Thursday, November 7, 2013

Herringbone Mason Jar Cozy {Tutorial}

I am sorta done with chevron stripes, but I still LOVE herringbone!  I was involved in a fall gift exchange and wanted to send a gift that I loved, but that I also thought my friend would love.  Her favorite color is orange and she loves bright colors. 

I discovered Cuppow mason jar drinking lids a while ago and my whole family loves them.  And...they come in orange!  The lids can be used with hot or cold drinks.  And, either way, the mason jar needs a cozy to keep hand from getting too hot or too cold.

I looked around for a mason jar cozy that I liked and couldn't find one, so I decided to design my own.  I snapped a few photos so I could write this tutorial.

drawing the design

 Herringbone Mason Jar Cozy {Tutorial}


- 1 piece of cotton fabric 12" x 4" for the inside of the cozy

- 2 pieces of cotton batting 12" x 2.25"

- 20 scraps of fabric (will be cut to 1.5" by approximately 4.5")

- 1 hair elastic

- 1 button


{Note:  You could easily make this without the herringbone design.  In that case, you would just cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of batting 12"x4" and then follow the directions for putting the cozy together.}

For making the herringbone top, I followed Maureen Cracknell's Herringbone Quilt Tutorial, adjusting the size.  (You will need to refer to her tutorial since I don't go into exact detail on how to sew herringbone strips to the batting.)

First, I cut my strips of cotton batting to 12" by 2.25":

(I currently don't have a rotary cutting board, so I've been using my Pampered Chef cutting board!  See, if you don't have the right tools, ruin use what you've got!)

Draw diagonal lines, 1 inch apart, onto each strip of batting:

Cut scraps of fabric into 1.5" x approximately 4.5" strips and lay them out in the order you want them:

Follow Maureen's directions for sewing the strips onto the batting in the herringbone pattern.

Turn each half over and trim down to 12" by 2.25":

 Sew the halves together at the center using a 1/4" seam and matching the herringbone seams:

Assemble the herringbone front, the fabric back and the hair elastic:

Place the herringbone front on your table, batting side down and herringbone design up.

Put the hair elastic on top of one of the the short edges of the herringbone panel at the center seam.

Lay the fabric back, right side down on top of the herringbone panel and hair elastic and pin together.  (In this photo, it looks like the right side of the orange fabric is up, but that's only because it is a solid kona fabric with no "right" and "wrong" side.)

Starting at the short end with the hair elastic, sew around all 4 edges of the layers, leaving a 3" opening on one of the long sides for turning.

Snip the corners and turn right side out.

Iron the cozy, turning in the raw edges of the opening you used for turning the cozy right side out.

Top stitch all around the cozy, sewing the opening closed as you go.

Wrap the cozy around your mason jar to determine where you want to place the button.

Using a disappearing ink fabric pen, mark where you will sew the button.

Sew button on with a needle and matching thread.

And....voila!  You've got yourself a herringbone mason jar cozy!

Let me know if anything is unclear or you have any questions!

Happy Sewing!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wool Dryer Balls!

This was one of the most fun projects I've completed in a while.  These are wool dryer balls that you put in the dryer with your washed clothes and they are supposed to cut drying time and static by quite a bit!  They are super easy and fun to make. 

Black yarn balls

There are several tutorials out there, but basically, you wrap feltable wool yarn (not superwash) into balls, stick them in pantyhose or tights and wash and dry them a few times.  Voila!  Dryer balls!

I have a lot of black wool yarn, but wanted my balls colorful, so I used black wool for the middle then covered them with fun colored wool yarn. 

Black no more!

Wrapped in tights

Dryer Balls!

 They are so cool!  We tossed them around for a while.  Doug juggled them.  Lucca wanted to play fetch with them.  I think I need to make a basket full.  They are way better than stress balls!

Our Sweet Pup, Lucca

Have you ever made and/or used wool dryer balls?  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why I'm Passionate about Unschooling

I am a very open person.  I will talk about pretty much anything.  I am emotional, opinionated and expressive. As Adrian Monk would say, "It's a gift....and a curse."

