26 Oct

DIY Fabric Name Labels

how to make fabric labels
Now that my little ones are in school, and now that we are back in the Midwest and dealing with significantly more layers than we had in Miami, it’s time to refresh our stash of fabric name labels. These are great for sewing into hats, scarves and mittens for winter, and the extra set of clothes the teachers like to have on hand at school. They are also great for nap blankets, lunch bags and jackets. Basically, if you can sew onto it, you can use these labels on it.

This tutorial should equip you with everything you need to know to make your own set of fabric labels.


*Note:  these are not affiliate links, just examples of the products I personally use.

Step 1:  Type and Print
I use Microsoft Word for this step.  Using your space wisely, you can get a lot of names on a single page.  Your first step is to type the name a bunch of times, getting as many to the page as possible.  The second, very important, step is to reverse the font.   We do this so that the type is printed backwards on the iron-on transfer paper, then when we iron onto the twill tape (step 2), the name reads the right way.

In Microsoft Word, you have to use a few tricks to do this.  The first thing to know is that you need to type each name in a text box.  To add a text box to the page and reverse the text:


  • Click then the drop down arrow for and choose .  This will drop a text box into your document.
  • Highlight the text provided, and add your child’s name.  Center the text.
  • Then, to get rid of the black border, click on the text box and under choose then .

To reverse the text:


  • Right click on the text box and choose
  • In the box that appears, choose at the very top
  • Then choose just below that (the outlined A)
  • Under change the X-rotation to 180 degrees.  Your text is reversed!

Now using your copy-paste feature, make copies of that reversed text and place them all over your page.  Here’s a snapshot of mine all printed out:


A few things to consider:

  • Remember the height of your twill tape (mine is 1/2″) and be sure to leave a little room at the top and bottom.  Different fonts have different heights even at the same font size, so your test print will help with size.
  • You can change colors!  I make a rainbow of different colored names so that I can match the garment.
  • Leave a little space on all sides of the text so that you can easily cut around it.

Finally, do a test print on regular paper to make sure everything prints as expected, colors are easy to read, and font sizes aren’t too big or too small.  Then, following the instructions that came with your paper, print on your iron-on transfer paper.

Step 2:  Iron On
This step may vary depending on instructions that came with your iron-on transfer paper.  For the paper I use, I need a very hard “ironing board” covered by something slightly soft.  I use an old wooden cutting board with a crisply ironed, also old, pillowcase on top.  You want a hot iron with no steam, so no water in the reservoir.  Once you have your iron and board ready:

  • Cut out each name on the printed transfer paper.  You can cut close to the name, and want to make sure that your final cut transfer paper isn’t taller than your twill tape (if it is, when you iron, you’ll get transfer on your ironing board).
  • Think about how you want to sew your labels into your garments.  I like to have options, so some of my labels get sewn in on a side seam which means the twill tape is folded over before sewing.  This means I need twice as much twill tape for that label – half that has the name and half that is plain white.  Other labels I like to sew flat, so I just need twill tape that is slightly larger than my name, leaving room on each side to fold the cut edge under for sewing.
  • Iron and cut!

I keep about 20 of these name labels on hand in a variety of shapes and colors for each of my kids so that I can add them to whatever needs labeled.  They tuck neatly into the top of my sewing machine tool box, easy to grab and quick to sew in!

22 Sep

My Passion Project

I’ve been thinking a lot about passion projects lately, in part driven by tiffany han’s awesome podcast called “Raise Your Hand and Say Yes”  (check her out!).  Passion projects, loosely defined, are side projects that we do just for us, that extend our knowledge in an area, or feed our creative souls in ways not met by our regular routine.  Lisa Congdon had a passion project that turned into a couple of books.  Sometimes that happens.  But that’s not the goal.  The goal is to grow in new and interesting and sometimes challenging ways.


I took some time recently to brainstorm ideas for my own little passion project.  Wanting to enhance my Spanish vocabulary and learn to doodle better, I thought about doodling a Spanish word a day.  But meh.  I like to write and occasionally send random little poems to my friends through snail mail.  So I thought about a project I was calling (in my head) “52 haikus” in which I would write one per week.  But again, it didn’t excite me.  


So I went back to some thoughts I wrote down recently about the things that are really, super important to me.  One of them was kindness.  In particular, wanting to put more kindness into the world.  Yes.  Now that resonates.


