DIY Glow Cube Night Light

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Let me set the stage for you.  It’s 7:30 PM.  The grandparents are visiting.  Baths have been administered, teeth have been brushed, pajamas have been applied.  Then, just before the bedtime song, my 4 year old bursts into tears.  “I’m AFRAID of the dark!!!”

I was taken by surprise because 1) in April, the sun is still shining bright as day at 7:30 at night in Cleveland, and 2) my son has just never expressed fear of the dark before.  I blame it on the stinkin’ “Glow Pet” commercials. *rassin’ frassin’*

Well, I didn’t have a night light.  We’ve never had need of it before.  What I did have within 5 minutes of scrounging was a string of leftover LED Christmas lights and an old plastic CD organizer.  I grabbed a scrap of fabric to tuck over it and said, “Look!  Now you have a night light!”

This weekend I got out my sewing machine and made the “Glow Cube” official.  This was a simple 15 minute project that I pulled off without ever really doing any math or measuring.  Here’s how you can make your own!

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You will need a large scrap of fabric,  a rectangular plastic bin or basket with lots of ventilation, and a string of Christmas lights.  My lights were LED.  I’d be cautious about using traditional lights because the heat they create seems like it could be a fire hazard.

NOTE:  Now’s as good a time as any to say your results may vary with this project, depending on the type of basket, weight of fabric, and how many or what kind of Christmas lights you use.  PROCEED WITH CAUTION, watch to see if your lights give off a great deal of heat when plugged in for a long time, and just use common sense.  You do NOT want to end up putting a fire hazard in the room with your precious babies!  I feel quite comfortable with mine, but use this night light AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Tutorial

(You can click on this picture for a somewhat better view.)

1) Wrap your fabric WRONG SIDE OUT around your basket, pinching along the corners to pin.  You should create 4 flaps, as if you’re wrapping a present, but we’re going to stop short of the part where you’d fold them all in and tape them.  I used two pins at each corner.  One at the top and one at the bottom.

2) Trim some of the excess off each corner and around the bottom of your bin, leaving about an inch around the sides and about two inches around the bottom.

3) Carefully slip this pinned “lamp shade” off your basket and sew FOUR STRAIGHT LINES at the pins, from top to bottom.  To get the fit right, I tried to make my stitching go EXACTLY where the pins had been.  You can then finish these seems or just press them open with your iron.  You shouldn’t have to worry much about fraying with this project, unless you think you’ll want to throw it in the washing machine.

4) Turn the work so that the RIGHT SIDE of the fabric faces you.  If you have a bone folder, use it to make all your new little corners pointy and professional.  You could also just use a pen cap or closed scissors.  Make sure your “shade” still fits nicely on your plastic bin, and tuck in your loose edges where you want your hem to be.

5).  Pin the hem in place, remove the shade from your bin, and press the hem with your iron.  Use that first crease to mark where your shade actually ends, then fold the excess fabric inside of it.  Press, and stitch.

6) Loosely toss your Christmas lights into your plastic bin and thread the plug in out one of the holes!  You are now ready to put the shade back in place and plug in your glow cube!

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Guaranteed to keep monsters at bay!  Well… maybe not the cutest littlest monsters!

Thanks for visiting my blog!  If you liked this, don’t forget to Pin It!   You might also like this DIY Menu Planning Board, or my post about this year’s DIY Christmas.

-Mac-

On Struggling Through Parenthood

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Earlier this week, the weather was gorgeous, so we went out on the lawn as a family to fly a kite.  It was soul nourishing.

It’s hard to tell from pictures like this, but these days of sticky fingers, tantrums, and meltdowns are hard.  Like, harder than I would ever have believed.  I feel like I’ve been saying, “Let’s just get through these next couple months” since my 18 month old was born.  I’m finally starting to think that maybe it actually won’t get easier any time soon.

The good news is, this life is every bit as beautiful as it is difficult.  I’m at the end of my parenting rope again this week, but I’ve been here frequently.  I pray. I reevaluate my priorities. I try a few new tricks.  We find relief and balance for a little while.  It helps to realize that I’m still learning and growing at this, just like the kids are.

Sometimes my job is to create order and beauty out of the chaos, other times I just need to put away my to-do list so I can discover it.

