Fishin’ for fabric fishies

This blog post is my first of the YES sew variety rather than the NO sew variety I’ve done in the past .  In no way is this a sewing tutorial post because I really don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to using my nifty new sewing machine.  I’m just kind of “going for it” so to speak.  I’ve made some errors along the way as you will probably see in this post.   But I’m finding little “aha” moments here and there thru my mishaps.  I do plan to get some pointers from family and friends, but I just couldn’t help myself on this one.

Recently we took our “newly two” daughter to a place nearby called Lake Cachuma.  It was pouring rain so we ended up spending most of our time in the visitor center admiring all of the nature displays.  There was one in particular that completely intrigued and entertained our little one for quite a while.  It was a real fish tank (without the water) filled with wooden fish that you could fish out with a pole that had a magnet attached to it.  “I caught big one mama!”  Over and over.  So cute, I must say.  So I decided to try to recreate this exciting little activity for her at home but instead of wooden fish, I decided to sew some fish.


This project was a really great sewing exercise for me.  It wasn’t like I was sewing a serious piece of clothing or anything so I wasn’t too stressed about making things perfect.  I used fabric scraps that I had on hand from my various no-sew projects like the no-sew valance, and the cute cowgirl tutu.


Here is what I used:

  • scrap fabric
  • buttons for eyes (I had some left over from my stocking project and my little girl’s photo wall)
  • stuffing or filler
  • magnet
  • metal key rings or washers
  • stick for fishing pole (I used a dowel)
  • yarn or string for fishing line
  • needle and thread or sewing machine
  • scissors

Here were my basic steps:

  • cut out two squares of fabric a little bigger than the size of fish you want
  • trace a simple fish shape with a pen onto the “bad” side of one of the squares of fabric
  • sew a button on for the fish eye (on the good side) before pinning the two squares of fabric together
  • pin fabric squares together with the good sides facing each-other
  • sew along pen outline of fish making sure to leave opening for stuffing
  • Cut excess fabric around the edge of the seam
  • turn right side out, sew metal piece inside the fish,  then stuff with filler (see photo below)
  • finish seam with slip stitch or sewing machine

Before I stuffed the fish I sewed a metal key ring inside the fish into the seam at the “fish mouth” area.  I just reached in and pulled out that little area and hand sewed the key ring into place then tucked it back inside.   You can use a washer too like in this post from From an Igloo Blog, or anything else that you think would work better (I’m new at this.)


I stuffed the fish but made sure to keep the key ring flush with the fabric so that the magnet could catch it easier.


Now for finishing the seam.  Not sure what I’m doing here.  But I didn’t feel like hand sewing the opening closed.   I mean, I have this great new sewing machine and all.  So I used a pin to hold back some of the stuffing and chose a fancy stitch setting on my machine to finish up the seam . . .


Eh.  Not sure if that is fancy really, more whimsical perhaps.  And I did another fish the same way . . .


Then with another fish I decided to try to hand sew what they call a “slip stitch.”  It’s that thing to where you sew so that you can’t see the thread from the seam .  I did an okay job.  I learned all about the slip stitch from this video.


Now onto the worm.  I didn’t want to leave a big ol’ magnet exposed so I decided to enclose it inside a funny worm.  I didn’t give the fishies a mouth, but I decided to give the worm a little smile.  (I suppose he has no idea he’s dinner.)  I used a sharpie to trace his shape (so it’s coming thru on the good side of the fabric).  For the smile I used another fancy stitch setting on my machine and sewed it on the good side of the fabric.  The button is in place for sewing too . . .


I sewed the worm the same as I did the fish but made sure to leave a big enough opening for this big ol’ magnet to fit.  I cushioned  the magnet a bit with filler and stuffed it inside the worm…


I cut a little slit in the worm tail so that I could attach the “fishing line” (yarn).  It looks like a buttonhole.  I sloppily hand sewed the raw edges of the buttonhole and secured the yarn.


Here are the fish waiting patiently for their worm.  I picked up the tank for 3.99 at the local thrift store.    It’s see-thru, light weight and made of plastic. . .


And strangely (or appropriately) it had little frogs in the base? . . . this is meant to be.


“Look mama!  I caught big one!”   Big worm equals big fish, right?


