Using up scraps of fabric & batting

Scraps of Fabric & Batting
Thursday is garbage day. There is a black bin for trash, green for compost, forest green for yard waste and blue for recycling. I wish there was another bin for fabric scraps, preferably in a bright colour, like shocking pink. In the interest of living minimally, I have been throwing small scraps of fabric in the garbage, but have been saving bigger pieces in a clear tote bin. I still have guilt when throwing out the tiniest pieces of fabric.

This little project is a great one for many reasons: it uses up fabric & batting scraps, it’s energy efficient, it saves you money and finally, in the interest of living beautifully, it is totally cute!

Without further ado: a door draft pillow. My friend was complaining about the cold draft from the door to her garage, so I made her one. It’s hard to remember that we are in the middle of winter: the weather in the SF bay area is sunny and warm, but it still gets really cold at night. Even though I’m Canadian, I can’t handle the cold–I am LOVING the weather here. Also, the price of electricity is almost 3x more here, than what we were used to paying in Vancouver.
Door Draft Pillows
I made one a couple of years ago and pulled out the same fabric. It’s a fun printed home decor weight canvas from IKEA.
Fabric - IKEA Gunilla
To make, I cut 2 pieces of fabric, approximately 4.5″ x 42″. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, I sewed around the edges, leaving a 4″ opening. I filled the bottom with about a cup of poly-pellets. You could use rice, but I think rice is for eating and feel it’s a waste otherwise. Then I filled the pillow with various scraps of leftover batting and fabric. It was a great way to use knit/fleece fabric scraps because I never know what to do with them. Finally, I sewed the opening closed with my sewing machine.
Door Draft Pillows
Door Draft Pillows
The previous one I made was a little skinny and firmly packed with stuffing, so this time I made sure to make it wider and loosely packed with fabric and batting scraps. This is important because the pillow needs to relax and slouch into the door crack in order to fill all the little nooks and crannies to stop the cold drafties from seeping through. Hopefully, it’ll keep spiders out, too. That’s pretty much it. Nothing fancy–just an easy project that will have you wondering why you didn’t make one years ago.

An upcycled yoga mat strap

Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap
I am starting yoga this week. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to physically drag my rusty body out the door after the craziness that ensues at dinner time, but I’ve paid my registration fee, so I feel somewhat committed. I know it’ll be great once I get to class, it’s just that I dread the feeling of having so much to do before rushing out the door, when I really want to be in my comfy pajamas. I think I’ll be fine, I’m not supposed to eat before yoga anyway. Which is another concern, we usually eat dinner at 5:30 pm, I think I might faint after the first class.

My yoga mat came with this awful mesh drawstring bag with an adjustable-length strap. It is really hard to stuff my mat into it unless I roll it super tight, but that takes too much time and effort, especially after a class has finished. The seams of the bag are ripped in several places, so I decided that I would make a new bag.

Except I didn’t want a bag. I just wanted a strap. After thinking about it for some time, I thought the best solution would be a simple one. Reuse the strap and add thick elastic bands to the ends of the strap to hold my rolled mat together. Brilliant! Less bulk, no stuffing involved, quick and easy to carry.

For the elastic, I used a berry pink 1″ elastic that I already had in my stash of sewing notions. The Dritz brand carries a handful of fun colours and is very stretchy, so I used very little to get a tight fight around my rolled up yoga mat.
Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap
Ta da! That took all of 5 minutes to make. If you count the time it took to figure out the solution, I guess it probably took a week–not that I devoted all of my waking time to this problem. It was on the back burner, along with a million other things.
Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap
A closer look at the stitching:
Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap
It can even stretch to accommodate my water bottle or towel:
Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap
Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap
But then I went to the lululemon website and found something very similar. Except theirs uses velcro closures and costs $16. Yikes. I am happy with my simple yoga mat strap, even if what I thought was an original idea, turns out to already exist. Although I’d have to argue that elastic is an improvement on velcro, which can snag at yoga pants. The elastic will probably stretch out and lose elasticity over time, but I can just cut it off and sew on a new piece when that happens.

While on the subject of yoga pants, I couldn’t be happier with the pair of lululemon yoga pants I bought a decade ago. They have retained their shape and quality, with minimal pilling. They also make excellent airplane travel pants.
Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap
I am by no means an adept yoga practitioner. I write this because I am from Vancouver, where people tend to be pretentious about their yoga practice. I can’t even write that I’ve been “practicing” yoga for X amount of years, or tell you the type of yoga, or remember the names of my yoga instructors. I have taken classes at the community centre near my old home and have really benefited from the breathing, stretching and relaxation exercises that yoga has to offer, especially pre/post-natal yoga. I think, however, that I am an expert at the “extended child” pose. Sometimes after I wake up, I will get into the extended child pose to stretch my back and almost fall back asleep.