Oddly, the topic I have been reluctant to blog about is unschooling: the style of homeschooling our family settled into after years of searching for the right fit.  I've always gone against the grain.  But, somehow, turning my nose at formal education feels...almost sacrilegious. When our homeschooling style comes up in conversation, I'm happy to discuss it, but broadcasting it to the world (ok, a very small, tiny, portion of the world) feels big to me.

But, when the opportunity to write an article "Why I'm Passionate about Unschooling" came up, I jumped at the chance.  I consider it a coming out of sorts.  Writing it was therapeutic and strengthened my confidence in our choice.

Yesterday, the magazine arrived in the mail.  I gotta say, I'm very excited to be in an actual magazine!

I would love to hear your feedback.  I am happy to answer any questions you have about unschooling and our process.

So, here you go!  My article in Greenhouse, a publication of North Carolinians for Home Education. 

Why I’m Passionate About Unschooling

     My name is Melissa and I’m an unschooler. I will admit that I’m more comfortable saying that now than I ever have been before. These days nobody blinks at the idea of homeschooling. But, I usually get some sort of reaction to telling people that we unschool. Sometimes, it’s genuine curiosity (Really? What is unschooling?) Sometimes, it’s confusion (How will your kids learn to speak if you don’t teach them grammar?) Sometimes, it’s good-hearted teasing by family members who think I’m just a little bit nuts (I think she even unschools her dogs!) However it comes up, I’m always willing and happy to talk about it!

      There are five in our family: my husband, Doug; me; our 17 year old son, Jackson; our 15 year old son, Nathan; and our 9 year old daughter, Gianna. We started homeschooling Jackson in kindergarten “just to see” and have never looked back. The first few years, we followed a curriculum. Actually, we were never very good at following a curriculum, but the first few years, we tried.

      We started moving toward unschooling after reading Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. It was great for me because it got me thinking about education beyond the institution of school. After that I read a few books by John Holt. I had never read books that so resounded with me. The idea of unschooling really made sense to Doug, too. It was a gradual transition toward unchooling. Letting go of formal academics is not easy when it is all you’ve ever known. But, now, we are full-fledged unschoolers.

      There are about as many different ways to unschool as there are families who unschool. We focus mostly on interests, natural strengths and relationships. More than just trying to encourage our kids to learn, though, Doug and I model curiosity and daily learning. We mostly learn just by living life: going for walks, watching TV, playing games, having conversations with a wide variety of people, going places, discussing ideas, going to the store, volunteering, looking at magazines, hanging out with friends, listening to music, asking our dear friend, Google, lots of questions, doing nothing, and yes, sometimes we even learn by reading a book!

      I heard a fellow unschooler say that when she is asked when they do school, her answer is, “always and never.” I love that! Learning in our life isn’t compartmentalized at all. We fundamentally trust that our kids will learn what they need to know to function in life, and to be lifelong learners without coercion from us, but with an open mind and a willingness to help them succeed.

      I recently read this quote by Robert Brault and my heart leaped. Yes! This is how I want to be with our kids! "Do not ask that your kids live up to your expectations. Let your kids be who they are, and your expectations will be in breathless pursuit." With that, let me tell you a little about the kids that my expectations are pursuing.

      Jackson, 17, is our oldest child. He is a kind, bright, devoted, funny, and sometimes rigid guy who loves music, video games, Minecraft, physics and astronomy. He is one of the most loyal and considerate people I know. He has taken Latin with his best friends for the past four years. With minimal preparation and a relatively small amount of formal academics in his lifetime, Jackson passed the GED and has begun taking classes at Grand Canyon University.

      Nathan is 15. He is incredibly fun, funny, and quick-witted, sensitive, creative and boisterous. Nathan is amazing with people. I remember when he was about 8 or 9, a new family had moved in next door. One afternoon he said to me, “Mom. I’ll be right back. I’m going to go meet the new neighbors.” That’s just Nathan. He also loves video games, Minecraft, music, Latin and Lego. He is just as happy playing music with Jackson as he is playing “Spies” with his younger sister.

      Gianna, our 9 year old daughter, is spirited, creative, shy, and has a laugh that is absolutely contagious. Gianna chooses her friends very carefully. She has a great sense of style. She loves learning about the U.S. presidents, animals (especially baby animals) and China. Gianna is a spelling whiz and the only one of our kids who has always been unschooled. She knows more geography than I do!