Until next Monday!


linking with Skip to my lou, Today’s Creative blog


Old chairs with a French twist

Well Happy New Year!

I have my little blog through WordPress and they did a cute summary of my blog activity over the last year.  That was very nice of them.

Here are just a few highlights:

I’m looking forward to continuing turning ideas into projects in 2013.  Thank you kindly to family, friends, and strangers for reading!

Over the holiday break I began a mental list of  little projects to tackle over the next little while.  One of them that I got pretty excited about was “re-upholstering” a pair of pretty hand me down chairs.  I finally took a good look underneath the chairs and realized all that was holding the seat down was four screws.  This will be easier than I thought.

Here they are before.  As you can probably see the fabric is worn and stained.  Time for a makeover.


The hardest part of this project was deciding on what fabric I wanted to use.  Just so many options.  I kept noticing a cute french script fabric in a Ballard Design catalog.  Low and behold I stumbled upon a scrap of the fabric at the local fabric store (Your Remnant Store, Santa Barbara).   I believe it was 22 or 25 dollars per yard (off the bolt) but I found a yard and a half piece for 17 dollars. Just the right cost and measurement for my cushions.  If you are curious I believe the fabric is by Lacefield Designs (by the way very cute stuff on their site.)

Here is a quick visual of the simple process.  More detailed pics below too.


First I decided which part of the pattern I wanted on each chair:


I cut the fabric leaving about 3 inches on all sides.  Then secured fabric:


Start with a corner.  Aside from deciding on a fabric, the corners are the trickiest part.  You kind of have to fiddle with them a bit before you staple the fabric in place:


I was pretty pleased with how the stapling went when I realized the new fabric covered the screw holes.  Oops.  No problem I just used an awl to poke thru the screw holes in the chair and punched thru the fabric.  Then I screwed the four corners down:

find screw hole with awl

The finished pair with their new French inspired outfits:



I thought these pillows softened the chairs up a bit.  Just borrowed them from the couch.  Believe it or not they are from Costco.  Well you probably can believe it since you probably have them too:


What a fun and easy project to kick off the new year.

Just a few tips:

  1. Pick a fabric that will be easy to work with.  Sturdier than a bed sheet but not too bulky.  Keeping it tidy would be a little trickier with a bulky fabric.
  2. When using the staple gun press the tip of the gun very firmly into the wood.  Otherwise the staple might not get a good grip.
  3. If your corners seem like they have several folds to secure, staple each fold.  Don’t just use one staple crammed into the folds.  It might not secure it enough (hope that makes sense.)
  4. If there are creases or wrinkles in the fabric go ahead and iron those out before you start.  Even though you’re pulling the fabric taught while stapling, those pesky creases might still show. 

See you next Monday!  Hopefully earlier in the day.  (That should be a new blogging goal I suppose?)


PS I got a pretty cool sewing machine for Christmas.  From the bit of tinkering I’ve done with the machine so far I’m not so sure why I was so intimidated.  What am I going to do with all of my new-sew tape?   REAL sewing projects to come!

Linking up with:  Skip to my Lou, Sue Bee Crafts, LilLuna, Southern Lovely

Add some holiday spirit to your planters

I’m still filling our little home with Christmas cheer and I became totally inspired by a show I was watching on HGTV called Sarah Throws a Party.  (The video clip is called “Winterizing summer plants.”)  Designer Sarah Richardson turned her plain ol’ porch planters into festive planters by adding some “bing bongs” (as she calls them), cedar garland, and some artificial flowers.  So, that’s kinda what I did too.  Here’s my plain ol’ porch planter which is usually (sadly) tucked away in the far corner of our porch:


First I cleaned her up a bit by removing old leaves from the branches and scooping out the dead leaves that had accumulated.  I also loosened up the soil and broke up some surface roots a bit with a hand rake.  This way (hopefully) I’d be able to more easily poke my holiday filler into the pot.


Here is the holiday assortment . . .  the “bing bongs” I already had, along with the silk flowers (collecting dust on a shelf) and the red berries were a couple of dollars each at the craft store, the cedar was $10 a bunch. . .


Pick out a few of the fuller stems of the garland clippings and trim  . . .


