Friday, April 29, 2011

All-In-One Picnic Blanket Tote

With summer just around the corner I'm getting ready to enjoy to family picnics and being outside again (finally!). I wanted to make a picnic blanket that was waterproof on one side and easy to store so I came up with this design. This would also be great for the beach and keeping the sand out of your blanket! It features a shower curtain or vinyl table cloth on the bottom, a blanket on the top, an attached pocket that the whole blanket folds up into and an easy to carry shoulder strap.

  • 1 heavy duty vinyl shower curtain with magnets, patterned or clear--mine was 71" x 70" (if you get the type with suction cups on the sides they'll show up in the final blanket). I also tried this with a vinyl table cloth which looked really cute but was not as durable.
  • 1 twin XL blanket, washed and dried--the one I used was 92" x 63"
  • 45" shoulder strap (or whatever length feels comfortable for you)
  • sewing machine and lots and lots of pins
1. Cut off the bottom of the blanket so it is now 73" x 63". You'll now have a scrap piece that's 19" x 63". If you're not using a twin XL blanket you're going to start with a basic rectangle of 71" x 60". Add 2" to each side that will you cut with a raw edge and 1" to each side that you cut with a finished edge because the finished edges you only fold over once in step 3 and the raw edges you fold twice.

2. Trim off the top of the shower curtain and the bottom with the magnets so it's 60" tall (and still the original 71" wide). I took photos but with this being so large a project I decided that drawn diagrams would be more helpful!

3. Make the pillow piece: Cut a piece 18" wide x 16" tall from the scrap blanket fabric to use for the pillow. One of the 16" sides should be the finished blanket edge (which will be the top of the pillow opening). Hem the 3 raw edges of the pillow by folding the edges over twice, 1/2" each fold. The pillow piece should now be 16" wide x 15" tall. Then fold under the ends of the strap to prevent fraying and sew the strap onto the sides of the fabric.

4. Position the pillow in one of the corners of the blanket that has finished edges. Place it 1" away from the edges and sew around the sides and bottom.

5. Now you have a blanket with a pillow pocket that is 73" x 63" and a shower curtain that is 71" x 60". Center the shower curtain 1" away from the finished top and sides of the blanket and there will be an extra 1" along the raw edge. Fold the extra 1" inch of blanket over the shower curtain and pin down. At the raw edge, fold over twice and pin down.

6. Sew around the entire blanket using a larger stitch to avoid putting too many holes into the vinyl.

7. Fold your blanket up into the pocket and you're ready to impress everyone at the park! To fold the blanket, lay it flat with the vinyl side up then fold it in half lengthwise, then in half again. Turn the pocket inside out so the strips you just folded are now inside the pocket. Fold the strip above the pocket in half, then in half again, then stuff it in the pocket. Now your blanket is easy to store and carry and even doubles as a pillow!

And here's how the folding technique looks in real life:

Additional notes:
  • When the blanket is open you can hide the strap inside the pocket. The pocket can also double as storage and makes a great spot to stash napkins, disposable plates, and other items that blow away at a picnic.
  • If you're not going to be outside on wet ground this would be even easier without the waterproof layer.
  • An all fleece version of this would be fun for kids for road trips, a fun and functional pillow to have on the couch, or great for sports fans. It would double as either a seat cushion or a blanket!
  • The fluffier the blanket the harder it is to stuff it into the pocket so thinner or single layer blankets work best.
  • The blanket would be easier to fold if you stitched along the fold lines. I was hesitant to try this with the vinyl backing because all the holes would make it less durable. But it could be a good addition to a non-waterpoof version.
  • Rather than folding the blanket edge over the vinyl side you can also use bias tape. Or you can remove the binding from your blanket then stitch it back on once the vinyl is pinned down. It looks nice but it's a lot of extra work and maybe not worth it, trust me.

One Month to Win It: I Won!!

Thanks to everyone for your kind words, support and voting over the last month of the One Month to Win It contest! The final results just posted and I was the winner of Season 2! There was a great group of ladies competing and so much talent and great ideas. I really enjoyed seeing what everyone came up with for the different themes.

