How to Sew a Tanning Organizer

When I go outside to soak up the sun, I never know what to do with all the stuff I want to have with me.  My cat likes to tan with me, and she also likes to chew on corners of things (like my phone), so I want to keep things out of her reach.  I used three towels to make an organizer that can drape over a chair.getting a tan

Materials Needed:

1 bath towel

2 hand towels

matching thread


sewing machine

What To Do:

Buy towels with edges that match or nearly match.  My hand towels were about 2 inches shorter than the bath towel was wide.  I decided that was close enough, and just made sure to center the hand towels as I pinned them on.  Another thing to keep in mind as you purchase the towels:  Kohl’s had some very nice plush towels on sale, so I bought those.  In hindsight, such thick towels were hard for my sewing machine to handle.  Using thin towels will make this project much easier.  You could also buy some terry cloth at a fabric store and cut the right size pieces, but if you use towels you won’t have to hem anything!towels

Pin one hand towel at each end, then sew along the bottom (the short side of the bath towel matched to the long side of the hand towel).  Remove the pins as you go.  Some machines have a pressure foot that can be raised a bit more than the standard “up” position, but mine is not one of those machines.  If you have a machine like mine, carefully wiggle the fabric into place as close to the edges of the towel as you can get.  You may not be able to sew all the way to an edge or into a corner, but don’t worry–your seams will hold.

After you sew along the bottom, sew up the short sides of the hand towels.  Again, just get as close to the edges as your machine allows.  Sew bottom and sides

I had to adjust the length on mine a little.  When I laid it out on the chair, the part that went over the seat was the perfect size, but the sides hung too low.  I pinned up the edges to the right length and created a row of small pockets in front of the main pockets.Front pocket

Next, sew the seams that will divide the hand towels into pockets.  I put two pockets on one side by sewing one seam down the middle.  On the other side, I sewed two seams to create three pockets.  If you are folding up the edges like I did, sew these seams with the edge folded up.  I sewed from the top of the pocket down, because that was the way my machine fed the fabric through the feed dogs the best.  Sew from the middle

Finally, sew up the sides of the short row of pockets in front, and trim any loose threads.

Load up the pockets with all your essentials, and catch some rays!Tanning Organizer

What’s Next?

I’m going on a long car ride, and I’m taking my yarn with me.  You never know what might happen!

4th of July Tablecloth


I found this pin on Pinterest, and thought I’d modify it a bit to make it my own.  Instead of bandanas, I bought pre-cut packages of patriotic fabric.  There were five pieces of fabric in each package.  The benefit to using regular fabric is that you can tailor the tablecloth to any occasion.  The benefit to using bandanas is that you don’t have to hem it.folded fabric

How to Make the Tablecoth

I ironed all of the fabric pieces first.  They were deeply creased from the packaging, and smooth fabric is so much easier to work with.  If the fabric is wrinkled when you start sewing, the finished product will probably always be a little wrinkled or lopsided.Iron the fabric

Then I laid out the pieces in the order I wanted and pinned them together to make two strips.Pin the pieces together

I used red thread and a 5/8 seam.5/8 seam

When you have the two strips sewn together, iron the seams so they are all going in the same direction.iron the seams

Pin the two strips together and sew them using a 5/8 seam.  Then iron the seam to one two strips together

If you’re not using bandanas, you will need to hem the edges.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to press the edge over a certain amount (using a hem gauge if you like) then double the pressed edge over on itself.  This creates a double-fold hem with no raw edges.hem gauge

I pressed and sewed the long sides first, then pressed and sewed the short sides.  I didn’t use pins because I like to live dangerously.  Seriously, if you have a nice crisp line from the iron, you can probably manage without pins.  However, if this is your first sewing project ever, use pins!double fold hem


Now all you have to do is throw a party to show off your creation!finished tablecloth

What’s Next?

Kohl’s had towels on sale, so I bought some supplies to make a tanning organizer.

Tips for Crocheting and Blocking Doilies

Craft BookMy great-grandmother crocheted a couple hundred doilies in her lifetime.  My family inherited several, and I’ve been feeling inspired to try making one myself.  My mom found a book she had bought years ago (for 29 cents!) that had a simple doily pattern that I decided to make.  Choose something with a lot of open spaces for your first project–it will go faster that way! This is a good pattern to start with.