Then stand back and decide where you want to add the first branch.  This is the hardest part about arrangements.  Where to start.  When in doubt, just cluster similar pieces in groups . . .


I wasn’t quite sure where to go after the first branch so I moved on to the flowers.  I clustered them  . . .


and poked them into the front-ish part.  Eh.  Then I added some more of the cedar.  Once I did that . . . I finally felt like the arrangement was going somewhere to my liking . . .


Time to fill in and embellish with some fun stuff.  The “bing bongs” I made by hot glueing the ornaments onto little wooden dowels . . .


Then two hours later . . . yes two hours later.  Hey, it takes time to do all the trimming and standing back and tilting your head all kinds of ways to see what looks best.  I frickin love this stuff.  It makes me happy (even if I’m not an expert).



Here she is back on the front porch. Move over pumpkins!   I actually gave her a little trim (after I stood back and tilted my head a few more times).


A little more free-form than my more recent arrangements.  But the sad planter is now happy and full of Christmas spirit .  Yay!

Until (hopefully not so late) next Monday,

Jennifer 🙂


Linking up with:  Skip to my Lou

Christmas carnation tree

It’s the holiday’s and what a great excuse to get crafty and make pretty things.  I decided to do have some holiday fun with flowers.  Carnations again.  This time red.  I’m hooked on using wet floral foam to make arrangements. I found some cute miniature red carnations at the grocery store for 3.99 a bunch.  Seems so inexpensive for flowers.  And when you group carnations in a tight arrangement I think it really shows off their often over-looked beauty.  For this arrangement I also peppered in some bright green mums.


I wanted to create a Christmas tree shaped arrangement but the store was out of cone floral foam so I fashioned my own tree shape from two blocks of wet floral foam (before I soaked it) . . .


I used the flower vessel from my wedding day  (again) that I also used in a previous post about arranging with wet floral foam.  I filled the bottom of the vessel with pieces of soaked floral foam (sculpting remnants) to fill the hole up a bit so the “tree” would have flat (ish) surface to perch upon.  I also secured the tree with some light weight floral wire.  You know, so the tree wouldn’t split down the center and collapse.  FYI once you soak the foam in water it becomes surprisingly heavy and sturdy.


Then I just started pushing the carnation tips into the floral foam.  (Remember cut the carnations at an angle and pretty short.  You can read more about that in one of my previous posts).  Hmm, hope it doesn’t just end up looking like a party hat . . .


I started realizing that the four bunches of mini carnations I bought were not going fill the entire tree.  Woops! (again) So I had to steal some carnations from the bottom of the arrangement and think of a way to fill that space!  See?  Even crafting requires mild problem solving skills!


At first I thought maybe Christmas tree trimmings would look nice at the base.  But I didn’t really like where that was going . . .


So I decided to just shorten the arrangement by carefully trimming off some of the base.  Yay!  Problem solved.  Then I added the cute bright green mums.  Keep these stems long so that you can tuck them nice and snug in between the carnations.


Then time for some Holiday sparkles!


These I just got at the craft store and used floral wire to push them into the arrangement . . .


And the finished product:



The little silver glitter balls were trying to talk me into adding some lights too.  I do have a couple mini battery operated ones.  But I just decided to keep it simple.  Didn’t want to get all Clark Griswold with the arrangement . . .


I wonder how long this arrangement will survive.  The last time I used wet floral foam and carnations (for my daughter’s b-day) it lasted two weeks believe it or not.


I also had a chance to use a cute mini candy jar (a thrift store find from long ago) and filled it with the rest of the little glitter balls.  My husband was all, “Wow, is that candy?”  No, you weirdo.  Those are mini glitter balls.  Duh.


PS Get creative!  Holidays are the best excuse to do so!  Just ask Martha Stewart.

Until next Monday 🙂


Linking with:  Skip to my Lou, Today’s Creative Blog, Somewhat Simple, The Shabby Creek Cottage

Corner cabinet re-doozy

I just finished a fun little project (well, kinda … read on.)  I  posted a couple of weeks back about turning our office slash guest room into a playroom for our tot.  I had been searching high and low for a corner unit to fit snuggly into the petite room.  Low and behold I found one on Craigslist for $50.  It was actually listed for $100 but I said, “I’ll take it off your hands for $50.”  The seller was in the midst of moving so she was happy to let it go.  Yay.  It was pretty beat up however and wasn’t of the sturdiest construction.

