Welcome to my Crafty Blog!

an overjoyed sam at the statue of a giant thimble and buttons in toronto

I'm Samantha (Sam), a mechanical engineer, seamstress, crafter, & entrepreneur. Enjoy perusing photos of my sewing and craft-related adventures. I hope my blog brings inspiration and happiness to your day!

Tutorials & Free Projects

Tiny Thread Spool Pushpins Tutorial X-Stitch Throw Pillow Tutorial
Starburst Wrapper Bracelet Tutorial Vintage Hassock Reupholstery DIY
Safety Eye Installation Tutorial for Plush a guide to sewing in your dorm room
Sewing Basket Essentials for Beginners a gift guide for the seamstress who has everything

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Handmade Wool Alpaca Plush Tiny Handmade Plush Cactus
Annual Ladies' Board Rummage Sale orange sewing machine from germany
Marietta Big Chicken custom plush tiny narwhal graduation gift

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wiwo wednesday: removing staples from the chair

chair reupholstery: staple removal

My biggest project this week has been working, slowly but surely, to remove as many staples as I can from this chair. I started the chair back in November (see this post for a before picture) and it’s been sitting in a corner of my bedroom, raw but filled with staples, ever since.

This week has been a little bit hectic and a little bit stressful, and I wanted a project that I didn’t have to think about. Removing staples has been the perfect brainless task: I don’t have to think, but I still feel productive. To keep myself entertained, I’ve been listening to an audiobook while I work. I download them for free from the library and they make a huge difference in my motivation for tedious tasks.

chair reupholstery: staple removal

I got this fantastic staple remover for Christmas and I can’t imagine a tool doing a better job on the nearly-flush staples I’m encountering. This chair is just covered in staples, layer after layer, so the tool isn’t a miracle worker: I have a lot of work ahead of me. But I would have given up ages ago without it.

My process so far has been to loosen the staple using the staple remover, rock the remover back and forth a bit to start to pry the staple out, and then grab the staple with jewelry pliers to coax it the rest of the way. This chair has two types of staples. One are a thin, flexible metal, and they’re very easy to remove; the others are a brittle metal, most likely a steel alloy, that tend to crack and break before I can remove the whole staple. When I remove one of these steel staples without breaking it, I get a rush of success. Those successes are few and far between.

I’ve made it through most of the side panel and the lower front panel this past week. Again, this is definitely going to be a lot of work. I’ve filled almost a whole coffee can with staples and threads. Pro-tip: the coffee can is perfect for plunking staples into. If you’re more cautious than I am, cut a slit in the lid so you’re safe even if you tip the can over! I have also been keeping my mini shop vac handy, and briskly vacuuming the floor each night when I’m done.

chair reupholstery: staple removal

The biggest reason I’ve started back into this project is that I finally found a fabric for it! I’d been debating for months about which direction to take the chair. On the one hand, it would be super fun to use a bold, graphic print and turn this medium-sized chair into a statement piece. But, on the other hand, this project is going to be a lot of work and I want the result to be able to blend into any of my future homes. I didn’t rush the decision. While I love fabric shopping, I often hate fabric shopping for specific projects… it can be intimidating and overwhelming to try and make the perfect choice.

This fabric came to me, as fabrics often do, without any effort on my part. I found it at the thrift store. The picture above is super lame, but the fabric is absolutely ideal. It’s thick, upholstery weight, with a diagonal denim-style weave and a soft, brushed feel. It’s light gray with a good amount of visual texture – the threads vary from white to dark gray – and there are even a few small “nubs” in the weave, something I always like. It will match nicely with my hassock and I’ll have the freedom to decorate it with any pillow that I choose!

Hopefully there aren’t too many more evenings until the chair is staple-free, but I’m not counting down yet. Wish me luck. Someday, this chair will be soft and gray!

Marie started wiwo wednesday: What I’m Working On. I try and join her as often as I can to give you a peek into my creative process and my works-in-progress. See all my wiwo wednesday posts here.

a party turtle for katie

party turtle plush for katie

Last week, Brad and I drove to South Carolina for Katie and Jimmy’s wedding. The day of our arrival was also Katie’s birthday, a day I named The Most Anticlimactic Birthday of Katie’s Life. Because, really, when you’re getting married in 3 days, how significant does the anniversary of your birth feel? Not very.

plush party turtle for katie

But I was determined to do my part to keep Katie’s birthday on the radar, however small that blip may be. She had visited my apartment a week or so earlier, and she had noticed my original party turtle for the first time. She loved it. Birthday gift conundrum: solved.

party turtles, new and old

Katie loves orange, like I do, and I couldn’t resist making a party turtle in a much brighter colorway than my original. When Brad saw the picture, he said, “your party turtle looks like an old soul.” And I think that’s pretty perfect for Katie and me: she’s the energetic one in this friendship.

party turtle plush partied too hard

Every once in awhile, my party turtle parties too hard and falls over. Katie’s party turtle, when I first stitched him up, wouldn’t stay upright even for a second! Don’t party so hard, Party Turtle! To help her (Katie declared the turtle a “her”) stay upright, I re-opened the stitches in her belly and slipped 3 nickels into the shell. Now she’s well balanced.

Katie had a good birthday (helped, of course, by Party Turtle), and Katie and Jimmy had a great wedding.

The party turtle isn’t my pattern; the adorable, incredibly silly pattern was made by Jodie, whose blog, Ric-Rac, features some really amazing and perfectly executed plush, including the tiny turtles with party hats. Everyone needs a party turtle: they make any occasion that much more festive.


