Make Your Own Chalkboard

I have been wanting a chalkboard so badly, pretty much ever since Pinterest showed me how cool they are (peer pressure!). You can’t find them anywhere, unless you’re willing to order one online. And I really wasn’t. I’m never on the front end of a fad, and I’m not about to shell out much money for one now :).

So I started looking into making my own. Hence this tutorial. I’m gonna show you how to make your own chalkboard using chalkboard spray paint.IMG_8526

This works especially well if you’re creating a big chalkboard and are worried about keeping things smooth and even. There are other forms of brush-on chalkboard paint out there, and I considered them, but I was really worried that I’d make a mess of it. When I stumbled upon Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Spray Paint, I knew this would be my best bet. Now, I felt a little guilty, because I’d been reading Superfreakonomics, and I was in section about global warming, and I don’t know if spray paint is amazing for the environment. But I’d already bought it when it occurred to me, and I really really REALLY wanted my super cool chalkboard. So if you’re already ok with spray paint, go for it, if not, there is a tutorial for making a chalkboard with brush-on paint here.

1. Find your surface. I stumbled upon an old whiteboard in our garage, and I was super pumped. The frame was ugly, and if it starts to bother me I will paint it or reframe somehow, but I could not have found a better surface for my project! And it’s a good size, around 23”x46”.
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Clean the surface as well as you can. You don’t want any dirt or lint under your paint.

2. Protect your frame. Pitiful as mine may be, I still covered the frame with tape.
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3. Prime your surface. Just how imperative this step is, I do not know. But the guy at Home Depot recommended I do it, and I really didn’t want to waste my time and chalkboard paint, only have have it chip off. If you use a whiteboard like I did, the surface is going to be slick. Better to be safe than sorry! I used Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover Primer in gray.
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Tips:

  • Spray outside or in a well ventilated area!
  • Put down a drop cloth if you care about the area you’re spraying in.
  • TAKE THE WIND INTO CONSIDERATION! I did not think about that, as I was spraying in my open garage. The day was very windy. I walked away and came back to my drop cloth on top of my board, which was also covered in a nice layer of dirt. Thankfully, it didn’t mess up the finished product, but it did cause me some panic.
  • If you’ve never used spray paint, it’s going to look crazy and splotchy at first (see above), but don’t worry, keep going back and forth as evenly as you can and you will cover the whole surface (see below).
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3. Apply your chalkboard paint. There are special instructions on the can for the chalkboard paint. You apply one coat, then 2 more light coats a few minutes apart. You’re then supposed to do this a second time, either within 1 hour or after 24 hours. I didn’t see the instruction about the “2 more light coats a few minutes apart.” I just waited about 20 minutes after the first coat and did a second one. And my chalkboard is fine.
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4. Be patient while your board dries. I only waited a couple of hours because I was too excited. The can says it’s dry to the touch after 1 hour and fully dry after 24 hours.

5. Peel off the tape. This was probably my favorite part because I love how you pull off the messy tape to reveal the crisp, beautiful finished product!

6. Go crazy-town on your new chalkboard!

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Link: Training Pants Pattern

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Occasionally, I trip around my WordPress dashboard, noting sporadic spikes in readership. Usually those are from mentions here and there on fellow bloggers’ pages. But, taking a look at my data just now, I discovered that someone has does something WONDERFUL with one of my tutorials.

Amber at Mom Road has created a pattern based on my Training Pants Tutorial! I can’t thank her enough, because I keep promising that I will gain the ability to produce patterns, and I never do.

I plan to print out her pattern and size it for Dex, because *whisper* I never even got around to making a pattern for myself! I just kept my ruined prototype pieces. So there is my confession of the day: I never officially used my own training pants because the knit was too tight and I got discouraged and never modified them! Any wonder why I never put out patterns Winking smile ?? Thanks so much, Amber!!

Book Review: Illustrated Guide to Sewing: Couture Techniques: The Home Sewer’s Guide to Creating Designer Looks

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I’ve been given the opportunity to review a few books in this line, and I chose Couture Techniques first because I knew I didn’t have the slightest clue about what constitutes couture. And I was right!

I thought couture was just a fancy schmancy term for “expensive clothing made by famous designers.” But really, these garments are set apart for a reason. So much thought and care goes into how these pieces are created, resulting in well-fitting, long-lasting, beautiful clothing.

