Up-cycled No-sew TOMS


My sister has been harassing me to replace my TOMS for the past six months. I own three pairs, and they are all tattered. I was trying to hold out until summer came to a close and just get a new pair next spring. You really can’t wear canvas shoes in Seattle when it is the rainy season (the majority of the year) unless your want your feet soaked in about ten minutes. As our extra hot and dry summer has stretched on, I finally decided something needed to be done with at least one pair of my ratty shoes. I had seen some repair ideas online- but they involved gluing a small bit of fabric or a patch onto the toe. I had worn holes in the heel and sides as well. So I decided to try using a very strong all purpose craft glue to re-surface the entire shoe. I chose wool felt as the main fabric because I happened to have it on hand, and also because I am hoping wool might be more durable and supportive, and keep my feet warmer and dryer than a simple cotton would. I also know how well felted wool can stretch and mold to a form, so I hoped it would be a forgiving material to work with. I used some scraps of patterned cotton for the toe and heel details, which I applied over the wool. Read on for a list of materials and basic steps.































Getting Ready for Fall: Easy DIY Pillows


I am brand new to sewing. My wonderful Mother in Law recently gave me a sewing machine for my birthday, and it sat in the corner intimidating me for several months. I took lessons in elementary school but the hobby didn’t stick, and I can’t recall anything from the lessons aside from my teacher doing a lot of the actual sewing, and putting a needle through my finger. Ack.

Thanks to Pinterest, my creative impulses eventually got the better of me and I made some very simple and beginner projects. I am very pleased with the results and have had a few people ask me to make them similar pillows, so I thought I would share the simple process here. I used my existing pillow inserts- they are down inserts I bought at Crate and Barrel when we were first married. They are still as good as new after seven years. I used a half yard of fabric per pillow. The beauty of these covers is that they don’t require buttons or zippers. As I’m getting more confident I’m thinking of going back and adding buttons just to secure the back and add a cute detail.

I found the tutorial, with step by step pictures, at the lovely blog thecreeklinehouse.com  She calls this her ten minute pillow cover. As a beginner, they definitely took me more than ten minutes. But it was a project I completed start to finish in one solid two-hour toddler nap time window.

Here is the link:



DIY Tutorial: Magnetic Fishing Game


I love a project that uses up fabric scraps and recycles odds and ends from around the house. I also love to make toys using natural materials. This is one of our new favorites. I didn’t have to buy a single thing, and I was able to make it using some simple sewing in just a couple of hours.

One nice thing about this game is that it allows for versatile play and can grow with a child. For now, we just set it up and try to hook the fish, and have some fun developing both fine and gross motor skills, and engaging in dramatic play. I plan to make another pole and about a dozen fish total. That way it can be played with a friend and is a way to play cooperatively and share. Later, it can be a prop for more complex games. My mom, who is also a career preschool teacher, uses a similar fishing game with her pre-k students. She sticks letters, numbers, or words to the fish and uses the game to work on recognition, reading, and math skills. Go fish!



A stick or dowel


A small hanging hook or carabiner that is free of sharp edges


Strong magnet



Fabric scraps to make the worm and fish

Stuffing, such as cotton, wool, or polyfill


To make the pole I cut a birch branch, added some twine, and tied a hook on the end. For some reason the previous owners of our house loved hanging things from the ceiling, so we removed several dozen little hooks and just had them in a jar. They can be purchased at any hardware store.

For the worm, I set the magnet on top of some pink corduroy fabric (the perfect material for a worm!) and free handed a cut that allowed room for the magnet to fit inside of the “head” and looked somewhat worm-ish. I left about a quarter inch seam allowance. I turned the front sides in, and inserted a small loop of ribbon at one end of the worm. I used a straight stitch on my sewing machine to do the seams on the worm and fish, but this would not take long to sew by hand. I started stitching near the loop, securing it in place, and continued to stitch around the edges, leaving an opening of about an inch and a half near the head so that I could flip the worm right-side out, and insert the magnet. I put a small bit of stuffing into the worm tail and hand stitched the opening shut.

