April 29, 2014

Adventures in Sewing - iPad/Tablet Case

My love/hate relationship with my sewing machine is pretty well documented (see more of my sewing machine escapades here and here). So it was only natural to attempt another sewing project  just to see where things stood with dear 'ol Singer.

DIY iPad fabric case | A Crafty Wife

We recently got an iPad mini for the family and had it loaded up with Baby Einstein videos to keep the little one entertained during plane rides...but we didn't have a way to protect the iPad in my purse (we are definitely tempting fate by not having an OtterBox-type cover on it, but so far so good).

I raided my fabric stash and decided to use green felt for the inside lining and the colorful flowery/paisley fabric (leftover from my Ikea Rast Hack) for the outside. After some sketching and calculating the size of the closing flap, I was ready to go.

fabric and felt selections for iPad case | A Crafty Wife

I cut the fabric and felt to 8.75" wide x 15.625" long, which gave me a .25" seam allowance on all sides plus room to cut the closing flap out of one end. Note: if your tablet is bigger, you'll want to increase your dimensions accordingly. I gave myself about a half inch of wiggle room inside the case.

After ironing and pinning the seams for the outer fabric, I trimmed the felt down so it was just barely smaller than the outer fabric, then pinned the two together.

pin and iron seams down for iPad case | A Crafty Wife

I placed the iPad on the felt and drew chalk lines where I wanted the bottom and top of the case to be.
Use chalk to mark where you want your iPad case seams | A Crafty Wife

Then I stitched right down the chalk lines to secure the fabric and felt together.

Sew down your chalk line | A Crafty Wife

Initially, I envisioned a triangle flap with one piece of Velcro to hold the case closed. But then the reality of how to make that work without it looking wonky just made me frustrated (please refer to the first sentence of this post - this is the hate part of my relationship with sewing). So it became a trapezoid instead.

The short side (or very top of the flap when opened) measures 5". I used my rotary cutter to cut a straight line from the edge of the short side to the outer corner of the case in the felt only.

Cut the felt iPad case closing flap first | A Crafty Wife

Then I trimmed the outer fabric to allow for the seam (marking the fabric at half an inch from the felt edge, trimming off the excess, then folding the remaining fabric in half with the edge tucked under the felt), pinned everything in place, and then sewed the felt to the fabric for the flap.

Use a ruler to mark your seam allowance | A Crafty Wife

The last piece of sewing was to fold the case and sew the sides together. I knew the iPad was going to fit snugly, so I tried to keep the seam as close to the outer edge as I could to give it as much room as possible.

Pin your iPad case closed and sew carefully | A Crafty Wife

Sew iPad case closed with your sewing machine | A Crafty Wife

Once the sewing was finished, I added sticky Velcro dots (no sewing needed!) to keep it closed.

Beautiful DIY fabric iPad case to protect it in your purse/suitcase | A Crafty Wife

Here it is, all ready to be stashed in my purse. I just love the colors in this fabric!

DIY fabric iPad case to protect it in your purse | A Crafty Wife

I'd love to see any other iPad/tablet cases you've made. I thought about adding an interior pocket to store the charger, but I figured baby steps was the best way to get on the good side of my sewing machine...

April 12, 2014

Felt Faces Book - Toddler Quiet Time Activity

As any mom of a toddler or preschooler knows, sometimes you just need a quiet time activity for the little ones. We had a trip planned than involved 4 flights over 3 days, so I was searching for quiet activities to keep the little one occupied (and happy) during those. I came across Holly's blog on Pinterest, which led me to her tutorial and pattern for an Egg Faces Design Book. She even gives you the templates and step-by-step instructions on how to make it! Perfect for a sewing novice like me.

Felt faces book - great toddler quiet time/busy bag activity | A Crafty Wife

Felt faces book - great toddler quiet time/busy bag activity | A Crafty Wife

Holly's instructions are straightforward so I'll just tell you what I did differently. After printing the pattern, I decided to make my book slightly larger to accommodate toddler hands. Her dimensions were about 6.5" x 5" for the finished book, so to keep the same proportions and fill a 9" x 12" sheet of felt, I made mine 6" wide x 7.75" tall. I used remnant fabric I already had from a cushion project that never happened. It's bright and cheery and perfect for a fun activity book.

I cut the fabric to size and then folded in the edges to create a half inch seem allowance. I ironed and pinned this together so it would hold its shape.

