Category Archives: crafty

Sewing Instead of Superbowling (Plus a Giveaway!)

Hi, ya’ll!

It’s Superbowl Sunday, and—I’m sorry—I just couldn’t give a hoot about the game OR the commercials. I’ve pretended that I cared about the NFL in the past, but I guess I’m at the point in life that I can just admit when things bore me. (*Give yourself a moment to judge me here, because I’m a strange person who doesn’t care about professional football and maybe ought to.*) Or perhaps I’m finally understanding that life’s too short to spend 4-5 hours watching something that I never learned to appreciate. That said—while ya’ll are enjoying yourselves, gorging on bean dip and hot wings—I’ve been sewing with my machine and counting down the minutes until Downton Abbey comes on.

Previously I’ve posted about my goal of learning how to sew and, as part of my 30-before-30 list, becoming good enough at it to sew myself a dress that I will actually wear. Though I’m not there yet, I’ve been going through my 1-2-3 Sew book a little at a time, systematically picking up new, small skills along the way. Some of the projects under my belt include:

Square dinner napkins for Jennifer, including mitered corners (and I also made some green ones for Catherine and Trone):

A table runner for our Razorback party, including a pocket for silverware:

A short curtain (that turned out to be too short) for my friend’s window:

And an “abstract skyline” linen pillowcase for Jen to rest her booty on while she’s practicing gueee-tar for hours upon hours:

It’s definitely getting easier to sew in a straight line, though a little bit of work on my sister’s machine during Christmas break confirmed for me that MY machine is a bit junky. I did buy it from an extremely sketchy Craigslist ordeal, after all, so I guess I got what I paid for.

Part of the fun of sewing is buying your fabrics, though you run the risk of overbuying and running out of storage room. So since I’m officially OUT of room, I thought I’d give away a yard of something pretty to one of you.

Isn’t that a great pattern? (I’m sure I thought so while I was spending my entire paycheck on more fabric than I could use at one of Joann’s many holiday sales).

OK! For a chance to win one yard of fabric, a set of heart-shaped straight pins, a mini tailor’s tape-measure, and two spools of coordinating thread, leave your answer to the following question in the comments:

What would you make with this?

I’ll randomly choose a winner after 2:00 PM on Friday, February 10. Though it’s mostly friends and acquaintances who read this low-traffic blog, ANYONE is free to enter. And to whoever wins: I hope you’ll check back in to show me what you’ve made!

Folks, the entries are closed. And the winner is . . . 

Molly W.! I’ll shoot you an email for contact info. 

Love love,



A Quick Gift for Readers

Hey, friends! Joce back with a not-so-heavy post about DIY gifts. If you’ve picked up on any running themes here, you may have noticed that Cath, Jen, and I are three of the biggest book nerds you’ll ever know. When we were all living together in 2137, our cumulative library was pretty darn good; and if one of us didn’t have a book in particular, one of the others probably did. This post is for you book-lovers, and you lovers of book-lovers: while the very best gift for a bookworm might just be a new book, a handmade bookmark might be the next best thing.

When I was a girl, my next-door neighbor and surrogate grandmother Ms. Dot taught me how to cross-stitch, and she also made me the occasional cross-stitched gift. So when I was visiting her over the summer and she handed me this book of patterns, I recognized it immediately:

Dot made me one of these bookmarks and gave it to me probably fifteen years ago. I still have it marking a spot in a favorite book, so it has lasted much longer than the standard bookmark. Since she doesn’t cross-stitch as much anymore, she let me have the patterns, and now I’m going to share one of my own with you.

Materials needed for homemade bookmark:

  • DMC floss in 3 complementary colors
  • grosgrain ribbon in a complementary color
  • needle, scissors, and a small hoop
  • aida cloth in whatever size you want (medium density)
  • hot glue gun

I thought I’d make my own pattern for this one, so feel free to use it yourself. You can easily use graph paper to make your own patterns, but since I couldn’t find any, I made my own with pen and a ruler. A good pattern size for this project is 24 X 24 stitches if you want to get your design on.

Take a look at your ribbon and floss collection, and pick out whichever colors you like together. For this project, I used DMC floss numbers 312, 3348, and 3350.

Dot taught me the trick of finding the center of a cloth scrap by folding it in half twice, then sticking a pin in the corner. It may not be the exact center, but since this scrap is plenty large, close-to-center is good enough. Start your stitching from the center, then work your way out.

I like how this one turned out a little bit like a pinwheel. Once you’re done with the cross-stitching and outlining, cut your square out with four extra lines of cloth around the edges:

Next, to create a frayed look around the edges, use a needle or pin to lift out two layers of the horizontal fabric. Depending on the tension of your fabric, this may be easy or a bit more difficult.