I’ve been writing a lot of complaint letters lately.  To our daycare director about teacher shortages.  To the local subaru dealership about their terrible, horrible customer service.  To amazon for failing to get packages to me on time when the whole point of me paying for 2 day shipping was to avoid a late night trip to Target to get that last minute gift for the 5 year old’s party on Saturday.  I’m great at complaint letters.  They pour out of me succint, direct, and most of the time, elicit a good response.  But whew, they take a toll on me.  I get fired up.  I get mad.  And then I rehash it by re-reading that letter that explains so well why I’m angry.  It’s a negative cycle.


Then one day, I wrote a thank you note.  It was simple.  Just a little postcard to my librarian aunt who sent the perfect books for my little ones.  And it felt so good to send that little postcard. I was happy all the way to the mailbox.  I liked the idea of that message traveling from Florida to Iowa and delivering kindness.


And there it is.  My passion project:  100 thank you notes.  Simple and kind.  I’m counting that postcard to Iowa as #1.  And I’ve written #2 to a local elementary school principal who helped us successfully transfer out of her school (she was so generous – and we were leaving!).  Today #3 went out to my in-laws who are still here, but leaving tomorrow after a long visit in which they gave us a lovely reprieve from feeling so very isolated these hundreds and hundreds of miles away from family.

Want to join me?  I’ll be capturing my project on instagram @ahnaleemarie.  Tag me in your posts if you decide to play along!


Photo credit to vistamommy on flickr creative commons.

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10 Sep

Why I Gift Handmade for the Holidays

At the beginning of September I begin to get a little anxious about the holiday season and all the planning and preparation that the fall months entail. I bust out spreadsheets and my trusty bullet journal and make extensive lists.  From the outside, I admit the whole scene probably looks a wee bit crazy.

This week, as I feel the anxiety start to ramp up, I took a moment to think about the “why”.  Why do I do this in September?  Why do I try to organize and coordinate and plan out every detail so far in advance?  And, perhaps most relevant to this blog, why do I plan for so many handmade gifts, when it would be so much easier to click 3 times at Amazon and have them delivered?

The early timing has everything to do with wanting a peaceful holiday.  Once Thanksgiving arrives, and through New Year’s, I no longer want to be shopping and wrapping and sewing.  I want to enjoy the calm and magic and peace of the season.  I want to drive around and look at lights, I want to bake cookies without hectic last minute trips to the grocery store for supplies, and I want to feel excited to give meaningful, heartfelt gifts.  To make that happen requires planning and preparation and in some ways “Christmas in September.”  It requires an enormous spreadsheet that lays out our traditions and the people we want to present with gifts.  This process brings me peace during the season, even if it makes early September, before I have a good plan in place, feel a little overwhelming.

The additional element of gifting handmade is so important to me.  When I give handmade, I give a piece of me.  For my kids, that means they have something under the tree that doesn’t flash or make noise, but is often soft and snuggly and warm and sweet.  Handmade holiday also means special pillowcases just for December, and a skirt under our tree that was made just for our family.

For our many extended family members, these handmade gifts are an expression of love that can be hard to put into words with the people we care about sometimes. I realized recently that this expression is easily missed by family members who don’t understand the time and energy that go into the gift.  I quickly decided that doesn’t matter to me.  I want that new grand-niece to be swaddled in handmade goodness, and for her mama to have handmade burp cloths.  I want fresh kitchen linens for my mom that came from my sewing machine, and a warm hand-knit sweater for my husband to wear as we brave the Midwest winter on our holiday hiatus from the Miami heat.  And I want to sew and knit and experience the joy I get from selecting fabrics and yarns and deciding on the perfect gift to make for my loves.

So bring on September and the lists and spreadsheets.  Bring on the many trips to the fabric shop and the packages of crafting supplies that will soon begin arriving.  The fun is in the making as well as the gifting.

07 Jul

Crochet Bowl with Bias Trim Tutorial

crochet bowl with bias trim


I needed a sturdy little bowl as a catch-all for my desk, and came up with this lovely little design.  I used crochet over a clothesline to give it strength (and boy is it strong!), and then added a trim of 1/2 inch bias tape in a pretty floral print.




