Wrapping Things Up…

In the midst of all of the holiday hoopla and Christmas shopping, I realized that there may be a load of practical gift cards that might be received far better than any piece of clothing or fancy kitchen gadget.  For students, especially those living in highly populated cities, transportation can be an issue.  Gift cards focused on shuttling a person from one destination to another might be much more appreciated versus a piece of clothing.  Train passes, Uber gift cards, bus passes, etc. are all good ideas.  Last year my sister in law gave my children transportation gift cards and they were used to shuttle them to the local grocery store, to the airport, and home from the local burger and brew joint.  (Each of my children are in college and over the age of 21.). They also received gift cards from the local drug store where they were able to by toiletries, milk, and basic groceries while on campus.  Another great idea for college students, gifts cards for sandwich shops and local eateries.  Many dorm cafeterias are closed on Sunday evenings so having a gift card for a local diner is always appreciated.

Be creative as you think of ways to “wrap” your gift cards.  Think of using beautiful paper scraps, college themed papers, Christmas wrap, or themed scrap book papers.  I recently purchased some high-end soap from a local discount store.  The soap was wrapped in a beautiful heavy weight paper that I just couldn’t throw away.  This gave me the idea to use the paper as a wrap for a small gift; hence, a gift wrap for the gift card.  Here’s what I did…

I found a template here. Or, Google various gift card envelope images for the shape you prefer.

I gathered an assortment of scrap paper, and the beautiful wrapping paper found on some milled soaps.

I printed the template and traced the outline on various scraps.I penciled in some fold lines.

I thought it might be nice to have a contrasting liner.Using a few paper punches, I fashioned a gift tag.

Use Christmas paper, shopping bags, newspaper… Whatever you like.This is an enjoyable way to personize and make personal, an ordinary, yet purposeful gift card.


Machine Embroidery – Towels

Every year, about this time, I volunteer to embroider the state towels for our boy’s and girl’s high school swim teams. Today I spent the day embroidering towels for next weekend’s state event.
Towels are often tricky to embroider so I thought I would take you through the process that I use to make sure my machine embroidery looks clean and concise. Remember that it’s very important to stabilize your work so that the stitching sits on top of the fabric instead of burying itself in the nap of the towel. The stabilizer will also ensure a solid foundation for the design.

Make sure to choose a thread color that compliments the fabric color. I used maroon thread against the camel colored towel to signify our team colors…maroon and gold.

Hoop a piece of tear-away stabilizer in the embroidery hoop.

Carefully spray the stabilizer with a temporary adhesive made specifically for fabric projects. I really like the Sulky brand spray adhesive but my JoAnn Fabrics doesn’t seem to carry it anymore.

Next, fold the towel in half, length-wise, right sides together. Center the towel over the hoop, carefully placing the fold at the center register marks.

Open out the towel and smooth it in place. Secure a piece of water soluble stabilizer on top of towel, fitting inside the hoop.

Slip the hoop into the embroidery module and stitch your design.

After you’ve completed your design, remove from machine, trim threads and tear away the stabilizer.

Remove excess soluble stabilizer, I use a burst of steam from the iron to clean up any remaining bits left behind.

Here’s the finished product. I am currently working on my 12th towel and still have a few more to go. Happy Stitching!

Christmas Treasure Hunt in a Jar

This is a great kid-friendly Christmas gift for those of you looking for a few last minute ideas. The Treasure Hunt in a Jar can be made with a theme in mind… Make them for holidays, sports fanatics, those that like to craft, sew or bake. Find trinkets at the dollar store or your local craft store to match your theme. I am always amazed at how interested guests are in finding all of the hidden trinkets in the jar. Most times, there are a few people patiently waiting for their turn at finding all the treasures.

This is a also great little craft project that can easily be made for a fundraising activity. Your group can make several of them to sell at local craft fairs or community fundraisers. Weeks before the event, ask everyone to gather up items to be recycled or repurposed for the project. Collect used jars of all shapes and sizes, lots of small “treasures” to place in the jars, and a big bag of bird seed. This is an ideal project for both the young and the old. Don’t be surprised if the jars sell out quickly. Your group will be quite proud of their accomplishment!


A Treasure Hunt in a Jar

Recycled jar with tight fitting lid
Bird seed
Found objects to place in the jar like a…
safety pin
bobby pin
rubber band
paper clip
red button
bread tie

Make sure jar is thoroughly washed, clean and dry. Pour bird seed into the jar, filling only half-way. Place “treasures” into the jar. Now, continue to fill the jar with bird seed; about 3/4 full, leaving enough space for items to move while searching for treasures. Cover jar, tightly securing the lid. Print up a “treasure” item list and the following saying on colorful card stock or scrap book paper and attach to the jar with a ribbon.