Choosing Your Thread and Hook

I bought Coats and Clark size 10 thread and a size 6 hook.  Hooks for crocheting with thread are sized differently than hooks for yarn, so don’t use a size 6 yarn hook and expect the desired result.  With hooks for crocheting with thread (for lace or doilies) the hooks get larger as the numbers get smaller.  A size 6 hook was the largest of this type of hook that I could find at my local craft store.  I recommend choosing a light color of thread.  I’ve said before that lighter colors make it easier to see your work, which is particularly helpful as you’re just learning a new technique.  I chose a variegated pastel thread, because there’s no rule that a doily has to be white!

Getting StartedFirst few rounds

Thread for lace or doilies is much harder to hold than yarn is, and my tension was sort of hit or miss for the first couple of rounds.  But don’t give up! It gets easier as you go!  Another thing I noticed is that the thread would often slip off the hook as I would try to draw up a loop.  If this happens to you, remember that even if you wrap the thread all the way around the hook, you’ll still only draw up one loop.  Also, switching from yarn to thread takes patience.

Finishing Off

I didn’t weave in my ends as aggressively as I do for a hat or blanket because this doily will not be worn, stretched, or washed often.  I just sort of worked the ends.  A yarn needle would have been too large, so I used an embroidery needle.  It worked beautifully!

BlockingMy doily!

The instructions in the book said to starch and lightly press the doily when it was finished.  I don’t have any starch, and all that seemed unnecessary.  It was a little curled, but not too bad.  I just filled a clean spray bottle with some water and placed the doily on a towel.  I spritzed the entire thing lightly and pressed out the curls.  Then I worked my way around the border, spritzing a little each time, and reshaping the edging into nice round  curves with my fingers.  Keep the doily flat and laid out in the right shape until it’s dry and it will keep its shape.

What’s Next?

I found some cute patriotic fabric at the craft store that I hope to turn into something for the 4th of July!

Quilting vs. Piecing

Double Wedding Ring QuiltsThis weekend I went to the annual quilt show in Greenville, IL, sponsored by the Bond County Historical Society. My mother’s family farm is in Greenville, and my family has 40 or so quilts, so this weekend was a perfect fit!





Featured QuilterSunbonnet Sue

Oleta Schaufelberger was this year’s featured quilter, and she had quite a display! Every item in her exhibit was pieced and quilted by hand. She had several large “Double Wedding Ring” quilts. My favorite of her quilts was a variation of a “Sunbonnet Sue” pattern, made with fabric from dresses worn by three generations of women in her family. Each of the dresses in the pattern was different.

Basic Quilting Terminology

There were four categories of quilts at this show: hand quilted, machine quilted, antique, and wall/display and baby quilts. Within these categories, a quilt can either be embroidered or pieced.

  • Piecing is the art of cutting shapes from fabric and stitching them together to form a pattern. Often, a quilter pieces the pattern into smaller blocks, then stitches the blocks together.
  • Quilting is the process of sewing the pieced quilt top to the backing fabric, with quilt batting sandwiched in between. Many quilters like to incorporate designs into the quilting stitches.
  • A hand quilt is one that has been pieced and quilted using hand sewing. I once read that women used to strive for 12 stitches per inch when they were hand quilting.
  • A machine quilt is one that has been pieced and quilted using a sewing machine. When looked at closely, hand and machine quilts look very different. Machine quilts have tighter, smaller, more uniform stitches.
  • An embroidered quilt uses blocks of fabric that have been embroidered rather than pieced with intricate designs. Embroidered quilts can have some piecework, as the blocks are pieced together and there is often a pieced border, but some embroidered quilts are made from one large piece of fabric.

Hoiles-Davis Historical MuseumOther Historical Greenville Locations

Hoiles-Davis Historical Museum:  See a couch Abraham Lincoln sat on, as well as some other Greenville history.

One-Room School Museum: A beautifully restored one-room school house that has been moved to the middle of Greenville from its original country location.