The backing was very flimsy which made for a pretty wobbly cabinet.  The hardware was charming, but  FAR too rustic for a princess 😉

Time to paint.  It didn’t really even need to be sanded.  But there were a few spots that needed the TLC of some wood putty and sanding.  After several coats of Behr antique white paint she cleaned up decently.  But the greatest improvement was replacing the flimsy backing with bead board.  It was about $20 bucks for one sheet at the hardware store.  I also bought some new hardware too (more on that below, ugh.)  P.S.  A shout out to my funny nephew Woodrow for hooking us up with his dad’s finishing air power staple gun thingy.

Here’s a close up of the paint job and bead board.

Oh.  Then there were the yucky bottom corners of the cabinet.  Nephew Woody actually recommended adding moulding of some sort.

So I remembered that we had some left over plastic/foam, lightweight moulding from a previous project.  Yes, I’m not just saying that.  I actually used it a while back to frame out the plain ol’ mirror in the bathroom of our rental which is actually pretty easy to do.  Just google it.  I would have posted about framing out the bathroom mirror . . . but that was in my “pre-blogging” days.

Used some “good ol'” Elmer’s wood glue to get that moulding on good and tight (well, kinda . . . read on.)  Set with clamps by the lovely Esposo.

Aaaaah.  And the before and after.  What a difference, huh?  I should mention that I decided to replace the glass with fabric instead.  I wasn’t quite sure how that thin glass would hold up to a rogue flying Lego or weeble wobble figure.  I used the same fabric that I used for the cute little no-sew valance in the playroom.

I had to wrestle with hanging the fabric panels in the cabinet door.  The one on the right was cut a little short (hello, the downfall of being an “eye-ball it” kinda girl.)

I found these really affordable knobs at Home Depot.  I think they were like $2 a pair.

So I’ve kinda been alluding to some sort of DIY mishaps.  So here’s the deal.  Full disclosure, the cabinet hinges I bought were completely faulty.  Well, not really . . . I guess I didn’t buy the right ones.  Whoops.  So in the before and after photo above, those cabinets are just balancing every so haphazardly in place so I could snap that photo.  I snapped the photo and thought, “Hmm, I think the cabinet can squeeze into the corner a bit more snug-like.”  In my attempt to get it all snug up in there I completely forgot that the cabinets weren’t screwed in and they all came crashing down.  In my attempt to catch the top ones I managed to knock the top moulding loose.  Anyway, it felt like a scene out of  “The Money Pitt” with Tom Hanks.  So really this is what the cabinet looks like at the moment:

So she will take a trip back to the garage to get her wounds mended and cabinet doors screwed in correctly to then serve her purpose as a cute cabinet for office junk storage.  It actually looks nice as a corner shelving unit.  Maybe that will be her next life after some putty for the screw holes, a sanding and another coat of paint.

Anywhoo.  I actually really love transforming furniture like this.   I do get a kick out of it.  I’m no expert, but learning.

Just a couple of notes:

  • Furniture blemishes are sometimes highlighted when you add a coat of paint.  If you find yourself in this spot, It’s perfectly fine to putty and sand after that first coat.  Just paint it again.
  • If you putty, make sure you sand it smooth before you paint over it.  Otherwise it will look lumpy under the paint.  If that’s the case, darn.  Sand again and paint again.
  • Measure good.  Measure REAL GOOD.  (I’m not good at this)
  • I like a foam roller
  • I like a semi-gloss latex paint
  • Be patient.  Let the paint dry before you get all eager beaver to add another coat, or add hardware.
  • Buy the right hardware
  • Ask for help at the right time.  Sometimes when you ask for help that person might be in a bad mood about it because they just sat down to enjoy an episode of River Monsters.  Yeah.  So ask at the right time.
  • carry a mini tape measure in your purse or car

I’ll probably post some prettier pictures of the cabinet when she’s REALLY finished.

Until next Monday,


sharing my post here:

Skip to my Lou, Tip Junkie, Not Just a Housewife, Somewhat Simple, The Shabby Creek Cottage