My kid had a big growth spurt this past summer, and by the end of it, most of his pajama pants fit him more like capris. (Or, as we like to call capris in our family: shpants.)
As we went through his outgrown pajamas and made a pile to donate, he grabbed one pair of pants and announced he loved them so much he didn’t want to give them away – he wanted to make a pillow out of them.
(At some point when he was a toddler, we made a pillow out of a shirt. I don’t remember the project, and I don’t think we even have it anymore, but it’s stuck in his head that we make pillows out of old clothes we love, and I love this idea so, so much.) (Also, I have a growing pile of his old clothes I want to make a quilt out of someday.)
So here’s what we did:
First, Cut Off a Leg
Since these pants were made from a stretchy knit fabric, I held them taught while my son wielded my fabric scissors. We cut the leg off as near to the crotch of the pants as possible, to make for the longest/biggest pillow. We also cut the elastic off the cuff, at the ankle.
(I took this photo later on in the process [scroll down for notes on adding an appliqué], but below you can see one of the cut-up ends of the pant leg.)
Next, Sew Up One End
We could have simply sewed the ankle end shut, but it was way more fun for the kid to decide on a design for felt scales to sew in there, too. So he took a sharpie to some felt, then he got frustrated trying to cut felt with safety scissors and my fabric scissors were too big for him to use for detail cutting. So I cut out the design.
Then I sandwiched the felt inside the ankle end of the pants leg, threaded some embroidery floss onto a sharp embroidery needle, and taught the kid how to sew a running stitch through the three layers of fabric.
You might think a running stitch – and not a terribly tightly sewn one – wouldn’t be appropriate for eventually keeping stuffing from coming out of the pillow, but (spoiler) it’s worked great.
Maybe, If You Want, Make an Appliqué
The kid didn’t particularly want to make this pillow into a monster, but when I suggested he could cut out a shape of felt and decorate it however he wanted, he decided that would be a grand thing to do. He drew a big triangle, I helped him cut it out (mental note to get him scissors that are sharp enough for cutting felt or fabric), then he took a Sharpie to it.
At this point, he’d lost interest in the slow part of hand-sewing, and he expressed zero desire to sew the appliqué on. No big. I sewed it on, for I love the slow part of hand-sewing. While I did this, he went outside and tossed a baseball against a net.
Now Stuff It
We used basic poly-fil as stuffing. You could, alternatively, use scrap fabric or yarn, or a mixture of scraps and poly-fil, for a more eco-friendly (though lumpier) stuffing. (I love eco-friendly lumpy stuffings, FWIW.)
Use as much or as little stuffing as you or your small friend wants.
Finally, Sew Up the Other End
We again cut out some felt humps to sew into the second and final seam at the crotch end of the pant leg.
Because of the stuffing, I used pins to keep things together, with the humps sandwiched between the halves of pant leg as for the ankle end.
The kid did the sewing after I got it started, and I held things together for him as he went, obviously removing pins as he progressed.
And there you have it: a pillow made out of old, outgrown pajama pants!
The kid’s slept with it in his bed every night since we made it.
What do you do with outgrown-but-beloved clothes?
PS You can see bits of a book in some of these photos. It’s a great book called Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make, by Andria Lisle and Amie Petronis Plumley. We didn’t follow instructions from the book to make the pillow, but even starting from a place of the kid flipping through and saying he didn’t like any of the projects for pillows was a great launching point for figuring out what he did want to make. And the book assured me running stitch was a totally age-appropriate skill to teach him. Also, I love this book because the projects are made by actual kids – there is zero room for comparing what you or your kid makes against any sort of “perfection”. It’s all gloriously age-appropriate. And therefore absolutely what it should be!
This part at the beginning made me nod my head very hard: “Sometimes we focus so much on getting great at something that we miss the opportunity we have to get better.”
But then I kept reading, and I was like, hold up. This is just… overly complicated. There’s a way simpler “formula” for getting better at one thing in a month.
Here’s how it goes: Just do lots of that thing in a month.
That’s it, dude. All it takes to get better at something is to do it lots, and the way to get yourself to do it lots is to commit to doing it lots. Which isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do, but it is simple.
