Thursday, November 27, 2008

Crowning Glory: A DIY Play Crown Tutorial

Remember the birthday crown I posted in June? Well, now you can make them too. They're a good project for sewing beginners, and I'm sure more experienced fabric-crafters will be able to elaborate on their very basic design.

  • fabric for panel A (almost anything works, but I tend to avoid really silky fabrics and things that fray easily)
  • fabric for panel B (I like corduroy or denim)
  • fusible fleece interfacing (one side irons on)
  • thread (I tend to use all-purpose for everything)
  • Velcro (about a foot); I use sew-in for greater durability, but iron-on would be easier (whatever you do, DO NOT try and sew on self-adhesive Velcro)
  • iron
  • sewing machine
  • press cloth (large piece of colorfast cotton fabric)
  • scissors
  • tape measure/ruler
  • straight pins
  • crown template
Measure the future wearer's head circumference where the crown will rest. Toddlers (2-3) seem to measure around 18" circumference, so I make most of my young kid crowns adjustable from 18-23" to allow for growth. Ranger's crown adjusts from 19.5-25" because we're a big headed clan (and everybody wears the crown).

Using our oh-so-technical paper crown template, you can plot out the starting and end points of your crown so it allows for user growth and/or a variety of noggins. I recommend adding about 5 inches past the user head circumference for good overlap and size adjustments.

After adjusting the template (cut off excess or tape on additional lengths) to your desired finished size (you'll add seam allowances later, so don't worry about that now).

Pin your finalized paper template (good side up) to the non-fusible side of the fusible fleece interfacing. Trace template outline, then remove template and cut fleece (or if you're feeling dangerous, just cut close to the template's edge).

Set the paper template aside. Place the fleece (fusible side down) on the back of your thinner fabric (panel A). Make sure you allow 1/2" on all sides and that your fabric's design (if using a one-direction fabric) is aligned with the crown's pointy top edge. Pin the fleece (fusible side down) to the wrong side (non-printed/back/ugliest side) of the panel A fabric.

Following the directions on your fusible fleece, iron the fleece to the panel A fabric. This will require an iron and a damp press cloth.

Once the fleece is fused to the back of the panel A fabric, mark a 1/2" seam allowance from each fleece edge and cut.

Lay the panel B fabric good side up on a flat surface. Place panel A face down (fleece side up; good side down) on top of panel B. Pin and trace, then cut out B to the same dimensions as A.

Adding the Velcro:
Remove panel A from panel B. Place panel A face down (fleece up), and iron or pin back the 1/2" seam allowance on the right and bottom edges. Set panel A aside.

Place panel B face down. Iron or pin back the 1/2" seam allowance on the right and bottom edges of panel B. Set B aside.

With A facing up, place a 5" strip of Velcro (or whatever size you chose in the earlier measurements) against the left edge (not counting the ironed-back seam allowance) and 1/2" above the bottom edge of the crown (again, 1/2" not counting the seam allowance). Pin it in place. 1/2" above that strip, pin a parallel Velcro strip in place. I tend to use the loop side Velcro on panel A and the hook side on panel B; just be sure to use the same type of Velcro (loop or hook) on a single panel. Mixing and matching just creates more work in the long run.

Set panel A aside.

With B's good side facing up, align the other half of your Velcro strip to the left edge and 1/2" above the bottom fold. Pin in place. As before, add a second parallel strip of Velcro 1/2" above the first strip. Compare side-by-side with panel A for alignment.

Sew (or iron- depending on your Velcro) the strips in place. I tend to outline the pieces with a straight stitch first, then go around them once or twice with a zig-zag. This is where your crown is going to have the most stress applied in use, so make sure you've really stitched it down well.

When both panels have Velcro attached, you are ready to sew them together!

Pin with good sides facing each other. Mark a gap of about 6 inches (for turning) at the bottom center of the crown (I put two pins side by side to make these beginning and end points).

With fleece side up, sew a straight stitch outline around the edge of the fleece. If you're feeling fancy you can clip the curves and trim the corners of each point.

Through the bottom opening, turn the crown right side out. Using a pencil (eraser end) or chopstick, push out all the points and smooth the edges. When you are satisfied with the crown's shape, pin the bottom opening shut and top stitch around the edge of the crown (closing the bottom opening along the way).

Now, pop that crown on your head and go look in the mirror. You look marvelous!

I would love to see your completed crowns in photos and/or links!

Download: Crown Template

P.S. Ali, thanks for stalking me (in a good way) on this. I needed the inspiration to get through my difficulties with making my paper pattern into a working pdf.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Buy Nothing Day's Eve

This year, we are looking forward to a peaceful Thanksgiving with those we love. However you spend your day, we wish you happiness and respite.

