DIY Birth Ball Cover

Recently, I've had a blast using one of my Christmas presents from Strider -- a birth ball! In truth, it's just an exercise ball, but for doulas, it's a magic birth tool. They're fabulous for everyone, but especially pregnant mamas. The only problem is that they are tricky to transport -- I've heard from more than one doula about experiences chasing them across hospital parking lots or down maternity hallways. With my prenatal appointments well underway, I can easily agree. YourDoulaBag.com makes a fabulous cover that can even be ordered with custom print fabric. However, as I am trying to keep my expenses to a minimum, I figured this was a great opportunity to use up some of my stash fabric. I found only one other tutorial but I wanted a slightly different style. So, for anyone else looking to make their own, here's how I went about it.

To start, I pulled out large piece of a green batik print that I got on clearance a few years ago, measuring around 85" x 44". (Note: the colors aren't as pretty in the pics as in person, it's actually a lovely deep green.) I didn't use a pattern or have exact measurements before starting this -- I figured I'd go large and just cut off excess as I figured out how to build the cover around the ball.
I placed the ball in the center and pinned it at the top to see how much excess I could trim from the sides.
Right-sides facing each other, I sewed the short sides with a sturdy seam (red and yellow together).
Next, I folded one of the open ends up by an inch and sewed it to create the casing for the drawstrings.
To make the drawstrings, I used long strips of another stash fabric to create one long piece (it ended up about 10' long but I could've probably done with 8.5' or so in the end). I did a double-fold similar to a bias strip for quilting. It started around 3" wide but was 3/4" once the double fold was done.
 I finished the edges by hand and then sunk the ends into the hem.
Putting a safety pin through one end, I slowly fed the drawstring through the casing. Once done, Strider and I had a good laugh about how it basically looked like a skirt we could've both fit in.
Next, I put the ball inside and gathered the string to see how much excess I could remove from the top. 
(Many thanks to my handsome Vanna White.)
I ended up removing around 5.5" of extra before sewing across that edge. I placed the ball back inside and then tried to see how to finish the top. Sidenote: I had a good laugh picturing it as a giant Yoda head - Strider didn't see it quite as humorously as I did
Next, I pinned the two corners to the center-top using a safety pin through all three layers.
Then, I made the strap using the same stash fabric as the drawstring - it ended up around 3.5" x 36".
To secure the strap to the cover, I doubled the ends over around 2" and stitched them down.
After a little trial & error modeling with Strider, I decided to attach the straps at 10" distance from the top center point. The teal circle is the safety pin holding Yoda's ears in place. The red dots are where I pinned down the strap...just in line with the pin after I took the picture.
I sewed the edges of the straps on in a square and then x-shape to really secure them. I finished the cover by hand-sewing the center top point (the safety pin with Yoda's ears). I also sewed a decorative button over it to cover the gather-point. Then it was ready to go!
 Once again, a thank you to my ever-patient and supportive husband! Note: I made the strap extra long so that I still have room to also carry my labor bag on the same arm.
Overall, I'm really happy with how it turned out. It look about 3.5 hours, but if you wanted to cut that down, you could use a thin rope instead of making the drawstring by hand. The bag is also a little larger than necessary, but I think that is beneficial as it gives room for me to pump the ball up more or to even go up a size if needed in the future (mine is a 65cm). Total cost = $0.00 ...my favorite!

Has anyone else made a cover from scratch?


major life update

Hi friends! It may surprise you to learn that I have not actually fallen into a well or been carried off by large birds...just been taking a bit of a blog break while busy working on other things. I don't have any projects to share today, but hoped I could share exciting life news otherwise!

First off, my hand(s) recovery is coming along very well. I've been released from PT and other than one slightly disgruntled thumb, I have almost all my normal function back. Absolutely no more numbness, tingling, or pain waking me up at night—surgery was a challenge but so worth it! 

Second news is that I have a new job! I started two weeks ago as an administrative assistant for the arts center of a prestigious school nearby. The people are super nice, it's much less stressful, and it's really fun to be surrounded by the arts again. God is an amazing provider! Plus...it will be much more conducive to my third piece of news:

I've finally figured out what I want to do! While out for surgery, I told Strider I felt like I needed to spend the time at home praying about / figuring out what I really wanted to pursue. Through a series of beautiful events, the perfect answer revealed itself: I'm now pursuing the path to be a...
If, like many people, you've never heard of doulas, they are birth companions/coaches who provide physical, emotional, and informational support to women & families before, during, and after birth. After much prayer and thought, I've realized that this is where my heart lies and a path which encompasses so many of my passions!