Sure, you can spend some time figuring out how to define “better”. And sure, you can spend some time getting in touch with why you want to get better at it. But honestly? Enough thinking about it, and just start doing it. You can figure out the whys while you’re at it, or after you’ve done it.
There’s something stuck in your brain, something you desperately – maybe secretly – want to get better at. The only thing you need to do is just show up. Stop thinking about it so much you never do it.
Get ambitious and commit to doing or making that one thing every single day for a month. Or commit to doing or making it a few times a week for a month. Anything less than that isn’t really making a commitment to get better at it.
give yourself a gold star every time you show up – CLICK HERE TO GET MY FREE DAILY ART/CRAFT TRACKER!
I've spent years making something every single day, and in doing that I've gotten better at making lots of different kinds of things, and way better at trying new things. Hell, I've even gotten better at getting better at things.
This month, I'm training for a 5K. How I'm doing it? By making sure I show up for the workouts. I could wax on for ages about why I'm doing this at this particular time in my life, and why I've gotten further into the training than I have any of the other times I've tried, but really it comes down to not thinking about it. I don't need to justify myself, I don't need to justify my methods, I don't need to dig deep into what kept me from doing this all the other times I've tried. I just need to do it.
What's nagging at you that you want to get better at? Will you show up for it?
It was more than a couple of years ago that a friend announced on Facebook that they were looking to sell their barely used 10″ Cricket Loom. As it was my birthday, I decided this was exactly the right thing to buy myself.
My kid helped me warp the loom with an odd ball of variegated yarn, and I chose a second odd ball of black tweed yarn for the weft.
Weaving goes fast! Way faster than knitting or crocheting.
But then something got in the way of me finishing the project. A mental block. Maybe I wished I’d chosen a yarn I had more of, so I could actually finish a scarf-length project (even with the uneven edges that come with any first weaving project)? Maybe I was concerned the finishing steps would be tedious or complicated?
I have no idea. What I do know is that this project stayed on the loom for years after I finished weaving it.
Until now. I finally got the thing off my loom! It took a sum total of about fifteen minutes and the aid of Liz Gipson’s fabulous book. That’s it!
So now that I’ve gotten over the anxieties of my very first project, I’m ready to take on a more deliberate one. Surely for a scarf again. But which yarns will I use?
Learning how to carve stamps is one of my favourite things to come out of my Years of Making. Stamp carving is like the opposite of knitting and crocheting – you can sit down for an hour or two and create a stamp you can use over and over again pretty much forever. Compared to making things from yarn, it’s practically instantaneous! And it’s fun.
And, let’s face it, it’s also practical. I’ve designed a thank-you stamp for making cards to send after my kid’s birthday. I’ve made outlines of shapes to use in my bullet journal or to layer over all sorts of stuff in my art journal. I’ve made a stamp of the title of Stamp Camp – so meta! And of the tiles in my cousin’s bathroom. (Ok, that last one isn’t practical at all. But it sure was fun.)
You can also access some of the class as a free trial to see how the platform works and to get a feel for what’s offered in class. So no risk! Give it a try today and let me know if you have any questions.
Now that I’m done traveling and finally settling into a normal routine, baseball is proving to the best thing ever for my knitting. The long-neglected pair to the first sock I knitted earlier in the summer? Almost done!
Now that summer is finally over (heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest notwithstanding), I’m getting back into my cooking groove. I don’t enjoy cooking enough to be bothered to do much of it in the heat and frenzy of summer, but as soon as school is about to start, all I want to do is make food.
Starting with my kid’s favourite kind of snack to take to school: muffins. I love making muffins. They’re so easy, and they freeze well. So even if the kid decides he’s sick of one kind after taking them to school all week, I don’t have to force him to take them for a second week because I’ll have put a half dozen of them into the freezer. Then I can make a different kind, and thaw the first kind after a few weeks when he’s forgotten he was sick of them.
The ones I just made are a modified version of the Kitchen Sink Muffins in The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet. (Lots of the recipes in this book are for sandwiches, so not exactly earth-shattering. But the kid enjoys flipping through it and telling me what he wants to eat, so I love having it around.) This recipe has no egg in it, so it’s easy to make it vegan if you’re so inclined (one of us is lactose-intolerant, so I always bake non-dairy).