Attach this little note along with a list of all the treasures to be found:
Here’s a little treasure jar, with lots of hidden things.
See how many you can find, and how much fun it brings!

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

This recipe is from an old cookbook that I have used for years. When my children were little, we lived one block away from their grade school. For school parties, I always made a basket of lollipop cookies reflecting whichever festive holiday season the classroom may be celebrating…sunflowers for the early fall, ghosts and goblins for Halloween, colorful leaves and turkeys for Thanksgiving, Christmas trees and snow people for the winter parties. I’d pack a festive bucket or basket with floral foam, push the lollipop sticks into the foam, wrap the whole thing in cellophane wrap and tie a pretty bow to the outside of the package. Everyone’s eyes would light up as I entered the classroom with my package of goodies.
What I like most about this recipe is that the cookie dough is simple to make with just a few ingredients and that the dough doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling it out. (When I start a project, I want to get it done quick… I have no patience waiting for the dough to chill and harden for an hour.)
Adding food coloring to the dough is also a time-saver…no need for icing. This recipe has always been a holiday favorite in my house!

Sunflower Lollipop Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

(Extra Supplies)
Flower cookie cutter
Yellow icing color
1 pkg. 8″ lollipop sticks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add baking powder and flour. Tint cookie dough with icing color. Pinch off a small amount of dough, make twelve to eighteen 1/4″ balls. Place balls, 3″ apart on cookie sheets. This will serve as the cookie base. Press lollipop stick into each ball; flatten slightly. Roll remaining dough out at 1/4″ thick. Cut dough, dipping cookie cutters in flour before use. Place cutout cookie on each stick, press lightly to attached cutout to cookie base. Add chocolate chips to each cutout center. Bake for 8-12 minutes until slightly golden around the edges. Cool completely before carefully removing from cookie sheet.

(Adapted from Wilton Gifts from the Kitchen Cookbook)



Upcycled Travel Tote

Upcycled Travel Tote
When I have time, I love to visit resale shops and garage sales to find objects that I can incorporate in my sewing projects. I often buy old backpacks and purses just to cut out the closures and fasteners for other projects. I sometimes buy resale clothes with great looking buttons, only to cut them off and use the buttons to make some of my less expensive clothes look more expensive.
For this tote, I made the actual bag out of pre-quilted fabric that I found at Good Will. I filled the inside of the tote with fasteners and pockets to hide trinkets and valuables that M might need during her travels. Around the top edge of the bag, I stitched a trim that was originally found at the hem of a pair of capri pants that I bought at a garage sale. After all that, I used my embroidery machine to personalize the tote. M seems to love this colorful bag and she smiles when others ask her where she bought it. She proudly replies, “My mom made it especially for me”!

Denim Purse Upcycle

I must admit, this is not a newly completed project. I was cleaning out my closets yesterday and I stumbled across this denim bag that I had made months ago. I looked it over and was pleased that I was able to use a junior-sized pair of jeans to make such a darling purse. Like most of you, I am always looking to repurpose things that are past their usefulness in their current state.
About a year ago, while packing up clothes to send to the local resale shop, I found these jeans in my daughter’s drawer. She hadn’t worn them in a while for she had grown and their length was halfway up her ankles. That afternoon, I snipped the legs off at the crotch and rummaged through my trims and sewing notions to try to find the best pieces to adorn my new bag. I had purchased a few clear handbag handles on clearance at JoAnn Fabrics and was thrilled to tack them on to the waistband with a few quick stitches. I really only had one seam to sew across the bottom of the bag. All that was left was to string glittery coordinating ribbon through the belt loops at the waist, glue and stitch on a few embellishments, and voila, a cute-as-a-button handbag was born!



DIY – Plant Markers

Every spring, when I plant seeds in my garden, I buy unique (often expensive) plant markers to identify my herbs and vegetables. It’s not that I can’t identify my plants without the markers…its just that I like the way the markers look in my garden.
Well, it never fails…by late August, the markers have faded, rusted, or have gone missing. I usually end up throwing the silly things out in November and buying a whole new batch for the next growing season. This year, visiting the paint department at our local hardware store, I got the idea of using paint stirring sticks (that are free) to make my own plant markers. While they may only last one or two seasons, at least they are reasonably priced! The girls and I had fun making them together. This is also a great gift idea for Mother’s or Father’s Day.

DIY – Plant Markers

Visit your local hardware store and ask for a few paint stirring sticks. ( We are painting our bathroom and laundry room so they gave us plenty of sticks with our paint purchase).


Paint Stirring Sticks
Craft Paint
Permanent Black Sharpie Marker or Paint Markers
Satin Clear Spray Paint or Spray Sealer





Paint both sides of the sticks with craft paint; letting them dry thoroughly between coats. Use the permanent marker to write various plant names on the paint sticks. Spray several coats of clear spray paint or sealer over entire stick. Let dry completely before putting them outdoors.