For the last few months I've been diligently researching, meeting with a variety of professionals, and moving forward with this pursuit. Though there are a number of great organizations out there, I decided to do my certification through Childbirth International and I am excited to say that I'm closing in on finishing my certification work. I already have a couple of my student-births lined up and a stack of business cards slowly making their way all over town. It is such an amazing community and I've been encouraged greatly by the response from family, friends, and other professionals I've met thus far. I finally feel confident that I am pursuing a path that God has been leading me towards for many years, I just didn't see it till now (which is often how it goes, it seems!). So if you know any pregnant mamas in the south-central PA area, please send them my way!
That's all folks...all my big, exciting news! I hope you all are doing well and that you are excited about festivities with family and friends next week. See you in 2016, friends!



diy vow embroidery

Happy Tuesday! So...as an update, my surgery went well and recovery is very slow but steady. I got to spend a whole week with both hands wrapped so big I could've given Rocky a run for his money. Thankfully, my mom and hubby are the two most patient, helpful, encouraging, and amazing people in the world!! Also, it's amazing how triumphant you can feel being able to brush your own teeth after two weeks of needing help. Big stuff!

That being said, I'm definitely in a no-project zone for a while so I thought I'd share a project I finished a few months ago. So here goes.... Have a great week, friends!


Possibly my longest-running project to-date, I've finally, finally finished embroidering our wedding vows! 
I got the idea from Megan over at Lilac Saloon, who graciously shared a few pro-tips with me before I got started. 

Shortly after we returned from our honeymoon, I went to Hobby Lobby and found a frame I liked for the project. I knew I wanted it to be blue and large enough to hang over our bed. Next, I blocked everything out in a design program and got it printed at Office Depot.

Using a makeshift homemade light box (aka an under-bed tupperware with Christmas lights in it), I transferred the text to a large piece of natural muslin with a thin-tip permanent marker.
Add 7 months of putting it in a drawer and procrastination plus 22 and a half hours of backstitch hoop embroidery and all the lettering was finally done!

Then, I added a free-hand branches and leaves design at the bottom for a tiny bit of color.
With a lot of help from Strider, I wrapped the fabric around a custom-cut piece of acid-free foam board, pinned it, and laced it tight for framing.
Once again with loads of help from Strider, I put the frame together for a FINALLY finished project!
We wrote our vows ourselves and feel very connected to the words we chose. Having them hung in our home, over our bed, is a great reminder for us to never forget what we promised that day. In case you can't read from the distance in the photo, it reads:

"Today I make a covenant, blessed by God, affirmed by those present, and one 
to which I will hold all the days of my life. I covenant to love you as Christ loved us. I will seek Christ 
for myself and as a partner in our marriage. I will choose you and encourage you, support you and 
be faithful to you. I covenant to pray for you and for our marriage. I promise to laugh with you and 
to remember the joy of our love. I will trust you and listen to you, cherishing the gifts with which God 
has blessed you. I will embrace your family as my own, and work to build our family on God's truth. 
Finally, I promise to always remember that our treasure is stored elsewhere. 
All these things I promise, from this day, until my last."

A very long but worthwhile project finally complete!


shutter shelf

Hi friends! I promise, I didn't fall down a well or anything, we've just been pretty busy lately. 
Two big, quick updates for you:

- Strider started a new job! Which is super exciting and has been great so far. We're both very happy that he is in a 
  more encouraging work environment. Plus, he gets home an hour earlier every day!

- I will have plenty of blogging time coming up here soon as I am having bilateral carpal tunnel surgery this time 
  next week. Eeek! Although I'm no fan of medical procedures, I can certainly say that I am definitely looking
  forward to the end of 2+ years of frustration and pain. Praise God! Doctors orders are 6 weeks off for recovery,
  so reruns-of-The-Office, here I come! (Plus, my beautiful mama will be here.)

And of course, I wouldn't post without sharing a new project. This one took a while to come to fruition. My mom and I snagged a $2 pair of shutters at a thrift store last September and I've been waiting for the right project for them.