You are almost done! All that’s left to do is cut your grosgrain to whatever length you want. With a dab of hot glue, adhere the ribbon to the back of your square. And if you want, you can cut a fancy notch in the bottom of the ribbon like so:

This bookmark is so easy and really does not take much time at all. In fact, I cranked out a couple of these while watching two episodes of The Wire over the weekend. I gave one to my granddad for his birthday, since he really is impossible to buy for. And if my cat hadn’t so mercilessly eaten the other one, I might have sent it to someone else. I’ll just pretend I sent it to Omar Little for his copy of Ghettoheat.



PS – Thanks to everyone for the feedback on the Troy Davis post. Though the outcome of  Davis’s story is just as tragic as many of us expected, it serves as a reminder that this important discussion is far from over. Peace and love, J.

Next Stop, Project Runway

Hey, friends! Can you believe it’s almost August? As summers typically do, this one seems to have slipped into some mysterious black hole. But even more importantly (at least for the purposes of this blog), can you believe it’s time for one of the best shows on TV—Project Runway— to enter its NINTH season? I’ve been watching it for all eight previous seasons, and I’m certainly watching it tonight.

hot mess tranny fierce

Can I confess that I’ve always secretly wanted to be on Project Runway? I mean, who wouldn’t want to take shopping trips to Mood with Tim Gunn? Or be insulted by Michael Kors himself (a la, “I’m sorry, but it looks like a purple fern with angel wings”)? Heck, I’d even be fine getting the “You’re out” from Heidi. But one thing holding me up from this far-out little fantasy is the fact that I can’t sew.

But that’s all going to change, and I hope you all can help me with this. A few weeks ago, I ordered this:

1-2-3 Sew by Ellen Luckett Baker is a charming little book with charming little patterns, all intended to build upon each other. The projects start out as simply as possible, and the goal is for the beginning seamster/seamstress to learn small skills along the way. The sewing tasks get a little more complicated the further you work your way through the book, maximizing what Baker has called a “building-block approach to sewing.” The projects are organized in groups of three:

And thankfully, every project is supplemented with lots and lots of helpful photographs and diagrams:

So, it’s with fear and trepidation (and an incredibly sketchy sewing machine that I bought from what may just have been a female drug-dealer in Hendersonville, TN) that I start this teach-myself-to-sew journey. I already finished the first project—a tea towel with basic folded corners—using my sister’s sewing machine and some Mary Engelbriet fabric my mom found at her thrift store.

It’s crooked, it has errors, and it’s definitely longer on one side than the other. But you know what? It’s a tea towel; and I will probably accidentally set it on fire anyway. And amazingly, I didn’t puncture my finger ONCE while turning the corners.

So, friends—I know several of you are masters with your sewing machines, so what helped you get started? Did someone teach you, or are you self-trained? What recommendations would you give to a greenhorn seamstress? Any resources you think I ought to check out? I’m determined to become proficient at this one, ladies and gentlemen!!!

Also, what are your first impressions of this new season of PR? After watching this first challenge tonight (pajamas + your bedsheet = high fashion), I’m not sure I’ll ever have a stable enough blood pressure for this show.



An Expensive Habit

Ugh, graduate school stinks this weekend. More precisely, grading freshman writing STINKS this weekend. Seriously, there are only so many comma splices and disorganized messes a gal like me can HANDLE, you see. So I’ve procrastinated every way I can think of . . . taking my cat to the vet, painting a room, planting herbs in pots, ANYTHING but grading. Why not procrastinate on crafting too? Or at least blogging about being crafty?

I’m fortunate to be the daughter of a very crafty lady. If you go to my momma’s house, you will find evidence of 1,001 hobbies—one of which is rubber stamping. It’s easy to justify a rubber-stamping hobby to oneself: “Gee, I will buy this stamp set, and I’ll make SO MANY thank-you notes and sympathy cards that I will certainly make my money back on the supplies.”


Mom and I have spent so much money on stamps, ink pads, embossing powder and guns, ribbons, glue, paper products, hole punchers, stickers, brads, glitter, YOU NAME IT, that there is no way in heaven (or hell) that we will ever “make our money back.” That is why, loyal (and few) readers, that I suggest you approach this hobby with monetary caution.

But if you’re looking for a hobby to sink a ship into, rubber-stamping might be for you!