This book was surprisingly easy to understand. I wondered if I’d just be wading through fashion-industry-gibberish accented by pretty pictures of clothing. Instead I found user-friendly charts and lots of great diagrams that teach you how to do everything, from choosing the right fabrics for your purpose to trouble-shooting common problems in clothing design.

You won’t learn how to draft patterns here, but you will learn a lot about fitting existing paper patterns to your measurements. It has never been quite clear to me how to execute those changes, and I’m certain this will be a valuable resource next time I’m working on my pieces.

The only thing I actually missed were more pictures of the final products. Partially so I’d have a better idea of whether or not I’d like to attempt some of the techniques (a tie collar?? I’ve got to see someone looking cute in that before I’ll attempt it!), but mostly because I like to look at pretty pictures 🙂

I’d be surprised if any intermediate seamstress was disappointed in this book. It might be overwhelming for newbies, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check it out. I could have benefitted from some of these tips long ago!

*Note: When looking for this book, I’ve seen the title listed 2 different ways. On the cover it says “Home Sewer’s Guide”, but it is listed everywhere as “Home Sewing Guide”. I don’t know how important this distinction is, but I thought I should point it out. I went with what was on the cover!

The Transformation of Mr. Hunny Bear

Dexter has finally chosen a comfort item.

When I was pregnant, my husband sent me a beautiful (and yummy!) fruit bouquet for Valentine’s Day. A soft white bear happened to be attached, so I just added it to the tiny but growing basket of Dexter toys. In the first 21 months of his life, he barely paid attention to it.

Then he became socially  aware.

He now recognizes that his cousins, Ty and Micah, sleep with bears. One day we were talking about it while I was rocking him (Actually, I was singing about it. Yes, we have a Ty and Micah song.) and afterward Dex really wanted a bear to sleep with. I pulled out the girly white bear and he has slept with him ever since.

A few days later, we were having lunch with my friend, Lisa, and her daughter, Alex. Alex’s favorite toy is a bear named Sunny. Dexter was really excited about “Sunny Bear”, and talked quite a bit about her. And eventually he started calling his own bear Hunny Bear.

Since the attachment is growing stronger, I decided I’d risk ruining Hunny Bear early on in order to make him more boyish. And less dorky. Let’s face it, random bears that come with bouquets aren’t made with aesthetics in mind.

Here is Hunny Bear’s journey:

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Meet… Anya.

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I really think my least favorite part is the ugly floral embroidery on the foot. But we’ll get to that. Easiest first step: Lose the bow!

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What I really wanted to do next was get away from the white fur. If this becomes Dexter’s permanent buddy, white is going to look gross fast. I was hoping to warm it up to a honey tone, but a few things were in my way. 1. I know almost nothing about dying. I knew the tone I wanted, and I knew it needed to be child-safe. But I didn’t really know what would work on the mostly synthetic fur. Which leads me to my next point… 2. I am IMPATIENT and I wanted to start dying NOW. So my options were pretty much limited to a tea bath.

I boiled a bunch of tea bags, added some vinegar for good measure, and gave Hunny Bear a bath. Dex enjoyed watching the process from his high chair 🙂

IMG_7994(Ok, so I just took one picture of him, and it only proves that he enjoyed playing with the discarded ribbon and playing with his ears, and that I haven’t cleaned off my dining room table in a while… but I promise, he enjoyed watching Hunny Bear get dyed!)

Poor Hunny Bear really went through a lot. I hope for his sake that Toy Story isn’t true.

The pre-dye soak:

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Into the boiling hot water:

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The “Poor Wet Rat” stage (btw, THIS is the color I hoped he’d be.):

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Rinsing and wringing:

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After this, I realized that the dye was just barely taking and that the tea bits were not going to come out of the fur with a hand rinse. I think Dexter’s favorite part of the whole process was to personally throw Hunny Bear into the washing machine 🙂

While he was washing and drying, I made a tie. If I had to do over, I’d research the actual proportions of ties and plan the length a little better. But remember the impatience we discussed earlier? I decided to just go for it. I cut a folded length of fabric into the approximate shape of a tie.

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I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into it, and I didn’t mind if the tie frayed, so it is just a single layer.

I unfolded the tie and machine-stitched around the edges. I did two rows to help ensure that the fraying didn’t get entirely out of control. I really like the way it looks!

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After failing to understand several diagrams, I used a tutorial video to learn how to tie my necktie. I stitched at the knot so the necktie wouldn’t come off.  I think, since I made a weirdo little tie, that it almost looks more like a scarf than a necktie. But it’s way better than that purple bow.