To start out, I measured the shutters and sketched up an idea to use them as the sides of a bookshelf. Naturally, I was a bit ambitious and had to start over when my lumber estimation at Lowe's was coming in around $60. No thank you. Back to the drawing board.
I scaled down a bit and managed to get the costs around $25. As you can see, I am not exactly a master carpenter. Strider double checked the math for me. (He's so great!)

After shamelessly convincing Strider's contractor uncle to lend me his keen eye and table saw, I was ready to paint.

Feeling more adventurous, I went for a deep plum color for the shutters. And with all those louvers (new vocab bonus!), painting by hand with a small craft brush was really the only way to go.
Once the shutters were purpley and drying, I used some leftover Minwax Red Oak wood stain to give some color to the fresh cut lumber.
Naturally, I distressed the shutters up a little. I love the imperfections and hand-made authenticity of this look. 
(Note: the top purple panel is a thin piece of plywood for the backer.)

After a bit of convincing, Strider helped me assemble the shelves. I looked at several tutorials that were more complicated and professional, but for my purposes, plain old nails were plenty good enough.
Ta da!! Pretty great, huh?
I have to say, although the color combination of the green and purple is a little crazy up close, I actually like the funky contrast. This is also my first project using a combination of painted and stained pieces, which I also really liked in the end.

It's perfect for our second bedroom/craft area and holds loads of supplies in two nice fabric bins I snagged at Target. Another win for DIY. And thanks again to my mom, who refused to let me leave the store without those shutters, even though I had no use for them at the time.

Back soon!


diy hankie curtain

Hi friends! After wrapping up the Modern Simple Homemaking series a couple weeks ago, I decided to take a mini blog break to recharge. Although it was fun to do the series and certainly a challenge to stick to a posting schedule, I am glad to be back to the usual program.

Anyways, today I'm coming back with a fun and easy sewing project to share...
Vintage Hankie Curtains!

I started collecting vintage handkerchiefs a few years ago to use at my bridal shower tea, but I held on to them looking for just the right project. Purchasing this many hankies is not cost-effective at once but if you have the time to pick up one here or there at a good price, it's much more reasonable.

To start out, I took our existing curtain sheer down and spread it out on the floor. I placed the hankies on top to get a feel for how many more I would need. I originally planned to do two full-length panels but it would've taken a TON more handkerchiefs and ultimately would've looked very busy on the walls.

Instead, I decided to do a single, apron length panel that I could sweep the side. For suggestions on curtain length, check out the West Elm info below:
Apron length is option B - usually about 4" below the sill (source)
After positioning all the hankies in a good arrangement, I pinned all pieces into rows and attached them with a quick pass through the sewing machine. (This part was already done in the picture at the top.)

Next, I arranged the rows together and attached them together. It was a little tricky since all the hankies are different sizes (and none were truly square), but not too difficult. I also tried to line them up to make sure the best border styles showed.

Then, I took a length of double-fold quilt binding, opened it all the way, and pinned it to the back top of the curtain about an inch from the top. Sew along both ends 1/8 inch—this will create the pocket for the curtain rail to pass through and create a cute ruching effect with the remaining top inch. (I borrowed this casing idea from the hankie valences over at Flamingo Toes.)
I also decided to straight-line-cut the bottom of the curtain and add a piece of decorative lace.

After a little help from Strider hanging it up, it was good to go!

 I love the way the light comes in through all the colors!
I tied it back with a simple bit of ribbon; I like the shape of the single panel side sweep. And it shows off the lace edging at the bottom too.

So there you have it, a nice repurpose project for your vintage hankies!


The Classics: Gift Giving & Caregiving

(OR People Love Caring People)

Sorry this post is a wee bit late...the weekend snuck up on me and has been pretty busy till now. We did family photos yesterday with Strider's side of the family, which was followed by an old-fashioned Mennonite hymn sing on the porch. Needless to say, it is a wonderful memory we will cherish forever.

So...here we are...the final post in the Modern Simple Homemaking series! I can't believe it! It has been a really fun six months and I hope at least some of the info I've shared has been helpful. Of course, as I've been researching and reading all this time, I've learned a lot too (though I don't imagine there is ever an "end" to learning about homemaking). So thank you for reading and sharing along with me, everyone!