For the fish, I used some cute and colorful fabric, which I set right-side (pattern side) facing inward, and cut some free hand fish. Again I cut the shapes a bit fatter to allow for a quarter inch seam. I looped some ribbon through a washer. I lined it up so that the washer and a loop of ribbon were between the two layers of fabric, and would be sewn so that they were coming out of the fish mouth when the fish was turned right-side out. If using a sewing machine take care to avoid the washer and don’t let it get underneath the presser foot or needle where it could damage the machine. Sew in the same way as the worm- leaving a small opening that is large enough to accommodate the washer and turn the fish right-side-out.

Make as many fish as you please. When you are finished you should have a little worm that you can loop onto your hook, and a set of fish that will snap neatly onto the “hook” when the magnetic worm touches the washer.

A blue blanket or play silk makes a perfect “pond” for your fish, and we found our couch to be the perfect fishing spot.

I just happened to have enough scrap burlap and canvas to make a simple bag, with a ribbon strap, to carry the fishing game. My toddler likes purses and my inner preschool teacher likes each of her toys, jobs, and games to be stored neatly, in a predictable place, with all of the pieces together.

We like to sing songs about fish while we are fishing. Our two favorites (which you can find the tunes for on Youtube) are “slippery fish” (the Octopus song), and the folk song “You get a line, I’ll get a pole”. I’ve included the lyrics to that one below. Happy Fishing!

The Crawdad Song

You get a line and I’ll get a pole, Honey,
You get a line and I’ll get a pole, Babe.
You get a line and I’ll get a pole,
We’ll go fishin’ in the crawdad hole,
Honey, Baby mine.

Sittin’ on the bank ’til my feet get cold, Honey,
Sittin’ on the bank ’til my feet get cold, Babe,
Sittin’ on the bank ’til my feet get cold,
Lookin’ down that crawdad hole,
Honey, Baby mine.

Yonder comes a man with a sack on his back, Honey,
Yonder comes a man with a sack on his back, Babe,
Yonder comes a man with a sack on his back,
Packin’ all the crawdads he can pack,
Honey, Baby mine.

The man fell down and he broke that sack, Honey,
The man fell down and he broke that sack, Babe,
The man fell down and he broke that sack,
See those crawdads backing back,
Honey, Baby mine.

I heard the duck say to the drake, Honey,
I heard the duck say to the drake, Babe,
I heard the duck say to the drake,
There ain’t no crawdads in this lake,
Honey, Baby mine.

Forager’s Delight: Evergreen Huckleberry Jam





Visiting family who live on an island in Puget Sound, we noticed an abundance of tiny blue and black berries growing on six foot tall shrubs. With the wonders of modern technology and the wisdom of our grandparents, we were able to verify that these were our lovely little native plant- the evergreen huckleberry. Thankfully we had some help picking – as the berries were tiny, and our toddler charges a hefty berry tax for her participation (one berry into the bucket = one handful into the mouth). After about an hour we had filled a medium size bowl.

I had never eaten these berries before, let alone cooked with them. I considered making a pie but ultimately decided jam was the best way to share their sweet blueberry-esque  flavor with friends, and enjoy it ourselves for weeks to come. This ended up being one of the best jams I’ve made. The only pain was de-stemming the berries.

My advice to others would be: these little buggers are tiny and you end up having to go through thousands of them. It is probably a good idea to pay close attention as you pick, and try to toss the stems and bad berries before they get into the bowl.

This is the first time I’ve ever used low sugar pectin- thanks Emily for the advice! It created a nice firm batch of jam. I used six cups of wild huckleberries, four cups of sugar, and one packet of low sugar pectin. That’s it! I heated the berries and mashed with a potato masher. This ended up releasing the lovely purple juice, and about half of the berries remained whole, so the final product was something like a combination of a jam and a preserve.

We liked it so much we decided to add some bushes to our yard! I love native plants because they are so low maintenance, and tend to compliment our local wildlife. For example, these are somewhat deer resistant plants. They make a lovely shrub or hedge and can do well with heavy rains or dry shade. Awesome. Unfortunately they are nearly impossible to transplant. However, we were able to find them at several area nurseries. After we brought them home, one of the baby bushes actually produced a handful of berries. We will hope for more next year!