I recently read this book and this confession and this helpful list.  My husband has been a powerhouse of encouragement through these days, too.  What about you, mama’s?  How do you get up on your down days?

DIY Menu Planning Board

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So, ever since I put together my calendar wall, I’ve wanted to flank it with a couple organizer/pin board thingies.  I shopped and shopped and shopped, but nothing was coming up in the sizes I wanted, and what I did find even halfway suitable cost MUCH more than I was willing to pay.  For a while I just used some of those stick-on cork tiles, but it really wasn’t quite what I wanted.  When you have a giant yearly calendar on your wall, you try to get away from the “car dealership” look as much as possible.

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On the right I made a little file sorter/corkboard/penholder panel, and on the left I wanted something for menu planning and weekly reminders.

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To make my board, I used about a yard of polyester utility fabric (think the stuff that they make hanging shoe organizers or sweater holders, or even reusable shopping bags out of), about 4 scraps of cute quilting fabric, some grommets, a pack of double fold bias tape, those same cork tiles I had before, and some freezer paper.  All of these things are available at Walmart!

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And, oh yeah. You’ll totally need this stuff, too.  Heat’n’Bond Lite Sewable Iron-On Adhesive.  (You can also pick this up at Walmart.)  Seriously.  And I guess if you think my cork board is super lame and aren’t in the mood to make one of your own, you might just hang in here with me anyway, ’cause I’m totally going to show you how I do appliqué, and that’s a super useful skill to have for ANY project!  (Especially gifts!)

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First thing’s first.  You gotta print out your letters.  I wanted to keep a somewhat modern feel to this project, so I chose a simple Hevetica font in 250 pt.  Bold.  You can do whatever you want.  Just don’t use Comic Sans.  That font will make everyone hate you.  Don’t ask me how I know this.

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Now most appliqué tutorials tell me I need to print out my designs in reverse then trace them onto the non-shiney side of the Heat’n’Bond.  But looky what I figured out:

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Just flip that sucker over, rub it with quarter onto the papery, non-shiney side of your Heat’n’Bond sheet, and boom!  Image transferred in reverse, just the way you’ll need it!  I wish I would have figured that out earlier in the project because it is SO much faster than tracing!

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Go ahead and cut your letters apart (BUT DON’T CUT THEM OUT!) and iron them onto the WRONG side of your fabric scraps.  By the way, did I mention you’ll want this to be COTTON fabric?  That’s important.  VERY important.  Once you’ve adhered the Heat’n’Bond, you can get out your fabric scissors and cut the letters out.  Peel the paper and there should be a shiny coating on the wrong side of your fabric letters.

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Oh my!  This is when things start to get really, really exciting!  Cut two pieces of your backing fabric 13″ wide and, really, whatever length you want.  I did 26″.  Then measure, so you get letters spaced apart just right!  I’ve got a fancy smancy quilt ruler so…

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Yay!  I love making things all straight and perfect, don’t you?  And now it’s time to iron them onto your fabric!!!  Could you be more excited?!  I dove right in with gusto!

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Oh. No.

This is what happens when you iron polyester utility fabric.  First of all, I know what you’re thinking.  I’m not stupid.  I knew that stuff would melt like butter.  But just look at this again:

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I mean, COME ON!  Look at how cute all my letters are!  Wouldn’t you have gotten a little overzealous, too?  But if you make your own, seriously.  Don’t.  Don’t get carried away.  Trust me, I know what it is to get caught up in the moment.  To lose you head.  I had to start all over.  Be smart.  Use protection.

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By protection, I mean a pressing cloth, or just a piece of scrap cotton fabric, and try to use the lowest effective heat setting on your iron.  I bumped mine up gradually just until I could tell it was getting the job done.  Otherwise, you can do what my mother suggests and stay away from the fabric I chose all together and go with a quilting cotton.  I just didn’t want to do that.  I thought, maybe, just maybe using this weird utility fabric would make my project look more “store bought”.

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Now, another thing about this fabric I chose… Um… Maybe my mother was right, because while MOST fabric has given me no trouble when I went to stitch on the appliqué, this one required a “tear away stabilizer”.  Luckily, a lot of those tracing appliqué tutorials warned about this sort of thing long ago, so I chose to CAREFULLY iron some freezer paper to the back of the work.

