Monday, October 24, 2011

Twirl Skirts

Tonight I get to share a God story with my bible study girls. It's just supposed to be a short story of a time God seemed very present/made a dramatic impact in your life. I'm going to tell a love story :). When Thomas fell for me I didn't only experience his love- but it was really my first experience being wooed by God. I'm kind of excited to share it with them. Maybe I'll type it up and share it here as well.

In the meantime I'm still organizing photos so I can upload them to flickr, etc. The internet really is a wonderful place. Most of the pattern and fabric designers I use and blogs I follow have flickr groups. The online crafting community offers such a wealth of inspiration and support. When I make something, I typically upload it to an appropriate flickr group with a link to a blog for anyone wanting more information about where to find the fabric and pattern. It's fun to see how others interpret the same patterns and get feedback from other sewers (and occasionally even the designers!!).

In the last blog post I introduced my love to MADE with my use of her simple skirt tutorial for the Garnet Hill skirt knock off. I had another chance recently to use the pattern and thought I might show you how it turned out, as well as my other favorite skirt tutorial.

Sarah Jane's Children at Play fabric line is so cute! Such a great playful line for a toddlers. I used the double layer variation of the simple skirt and came up with this (unfortunately completed and sent to it's cute owner while my camera was in the shop):

This is a super simple, comfy skirt that can be thrown together quickly and really shows off a great print.

BUT, I don't always like simple. When it comes to presents I really enjoy making things that are extra special. Jona G's Edith Twirl Skirt was one of the first children's clothing patterns I used, and I have loved it ever since. All of the gathering takes a bit of time, but I really like that there are no pattern pieces to cut or keep up with, just lots of rectangles :). This was created for my oldest niece for her 2nd birthday (oooh- see the difference with my nice camera!?- everyone say THANK you JILL):

And this was done for another niece (back to the iPhone-meh). Her mom picked out the fabrics- super fun collaboration!

You can check out my past two Edith Twirl Skirt creations here and here if you want to see more!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Garnet Hill Skirt Knock Off

I hope you all enjoyed Thomas' first post on his trip to Israel. LEAVE A COMMENT - it'll probably encourage him to do his second installment sooner.

In the meantime, I've been digging through the pics on my computer and thought I might share a simple recycle project that I first mentioned back in February. It of course took me until July to sew, and until October to share :). 

Here's the inspiration photo from Garnet Hill. I thought these were so cute! But way too pricey at $40 a skirt.

At a local Salvation Army I looked for a man's shirt- something bright with a strong pattern. Although, this wasn't quite what I was hoping for, at $1.50 (it was half price green tag day) it was a steal for an experiment.  Add $1 worth of elastic and less than that in thread, and you have a fantastic substitute for a $40 skirt.

If you sew, have kids, and like clean design, you probably already read MADE, but if you don't check it out! Dana has great taste, a wonderful photographic eye, and a ton of fun, free tutorials. For this project I used her Simple Skirt tutorial.

Do you like how I don't iron before I sew? I get more done this way :).

This really was a super fast skirt pattern. I added some pockets like the inspiration skirt. Eden LOVES pockets. They are perfect for all the rocks and flowers she collects. Seriously- does anybody else's kid think that rocks are the coolest things ever?

The only tweak that would have made it closer to the inspiration (aside from a brighter, bolder print) would be to replace the buttons with some bright colors. Maybe next summer :).

I mentioned that I finished this skirt in July- which was when Thomas was in Israel. Eden did GREAT all things considered for a two year old whose dad is overseas for a month; however, she had a few, hmmm, "behavior flare ups" and they really came across in her desire to not be cute for pictures.

I think she failed :). My little wild thing.

This is what happens when you teach them to roar before they can even talk.