My final project for the "refashion" theme was turning a shirt into a purse. Tutorials for both this week's shirt to purse and last week's all-in-one picnic blanket tote will be posting soon! The blanket should be ready to post later today and the purse will be ready for next week. Below ou can see my contest entries from each week:

 Week 4 (Finals), Refashion: Shirt to Purse

Week 3, Outdoor craft: All-in-one Picnic Blanket Tote



Friday, April 22, 2011

Homemade Holiday Marshmallows

I've mentioned before that besides crafting I also enjoy baking. I've always wondered about making homemade marshmallows but was never brave enough to try it until yesterday. Now I have a delicious batch of flavored marshmallows with a chocolate drizzle on top and they weren't even that hard to make! One of the things I like most is that you can flavor the recipe based on personal preference or the holiday, like orange color and flavoring for Easter or red color and peppermint flavor for Christmas. I found this recipe on and while the recipe itself was good, the instructions were a bit brief. Here's both the recipe and step by step photo instructions.

Ingredients (makes 60 marshmallows a similar size as the large store bought ones)
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 4 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon flavored extract (you can use vanilla but then these seem very similar to store-bought marshmallows and not worth the effort!)
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar for dusting
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips for drizzling on top
1. In a medium or large saucepan mix together the white sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water. You'll be adding more ingredients later so don't use a smaller saucepan. Set the burner to medium-high heat. While that's heating up, place a metal bowl on top of the saucepan (or use a double burner if you have one) and in it combine the other 3/4 cup water and 4 tablespoons gelatin (left photo below). In a minute or two, the gelatin will look like the right photo below, kind of wrinkly.

2. While your sugar and gelatin mixtures are heating, start beating the 2 egg whites until the form soft peaks. I test for a soft peak by raising the beater and seeing if a peak forms, flops over a bit at the top and stays like that without disappearing.

3. When the gelatin mixture has liquified, remove it from the top of the sugar mixture which by now should be boiling. Keep the gelatin mixture near the burner to keep it warm and in liquid form. Measure the temperature of the sugar mixture with a candy thermometer until it reaches 250 to 265 degrees F (121 to 129 degrees C).

4. Once you've reached the desired temperature, remove the sugar from the heat and slowly pour the gelatin mixture into the boiling sugar (left photo below). It's going to expand quickly so be ready to stir it back down for a few seconds! Once the two are mixed, pour a slow steady stream into the egg whites while the beater(s) are on (right photo below).

5. Beat until semi-stiff peaks form. This will take at least a few minutes if not longer. When it's done it will slowly drip off the beater and form peaks in the bowl. It will be about the consistency of marshmallow cream.

6. Next you can stir in a teaspoon of your choice of extract plus a couple drops of food coloring. I gently swirled in the color with a spatula so my final marshmallows have both the color and white showing. Then pour the mixture into a 9x9 or 9x13 pan that has been greased and covered in powdered sugar. I used spray oil and a 9x9 pan that the mixture nearly filled completely. For not so thick marshmallows, use the 9x13 pan.

7. Let the marshmallows cool and stabilize for 4-6 hours then cover the top with powdered sugar and turn out of the pan onto wax paper.

8. Use kitchen shears or a knife to cut the block into individual marshmallows. Dip your scissors or knife into powdered sugar if it starts to stick. As you cut the marshmallows, roll them in powdered sugar.

9. Melt 1 1/4 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips over low heat on the stove or in the microwave. Line up all your marshmallows close together on wax paper and drizzle with chocolate. Then move them apart before the chocolate cools. Once the chocolate is cool they're ready to store in an air-tight container!

One Month to Win It: Week 3 Results

Thanks so much to everyone that went and voted for the contestants in week 3 at One Month to Win It! The contestants are all very talented ladies and it's been so fun to see all the different takes on each theme.

I was excited to see that I made it to the final round of the contest! My entry last week was an all-in-one picnic blanket tote. It's a comforter on one side and a vinyl table cloth on the other side so it would be waterproof. Both sides are sewn together and there's a pocket and strap on the front so you can fold the whole blanket up into it's own easy to carry tote. I'll be adding a tutorial to this site soon but I'm making some design modifications so it'll be another week or so! In the meantime, I'll be posting a recipe shortly for some homemade Easter marshmallows. Thanks again for all the support for me and the other contestants!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Plum Peachy Pillow for a Pillow Party

Hello followers! This pillow may look familiar because I first wrote about it at the end of February. I'm updating that post to enter the pillow into the Blogger's Pillow Party for April.

Blogger's Pillow Party

While you may have seen this pillow before, check out the Pillow Party for lots of new pillow inspiration!