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To keep things looking clean and modern, I chose to appliqué with a straight stitch.  If you look closely at my presser foot, there’s a tiny mark in the center that I used to keep my stitching lined up evenly with the edge of my appliqué.  If your machine is similar you’ll probably want to adjust your needle position.

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You adjust your needle position with the same gear or button you’d use to adjust stitch width (like for a zig zag stitch) on your machine.  This dial controls mine.  Two and a half is the center for me, so by dialing to about 3.5, it put my stitches just a smidge to the left of the little mark on my presser foot.  Sorry if that seems like an elementary little lesson, but I’m always surprised at how many folks own sewing machines but haven’t had the time to familiarize themselves with the little functions like this.  Here’s another thing:

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For most appliqué projects, I like to use a straight stitch (although zigzag is, admittedly, the more traditional choice) with a very small stitch length.  The smaller the stitch length, the slower the fabric will feed into the machine, the more control I have of my detailed topstitching.

For less detailed projects, I prefer longer stitch lengths, so get out your manual and make sure you know how to make this adjustment, because it can make sewing SO much easier!

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This project has a lot of sharp corners, so you can practice pivoting by plunging your needle deep into the fabric, raising the presser foot, and turning the project accordingly.  Cut some extra letters to practice on a scrap of fabric.  The S’s were especially tricky.  I practiced three or four S’s before stitching the actual project.  You can always take your foot off the pedal and use the hand wheel if things get super tricky.

Don’t worry too much if you run off your letters or get a bit wonky.  Mine aren’t perfect either, and nobody’s going to notice.  Seriously.  We think people are so impressed with our sewing, but, in my experience, they pretty much just notice our fabric choices.

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Now you can tear away your freezer paper.  I found it worked best to apply the freezer paper backing to just two or three letters at a time as I worked.

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You’ve stitched all your letters to the front, and now things are heating up!  Take your second piece of utility fabric, pin it to the first, and apply your bias tape.  I just folded it around my edges and topstitched my way around the perimeter.  When I got to a corner, I would just kind of stop, fold things down neatly, and start a new line of stitching.  There might be a better way to do it, but this worked for me.  LEAVE THE TOP PANEL OPEN…

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…so you can insert your cork tiles!  I used two, then cut an extra little piece from a third to add.  If you cut the width of your panels to exactly 13 inches, they should fit just right!  I left about an inch at the top with no cork to make the next steps easier.

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Once you’ve closed the top up with your bias tape (I folded mine inside itself and stitched it over the end to make it pseudo tidy), you will be ready to insert the grommets!  Cut or punch small holes in the top corners of your project, then just follow the instructions on the back of the grommet setter packaging to use a hammer and set them in place.  Grommets intimidated me so much, but really, it cost less than $2 for the grommet setting tool (Walmart again), and don’t they make things look professional?!  You have to give them a try.

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And then you’re done!  This is perfect for sticky notes, 4″x6″ recipe cards, homework reminders…  However you want to use it!  For now it’s my menu planning board and sits just above my dining table next to my big calendar.  If you make this, or something similar, leave a link to your blog in the comments!  I’d love to see what you come up with!

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Thanks for visiting my blog!  If you liked this, don’t forget to Pin It!

Spring Cleaning

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I really wanted to do a detailed spring cleaning this year.  I love a super clean house, and I love the idea of giving everything a good scrubbing to make it all shiny and new in the spring.  It’s like a celebration for me.

 

BUT,  I’ve never actually done a spring cleaning.  Something always comes up and gets in the way.  This year, there were two visits from family, multiple illnesses, and really, just the fact that I haven’t done even the most surface level house cleaning since probably Christmas…  Seriously.  The things that used to be on my daily cleaning schedule now get done once a week… the weekly things more like once a month… the monthly things… Well, you get the idea.  We live in squalor.

 

A couple weeks ago, I pulled myself up by the bootstraps after realizing I’d never accomplish a list like this one, and turned my attention to the part of our home that was grossing me out the most.  Our couches.

