City Advent Calendar

Advent Calendar City

I love using advent calendars to track the days to Christmas.  Mr. Printables has this free printable Christmas Street Advent Calendar available in black and white or with pops of accent color.  Your city grows by a building each day, and every building is a tiny box if you’d like to include a small gift.  Just print them on cardstock, cut them out, score along the dotted lines to help in folding and add a couple pieces of tape here and there.  (I used the blunt tip of a knitting needle to score mine.)  In no time at all, you’ll have your own gorgeous little city!


Animal Alphabet Bean Bags and Storage Tote


Animal Alphabet Bean Bags

Fabric panels can be a great way to make an easy sewing project.  I bought a panel called Alphabet Flash Cards Panel by Lisa DeJohn for Red Rooster.  (Click through to the link and you’ll see they have a bunch of nice coordinating fabrics and some projects ideas.)  The name of the fabric lets you know it would make great flash cards, but I decided to go with bean bags.  The squares made it so easy!  Just cut them out with a quarter inch allowance, cut a piece of backing fabric, sew, fill and hand stitch closed.  Simple!

The backs of the consonant bean bags are a simple cream flannel, but I used a flannel print on the vowels to make them stand out.  A curious younger child might ask what makes those letters special, and hopefully an older child will enjoy figuring it out on their own.

Animal Alphabet Bean Bags

The complete set of 26 bean bags took nearly all of a five pound bag of pinto beans as filling, so sturdy storage was needed.  I could have used a plastic storage box, but tote bags just seem more kid friendly to me.  I had a couple plain canvas tote bags left over from making stenciled gift bags and personalized Twitter tote bags for friends, but they seemed a little too tall and skinny, and I want the bag to be able to sit on a storage shelf.

Thankfully, this is an easy fix.  I measured the bean bags, then turned a bag inside out and marked a line along the bottom to make the bag a little deeper.

Making a Tote Bag Wider

This makes the bottom of the bag wider and the sides shorter.  I sewed right along the line, triple stitching to make an especially strong seam, then cut off the excess fabric.  Now two stacks of bean bags easily fit in the bag, and the bag stands on its own.

Making a Tote Bag Wider

The fabric panel included a title square, which I thought would make a nice label for the tote bag.  (Think how sweet this panel would be made into a little book!)  I cut out the square, then cut out a matching piece of fusible interfacing.

"Label" for the Tote Bag

I sewed them together with the right side of the fabric facing the “sticky” side of the interfacing.  When I turned them right side out, I had a square that I could iron on to the front of the bag.

"Label" for Tote Bag

I sewed a piece of green felt down first to give a little border to the ladybug piece.  It’s a little fiddly to sew on, so go slowly and make sure you aren’t catching parts of the bag that you don’t mean to sew.  I ironed on the label and then stitched around it, too.

And that’s how you turn a fabric panel, a tote bag and a bag of beans into a lovely little toy complete with storage.  If you want to make your own, I bought the fabric panel from Stitch Stash Diva on Etsy.

Animal Alphabet Bean Bags

I enjoyed this project so much, I’ll be looking for more fabric panels soon!

Birdies and Birch Trees


Birch Tree Paintings

I bought this little stack of canvases on sale intending to make something completely different for Christmas gifts (click here to see what) but then realized my Mom already had something very similar and just scrapped the idea.  So then I had a little stack of canvases just sitting around and had to come up with some way to use them.

I’m no artist though, so I had to think of something simple, some way I could paint without really having any talent.  This called for tracing and tape.

First, I painted a background color on the canvases, then taped a slightly curved outline of a tree and the larger branches with a low tack painter’s tape.  I ripped little pieces of tape and stuck them on to be the pattern of the birch bark, then painted over it with the lighter shade.

Painting Birch Trees

Carefully peel up the tape while the paint it still wet.

Birch Trees

To get a bird shape, I actually traced a photo I’d taken through my window of a little sparrow.  I copied one larger size, then flipped it and resized it slightly smaller to end up with a little birdie couple facing each other.  I faked carbon paper by coloring a thick line on the back side of my traced bird patterns with a regular pencil.

Birch Tree Birdie

I flipped it over and used painter’s tape to hold it down while I traced over the line again.

Birch Tree Birdie

Can you see the traced lines?

Birch Tree Birdies

Then just fill in with a darker color.

Birch Tree Birdies

All that’s left to do is free hand some smaller branches.  Mine are maybe too small for the scale of the trees, but I thought it gave a little folk art kind of look and left it.  Besides, usually the less I mess around trying to correct something, the better the end result.  If you want to personalize it a little more, “carve” initials in one of the trees with the background paint:

Birch Tree J+S

And ta-da!!  You’re done!

Birch Tree Birdies