Painting and Sewing

Tuesday, July 28, 2020 0 No tags Permalink
Brother Pacesetter Sewing Machine

I’ve been looking at new sewing machines for awhile, and came across a great deal on this Brother Pacesetter. I believe the last clothing item I sewed was the Endora dress for Halloween several years ago (can that really be it?), so the dress I started is a challenge. I’m not going to show the pattern, as I am going to be altering the yoke significantly. However, I will post the finished dress, whenever that actually is done. I know since the Endora dress I’ve made some purses and some masks, and of course mending work. But I have missed sewing.

gouache painting water scene

This is my most recent gouache painting. Haven’t had much time to paint lately, either. The inspiration of this was a vacation photo my friend Pam took and sent to me. It turned out ok I think.

gouache painting Waffle Window Portland Oregon

And here’s the one before, which I don’t think turned out that great due to issues with perspective. Again. But it’s important to show the successes and failures. I can’t help but think if I had more time to paint, I’d be showing more improvement. But isn’t that the case with everything in life?

The summer is going quickly, nearly August now. We’ve had two generations of monarch caterpillars and are getting lots of cherry tomatoes and some peppers and cucumbers from the garden. This year we’ve had very little rain. Maxy cat has a vet appointment today to check again for thyroid issues and high blood pressure. He is such a sweet little beast, and I know this will be stressful for him. I will finally be getting the old Subaru in for the airbag recall later this week. This Summer of Covid has been so strange.

Halloween Past

Thursday, March 21, 2019 0 No tags Permalink

March is an excellent time to start planning for Halloween. As you may know, I force the staff members at work to dress up and compete to win Ulta gift cards each year. I have an idea for this year’s costume, and have been already pulling things together. It will require a significant sewing project to make it all happen though, and so starting ahead of time will be nice not only for me, but for those around me as well.

Below are my costumes since I’ve forced the contest at work (inspiration for each as a link to a youtube, for your entertainment). I wish I had a photo of the full version of Mr. Dark instead of just his hat and my hand. I was in crutches from surgery for the year of What Does the Fox Say. The Janeway costume was a full jumpsuit from the original pattern, and was difficult to sew.

What kind of sewing projects are you looking forward to?

2018 – The drummer Catman from Kiss

2017 – Endora from Bewitched

2016 – Mr. Dark from Something Wicked This Way Comes

2015 – Lord Raiden from Mortal Kombat


2014 – Backup Dancer – from What Does the Fox Say

2013 – Robert Smith from the Cure

2012 – Captain Janeway, Star Trek Voyager

Vintage Sewing Needle Books

Monday, March 5, 2018 0 No tags Permalink

It’s time for another L&FO. Today we have two vintage sewing needle books. The Springfield Leader and Press newspaper for December 27, 1959 ran a full page ad for Evans Cut-Rite. In it, there was a book of 70 Gold-Eye needles with threader, normally 10 cents, on sale for 7 cents. Other hot sale items were Cannon hand towels, normally 39 cents each, on sale 3 for 88 cents, 24 tablets of Coricidin cold medicine for 69 cents, and a pair of plastic lamp shades on sale for $1.27. Although it doesn’t have an image, these things seem to be similar in the number of needles, putting this rocket Gold-Eye brand of a similar age:

vintage sewing needle book

vintage sewing needle book

The price of these sewing needle books varied around the country. In the March 18, 1964 Green Bay Press-Gazette, there is this book of 100 with a value of 15 cents, while in Santa Fe a similar book was 20 cents in July 1963.

vintage sewing needle book

This Atomic Gold-Eye book is a later date, with more needles than the Rocket and a much higher cost. The basic image hasn’t changed much, swapping out the couple riding on a needle compared a rocket ship.

vintage sewing needle book

vintage sewing needle book

The cool thing about collecting these is that I can actually use the needles. The books are more convenient than those little disc holders with the channels. I’ve been doing more sewing these days, recently finishing up a Decades of Style Three’s a Charm jacket and currently working on a McCall’s 7313 (C) dress.