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After he was dry, I could tell the dye was just *almost* a waste of time. But at least now he is a gentle vanilla shade instead of stark white. So ultimately it was worth the effort.

Dexter was happy to see Hunny Bear again and didn’t seem to mind the new changes.

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Phase Two involved covering all traces of purple. I used scraps of chocolate brown fleece to patch over the nose and feet. So so cute!!!! This was my favorite change!

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One last step… Goodbye forever, Anya!

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And officially hello, Hunny Bear!!

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Tutorial: Easy Robot Appliqué

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This story begins with a Bert and Ernie marathon. My son loves Ernie and talked us into watching probably 30 clips on YouTube before nap. He’s very persuasive 🙂

I started thinking how cool it would be to surprise him with an Ernie shirt, and in my search for Ernie inspiration, I stumbled across an awesome it’s-already-been-done tutorial over at MADE. It’s almost exactly what I was hoping to do! But I realized that I didn’t have all the colors I need, and I’m also hoping to do some textures, especially in the hair. So we’re shelving Ernie for later.

But I still had the crafting itch, and it’s been a while since I’ve made something for our family. I’ve been on a steady diet of car seat ponchos (separating zippers, AAAGH), so I really needed something to cleanse the palate.

Dexter has also been deeply immersed in a robot craze, so it didn’t take long for me to change directions.

Step 1: Sketch an awful picture of a robot that you will quickly scrap.

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Step 2: Cut out trapezoids for the head and body, rectangles for the legs and feet, and then shapes for the arms and hands. I used a pincher-type hand, and then I wanted the arms to broaden near the hands. The fabric I used was gray t-shirt scraps.

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Step 3: Place and pin the pieces. I liked the way the pieces didn’t quite touch.

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Step 4: Sew around the edges of the  pieces. I used a black thread, about 1/8” away from the edge. I didn’t use backing, adhesive, or stabilizer, but it might make it  easier to keep the pieces in place if you’re nervous. I didn’t take pictures of the sewing process, so hopefully that’s pretty simple to figure out. Just remember to not sew through all the layers!! You want your shirt to be wearable 🙂 I know this sounds obvious, but it’s exactly the sort of thing I might do without thinking. My robot is still messy in this picture, but eventually clip the threads.

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Step 5: Add features! You can use buttons, fabric, stitching, or paint. Be creative! I took a minimalist approach and I love it! I love that I had a deep red button to sew over the “heart” area 🙂

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When Dexter saw the shirt this morning, he cheered, “Robot!!!” and I knew it was worth the work 🙂

My little photographer was pretending to take pictures of me with the lens cap. He kept saying, “Cheese!!”

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I also like how keeping the pieces separated allows the robot to have a little movement. It’s funny how he looks slumped over when Dex is sitting 🙂

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Dexter is not a fan of photo shoots these days. Even though I don’t force him to do anything, besides stand at least 10 feet away from me, there is something in him that just makes him resist  having pictures taken. It must be the genes he got from his dad!! Here’s where we had to break so he could crawl at me, growling like a monster.

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And then he rests…

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Toddler Hoodie Tutorial

Time for my long-awaited return to the blogging world! This past month has been full of sick family members and other craziness. After my nephew recovered, my son got sick. That was a 2 week ordeal (Thankfully not as intense as it was with my poor nephew!!) and just when it felt like Dexter would never be Dexter-y again, suddenly he was! So things are slowly coming back around to “normal”, if that term can be applied to my everyday life.

Now, let’s get down to business.

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This tutorial will include a walkthrough of how I created and assembled my new toddler hoodie pattern. What it does not currently include is the pattern (boo), but as soon as I figure out how to create and attach printable files I will do an update! Until then, you can create your own pattern the way I did: Take one of your child’s shirts and trace all the pieces, adding about a half-inch seam allowance. Don’t forget how much your seam allowance was (maybe write it on your pattern) because if you don’t sew enough your shirt could be a little big, or worse, too tight if you sew too much. I did choose a roomy cut because I wanted my son to be comfortable and for this shirt to last for several seasons. The sleeves are a little long, but we cuff them.

If you don’t have a shirt that has everything you want, then use multiple shirts to get your pieces! I used a jacket of Dexter’s to trace the hood for this pattern.

Choose your fabrics, and have fun doing it! You can make the shirt entirely out of the same material, but this pattern is perfect for using up scraps! (In another blog I’ll show you just how scrap-friendly this pattern can be!)