Measure and fold fabric to create seam allowance | A Crafty Wife

I didn't have double-sided fusible web, so I used iron-on fusible interfacing leftover from my t-shirt pillow project. I cut this so it would be slightly smaller than the overall outer cover (i.e. it wouldn't get sewn to the fabric, just sandwiched between the fabric and felt) since I wasn't 100% sure how my sewing machine would handle 2 layers of fabric + felt + interfacing.

Fusible interfacing gives cotton cloth more strength | A Crafty Wife

Instead of using all circles for the faces, as the pattern suggested, I made various sized oval templates in PowerPoint. To do this, select the circle shape, draw a circle, then right click and select 'Format Shape' to adjust the size. I made a 4.5" diameter circle, a 5" tall x 4" wide oval, a 5.25" tall x 3.75" wide oval, and a 4.1" tall x 4.5" wide oval. Simply print, cut and pin to the felt, then cut around the templates to create your felt shapes. Easy peasy. Here are all of the pieces ready to be sewn together.  

Note: I did not change the size of the pocket, although in hindsight I should have made it a half inch bigger on all sides. Also, you'll see in the photo below there are 2 pieces of white felt to make up the inside cover of the book - since I was working with 9" x 12" sheets of felt from Michaels, I didn't have a piece long enough for the full 15.5" I needed.

Instead of bias trim, I used colorful ribbon I already had on hand. I folded each end down and sewed it to basically make a hem, then I sewed one end to the inside of the felt flap before the felt was attached to the outer book cover (so it was hidden between the layers). I followed the pattern for the rest of the sewing.

In place of the thin elastic cord to close the pocket, I used a white elastic hair band (I have a bazillion of these since I'm always losing them). The button came from my spare button bin - I went with the largest one I could find since this will be used by a toddler.
 Use hairband and spare button to close pocket for felt faces book | A Crafty Wife

Once the book was sewn together, the fun part started - making all of the face parts! I made different templates in PowerPoint for eyes, noses, mouths, hair and accessories. Some (like the hair) I drew freehand. I pinned the templates to the felt and cut around the outside.
Create templates to cut out felt shapes for felt faces book | A Crafty Wife

A couple pieces required some hand stitching to keep them together (the hats, eyes, toothy grin and hairbows). Here are the felt pieces all done.

Felt faces book - great toddler or preschooler quiet time/busy bag activity | A Crafty Wife

I had some fun making faces of my own.

Felt faces book - great toddler or preschooler quiet time/busy bag activity | A Crafty Wife

A 'no man' face for my little one! 

Felt faces book - great toddler quiet time/busy bag activity | A Crafty Wife

I really had fun making this, and so far it's been a hit with my toddler! I have to keep an eye on her so she doesn't throw the smaller pieces (noses, eyes) and lose them. She even tried to put the glasses on one of her stuffed animals. Guess that means it's a keeper?

PS - if you like this idea but don't want to make one yourself, Holly occasionally sells them in her Etsy shop. Super cute and a great gift idea!

April 1, 2014

Make Your Own Rain Barrel - 2 Hour (or Less) Project

Have you ever calculated just how much rain falls on your roof? It's astounding! Say you have 1000 square feet of roof on your house - for every inch of rain, your roof collects 600 gallons of water (here's a post from The Good Human that explains the math). Where I live in the Southeast, we get an average of 50 inches of rain a year. That's 30,000 gallons of water landing on just my 1000 square foot roof every year!  

Make your own rain barrel - 2 hour or less project | A Crafty Wife
Hubs and I did the math, and we decided a rain barrel was in order for watering our garden (currently just blueberries, but soon to be tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and who knows what else).

First step was gathering supplies:
  • 55 gallon food-grade barrel (eBay, Craigslist, and Google have a ton of used ones listed for sale from $15-$45+). Hubs' dad had an old one in his shop that he generously let us have). It's a little dirty, so we rinsed it out with a hose, but didn't do any more cleaning than that. We're not drinking the water coming out of it, and I don't think the plants will mind a little extra dirt.
  • Method of routing water from your downspout into said barrel. This could involve elbows of aluminum, PVC, or even this nifty Catch-A-Raindrop rainwater colander we came across at Home Depot for under $8. It intrigued us so much (and appeared to be a huge time and money saver compared to cutting and re-routing the entire downspout/gutter) that we had to give it a shot. If you go with the latter option like we did, you'll also need a short hose.
Use a rainwater colender instead of rerouting gutter | A Crafty Wife
  • Pieces of copper pipe & a spigot for getting collected rainwater out of the barrel. Here's the configuration we used (hubs soldered all of the copper pieces together before we attached them to the barrel)
Dry fit copper and spigot for rain barrel | A Crafty Wife

