Mar 202015

make your own canvas beach windbreak

Last summer we had a marvelous two week beach vacation planned at one of my very favorite spots to visit – Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s a dreamy beach, miles long and extra wide so there’s plenty of room for walking, running, flying kites or building sandcastles. The only drawback is that it can get windy like most beaches, so before we went I made a large canvas beach windbreak to use while we were there. It worked great at blocking the wind, and also helped to add a boundary and a bit of flair to our beach ‘compound’ (we were there with lots of family members for a reunion and had a lot of chairs and gear that we actually left on the beach each evening – well above the high-tide line of course).

It might seem like summer is ages away, but spring is a great time to get a few projects done to help you have a great time at the beach this year. It’s a perfect project for the lull between Easter and Memorial Day. The whole project cost about $20 – much lower than the average beach windbreak costs retail (here’s one on Amazon) and I got to customize it myself.

canvas beach windbreak using canvas dropcloth To start, I purchased a canvas dropcloth from my local hardware store – look for the hallway runner size (mine was 4′ x 15′). The beauty of a hallway runner is that the edges are already hemmed so that saves a few steps. You could wash and dry it first, but since I knew I wasn’t planning on washing my completed windbreak I skipped that step. If you do think you’ll wash it sometime you’ll need to preshrink it now to prevent problems later.

Next I laid out the dropcloth on my front lawn so I’d have plenty of room to work (and because it was a beautiful sunny day) and figured out where the pockets for the posts would go. I decided on a post at each end of the windbreak and three in between for support.

make your own canvas beach windbreak

clockwise from left: (1) Lay out all of your support posts on the canvas, (2) Fold the edge over to make a pocket, (3) Pin the pocket closed with safety pins and then stitch the pocket closed for a durable finish.

I folded over each end and pinned it shut along the length to make a pocket to slide the post in, and folded over three more pockets equally spaced along the windbreak. I pinned the canvas using large safety pins just to make sure the pins wouldn’t slide out as I was moving the windbreak around and stitching up the seams. Make sure when you do this that the pockets are wide enough to hold whichever size post you use. I was using thick bamboo stalks because they were free from my yard (and because black bamboo just looks cool too) but you could use heavy dowels or lathe pieces from the hardware store as well.

A note about your supports: make sure they are long enough to fully support the windbreak PLUS have enough extra to go deep into the sand. For my 4′ high windbreak I used bamboo that was about 6′ long.

Next I stitched up each pocket using a sewing machine with a heavy-duty needle and heavy-duty thread designed for sewing canvas. You could probably skip the sewing portion if you used enough strong safety pins but I wanted to make sure that my windbreak was durable. I also stitched across the top of each pocket to make sure the beach windbreak didn’t slide down along the supports. Once the canvas is sewn, the windbreak is ready to use.

canvas beach windbreak with hand painted stripes

After I finished I wanted to add some paint detailing to mine.  I picked out a few paint colors and had samples of exterior house paint mixed up to paint some horizontal stripes.

Confession time: I can never get masking tape to work correctly when I’m painting straight lines (it always gets under the tape or smears) so I just traced lines in pencil using a 2’x4′ as a guide and then carefully filled in the lines freehand. There were a few mistakes but that just added to the charm I say.

make your own canvas beach windbreak

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Turn Old Jeans into Jean Shorts

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May 292013

I had a pair of jeans that had seen better days, and recently one of the knees gave out. My kids were a little too obsessed about how I ripped my pants and made a deal about it every time I wore them, so I figured the time was right to transform them into something new.

Ok, I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence by offering a tutorial about how to make jean shorts from old jeans. I mean, step 1) cut the legs off the jeans above the knees. There, done! Although not quite done – think of this as the midway point since I want to do something else to the shorts. I can’t decide if they need to be more distressed, or have some patches or something. I’m going to have to mull it over some more.

Apr 172013

My husband got a Kindle Fire this past Christmas, and ever since then he’s been tempting fate with it by leaving it around naked (no cover)! I’d been meaning to make a cover for it for awhile but when I accidentally dropped a brush on it over the weekend I thought it was time to get going on that little project. Last year I made a Kindle cover that was more like a book jacket, but since his needs to be protected when he’s not using it I designed his cover as more of a padded pouch.

His only request was that I not make it “too girly” so I looked through my fabric stash to see what I could use and came up with a navy blue fabric for the outside and a cream-colored fleece (from our little guy’s old sleep sack) for the inside.

I measured and cut the fabric by laying the Kindle on top – two blue and two fleece panels. I then added a little embellishment on one of the blue panels – an embroidered heart with our initials inside. I was worried that was crossing the “girly” line, but he likes it so it’s okay!


Next I pinned the panels together (one cover piece + one lining piece) wrong sides out and sewed them together on both long sides and one short side. Then I trimmed each piece close to the hem.