Want to make your own?  Here’s my basic pattern:

Hook size:  J
Yarn:  super bulky (or use two strands of worsted)

Round 1:  Begin with a magic circle, ch 1, single crochet (sc) 10 stitches in the circle, then slip stitch to close your circle.

  • Lay your clothesline on top of your yarn with a little hanging over.  You will make each single crochet over the clothesline so that you trap it in the stitch (see photo below).  stitch
  • As you move through round 1, you can tug the clothesline a bit so that the end gets tucked into the stitches.

Round 2:  Continue around by making 2 singlecrochet stitches in each of the stitches in your magic circle (total = 20 sc).

Round 3:  *2 sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the next stitch* – repeat around (total = 30 stitches)

Round 4:  *2 sc in the first stitch, 1 sc in the next stitch, 1 sc in the next stitch)* – repeat around (total = 40 stitches)

Rounds 5-10:  1 sc in each stitch (40 stitches)

Finish with a slip stitch in the next 2 or 3 stitches to taper at the top

You’ll want to pay attention to the shape as you go, perhaps tightening the clothesline a bit now and then to keep the shape uniform.

Bias Tape: To add the bias tape, simply place it along the top with the rim of the bowl tucked into the fold.  I found it easier to hand-sew the bias tape in place, but if your bowl is large enough, you could machine stitch it in place instead.  When you reach the starting point, simply fold the raw edge of the bias tape under and sew it in place.

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08 Jan

DIY Pen Holder for Moleskine Journal

DIY pen holster for moleskine journalA few months ago I mentioned my shift to using the Bullet Journal method for organization.  I’m still finding this to be an awesome way to keep everything in one place, and my bullet journal goes everywhere with me.

The trouble was, how to keep track of a pen?  Though awesome in literally every other way, the Moleskine Journal still has this as a major drawback.

Naturally, I put my DIY skills to work and created a super functional, super sturdy pen holster for my classic sized Moleskine Journal (5″ x 8.5″).  I wrote a full tutorial and if you can sew a straight line, you can sew one of these beauties for yourself!

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06 Oct

DIY Candy Corn Halloween Costume

DIY Candy Corn Halloween Costume

DIY Candy Corn Halloween Costume

With Halloween coming quickly, I needed to do a little sewing to get our little one ready for her first round of trick-or-treating.  This awesome tutorial from Climbing the Willow had the pattern that I needed for a sweet little a-line dress (in multiple sizes, too!).





With pattern in hand, I went about figuring out how to get the proportions right, and a few additional questions.  Here’s what I can share with you:

  • For the 18-month-old size dress, 7″ stripes were just right for that perfect candy corn look.
  • I used inexpensive cotton broadcloth, and because of this, decided to line the dress with an extra layer of white broadcloth.  I still did facings for the neckline and sleeve openings, but used two layers of fabric (striped and white) for the front and back panels).
  • For the hat, I found an extra birthday hat in our party supplies, covered it with white cardstock, and replaced the thin, sure-to-break elastic with 1/4″ elastic (stapled to the inside).  Easy and cute and no big deal if she loses it!

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24 Jul

DIY Diaper Changing Pad

diy diaper changing padI really wanted a quick, easy DIY project during my last pregnancy.  When I stumbled across laminated cottons, in all their adorable glory, I knew they were for me.  They don’t ravel, so you can cut and sew and be done with it – no turning, no pinking shears, no fancy hems. And they repel moisture, so you can get them wet/dirty and they clean up easy with just a damp cleaning cloth.

The options are endless for projects.  I made a custom-fit tablecloth, a water-resistant ipad cover, and this sweet little changing pad for our new baby.  This changing pad was especially easy:

  • cut a 21″ square of the laminated cotton
  • cut a 21″ square of coordinating felt (for the back)
  • line the two pieces up wrong sides together
  • sew a zig zag stitch around the entire edge
  • DONE!

I chose felt for the back for two reasons.  One was very pragmatic – I had a bunch in my stash.  The other reason was that felt is pretty non-slip on fabric surfaces.  Since we use the guest bed for our diaper changing station, this worked well for us.

If you have a hard surface, you might want to choose a fabric that is a little more non-slip.  For instance, the material that goes on the bottom of footed-pajamas or slippers. (Yeah!  You can buy that at the fabric store!).