When we were planning our summer camping trip with friends – a two-week road trip with two pretty-much-seven-year-olds – we got it in our heads that it would be fun to give the kids merit badges as they accomplish cool stuff over the course of the trip.
Which sparked the question of what the kids would do with their merit badges. Um, also I ordered a lot of them.
Their school backpacks have too many pockets and zippers to make them a good canvas for sewing badges onto, and anyway we suspect that once it’s time to go back to school they might not want their school bag to be covered in badges for things like playing frisbee golf or cooking with pie irons.
The obvious solution was to make them messenger bags for the trip. The flap would be the perfect canvas for sewing badges onto, and the bag would be great for beach-combing and finding all kinds of other treasures while we explore the world.
I’m not exactly an expert bag sewer, and my friend hadn’t sewn since she was in school, but we decided to go for it.
I picked up some olive-coloured cotton canvas fabric for the outside of the bag, and lightweight quilting cotton for the pockets and linings. My kid is bananas for baseball and my friend’s is similarly in love with soccer, so there you go.
Downsized the bag to make it more appropriate for young kids:
Finished size 9″w x 11″h x 3″d (it looks quite a bit narrower because the depth of the bag)
Body and lining cut to 11″ x 23″ (sized for 1/2″ seam allowances instead of 1/4″)
Flap and lining cut to 9″ x 12.5″
No applique or other decoration on the flaps
Slightly rounded flap corners for my kid’s bag (baseball); pointed corners for my friend’s kid’s (soccer)
No inside pockets
Outside pocket under the flap rather than on the back side of the bag that rests against your body when you wear it (this was as much due to not understanding from the instructions that the pocket wasn’t actually intended to go under the flap in the first place)
Made an adjustable strap using these instructions instead of making the one-size strap in the bag instructions
This project took us way longer than we thought it would, but in the process she remembered how to use a sewing machine and I remembered why I don’t make more bags. In the end, though, we’re really happy with how they came out, and we hope the kids take to them, too.
Over on the Patreon we’re doing an informal stitch-along all summer long. Any kind of stitching, just for fun, for getting to know each other, and for learning from each other. (We started a Facebook group just for patrons for things like this, and just for chatting, and it’s working out like a charm!)
I’m making the sampler from Rebecca Ringquist’s book Embroidery Workshop. The book is amazing. It’s full of great projects and instruction, and the best thing about it is her approach to her craft: she encourages experimentation and play, and discourages getting hung up on “the rules”. Want to knot your work? Go for it. Is the back of your embroidery a total mess? Who cares. She invites you to dive right in and do what you want so you enjoy yourself as thoroughly as possible. Yes, yes and more yes.
If you’re into embroidery or just want to give it a shot, please join us!
If you read my Friday newsletter, you know my college roommates are visiting for a few days. It’s only the second time in fifteen years that we’ve been in the same place together.
And as you do when you’ve been friends for over twenty years, we got to chatting before the visit about getting matching tattoos. Diamonds, which last forever just like our friendship. Aw. And also, the ridiculous thing that inspired this trip is… a Neil Diamond concert.
The thing is, our styles are really different. I, especially, struggled with the idea of a diamond. I’m not so big with the shiny sparkly things, and also the ethics of diamonds are just deeply problematic. But I love these women, and our friendship is forever.
Somehow, I got to thinking about compass roses, and whether I could really stretch the diamond concept into the four points of the compass. I didn’t even realize at the time that I put a compass rose into the branding of my business a few months ago. There’s something about this symbol that’s stuck in my head these days. Something about adventuring, getting lost and found again, staying grounded while taking risks.
Leave it to the amazing Sam McWilliams to put a diamond perfectly in the centre of a compass rose tattoo. One look at her sketch and I was like yes. This is the one.
In my love of traveling, in my love for friends near and far, I know where I am and who I am and which direction is my personal north. This design on my arm forever, with the diamond at its centre that matches the diamonds my beloved friends have inked on themselves, is simply perfect.