If you’re interested in collecting some vintage sewing needle books, there are a ton of them on ebay. I found the Atomic one in a local antique shop. You should be able to get one in good shape with all of the needles for $3 – $8 each. I recently read an article suggesting millennials will still be interested in antiques, but will likely gravitate to items that still have purpose. They may be less likely to collect vases and china, and more likely to collect items they can use in daily life. I’m all for seeing a return to sewing instead of the continued purchase of $15 dresses made in a sweatshop and sold on Amazon.

Dog Training Squeaks

Monday, March 21, 2016 0 No tags Permalink

Sewing for Dogs – Dog Training Squeaks

dog training squeaks

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a sewing project. This one is very quick and easy – dog training squeaks! At the shelter where I work, we do all positive-based training. Getting the attention of a dog and having it follow a specific behavior you’d like is easy if you have a bait bag (see project here), training squeaks and some patience. You can buy fancy squeaks or clickers at a pet store, but it’s so easy and cheap to make them yourself. First, you’ll need the squeak bit:

dog training squeaks

I got these on amazon (20 for $8, here).

dog training squeaks

I had some leftover (cat-themed) fleece from another project (bench covers for a large cat play pen. really.). I cut the fabric to fit, folded it on the half and sewed a curved line with a zigzag stitch. I finished off the edge with pinking shears as the fleece won’t fray. Some dogs really like chewing on a squeak, so it’s always good to have extras. And squeaks are FANTASTIC to get a pet’s attention when you want to take their photo. I keep a squeak in my purse and in each coat pocket. Also, think you don’t have a need for these if you have a cat? Think again! You can totally train your cat. Here are a few of my favorite cat training videos:

If you’ve trained your pet to do cute things via positive training techniques, post the link in the comments!

Like pet projects? More here:

Dog Belly Band Tutorial

Wet-Felted Cat Balls

Felted Catnip Christmas Trees

Dog Belly Band Tutorial

Monday, March 10, 2014 0 No tags Permalink


One of my coworkers has four Boston Terriers. One will have an indoor accident. The other three dogs, trying to be helpful, will mark over the spot. As you can imagine, that can be a lot of urine and a lot of housecleaning.

Additionally, we run a Pet Therapy program at the shelter, taking dogs to visit local nursing homes. Sometimes we’ll have a great dog with the right disposition, but we can’t guarantee that it won’t mark or use the bathroom indoors, making it a canis non-grata.

It was with those thoughts that I set out to make a dog belly band. Please note that a belly band is not a substitute for taking your dog outdoors as needed, and a dog should never be left wearing a wet belly band for any amount of time (see: urine scalding). But if you have occasional need, here’s how you can put one together for yourself.


You’ll need a measuring tape, scissors, sewing machine and polyester/all purpose thread, fleece material, cotton material, Warm and Natural cotton batting and velcro tabs. You may also want PUL fabric (polyurethane laminate) if you have a large dog or a dog with a large, full bladder. I purchased all items at JoAnn Fabric. The PUL and velcro tabs are in a separate area from the regular material. Ask a sales associate for the location of the baby diaper-making supplies. You can also buy everything on Amazon online.

Measure your dog around the waist, and inch or so in front of the dog’s urine dispenser, aka dog junk. Now, all seam allowances are 1/4 inch for this pattern. And you need to have an overlap where the velcro can close. I added 3 inches to the total measurement of the dog in question. The width is  4 1/4 inches. I made a template to work from out of thin interfacing, but paper would work fine too. Wrap your template around the dog in question to ensure it is going to fit appropriately (measure twice, cut once!).