Since there are just two layers in this changing pad, it’s very lightweight.  This makes it perfect for travel – just roll and go.  And travel-size versions would be especially useful for a new mom.

17 Jun

Bullet Journaling

bulletI love technology, I really do. But for some reason, I’ve been unable to find just the right system to help me with time management. I’ve tried a million different apps, I’ve created custom google doc pages to try to fit my needs, and I’ve read, and read, and read. No luck.

About a month ago, I stumbled on bullet journaling. It is old school, pen and paper, in a lovely moleskine journal. I have to say, it’s awesome.

The drawback is there is no built-in month-at-a-glance calendar in the method. So I put in a few hours on illustrator and set myself up for the rest of 2014 (available in my Etsy shop, if you’re interested). I keep two months at a time in my moleskine, with the rest tucked into the back pocket for easy reference. About 4 weeks in, I’m still really happy with this system. Ridiculously happy, in fact.

In the back, I have pages for the classes I teach, for the two vacations we are hoping to take next year, for gift giving, and for craft projects (of course!). I’ve also hacked a way to attach my pen to the cover so that it’s always handy. The whole system tosses easily into my tote, and allows me quick reference on the train, standing in line, or in waiting rooms.

21 May

Crochet Rug from Fabric Yarn (mini tutorial)

Crochet rug from fabric yarnWe needed a little rug for a sweet reading spot in the kids’ bedroom. I wanted something round and something chocolate brown (translation: won’t show dirt too quickly) and something deliciously soft. Very hard to come by, as it turns out.

I kept reading about all these people who make fantastic rugs from t-shirts and scrap fabric and such, but much of it seemed too thin for what I wanted in this rug. When I fingered through a bunch of fabric at my local fabric shop, however, I found this amazing stretch velour! Stretch velour! Just the words sound soft and sink-your-toes-in. And as it turns out, it absolutely is. I bought 9 yards.

Following the very clear instructions on how to cut continuous fabric strips at Micah Makes, I cut 1-inch strips.  I chose to do 1 yard at a time to keep things manageable.  The trouble with this fabric is that it sheds like crazy when you cut it.  One solution is to stretch out those strips outside.  But in the Miami heat, that was pretty uncomfortable.  And it left me covered in chocolate brown lint.  The other solution, which works really well, is to toss the cut yardage into the dryer on tumble (no heat) for about 15 minutes.  This definitely gets the lint out.  But it leaves your “yarn” in a very tangled mess.  So if you’re not a patient person, this might push you over the edge.  For me, it was the perfect thing to do when I was too tired to Crochet Rug from Fabric Yarndo anything else at the end of a long day.

From there, it’s all crochet.  Using a size N crochet hook, I started with a magic loop, put 6 double crochet stitches in there, and then 2 stitches in each of those stitches for round 2.  I continued increasing from there, each round increasing the number of stitches in between:

Round 3:  1 dc, 2 dc in next stitch – repeat around

Round 4:  2 dc, 2 dc in next stitch – repeat around

Round 5:  3 dc, 2 dc in next stitch – repeat around

After 5 rounds of straight increases, I started to add in some rounds with no increases (1 dc in each stitch around).  After each round, I laid the rug out flat to make sure I wasn’t increasing too quickly, or not quickly enough.

Though I’m not quite finished, I have about a yard of fabric to go, I have a lovely rug that’s about 3.5 feet diameter.  My most recent row was 8 dc, 2 dc in the next stitch, so you can see I slowed down the increases as the rug got larger.

It’s a fun project, and I really love how the rug feels under foot. Though I spent less on fabric than I would have on a commercial made rug, the time spent is definitely more “expensive.”  In my case though, it’s exactly what I wanted, so that makes it worthwhile :).

15 May

Free Printable Lunchbox Love Notes for Kids

lunchbox-love-notesOne of my favorite things about sending a homemade lunch to school with my little one is tucking in a little love note among the crackers and juice and other goodies.  He’s a little too small to read, but his teacher always helps him out.  And I love thinking of the myriad ways I love the little guy.

Today I’m making my lunch box love notes available as a free printable here at the blog.  I sell these in my Lucky Duck Designs shop at Etsy in both digital and paper form as well.

If you’d like to print a few and spread the lunchbox love, just click on the image to download the file!