Here are some previous posts about Katie’s wedding… more to come!

wiwo wednesday: a day in the life of a table

craft table in action

I’ve been having fun with my tripod lately, and for this week’s wiwo wednesday, I thought I’d share the progression of a recent Saturday as witnessed by my dining table.

craft table in action

I’ve been pulling lots of colors from my hutch full of rainbow fleece.

craft table in action

Some of the creations won’t be much of a surprise. But the one that was a surprise? It was a good one.

craft table in action

Throughout the day, the table shifts from cluttered, to clean, to cluttered again. The constant battle of creativity.

craft table in action

All done!

travel tuesday: silly things in basel

hannah and claire at the dreilaendereck in basel

Basel: A quick girls’ trip to Switzerland. A breezy round trip for me, and a first time in Europe for Claire and Hannah. It was wonderful to see Europe through their fresh eyes, and, as it always is with friends, the smallest things were the best things.

claire with a giant pair of jeans in basel

Or, sometimes, it’s the largest things… like this enormous pair of pants that I forced a hesitant Claire to pose with.

an oddly grumpy wooden church pew man, basel

The church pews in the Basel M√ľnster were adorned with extremely grumpy wooden men!

red face carvings at the basel rathaus

And the windows of the Rathaus were bedecked in small, individually distinct faces.

tavern lantern featuring a urinating dwarf in basel

We spotted a tavern lantern that featured a urinating dwarf…

giant birkenstock in basel

… and a window-sized Birkenstock. Maybe it belongs with the giant pants!

wooden door in basel with exposed glutes

And of course, how could I resist sharing the wooden door with artfully carved men showing off their glutes? Resistance is futile. The glutes must be displayed.

the best schokocroissants of my life

On a much more serious note: these were the best schokocroissants I have ever had. I will never forget them, and I will never fail to wish I could continue to eat them daily. Three days, one croissant per day, was nowhere near enough.

Travel Tuesday is a semi-weekly feature that allows me to recap the many trips I’ve failed to formally document. I’ll be sharing photos and fuzzy (but fond) memories from recent and not-so-recent adventures.

threadless t-shirt quilt in progress

threadless t-shirt quilt: layout 1

I’ve been a Threadless fan from the very beginning. I bought my first shirt when the site had a total of seven shirts available: a tiny start to what has become an impressive enterprise. I was captivated by the idea of artist-made shirts: the contest format gives everyone an equal chance to become a t-shirt designer, and the best designs win, regardless of the popularity of the artist. People from all over the country – and now the world – had the opportunity to make art and money, and I got to wear a clever, unique shirt. Wins for everyone.

threadless t-shirt quilt: beloved threadless shirts

But even the most beloved shirts wear thin after a million wears and washes. Tiny holes in the armpits and hems meant they weren’t giveaway worthy, and I couldn’t bear to throw the art in the trash. So, I embarked on my first t-shirt quilt. What’s a seamstress to do?

threadless t-shirt quilt: colored pencil sketch

I’m not a big fan of the standard t-shirt quilt. Giant rectangles and sorority slogans do not a quilt make. I’m determined to make my Threadless quilt as art-focused as the shirts themselves.

My first goal is to avoid the standard 8.5×11″ squares that come together to form most t-shirt quilts. I played carefully with the tee designs, taking advantage of the fact that each print has a different shape. I then drew out small pencil sketches on graph paper to see what I had to work with. I’m lucky that the majority of this t-shirt collection is color-coordinated: blues and grays with a touch of red and yellow. My pale pink shirt and my bright turquoise shirt had to sit out this round, but it’s worth it.

threadless t-shirt quilt: prepping the shirts

Prepping the t-shirts is simple. I cut off the sleeves, then the neck hem, then cut the front away from the back.

threadless t-shirt quilt: prepping t-shirts for quilt

Laying flat, suddenly the t-shirt isn’t a shirt anymore: it’s just a piece of fabric, waiting to become something new. I left each shirt piece as big as possible at this stage, because I was still working out where everything would go, and it’s far easier to cut fabric away than to magically add it back later.

threadless t-shirt quilt: iron-on interfacing for quilt

I then ironed a thin fusible interfacing to the back of each shirt. Many t-shirt quilts use a knit interfacing, but I chose regular interfacing for 3 reasons:

  1. These shirts are nicer than the standard t-shirt, and aren’t too stretchy to begin with;
  2. I have a huge supply of lightweight fusible interfacing;
  3. It’s a quilt. I don’t want it to be stretchy.

After ironing on the interfacing, I trimmed the top and bottom of the design, still leaving plenty of fabric for future decision making.

threadless t-shirt quilt: layout 2

As I shifted and rearranged the designs, I made an important realization: the heights of the designs may vary, but the widths of the majority of the designs were the same. Yes, obviously: the width of each shirt is my width! In the end I decided on this three-column approach. The two side columns are the same, full-shirt width. The center column shows off the tall, skinny designs, highlighting my favorite: the ants appeasing the anteater with an ice cream cone.

The columns have been stitched together, but no further progress than that yet. I’m hoping to make this quilt a bit larger than a lap quilt, but we’ll see what I end up with. I want to avoid sashing as much as possible because I like the way the colors of the shirts and their designs play off one another, and, again, I want this to stand apart from the standard t-shirt quilt. I also want to incorporate the “tags” from each shirt, where the name of the shirt and the name of the artist are screenprinted at the inside back neck of each shirt. Those will work well for adding character to the back of the quilt.

Next, another quilt-back saga. Am I the only one who takes years to find an appropriate backing fabric for a quilt? Luckily with this one I have an idea in mind… sweatshirt fleece would be unbearably cozy. But what color? That decision alone could take months…

Marie started wiwo wednesday: What I’m Working On. I try and join her as often as I can to give you a peek into my creative process and my works-in-progress. See all my wiwo wednesday posts here.