Now it’s time to cut the fabric. The fleece and cotton material should be cut to your dog’s measurements, plus three inches, by 4 1/4 inches wide. You can eyeball the Warm and Natural to the middle of the fleece, as seen above, but double it over. You want it to be quite absorbent. I don’t put the PUL in the belly bands for the smaller dogs as they don’t seem to soak through. However, if you have a larger dog, or a dog that completely evacuates a full bladder due to age-related urinary incontinence, you can cut and use the PUL to stop any urine soaking through the top cotton material. The PUL is not sewn in, but slid in between the layers, so you’ll want to cut it approximately 3/4 inch more narrow all the way around compared to your fleece and cotton material. Also, you shouldn’t put PUL in the dryer as it may melt.


Pin your Warm and Natural to the inside of the fleece. Sew it in with a 1/4 inch seam. If you wanted, you could get all fancy and do some quilting on it, too. Your choice.


Next, you’re going to sew your velcro tabs to the right side of the fabric…one on the fleece, one on the cotton. I had to then put them back-to-back to make sure once I sewed it up, it was going to close appropriately. Make sure you have both sides of the velcro, and not two similar pieces that won’t stick together. I used my seam ripper a lot during this project due to lack of attention on my part.


Pin the right sides together, and sew around 3 of the sides. Leave one of the short sides open to turn it and insert the PUL, if you plan on doing that.


Sew, and turn your belly band right-side out. If you don’t have a pair of chopsticks to help with the corners, you really need to pick up a pair next time you go to the Chinese buffet. Now is the time to insert the PUL if you’re going to use it. Plan on swearing a bit, because it’s not easy to fit in there or get it all the way down. They say you’re not supposed to sew it because each individual piercing from the needle can wick fluid. Who knows.


Now you’re going to stitch closed that top seam. If you feel confident in the security of your blind stitch by hand, use that. However, it’s right next to a velcro piece that’s going to take some use. I ran it right through the machine. Then you can stitch all around the edges for a nice, neat look if you like. Or not. I won’t judge you.

Finished top:


Finished bottom:


Modeled by Teddy:

photo courtesy of Katie Mullen

photo courtesy of Katie Mullen

I do find it somewhat odd that I spend more time sewing dog items (including every ripped dog bed at work) than I do cat items, and I do not have a dog. Cats seem to be so much more…reasonable.

Photo by Carrie Bammer

Photo by Carrie Bammer

Like this? More pet-related crafts here:

Dog Treat/Bait Bags

Wet-felted Cat Balls

Cat Xmas Toys

Wet Felted Cat Toys

Saturday, January 11, 2014 0 No tags Permalink

This is a photo-tutorial for how to make wet-felted balls, which are actually Maxy’s favorite toys. He loves to bat them around and play fetch with them. They are the perfect density for him to pick up in his mouth and run around. And again, if you know the sources of the wool roving, it’s a much safer toy than the Chinese-products you find at the store. They are easy to make, too.

You’ll need wool roving, water and a little liquid dishsoap. I used the Dimensions wool roving pack in pastels from

dimensions wool roving

photo courtesy of

The total weight is two ounces. For each ball, I used one of the solid color portions…they are rolled up together but are actually separate pieces. The Dimensions roving isn’t as soft/fine as the Wisteria roving, and I find that it works better for wet felting than the Wisteria.

First, unroll the wool  completely, spread it out, and get it wet.

Next, you’ll be massaging in some liquid dish soap (I did all of these balls in one setting, but this is a pink photo slid in among the purple…sorry about that).


The dish soap makes it slippery. You’ll then fold it up, all in the same direction, kind of like how you’d fold a flag. It will be a loose blob at this point.


Now you’ll want to start forming it into more of a ball shape with your hands cupped, like making a snow ball. You can rinse a little of the soap out as you go here and there, and the ball will tighten down.

Ultimately, you want the ball to be solid, without any cracks or lines, and free of soap. As you continue to roll it, continue to rinse it.

After it is in its final, small compacted shape and all the soap has been washed, you can leave it to dry. The drying normally takes about 24 hours.

