DONUT underestimate the power of paper piecing

This post is about donuts. And paper piecing.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…
Bright frosted DONUTS that haven’t been bitten…
Quilty techniques on the gifts Santa brings… 
These are a few of my favorite things.

I looooooooooooooove donuts.

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Donuts complete me.

So does my roommate Katie. When one of us says, “I want donuts,” the other roommate says, “NOM” and then we’re in the car en route to our local donut provider in a matter of minutes. We have donut ornaments on our Christmas tree. And the dog has donut toys.

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I’ve already told you about how Katie is crafty (or rather, “Krafty”) so this year’s Christmas present for Katie was a combination of our mutual love for both donuts and crafts.

Last year, I made Katie a bag for her knitting supplies. This past year, Katie has spent a lot of time cross-stitching. She has boxes to keep her embroidery thread organized, but didn’t have a “to go” bag for her supplies so she could continue her adventures in cross-stitch while on airplanes… or at the car dealership. Katie always brings her cross-stitch to the car dealership when she’s getting an oil change. :)

So I decided Katie needed a simple zipper pouch to keep her project work (with Q-Snap frame in tact – since Katie is too fancy to use an old-school, wooden embroidery hoop) and related supplies like needles, scissors and some thread. Since the actual construction of the project was going to be so simple – just a basic zipper pouch – I wanted to use some a more advanced technique for the outside of the bag… and given my newfound interest in foundation paper piecing, I decided to go the quilty route! When I found a donut pattern from Shape Moth Quilts on etsy (looks like she has recently moved to Craftsy) – I knew I had hit the jackpot!

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Choosing the fabrics for the donut was so much fun! Don’t you just want to eat it?

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I included a little zipper pocket inside the zipper pouch (zipper in a zipper!) so Katie can keep some of the smaller, loose items in there.

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Katie’s project work fits inside the pouch perfectly, but if I made this again, I would have made it a little bit bigger – just in case. I think I may have cut it too close for her 8″ x 8″ Q-Snap Frame. At the time I was constructing this, she was on vacation in Seattle and had brought her Q-Snap with her, so I wasn’t able to confirm what size she had. I’m thankful it ended up fitting at all!

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Right now, Katie is working on ‘Pretty Little San Francisco by Satsuma Street!

I used leftover fabric to make a small “needlebook” to prevent stray needles from floating around in her bag. There are two felt “pages” inside the book and it securely closes with a snap.

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And of course, another item has been checked off on my list of 100 No Pressure Projects – sew something for my roommate, Katie!

Donuts! Nom nom nom.

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The skinny on alterations

I’m short. I’ve always been short. I didn’t like it when I was younger, but now I’ve grown accustomed to it and even appreciate it being one of my more defining traits.

Wait for me I have little legs

In my world, there’s always an excuse for a Full House reference.

But one of the biggest downsides to being short is that my pants are usually too long. Sometimes I take them to the dry cleaner for hemming,  but I really don’t enjoy doing that. It’s an extra errand, it costs money and I always have a fear that strangers are going to lose or damage my clothes (maybe I should just stop reading Yelp reviews for dry cleaners). Most of the time, I just try to find pants that “work,” which means they’re still a smidge too long and drag on the ground just enough to be annoying.

I’ve been sewing for a few years now, but I’ve always avoided alterations for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I still view myself as a beginner, even though I’m starting to realize that maybe I’ve learned a thing or two and I’m not as much of a beginner as I thought. Still, I’ve never had great luck with garments, and they continue to intimidate me. I also didn’t have a serger for a long time, and I didn’t think I’d be able to do a “nice” job without one.

But most notably… alterations are boring. Like, really boring. Falling into the same bucket as the DMV, mortgages and watching the little hour glass spin on a computer screen.

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If alterations are boring, why am I writing about them? Well, here’s the backstory: I received a pair of designer flats for Christmas — and I love them! But as soon as I wore them with a pair of my flared jeans, I felt like a dweeb. These days, skinny jeans are the in ‘thang and I knew I wasn’t doing my flats any justice by letting flared, baggy jeans fall over them. Trendy flats are meant to be paired with skinny jeans! But skinny jeans make me feel claustrophobic, which is why I don’t buy them.

The flats that inspired it all.

The flats that inspired it all.

Then I found this tutorial showing how to turn flared or boot leg jeans into skinny jeans by WithWendy. Despite my fear of alterations, I was intrigued.

I pulled out a pair of old jeans – which are also WAY too long, so I’d always been forced to wear them with tall heels – and decided to try this thing out. As a bonus, a follow-up tutorial by the same person showed how to reduce the length of jeans while retaining the original hem. Really cool — and professional!

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By following the instructions in the video, I was able to turn my jeans into skinny jeans that were just the right amount of “skinny” for me (non-claustrophobic!) and also adjust them to ensure they were the exact length I needed.

When I finished the project last week, I was satisfied with my work, but I didn’t think much of it – that is, until I was able to wear the jeans all weekend long and realized how much I LOVE THEM. Which led to this conclusion: alterations are infinitely boring while they’re still a work in progress, but when they’re finished – WOW. Instant acceleration from the most boring end to the most magical end of the spectrum.

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Now standby while I empty my dresser drawers and HEM ALL THE THINGS!