The inspiration for this pillow was Anthropologie's Smoldering Hues Shower Curtain. The ruffles in this pillow are all knit fabrics. I thought this would be a fast and easy project and whenever I think that, I'm nearly always wrong. I had to visit 3 fabric stores to find enough shades in the orange/red/purple range to make this work. Once I finally found all my fabrics the sewing part wasn't too difficult. I used an 18" pillow form and a cotton fabric for the pillow case.

So, here's how we get started. For the front of the pillow you'll cut 7 strips of fabric for the ruffles. Using a rotary cutter, cutting mat and T square will make this a lot easier than scissors. The top ruffle will be 3 3/4" x 36" and the rest of the ruffles will be 3 3/8" x 36". For any of these photos you should be able to click on them for a larger view.

Cut a 20" square for the backing fabric. You can also cut it larger and hem in the sides to 20" if you want to avoid any fraying. Even though your final pillow case needs to be 18", starting with 20" gives you a little extra room in case the fabric scrunches up a bit when you add your ruffles.

To make the ruffles put your sewing maching on the largest stitch setting. If you can reduce the tension without causing problems stitching do that as well. Stitch along the length of each strip of fabric twice, once  1/2" down from the top and again 3/4" down from the top. You will be removing these threads later in the process so you don't have to be too precise. Tightly hold only the top or bottom threads (whichever works more smoothly for you) and start scrunching your fabric toward the center. Do this from both sides and scrunch until the length is 20". Repeat for all 7 strips.

Next, mark the backing of your pillow where each ruffle will be stitched down. The first ruffle is stitched 3/4" down from the top of the fabric. Every other ruffle is down 2 9/16" from there but I was nice and did the math for you so see the diagram below. The ruffles should all be lined up along the left side, I just moved them over in the diagram to make it easier to see. The darker border is the seam allowance area. If you're having trouble seeing the measurements, measuring from the top down you'll mark a seam at 3/4", 3 5/16", 5 7/8", 8 7/16", 11", 13 9/16", 16 1/8" and you'll have about 1/4" of the ruffle below the seam:

You'll start with the top ruffle (the orange in my case) and work your way down. To have a nice finished top so you don't see the stitching you'll actually be sewing along the bottom of each ruffle. Then you'll fold them all down so the rows of stitches are hidden under each ruffle. I found it easiest to first sew one direction as close to the top of each ruffle as possible even if I missed a little of the fabric. Then I stitched the other direction 1/8" below my first seam. Here you can see how the stitches looked on one of the purple ruffles and then the finished edge when it was folded over.

Below is how the back of the fabric looked like after all the ruffles were added. You'll see that the fabric did scrunch a little so I was glad I gave myself 20" to work with!

After stitching down each ruffle pull out your loose stitches that you used to make the ruffles. For me some pulled out easily and some took more effort. Just don't pull too hard and damage your fabric!

For the back I did an envelope opening hidden by two ruffles. I cut two rectangles, 19" wide x 12.5" tall for the top piece and 19" wide x 10" for the bottom. I hemmed the edge that would be showing (1/2" folded twice) and added a ruffle using the same method I used for the top. If you're having difficult seeing the diagram below, the top orange ruffle is stitched 3/4" up from the bottom of the hem. The bottom purple ruffle is stitched 2" down from the top of the hem.

To finish it off, lay the pillow front down with the ruffles facing up and make sure that the bottom of the lowest ruffle is at least an inch away from the bottom so it doesn't get sewn in. On top of that place the top of the back (with the ruffles facing down). Lastly, place on top the bottom of the back so that it overlaps the top piece by 1 1/2". Then measure and mark if necessary an 18" square. Finally, smooth out all the edges of the ruffles and stitch around all 4 sides.

Then trim off any excess, flip it right side out and put the pillow in!

Here's the finished back:

If anyone makes this pillow using my tutorial I'd love to hear any feedback you have. And don't forget to send me a link to your finished project!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Week 3 of One Month to Win It

The week 3 projects are up at One Month to Win It! The contest is now down from the original 12 to 6 current contestants. This week's theme was an outdoor craft and everyone did a great job. Head on over to check out the projects and to vote! I wish I could tell you my project but that'll have to remain a secret for now. But, I will have the tutorial up at the end of the week after everyone's identities have been revealed.

