Category Archives: Tutorials

Tutorial: Super Easy Patternless Child’s Messenger Bag (or Adult)

Don’t you hate Tutorials without picture?? Sorry.

Simple messenger bags are pretty easy to make. Perfect for a last-minute gift for anyone on your list this year.


  • Fabric for outside
  • Fabric for inside
  • Interfacing if desired
  • Webbing or other material for strap
  • Buckle if desired
  • Fastener for flap if desired

1. Decide what size you want. Let’s say you want a bag that’s 12 inches by 24 inches and 2 inches wide.

2. Cut out pieces. A front, a back, a flap, and a strip for the width.
Front and back: 13×25 (Your desired bag size plus 1/2 inch seam allowances on each side)
Flap: I chose to cut mine the same size as the front and back. You may go shorter or longer. You may opt to shape it as a rectangle, or to angle the edges in a bit, or to make it a half circle.
Strip: 3×48 (the 48 comes from adding up the three lengths that the strip will be sewn to. 12+12+24, the 3 is the bag width plus two half-inch seam allowances.)

You’ll need to cut the whole bag out of both your main fabric as well as your lining fabric. If you chose to use interfacing, cut the bag out of that, too, and iron or sew the interfacing to your lining fabric.

3. There are several ways to go about assembling the bag at this point. These directions will give you just one option.

4. Using a 1/2 inch seam allowance, sew the two fronts together, right sides facing, along the top edge. Turn right sides out and iron the seam flat. Topstitch if desired. Baste around three unfinished edges.

5. Sew the two strips together, right sides facing, along the two short edges. Turn right sides out and iron the seam flat. Topstitch if desired. Baste along two long edges.

6. Sew the two flaps together, right sides facing, along three sides, leaving one long edge open. Turn right sides out and iron the seam flat. Topstitch if desired. Baste along open edge.

7. With wrong sides together, baste two back pieces together along all four edges.

8. Pin and then sew strip along the sides and bottom of front piece, right sides together. Clip strip at corners to enable smooth turning. Repeat with back piece. Turn right sides out.

9. You now have a little bag that just needs a flap and strap!

10. Sew flap to back, right sides together.

11. Finish all exposed seams however you desire – overcast, pinking shears, seam binding, etc.

12. Determine how long you want your strap material and sew it securely to either side of the bag. (If you decided to use a buckle, now is the time to assemble that and attach.)

13. If you desire to fasten the flap, assemble and attach whatever you have chosen as a fastener.

And you’re done.


1932 Wool Soaker adapted for knitting in the round


1918 soaker adapted for knitting in the round


Even with all the other fancy-pants knit wool soaker patterns out there, one of my all-time favorites remains the 1932 wool soaker. This simple ribbed soaker is easy as pie to make – the biggest hurdle is boredom from all of that ribbing! I wrote about it first a while back when I made my first soaker with the pattern.

The pattern itself has been adapted by a kind lady on her blog from an old pattern printed by Lux soap company – she adapted it for modern yarns and needles.

About 3 years ago, I decided to make another adaptation of this pattern – into knitting in the round. It makes it seem to go a bit faster, though of course, it’s the same amount of knitting. For the soaker pictured, I used Peace Fleece in worsted weight along with some solid pink worsted weight from my stash (unlabeled!).

So here goes, my first published knitting pattern.

1932 Soaker Adapted for Knitting in the Round

#5 circular needles

#5 DPNs

Worsted weight yarn, 1 skein

gauge:  5 st./inch in k2p2 ribbing


CO 104 stitches

Join to knit in the round, being careful not to twist stitches. Place marker to mark start of round.

Complete 8 rounds in K2P2 ribbing

Make one Eyelet round: *k2 yo p2tog* repeat to end of round.


Continue in K2P2 ribbing until piece measures 6 or so inches total


Slip 52 stitches onto a stitch holder or waste yarn.