You will need 5 total pieces: 1 front, 1 back, 2 sleeves, 2 hood halves. In the following pictures, you can see that I originally planned to just use a regular neckband, but decided to take a chance and make my first hoodie!

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I have LOTS of scrap knit fabric, so I cut the front out of the graphic area of one of my husband’s old tees, and then used a fabric for the back that was similar to the front. Then I used the dark green for all the accent pieces.

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Here is a tip for the arms: Cut along the length of an already hemmed tee if you want hemmed sleeves. You’ll learn later that you don’t have to hem at all, but if you want that finished look (and don’t have a serger) this is an easy way to cheat and get it.hoodie tute 7

I did the same thing with the hood, laying my pattern piece so the hem created the part of the hood that frames the face.

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Then put the front and back right sides together, and sew (ZIG ZAG!!!) along the shoulders and sides.

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Next, sew down the length of the sleeves. Do NOT sew around the shoulder curve. You would sew the upper arm of your sleeve shut, rendering the sleeve useless, and making you a big dummy. It’s possible I might have done that one a shirt recently, but I will neither confirm nor deny it in this particular blog post.

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Also, if you decide to go with the pre-hemmed look, I suggest that you start your stitches at the wrist side of the sleeve, that way it will definitely match up and look a little neater. (Side note: don’t freak out that I’m using 2 different thread colors. It means nothing other than that I was too impatient to wind a matching bobbin.)

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Attach your sleeves to your shirt. Keep the body of the shirt inside out, but turn the sleeves. Place the sleeves inside the shirt. Match seams at the shoulder first, and then at the underarm if things work out well.

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I did have a problem here. And if upload my pattern and you use it, you will possibly have the same problem. The shoulder of the sleeve was a little bigger than the armhole for the body. The way I corrected this is not ideal, and if you’re OCD about these things, the following truth-bomb might make your head explode: I just folded the excess fabric at the armpit and went on with my life.

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It might be a little hard to tell, unless you click to enlarge the picture, but you can see where I’m making about a half-inch overlap here.  I just pinned it with the fold toward the back (I’m not OCD enough to care about the fold, but my seams WILL face the same direction. Always toward the back.) and sewed right over it. I never even see the gather when my son is wearing it. If you’re making this hoodie for a girl and this problem pops up, use the excess fabric to make subtle gathers at the top of the shoulder! It will be a cute addition, and no one will ever know you didn’t plan it.

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Take a minute and admire your almost-finished shirt! I always love this stage because you can see that it’s really happening! Also, it never hurts to model the shirt at this stage to make sure no adjustments are needed! if it’s just way too huge, you could always put a seam down the middle of the front or back. it might not work with every design, but this particular shirt is pretty forgiving. My next blog about the pattern will show how seams can be used effectively when working with scraps, so I’m certain it would work for sizing issues and be just fine.

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Next sew the 2 hood parts together (right sides together). Remember to match up your finished edges and sew from there if you want to be certain there won’t be weird overlap.

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Ok. There comes a time in every tutorial where I’m so focused on the finish line that I forget to take pictures. This is that time. And I’m not happy that it’s the hood-attachment part, because that took some time for me to figure out. I’ll do my best to explain it verbally, and I apologize if it’s just too unclear.

With this pattern, the 2 sides of the hood will overlap. I marked the center of the back of the shirt and matched the hood seem up with that. I didn’t explain earlier, and when I upload the pattern it will be marked, but the hood slopes down toward the face. the short part is the back.

So, your shirt is right side out this time, the hood attached on the outside, with the right side facing the shirt. Start pinning the neck, matching the centers of the shirt and the hood. When you get around to the front, overlap the sides. This might be preferential, but when the hoodie is on, the left side overlaps the right side. If that’s what you want, pin left side down first, and lay the right side over that. Then sew all around the neckline.

Here you can see the slight overlap of the finished hood.

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Lastly, evaluate any unhemmed areas. (Check the bottom of the shirt, the sleeves, and the hood edge). Either turn those areas under and stitch (I hope you’ve been zig-zagging. Always zig-zag when sewing knits with a regular sewing machine, or your seam will pop when stretched!!) or, you can leave them raw. In a lot of cases it’s perfectly fine to not even stitch, but if you’re worried at all about unraveling, go ahead and stitch near the edge.

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And there you have it! A finished hoodie! Clip the treads and trim any really wide seams, and you’re done!

