rainbow maker

I am not big on Christmas shopping. Don’t get me wrong I love me some Christmas, but I try to avoid the shopping bit. The stores are crowded and claustrophobic, the people are all crabby and wanty, and no one ends up liking what you bought them anyway. For Christmas I usually make cookies and candy for everyone on my list, but every once in a while I want to give someone something that lasts.

solar powered rainbow maker

Enter the perfect present: the solar-powered rainbow maker. The mobile makers did not contact me for this post, they do not sponsor my blog, they don’t even know I exist. I just think that everyone needs a rainbow maker in their life. Your sister, your friends who just had a baby, your kid’s teachers, your mail carrier,  your crabby grandpa, they all need more rainbows in their life. They might not know it yet, but they do.

rainbow maker

We received the double rainbow maker as a gift years ago.  You can hang the mobile up with a wire or stick it to a window with the suction cup. We stuck ours to a sunny window and the room exploded with rainbows. I couldn’t believe how magical it was–for my kids and me.  Not so magical when I slammed it over and over again trying to get the window open, but we got another. Then someone very sneaky stole the crystal and hid it (forever). Not only will we be giving rainbow makers this Christmas, we’ll be getting one for ourselves too.

though this post is not sponsored by the mobile maker, there are affiliate links (to amazon) in this post.

happy homemade vol. 2 in english!

November 20th, 2013

happy homemade vol.2

I have been blathering on for years about how much I love the Japanese sewing book Happy Homemade vol. 2.

clothes made from happy homemade vol 2 on elsie marley

All of the clothes pictured above (and below) are made from patterns in this book. Happy Homemade patterns are my go to for pajamas, hoodies, pants, and tops. Without a doubt it is my most used pattern book.

clothes made from happy homemade vol 2 on elsie marley

And now Happy Homemade is in English! Only they renamed it Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids. They changed a few other things too (mostly for the best):

remade pattern pages in Happy Homemade

1. the pattern pages don’t induce vertigo

This came as quite a pleasant shock. I had resigned myself to spending a solid 15 minutes finding the pattern I need on the very chaotic Japanese pattern sheet. I actually wrote a whole post about locating your pattern for Cherie’s series on Japanese patterns.  No more! The patterns in the English version are given a generous amount of space. They have also been redrafted to fit American sizes! Every pattern comes in 4 sizes: 2, 4, 6, 8.

Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids

2. the measurement are in inches.

This is obviously only exciting for the Americans, because we are ridiculously anti-metric. But there are a lot of us and we do all understand 3/8 of an inch much better than 1 cm. It’s silly, but true.

3. the directions are in english

This is, oddly, not a 100% improvement. The first thing I did when I got the English version was to flip to the bits that had stumped me in the past. After reading them in English, I still didn’t understand what they wanted me to do. Sewing directions are notoriously difficult to comprehend. Sometimes it’s better just to draw pictures. Japanese sewing books have perfected the art of the sewing diagram. Turns out their written directions can be just as confusing as everyone else’s.

That said, the sewing tips, the fabric recommendations, and the general instruction are all so much better than I had ever imagined.

Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids

4. the clothes are just as adorable.

One thing they didn’t change: the clothes. They are as simple, stylish, and adorable as they are in the Japanese version. Now if I can make tons of clothes for my kids without being able to read any of the directions, just image what you can do now!

Be sure to put Happy Homemade: Sew Chic Kids on your Christmas wish list, because I’m planning a sew-a-long next year. We could even have a whole Happy Homemade month! February sound good?


*I was given a copy of this book to review, but my opinions are, as always, my own.


winter wonderland tour

November 13th, 2013

utili-cape on elsie marley

The women who make up the amazing pattern making team at Pattern Anthology asked me to remix one of their winter patterns. There are so many good ones to choose from: hats and coats, hoodies and party dresses, but it was the cape that caught my eye. The Juliet Capelet is a frilly affair, perfect for cozy holiday parties or cool summer evenings.

utili-cape on elsie marley

I wanted to go in a different direction. I wanted to make a cape that carhartt would make. I wanted to make a utili-cape!

utili-cape on elsie marley

With visions of lumberjacks (wearing capes) dancing in my head, I walked into my local fabric store for supplies. I came out with khaki twill, deliciously soft faux fur, and metal buttons. Then I headed home to turn a pretty cape pattern into a tomboy’s dream.

utili-cape pattern

I subtracted and added a bunch of thing to the original pattern. First I took out some of the fullness of the cape. Then I lengthened it quite a bit. After sewing up a quick muslin, I thought the cape needed to be even longer so I added more to the front and the back. I ended up with a grand piano-like pattern.

uliti-cape on elsie marley

I decided to skip the hood and instead I added a collar. The collar can fold over or stand up to ward off the cold. The original pattern does have buttons, but I added a button placket as well. The metal buttons–the kind you have on your jeans–could not have been more perfect. They have a large shank and yeehaw! you do not have to sew them on! The button comes in 2 parts: a nail-like bit that you poke through the back of the fabric and the button proper that pops on top of the nail.

uliti-cape on elsie marley

The buttons were so much fun to put on, that I kept finding more places to put them. I added a button to either side of the cape to create a sleeve.

uliti-cape on elsie marley

Pockets were next, because what is a utili-cape without pockets? And then I slapped some buttons on those too! I drafted a double pocket–one that could keep her hands warm, but also keep her treasures safe. I love how these pockets turned out so much that I’ve got a tutorial in the works for them.

faux fur lining on the utili-cape

You will not see a tutorial, however, on how to sew with faux fur, because wow! I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. There was fur all over my studio floor, in my ears, up my nose, and miraculously on the cape as well.

utili-cape on elsie marley

I’m happy I wrestled with the faux fur–and won!–because the fur really makes the cape. It’s soft and cozy and oh so warm. All in all, I had a fabulous time playing around with the Juliet Capelet pattern.

utili-cape on elsie marley

This cape pattern could become so many different things. I am smitten with Alida’s version. Be sure to check out all of the amazing garments that have been made so far on the winter wonderland tour.

winter wonderland tour The bundle will be on sale until November 18. You can purchase all the patterns or the boy and girl patterns separately.  Happy Sewing!