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My children rarely let me accomplish anything that they aren’t the center of, so I tricked them.  Throwing all the cushions and pillows on the floor, I announced, “Today, I am building a bounce house!”  I vacuumed the couch frames while they jumped all around, kicking away dust from the cushions.  Of course, forts would then need to be built and photo ops would need to be taken advantage of, but at the end of the day, my couches felt slightly less like biohazards, and I’d done just enough of a deep cleaning task to feel like I’d participated in the hallowed western tradition.

This week…

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We’ve had company and been a little sick.  Like most in this part of the country, I’ve been cursing at the groundhog.  But here are the themes that have been on my mind this week(ish).

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1.  Our Makeshift Mudroom

Yep.  It’s just four chairs against a wall–one for each of us.  But ask my 4 year old where his special chair is, and he’ll lead you right to it and ask you to hang his coat on it “nicely”.  It might not be like all the adorable mudrooms on Pinterest, but it gives us a place to put our coats and boots and bags and keys and library books and hats and borrowed items and… you get it.  Who needs a mudroom when you have four sturdy chairs?  Maybe next year I’ll make it look more “pinnable”.

2.  Voices

Maybe this is something that comes with being (almost) 30, but I’m beginning to realize that some of the priorities and expectations I’ve set for myself lately are just a result of listening to too much noise.  Advice, cute quotes on Facebook, women’s Bible study books, blogs…  I guess I’m just realizing that while most of that stuff is uplifting and positive and interesting and good and usually TRUE, sometimes I fill my head with so much of it that I don’t really hear GOD’s voice well enough to actually focus on the one or two things He’s actually leading me to focus on at any one time.  #ChristianProblems  I guess I’m working through what I’ll call “internal decluttering”.

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3.  15 Minute Meals

So, eMeals was fun, but after a while it started to kind of clash with our particular food preferences.  I still really hate cooking, so I’m approaching this the same way I approach everything that overwhelms me: in a 15 minute time frame.  I’ve started a pin board of 15 Minute Meals, and my friend Stephanie (who brought me the really fancy, not-at-all-15-minute accomplishment pictured above) has taken it upon herself to help me plan, so there’s a start.  If I promise myself that I only have to stay locked up in our tiny kitchen for 15 minutes of prep, that makes cooking seem much more bearable.  I’m setting a timer every time I get ready to cook dinner.  If prep takes more than 15 minutes, the meal gets cut from my Pinterest board.  Sounds like a plan, right?  We’ll see.  *Note:  I’m not likely to become a food blogger any time soon.

So now that that’s all in the books, I’ve got the rest of nap time to try to work on a bloggy little tutorial I’ve dreamed up.  (Hint:  I put a picture of its sibling somewhere on this page!)

-Mac-

15 Minute Fashions: The Radiator Springs Redo Tee

I promise, this will NOT be all I blog about from now on, but I am just so stinking proud of this t-shirt!  (Not to mention the adorable little boy wearing it!)

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This was inspired by another Make it and Love it tutorial, that I found in the process of working on my Dolman top last week.  If you didn’t catch my last post, I’m basically just breaking my sewing projects down into little 15 minute chunks, and documenting my progress with snapshots.  It makes me feel like I can actually tackle some of the projects I’d usually put off due to “lack of time”.  Anybody can spare 15 minutes here and there!

This one ended up taking me about two hours worth of 15 minute timed segments.  It would have taken a lot less time had I not made a few rookie mistakes.  I’ll post my snippets of 15 minute progress, and if you want to make your own baseball tee, hit her tutorial for very detailed and clear instructions.

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My son loves this shirt.  Like most 4 year olds these days, he’s a car’s fanatic.

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But, after a while I noticed these little holes forming in one of the sleeves.  I sent him to preschool in it anyway for a while, but eventually, they were starting to get obvious.  Luckily, my hubby had a shrunken grey shirt to donate to the cause, and, like Lightning McQueen and Sally, I too set out on my own mission to save Radiator Springs!

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15 minutes spent cutting the sleeves off the shirt and pinning them to the other t-shirt.

 

 

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It shouldn’t have taken me a whole extra 15 minutes to cut the sleeve and cuff pieces, but I made a few miscalculations and ended up cutting both sleeves separately.

