Category Archives: Other Stuff I Made

Square Tote Bag Free Tutorial


I love making reusable shopping bags and totes and decided to whip up a little pattern for one of my favorite bags that I have – here is the tutorial at this link. I did a pdf because I find it so much more convenient for me to make documents than blogposts -sorry for any inconvenience to you!

Essentially this bag is just a half yard of fabric folded in half.  You can also use two fat quarters sewn together. The fabric here is an upholstery weight cotton from ikea – but quilting weight is great too!

Instead of just sewing up one side and along the bottom like a basic tote, you sew on all four sides and square the bottom. It’s just a tad sturdier with very little extra bulk.  Let me know if I have unwittingly copied someone here – this is just how I’ve made a lot of my shopping bags for years.

Hopefully my instructions aren’t tooooo horribly confusing.

Tote BagTote Bag

You can paint a laminate bookshelf!

Painting a Laminate BookshelfPainting a Laminate BookshelfI decided on Sunday that I wanted to make an armoire and re-paint the living room. In one day. It’s dragged on a bit, but we’re getting there. And by “we” I mean “I” because Matt has been too busy with school and research to do much painting.

The best part of all is that I painted these two laminate bookshelves. This is just such a revelation to me, as there are SO MUCH ugly laminate furniture for SO CHEAP or FREE and now I know that I can make it not ugly! Or, Less Ugly! These two were a horrible dark brown with gold accents, so, you can’t get much worse than that.

For these, I lightly sanded them – just a whoosh over with 120 sand paper, just enough so you can see the white dust from the top layer of laminate being scuffed up.

I then added a layer of primer intended for shiny/glossy surfaces. I used Bulls Eye 1-2-3 which was the cheapest at Lowes and I had seen it recommended on-line. And it doesn’t have to sit that long before the next coat. Then I painted it with my leftover paint from the living room – which had primer in it as well.

You can add protective top coats to make them super scratch resistant.  I decided I didn’t care. I scratched at them with my fingernail and they didn’t scratch after about 4 hours of drying, and paint will continue to dry for 7 days so I figured that was good enough for me.

As a side note – this is the first time I have ever painted a room cream. This weekend we sold our record player AND painted a room cream. Two serious milestones on the journey to “Not punk rock anymore.” However, the glossy corally red the former tenant painted this room was slowly eating at my soul and I had to get as far from it as possible. The room looks about 10 times the size now.

So anyway, I have my cream bookcases to match my cream walls. The backing is the next thing – as you likely know, the flimsy cardboard backings have the potential to be ruined by water based paints, and they are horrible looking. We could have purchased or salvaged some plywood for a new backing, but I decided to cover the old cardboard with fabric. I used my Elmers Adhesive Spray to add a layer of quilt batting (I used some scraps) and then put another layer of adhesive spray, and added the layer of fabric. I wrapped it around the edges and glued it to the back, then taped the edges with packing tape.  I don’t especially recommend this brand of glue, and have no glue expertise, though I do love it’s description as “a temporary and permanent” glue. Very existential.

The fabric is from a thrift store, maybe? I have no memory, but pretty sure I didn’t pay for it. It isn’t quality enough to quilt with, so this is a great use for it. The print is little pheasants, bowls of fruit, and other 1970’s farmhouse chic designs, which I thought was fitting, as our house was built by a mad farmer in around the 1870’s.

Eventually, I’ll build doors for the larger bookshelf and call it an armoire. For now, I want my living room put back together. I have a pretty high tolerance for messy things, but I am bored again of home decor and want to be able to walk to the bathroom without the risk of stepping on a nail.

And the cake plates are leftover from our wedding. Anyone want some cake plates?

Memorial Books

The last couple days I’ve been working on something pretty different – a memorial book for a dear friend of mine who passed away a few weeks ago, just as a little gift to thank his family for sharing him with us. Larry was a special friend – a very famous and well-known activist who had been profiled by Oprah and CNN and you name it. But he was also just such a nice dear person who played a big role in both Matt and I’s lives. Here is the website of the organization he founded if you want to learn more about him.

I do feel like I knew Larry, but putting together these 66 pages (single spaced) of recollections from hundreds of people from around the world has been disorienting and inspiring and heartbreaking and – oh my gosh. It’s incredible the number of people who Larry influenced and the ways he influenced them.