Knit remaining 52 stitches back and forth (flat), continuing in K2P2 pattern, for another 8 inches.


Graft the stitches on your needles with the stitches on the stitch holder using kitchener stitch.   Or, for a decorative line across the back of your soaker, knit the two rows together, then bind off in pattern. Honestly, I find grafting in ribbing to be such a hassle, that I went for the second method. I like the way it looks, though you may not.


Pick up 52 stitches around one leg hole using DPNs. Knit 10 rounds in K2P2 ribbing, bind off loosely. Repeat for other leg hole.


Make an I-cord to thread thru eyelet holes.

And that’s all there is to it.

Vacation with cloth, without laundry facilities

Yes, it’s doable.

Here was our situation: Family trip (as in, us with DH’s parents and sibs). Cruise ship. No laundry facilities. (Obviously I did not choose the ship.) Genna is pretty much 100% potty trained at home, but she does not always tell us if she needs to pee when we’re not home. Additionally, she will often say “no” in response to “do you need to pee” when what she means is “yes, but I’m busy right now.” And she has a tendency to wait to tell us she needs to pee when she’s got approx. 8 seconds to get to the toilet. She’s dry overnight if she’s sleeping well, but has a tendency to pee in her sleep on nights when she’s restless. So – I had no idea what to expect on this trip from her.

We decided to take flat diapers, since they would wash the easiest and dry the fastest,  not to mention that they pack so compactly. I also took several pairs of training pants because those would be easier on the travel days than trying to deal with a diaper and cover in the airplane bathroom. We also decided that we would throw away any poopy diapers, rather than trying to get them clean by hand washing in water of unknown temperature. (I wasn’t sure how hot the water on the boat would get.) I packed enough diapers for two days of full-time diapering, in addition to wipes and a few covers.

I hand-washed wet diapers and training pants in the sink in our bathroom – one at a time – every time we had one in need of washing. I rinsed them out under running cold water, then let them soak in hot soapy water for a few minutes before agitating with my hands for several minutes. I rinsed in hot water, then cold water, until I didn’t see any more bubbles. We hung them to dry using clothes pins and skirt hangers. The bathroom was too humid, so I actually hung them out on our cabin’s deck. Our cabin mates (my MIL, FIL, MIL’s aunt, and MIL’s friend) were not super impressed by this, but *shrug.* There were a few days when we had oily soot from the ship’s smokestacks covering everything on the deck, and on those days, I hung diapers in the closet or in front of the window from the curtain rod. I brought clothesline, but was reluctant to just string it up somewhere.

Dipes drying on the deck

We didn’t have too many diapers to deal with, fortunately, but I think our system would have still worked out just fine even if she was in dipes full-time. Flats are not hard to wash by hand, they rinse clean fairly easily, and they dry fast.

I used flats that I made from birdseye fabric, in addition to some that I bought on clearance a little while back. We used some liquid laundry soap that I had sitting around the laundry room from our last trip last summer. It was probably Costco brand.


yes, we could have just switched to disposables. but I didn’t want to. (And Genna got a horrible rash the one time she wore a disposable.) Had we been using disposables, I would have had to devote a lot more suitcase room to diapers, since I would have needed to pack enough to last the whole 12 days we were gone. And I would have had to worry about running out! And I’m honestly not sure what I would have done with them on the ship. They don’t have plastic liner bags in the garbage cans, and I wouldn’t have wanted to smell dirty disposable diapers all day, either.

As it turns out, using cloth was not a big deal. It didn’t take up much time. It was no more effort than using cloth at home. It was not a big deal.

Dipes drying on the deck

I want to work from home!

Want to work from home, owning your own business? That’s awesome. Working for yourself can be very rewarding. But it’s also challenging! Never fear, I’m here to help you avoid the pitfalls and really consider whether self-employment is for you.

