June 30, 2010

Fleece Travel Blanket and Pillow

I will be stuck on an airplane for many, many hours on Thursday.  I’m hoping that most of that time I will be sleeping, wrapped up in my new fleece blanket and resting my head, not on the dirty airline pillow with the weird dryer sheet-like pillow case, but on my new, soft fleece pillow.  Both tuck into a pocket in the blanket for easy storage. 

This project was ridiculously simple and much cheaper than buying similar items at the store (or in desperation at the airport).  It took only about 30 minutes. 

You will need:

About 1 1/2 yards of fleece depending on how big you want your blanket to be.

1 travel size pillow form (mine is 12” x 16”, which I think is a little too big)

Cut your fleece to the size of the blanket you want.  Mine is 54” x 45”.  Measure the pillow form and add an inch to the height and width for seam allowances.  Cut three rectangles in this size, two to cover the pillow and one for the pocket that everything tucks into.  Use a rotary cutter if you have one.


Pin and sew two of the small rectangles, right sides together.  Leave an opening in the middle of one end to stuff the pillow form through. Trim the seams and turn the pillow right side out.  Squeeze the pillow form into the pillow.  Tuck the open edges under and pin.  













Sew the opening shut, staying as close to the edge as possible.  You can hand stitch this and it will look nicer, but I’m lazy, so I used my machine.

Now for the blanket.  Pin the remaining rectangle to the middle of one of the short edges of the blanket.  This will be the pocket.


Sew the pocket to the blanket, leaving the outside edge open.  Sew two rows of stitches, one with an 1/8” seam allowance and one with 1/4”.  You will be shoving a lot of fleece into the pocket and you want it to be strong.

That’s it! Fold it up and you are done.  With the pocket facing down, fold each side long side of the blanket towards the middle, just to the edge of the pocket.  Fold the non-pocket end over twice.  Fold the end with the pocket over to meet the other side. 

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Tuck the blanket into the pocket.


Stuff the pillow into the pocket and you’re ready to travel.


June 29, 2010

Felt Luggage Tags


We are going to Turkey in a few days and I needed a way to differentiate my black suitcase from everyone else’s black suitcase.   I’m hoping these colorful tags will be easy to identify and more durable than the flimsy paper ones from the airport.

If you want to make some luggage tags of your own, you will need:

cheap felt squares (you can use the good wool kind if you like, they’re definitely easier to sew with, but keep in mind that it’s going to spend time in the filthy cargo compartment under the plane) 


clip art or a sketch of your design

clear, plastic luggage tags (I got mine at Target, 4 for $3)

sewing machine (optional)


Measure the plastic luggage tags.  Add 1/4” to the height and length for an 1/8” seam allowance.  My luggage tags were 3” x 4 3/4” so I cut my felt 3 1/4” x 5”.  Cut two rectangles of felt according to your measurements. These will be the front and back of the tag.


Cut a window in the back of the tag for your name and address.  Keep in mind that it will need to be off center to accommodate the strap.  


Trace your design onto the appropriate colors of felt.  I found it helpful to cut my sketch apart so that I had a pattern for each piece of the design.  Make sure the design is going to fit on the luggage tag before you start cutting.  If everything looks okay, cut the design out. 

luggagetag1I think this picture looks a little disturbing. Maybe I shouldn’t have started with a bird :)

Assemble the design on the front of the tag.  Remember to make room for the strap.  Hand sew the design on, starting with the main part and then adding detail pieces.  I used clear thread because it’s quick and forgiving.  If you have an abundance of time or skill at sewing by hand (I have neither), feel free to sew with contrasting thread, which I think would be much cuter.


Sew the back of the tag to the front, wrong sides together. Leave one end open.  I used my machine for this part, but it could be done by hand fairly easily. 

Print out or hand write your name and address on cardstock and cut it to fit the window in the back of the tag.  Make sure you leave a little overhang. Insert the card in to the plastic luggage tag and then slide it into the felt tag.  Sew the end closed. 

Cut a small slit with an X-Acto knife or pointed scissors where the strap goes through the tag.  Attach the strap and you’re done.


Yay! You now have a custom luggage tag and can avoid dragging every suitcase off of the conveyor belt to see if it’s yours.