Finally, here are Froo & Boo in the “downward-facing dog” pose. Namaste.
Upcycled Yoga Mat Strap

Even now–the sun rises

My mother-in-law’s long-time friend, Mary Tang, is a poet. She lives in Australia and recently contacted me about a custom Froo & Boo order. She sent me a poem that she wrote and wanted some of the words sewn onto my Sunshine & Grey Skies cloud pillow. After playing around with the words and the placement on the cloud, this is what we came up with:
even now--the sun rises
Mary had 2 pillows made: one to keep and one to give to her friend who is in the hospital. The words of the poem are really powerful and have such a strong message of hope. It is my hope that Mary’s friend will be comforted by the words of the poem and the softness of the pillow. This was a collaboration that truly inspired me. Mary has given me permission to share her poem on my blog:

even now

even the moon wanes
even the sun sets
stars ceased to glow
long ago

tides recede and
mountains slide
into seas

blossoms that scent the night
shroud the earth by dawn
and the heat of fierce embrace
fades in the glare of day

yet birds go berserk every morning
bursting their breasts with song
as mourning mists drift away

and the sun rises
again and again
and again

© Mary Tang, 2006

Beautiful, isn’t it? I love the line, “as mourning mists drift away“–I can almost see what that looks like and how that feels. Even though my life is full and I have a lot of happiness to share, I know that I can always use more hope in my life. Hope is what sustains life. At any moment, life can change–it is a fragile balance of enjoying every blessing and knowing that life will always encompass sorrow and suffering.

Here are 2 of the most important blessings in my life:
even now--the sun rises
I can’t even begin to describe the hope I have for these little hands:
even now--the sun rises
Today, we were lucky enough to share the perfect morning with Froo & Boo’s friend. He is a sweetie. So is his mommy. The weather was really amazing: sun shining, blue skies, fresh air, slight chill and as clear as it gets in the SF bay area.
even now--the sun rises
I think the boys may need to take a lesson from Froo on “How To Pose for the Camera”:
even now--the sun rises
We even caught a glimpse of San Francisco:
even now--the sun rises
Thank you, Mary Tang, for your amazing poem and for ordering Froo & Boo products! The meaning you have attached to the cloud pillows with your custom message is just the kind of thing that I have been dreaming about for my little handmade business. The fluffy clouds are in the mail–I hope you will love them as much as I loved making them!

Granny Squares (Trapezoids)?

Granny Squares
One year ago, the hubs & I were excitedly planning our move to the SF bay area and knew that the start of 2013 would be entirely different and unknown. We were busy packing our stuff and getting our place “show-home” ready. I stopped sewing because of the mess it made. My fingers were itching, so I decided to take up crochet. I’ve tried knitting, but totally failed. I figured crochet would be like snowboarding. I took up snowboarding after skiing for many years because I thought there was less chance of error with one board, rather than with 2 skis. Same concept with a crochet hook and a pair of knitting needles?

As you can probably tell, my logical reasoning skills are flawed. So are my spatial reasoning skills. I know this because the LSAT told me so. A loooong time ago, as I was heading towards my university graduation, without a clue at a career path, my dad did what any concerned Asian dad would do: he registered for me to take the LSAT and paid for my law school application fee. Whaaaat?? A month before I wrote the LSAT, I cracked open an LSAT practice test book and thought, how hard can this be? Then I saw questions like this:

I panicked and closed the book. I opened it a week later and sat down to try again. I was 99% certain that I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but that’s not what concerned me. I needed to know that I could visually deconstruct something and reconstruct it in a different perspective. I knew that I wanted my career path to somehow intersect with visual design, so I wasn’t ready to fail at something that I thought should be a natural ability in creative people. Since then, I’ve discovered that it doesn’t really matter what your natural abilities are if you have a strong willingness to learn new skills. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to solve a rubik’s cube, nor build fancy legos with Froo & Boo, but I’m ok with that. When I try to figure out how in the heavens I’m supposed to sew lining into a garment, I take my time and turn to YouTube, because YouTube is the modern-day-teacher-of-everything-there-is-to-know. I learned how to hula hoop watching YouTube videos.

Anyhoo, back to knitting: you have one ball of yarn and 2 sticks. That’s it. How is my brain supposed to understand how a ball of yarn can become something so beautiful? I could only ever manage to knit a scarf because I had a friend to coach me at every mistake and cast on/off for me. Dropping and adding a stitch–this kind of stuff would make my brain explode.