Well- at least she eventually stopped growling :).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Summer Israel Trip

As many of you know I spent about a month in Israel in excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa and doing some limited but widespread touring of the country.  I thought I would wait until my traveling buds and I exchanged photos before I presented anything, since they might have that killer shot of this or that but no more! I have been heckled enough and hope to dole out some of the gems of my experience here.  I don't know how long it will take but I will begin.

If you have any questions please just ask and if you just get bored with my text just look at the pictures or better yet head over there yourself.  It would be well worth your time.  I always felt safe and there are plenty of companies that can give you a first rate tour.

Let's begin with DAN (aka - Tell Qadi).

Dan is an old site along a major trade route.  Along with Abel Beth-Maacah to the west, it guarded the northern segment of the Jordan river and the entrance into Israel proper.  The river meanders in the lush Hula Valley where Israel now grows a good bit of its banana crop.  North of Dan there are two parallel mountain ranges that run north-south slopping off near Mount Hermon.  Dan sits in the shadow of this snow peaked giant, and marked one of the main east-west crossings in the region.  As a border town, it saw many wars (yay! Archaeologically speaking, destruction is your best friend because it leaves plenty of material for our greedy trowels to uncover and a clear distinction between earlier and later occupation level.  Consider distinguishing what remains of ten homes built directly one top of one another, don't forget foundations and robbing for building material.) 

It is poetic that this "gateway" city boasts a world famous gate.  The dates are somewhat debated but the excavated Middle Bronze gate (c. 2000 BC) has a "triple arch," the oldest arch on the planet (the arched gate at Ashkelon is the other main contender).  It is mud brick and was found almost complete, still bearing its own weight!

For some reason it was only used for a short period of time.  Coincidentally, the story of Abraham coming into the promised land is also set within the Middle Bronze Age.

In the days of the Israelites the tribe of Dan settled this city, formerly Laish, and made a go of it, trading with the nations to the north who were mostly Aramean.  Hence, the popular phrase "from Dan to Beer-Sheba" refers to the capital cities of the northernmost (Dan) and southernmost (Simeon) tribes.  The city was likely pretty prosperous and pretty pagan, being so far from the center of the country; although it became especially wayward, according to the OT, after the division of the Israelite monarchy.  Jeroboam, the dissenting king, had no choice but to sponsor new temples of worship at Dan and Bethel.  Only kings built temples.  They were intimately connected with your dynastic authority.  Besides, without Jerusalem, Jeroboam had to delineate the spiritual geography of his land and gain the support of the religious leaders that would recognize his "divine" right to rule.

This is the temple he built.  The metal frame reconstructs the likely height of the altar, whose sacrifices would attract Baal (Yahweh?) to enter and reside in the temple.  You may recall that Jeroboam made golden calves, not golden Baals.  There is good reason for this.  In the ancient Near East (ANE), deities had specific animals that functioned as their thrones.  Some took several. God chose cherubim (divine beings) for his throne atop the ark of the covenant, as did Solomon and many Phoenician kings.  Weather deities liked calves, Asherah liked lions, etc.  The job of the cult was to make the place attractive to invite the deity to sit down and rule.  At this temple, the stonework is especially fine in places and the level of preservation was very good.

The Iron Age II gate (inside of 1000-780 BC) was particularly impressive.  Actually it follows a pattern in Israel for having a inner and outer gate, perpendicular to each other, with a courtyard in between.  Much of the life of a city would be spent in and around this area.  Therefore the king/governor couldn't afford not to have a presence in the middle of it all (check out my friend Dan on the throne below).  In fact, strangers were probably prohibited from entering unless they were received by the ruler or elders (eg - visiting relatives, religious and royal ambassadors).  Merchants and other travelers would have conducted their business somewhere outside the inner gate, at the city but not in the city.  The top plan of the inner gate would have looked like two "E"s facing each other, looking from above.  The side chambers this created gave room for the guards and elders to convene.  They are barely visible in the last picture.