From one person – saying, “I never met you, but your on-line video inspired to fundraise against AIDS” to another saying, “Thank you for calling me after my husband passed.” Larry was a truly epic, heroic figure; I’m sure many people remember him hollering into a megaphone in front of thousands at protests, but his life was filled with tiny brush strokes of thoughtful kindnesses.

A lot of people are commenting that Larry is inspiring them to be great and become better people – which is so lovely to hear. I think right now I am just feeling exhausted by proxy for all the hundreds of years of love and kindness and action that Larry crammed into his 66.

I like the idea of being inspired by Larry however, and am generally in favor of becoming a better person, at least in theory… My favorite memories of Larry will always be our times sitting around and telling jokes, because he was really funny.  As a person who adores humor, there is a special thrill when you make a person whose sense of humor you really admire laugh out loud – I loved making Larry laugh.  So for now, I think I’m going to work on laughing more.

Fall Classes

I’m signed up again to teach a few classes at a local store – Wholly Craft – which, btw, has an AWESOME craft supply trade section, where people donate old craft supplies, and then other people buy them. Proceeds go mostly to charity, some to the store. I think it’s great and came up with some classes designed to teach a few quilting basics and to use up some scraps from the scrap bin.

I have been offering and Intro to Cross-stitch and done a few intro to quilting classes. But I wanted something simpler than even a baby quilt for these classes – something that could be finished comfortably in 3 hours…hopefully…

A foundation pieced scarf – featuring an old wool sock and flannel scraps for extra warmth…

Scarf for Scarf Class

I made two versions of the same scarf – this one draws from my ridiculous corduroy scrap pile. Wasn’t thrilled with either, but it gives a good idea of what can be done.
Scarf for Scarf Class

Quilted Coasters

Coaster for coaster class

Pillow case with 3-D flowers – This takes a whole fat quarter, unless folks choose to piece it.

Pillow for pillow class

I also made up a class sample of some scrappy placemats, napkins, and napkin rings, but apparently forgot to take pictures of those. We’ll see if anyone signs up for my classes – either way, this was a fun way to think about what I can do with my own burgeoning scrap pile. It’s also great that I now have a local place to take my fabric scraps guilt free for other sewists to enjoy! If you live in Columbus, be sure to check out Wholly Craft ‘s new Supply Closet!

Preserve Your GreensBlanch and Freeze by WaterPenny

How to Preserve Your Huge Quantities of Greens

Preserve Your GreensBlanch and Freeze by WaterPenny
Salad time!While there is no such thing as too many greens, I have not been able to bring myself to put a dent in all the mustard greens coming out of our garden. I just don’t like it as much as the kale, spinach and chard, which are putting out a serving+ a day of greens, which in addition to the salad for lunch every day, well, we’re just not that healthy around here folks.

I do however love having frozen spinach on hand, and thought maybe I would love having frozen mustard greens too. So, time to preserve our first round of food for the season!

I picked off 75% of the leaves that were on the mustard plants so far, as well as a good bit of our spicy mesclun mix and some kale and spinach.

Slice it up using scissors into our (cool retro – thanks Matt’s Grandma!) salad spinner.
Blanching Mustard Greens
Then into salty boiling water for about a minute.

Blanching Mustard Greens

Then rinse off in the sink with cold water to stop the cooking…no picture of this, too many things happening at once…

And the 4 bowls of greens fit into two sandwich baggies – be sure to squeeze out all the air! Can’t wait for winter soup! The bags will tear apart when we go to pull the frozen greens out in my experience, FYI, so don’t expect to re-use these bags. This is a good use for pre-used bags, if you save your plastic zipper bags. You can also put them in reusable plastic containers to freeze and drop the frozen chunks all into the same gallon ziplock bag/plastic container once they are frozen to use less plastic in your preserving. This is what I normally do, but we’re out of gallon bags.
Mustard for the Freezer

Simultaneous to blanching the mustard greens, I made some pizza – with spinach and herbs from the garden, local cheeses,local Amish flours made into dough in the bread machine, and tofu made in West Virginia. Lord knows where the mushrooms came from – the store! I want to grow our own mushrooms, but that’s for another evening’s project.

One thing about Amish food in Ohio – it’s much cheaper to eat locally than the fancy artisanal farms in California where my brothers live. Not that farmers shouldn’t make a good living, and probably they are still just scraping by even with prices that seem insane to me, but I feel lucky that local cheese and flour from the co-op are actually cheaper than big brand cheese and (pre-made) bread at the grocery! We make all our own bread in the bread machine, which I swear takes only about 3 minutes every other day.  Literally, it is a similar amount of time to what it takes to walk to the bread aisle in the store.
Garden Pizza

DIY Kitchen Cupboard

Turning garbage into storage While coming home from a walk a few weeks ago, Matt and I noticed a filthy cupboard filled with rotting smelly 1970’s wallpaper samples. AWESOME, right? It was handmade by a carpenter who wasn’t that worried about detail, just like our house (which we rent), which is at least 130 years old and full of architectural quirks that I like to think of as “lazy farmer chic”.

I gave it a few good kicks and was happy with how sturdy it was. We dragged it home a few blocks – great arm work out – pulled off the rotted cardboard back, threw out all the papers, and left it outside for a few days to air out.  I figured if it was still gross, we could put it back in the alley and no harm done.

New cupboard! Thanks garbage! Two weeks later, we scraped some paint off of it, sanded it, pulled apart the doors and put them back together with wood glue and clamps, and re-screwed in the top boards. We found some boards in the trash in another alley that were just the right size for the back.  We  do have saws, and hardware stores, etc. but who can be bothered?

Two coats of paint and some contact paper later, it’s a cupboard! Already full of canning jars, which were on top of the fridge. Our kitchen isn’t tiny, and it has some cupboard space, but we have a number of kitchen based hobbies combined with our shared lack of interest in home design that make our kitchen a constant  storage /horizontal space nightmare nonetheless.

Speaking of nightmares, our floor is at such an awesome slant, that we have to custom fit all our furniture. With this cabinet, we needed a one inch shim in the front to make it level. Lovely! Did I mention we rent?

We have our utensils in a container I made in a ceramics class. And our hops through the window, which have grown up to reach the top of our house already!

Recent Ceramics with new cabinet

Roll On, Ohio!

Woody Guthrie wrote the song “Roll On, Columbia”  in 1941 as an advertisement for hydroelectric power.  As much as I don’t generally like product placement, it’s a fun song to sing about wherever you are.

This weekend I took an urban tour of Ohio, top to bottom, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland. Glancing at facebook this morning, I see that many of my friends were adventuring through dramatic woods, mountains, rock climbing. When did I start going to so many cities? When I was younger I was pretty terrified of cities, and the mix of exhilaration and exploration and “I AM HAVING AN EXPERIENCE HERE, RIGHT NOW” I got when I did nervously wander into Chicago or DC painted all those experiences with a dramatic brush. It was like those memories were put through a fancy cell phone app that makes them prettier and more dramatic than they probably really were, or maybe, a metaphor from the opposite end of the tech spectrum, painted by someone from the Hudson River School.

The other thing about that feeling of exploration, is I often worried if I was really HAVING AN EXPERIENCE and if there was something more definitely an EXPERIENCE that I should be doing so as to be fully experiencing things.

These days though, who can bother, traveling is just balancing my obligations and capacity and going places that have a few interesting things going on, run by busy people who all have their own things happening. And yet, there is a quiet beauty in exploring quiet pockets of places and meeting people who are excited about making things and making things happen.

Cincinnati International Quilt FestivalI ran down to the International Quilt show in Cincinnati, stopping by a fabric lovers heaven at the Fabric Shack in Waynesville, OH. I had heard people rave about the Fabric Shack – which is epic – but I was equally charmed by this quiet little town on a river filled with small businesses. Say what, a healthy historic downtown in a rural area?~!? PLUS they have an annual Sauerkraut Festival. Boom!

Ok, then lots of quilts, meeting quilters, being the youngest person in the room…until I got to the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild meet up. I learned several new skills and techniques that I will use to make projects that I have had in my mind and not known quite how to do. Dunno if I can express to you how empowering that feeling is?

I hope I passed on a similar feeling of empowerment to at least a few of the folks I trained with in Cleveland at a Anti-Fracking action camp. Here I was among the oldest folks in the room. We talked about messaging, and visions, and solutions to the problems we see. I shared a few things that help me work smarter instead of harder, and they rolled off to do amazing things.

Then Matt and I helped build a few greenhouses in this crazy old church/urban blight spot that is being converted into a lovely 3 acre urban farm. How is this urban farm different from others I’ve been to?

1. You camp inside.

Camping in an old church.
2. They are building up from asphalt instead of soil.

Starting the second greenhouse

3. The whole thing looks like an apocalyptic fever dream…but the good kind. With nice friendly people who like healthy food and healthy communities.
Greenhouses in process

I Will Make a Fitted T-Shirt, Then Save a Bunch of Tigers…

I had a professor who told me that when he became a professor, he decided to never again wear shirts that said things. For various reasons, this made perfect sense to me, and as such I have very few shirts that have words of any sort on them (I even cut out the tags!) (though more because the tags itch my neck). If you want to know what I’m thinking, or where I attended school, or what races I have run in (none), etc. you’ll have to email me, because you won’t read it on my shirt! (Or I suppose if you must, you could come up and talk to me…)

HOWEVER, this blog is about a shirt that says something: I decided to take my Save the Sumatran Tiger t-shirt and make it from a very large to a slightly fitted t-shirt. I got this t-shirt from a charming young gentleman at a Greenpeace training camp last month. It’s his old shirt, so not the fanciest thing I ever got, but I have a sentimental attachment to it.

I generally work on environmental justice campaigns and so campaigns centered around the “charismatic mega-fauna” are intriguing to me. Saving tigers and whales and baby seals – it’s important work, and saving these animals includes saving the habitat they live in and sometimes some protection for the indigenous human communities that depend on these habitats. So I’m not knocking it. I just never really thought about it whatsoever until fairly recently.

I’ve never felt a lot of pull towards saving any animals, charismatic or not (maybe a soft spot for pollution indicator insect species…). Keeping kids from getting cancer from poisoned water, that’s what I stay up at night worrying about. Or, more realistically, how to hold companies accountable when they have polluted kids’ water and the sweet children already have terrible cancers (the naughty kids get cancer from bad water too, but neither sort deserve it). Did you know that mountaintop removal increases birth defects in nearby communities by 42%? That’s a lot of sick babies. So awful, umph.

Ok, but what were we talking about? Tigers! I love the tigers too, and I love all the energetic young people getting their start with Greenpeace and all other sorts of justice activism and that is why I want to wear my size large men’s Sumatran Tiger t-shirt. Except I am not a large man. So, time to sew!

So, I laid a smaller shirt on top of it, and traced around the edges with a sharpie. Note: it doesn’t matter what of marker/pen you use if you cut off the part you mark on. I gave myself some wiggle room, because I didn’t want the shirt to be too fitted. You can always make it smaller, if you go too big the first time.
sewing tshirt

Then I pinned it and sewed a long lazy basting stitch over my line.
Sewing tshirt

Then I tried that sucker on. Hint: if you sew the shirt with a basting stitch, you can try it on without pins in it. This is much nicer than trying on a shirt with pins in, and if your stitch is in the wrong place, you can always pull those long stitches out pretty quick.
Sewing t-shirt

Boy it’s long. I’m mighty tall too, so I think I’ll leave it long for the novelty of having a shirt that won’t show my lower back when I lean forward. I like the width, so I cut the extra fabric off, and sew and extra, smaller stitch down each side to reinforce my stitches.

Sewing t-shirt
With taking pictures and writing the blog, including a long tangent about environmental justice, this took an hour.

I keep getting an urge to make clothing, summer dresses in particular, which I am really trying to resist, because clothes are so cheap, and I have not made a dress in 12 years, and really, I am not a fashion-y person, but we’ll see…

Homemade Spoonflower Fabric Book!

Fabric book

fabric book

I made this fun book for my nephew Henry who is a champ! It is about a fun little monkey named Henry who loves to jump. He keeps having me read it to him over and over again.

I’m thinking about making a tutorial for how to make your own book in spoonflower and/or offering fabric books that are personalized for your babies in my etsy…thoughts?

Wonky Shapes Quilt

Wonky Quilt

Ok, so for the last week-ish I have been in San Francisco, playing with my nephew and basking in the sun, and riding roller coasters on the beach. Ha ha, it is 20 degrees and snowy in Columbus. So I hear – how would I know?

But before I left, I started this quilt – it’s another organic one! I don’t know how to describe the pattern. It’s like some kind of a crazy bow tie. It looks better in person.

If you want to see other quilts in progress, check out this link!