Back to School ’14


Five years ago, my  5 year old granddaughter wore a CC Frannie school dress for our first day of homeschooling.


With the start of another school year, I can’t help but look back.  Most retired school teachers, I suspect,  do  the same.  This post was written 5 years ago as we began our first year of homeschooling together.

Now, she begins 6th grade.  Wow.  If she’s getting older, I guess that means so am I.

Laurel, 10 going on...?

Recently, she wrote a play which she will direct and has cast with friends. It will open at the public library in due time.


Perhaps you will find some of  these school sewing projects useful for your special students.  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2009~When I ended my teaching career with the public school system many years ago, I was 5 months pregnant with my first child,  Ryan.  From that time on, I was a stay-at-home Mama, except when I was on the road teaching sewing.

At a time when many of my friends are retiring from teaching, I am starting again.   For a variety of reasons, our family has made a last minute decision for me to home school Ryan’s daughter, 5 year old Laurel Cade this year.  So now,  I’m back to teaching the 3 R’s.  And I am loving it!

Teaching this bright, eager student would warm the cockles of any school teacher’s heart.  But it also offered some unique sewing opportunities.   I have had more than a little sewing fun outfitting my “classroom,” formerly known as the utility room.

After seeing some of today’s school rooms, I knew the old utility room needed more pizzazz than my new refrigerator and old Hoosier cabinet could generate.  So I started with some red pre-quilted fabric and found a bright multicolored stripe to coordinate with it.


chair cover


When we put Ryan’s old child sized roll top desk in place, I decided to cover the chair back.  First, I appliqued Laurel’s name with the stripe fabric on the red quilted fabric, then inserted a ruffle between the front and back.


markers and pencil bag


For her markers, colored pencils and neat paint pens, I made zippered bags with an appliqued red label identifying the contents.  The bag is just a variation on the teepee bag, but with both seams parallel to one another.


With very little wall space, the doors of my Hoosier cabinet were converted to bulletin boards.


With two walls of windows, there is not much wall space in our classroom.  So to find space for bulletin boards I had to be creative.  The doors on my old Hoosier cabinet are just the right size for cork tiles.  So I used the striped fabric to make criss crosses to hold vocabulary and spelling words.

The next appropriation for wall space was from the doors to the old fuse boxes. Our house was built in 1926, so now, after major electrical work, we have almost more fuse boxes than closets.    But, only these two are in the utility room and available for bulletin board space.


Laurel loves our interactive Leap Frog globe.


My fabric stash offered the perfect background for the Pledge of Allegiance and back to school boards.  I covered foam core, using double sided tape and bordered it with rick rack.  The foam core fit snugly into the recesses in the doors.  We’re going to get a bigger, better classroom flag, but this is the only one we had on hand that would fit.

My next project is to make up a school bag, embroidered with “Nana’s School” on it.  This is soooooo much fun!!!!

Have you done any back to school sewing?


This year Laurel enters 6th grade and her brother, Robert, begins 5th.



A year ago, Robert wrote and self-published a book, Football Frenzy (not yet available at Amazon).


Cousin Alastair is off to kindergarten.



Instead of riding the bus, he bikes the short distance to school with his father.  What a great way to start the day!



Soon, 19-month-old Vivian Rose will attend Montessori pre-school a few days a week.  But she wanted to go with Alastair and was suited up for a ride.  Too bad, Vivi.  Your day will be here soon.




Tutorial: Disney Project & Fun for All

I’m getting ready to post some new garments I made using a few of  the delightful new Disney designs.  They have really updated the characters and created very contemporary designs.  I stitched a new Minnie on CC Callie, Ariel on a two piece play set, and Nemo on a beach scene baby outfit.

With the new Brother machines being introduced there is a lot of  Disney excitement.  I thought you might enjoy this old post with my daughter’s tutorial for her castle pin/bulletin board.   This is a great back-to-school activity for kids and parents.


It was a fabulous weekend, full of fun.   Rebecca had a project in mind so after the downtown Mardi Gras Dog Parade (details below the tutorial), this is was our family project.  It really is useful to anyone, young and old.  It would be great for teachers.

What is it for, you might ask?  Well, read her explanation below.

Of course, she knew that I would have all the textile/craft supplies she would need, so she and her father went to  Lowe’s for the basic board.  It was very satisfying for me to use up the bundle of star Daisy Kingdom print I had just purchased at Goodwill (5 yds. @ $2.99 total!) for the basic castle cover.  We also used a piece of glittery fabric (also from Goodwill for .50) for the windows and doors.