Thank you so much for being a part of Baby Toolkit. This ongoing conversation with other parents and friends invigorates our daily lives and keeps the old synapses firing.

Tomorrow, for Black Friday, we're planning on staying out of the stores. Observing Buy Nothing Day has become a tradition for Jim and I. As we've chosen to cut our spending and stick to useful and meaningful gifts, Buy Nothing Day reminds us to enjoy rare vacation days together doing something interesting.

If you are shopping tomorrow, please remember the cardinal rule of discounts:
It's only a good deal if you needed it or were going to buy it anyway.
Fewer gifts are good for the planet and your bottom line. Your savings can also help change the world:

As always, we ask everyone NOT to buy chocolate (unless it is Fair Trade certified) until it no longer brings injury to children half a world away.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Talking Turkey: Jennie-O Offers a Fool Proof Turkey

We've hosted a few Thanksgiving dinners in our home, and with the exception of last year's, they have been unmitigated disasters.

Our first Thanksgiving away from extended family the turkey didn't thaw according to instructions. Not noticing the total lack of pliability, we put it in oven as instructed (not removing any of the extra parts inside the bird). After a long day of cooking, we found a mushy disaster. We tipped the content of the roasting pan into the garbage and high-tailed it to the only local grocery store still open for pre-cooked ham.

The year before Ranger was born Jim and I spent weeks planning an elaborate menu that was Martha Stewart in its vision. We even included individual compote-stuffed acorn squash for each guest.

Our guests arrived hours early, just in time to be here when the oven caught fire. We ate each dish sequentially (as they now had to be heated in our tiny, EasyBake wattage microwave) in the slightly smoky dining room. Needless to say no guest present has ever suggested us hosting Thanksgiving again.

When Jennie-O contacted me that they had an idiot-proof turkey available, I wondered how far our reputation as destroyers of Thanksgiving had traveled. Their miracle turkey could go straight from freezer to oven without cleaning, thawing, marinating, or prepping for roasting.

Our Jennie-O Oven Ready Turkey came boneless, skinless, and frozen. We removed the exterior bag to find the turkey in a roasting bag. We placed the roasting bag in an ovenproof dish and cut 3 small slits in the bag.

The turkey then went in the preheated oven for about 2 hours, emerging as an easy and flavorful dinner. The pop-up timer signaled the end of cooking (and popped around the same time our meat thermometer hit the recommended inner temp of 170 degrees). The thermometer was much easier to use in the Jennie-O Oven Ready turkey breast than in a conventional bird (where you need to avoid the bone). [Video of cooking instructions]

When we cut off the roasting bag, there was enough juice to make a homemade gravy, but it wasn't necessary. Jennie-O includes a packet of gravy mix (add water and heat on the stove). We should have started the gravy before the turkey came out of the oven, but we did not. Instead, driven by the savory scent of turkey, we microwaved the mix.

The turkey was surprisingly juicy and tender. The seasoning was mild, but delicious. Jennie-O's Oven-Ready Turkey was our first successful turkey. These fool-proof gobblers could save future holidays here, and the boneless turkey breast makes a hearty weeknight dinner.

Jennie-O Oven Ready Turkeys can be found year-round at Safeway (Dominicks, Genuardi’s, Vons), Jewel, Super Wal-Marts, Ralph's, King Sooper, Acme, Schnucks, HEB, Meijer, Winn Dixie, Publix, Hy-Vee, Super Target, Fry's, Von's, and some Kroger and Super-Valu Divisions. A 12 lb. whole turkey costs $28, a 5 lb. bone-in breast costs $17, and the 2.75 lb. boneless breast retails for around $13.

Jennie-O turkeys can be ordered online, but their heavy shipping weights and need for expedited shipping translate into considerably higher costs.

Even if you're an expert poultry chef, you can enter Jennie-O's Trauma or Triumph Sweepstakes to win a month of free groceries from Amazon, an iPod nano, a camcorder, and Netflix or iTunes gift cards.

What holiday cooking disasters have you experienced?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Secret Project: Meet Our New Intern

Since early summer, you might have noticed a declining number of posts. We've secretly been working on a huge project.

As Ranger grows strong and tall, we've been losing the baby inspiration for our ongoing toolkit posts.

So we decided to recruit a young intern to turn our attentions back to things baby in addition to ongoing toddler/preschool content.

Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce you to our new BabyJ:
As she gets a little older and asserts more personality, we'll discover her true blog nickname.

Ranger, Jim, and I are all really happy to meet her and welcome her to our family.