To make the project I’m describing here, you will need:

  • several sheets of white cardstock or thick paper
  • a set of two-step stamps (the one I’m using is called “Roses in Winter” by Stampin’ Up, and sometimes it’s for sale on Ebay)
  • a stamp with a greeting (“Thank you!” or “Best Wishes” or whatevs)
  • some green vellum
  • ink pads in complementary shades of one color (I’m using pinks and red here), plus a green
  • adhesive of some sort (I’m using the roll-y kind)
  • something to cut with (scissors, are okay, but a paper cutter is better)

First, cut your 8 1/2 X 11 piece of cardstock into 8 1/2 X 5 1/2 pieces (basically, cut the paper in half). Then, fold that piece in half (into greeting card shape), like so: 

Now, the beautiful part about two-step stamping is that it’s really hard to mess up. Being imprecise can result in loveliness. So on the front of your card, stamp the base stamp (in this case, the largest rose) around the edges. Use your lightest shade of color for this.

Next, take the second-layer stamp and layer it on top of the light imprints you’ve made. Use a darker shade to create the effect you want.

Some of you perfectionists might be bothered that these roses look messy, and that the second layer of ink is not perfectly stamped on top of the other. But ya’ll can go read Martha Stewart’s blog now, and I won’t miss you.

Finally, stamp your darkest shade of color on top of the others. I suppose that by now, this is really three-step stamping. (oops)

It’s starting to look like something by now, which is nice. Next, stamp your green leaves around the edges and cut a piece of green vellum to fit like so:

Cut a piece of white cardstock that is slightly smaller than the vellum. You want the vellum to be like a frame to it:

Take that tinier piece of cardstock, and “stamp it up” just like you did on the card itself.

Try to pick an appropriate sentiment for the greeting you stamp in the center:

However, I do think a lovely rose-themed greeting card would be particularly ironic with a phrase like “Bite Me” in the center. It’s up to you.

Adhere this piece of cardstock to the vellum, and then glue that layer to the card itself.

VOILA! You have made a nice card to send to somebody. In my case, I made three using the same technique.

The fun thing about this hobby is that you can experiment with what you have. Change up the colors, change up the shapes, whatever. Stamping is like art for people (get it: me) who can’t make art without lots and lots of help. You’ll figure out pretty quickly who appreciates your handmade lovelies and who doesn’t; and of course those jerks who never mention what you’ve sent them will never ever get another one.

Repeat: craft with MONETARY CAUTION. You have been warned. I guesstimate that this craft cost approximately $47.83 per crafted card.



Who Needs an Upholsterer?

Within the last few weeks, I have made two major purchases: a new camera (a Nikon D40), and a new house (in Fayetteville, Arkansas). This post will pertain to both, seeing as I decided to reupholster a chair for my new house and document the process using my new camera.

So lately, knowing that I might be in the market for my own home, I’ve been obsessively following this website: The couple who runs this blog completely revamped a dingy, unattractive old home and turned it into a palace of preciousness. They have tons of tips regarding DIY projects, and their creativity–combined with some design ideas from Southern Living magazine–inspired me to put a new cover on this old chair.

old chair

It’s a cute little retro chair that my parents’ neighbor (and my adopted grandma) Dot gave me a few years ago. I kind of like this fabric, but it won’t really match the design I’ve picked out, so Catherine, my sister, and I went fabric shopping and picked out a precious pattern from Amy Butler designs. The fabric store had a half price sale this week (woohoo!), so we cleaned up.

Tools you need for reupholstering an old chair:

  • an old chair
  • a screwdriver
  • cute fabric that’s thick enough to cover what you already have on your chair
  • a sturdy staple gun with staples
  • scissors
  • an iron

To begin, flip your chair on its side and look for the screws holding the seat to the frame.



Unscrew ’em, and set them aside. Admire the seat before you alter its life forever.


Gather your supplies.


Using your fancy fabric scissors, cut a piece of fabric large enough to wrap your seat in.


Now get that scary staple gun READY! I tried a few test shots before using it on the actual project. Mine, like me, is “heavy duty.”


Once you’ve cut your fabric to a ballpark (large enough) size, iron the creases out so you have a nice, smooth surface to work with.


Now here’s the fun part! Start stapling the fabric to the seat around a flat side. Save the corners for later.


Once you have a smooth edge stapled, staple the opposite edge the same way–pulling the fabric taut. Next, tackle the corners.


I don’t really have a technique for this. I just tried to fold the edges neatly enough that no one would notice them.

Eventually, you’ll be done with this. Keep turning the seat over to make sure you like what you see. The good news is that any misstapling can be fixed by the flick of a screwdriver. 


Not bad for less than an hour’s work. And all done while watching Confessions of a Shopaholic, too!

Screw the seat back into the chair frame. This might have been the most difficult part for me, but as long as you keep the fabric from covering up the holes, this shouldn’t be a problem for you. Learn from my mistakes, people!


Turn rightside up, and . . . EUREKA!


It’s like a new chair! Your keister will be sitting pretty.

More DIY projects to come. 😀