Rebecca has written up a how-to that should make it easy to reproduce this or create a similar board.~~~~


I got the Disney bug this winter and decided it was time to introduce our son to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful to see the wonder in his eyes? (See  Cutest Little Boy does DisneyWorld.)

While planning for our first visit, Mama told me how Laurel and Robert had gotten pin craze at Disney. On their last visit, Laurel had been indulged with a lanyard and one pin for roughly 10$ each. When I started asking amongst friends and neighbors, it turns out lots of kids had their own Disney pin collections. Most kids have dozens of pins. At 10$ a pin, that adds up. Yikes!




I wasn’t sure if Alastair would be interested in Disney pin trading or not, but I wanted to be prepared in case he made the same doe-eye’d plea my adorable niece did to her Mama. I bought a kit of 1 lanyard and 10 second-hand pins through a very nice Ebay store. It was perfect, and a complete except for a Disney ‘medal’ to hang from the middle.  The kit was a hit, and Alastair traded for a few pins from some of the Disney Cast Members.

My husband had the great idea to use the lanyard as a way to tag Alastair for our trip. He crafted a little homemade dog tag with both of our cell phone numbersin case our son got separated from us (numbers removed from the image, but you get the idea).



Once home with a lanyard packed with pins, I wondered what to do with it. After a day that was just magical for our little family, putting the memento up in the closet just didn’t seem right.

It turns out there is a wonderful little family business that sells pin boards called Bauble® Board ( I purchased the shield Bauble® Board for 17$ (including shipping!) and couldn’t be more pleased. The board arrived in the mail some 4 days after placing the order, was exactly as I requested, and professionally finished. That, and I was supporting small family business right here in America. What’s not to love?

Over time, I thought that both the pins and the board were great, but didn’t I need, well, more?!?

Many more pins! And a great big Bauble® Board! And I wanted the board to be part pin board, part activity board, part rotating picture frame for all of Alastair’s loved ones. I had some serious shopping to do.

I found some second hand collections on Ebay and was in business. With our little house and limited storage, I could put up pins for gifts for my niece and nephew, neighborhood Disney pin-trading kids, and general rewards for Alastair without taking more than a half a shoebox worth of space. The possibilities stretched forward.

Next, I got a quote for a darling owl shaped Bauble® Board to fit in with his Harry Potter themed nursery, but decided that it just wasn’t going to be big enough. I started thinking that a great big Medieval castle was just the thing, but I wasn’t sure if I could justify the cost of commissioning one from Bauble® Board. Besides, I wasn’t sure if I could define how I wanted it to look exactly, and once it arrived, I doubted I would be able to modify it without diminishing it’s professional quality.

So, what’s a girl to do? Why, it was time to visit my Mama, of course. Together, we put together a great big castle activity/pin board in an evening.

My poor Mama – a homemade pin board is not up her alley. On a few occasions when I took shortcuts, she became so unsettled I think it bordered on causing her physical pain. She’ll lie to her grave and tell everyone – including herself – that she loved every minute she spent with her daughter. In time, she’ll even remember it that way. And so we go on. (Personally, I had a blast!)

The construction is highly suspect, so ladies, try not to fall out of your chairs.  Materials for the pin board consist of:

  • An image for inspiration
  • Large sheet of pressed insulation board, 10’x4’x1/2” sheet for $7.30 + tax from Lowes
  • (8) 1” finishing screws
  • 2.5 yards of 48” wide fabric
  • ¼ yard of sheer sparkly fabric
  • Scrap accent fabric (I used yellow and brown)
  • Ribbon
  • Sharpy, the color of your base fabric
  • Hot glue gun
  • Staple gun
  • Jigsaw
  • Screwdriver
  • 2 sawhorses

The project was completed in a single eight hour period. This includes travel time to Lowes, a Publix run, dinner with the family, time to bath my son and niece, and so on. Total project time with materials in hand took closer to 2-4 hours. The board itself is a piece of pressed insulation board from Lowes.

To determine the suitability of a potential board, I used my earring as a test case. If I could pierce the material with the earring back and it held securely, I had a match. (I recommend you bring a pin with you, or an earring you don’t mind mangling.) This pressed insulation board is not the ideal material for pin boards, but it was the best match given the choices at hand at the nearby hardware store. Perhaps you know of a better source for the pin board, and can share your knowledge?

To make your own pin-board, collect the materials and be sure to consider details like a paper plate or empty cereal box to rest your glue gun on. Also consider handling your staple gun with extreme care. As a self-described klutzmo from a long line of klutzmos (from my father’s side, of course), I took precautions like wearing eye protection, keeping small children far away, and never, ever, rushing to grab the staple gun or hot glue gun. I suggest everyone do the same.