June 23, 2010

Garden Markers from Hammered Spoons


I’ve been on the hunt for garden markers that  1) are customizable  2) will last more than one season and  3) are cheap, just in case they don’t last more than one season.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that met all three criteria, or really even two for that matter.  So, I figured I could make some similar to ones that I have seen in various shops. 

You will need something like this:


I bought this set at Harbor Freight (I love Harbor Freight!) for $5 on sale. If you don’t live by a Harbor Freight you should probably move, but if that’s not an option you can get metal letter stamps online here.  I also got a small sledge hammer at Harbor Freight that you can see in the pictures below.

You will need some old spoons.   Look for ones on the thin side that have a little flex to them.  You can test them out by trying to bend the handle a bit.  I bought mine at Goodwill for $0.29 each. 

Note: I found that stainless steel spoons were very difficult to use.  Also, the Oneida brand spoons were practically indestructible and therefore VERY hard to flatten.   

Place a spoon face down on a hard surface.  Concrete with an old T-shirt in between worked the best.  Start pounding the spoon.  Turn the spoon over and pound some more.  Keep going until the spoon is completely flat.  You may need to hit the spoon handle a few times to straighten it out as well.

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Next, choose the letters you want to stamp onto the spoon.  Start with the letter in the middle of your word.  Hold the stamp against the spoon with your first two fingers and your thumb.  Press the sides of your fingers against the spoon to help brace them and keep the stamp still.  Start with a few short taps with the hammer and gradually hit harder.  It will take about 15 hard strikes to make a clear indentation.  Repeat with the rest of the letters.



If you want you can fill the letters in with black permanent marker so they show up better.  You can also use forks or butter knives.

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June 8, 2010

Spring Potato Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Tarragon Lemon Vinaigrette


This potato salad is ideal for BBQ’s and picnics because it is dressed with a vinaigrette and free of mayonnaise.  Seasoned with tarragon and lemon, it is the perfect base for skewers of grilled shrimp or steak. 


Dressing -

1/3 C. good olive oil

1 1/2 Tbs. lemon zest (from one large lemon or two small)

1/4 C. fresh lemon juice (from the same lemon(s) you used for the zest)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

3 Tbs. fresh tarragon, finely chopped

2 Tbs. sweet hot mustard

1 Tbs. honey

Salad -

4 C. small red potatoes, quartered or cut into bite size pieces (about 2 pounds)

1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 C. water

1 large bunch asparagus

1 pound fresh green beans

1 large red bell pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper


Heat grill to medium-high.

Place potatoes in a large, microwave safe bowl.  Add 1 tsp. salt and water.  Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until potatoes are just starting to soften but don’t fall apart when pressed with the back of a spoon, 12-15 minutes.  Drain water from potatoes and return to bowl.


Place all dressing ingredients in a sealable, plastic container or a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Make sure the lid is sealed and shake until the dressing is combined.  It’s best to keep one hand on the lid, just in case.  Trust me, a little bit of dressing can fly an amazing distance. 

DSC04347 saladzest

It should look something like this


Trim the ends from the green beans and cut them into 1” pieces.  Trim the tough ends from the bottoms of the asparagus and cut into 1” pieces.  Slice the pepper length wise into thin strips.  Cut the strips in half. 

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Add the vegetables to the bowl with the potatoes.  Gently mix in remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, garlic, oil and pepper. 

Make a foil “basket” by layering two large sheets of foil and folding the sides up a couple of inches.  Pour vegetables into the middle of the foil. Fold the sides of the foil over and then the ends to enclose the veggies.  Poke holes with a knife to vent steam. 

saladfoil1 saladfoil3

Place vegetables on the grill and close the lid.  After 5 minutes, carefully open the packet and close the lid again.  Cook vegetables until they are tender-crisp, 5-7 minutes. 

Transfer vegetables to a large bowl (save a dish and use the same bowl you cooked the potatoes in) and, while still warm, gently fold in dressing. Adjust salt if needed.


This salad can be served warm, straight from the grill but it’s best after it has chilled in the fridge over night.  The potatoes soak up the dressing and the flavor of the peppers and tarragon have a chance to fully develop.