Rainbow Rice Sensory Play

For years now, I keep seeing rainbow themed sensory bins pop up on Pinterest and the creative play blogs I follow. And while I have colored rice for Grace to play with, I’ve never gone all out to make several colors for a true rainbow.

Until now!

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Awww… pretty colors! If you haven’t done it before, coloring rice is super easy. I put two cups rice in each of six ziplock bags (sorry indigo… not going to even try). Add roughly 6 drops of regular liquid food coloring and a small squirt of rubbing alcohol. The alcohol helps spread the dye and evaporates quickly. Toss and shake your rice and color until you get what you’re looking for – I know I had to add extra color to the yellow. Then let dry before playing. I just opened the bags to let air flow; some people spread on a cookie sheet. If you use only a tiny bit of alcohol opening the bags worked quite well enough.

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To add to the exploring, I found colored tooth picks that have been sitting around for a couple years. I didn’t have purple so I used a regular marker to color a plain wooden pick. Then I pulled a tool basket from my stash of sensory bin items. I have a shelf in our basement filled clear plastic containers, scoops, spoons, shovels, forks, plus items from previous bins and various odds and ends I’ve discovered. Here’s what they get this time:

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The kids had a total blast! At first they just stared:

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But then their caution evaporated into curiosity:

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Which led to an extravaganza of scooping and stirring:

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Even the littlest guy got in on this one, though I did have to watch him closely – apparently rainbow rice looks a lot like candy!

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I’m glad I finally got around to making rainbow rice. It only took a few minutes – maybe 10? – to color all the rice. Rice is super cheap and everything else I had around the house. It obviously didn’t stay sorted by color very long but I actually love the way it looks combined. We’ll keep playing with it as is for now then store it as a base for a future bin down the road.

Happy playing!


Snuggle Bug (PR & P Mad about Plaid)

It’s week 3 at Project Run and Play Season 7! This week’s theme? Mad about Plaid!

Now, I love plaid. At least in theory I do. But in practice, I own very little and have sewn even less. I’m not really a bold pattern kind of girl in my own wardrobe. When I challenged myself to use only resources I already had in the house, I first thought I’d be sitting this week out. Until the great Stash Reorganization project I’ve mentioned a few times discovered some hidden gems. After some very creative piecing and cutting, a special retired set of jammies turned into this sweet night dress for my silly girl:

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She’s a mess, let’s just throw that out there.

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The dress is pretty much straight McCall’s 6388 size 3, which is huge. Grace has recently gone through a stage that makes me sad – she’s lost her sweet toddler look and has really thinned out into a little girl. She’s back to a 2T on top and a 4T – or more – in length. My only alterations were to cut the front and back upper bodice on the bias to achieve a chevron look. The skirt section was also cut on the bias. I didn’t use a pattern piece for that; I just used every scrap I had left.

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Way back when we first got married, I thought it would be so cheesy sweet for my husband and I to have matching jammies. Out of flannel. PLAID flannel. And if that wasn’t cheesy sweet enough, I thought it would be just downright delightful to sew them by hand. In the car. On the way to our honeymoon. Awww young love… (Can I say that now we’ve been married 5 years?)

They didn’t get done.

When we got home, I actually did finish his pants and my tank dress by machine and they got a couple years hard use. But since I never did finish the seams (the things you learn over time) they eventually fell apart and found their way to the upcycle bin. There was just. barely. enough. fabric out of both garments to create this single dress. I didn’t even bother saving the scraps; they went in the trash.

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I’m crazy pleased with how this turned out. The skirt is actually 8! separate strips pieced together. As I said – I used every scrap. The plaids in the skirt even almost match (Although I obviously missed the side seam, above):

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Oh, and Grace has hit the “I DO IT MYSELF!” stage, which is why there’s only one large single button on the front. This came out of a big back of antique buttons my mother in law passed on to me. I love the loopy little flower! And in case you’re wondering, this is what happened when I prompted her to yawn.

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I think she’s about as silly as me! If you want to see the other plaid entries, check them out here:

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Let’s Go Camping Learning Basket

A few weeks ago, our Learning Basket for Play School was all about camping. Camping is our family’s new thing this year – we’ve really come to enjoy slipping away for a night or two to be outside and away from the regular routine. It’s a nice chance to refocus on us without the distractions that come with our current lives. A full schedule of meetings, play dates, chores, and technology draws us apart and wears us out. I love our quick forays into simplified, just-us time.

