Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

Car organizer

Posted: July 16, 2012 in Projects

Observation A: I am currently living as a single-parent while my husband is deployed.

Observation B: I am the parent of a 1 year-old.

Conclusion: My automobile can turn into a complete disaster very quickly.

Solution: Car organizer!

I used Simplicity 2553 for this project, and I am happy with my results. However, I would like to make several notes about the construction of this organizer.

Firstly, it will not turn out as it looks in the photo unless you use a very thin cotton fabric and either starch it to death or use a thick interfacing. The pattern calls for thicker fabrics, like canvas or denim, and a medium weight fusible interfacing, but the lighter interfacing won’t make it look stiff and box-like as the photo shows. If you use a heavier sew-in interface, you must use a very thin material or there’s no way your needle will get through all the layers. Trust me. I opted for a medium-weight fusible interfacing and a canvas material (with cotton contrast fabric). While it’s not as stiff as the photo on the pattern, it is sturdy and aesthetically pleasing regardless. This is a simple project that comes together very quickly.

I did also opt to leave out the divider in the back pocket. I frankly don’t see the point in it. The organizer is small as it is, and unless you intend to store exclusively paper items, I suggest leaving out the divider. Doing this allows me to store my camera, library books, or water bottle in the large pocket.


Matching aprons

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Projects

I have a dear friend with two young children, a two year-old and a one year-old. Since she does a lot of cooking and baking, and her oldest child, Mr. Vincent, loves imitating her with his toy kitchen set, I thought it would be fun to make them matching aprons. Without explaining what I was doing, I had my friend pick out the fabric for her own apron, then selected two sturdy complementary fabrics for her children. I used Simplicity 2555, but decided against using ribbon. Instead, I mixed up the fabrics somewhat. So for the mother’s apron I used her son’s fabric for the straps and her daughter’s fabric for the pockets. For the children’s aprons I used the mother’s fabric for the pockets and neck strap, and I also switched some of the thread colors–the stitching on part of the red apron is green, and vise versa. I thought this was a nice way to integrate everyone’s colors and fabrics into the aprons while maintaining distinctions.

The adult apron with children’s aprons hanging off the shoulders

The children’s aprons

I realize the two year-old is only just old enough to be interested in this, but the nice thing is that the straps adjust to grow with each child, and the actual apron is wide enough to last for quite a while. The three of them should be able to enjoy cooking up both real and imaginary food in their matching aprons for quite a while!

Personalized Napkins

Posted: July 9, 2012 in Projects

My dear sister, known to the Raptor as Crazy Aunt Kaci, recently moved to a new home. I wanted to make her a housewarming gift, and I was inspired once again by Martha Stewart. I decided to make Kaci a set of cloth napkins (she is a strong advocate of sustainability) with small embroidered touches.

I found a pair of unusually large linen place-mats at a local thrift shop, and I determined that if I cut off the bizarre decorative ends, I could turn them into something wonderful. First I washed them thoroughly, then I cut them into four equal pieces. I hemmed around the edges to prevent fraying, then planned out the decorations.

I ended up making four little fruit images using buttons and embroidery floss. It didn’t take terribly long, but I think they are fairly convincing. With practice, my embroidery skills will improve at some point, but until then I hope my sister will forgive my fledgling attempts.

Pi Day Celebrations: Conclusion

Posted: April 27, 2012 in Projects

So Pi Day was excellent. I even made Kol a little shirt, which read:

Kol the Π-rate, Y(ar)^2!

(For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, Y(ar)^2 = Yaarr. This is a pirate joke. Also, say it out loud–“why are squared” sounds like “pi • r squared”, or Π(r)^2, which is the area of a circle. Math joke + pirate joke = Epic.)

Please note that the Π has a bandana and an eye-patch. 🙂

It was all quite festive.

In the spirit of Pi Day, here is some information about pi!

Pi’s First 100 Digits:


Good Resources to Learn About Pi:

Fun Fact: Pi Day is also Einstein’s birthday.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Pi Day celebrations, and I am already considering future ideas. At some point I’d like to do fun activities with Kol to help him understand pi, and we can use this holiday to emphasize learning and critical thinking. Maybe we’ll go to museums or do a pi-mile run… And the food! I’m going to make better pies next year, maybe we’ll have pizza or chicken pot pies. So many exciting things to look forward to!

Pi Day Celebrations: Part 3

Posted: April 14, 2012 in Projects

Pi Day would not be complete without pie!

I have some experience making pumpkin and cherry pie, but only the traditional round variety. For this special occasion, I desperately wanted to make a fancy sort of tribute to Pi Day, so I thought I would create my own free-form pies in the shapes of 3.14…

This was beautiful, in theory.

I toiled in the kitchen for several hours creating gorgeous pie shells in unique shapes, and I tried to contain my disappointment when the first pie, a cherry 4, collapsed on the sides. After cooking it completely, I wedged up the sides with some spatulas and tried to reassure myself that it would be okay. My pumpkin 3 was up next, and I was so proud of it. The edges were detailed with braided crust, the outside perfectly smoothed and shaped. Everything was going great until about ten minutes into the process. I heard a loud banging noise, and discovered that the cookie sheet on which the pie was cooking had buckled, flinging the pie filling upward and resulting in a deflated, decimated pie crust. I was devastated.

It was at this point that I turned off the oven, piled the dirty dishes into the sink, cleaned the flour off my face, and decided Pi Day would simply suck.