“I want to work for myself, But I don’t want to sell anything.” I hear this A LOT. If this is you, you’ll be better off working for The Man. Running your own business takes selling things. If you’re not selling a product, you’re selling a service. Regardless, you’re selling YOU. If that makes you uncomfortable, then be an employee. I’m not trying to be harsh, but I’ve also seen a lot of businesses fail (and money lost) because the business owners didn’t want to sell. If you work for yourself, you work in sales. (Frankly, if you work for someone else, you should also consider that you work in sales, as well. People who can sell themselves are the ones who get promoted.)

Obey the law. Let’s start with the easy ones. Taxes, particularly sales taxes. The people at the Dept of Revenue, if you call after May, are very friendly and helpful. Learn the law, charge sales tax as required. Zoning. The people at the zoning department are also pretty helpful. If you can’t figure out how you’re zoned and what’s allowed/not allowed, give them a call.  Now the not so easy. Product laws. Find the appropriate Federal department and dive in. Depending on what you sell, you could be covered by the USDA, the CPSC, the EPA, etc. Not sure what laws apply to you? You’re not ready to open a business. Find others who do something similar to what you want to do and ask them. (And, um, keep asking different people until you find one who knows what they’re talking about. WAHMs especially are really really bad about realizing that laws apply to them, too.)

Team up with others in your industry. Help each other out. The dynamics of various groups can be interesting and frustrating. Some groups I’m in share sources like it’s no big deal. Other groups I’m in act like you just asked them their bra size if you ask where they get X supply. You can get away with quite a bit of “sorry, I’m new” apologizing at the beginning, so don’t be afraid to dive in.

Be realistic. You’re not going to replace a full time job’s income starting tomorrow. I’ve gotten SO MANY emails over the years from moms who were planning to return to work, but changed their minds. They want to stay home, but they really need the full time income, so they want to know what advice I have to help them make a lot of money right away working from home. In reality, that’s not going to happen. It’ll take a few years to replace a full time income, if you ever make that much. And it will require more hours than you’d put in at a full time job. And you have no sick days, and no vacation days.

Be realistic. You’re not going to be an overnight sensation. You’re not.

Be realistic. Operating a business takes a lot of time. A lot of time. Time, time, time, time. I’ve heard many a person say that they’ve thought about starting their own business so that they can have more time to themselves, or more time with their children, or whatever. That’s not a good plan.

Don’t be a copycat. Come up with your own ideas. Come up with your own patterns. Come up with your own recipes. Finding a recipe for something online, making it following that recipe, and then selling it under your name is completely dishonest. Make it yours – if you think you’re skilled enough to do it for a living, you should certainly be skilled enough to come up with your own products. Don’t steal from others.

Holding an Event

So. You think your town is lacking in some event. What do you do? Piss and moan about how your town sucks because it doesn’t have that event? (If you live in Des Moines, chances are good that the answer there is YES. We have such a large population of pissers and moaners.) Find someone who is willing to do the work to put on the event? Or do you man up and hold it yourself?

Well, if you’ve decided on the latter, I have some thoughts for you. Some are things I wish someone had told me about 12 years ago. Some are things I’ve told others. Some are things others have told me.

First, decide from the get-go if you want to do the bulk of the work yourself, or if you want to assemble a team to work on the project. If you’re doing it yourself, you obviously have to do all the work, but this does have its upside, as well. If you’re assembling a team, tread carefully and be choosy. Find people who are enthusiastic, who have time, who will do the work, who are reliable, and who share your vision. A team will help spread the workload, develop stronger ideas, and provide come camaraderie. Having a team is awesome. Being stuck doing all the work because your team didn’t do their job is not.

Second, make sure you know your market well enough before starting. And I mean, know it. Know who you’re targeting, know if they’re likely to come, know how many people will probably come. What will draw them, how will they learn of it, will they bring friends or family. What will annoy them or keep them away?

Third, know your event before starting. What are your goals? What aspects are mandatory, and what aspects are optional extras? If you know of similar events, what can you learn from them? Can you talk to the organizers?