  • Assorted tools like a drill, spade bits, tin snips/side grinder/reciprocating saw, solder and torch, pliers, teflon tape
  • Optional: epoxy, scrap piece of wood and a way to cut it (see below for why we used both of these)
  • A way to elevate the barrel off the ground so you have room to put a watering can/bucket underneath to get the water out. We used cinder blocks and old deck boards to raise it up about 2 feet.

Once you have all of your supplies together, the rest is easy. You could easily get this done in under 2 hours if you had 2 people working on it (maybe even 1 hour - seriously!). First, determine where you will place your barrel. Ideally you want it as close to a downspout as you can get and in an out-of-the way location so it's not an eyesore. Here's ours - it's on the back of the house behind the chimney and off the side of our deck, so you can't really see it from the main part of the yard.

Location for rain barrel near gutter downspout | A Crafty Wife

Here's the top of the barrel as it was used in a previous life (this will become the bottom of the rain barrel). Take one cap off and carefully drill a hole in the center where your copper pipe will go (hubs used a 5/8" spade bit). 

Top of 55 gallon drum - will be bottom of rain barrel | A Crafty Wife
Drill hole in cap where copper pipe and spigot will attach to rain barrel | A Crafty Wife

Now the first optional step: our cap was cracked, so we needed to seal it up so it wouldn't leak once the barrel was in place. Hubs used Loctite Epoxy on the inside of the cap. The copper pipe is in the hole he just drilled to make sure the epoxy would set up around it. Halfway through the cure time, hubs took it out.

Add epoxy to inside of cap for additional strength | A Crafty Wife

While the epoxy cured, we cut the existing downspout to attach the Catch-A-Raindrop colander. We used a combination of a reciprocating saw and tin snips, but hubs said a side grinder would have made easy work of it. Then all you do is slide the top piece of gutter down into the colander, attach the bracket to the exterior wall, and slide the cut piece of gutter up into the colander. There is a threaded piece on the outside that a hose screws onto (other end dumps into the rain barrel).

Attach rainwater colander to gutter per instructions | A Crafty Wife

Use a rainwater colander with hose to collect rain in your rain barrel | A Crafty Wife

It really is that easy. We were blown away (just for the record, Catch-A-Raindrop is not paying us in any way to use or comment on their product).

When the epoxy in the cap was dry and all the copper was soldered together, it was time for assembly. We wrapped the end of the copper pipe with teflon tape and twisted it into the hole in the cap.

Attach pipe to rain barrel with teflon tape | A Crafty Wife

Optional step number 2: To give the spigot some extra security and prevent wiggling, hubs cut a piece of wood into a horseshoe shape and screwed it through the outer lip (NOT the side or bottom) of the barrel and put a screw through the collar of the spigot for good measure.

For added stability, create a wooden horseshoe collar for spigot and attach to rain barrel | A Crafty Wife

Spigot on rain barrel from front | A Crafty Wife

Then flip your rain barrel over, drill a hole in the top on the side closest to your downspout/gutter - this is where you'll put the other end of the hose that's attached to the Catch-A-Raindrop colander. We didn't seal this or glue the hose or anything - just dropped it in and left about 3 inches of hose inside the barrel. 

Drill hole for hose | A Crafty Wife

Build your platform (as needed), making sure it's as level as you can get - don't want a full rain barrel falling over!

Build platform for rain barrel with cinder blocks | A Crafty Wife

Then you wait for it to rain...thankfully that happened the night we put this together. I'm happy to report after a long night of light rain, our barrel was overflowing! This really was easy to do, and had both of us wondering why we waited so long.

Rain barrel is complete | A Crafty Wife

I planted a few shade-loving container plants around the base to help hide the cinder blocks (hostas, begonias at the base and impatiens and cordyline in the pots at the top - all from Lowe's). In the last photo you can see the water line about a third of the way down - I've been using it every other day to water our blueberries. No complaints yet!

Dress up look with container plants | A Crafty Wife
Make your own rain barrel to collect rainwater | A Crafty Wife