My husband, who had already retired to bed at this point, calmly pointed out that our celebrations would not take place until the following evening. When I explained that I did not have any more pie filling, eggs, or flour remaining and that I wouldn’t have time to do the process over again during the day, he suggested I go to the store for new materials, return home in a calm manner, and learn from the previous experience to try again. Many of you might wonder why I didn’t just make traditional round pies–my husband suggested this also. I could have. It would have been much easier and successful from the start. The truth is that I had been dreaming of making these pies for weeks. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and exactly how I wanted it done, I simply don’t have the experience to do things like this perfectly right from the start. Unfortunately there are unavoidable lessons to be learned, like buckling pans, but I knew (and more importantly, my husband reminded me) that I would succeed to some extent if I tried again. So it was then, at nearly midnight Pi Day Eve, that I set out for baking supplies.

I would like to take a moment to thank my husband for encouraging me to try again, because he knew how much this project meant to me. Sure, he likes pie, but he wouldn’t have been devastated if I called the whole thing off. I am so glad he believed in me and offered support when he did, because in my opinion, he saved Pi Day.

I made the pies again, and they turned out okay. The pumpkin spilled a little on one side, but I contained the worst of the damage. The crust for the cherry pie decided to crumble a bit. Not perfect, not amazing, but good. Edible? Sure. Beautiful? Eh. Fantastically nerdy? Oh, a thousand times yes.

Some tips if you decide to make free-form pie crusts:

  • The edges need to be super thick, particularly along the sides, to prevent spills. I hope you don’t mind thick crusts, because you will invariably get them with traditional pie fillings. (Tarts are entirely different, and can be managed with a traditional crust).
  • You will have loads of excess filling unless you make the pies deep, and in order to do so you must support the edges. I suggest trying oven-safe kitchen items to assist you, perhaps in the form of small pans or the like. My pies seriously lacked on the filling front. I’ve never had such a thin, unsatisfying pumpkin pie. But I digress! Make them deep, but unless you support the sides or make insanely thick crusts, anticipate spills.
  • To build pie crusts or to “paste” on extra pieces, try a mixture of egg and water. Doesn’t take much. Then you can just brush it lightly on and the dough sticks beautifully. Just beware that these areas may cook faster than others, so if you end up coating the top layer of the crust, it may burn a bit.
  • Take your time. Rushing leads to mistakes.
  • If you are using a pre-mix crust, buy more than you think you’ll need. Seriously. You’ll fly through it. If you make your own dough, stock up on supplies to make it.
  • Figure out the best order to cook the pies in (if making multiples) so that one is always in the oven while you are constructing the next shell. It’s more economical with time.

Without further ado:

Pumpkin pie

Banana Cream Pie (never attempted previously, but apparently it was enjoyable)

Cherry Pie

Blood orange and Peach Tartlets


Pi Day Celebrations: Part 2

Posted: April 12, 2012 in Projects

My second Pi Day decoration was the official Pi Day Banner. It was absurdly simple to make, which was a relief after the 100 Digits of Pi banner.

I had several forms of inspiration for this project. The first was pi itself; I wanted a circular sign. Second was the plethora of decorations I saw in stores over the months of October, November, and December. It seemed popular to have one cornerstone-type decoration, so I thought it would be fun to make something big and loud and enthusiastic. Finally, I went to the fabric store and found an adorable polka-dotted fabric on clearance, and I thought it would work wonderfully for the occasion. The colors were muted and neutral, and they don’t correlate to any other holiday so there should be no confusion. If you’re curious, the official Raptor Pi Day colors are orange, gold, blue, and tan.

Here’s the banner construction in a handful of super easy steps.

1. Cut out two giant fabric circles: one of the polka dot fabric and one of white muslin.

2. Sew the circles together, with right sides facing one another. Leave a small gap for turning.

3. Turn the fabric right-side out.

4. Press.

5. Topstitch along the edge, being sure to fold under the opened edge.

6. Glue letters/symbols onto the front of the banner.


Pi Day Celebrations: Part 1

Posted: April 9, 2012 in Projects

Where we last left off, I described my intention to celebrate key holidays with Kol. Appropriately, I mentioned this right around one of our cornerstone holiday selections: Pi Day. I made a pretty big occasion of this particular holiday, so I plan to share our festivities over the next few posts.

Firstly, I’d like to start with one of my favorite decorations of the holiday: the banner.

I selected four colors for the occasion (based on a fabric you’ll see in a later post), then purchased one sheet of felt per color. I proceeded to cut out 25 approximate circles of each color. I then hooked one jewelry ring to each circle. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate rings that simply opened with a pair of pliers; this likely would have made my life much easier. Instead, I was stuck with tiny rings like those of a keychain, which meant that by the end of the project, my nails were completely destroyed.


I then began connecting the circles to each other, being certain to keep the same color pattern. This whole process took hours. At least three, and probably closer to four or five. I’m not joking.

When I finally had a ginormous chain of felt circles, I took silver sparkly fabric paint and carefully printed out one digit of pi per circle. On either end of the banner I affixed a larger circle; the first has a giant 3 and the last has an ellipses (…) to denote the irrational nature of pi.

Once the paint dried, I hung it up along the top of the wall in my dining room, where the festivities took place. Here is a terrible cell-phone photo:

Regardless of the quality, I am very happy with this project. It was a real pain and it obliterated my fingertips, but I am confident it will hold up for a few years at least.