Fourth, people are unreliable. Just know that. People will say they’re coming and then not come. People will say they’re interested, but then ultimately will decide to watch the Law and Order marathon instead. If you paid attention above, you should know your market well enough before starting work on your event that you don’t need to do surveys of people’s level of interest in your event.

Fifth, just make the decisions. Pick a date. Pick a good date without a lot of conflicts (major sports events, other similar events in nearby towns, other major events in your town). Pick a location. Be smart about the location. The opinions of others are important, but ultimately, you will probably never please everybody. Don’t try.

Sixth, the first one is the easiest, and the hardest. It’s the most amount of work, because you’re starting from scratch. But usually it’s also easiest because you have such low expectations and you’re also likely to be able to get a lot of publicity by virtue of being the FIRST. The FIRST whatever! The Inaugural event! Nobody wants to give you free publicity for having the Second Annual Shindig. That’s not exciting. So capitalize on the easy publicity from having the First one! Now, that said, if the first one goes well, you can capitalize on that success in subsequent years, as well. Your event gains credibility if it’s not a horrible flop!

Seventh, you’re unlikely to make money right away. Even if your estimates are right on, it’s tough to make much money the first year/week/month/whatever of an event.

But, really, holding an event is not that hard. Define your event. Define your audience. Develop a budget. Find a location, secure whatever components are necessary (a band? an auctioneer? a beer tent? vendors? students?), get some publicity. Promote your event (spend money on this!). Enjoy yourself.

(You might be asking yourself what experience I have in this regard. I’ve launched (singlehandedly, or with a team) numerous successful events in Des Moines, including dance classes, Jive Junction, the Natural Living Expo, the Green Gifts Fair, Swingin’ at the Crossroads, and a few others.)

Halloween Costumes

ButterflyButterfly wings

How easy were these butterfly wings? Super easy.

Cut an old cardboard box into butterfly shape. Paint. Cut little slits. Thread elastic through. Elastic goes around the arms. Voila.



The bat was not hard, either. A sweatshirt plus an umbrella. Tutorial here.

Autumn Trees

This craft project was REALLY easy, and gives us actually nice-looking decorations for our dinner table


Want to make your own? It’s super easy.

Fold 2 pipe cleaners in half and twist to make the trunk. Fold the upper portion out into branches. Cut a third pipe cleaner into smaller pieces and wrap those around the branches to make smaller branches. Grab a wad of play dough (homemade or commercial) and plant the trunk of your tree into it as a base. Cut scrap construction paper into small pieces and glue onto the branches for leaves.  VOILA.

Super Easy Patternless Knit Leg Warmers for Babies


This can’t get much easier, really.

You’ll need:

Yarn. Any weight. Less than 1 ball, typically.
Needles, double-points, appropriately sized to your yarn.

1. Swatch your yarn with your chosen needles. Make a 2 inch square.

2. Count how many stitches you have in one inch.

3. Measure around your baby or child’s thigh. Subtract 1/2 or 1 inch.

4. Do some math. (stitches per inch) x (inches around thigh – 1/2-1 inch for ease)
Example: My yarn gets 10 stitches per inch, and my baby’s thigh is 9 inches around. After I subtract 1/2 inch, I have 8.5 inches times 10. I get 85.)

5. Cast on the number of stitches you got in step #4. Join in the round. Of course, don’t twist your stitches.

6. Make ribbing for an inch. You can do whatever ribbing you want. k1p1, k2p1, k2p2, k3p1, whatever.

7. After that inch, you have a decision to make. You can make the body of the legwarmers in stockinette (knit every round), or you can make the body of the legwarmers in the ribbing pattern you started with.

8. If you opted to knit the body of the legwarmers in stockinette, keep knitting until your legwarmers are one inch shorter than you want them to be. Then knit another inch of ribbing.