Today, I want to talk about gift giving and caregiving. I don't know about you, but I absolutely love to give gifts. I'm not so big on receiving them, but I love surprising people with a thoughtful (often homemade) surprise. My mom, on the other hand, is the true caregiver in my life. Sometimes in an indirect way and sometimes in a very literal sense, she is one of the most care-giving people I know. And as you might imagine, whether its a physical gift or the gift of caring, most people out there seem to love being cared for.

Let's start off with gifts. Many people seem stumped when it comes time for special occasion purchases, however, this task (as with almost every other in this series it seems) can be made much easier with a bit of forethought and planning. So here are some quick tips to make gift giving less stressful and more thought-full:

- Think Gifty Year-Round: Listen to friends and family and jot down gift ideas when they mention something of
  interest, no matter what time of year. I use this printable sheet in my Home Management Binder to keep track of
  ideas until the next giving occasion (click for free download):
- Observe Little Opportunities: If a friend mentions something missing in their home or an item that will soon need
  replacing, make note for the next holiday or surprise them with a "for-no-reason" gift. (Ex: my cousin seems to be
  perpetually in need of a new can opener)

- Take Cues from Others' Clues: Just because I think something is super cute, doesn't necessarily mean a 
  friend will. Remember who you're purchasing/making the item for and look at their home decor, color schemes,
  fashion sense, favorite scents, etc. for clues. 

- Traditional Transitionals: Giving gifts during transitional life moments (new house, graduating, new baby) is a
  standard for many people today. If you're feeling extra creative, take time to look in to some of the historical
  symbolism or traditions on which you might create a new spin. For ex: I once gifted a traditional housewarming 
  basket with a tag detailing why each item was included...bread for plenty, salt for flavorful life, honey for 
  sweetness, candle for happiness, etc.
not mine, but the same idea (source)
- Hobbies Schmobbies: Consider what they're in to. Wine enthusiast? Maybe some wine glass charms or a cute
  bottle stopper. Gardeners? A unique planter never goes amiss. Home decor junkie? A HomeGoods gift card.

- Time Is Not Overrated: Especially for parents, a gift of your own time can be a huge blessing. Watching the kids
  so they can take a date night has never been turned down as far as I know. Look for other ways your time might
  be a gift to someone. A friend moving? Older family need some weeding done? Or help cleaning?

- The Age of Gift Cards: Although they might have gotten a bad rap in the past, gift cards are not seen as the faux-
  pas they once were. Sometimes a well-chosen gift card can say much more about thoughtfulness than a 
  last-minute gift. And who doesn't appreciate them, right? 

Last but not least, don't forget that holidays and special occasions don't have to be the only reason for gifting to those you love. Sometimes the unexpected gifts or small gestures of friendship are the ones that have the biggest impact. Occasionally, I see something I know a friend will love, I'll snag it and just hang on to it until I sense that they're having a rough week or could just use a pick-me-up.

As for caregiving, I've found that just being present is often the biggest act of caring that we can give. The entire idea of homemaking is founded on the principle of care. Caring for our family, our home, and our community. So whether it's bringing a box of tea to a coworker with a cold or calling a new mom to see if you can hold her little one while she gets a shower and quick nap, taking the time to see opportunities for care is the biggest step. 

I sometimes miss these opportunities, and of course, there are always ways for each of us to do more. But training myself to ask the question and seek those chances seems to make them appear all the more. So...what are your favorite ways to extend your homemaking care beyond the walls of your home?

Once again everyone, thank you so much for reading and being a part of this series with me. Links to all the posts are on my House & Home page and of course, I'll continue adding homey things as I get back to some of my regularly scheduled (or not so scheduled) blogging!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.


The Classics: Sewing (& A Tutorial)

(OR Homemade Is Cool)

Welcome back, friends! We're nearing the end of the Modern Simple Homemaking series, but there are still a few helpful subjects yet to discuss, and today is one of my favorites...sewing!

There are about a million ways learning to sew has practical applications today, and although some people see it as a outdated skill, I can't tell you how many people have said, "Oh! I didn't know you could sew. Could you help me with ______?" It's definitely a commodity...even if you're like me and not super great at it.