American Farm Heritage Museum:  Home to farming artifacts and festivals, this museum is also working on reconstructing a War of 1812 era fort.

What’s Next?

I might try my hand at the tiny crochet my great-grandmother liked.  I bought a very old book of crochet patterns of doilies and edgings from a vendor at the quilt show, and my mom has a box of Great-Grandma’s old hooks and thread somewhere.

Free Pattern: Double Crochet Beret

I made this hat with very thin bamboo yarn, but it’s easy to adapt this pattern for medium weight yarn.  For the bamboo yarn I used, I used a thinner hook, like E or F.  For medium weight yarn, use G, H, or I.  Just choose something that works well with the yarn you’ve chosen.  This pattern uses the first type of seam I learned for crocheting in the round.  This seam will be somewhat visible in the finished product.  The pattern is written out for medium weight yarn.  If you are using thinner yarn and a smaller hook, increase for more rows, until the diameter is the desired size.

This hat was my first experience with bamboo yarn.

Start With a Circle

Chain (ch) 4 and use a slip stitch (sl st) to join to the first chain stitch to create a loop.

Row 1:  Ch 3. Double crochet (dc) 11 into the middle of the loop. Join with sl st to the top of the first ch 3 in the row. 12 stitches.

Row 2:  Ch 3. Double crochet into the same stitch (st), dc into the next st. <2 dc into next st, dc in next st> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 24 stitches.

Row 3:  Ch 3. Double crochet into the same st, dc into the next 2 st. <2 dc into next st, dc in next 2 st> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 36 stitches.

Row 4:  Ch 3. Double crochet into the same st, dc into the next 3 st. <2 dc into next st, dc in next 3 st> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 48 stitches.

Row 5:  Ch 3. Double crochet into the same st, dc into the next 4 st. <2 dc into next st, dc in next 4 st> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 60 stitches.

Row 6:  Ch 3. Double crochet into the same st, dc into the next 5 st. <2 dc into next st, dc in next 5 st> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 72 stitches.

Row 7:  Ch 3. Double crochet into the same st, dc into the next 6 st. <2 dc into next st, dc in next 6 st> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 84 stitches.

Row 8:  Ch 3. Double crochet into the same st, dc into the next 7 st. <2 dc into next st, dc in next 7 st> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 96 stitches.

Row 9:  Ch 3. Double crochet in each st around.  Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 96 stitches.


Beret vs. Slouchy Hat

At this point in the pattern, preference plays a role.  How wide do you want the beret to be? Do you want it to be more pancake shaped, or more of a slouchy hat?  I opted for more of a slouchy hat.  If you want it more pancake-y, start decreasing rows immediately.  For a slouchy hat, repeat Row 9 until your hat is the desired slouchiness.


Decreasing Rows

Row 10:  Ch 3.  Dc in next 6 st. Decrease the next two st together (yarn over and draw up a loop in first st then yarn over and pull yarn through first two loops, yarn over and draw up a loop in second st then yarn over and pull yarn through first two loops, then pull yarn through all remaining loops).  <Dc in next 7 st, decrease> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 84 stitches.

Row 11:  Ch 3. Dc in next 5 st. Decrease. <Dc in next 6 st, decrease> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 72 stitches.

Row 12:  Ch 3. Dc in next 4 st. Decrease. <Dc in next 5 st, decrease> Repeat <> until end of row. Join with sl st to the top of ch 3. 60 stitches.



Continue decreasing each row until the opening for the hat is the desired size.  For each row after that point, dc in each st around.  Continue until hat band is desired length.

Finish off and weave in the ends.



If you have any questions about this pattern, or you are having trouble with any part of it, leave a comment or find me on Twitter and I will help you!

Crocheting Without a Pattern

At the end of my last post, I mentioned that my great-grandmother could crochet anything without a pattern.  She didn’t even know how to decipher a pattern.  She would just look at something and know how to recreate it, or just create the pattern in her mind as she went along.

She crocheted a lot of doilies…


…and other decorative items like shoes…


…and tiny dresses.


