeschooling or in the early years of homeschooling, be sure to leave a comment with your tip or word of encouragement.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sew Crafty Friday - Matching Little Girl & AG Doll Dress

Before I share a recent sewing project with you, I want to apologize to anyone who tried last week to visit our Sew Crafty Friday page from the link on Shereen's blog and found themselves on the wrong page here at Brambleberry Cottage. I set the link just to come to my blog and not to a particular page. The good thing is that I have learned from my mistake .
...And now on to our project...
The project I have been working on this week is very "hush - hush" (A gift to be given) and so I certainly could not display it here for prying eyes to see. LOL So instead I will share a project I did earlier this year ... a dress for a dear little friend and her AG doll.
This is a photo I took of the dress (modeled by my dd2's doll) before I sent it to Grace for her birthday.
Children's apparel is my favorite item to sew. I love all the special touches that can be added -- embroidery, tucking, piping and the like.I used Vogue Pattern #V7958 for a matching little girl's dress. I did change the collar to a peter pan style collar rather than use the collar that was used on the original pattern. I can never leave patterns well enough alone. LOL
The AG Doll dress was not actually a particular pattern. I designed it to match Grace's dress.

Making a pattern more "User Friendly"

You might remember these bonnets from last week's post. I'd like to use them as an example of making a pattern more user friendly (and time saving).
For the little girl bonnets I had used Simplicity Pattern #5042. The pattern instructed the sewer to cut a piece of bias binding to use as casing for the elastic at the back of the bonnet and to sew a narrow hem at the side and bottom back edges of the bonnet. I had sewn the bonnet on the right using that method.
I saw two problems with that method
1. Bias binding wastes a lot of material because of having to cut it on a 45 degree angle to the selvage.
2. I find pressing and sewing the narrow hem to be tedious and time consuming.
Also, I think my alternative method (shown on the left of the photo above) gives a much more "finished" look to the bonnet.
So, here's my remedy... STEP 1: I drew a line 3/4 inch above the line for the bias binding placement printed on the pattern. (This allows for 1/2 inch casing for the elastic and 1/4 inch to be turned under for a clean finished edge. STEP 2: I made a photo copy of the section I wanted to copy and cut it out up to the line I drew. No Copier? Place a piece of tissue paper over the original pattern and trace the lines up to the line that was drawn.STEP 3: I taped it to the bottom of the pattern to produce a mirror image. To do this I had to flip the copy over (printed side of copy would not be seen because it was facing down). STEP 4: I pinned the adjusted pattern piece to the fabric and cut it out.
STEP 4: I turned the fabric right sides together and stitched the side seams. Turned the fabric and pressed. This step eliminates the need for a narrow hem. STEP 5: I turned inder 1/4" at the top and stitched it closed. (This formed the top of the casing for the elastic.) STEP 6: I sewed a second line of stitching 1/2" inch below the STEP 5 line of stitching. (This formed the bottom of the casing for the elastic.) STEP 7: Last, I inserted the elastic into the casing. At this point it looked like the above photo.
Because I often make these bonnets to sell or give as gifts, the changes made to the pattern piece will save me material and time on future projects.
Don't be afraid to adjust or change a pattern to suit yourself or to make it more user friendly. It's not hard to do. Usually, it just takes some good common sense. If you are making several items from the same pattern (perhaps for a craft show or perhaps for several items from a favorite pattern), the small amount of time it takes to change the pattern will save you much more time in the future.

Keep Sewing!

If this tip has helped you or sparked your creative juices, let me know, and I'll keep trying to add these little sewing tips to my blog in the future.
To view craft projects shared by other bloggers or the share your own creations, be sure to visit SEW CRAFTY FRIDAY on Shereen's blog at

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Day Trip Mystery

My dear hubby had a six-month medical check-up scheduled for this morning. This entails a three-hour drive to the Harrisburg area where his doctor is located. Usually we just go as a family and make a day of it together. Once the doctor's appointment is over, we visit some of the attractions in the area. Today was hubby's turn to pick our destination. Can you guess where we went today? Are these pictures a hint?

No, not the zoo...

Whoa, what's wrong with this picture?
Look closely, it's another clue.

Well, of course...
Hubby's favorite destination in the Harrisburg/Hamburg
area is Cabellas.

Dad helps his boy look for a call - a fawn bleat.

Dad and the kids check out the amo. Next stop ... reloading suppies.

You know I often wonder if the reason that my husband chose a doctor three hours away is so that he has an excuse to visit his favorite store twice a year. ; ) Really, if you've never been to a Cabellas, it is quite interesting. The animals in the photos above are part of their massive taxidermy displays that are located throughout this MASSIVE store. There are hundreds of specimens in a single store. Most displays label the animals in the display. In addition, there are floor to ceiling aquariums stocked with Pennsylvania fish and information pertaining to them. So even those members of the family who are less interested in the "hunting, fishing, camping" merchandise, just might enjoy the other perks at this store.
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