So it only made sense to do a camping themed learning basket!

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  • Lady Bug Girl and Bingo (by far the favorite!), David Soman and Jacky Davis
  • Flat Stanley Goes Camping, Jeff Brown and Macky Pamintuan
  • Fancy Nancy Stellar Stargazer!, Jane O’Connor
  • Because your Mommy Loves You, Andrew Clements

Non-Fiction (I forgot to mark the specific titles; they were very general though)

  • Knots
  • Campfire activities for girls
  • General camping book

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My husband carved this awesome wood forest toy set for Grace last Christmas. It was a little early for imagination play then, but now several months later she thought they were just the coolest things. They were made using patterns from Natural Wooden Toys. I’m crazy about them and want him to make dozens more this winter as we move from outside activities to inside activities when the weather turns.

We had lots of fun playing with the flashlight. Nothing specific – just playing 🙂

This next activity I’ll show you, but let me be really honest – it’s way about toddler abilities. I thought it would be neat to make a card with strings on it so I could teach the kids knotting. 2 year olds and 3 year olds can’t tie knots. Their little fingers just don’t work that way. However! I love these cards! I’m storing them in our play school box to bring out again in a couple years:

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We even did a quick painting project. My philosophy on art/craft projects with toddlers is it’s all about the process, not the finished project. Due to that, we do a lot of projects on recycled brown paper grocery sacks that, after hanging around for a few days, find themselves moving on to the recycling bin. I want to move into more of the Charlotte Mason style handicrafts eventually, but at this point, art work is more sensory play so I just let Grace explore. Here’s our campfire. First we colored the logs, then hand printed the fire:

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I’m so glad it’s fall! This is by far my favorite season. I hope you’re finding a chance to enjoy the outdoors, too 🙂

Sweet Little Star Burst (PR&P Candy Challenge)


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I have to be honest, when I first saw the challenge list for this season of Project Run & Play, I wasn’t thrilled. Design an outfit inspired by candy? I almost sat this one out. In my mind, the only candy worth eating is chocolate. Good chocolate. Preferably with flakes of crunchy sea salt and maybe some almonds stirred in. With a cup of dark coffee or… Sorry for the rabbit trail! Point being, candy doesn’t inspire me when it comes to clothing. I spent weeks wrestling with ideas – too literal, too costume, too “never going to wear it again.” Plus, I wanted to use only supplies I already had in my house.

Then I decided to actually *sort* my fabric stash and see what I had on hand. It’s now in clear bins organized logically – apparel yardage, cotton yardage, clothes to upcycle, large scraps, small scraps, knits… and as I was sorting, I came across this gem of Ann Kelle diamond print fabric I bought on a whim to round out an order for free shipping back in the spring. It’s in the Summer Remix line. Once I saw it there was only one thing I could think of – STARBURSTS! Those chewy fruity squares of color have never been my favorite for eating, but you’ve got to admit, they’ve got some pretty cool style.

Image from wikihow

Do you remember being a kid and making chains from starburst wrappers? Or gum wrappers? Or sometimes even strips of notebook paper so you didn’t fall asleep in class? (ahem…) Then came the phenomenon of the candy wrapper purses, wallets, bracelets. Which led into the strange (Capri Sun pouch bags, anyone?). But I have fond memories of those little scraps of colorful waxy paper woven together for no other reason than because they were there. And that, my friends, added to the lovely fabric, led to this week’s candy creation.

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A loose cut blouse and clean khaki pants doesn’t sound like much, but I love all the details tucked in these pieces. Starting with they’re layer-able, mix-and-match-able, and even grow-with-her-able. The pants have 4 pockets and and the top floats out when she spins, so Grace is thrilled. The top is actually based on a historically accurate chemise pattern my friend Amy is offering free at her blog, Thistle and Lilly. It’s pretty quiet over there, but that’s only because Amy is working on something really big and really cool – starting her line of historical children’s patterns, primarily for the reenacting community. But I absolutely adore the clean, classic lines! I think they translate really well to modern children’s wear. I only modified it slightly by adding rick rack trim.