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Put it on your kid and take some awesome pictures 🙂

Dexter wasn’t extremely pleased to model immediately after nap, but he did what he could!

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Thanks for making it through the excessive Dexter pictures! I could claim that I included so many so you could see what you could expect your hoodie to look like, but really I was just showing off my baby lol. Send me a link if you try the tutorial!!! I’d love to see other people’s interpretations of the design!

Training Pants Prototype & Tutorial

I’ve had a hard time finding training pants for Dexter, and because I like to make things, I decided to give training pants a try :). I browsed a little for tutorials before deciding to just do my own thing.

I will preface this by saying they didn’t fit very well, so I’m going to make some changes. However, I think this tutorial will be a good one when I work out the kinks. I deliberately chose a knit fabric that had very little stretch… I was worried they’d become floppy. It turned out to be a mistake because I had to work really hard to get the pants over his chubby legs and booty. Next I’m going to try a knit with more stretch, and make the cuts a little roomier. Since the center panel is non-stretch I now know they do have to be cut bigger.

Onward!

Supplies

Undies to use as a template (until I upload a pattern) {UPDATE: Amber at Mom Road has created a printable pattern using this tutorial! There are a few modifications with her pattern, including a PUL layer!}

Prefold diapers

Knit fabric (I used an old t-shirt)

Cutting

Step 1: Choose undies to use as a template. (After I perfect my pattern I will upload something printable in case you have no undies to work from) I used 2T-3T undies.IMG_6056

Step 2: Lay undies on folded diaper, centering undies on the thickest part. Cut diaper so that when folded it’s as tall as the undies. I chose the width by cutting about a half an inch past the thick part of the diaper. (BTW how CUTE are those undies???)IMG_6063

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Step 3: Put the folded and cut diaper inside the undies to determine leg-hole cuts. Mark about a half an inch from the leg-hole for seam allowance. Do this for the front and the back.IMG_6070

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Step 4: Make leg-hole cuts. One of mine looks a little sloppy, just focus on how pretty the one on the right is 🙂IMG_6074

Step 5: Make the stretchy side panels. Fold knit fabric vertically. Lay undies on top with the side against the fold. Lay diaper on top of undies, letting the edge overlap the the edge of the knit fabric. This takes care of your seam allowance. (Does that make sense? If this step is horribly confusing and/or the picture doesn’t make sense, leave a comment and I’ll try to do better!!) Cut 2 of those.IMG_6076

Step 6: Make the waistband. Fold vertically, line one size of your undies up with the fold. Cut the waist band about 3-4 inches wide to allow for folding over and the seam allowance. (I think I prefer a wider waist band, and next time I will cut closer to 4 inches.)IMG_6078

Step 7: Create the leg bands. I forgot to take a picture for this step. but basically I flattened the leg-hole of the undies to get the length of my strip. I cut to a width of about 2 inches.

Here are all my cut pieces to give you a reference for how big each one is and where they they should go:IMG_6080

Sewing

Step 1: Sew side panels to the back of the diaper, right sides together so that the seam will be on the inside (unless you want the seam on the outside. I considered that, it might be more comfy for your toddler). Line the top of the diaper up with the top of the panel, leaving the extra fabric at the leg-holes. We’ll trim that later. I also used a straight stitch for this step.IMG_6081

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Step 2: Sew side panels to the front of the diaper (also right sides together, seam on the inside).IMG_6086

Step 3: Trim excess fabric to shape the leg-holes.IMG_6089

Step 4: Sew ends of the waistband together to create a loop, seam on the inside.IMG_6091

Step 5: Fold the waistband in half, wrong sides together.IMG_6094

Step 6: Turn your pants right side out. Pin your waistband to the outside of the pants with all raw edges together. I also made sure I pinned the seam of the band to the back of the pants, because it would have made me crazy if I didn’t 🙂 IMG_6095

Step 7: Sew on waistband. IMPORTANT: USE A ZIGZAG STITCH!! If you use a straight stitch for this step the threads will pop when stretched… boo, we no likey.

Step 8: This is actually a lot of steps combined. Follow steps 4-7 for each leg-hole. Don’t forget to use your zigzag stitch!!!!

And now you have a pair of training pants!IMG_6099

They look a little funny here with all the threads and stretched-outedness. In theory, you’d clip the threads and be done. But in reality, I tried them on Dexter and they just didn’t fit. Sure, I managed to get them on him, but, as I said before, there was just not enough stretch. But they sure are cute!!!IMG_6117

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