*I was given a copy of the pattern for this post, but my opinions, as always, are my own.


scandinavian style sewing series

November 12th, 2013

floral skinny pants on elsie marley

When Stacey asked me to be a part of her Scandinavian style series, I jumped at the chance. But what is Scandiavian style? I don’t think I could have summed it up better than Mie, who is Scandinavian herself. She said Scandianavian style is clean lines and cool vibes.

polka dot jacket on elsie marley

And I have to add, bold prints! I have always admired how those northerly folk embrace the crazy and make it look so natural. It’s not easy to mix and match bold patterns. But I think my daughter pulled off polka dots and flowers quite well.

polka dot jacket and floral skinnies on elsie marley

let’s start with the pants:

PATTERN: the skinny pants pattern is from Happy Homemade vol 5 (did you hear vol 2 is out in English?! post on that awesomesauce coming soon). I made this pattern in orange a few years ago for my middle son.

FABRIC: this floral fabric is amazing. It’s cotton with some spandex in it, not a lot, but enough to give it some weight and some give. I was hoarding it for myself, but it was too perfect for these pants and I had to cut into it.

floral skinny pants on elsie marley

SEWING: I muddled around with the pattern a lot trying to make sure the pants would be skinny, but not skin tight. I would actually like them to be skinnier than they are, but maybe this way they will fit until the spring. 

polka dot jacket on elsie marley

now for the jacket:

PATTERN: the nituna jacket pattern from Figgy’s

FABRIC: I think it is quilting cotton, which I don’t sew with very often, but the polka dot pattern was just so right.  I lined it with soft, gray fleece.

polka dot jacket on elsie marley

SEWING: the sewing went well until I got to the welt pockets. I usually like the super concise style of the directions in Figgy’s patterns, but I could not for the life of me figure out what they wanted me to do. The internet was, oddly, not that much help either. After much frustration, I forged my own way, which involved a fair amount of jamming through the machine and seeing what happened.

polka dot jacket on elsie marley

Except for my welt pocket meltdown, this outfit was a joy to sew. Polka dots have a way of making you smile. And how could crazy flower pants not make you happy? I think those Scandinavians might be on to something.

floral skinny pants on elsiemarley

See all of the Scandinavian Sewing Series on Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy.


November 7th, 2013


October was a pretty busy month! I took a week-long trip with my husband, there were halloween costumes to make, trick or treating to be done, and another KCW to plow through. But at the very beginning of October, my oldest turned 8. The rule in our house is you can invite as many people to your birthday party as years old you are turning. That’s confusing to say, but it’s a simple concept: you’re turning 8? 8 people can come to your party.


My daughter approached me in the summertime with the idea that maybe she could just invite 2 or 3 people and have a sleepover instead. I said yes right away, because 3 girls sounds like a lot less work than 9 girls. Turns out a sleepover is actually a 16 hour party and it’s a lot of work no matter how many people come. But she was so excited for her first sleepover I couldn’t say no.  Why have a sleepover, when you can have a sleepGLOWver?!


My daughter wanted a glow-in-the-dark theme and I have to say, it was awesome! She and I made a bunch of neon medallions (foldy circles? pretty party thingamabobs? no idea what they are called) for decorations. I bought a black light, thinking the medallions would glow at night. Turns out you need to buy 10 black lights to make that happen–one does not cut it. Oh well, they were fun to make and are still up because they’re so beautiful.


A few things did work , thank goodness. We jammed glow stick bracelets in the bottom of clear plastic cups, put another clear cup on top, and filled it with lemonade. Glowing drinks! Eight glow-in-the-dark spiders crawled on top of the cake. Glowing birthday cake!


We also put glow sticks and bracelets, light up balls, light up hair extensions, and glow-in-the-dark stickers in see through takeout containers. Glowing party favors! They looked super cool and the girls (and 2 brothers) didn’t even notice them until it was dark. We played glow-in-the-dark ring toss and a few games with the light up balls. Glow games! I bought glow-in-the-dark silly string for prizes. Big Glowing Mess!




I suppose it’s a sign of a good party when you have to vacuum in the middle of it. The party went glow-ver well (sorry). Pinterest did most of the thinking for me, I just went to Michael’s and bought everything glow-y. I stole most of the ideas from this amazing glow-in-the-dark party. I’m guessing that lady bought a whole case of black lights!

In our house we only do birthday parties with friends every other year (because, well, you get it). This was the year for everyone’s party! In February we had a fire and ice party for a 6 year old, in August we had a banana party for a 4 year old, and in October we had a sleep-glow-ver for a 8 year old. Whew! Next year it’s pizza and bowling for everyone!