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The white rick rack takes the place of the candy wrapper chains, since adding more color to this already colorful print would be overwhelming. I used it at the neckline and armholes on the top, then to edge the pockets on the khaki pants:pockets together copySpeaking of these pants, I’m in love. The pattern is the Ben and Mia pants from Lily Bird Studio. I bought the pattern last winter but was never inspired to make it. Why? Grace wore cloth diapers, which are huge, and I didn’t want to put effort in to fixing the pattern to accommodate. She wore dresses and stretch pants. BUT! We’ve been potty trained for 3 weeks now – it’s time to introduce some real pants into this girl’s wardrobe. The pattern is as close to perfect as I would ask for. It’s got some special details, too, like the directions for ready-to-wear style top stitching. I think that adds such a nice touch and I wouldn’t have thought of it myself.  These slacks just look so PROFESSIONAL! A huge part of that is the pattern. The other part is they started their life as a pair of my husband’s slacks. After an incident with his bike chain they retired to the upcycle pile. These were nice slacks – super soft from 5+ years of washing and wearing, but still very sturdy with lots of life left. Can you see the permanent crease? I was able to cut super carefully to line that up where it belongs on Grace’s pants! Victory!

handband copyAnd of course, the crowning joy – a candy wrapper chain headband. I couldn’t claim to be inspired by them without making one! I used the tropical flavor Starburst pack – same colors as the original but brighter, which better matches my fabric. I used a tapestry needle to thread a ribbon through each end; the ribbons are tied in a bow at her neck. Simple and sweet.

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The neckline is a little loose since I sewed after bedtime – this chemise pattern really needs fitted before sewing the neckline. This is neckline #2 – #1 was way, way too tight. A simple cami from her drawer keeps her covered. I can see the top over jeggings and a long sleeved tee as the weather cools off. All in all I met my goals and am extremely pleased: meets the challenge, wearable pieces, and I didn’t buy any fabric! (Full disclosure – I did by a pack of rick rack and the starbursts, though. Grand total, under $5)

A big thanks to my husband who gave me a crash course in Photoshop this afternoon. I feel all fancy, what with watermarks and color balanced pictures and all! And even a collage of out takes! We took these photos at the Farm & Home store, since we needed to buy chicken feed anyway and they’ve got these cute rustic bulk candy bins by the door. And horse feed, which apparently makes a good jungle gym:

outtakes copySo whoever buys crunched up horse feed, sorry? For everyone else, stay sweet!

Tutorial: Pitty Flowers Sundress Remix

Last week I posted my entry for Project Run and Play’s pattern remix challenge, using the Oliver + S Popover Sundress. I totally, completely, love how this turned out. Color blocking and curved bodice seams seem to be popping up everywhere this season. Want to do it yourself? Here’s a quick run through. But first, the finished look, and go here for the rest of the details:

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1) Print out the Popover Sundress pattern and track down your basic bodice pattern. If it has a sleeve, get that too. Don’t have a basic pattern? Craftiness Is Not Optional has a tutorial for tracing from a tee shirt.

2) Find the sundress skirt pattern. Since I’m not using the yoke piece, I measured the size of that piece and added it to the top of the skirt. It was roughly 1.5″ for the size 3. Round out the corner to get the style line you want – next time I think I’ll make the slope a little gentler. This was pretty sharp which made it tricky to stitch. PS – I LOVE drafting with Oliver + S digital patterns because of the grid printed on the patterns. Not only does it make taping the printed pages together easy, it makes modifying them easy!

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3) Trace your basic bodice pattern onto paper – I used graph paper. You’ll want all three pieces: front, back, and sleeve. Using the skirt pattern you just drafted, trace the curved seam line onto the front and the back. It needs to be perpendicular (at a right angle) with the center front and center back.

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Make sure your line is the same distance from the armhole on the front and the back. Add a seam allowance for this curved line – my basic bodice pattern already has seam allowances as needed everywhere else. You can see I raised the neckline on mine, too.

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4) Next draft the cap sleeve. Let me show you a picture first before attempting to explain it:

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  • Find the center of your sleeve pattern. I did this by folding the pattern in half.
  • Find where you want the sleeve to hit – I did it roughly in line with the top of the skirt. My book shows to measure it about halfway between the side seam and the shoulder seam. There’s a tiny x if you can see it. Mark that point on both the front and the back
  • Draw a straight line connecting those two dots
  • Smooth out the curve. I wanted it to dip in the middle.
  • Cut sleeve out, slicing it on that middle line
  • Tape to front and back, smoothing the curve as needed:

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Completed pattern:

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Notice that the sleeves dip down from the shoulder seam? You want that. Otherwise you get crazy sticky out shoulders. That helps pull it down to the body. The more dramatic that line, the more the sleeve will cup the shoulder. On Grace’s they’re still pretty out there.