 

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In another 15 minutes I had them pinned.  Had I not messed up the cutting step, this too would have gone much faster!

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15 minutes switching out needles and thread in my sewing machine and sewing one sleeve on.

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15 minutes sewing the other sleeve on and trimming down the seems a bit.

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15 minutes getting the collar just right!  I learned a lot from the last time!  This one still wasn’t perfect, but I’m getting there!

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15 minutes sewing the seams that close the arm pieces.  I’m still not sure if I did that step in the proper order…  Plus, see how I messed up  when cutting?  Had I followed the tutorial more closely I wouldn’t even have needed to hem the sleeves!

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And 15 minutes topstitching and hemming.  Aaaand….

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Notes:

  • Both my husband and my friend, Stephanie, (who also sews a great deal) were totally confused when I showed them this shirt.  They both thought I had bought it this way.  *WINNING!*
  • I was really going for a 3/4 sleeve length, but I didn’t measure or anything…  I might make them shorter later, but I do kind of like the cozy oversized look.
  • I am so fortunate to have a son that LOVES to get his picture taken!  Like, he’ll literally ask me to take pictures of him when I don’t have my camera out!  I have a feeling he’ll be the type to go for the spotlight when he gets older!  But for now, take five, kid!  You did a great job!

 

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15 Minute Fashions: The Lucky Dolman Top

Introducing a new series today!  (Yay!) It’s nothing fancy, just, as I work on my sewing projects, I’ll be taking pictures of my progress at 15 minute increments.

Here’s why:  I LOVE to sew, but it can become something of an all-consuming passion.  I’ve set up a corner of our bedroom for my sewing projects, and I’m hoping, through this exercise, to train myself to bounce in and out of a project in 15 minute increments.  There are so many cute projects I think I don’t have time for, but broken up into manageable bits throughout the week, I could probably make myself a new dress every week–and STILL keep the kids and hubby happy!

And if I can do it, you can do!

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Today’s 15 minute fashion is a Dolman style top, based on THIS tutorial from Make it and Love it!  On Thursday, I realized I had nothing green to wear to Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day events, but I DID have a few yards of green jersey knit fabric.

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15 minutes of cutting

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15 minutes sewing the shoulder and side seems.

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15 minutes working with the bottom band

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That’s just 45 minutes and it’s already taking shape!

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15 minutes attaching the sleeve cuffs

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15 minutes working with the collar.  I did NOT get this part right.  Should have used a smaller piece of fabric.  But I learned!

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And in that total of 1 hour and 15 minutes, my St. Patties Day shirt is done!

But then I got to thinking… I’d accidentally made the shirt a LOT bigger than it needed to be, and I’d styled the sleeves to be almost a bat wing style… I kind of looked like I was wearing something from the 80’s.  I started googling pictures of other Dolman tops, and decided I needed to just embrace the 80’s with this piece and add some rad diagonal stripes.  I needed to move this project from basic garment construction to vintage inspired design.  (Yep, I know.  80’s is actually vintage, now…  Let’s all take a moment of silence to stop and feel old…)

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So, I got out my masking tape and made some stripes.  (Note:  My hair gets even bigger after sunset.)

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Using the tape as my guide, I used this opportunity to practice my skills with the double needle.  I had a few mistakes, but in the end, it looked like this:

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!!!!!!!  I’ve been looking down at my stripes all day and every time, they make my heart swoon.

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Are you impressed?  I sure am!  No one, so far, has asked me if I made it, so I’ll take that as a good sign!  It’s been a long time since I last donned a homemade garment in public.

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This project taught me how NOT to do a knit collar.  (I feel pretty confident my next attempt will show a marked improvement.)  I learned how to use a double needle to make those stripes.  And, it taught me how simple it is to make a Dolman top!  I’ll be keeping my eye out for more knit fabric deals in the future… I’ve thought of several variations I’d love to try!

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As for the shirt itself… It’s a little larger than I’d envisioned.  But I’ll probably wear it again, even if it isn’t my most favorite.  It’s super sassy for a St. Pattie’s get together!

All together, I think I LUCKED OUT (get it?) in finding Make it and Love it‘s easy to follow tutorial!  Make sure to head over there             and learn how to whip together your own version!