I wish I had such talent.  I’ve been seeing a lot of things on Pinterest lately that I would love to try, but often the patterns are not included, not free, or in another language.  I’ve been trying to figure out how one can crochet something so complicated without a pattern, and I think I’m finding some starting points.

Basic Shapes

I once learned in an art class that the first thing you should do when you’re going to draw something is break down the basic shapes.  Lightly sketch the oval of the frog’s body, the rectangle of the log he’s sitting on, and the circles of his eyes.  Then fill out the rest.  I think the same idea can be applied to crochet.  Learn how to crochet flat shapes like circles and squares, as well as some 3-D shapes like a sphere and a cylinder.  Hat’s usually start with a half sphere for the crown and straighten out about half-way down.  Squares can be stitched together to make cubes.

Increasing and Decreasing

Increasing and decreasing your stitches is usually a very important part of a pattern.  To make as spherical shape, you have to increase a certain amount every row (the amount depends on whether you’re using single or double crochet).  To make a cylinder less boxy, and more body shaped, increasing and decreasing in the right areas will make a stuffed animal come to life.

Modifying Other Patterns

I’ve talking about slightly modifying patterns before, but sometimes you can borrow instructions from several different patterns to get the look you want.  For instance, if I wanted to add dragon scales to a hat for my adorable nephew, I don’t have to buy a pattern for that.  I can use a basic hat pattern I already have, and add scales from a pattern book of stuffed animals that I also already have.  I just need to make the scales bigger by increasing for a few more rows than the pattern shows.

Start With Something Easy

I’ve really only created hat patterns from scratch before.  I had been working from a basic free hat pattern, and realized I could turn it into a beret pretty easily by making my circle bigger and bigger until I decided to decrease the stitches and bring it back in.  Through some trial and error, I finally got my rows increasing and decreasing at the correct rate.  A beret hat was a good place for me to start working without a pattern, because I’m comfortable working in the round and making hats already, and the only thing I was really experimenting with was increasing my stitches.  If you start of trying to crochet a stuffed giraffe without a pattern, you will probably be disappointed.

What’s Next?

In my next post, how about I share that beret hat pattern for free? I just have to remember what I did, since I didn’t write my “pattern” down!

Learning Cross Stitch

On a long car ride this past September, I decided to learn cross stitch. My mom was working on a cross stitch and said she would teach me, and we were stopping at a Hobby Lobby to get a couple of things anyway, so I picked out something that looked easy.

Cross Stitch vs. Needlepointcross-stitch-close-up

It turned out I picked a needlepoint kit rather than a cross stitch kit, but it was still a good project to start learning. Needlepoint, to me, is basically doing half of a cross stitch. In cross stitch, you use only a few threads of embroidery floss, and after you work a row with stitches slanting one direction you reverse your way back down the same row making stitches slanting in the opposite direction. In needlepoint, you use the entire strand of embroidery floss, and only make stitches slanting in one direction.

Getting Startedneedlepoint

Whether you’re doing cross stitch or needlepoint, you start the row the same. Most kits come with a chart of some sort to tell you how many stitches to count. Some beginner kits, like the one I chose, have the design printed directly on the canvas. As far as deciding which color to start with, my mom suggested I start with something with some straight lines that would start to fill in a large area. I started with the brown basket, then moved on to black, then the other colors with the background stripes last.

To get the thread started, the instructions said to leave a short tail, then work the tail into the next few stitches. My mom said to just tie a knot–no one will ever see the back.

Cross Stitchsampler

After I felt pretty comfortable with needlepoint, I started a counted cross stitch (the kind with a chart). I found a really easy one that looks like an old-fashioned sampler. The canvas was a little larger count than most kits, it didn’t have a lot of tricky angles or curves, and the colors didn’t blend much. I finished it quickly, which is nice for those beginning projects when you just want to see results!  I started with the red, then black, then the other colors.

Now I’m working on a much harder kit, and I got a couple of fun kits for Christmas. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the patience to do one of those kits of a peacock or a Thomas Kincaid or something so time-consuming, but I’m good enough to make some unique things for my walls!

What’s Next?

Crocheting without a pattern…my great grandmother could do it! Can I?