      I think the best thing unschooling has done for our family is that it's taken the power struggle out of our day. What has been so cool for me, personally, is seeing how learning really can happen without coercion. Because they get to choose most of what they do throughout the day, the kids are usually happy to help out or change directions when I ask them to.

      The way Doug and I see things is that it is very important to help our kids know who they are and what they are good at. We want them to love learning, know how to think, know how to develop close relationships and to love and serve God, be tolerant of others, etc., etc.

      We have discovered a lot through our unschooling journey – a journey that we are still on. One thing is that this lifestyle really works for us. I know it isn't for everyone, just like I know homeschooling isn't for everyone. It works very well with our parenting style. I have actually been amazed at how much "school" stuff my kids have learned on their own or with my help, but at their request. They remember just about everything they learn and they do what they do well.

      I’m passionate about unschooling because it’s just who we are.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

do. Good Stitches Wonky Star Blocks

Louise at I'm Feelin' Crafty is the quilt designer/quilter for the Nurture Circle of do. Good Stitches for our February quilt. 

She came up with a great quilt idea...wonky stars!

(Louise has a thing for stars.)

I had so much fun making these blocks and I can't wait to see the finished quilt!

If you want to make a wonky star block, check out Louise's tutorial here!

Before making this block, I'd never made a star.
Do you have a favorite star quilt block?

Happy block making!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I have so many doll ideas.  There is a list on the wall of my studio (yeah, dining room) with lots and lots of ideas.  Between filling doll orders,  wanting to work on things other than dolls, and life, it's not often I get around to making something new for My Gigi Dolls.

So, these days, inspiration to make something new for the dolls comes from my customers!  This dress turned out so cute!  A woman ordered a doll and asked if I could make a dress for the doll based on a dress her niece wore.  

I really hope she likes it.  I LOVE it! 

And, now it's in the My Gigi Doll Etsy shop!

In your creative endeavors, what inspires you to actually create something new?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why I Give...

I give because it brings me joy and freedom.

As an adult, I started out giving in a consistent way because that is what was modeled for me and  I felt like it was the right thing to do.  

The irony is that the more I give the richer I feel.

When I began making My Gigi Dolls, I was at first surprised that I loved making them.  I never would have expected that.  Truly. 

But, the real beauty came when I began giving them a little girl with Down's military hospitalized children.  

When I give a doll away, I am sending out a little bit of myself - my creativity, my time and my passion - with each doll with no strings attached.  

I love the feeling of sending a doll that has been purchased, too, but there is something a little magical in sending something out there to someone you've never met, in hopes that it will bring them a bit of joy.

In all honestly, I'm not an especially selfless person.  Remember I said giving brings me joy and freedom?  Yep.  I get something out of it.  

I explained the joy I feel in giving, but what about freedom?

Well, the more I let go of things - not because I should, but because I want to - the freer and more satisfied I am with my life.  The times I give when it is difficult for me are the times I am the most blessed.

What prompted this post is that my family and I are in the process of downsizing from an 1800 sq ft, 4 bedroom, 2 car garage home to a 1472 sq ft, 3 bedroom, carport home.  

And, I couldn't be happier.  

But, I have a LOT to get rid of!  At least a 2 car garage and full bedroom worth.  

I started out selling things.  But, yesterday, I was given an unexpected gift of $110.  I gave each of my kids $10 and when they asked me why, I told them that I wanted to bless them because I had been blessed.  It was easy for me to part with $30 I hadn't been expecting.  

This morning, I thought:  I'm going to give away all of the things I've been planning to sell.  Because I've been blessed; because giving brings me joy and freedom; because I have what I need today; I will give with no strings attached.  

And, I promise you, after I've given away what I no longer have room for, I will feel richer.

This is a more serious (and far less PRETTY) post than usual.  And, harder to write, ya know?  But, I felt like I needed to put it out there, whether anyone reads it or not.

Since you are reading it, I'd love to know:  How has being generous impacted you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

do. Good Stitches Charity Quilt

I've been excited to share about something new! 