 Once the panels were sewn together I pinned the two pieces (front and back) together wrong sides out and sewed them together on the long sides and across the top, then turned the whole thing right side out (notice that the bottom of both the front and back pieces are still open at this point).


I cut stiff pieces of cardboard to fit each panel, then slid the cardboard pieces between the cover and lining of both the front and back panels, pinned the openings closed and hand stitched them shut.


Finally I finished it off with some adhesive velcro to help keep the Kindle in it’s place when it’s stored in the cover.

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Feb 032013

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and I thought I’d add to my holiday decorating by making a pillow cover for the occasion. Last year right around this time I made a pillow for my bed using an easy technique and so I went back to that for inspiration and came up with this pillow.

First I found an insert pillow to use and cut down some leftover curtain yardage to fit it.

Next I sewed the edges, leaving a space at the bottom to remove the pillow. Finally, I copied a poem by  E. E. Cummings out freehand on the fabric using a red sharpie marker. I did have to go over most of the words a second time with the marker to have it stand out, but I like the script effect. The pillow I made before was created with letter stencils, but I think this one works better with my own handwriting – it makes it more like a personal love note to my husband and family.

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Jan 092013

My little girl lost her first tooth last night, and I sewed up a little pouch that she could put her tooth in and stick under her pillow. I didn’t want the teeny tiny tooth to get lost under the pillow, and risk the tooth fairy waking her up during the tooth/loot exchange.

The tooth fairy left her $2 – its probably lower than some of her peers have gotten but she was excited about it so I’m glad the fairy didn’t second-guess herself and leave more than that.

I made the pouch out of felt. It was quite simple, just a rectangle folded over and stitched with crochet thread, with a button my daughter picked to keep it closed. I also personalized it with her name embroidered on the flap. Its kind of rustic, since she pulled her tooth out at about 5:45pm and I had to leave the house to go to a meeting at 6:45pm, and cook dinner at the same time.

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Little Girl’s Headscarf Tutorial

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Jul 252012

My dear friend sent my kids a package today, and one of the gifts inside was a lovely little girl’s headscarf. It looks absolutely darling on my daughter, and it looked like it might be so simple to make. Turns out it was – here’s how I did it, and it took me less than an hour (seamstresses might scoff at how long that is, but I’m no pro)!

First I found a lightweight cotton fabric to use (I wanted to mimic the light cotton of the original scarf, but it certainly could be made with a heavier weight fabric). I cut two rectangles, using the measurements of the original – the bigger rectangle (the headpiece) measured 7″ x 16″, and the smaller rectangle (the elastic casing) measured 2″ x 10″.

fabric pieces laid out on an ironing board for a little girl's headscarf

measuring the fabric for the girl’s headscarf

Next I pressed the smaller rectangle in half (right sides together) and sewed the open long side to make a tube for the elastic. I pressed a small seam on either long side of the larger rectangle (folding the front side over and pressing it to the back), and stitched each seam.

Both the large and small rectangle for a girl's headscarf, pieced, stitched and pressed.

After each section has been pieced together, stitched and pressed.

I turned the tube right side out (it might be helpful to use a pencil to help push the fabric) and then added the elastic (I used 6-1/2″ of 3/4″ elastic because that’s what I had on hand) and sewed it to each end of the tube – the fabric will bunch between the ends so that there is room for the elastic to stretch.

Finally I folded pleats into each end of the larger rectangle, folded the ends back to hide the unfinished portion and wrapped them around the smaller rectangle with elastic inside. One simple line of stitches on each end and I was done! My baby’s sleeping now – can’t wait to try it on her tomorrow morning.

All done! The store-bought girl’s headscarf is on the left.


Jul 232012

My son grew out of a favorite pair of jeans, and because the knees were both ripped out I couldn’t donate them. I stuck them into my fabric stash and then started pondering what to do with them. I had the idea to make a headband, or a head wrap, using the denim from the jeans.

I decided to try to make a braided headband, so I cut strips from the jeans and then knotted them together as for a friendship bracelet. That so did not work out well. After I finished the braid I could already see it was a failure, so I didn’t take any more time to finish the headband.

If anyone can think of another use for this, or a way to salvage it, let me know!

Bunting Night Four – All Done!

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Jul 122012

I finished the bunting! Yay! It turned out really cute. I used 5/8-inch polyester ribbon and sewed each triangle onto the ribbon. I just estimated the spacing so its not always entirely even but that helps its sweet folksy look. I decided to divide the triangles into three strips (lines?) of bunting so that it would be easier to hang them in the yard and they’d be more flexible for future decorating. I ended up with 33 triangles (11 of each color) so each separate bunting had 11 triangles and measures about 15 feet.

The open sides (tops) of the triangles frayed during the dyeing and washing process, so my original thought was to fold them in with the ribbon between the sides and sew it that way, but I ended up leaving the raw edges turned up and just zigzag stitching with the ribbon pressed inside – again, it adds to the folksy look.