We have quite a few of these around the house, as Maxy seems to shuttle them under the furniture and loses them. They roll well on carpet, too. At around sixty cents each, and knowing they don’t contain who knows what from China, it’s well worth the effort. The whole process takes maybe 15 minutes per ball.

Like this? Check out more animal projects here:

Needle Felted Cat Toys

Dog Bait/Dog Treat Bags

Catnip Christmas Trees

Friday, November 29, 2013 0 No tags Permalink

Catnip Christmas Trees – Felted Needle Toys for Cats

Hope you all had a delightful Thanksgiving. If you were brave/foolish enough to go out for some black Friday shopping, it’s good that you made it back home safe and weren’t trampled by hoards at Walmart looking for the Furby Boom/Xbox One or whatever it is you absolutely needed to have today instead of waiting like a rational person and shopping online at on Cyber Monday.

I am working on a few projects for the holidays, including these felted-needle catnip-filled cat toys. I’m using a foam pad, a single needle and a bundle needle, wool roving and a regular old cookie cutter for the shape.

cookie cutter

The wool roving goes in the cookie cutter and is then pierced over and over with the needle until it’s felted flat. I put the brown for the trunk in on top of the green and felt it all together.

wool roving

Then I remove the cookie cutter and do the embellishment on top.


You’ll need to make two trees for this, then felt them together (finished side out, of course) except for a space on the side large enough to fill with catnip.


Don’t try to shake the bag of catnip directly into the felted bit, as the nip will go all over and then you’re picking catnip pieces out of the felting, which is really obnoxious.


After it’s full, put the tree back on the foam pad and felt closed that remaining side.


I’m also going to do a few gingerbread men in the same fashion, and finish up with wet-felting round balls. Maxy loves to chase those all over the house, even more than playing with the catnip toys.


Smartykat catnip is organically grown. If you watch where your wool roving is coming from, making your own cat toys is preferable to getting in Chinese-made crap with who knows what in/on it. If you’ve ever picked up a loved-on cat toy, you’ll feel how wet and spitty it gets…anything on them is going right into your cat’s little body.

Like animal projects? Check out these past posts:

Dog Bait/Treat Bags

Dog Coats

Another dog coat

And yet, another dog coat


Heated Neck Warmer

Friday, October 18, 2013 0 No tags Permalink

Sewing Project – Heated Neck Warmer

I’ve been saying for awhile that my next sewing project would be something I would use and enjoy; the last few things I’ve worked on have been gifts for others (dogs, really). But not this time. We use these microwavable heated neck warmers all the time at our house. They are good for old aching bones, and also for those cold nights when you want to keep your heating costs down.

Mom got us one of these many years ago (ten plus?) and we’ve gotten a ton of use out of it. She gave us another one just a couple of years ago. We really heat these up every single night, six months out of the year or more. And they are starting to wear out. I’ve performed emergency repair on them multiple times, but even the fabric is starting to disintegrate on our old faithful.

microwave neck warmer

After making repairs Monday night, I decided it’s time to put another one together. I drew a hasty pattern, following the interior neck curve of this one, and measuring out seven inches from that for the outer line (top and bottom piece is six inches across, with a half inch seam on each side).

microwave neck warmer pattern

Yeah, not perfect, but it gets the job done. I did use a straight edge for the bottom two lines. Then I cut out the fabric from my stash. It’s a heavier woven.

Knowing the failing points of our old piece, I wanted to make sure I had a double-seam sewn in this one, with a nice tight stitch. Went around it twice, and turned it out.

microwave neck warmer

Our other pieces are filled with buckwheat, but rice was cheaper at the store so that’s what we went with on this one. Stitched up the end by hand, then ran over both ends with the sewing machine for additional strength.

finished neck warmer

A five pound bag of rice filled it, but I’d go with a little less on the next one I make so it’s a bit more flexible.