This is a photo of my one “successful” knitting project that I knit more than 10 years ago. A skinny scarf that is really long because I only stopped knitting when I ran out of yarn. Even after wrapping it around my neck twice, it is still really long. It gets caught on EVERYTHING: car doors, shopping carts, zipper pulls, chairs…
Long Skinny Scarf
Forward to crochet: I found this video on Youtube, bought yarn and a crochet hook. It took a loooooong time. I must have stopped and hit the rewind button a thousand times. But then, I totally got it–Eureka! I was super pumped that I overcame some spatial reasoning hurdles and learned how to crochet.

My first granny square took many attempts before I completed it. It has very loose tension. This photo shows both the front and back:
granny squares
Each square turned out a different size and shape. Side-by-side comparison of some granny squares:
Granny Squares
Granny Squares
Here is the kicker: my mom is amazing at crochet. AMAZING. She can simply look at something and recreate it. She makes up her own designs. She tried to teach me when I was young, but I wasn’t interested–I thought crochet was old-fashioned–silly me. She taught me to sew, which I am forever grateful for. When we were at my parents’ house over the holidays, I brought some yarn and a crochet hook to make more granny squares while we chilled together. She was watching me crochet and said: “you are holding the hook all wrong.” Then she took my hook and showed me how to hold it and continued, really fast, to crochet my granny square. Then she said: “your crochet hook is the wrong size. It’s too big.” Um, ok mom, but what about the 75 other granny squares I already made? I’m glad I started with really cheap, 100% cotton yarn!
Granny Squares
I just kept on crocheting throughout the holidays, with the wrong grip and the wrong hook. I was planning on making a navy blue lap blanket with some random white squares sewn in. But then I encountered a problem: the white yarn is thicker than the blue yarn, even though it’s the same brand, making my white granny squares bigger (about the same size as my first ever granny square). This new-found knowledge has caused some indecision about my original plans, which has now halted all production of granny squares. My new year’s resolution: to complete this beast so I can kick spatial reasoning’s ass and stitch it into a blanket. I will definitely end up with an asymmetrical blanket.
Granny Squares
As for my earlier reference about snowboarding… I came back to San Mateo really sore. Then I had hip pain one day. Then at night, I couldn’t move my left leg and I had intense pain. The hubs had to half-carry me to the bathroom, while I hobbled and cried. I went to an excellent chiropractor the very next day and found out that my leg was jammed into the hip socket. The chiropractor must be a genius in spatial reasoning–to figure out how my body was misaligned, how it affected everything else and how to fix me. GENIUS.

Another resolution: to exercise. It’s embarrassing to say that I don’t exercise at all. Sure, I run after Froo & Boo, but that’s it. So I signed up for a yoga class. I also bought a pair of 2-pound weights. The hubs laughed at me because little Boo was playing with them as if they were baby toys.

Some more resolutions: the next time I see my mom, I plan to bring this pattern, with the recommended yarn and the correct hook–to learn how to crochet her way. The next time the Froo & Boo family is up at Whistler, the hubs and I both agree that we will take ski lessons together, along with the kids, so we can ski as a family. There is always so much to learn.

As for this wordy post–I don’t always have so much to write–but I’ve found that it’s much easier to think while crocheting than sewing because the latter is so loud and fast. Crocheting slows down the world and gives you a quiet place to think. As a reward for sticking around, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of my mom when she was young. A bikini that she crocheted herself! Out of some sort of waterproof nylon-type yarn. With those abs! Whaaaaat?? I must have my dad’s genes. He is very handsome. Although, he did all of my high school Physics homework for me. Go figure.
Crochet Bikini
Crochet Bikini

December 20, 1975, Toronto, ON

My parents’ wedding day: December 20, 1975 / Toronto, ON

* I bought the background grey fabric with the sleeping monsterz with my Project Run & Play winnings!

The “half” handmade hostess gift

* This post was pre-written at the beginning of December when I was making handmade Christmas gifts that I wanted to keep a surprise. We are now back home in the SF bay area after spending 3 weeks in Vancouver. I’m itching to start sewing again–it’s been so long! *

The older I get, the more I appreciate useful gifts. When I was younger, my dad once came home from a Korean golf tournament with a box of instant noodles for hitting a hole-in-one. The big prizes were: laundry detergent, sacks of rice and the most prized, gallons of sesame oil. For participating, everyone went home with bars of soap or toothpaste. I never understood why the prizes couldn’t be more interesting. But I get it now–unless something is going to be used in the home, it becomes useless.