The front is cut on the fold, the back has a seam allowance. Cut 1 front and 2 backs each out of fashion fabric and lining. To assemble dress (sorry I forgot pictures! It’s the standard procedure for a sleeveless lined bodice – the cap sleeves don’t affect it. ):

  • Stitch shoulder seams on both fabric and lining
  • Pin fabric and lining with right sides together, lining up all corners and seam lines
  • Make a button loop and baste in place at the back neckline. Mine is a narrow strip of pink with the edges folded into the middle then folded in half again and stitched to hold, similar to double fold bias tape
  • Stitch the sleeves, then the center back and neckline, starting an inch or so up from the bottom edge
  • Clip curves and turn right side out by pulling each back through the shoulder to the front. Press well
  • Stitch the underarm seams
  • At the center back, stitch the remaining inch or so with the fabric to fabric and lining to lining. You want the outside a complete bodice and the lining separate for the next step
  • SKIRT: Stitch side seams. Add piping or trim if desired (I used a strip of knit folded in half)
  • Attach the skirt to the bodice, right side of the outer to right side of the skirt. Pin carefully and stitch slowly – the curve is totally possible but you’ve got to take it slow. Press well then trim seam and clip curves to reduce bulk
  • Finish by stitching the lining in place. For my dress, I just hand stitched through a couple layers – not all the way through. You could topstitch if you want that look. Since I’m using knit I didn’t fold up the bottom edge to avoid bulk. If you’re using a woven you’ll want to finish the edge either by folding it up, using a serger, or your favorite finish technique
  • Add a button and hem the skirt
  • Wear and love!

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You might be able to tell, I originally didn’t leave enough of a slit for Grace’s head, so she popped a few stitches. I need to go back and hand sew it together. You really only want to sew enough of outer to outer for the seam allowance – the rest should be outer to lining for the head slit.

I’ve had people ask how I get any sewing done with a busy toddler. Two words: Play. Dough. It’s a lifesaver. She spent over an hour “baking cupcakes” with her dough, a scoop, and sea shells:

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If you make this dress, I’d love to know! Leave a link in the comments! I think it would make a darling shirt/tunic as well as a dress. In fact, I’ve got the fabric set aside for that now… featuring some crazy cat print Grace insisted on that I’ve been trying to figure out how on earth to use for about a year now.



Pitty Flowers (PR&P Sundress Remix)

It’s Project Run and Play again! I’m so excited. I’m always sewing, and Grace needs clothes again, but sometimes I suffer from designer’s block. You know, like writers block except with clothing. That’s part of why I sparkly pink heart PR&P – the themes give me a jumping off point, a direction to start walking in. And this season I’m focusing on really wearable, usable pieces for G’s wardrobe rather than conceptual artworky sort of creations… one I made in the spring never ever got worn because while it was beautiful and fit the challenge perfectly, it wasn’t something Grace would actually wear. None of that again. PR&P actually starts on Monday and runs 4 weeks, but my September is insane so I’m sewing ahead a little bit. Here’s the themes for Season 7.

Week 1: Pattern remix of the Oliver + S Popover Sundress (free)

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Oliver + S AND free? Yes please. You can download it yourself here. Since we’re headed into fall, I remixed the pattern by adding on a cap sleeved bodice. The skirt portion is only barely modified – since I wasn’t using the yoke, I added a couple inches to the center front/back to compensate and follow the original line. I curved the corners to accommodate trim. The rest of the skirt is straight from the pattern. I also braved a new technique – using a double needle to hem! I think I need to tweak my tension a little more next time but I’m so glad I finally got around to trying it.

Most importantly for a busy 2 year old Little Miss, I made it out of a super soft yet sturdy cotton knit from Joann’s instead of the original woven fabric. I bought the floral knit on impulse a couple sales ago because I LOVE the green and brown mixed in with the pink flowers. The top fabric is a thinner cotton knit also from Joann’s that I purchased in the spring for a project that didn’t work out.