Trace out a pattern directly on the board material. This gets covered, so don’t worry if you monkey it up a bit. Use the jigsaw to cut out the pattern while resting the board itself across a pair of saw horses. In my case, the edges of the board frayed pretty significantly, but it didn’t matter. All edges were covered (mostly) on the board itself with fabric.

If you choose a dimensional activity/pin board, cut out additional shapes (in the castle, I cut out an additional windows and double door).

Dust off all boards thoroughly. Touch up all corners with the Sharpy to mitigate any gaps from stretching the fabric over the corners.

Measure out your fabric to cover the board generously, then double the fabric over. This technique of doubling the fabric was something I learned from Bauble® Board and has proven true already. Don’t skip this step – it adds life to your pin board’s aesthetics. As you move pins around on the board, you invariably leave little holes behind. With two layers of fabric, the holes shift ever so slightly and cover the hole underneath. It’s working well for me and Alastair already.

Stretch the fabric across the board and staple the material down generously. Cut away any extra material, and overlap across the back between 2 and 4 inches. Add glue when turning corners or doing notches in the design (I recommend against a 13 notch design, btw. My construction is downright sloppy after notch #3). If you have any dimensional pieces to go on top of the base board, cover those as well.

Add the dimensional pieces with 1” long finishing screws. You’ll want these placed carefully and securely. Tuck the screws behind ribbon where you can, and where you cannot, try to incorporate them into the design.

Next, add ribbon. I used slate blue ribbon to define more castle architectural features, but I was fantasizing about making a castle for a little girl with ribbons streaming from the towers and draping over the doors and windows.  Had I indulged, my truck loving, boot stompin’ little boy would have thought the castle was for someone else. Sigh.

But I digress.

The final product is 3.5 feet tall, 5 feet wide, and propped up against the wall in his bedroom. I’m going to leave it there for a week or so before I’m confident that it is where I want it to live. When I’m sure, I’ll have Harvey screw it directly to the wall a few inches above the baseboard.

Despite this project being so far out of Mama’s domain, I thought she should share it with each of you because the children in your lives may enjoy something custom made for them so they can define themselves on their board. With the advent of Facebook and MySpace, we should all be familiar with the concept that the world is always trying to define itself.  This board may be just the thing for your little pin collector, budding athlete (ribbon board), movie buff (tickets and tween pinups), etc.

Then again, if you can’t bring yourself to wield a staple gun on fabric, you can get a pin/activity board drop-shipped just a click away. The kind folks at Bauble® Board will even do a custom ordered board for you.~~

Mardi Gras Dog Parade

parade poster

This is a fun annual event in our town.  The the grandchildren loved the dogs and were intent on catching beads thrown to the roadside crowds.



My three grandchildren on a rare gloomy Florida day, watching the dog parade and hoping for more fun Mardi Gras beads.





What a fun weekend we had.



ALERT!!! Hinshaw Shadow Embroidery

Look what I found on eBay—a  CD of Suzanne Hinshaw’s exquisite machine embroidery shadow work designs  Shadowed Bouquets posted for bids.  Click here to see the listing.

This gorgeous set includes many designs of flowers,  often tied up with a bow, koi fish in a frame arrangement, a wreath of holly, small single flowers, grapes, and one of my personal favorites, a frame filled with shadow worked bows as well as many other files.  The sizes range under an inch to 5.5 x 9.12″.   Her designs inspire so many ideas.

The auction includes  only the original cd without instructions, so that might give you pause if you’ve never done any of her designs.  But I would be happy to help any reader who purchases this.

A few days ago I was tickled pink to win the auction for her last collection,  Ladies and Babies,  the only one I didn’t already have.  And I was the only one who bid on it!  I have not yet received this cd but as the seller has a 99% approval rating, it should be delivered as expected.

I have no photos of projects on which I used some designs from  Shadowed Bouquets.  But here are some that I have stitched from her other sets.

Christmas 11 collar centerCROP2

design from Suzanne Hinshaw’s Charming Embellishments collection. Collar featured in post  Shadow Work Christmas Collar



design Suzanne Hinshaw's Teddies and Toys set.  Baby boy coming home suit featured in post,

design Suzanne Hinshaw’s Teddies and Toys set. Baby boy coming home suit featured in post Coming Home Teddy Bear.



baby pillowcase with combination of designs from Shadowed Bows 2


center towel design from  Shadow Work Monogram collection

center towel design from Shadow Work Monograms collection

design from Shadowed Bows 2.  Pillowcase details featured in post Machine Shadow Embroidered Pillowcase



Another design from Shadowed Bows2, shown on a baby pillowcase in this post

Suzanne Hinshaw’s designs are as so hard to find, so if you are interested, get on over to eBay and check it out.  The auction ends Aug 13, 2014 11:25:09 PDT.  You do  the math to translate into your local time zone. 