After our big move, we got rid of a lot of “stuff” and I am trying to do with as little new “stuff” as possible. I still love shopping, I’m just a whole lot pickier and much less sentimental. Unfortunately, handmade gifts usually fall under the “sentimental” category. So this post will try to explain how my brain works at coming up with ideas for useful handmade gifts.

These are the 3 kitchen towels we own. Old, dingy and gross. I definitely need new ones. I’m not sure why we always have all 3 out at the same time–on laundry day, we have no kitchen towels. Hmm… maybe I should make some.
Kitchen Towels
Ok, why make my own kitchen towels when there are perfectly good ones at Williams-Sonoma? The towels cost $19.99 for 4. To purchase, cut and hem terry cloth fabric, there is no reason for a cost-benefit analysis here–it’s a no-brainer. Besides, the towels have an amazing texture, they’re absorbent and lint-free.
Williams-Sonoma Towels
Ooooh, look at this lovely fabric on sale at fabric.com (both by Michael Miller: “Retro Put a Lid on It” in nite blue and “Sorbet French Toast” in agua–now sold out.). These prints make me want to drink coffee in pretty cups. But wait, I don’t need it. Maybe I can add a border to the bottom of the Williams-Sonoma towel. I should go to the mall to pick some up. Oh my, the towels come in navy blue, too! SOLD!
Fabric for Kitchen Towels
I love my new kitchen towels! I should make some for Mama & Yeye for hosting us over the Christmas holidays–I can never find a towel in their kitchen. I should make some for my parents, whose towels are older than mine. I should make lots and lots!
Half Handmade Kitchen Towels
Half Handmade Kitchen Towels
Half Handmade Kitchen Towels
I’m so glad I didn’t make my own towels! These ones even come with a loop to hook onto the inside of the pantry door.
Half Handmade Kitchen Towels
Hey, who’s that cutie peaking at me? I better close the door before he comes looking for snacks.
Half Handmade Kitchen Towels
So that is what goes through my mind. How to make them? Super easy, trust me.

  1. Measure the width of your towel. Optional: prewash towels and fabric.
  2. Cut a piece of fabric 5″ high x (width of your towel + 1″). Optional: serge or zigzag edges. 
  3. Iron all sides down 1/2″ so the edges are tucked inside.
  4. Pin fabric to the bottom of the towel. I kept a small border of the towel showing around the edges.
  5. Top stitch the fabric onto the towel.
  6. Make 11 more.

Great gift for anyone with a kitchen, really. It can also be combined with a bunch of other useful kitchen things like nice-smelling hand soap, cooking utensils or a cookbook. For my in-laws and parents, I combined the 2 kitchen towels with Trader Joe’s Fresh Linen Scent Anti-bacterial Hand Soap, Peet’s Holiday Blend Coffee and Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark with Dark Chocolate. All 100% useful gifts (especially the last one).
Half Handmade Kitchen Towel

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!
Wishing you and your loved ones a heartfelt happy new year! I have been incredibly blessed with a wonderful 2012–I can’t believe the year is over and a new one is already beginning. 2012 in a nutshell: we celebrated Boo’s 1st birthday, sold our home in Vancouver, moved to the SF bay area for the hubs’ work, I started blogging, Froo started Pre-Kindergarten, my niece was born, the Froo & Boo handmade business was established, and now we are back in Vancouver for the holidays. Fewf!

Between Christmas & New Years, we were up at Whistler mountain. Unbelievable. Every time I am on top of a mountain, I cannot get over how beautiful it is. The weather was perfect. Packed powder snow conditions. My heart was singing. That is, until I had to focus on not falling down the mountain on my snowboard. I hadn’t gone boarding in over 5 years–my gear is antiquated, my gloves were falling apart, my goggles were foggy, my post-post-pregnancy fat toes were frozen numb… I still managed to have a great time, but I had to call it quits pretty early and took the gondola down the mountain. The hubs made it down faster than I did and had already ordered a beavertail for me by the time I got down. Yummy. Now I feel like my legs are broken. Lessons learned: 1. I am not cool enough for snowboarding if my legs don’t work. 2. I need to exercise. 3. I am going to return to skiing next year.

The hubs & I took Froo snowtubing one afternoon while Boo was napping with grandparents. It was really scary. Froo was scared. The hubs, at 6’3″ was flying down the mountain. He was scared. The hubs & I both agree that Boo would love it once he reaches the age & height requirements.
Happy New Year!
Thank you so much for visiting my little blog. It’s really nice to know that there are people out there who appreciate my creative endeavours to provide my kids with handmade goodies. I hope I can inspire you to create with and for your kids–I’ve found it to be a very happy and meaningful process. I’m looking forward to life in 2013. Cheers!