Dog Bait Bags

Saturday, May 4, 2013 1 No tags Permalink

Sewing Project – Treats for Tricks!

Making progress on the dog bait bags sewing project. In retrospect, I really should have just done a sample first and then tweaked the pattern, as I’ve already identified some things I’d like to change. I’ll make a mental note for next time! All pieces were cut out:

4″ circle in heavy canvas
12.5″ x 4.5″ rectangle in heavy canvas

4″ circle in ripstop nylon
12.5″ x 7″ rectangle in ripstop nylon

You’ll also need velcro, #7 paracord, flat nylon cording (for the top trim) and a cordstop.

First, I sewed the sides of the nylon and canvas. I then pressed open the canvas.

Dog Bait Bag
Next, I pinned the bottom circle to the canvas and hand-basted it to keep it together.

Dog Bait Bag
Sewing it on the machine is tricky. The canvas comes apart easily. I was thinking of using that glue stuff on it, but for this design purpose and the construction, it should hold together okay.

Dog Bait Bag
Next, I pinned and hand-basted the nylon insert. I didn’t change out sewing machine needles between the two fabrics, and the noise of the thicker needle piercing the nylon nearly drove me insane.

Dog Bait Bag

Next, I rolled down the top of the nylon sack to make the cord drawstring chamber (left) and put on a loop of double-side velcro on the canvas (right).

dog bait bag

I put the nylon sack inside the canvas sack, pinned it and hand-basted it in place. After that, I put the flat cording on the top, pinned it and fought to sew it down. Next time, I believe I’m going to use some of that iron-on web mesh to adhere it before sewing it down as the whole thing moved like crazy as I tried to sew it.

Bait bag

The last step was putting the rolled cord in the tube for the drawstring. I’m glad I had a bodkin to run the cord through the nylon or I’d have been more frustrated than I was. When I went to put the ends of the cord through the cord-stop, the paracord kept separating. I just couldn’t get it to work and kept getting more and more frustrated. I need bigger cord-stops.

bait bag

On the next one, I’m going to be making a flap with a magnet on it (and its match on the side of the bag), so you can put the flap over the top of your pants in case you don’t have a belt loop for the velcro. I think it turned out pretty well…now I just need to make 11 more.

Dog Bait Bag project…done!

Sewing Project – Dog Bait Bags

Saturday, April 27, 2013 0 No tags Permalink

Learn a Trick? Get a Treat!

We use dog bait bags (treat bags) at the shelter when we’re working at training dogs. Doing behavior work with the shelter dogs helps them keep their minds active (avoiding kennel psychosis), and dogs who know tricks and basic obedience commands are more adoptable. At our Humane Society, we only use positive reinforcement training (Victoria Stilwell instead of Cesar Millan). High-quality treats are an important tool, and having a treat bag or bait bag right on your waist frees up your hands for hand-signalling or squeaking/clicking.

Petco has bait bags, and they just put them on sale. Cheap.

Petco Bait Bag
But for some reason, it was suggested to me that I use my mad sewing skills and make dog bait bags for all the staff members. I drew up my plans and did some measuring of the sample bag. Then I asked Bob if he had a compass (to make a circle, not for directions), and if he could make me a 4″ circle for my pattern, which he did (he is so good to me!).

dog bait bag project

They are going to be made from purple canvas with a purple nylon for the interior. I think they are going to go together fairly easily, but I need to work on tracking down a clip for the waistband and the little cord tightener thing to cinch down the inside nylon (cord stop, apparently).

I started cutting out the fabric while watching Mad Men on the DVR. I cut out enough for 12 of them, so I’ll be doing this project assembly-line style. It’s good to be sewing again, though I hope this project is one of the easier ones. I’m ready to get back to sewing something fun for myself!

Looks like the weather is maybe headed in the right direction. It’s supposed to be in the mid to upper 60s and sunny for the weekend. It won’t be long until all the flowers are in bloom!