Good luck!

P.S.  I don’ know the vendor.

Church Dress for Laurel

Children's Corner Lillian in white linen

Children’s Corner Lillian in white linen


Almost overnight, Laurel has grown into a young lady and outgrown all of her church dresses.     She is taller and definitely matured beyond the little girl dresses I love to sew.  I am grateful that there are patterns for tasteful big girl dresses like this Children’s Corner Lillian. Continue reading

Elephant “Jane”


Children’s Corner “Jane” with elephant applique


This was made while spending a week at our mountain cabin.  With our daughter and her two children and all their activities, it was a busy time.  And yet, I managed to finish this Children’s Corner Jane for 18 month old Vivian Rose.


Jane patt

What a terrific pattern this is!  Fast as a New York minute, easy as pie and cute as a button.  How’s that for a lot of cliches?  But it’s all true.  This may be the perfect pattern for our 18 month old granddaughter Vivian Rose.

I love a pattern that is simple enough to alter easily for different looks.  For the size 2, the basic top required just 1/2  yd. of 60″ wide fabric.  On this gray gingham top, a lace edged ruffle was added over the regular elasticized sleeve.  An appliqued gray ultrasuede elephant adds textural interest.  The loose tail is a bias tube made from the ruffle sleeve pink fabric.  I hope she doesn’t pull it off. Continue reading

Summer Fun Sewing

flower top



Busy, busy, busy!  What ever happened to the “lazy, hazy,  crazy days of summer?”  Is that another thing of the past?  We’ve had crazy but no hazy or lazy.

In addition to lots of sewing, I’ve enjoyed  two weeks at our cabin in the mountains of North Carolina, one  week with our daughter, sweet Alastair and whirling dervish Vivian Rose, as well as one week with Bob. What great getaways from Florida’s hot summer!

This floral top was made for dgd Laurel, 10.  The quick and easy commercial pattern lent itself to a variety of embellishments.  In addition to piping and rick rack,  crocheted flowers  purchased from  Farmhouse Fabrics were added into the mix.


floral top crochet


Continue reading

Frilly Kindergarten Shorts Set



This is another outfit in the kindergarten wardrobe Suzanne Sawko is making for her granddaughter.   It seems to meet all the requirements of primary school wear in Florida–the outfit is cool, comfortable and allows for active play.

At the same time it satisfies a little girl’s desire for feminine clothing, as well as her Mamaw’s own desire for a pretty back-to-school wardrobe for this 5 year-old.  And what teacher wouldn’t love to see a new student in a smocked garment?  Clearly, this is a winning 2-piece set. Continue reading

Patterns~Embroidery Machine Covers

There is good news!  Many readers were interested in the embroidery machine cover   I made for my mother’s Babylock Ellageo several years ago. But the pattern was no longer available.





Now they are back!  Missi of Skeldale House  went the extra mile to contact the pattern designer, Monica Aderton.  Her site, Monica’s Miscellany, has been down for some time.

This is Monica’s response to Missi’s inquiry: Continue reading

Dressed up Play Top

eyelet 1

Doesn’t this look cool and comfortable for a Florida toddler?


I seem to be stuck on the simple, free, gathered play top pattern from The Purl Bee.   (See Mountain Sewing Getaway and Free Patterns~Summer Play Top)  There are so many variations dancing around in my head that I doubt this will be the last one I make.  I  really hope to make some for Operation Christmas Child.

For this version, the top is cut to a dress length–at least for an 18 month old– and given a more elegant look with the  a finer fabric.  The contrasting casing of which I am so fond and is embellished with stacked  yo-yo’s, a single leaf and a tiny pearl button. Continue reading

Mountain Sewing Getaway



My dear husband and I just returned home from a week at our cabin in the beautiful mountains of the North Carolina “High Country.”   This time it was just the two of us.

We wanted a break from the hustle bustle of our very busy-but very happy!- life here in central Florida.  And we reeeeally wanted a break from the sweltering heat here at home.  We surely got that!   To keep from freezing, I wore a sweater everyday and we slept under two hand stitched quilts.


cherries 2


Of course, my plan was to get some uninterrupted sewing and smocking done.  So on the first morning after we arrived, Bob set up my sewing table and I set up my trusty Brother ULT 2003D. Continue reading