One Month To Win It

Friday, April 15, 2011

Tiered Plate Stand

This was my week 2 entry for One Month to Win It contest. Thanks to all those that voted! The contest started with 12 contestants and each week 3 are voted off. I just found out that I not only made it to week 3, but I was the winner for week 2 with this entry! Besides sewing and crafting I also really enjoy baking (yes, I did make the cupcakes above). So I decided to make myself a spring/Easter inspired tiered dessert tray using Mod Podge, which was the required item for the contest this week. This ended up being a lot more work than I was expecting so I came up with an easy method option for those without access to a workshop. The great thing about making one of these is that you can customize it for a special event or match it to your decor. And if you don't bake you can always use it for displaying decorative items!

Easy way: Buy melamine plates and short (around 6") table legs or candlesticks. Paint the table legs or candlesticks if necessary. Use epoxy to glue it all together. Our local Target has a nice selection of everyday and seasonal melamine plates and bowls that can be individually purchased. I think this would be fun with a bowl as the top piece that you could fill with M & Ms, nuts or candies.

Hard way (also known as the way I did it):
Materials list: one 8 oz. jar outdoor Mod Podge, three ceramic plates, two 6" table legs, one can of white enamel spray paint, one piece of 1/4" all thread, one 1/4" bolt that fits the all thread, one 1/4" T nut (it's the lower left item in the photo), a rubber washer, enough fabric to cover your plates, six self- stick 1/4" rubber feet (or three 1/2" if you can find them), 1 bottle white puffy paint
Other supplies: pliers (depending on your table legs), drill, 5/16" ceramic bit, wood saw (optional to trim down table legs), hacksaw

The photo below shows my plates (I started with two of each just in case any broke during drilling but none did) and the rubber washer, all thread, T nut, and bolt.

1. Remove any hardware from the table leg with pliers. 2. I cut the 2" ball off the top of one of my two 6" table legs with a wood saw. Then I drilled all the way through my 6" and 4" pieces, and drilled 3/4" into the bottom of the 2" ball. 3. Drill a 5/16" hole through the center of each plate (the photo shows only partway drilled through). Make sure to wear eye protection and a breathing mask to protect you from ceramic bits and dust. 4. Hammer the T nut into the bottom of the ball.

Next, clean any dust and dirt off the plates and table legs and spraypaint them all white. Do several light coats of paint.

Then, working on one plate at a time, paint a thin layer of Mod Podge onto the bottoms of the plates. That will help hold the fabric in place as you brush more Mod Podge on top of the fabric to permanently hold it down. I found it easiest to 1. Brush Mod Podge on the fabric around the bottom of the plate 2. Mod Podge the sides 3. Add any pleats if necessary to keep the fabric from wrinkling 4. Trim off any excess fabric.

When the bottoms of the plates have dried, flip them over and do the same process on top. For the top two plates 1. Brush the plate with Mod Podge first then place the fabric on top 2. Brush Mod Podge on top of the bottom of the plate 3. Work your way up the sides 4. Trim any excess fabric.

For the bottom plate 1. Brush the bottom of the plate with Mod Podge 2. Position strips of fabric touching but not overlapping 3. Brush on a heavy coat of Mod Podge so you don't disturb the edges of the fabric and cause them to fray 4. Use an x-acto to trim excess fabric.

Adding the border to all 3 plates was done the same way just with different widths of fabric. 1. Use a brush to put a line of Mod Podge around the edge of the plate. 2. Attach the fabric. You can choose to fold under the edges or leave the raw edges. I tried both and both ways worked. 3. Mod Podge around the edge of the plate in sections, adding pleats as you go to allow the fabric to lay flat. 4. Cover the edges of the border and inside the pleats with several coats of Mod Podge, allowing it to dry between layers.

Once all your Mod Podge has dried 1. Use white Puffy Paint to add a circle of little white dots just inside the fabric border of each plate and let that dry. 2. Cut the inside of rubber washer so it fits around the T nut. 3. Use an x-acto knife to cut an X over the hole you drilled in the top and bottom layers of the fabric on each plate then put the all thread through the bottom plate and screw the bolt onto the bottom side of the plate Then (not pictured) affix the rubber feet to the bottom of the plate. If necessary, stack up two rubber feet to raise the plate high enough that the bolt isn't touching the table top. 4. Stack everything up to the top plate then mark the all thread 1/2" above the top of that plate. Remove it and use a hacksaw to cut it. Then stack everything back up again and screw the ball you prepared in step 2 of this segment on top. Once the ball is tightened everything should be very sturdy.

Now stand back and admire your work! The outdoor Mod Podge is wipeable and water resistant so with a thick enough layer covering the fabric this should hold up well to food serving. Both the Mod Podge and puffy paint are non-toxic.

Project was also submitted to: