backpack for Anthony

My godchild is a freshly minted five-year-old. (Happy belated birthday Anthony!) I thought his birthday was in early July until my cousin/his older brother posted about it on Facebook in the middle of June. I’d started this backpack for him a month or two earlier, and sat it on the shelf when it had some issues. After sending a quick text with birthday wishes through his mom, I got the backpack down and started problem solving.

I used this toddler backpack tutorial as a starting point, but upped the measurements (14″x16″) to fit books and folders since he’s starting kindergarten in the fall.


I should have upsized the inner pocket…

I used two Alabama-era yard sale fabrics from my stash to make this backpack. My aunt requested a fabric that wouldn’t show a lot of dirt, so I went with gray and blue stripes for the outside and a comparable medium blue for the inside lining. I only had to buy two zippers, a couple of backpack strap adjusters, and a yard or so of heavy interfacing to complete the project.


taking shape. that interfacing was seriously stiff.

Now how did I make it more complicated? Upping the measurements gave me a longer circumference around the outside of the backpack. I used an 18″ zipper with 20″ zipper panels to make up for some of that, but when I pinned the center piece to the front/back it was still four inches or so short.

Sidenote: I love how they have you do the zipper panel in the tutorial. It looks so professional!

The solution wasn’t too hard, add a couple of inches to both sides of the zipper panel. I flipped the stripes in the added piece for a little design element.


Everything that could be was stitched twice or topstitched so it could stand up to the rigorous adventures of a five-year-old boy who spends a lot of time outside. Also, I ran out of matching blue thread on the last few seams.

Another complication that shelved the project: I wanted to add a front pocket with a zipper. It seemed too hard to wrap my mind around at first, but I used this backpack tutorial to do it. (That post has links to parts 1-3 at the bottom if you’re looking for the rest of the directions.)

I was thinking a smaller pocket at first, but the boyfriend said it should take up most of the front and it came out looking good.


Adding topstitching around the front seam gave the pocket a better shape.

I used bias tape from Kathy’s mom’s stash to hide the raw edges of the pocket since I didn’t want to have to figure out how to line it. I ironed on some interfacing to support the 8″ zipper before centering it on top and inserting it like a welt pocket zipper.


The straps were black webbing I’d bought to make Anthony a tool belt, but never used.


All in all, I quite like it. I wanted to add details that made it look like a store-bought backpack without having random cartoon characters and plastic “fabric” that tears halfway through the year. I do hope that it stands up to the tests Anthony puts it through and it lasts at least a year or two.


Next time on the blog: the backpack I made for me!


crochet flashback to 2009

Last weekend I went on a scrapbooking weekend with my mom. It was a blast, as it always is hanging out with her. (And I bought my first roll of washi tape! The pattern is gray chevrons.)

I was going through my photos from the last few years in preparation and found several crochet projects I’d forgotten about from the pre-blog days. I didn’t get back into sewing until about two years ago, but have been crocheting regularly for almost a decade. Here’s some of what you would have seen if I was blogging in 2009.

For the first part of the year I was living in Central Illinois. There’s nothing like Central Illinois in the winter, especially when you’ve just come back from a semester in Costa Rica…

I made up the pattern for this doll pillow and blanket (they’re just rectangles) and sent it to my cousin. I stuffed the pillow with shopping bags because I was too cheap to buy actual stuffing. Luckily, dolls aren’t picky.

The boredom of my crappy apartment and the cold and snow and general meh of where I was living got me into being creative. Why else would one crochet an octopus?

A million cuter crochet octopus patterns have since taken the place of this one, but I think he turned out okay. This was made for my godchild.

And further boredom led me to crochet this.

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? This is a Nannerpuss. He appeared and had his heyday in the Denny’s breakfast commercial.

My brother and his then girlfriend (now wife) were quite fond of the commercial and I made them each a Nannerpuss. While Matt did question my sanity a little when I sent this to him, he also got a kick out of it.

I moved to Alabama mid-year and kept up the crocheting to unwind in the evenings. Some of these are from 2010.


A potholder in colorful cotton for my mom’s friend who has shipped me countless boxes over the years. I think I made a set of other kitchen items that went with it, dishcloths, etc.


a tote bag/purse for my cousin made with Caron Simply Soft Yarn.


I crocheted some Halloween candy for my mom to display in a basket. Both patterns are from Lion Brand, pinwheel candy and candy corn.


Bolero pattern using Lion Brand Homespun in Barrington. I lost the pattern, but it was basically just a rectangle sewn together with ribbing added at the sleeves.


And yet another lost cardigan pattern. This was the last thing I was working on before the fire.

Most of these patterns were lost in the 2010 apartment fire debacle and a few of the items, like the sweaters, were too. Thankfully I’d sent off a lot of the projects I’d made during those years, including the queen-sized bed afghan my brother requested. I need to dig up some photos of that and assemble post with all the afghans I’ve made over the years.

A lot has been going on IRL lately and I’ve gone off blogging almost daily, like I was at the beginning of the summer, and taking photos of the things I’m finishing (more things for Emma and Henry and a pair of backpacks) but I’m still being crafty so there will be lots to post once I get back into it.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented on my last post! I’ve got a backlog of projects that didn’t turn out as envisioned and plan to share them soon, so it was nice to get encouragement from everyone and talk about when things don’t turn out as you had hoped.

unsuccessful vintage sheet projects

First off, some blogging business to attend to: thank you’s!

Thank you to my giveaway contestants! It was my first one and four of you participated and I wasn’t sure there would be anyone. 🙂

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment on my jumpsuit transformation. It might be my most commented on post and it cracked me up how every comment mentioned how gross the jumpsuit looked initially.

And thank you to the link parties that have featured me lately! At one point in my blogging history I would regularly post my stuff at link parties that had a couple hundred links, but it got old and didn’t result in many people stopping by. I’ve stuck with smaller link parties lately and have found it to be very rewarding. If you are looking for some new places to link up, try Feather’s Flights (I just checked today and I’ve been featured two weeks in a row!!) and The Life of Jennifer Dawn. I also really like the link party at Recycled Fashion.

So on to today’s main event. I finished two vintage sheet projects shortly before I moved at the end of last summer and they never made it onto the blog. You’ll understand why I wasn’t in a big rush to post them once you see the photos.

Up first is a dress from a vintage pattern. I found it at a thrift store and thought it could be a cute sundress.

Screen shot 2012-06-05 at 1.13.02 PM

photo borrowed from the internet. I’ve already donated the pattern.

The sheet I used for fabric is more 50s than 70s to me, but mismatching eras was the least of my problems.


I’m not one to abandon a project halfway through; I would rather finish it and then donate it than have a unfinished project laying around indefinitely. That being said, I definitely wanted to toss this dress in a corner and leave it forever.

This top is very unflattering, and the sleeves and collar are weird. Putting in the elastic for the waist was a nightmare.


the casing is not even close to being at the true waist. threading the elastic through was almost impossible.

I added a lining before I realized it was unwearable and that complicated everything.

The collar facings were a disaster. They wouldn’t lay flat for anything.


All that being said, this dress was a good learning tool. I am proud of the finishing techniques on the collar (minus the facings), the placket, and the sleeves.


not all bad?

It has a good weight to it with the lining, but it does look like this on….


I hope someone shopping at Goodwill thinks it’s a good costume for something.

The next project is a simple square top using the tutorial at C+C. I want to see if this style could work for me without making me look like a big rectangle so I used a vintage sheet to test it.

Of course it got more complicated because:

– I cut it too short and had to add a piece of contrast.


– There was a spot on the sheet I’d cut for the back, so I had to seam two pieces together.


– I added a faux button loop at the center back and made my own bias tape for the neckline.


I was pleased with the shirt when I finished it last summer, but had never worn it. When I put it on a few weeks ago, it just kind of felt like I was wearing a sheet. I think the pattern being spread out on the fabric contributes strongly to the sheet feeling. And on top of all that, the sheet was worn rather thin in the section I used for the front.


sheet? shirt? a bit of a hospital gown feel perhaps?

I think a knit fabric with elastic or a band at the bottom would have a better shape and be more flattering.

So there are two vintage sheet projects that came out with successful elements (I’d like to think) but did not lead to a successful wearable final product. I did spend a good deal of time and effort making them, so I wanted them to get at least a little blog space before they move on to the donation bin.

secret tote swap

So here it is, the bag I made for the tote swap. I had one word to go off of for the description: purple. I hope this suits!purplepleatedpurse_toteswap01AI used the pleated purse tutorial from Modest Maven. I knew I wasn’t game for the complicated piecing and quilting that the other participants were skilled at, so I wanted a pattern with some design elements that would show up well with simple fabrics. (Other patterns I found in my search were the pleated tote tutorial and the roll-up tote.)


I used two layers of off-white broadcloth for the lining since it was a very thin fabric and divided the pocket on the inside.

(This is my third magnetic snap and I love them! I can’t believe it took me so long to try them out.)

Since the largest piece of purple fabric in my stash was the solid color I used for the body of the bag, I wanted to add a smaller fun piece to my package.

The rosy wedge bag tutorial is simple, but the fabric and shape add some personality.


I used interfacing and batting instead of using fusible fleece and quilted the batting to hold it all together. It made it a bit more difficult to get the ends right, but I do like the look of the quilting on the pouch.

I went all purple on everything since that was the only word I got describing my partner’s preferences.


a light purple lining using fabric that had been in my stash for over a decade.

I liked both bags, but they looked a bit plain so a friend suggested adding an embellishment to the purse. I got out my crochet hooks and made a pink swirl flower from this tutorial. It gave the bag some needed excitement.

pleatedpurse w flowerA

I also made a bow and added it to the pouch. Too cute!

pouch w bowA

Then I played with Photoshop and made this for the swap’s Flickr page.


I realized later it should have said Secret Tote BAG Swap but oh well. 🙂

I have really gotten into posting my projects in blogger groups on Flickr in the last month and it’s been a lot of fun. The ladies in this swap were so encouraging and left lots of nice comments, so that was a great part of the swap experience.

(My username is photosarahcrafts if you want to check me out!)

I rounded it out with a scrapbook paper card (in purple of course!) and sent it on its way.


I had a partner in the U.S.A. this time which was nice to keep shipping costs low. Hopefully it has arrived and I’ll hear from her soon!

pillowcase dresses for Haiti

I read this post on Alida Makes (and later on The Sewing Rabbit) and set to work cutting out some pillowcase dresses.

I had a large piece of thrifted fabric that I’d tried to use for me and knew it would be better off as some cute little dresses. I used the Prudent Baby tutorial I’d used before to make little dresses for charity but in a toddler size this time.


I didn’t have any coordinating fabrics or ribbons in my stash so I kept it simple. The blue bias tape ties were in the vintage sewing supplies from Kathy’s mom; I was on my way out to door to buy ribbon for the ties when I checked that stash and they matched the blue!

This purple heart covers a small hole in the fabric.


I hope they get lots more dresses for the little ones there! The deadline is at the end of June if you want to participate.

I’m well on my way to my goal of doing six charity projects this year. So far I’ve made baby bibs for China, zipper pouches and crochet bracelets for She’s Worth It, a quilt for Quilts for Kids, hats and scarves for Romania, and these pillowcase dresses for Haiti. I’ve already got a Project Linus quilt in mind…

denim shirt redo

I got this denim shirt for a quarter at my $0.25 yard sale bonanza.


The main issues with the original shirt were: bulky epaulets, too snug to button up all the way, and weird matching distressing on the pockets.


I’d already taken care of the pocket situation in the middle pic.

I’ve been really getting into Refashion Runway so I wanted to have a sew-along for week two’s denim theme. I’d already started seam ripping this shirt, so it was a great project to make for this week.

I used this as my inspiration, but didn’t want a lace back.

I removed the back, taking the buttons for the tabs on the shoulders with it. There was a lot of seam ripping going on.


shirt chaps? I removed the sleeves too, but reattached them later.

I used the shirt back as a pattern for my contrast fabric, but added extra width to fix the fit problem.


bye bye bulky buttons! (see top)

I had a hard time deciding what fabric I wanted for the back. I’d originally tried this pink floral, but ended up using it for a toddler sundress. The fabric I used to lengthen this skirt wasn’t wide enough and I didn’t want a seam running down the middle. The boyfriend was against all florals, and in the end I agreed. (Let it be noted that he only gives his opinion when asked!)


I set out all my potential fabrics with the front of the shirt, and it turned into a cat lounge in less than five minutes.

I do like the yellow gingham, but it’s quite sheer and I wasn’t going for a shirt I’d have to layer.

After the red and blue plaid was selected (yard sale fabric of course) and the back was cut, I got to work putting this shirt back together. I sewed the back on at the sides and collar; reattached the sleeves; nipped and tuck for fit; made new plaid pockets; and sewed on new buttons from my stash.


The plaid comes over the shoulders a little in the front because I removed those tabs, and I like how you can see a peek of it to tie it into the front pockets. Here it is on.


It buttons up! I’ve removed some of those bulky metal buttons on the pockets and top, and added color and pattern with the plaid. This might be more of a summer-into-fall shirt as it’s a bit woodsy and rustic.

(Only two items left to refashion from that original yard sale post!)

For other denim refashions, you can see the tank I made from a lightweight denim shirt (wearing it today!) and my recent mom jeans turned capris.

weekend crochet

I got out my crochet hooks over the weekend to make a flower and bow to add to the bags I made for my secret tote swap partner (swap details here).


love a good swirl flower. pattern here.


I’d been looking for an opportunity to use this bow pattern from craftiness is not optional. I skipped the hot glue and sewed my bow together.

You can check them out on the bags on flickr if you like. (I’m mailing the package off soon, and won’t be posting the whole story on here til I know my partner’s received them.)

I used scrap angora merino yarn to make the flower and bow, leftover from a scarf I made for a secret Christmas gift exchange; it was a good shade of pink to complement the purple bags.

I couldn’t bring myself to put the hooks away right then, so I made up this small fish too.


My cats are always getting in my yarn, especially if it’s moving while I’m working with it.

Like that one time I was working on my scallop totes, and turned around and saw this…


This wool used to be in a nice skien. Doesn’t she look pleased with herself for turning it into a jumble?

So after I completed the fish I decided to surrender it to the cats and give them a toy.


hesitantly evaluating the new object.


the one-paw test.

I cut the button eye off almost immediately since they were chewing on it and I didn’t want it to be a choking hazard.


attack mode

Three small crochet projects in one weekend. I’d been feeling a little stuck in sewing so it was nice to switch modes for awhile.

I’ve got one knitting project on my needles that seems like it will take awhile, and am going to start a larger crochet project soon. In terms of sewing, I’m making three pillowcase dresses to send to this project (just need some cute ribbon for the ties), I’ve finished a backpack for me that I need to photograph, and I’ve got several other ideas in progress.

Don’t forget, my vintage curtain tote giveaway is still going on! I’ll probably close it in a couple more days. There are only two entries right now, so your odds of winning would be pretty good!