If you opted to knit the body of the legwarmers in ribbing, keep knitting until your legwarmers are the length you want them to be.

9. Cast off. Choose one of the stretchy cast-offs here. I prefer Elizabeth Zimmerman’s sewn cast-off.

10. Make another one.



Do you crochet? Adapt this pattern to crochet by swatching in whatever crochet stitch you think would work best for your legwarmers. I don’t crochet, and I have no idea what would work, but if you DO crochet, you ought to be able to figure something out, I would think.

Pillowcase Dresses Tutorial (no images)

Pillowcase dresses are SO SIMPLE!!

5/22 - Genna

Yes, you can start with an actual pillowcase, but you don’t have to! In this case, I just cut some fabric, about twice as wide as she is big around. (So I measured her around the chest, and doubled it.) Sew up one side seam. Now you have a tube, right?

You can either hem the bottom (and you pick which side is the bottom, since when it’s just a tube, either side could be the bottom!) or you can add a length of seam binding, or make a decorative band with another fabric, whatever.

Once you get the bottom hemmed, focus on the top. Lay the dress out, you can put the seam in the back or on one side. Cut out armholes. Like this:

After the armholes are cut, you’ll see only ONE straight part of the fabric that’s not hemmed, right there, top front and top back, between the armholes. Make a casing out of each of those little flaps, just about 1/4-1/2 inch deep.

Now, you need to hem the armholes. You can just hem them, or you could use seam binding. I personally recommend seam binding.

Next, cut two lengths of seam binding long enough to thread through the casing and tie over each shoulder. I recommend sewing the seam binding closed for this purpose.

And you’re all done. Easy peasy.

If you want pictures, post here and I’ll take some and put them up.

Tutorial: Super Easy Patternless Maternity Skirt

So I made myself two maternity skirts using my Super Easy Patternless A-Line Skirt tutorial as a jumping-off point. There’s no reason you’d have to be pregnant to make skirts like this. Part of the appeal of this style of skirt (for me) is that it is also wearable when not pregnant.

Maternity Skirt

Essentially, I took my hip measurement (which was where I wanted the skirt fabric to start) and used THAT as my waist measurement in the tutorial. Cut out the skirts the same as in the original tutorial.

I then sewed the two halves of the skirt together.

Next, the waistband. Take a knit fabric, and hold it up to your belly so that it stretches around your belly. This is very important if you have a one-way stretch fabric – make sure the stretch goes AROUND you. Stretch it pretty tightly. If you keep it a bit loose, thinking you need the extra room, it will fall off of you. This comes from personal experience – trust me on this. If you’re still early in your pregnancy, you can guesstimate on how much you need around the waist. This is a pretty forgiving project – you can always take it in later if you need to. (You can also use a repurposed Tshirt for the waistband instead of getting knit fabric.)

So, you’ve stretched it around your waist – note how much fabric you used to stretch it around your waist and cut that much fabric, plus a bit for the seam allowance. Make the waistband however wide you want it. I make mine about 12-15 inches wide, then fold them over once or twice so they sit under my belly. I made them wide, though, in case I want to wear them over my belly instead. There’s no need to finish the top edge of the waistband, but you may if you like.

Maternity Skirt (wow, I need a tan.)

Seam up the waistband so it forms a tube. Try it on just to make sure it’s right.

Now, pin it to your skirt, right sides together. I find it most helpful to mark both the waistband and the skirt on either side plus center front and back, then match up the markings when I pin, so I’m sure to have the waistband even.

Sew the waistband to the skirt, hem it, and you’re done.

Note: I did NOT cut the bottom hem at a curve like I normally would for a skirt. I decided to cut the hems straight across. Since I also made these skirts quite wide at the bottom, this gave me a nice angled, pointy hem as you can see in the photos. I chose to hem the black skirt normally, but I decided to hem the green stripe skirt using bias tape around the hem. I like the way it turned out!

Maternity Skirt