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The green trim is a simple strip of scrap knit fabric folded in half. It started it’s life as a tshirt of my sister’s – she made a tshirt quilt not too long ago and I inherited all the backs and sleeves once she’d cut her quilt blocks. I was thrilled to find this one which matched perfectly. Aunt Susan, your MSU American Humanities shirt lives on! That giant box of scrap jersey has come in very useful! The bodice is lined with a white undershirt of my husband, also located in my scrap jersey box. As a sweet finishing touch, I used a scrap from the skirt to make a covered button. I think it adds the perfect charm.

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I’m pretty pleased, and Grace wouldn’t take it off. To me, that’s always a compliment. That and the, “OOOO! I gots pitty flowers!” I’ll be sad when she stops speaking toddler.

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It needs a little denim jacket over it to be perfectly perfect. As if I needed something else on my to-do list! There’s a couple darling patterns I have my eyes on come October. One last Grace-less picture so you can see the cap sleeve shaping. This is my new favorite silhouette! It’s easy to draft and just as easy to sew.

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(Yes, that’s a food stain already. Remember I said she wouldn’t take it off? I meant it. This required bribery of her purple striped jammies to steal it away. Toddlerssigh.)

Tutorial available here

The Tuesday Dress

How is it September already? Random aside.

I’ve really enjoyed spending the summer rebooting my wardrobe, replacing worn out pieces with things I actually like and need. I’ve bought a couple key pieces but most of it I’ve made. However, I’ve noticed a trend – many of new pieces, both sewn and purchased, would fall under the “professional” or “business casual” category. Except I’m a stay at home mom most of the week. I spend more time than I care to admit on the floor making baby dolls talk.

Enter this – the Tuesday Dress.

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I love this dress. Everything about it. From the neckline to the length, the fabric to the pockets. I’m naming it the Tuesday dress because my thought process went something like this: “I like dresses. The dresses I own are either WAY casual borderline pjs or professional. I need something to wear grocery shopping. Or to the farmer’s market. You know, not Sunday morning or on the hiding-in-my-house days, but Tuesday.”

The pattern is New Look 6184 view C. You can’t see the lovely neckline pleats because the busyness of the fabric hides them well, but I appreciate them in person. I drafted these deep slit pockets myself onto the side front panels. I love pockets. I may be so bold as to say I need pockets. They were easy enough to incorporate since the panel was already there. They’re the whole width of the panel and a few inches deep. The top edge is slightly angled for attractiveness sake. Perfect hiding place for a cell phone or a paci (at least until I can convince Little Miss she doesn’t need them anymore).

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The only thing I don’t like about this pattern is really common to my figure + the main cheap pattern companies. They design for an hourglass figure, or maybe even an X shape. They all cut out dramatically from the waist to the underarms. I’m not an hourglass or an X. I guess I’m a pear, though personally I relate more to a butternut squash:

Straight on top, then hello hips. I had to taper in the underarm seams – with the pattern at the waist, then 2″ seam allowances at the underarm edge. 2″! From the original 5/8″! That’s taking it in 5.5″ around that part of the bodice! Craziness. That means I had to adjust some of the underarm geometry, too, to keep a nice curve. I probably should have taken in some of that 5.5″ at center front but this dress essentially is my muslin. It’s super cheap, super crappy cotton from Walmart. What can I say, the floral caught my eye! I’ll distribute some of that excess at center front and back when I remake it – the neckline is a little wider than I prefer.

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I love the fullness of the skirt, too. Add a narrow belt as a focal point and to control the ease a little (it’s overall a little bit large) and it’s good to go wherever Tuesday takes me. This time, it was actually Friday, and it took me on a 6+ hour road trip from home to Des Moines, IA, to visit a good friend from college. The longer I wore it, the more I liked it. If for no other reason, every time I got out of the car, I got out and kept going. None of that unflattering yank up of jeans, down of tank top, around of cami… everything stayed exactly where I wanted it. I couldn’t ask for anything more!

Oh, and these photos were taken at a stop along the way – the inspiration house for the famous Grant Wood painting, American Gothic. I wanted to photo in front of the house itself, but 1) It was easily 100 degrees and 2) There was a line of tourists in costumes taking pictures at that spot. And yes, we joined that fun…

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LOL, I think this fashion era is *not* my best. Happy Labor Day!