The cool springs at the site are an attraction in and of the themselves and I look forward to dipping my tired feet in them again.  Well, that should keep ya'll off my back for a while while I prepare another post about another sweet site I was privileged to visit.  Just for fun, I'll leave you with a picture of myself sparring with a soldier from Hazor, which is at the southern end of the same valley as Dan.

[nb- if you click on the photos I think it will zoom in]

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dress To Bless

I'm really excited to share this with you all!! Dress to Bless Ministries is the creation and hard work of Katy Roberts- someone who grew up in my home town of Carthage, TX. She has dedicated a lot of time and talent to create this non profit organization committed to helping the hungry by providing physical and spiritual nourishment through a partnership with Samaritan's Purse. Every dress sold provides a child with ONE month of nourishing food! Katy even has it set up so that you can buy a dress, send the money to Samaritan's Purse, AND have the dress donated to a needy child locally OR in Africa. Double Blessings :).

Dress to Bless began just this past May, and in less than 6 months they have raised $1300 for Samaritan's Purse. 
Because ALL profits are given to Samaritan's Purse, Dress to Bless relies heavily on fabric and dress donations.
Of course I think this is a FANTASTIC IDEA. So I made a few dresses (I'm REALLY enjoying the few hours a week alone while Eden is in school).
Cupcake Pillowcase Dress- 12-18 months

Red Ruffle A-Line Dress (2T- a shorter dress, almost tunic length)
The ruffle insert on this dress was a delightful adaptation for any a-line dress. It really jazzes it up. I would love to do this with fancier fabrics for holidays. The tutorial can be found here. 

 Plaid A-Line with Ruffled Sleeves (3T)

These are listed on the Dress to Bless Ministries website. If you would like any of the dresses shown on her site, please email her at  and specify the name of the dress (listed above each picture).

I would encourage any sewers to use your skills for this great cause. Pillowcase dress patterns are all over the internet and are free. The smaller dresses can usually be made from scraps you already have on hand. All three dresses were made using patterns from The Lily Bird Studio on Etsy.  They were very easy to follow patterns that allow resale of the finished products on a small scale.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


We've done it two years in a row now so it's officially a tradition!!

Can't you tell how excited she is??

About 15 minutes away there is a little family owned apple orchard called Heinz Orchard that reminds me a bit of the blueberry farm we loved in Nacogdoches. We seem to have fallen into two traditions revolving around Heinz. First is the annual Moms and Tots outing from our church. Apple picking is GREAT with toddlers. There are a lot of low branches, the apples snap off pretty easily, and the bag fills up quickly! We typically end with a little picnic and the kids run in the fields and pick flowers. It's nice to have some "country" experiences here.

Last year it was so much fun, that a friend and I ended up with WAY too many apples and decided to learn to can applesauce. This too has become part of the tradition. We make the spiced applesauce from The Joy of Cooking, and simply mash it really well with a fork. I say I like my applesauce really chunky, and while that is probably true, I'm also too cheap to spring for a food mill. I seriously hope I don't poison my family with a poor canning incident. In a dream world I would have enough time to pick 4 times as many apples and can applesauce for Christmas presents.

The second tradition is actually a bit longer standing than 2 years. Thomas and I have baked an apple pie on the first day(ish) of Fall throughout our marriage. The tradition is greatly enhanced by picking our own apples :). No pics of this outing because it was raining and cold. We met our good friend Eileen (she is also an integral part of the pie baking tradition) who awesomely spotted the mice family living in the apple tree- so cute!!

Eileen and I get together as close to the first day of Fall as possible and make pies. We freeze one or two and bake one. Typically I use the apple pie and crust recipe from my grandma's old Better Homes Cookbook. I finally detached myself enough from the sentimentality of the event and tried a new recipe from this book. The crust was much easier to handle and the recipe for apple cider infused apple pie was a hit.

We like serving our pie with a piece of good quality cheddar. Thankfully, Eden liked it too! I LOVE passing on traditions :).