Last year I stumbled upon a great blog:  Stitched In Color.  Rachel's blog is great.  She has awesome tutorials and she is just fun to "listen" to.  I noticed right away that she likes to give back - so much so that she created an online quilting bee called "do. Good Stitches".  

do. Good Stitches is a charity quilting bee that makes quilts for all kinds of people in need:  foster kids, battered women, kids in need, sick people, and more.  It is a beautiful thing to make something for someone in need.   

In December, I signed up to host a do. Good Stitches circle.  Each circle has 10 members from all over the country.  We are the Nurture Circle of do. Good Stitches.  Our quilts go to  My Very Own Blanket, a charity that gives blankets to children in foster care.  

We started in January with a herringbone quilt!  We followed Rachel's Herringbone Block Tutorial using cool colors.  The Nurture Circle members mailed me their blocks and I got to piece and quilt it.  It was so fun to see all of the blocks as they came in!  

I backed the quilt with Amy Butler Love Water Bouquet in Midnight.  

One of the things that makes me the most happy is making things for other people.   

Being a part of do. Good Stitches makes me happy.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

We're Becoming Minimalists!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind!  We decided to move closer to Doug's work (Doug is my neat-o husband).  We found a house and are soon!

I've been in de-cultter-get-loan-docs-together-de-clutter-get-tax-paperwork-together-de-clutter mode.  

Did you see de-clutter in there? 

Yes.  It's true.  We are becoming minimalists.  Ok, that may be a stretch.  But, we are definitely SIMPLIFYING! 

When we moved into our current home over 5 years ago, I was so happy to be in an 1800 sq ft, 4 bedroom with a pool, single story home!  I vowed never to have more than 2 toilets or stairs to clean EVER AGAIN.  

So, when we found our new home, it was a bit tough to wrap my mind around 3 bedrooms in 1472 sq ft.  With....get this...a carport.  Yes, you read that right.  A carport.  A carport and a garage?  Nope.  Just a carport.  

OK!  I can do this.  We are no longer going to be keep-the-box people.  No sir.  Those boxes are all going into the recycle bin.  

3 bedrooms?  Yep.  The teenagers will be sharing a bedroom:  something they haven't done since they were youngsters.  One of them is less than thrilled with the upcoming arrangement (hint:  the clean one), but is staying positive.

I've been de-cluttering like a madwoman.  I am only keeping what I love or what I really need.  

As a sewist, getting rid of fabric and WIP (Works In Progress) can be tough.  But, I'm doing it.  

Here is the first sewing project to go.  

It is a chevron quilt top that I made and then didn't love.  But, luckily, I found someone who does love it! 

YAY!  I can't wait to see the finished product.

We are embarking on a new and simpler adventure.  I'll blog about it as I can.  I'm interested in how this will all turn out.  Hopefully you are, too.

Wish me luck!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back to the Drawing Board and a New Tutorial!

You know how I wish things worked?  

I come up with a great idea.  

I try it out.  

It turns out just right.  

I take pictures and blog about it and everyone loves it.


You know how things usually actually work? 

I get an idea.  

I try it out.  

Something needs to be fixed.  

I fix it.  

It still stinks.

  I fix more.  

Eventually (hopefully) it is exactly how I like it.  

Or, I forget about the whole idea.

I have a bin full of dolls that I would ONLY show my closest friends.  Seriously, they are that bad.

I also have a quilt top that I may never actually make into a quilt because I hate it.

When things don't work out how I imagine they will, it makes me feel so uninspired.  Like looking out on the morning rain, ya know?

And when I knew I had to face another project
Lord, it made me feel so tired

(are you singing it?)

So, my GREAT idea last week was to make a pea pod baby doll.  I actually think it might still be a great idea, it just needs some work.  

The reason I am posting about this today is because when things turn out really well, it is SO much fun to come blog about it.  But, when they don't turn out well, they get ignored.  I mean, who wants to take photos of a sucky project?

Ready to see the pea pod doll, take one?

 Stuffing her just was NOT working...grr...

I think she needs an outer pod, not just the round peas on her belly, don't you?

I'd love to hear your suggestions!

One good thing about having a project flop is that it forces me find a way to get inspired.  

And, you know what inspires me?  

An organized sewing area!  




OH!  I almost forgot!  I wrote a new tutorial.   

Check it out here:

I'd love to hear about a project that just isn't (wasn't) working for you?