6 reasons that learning to sew is a super friendly thing to do:
Sewing is especially helpful for simple household projects like throw pillows, pillow cases, curtains, table runners, napkins, aprons, kitchen towels, etc. For household sewing project inspiration, check out:

Making clothes is a bit more difficult in my opinion, but it can definitely be helpful to know how to mend or alter clothing, even if you don't make it from scratch. So far, I've attempted: a couple skirts, pajama pants, a girl's dress, and some Halloween costumes. When looking at making clothing, keep in mind that it takes much more time than simpler projects and may not always been cost-effective. Altering secondhand wearables, though, is another story!
Note: if you want to some serious clothes-altering inspiration, check out New Dress A Day
for my niece who should feel loved because to me, sewing clothes is complicated
Learning to make items yourself opens up a lot of opportunities to save money. Have you looked at the price of cute store-bought pillows?! It's insane, especially when using discounted fabric or repurposed fabric can create unique pillow covers for next to nothing!

Sewing is a great green option, especially if you are creative with your fabric sources. Naturally, there are tons of new fabrics on the market, but t-shirts, old towels, sheets, and scraps from other projects can all be recycled and upcycled into new items. Psst...many thrift stores have sections with bulk fabric at great prices too!

Have I mentioned how awesome home-sewn gifts are? Whether it's repairing a friends work apron (which I've done several times), making custom quilted hot pads to match their kitchen colors, or giving a new mom a unique boppy cover...I've yet to find someone who doesn't appreciate homemade fabric gifts.
Knowing you possess such a practical skill is a great feeling to have. Even if you aren't a fantastic seamstress or competitive embroiderer, there is confidence that comes along with real-world skills. Plus, there is immense satisfaction in seeing something really cute and being able to say to yourself, "No way I'm paying that for that...I'll go home and make it myself!" **Cue taking phone photos in the aisle of your fav home goods store**

So now you know that sewing is an awesome thing that everyone should be able to do at least a little bit. Where to go from here? I'm glad you asked!

Find my favorite sewing blogs on my Sewing page. Also, check out these great beginner resources:
And of course, try your local craft or fabric stores to see if they offer classes. Better yet, ask some older women in your community or church...they probably know it all and would love the chance to share it!

AND NOW...a quick, tutorial on How to Make a Plastic Bag "Sock"

All you need is a spare bit of fabric, a short length of elastic, straight pins, and a safety pin.

First, grab a spare bit of fabric (I repurposed a dollar store Valentine's napkin) and estimate how long and wide you want the sock to be. I think this sock ended up around 6" x 22" so the original cut would've been 12" x 22".
Set the main piece aside and use a length of clipping to form the handle. To do this, cut a piece a little longer than you'd like the handle and about 4" wide. Fold it in half and iron the crease the fold both of the outer edges to meet in the middle, iron again. Pin this together and the rough seams should be concealed inside (fun fact - this is also the basic idea when making quilt binding).
Next, go back to your main piece of fabric and fold up the end. This will enclose the elastic at the bottom of the sock. Make sure to make the fold deep enough for your piece of elastic to fit inside. Sew along the top edge to form a little tunnel. (You can also do this on the opposite end to create a small top seam there but the napkin I used already had a seam on that end.)
Take your length of elastic and put the safety pin through the end. Holding one end, use the safety pin to push the other end through the "tunnel" of the seam you just created. Once it's through, trim any excess and safety pin both ends together so it doesn't snap back through.
With the printed side of the fabric on the inside, line up the long edges and pin them together. Also carefully remove the safety pin and instead put a straight pin through the elastic and the end of the long-edge-seam. On the opposite end, lay one end of the handle along the edge of the seam and pin that in place. Sew down the whole length (twice for extra sturdiness). 
The last step is to line up the free end of the handle on the seam on the opposite side of the bag. Put a few stitches there to hold it in place, trim any extra length. Turn the whole thing inside out and start stuffing bags!

Ours (the bigger, not as cute one) hangs on a wall hook inside the laundry closet. We use reusable grocery bags so we don't end up with too many extras, but somehow they always seem to creep in in other ways. We use them mostly to line smaller trash cans around the house. If the sock gets too full, I take them to be recycled.

Total cost = $0
Total time = 35 min

This is certainly not a "fancy" sewing project, but it's a great example of why basic sewing skills are still relevant and helpful today. This household sewing project is easy, practical, and made a great (and free) housewarming gift for a friend's new apartment!

Sidenote: during a recent market day downtown I saw two different stalls selling these exact same style bags, just more uniform looking. Avg price = $15-$20.

Only a couple weeks left! Make sure to come by next week for another fun segment on homemaking made simple!

This post is part of the Modern Simple Homemaking series.
To learn more about this series and see other posts, click the button above.