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I Heart Valentine’s Day (and #SewMyStash2015 Challenge 1)

I LOVE Valentine’s Day. I know I’m in the minority, but I just do. I really don’t think you need to have a significant other in your life to enjoy candy heart bliss and bountiful boxes of $1.99 Valentines! Sometimes I get a little defensive about it — loving a holiday that so many others despise can be a little exasperating. I always make an effort to give Valentine’s Day the attention it deserves!

I recently completed the LOVE paper piecing pattern by Diane at From Blank Pages, available here on Craftsy. Diane, along with Sandi at Crafty Planner, was offering the letters L-O-V-E for free so I could try out the pattern before committing to the entire alphabet. I created this little quilted swatch using scraps, but haven’t yet decided what to do with it. I think it may become a zipper pouch or just a little Valentine’s Day wall hanging. Ideas and suggestions are welcome!

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By completing the pattern and linking it to the designated hashtag on Instagram, I was entering for a chance win the entire alphabet pattern (including numbers and punctuation) and I WON! Waking up to the message that I had won this morning was so magical. I am really, really, really excited to put the alphabet pattern to good use in the future and make lots of personalized, paper-pieced goodness!

And while we’re talking Valentine’s Day, I also wanted to share my completed project for #SewMyStash2015 — Challenge 1! The first challenge was themed to Valentine’s Day. These were the rules, proposed by Leasa:

  1. You must incorporate hearts!
  2. You may sew any project you want.
  3. You need to finish by Sunday, Jan. 25.
  4. You must use approximately 75% from your stash.
  5. Use the hashtag #sewmystash2015challenge1 on your finished project.

Here’s what I completed as part of the challenge — Valentine’s Day bunting!

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I’m proud to say that 100% of the fabric used was from my stash!

  • The beige fabric was a creative upcycle – I used an old bed skirt that my mom was going to throw away!
  • The red polka dot fabric was some Christmas fabric I had gotten on sale back in November.
  • The bias tape was homemade, and leftover from Morgan’s collapsible shopping tote.

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Do you see the edge of those pennants? They are SERGED! Yes, I used my new serger to complete this project. Obviously pennants don’t require serging, but it was so much fun to finally use the serger for a “real” project and incorporate the red thread for a decorative finish. And it made the project go a lot faster since there was no need to turn/press/topstitch and all that jazz.

Not only did I complete this challenge, but I also crossed off multiple line items on my 100 No Pressure Projects list!

  • Bunting for every month of the year – February is now complete!
  • Use a serger!
  • Upcycle an old shower curtain or bedding and turn it into something else (I had previously checked this item off the list with the hanging laundry bag I made from a shower curtain, but it’s worth mentioning anyway!)

That’s a lot of project work and goal-smashing for one day, so I’ll leave it at that… for now.  ;)

Have a great weekend… can’t wait to see what everyone else came up with for #SewMyStash2015!

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#SewMyStash2015

I’m constantly fascinated by the influence technology has on our everyday lives, especially when it comes to social media subcultures and connecting diverse people who have similar interests. When friends ask me how I learned to sew “on my own,” I’m always quick to remind them that I don’t believe I could have done it without the internet — and specifically, social media — by my side. Printable patterns, blog tutorials, YouTube demonstrations, Instagram inspiration and a supportive, virtual sewing community all played (and still play!) a key role in my learning to sew.

I’m similarly fascinated by internet and social media trends – the exponential growth of a great (or sometimes, a not-so-great) idea. Hashtags, memes, Throwback Thursday, the ice bucket challenge, whatever. What makes an idea catchy, and why does it stick around?

You’re probably thinking… who cares? Let’s talk about sewing! Well, this is all connected, I promise. Remember when I participated in a blog hop and introduced you to my friend Leasa? She introduced a sewing-related hashtag in late December – and it stuck around – and it’s pretty spectacular.

#SewMyStash2015

The brainchild of Leasa at ProjectLeasa.com!

In preparation for the new year, new beginnings and new resolutions, Leasa came up with the idea of #SewMyStash2015. This initiative is pretty simple… it encourages sewers to use the fabric they already have on hand to create their projects, versus buying new fabric each time. This habit is something I’ve personally been working on for awhile now – I think I’ve mentioned quite a few times that I have made an effort to avoid buying new fabric unless I absolutely had to. Maybe this is something that lots of sewers have tried to accomplish on their own, behind closed doors. But Leasa has now created a community around this effort, with (flexible) guidelines/rules and bite-sized challenges and goals. It’s only a few weeks into January, and it’s already fun to see people liberally using the hashtag in an effort to better themselves and chip away at their huge fabric stashes!

This Mickey ear fabric - which happens to be two pairs of XL boxer shorts I got on sale - has been in my stash for a few years now...

This Mickey ear fabric – which happens to be two pairs of XL boxer shorts I got on sale – has been in my stash for a few years now…

Leasa just posted the first official #SewMyStash2015 challenge and it’s Valentine’s Day themed! FYI, Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday, so I am really psyched about the challenge. If you’re interested in participating, check out Leasa’s latest post about the challenge taking place THIS week!

In the meantime, here’s a peek into the past to show you some projects I have made only using fabric that I had on hand to prove this feat is possible!

I’m not sure if I should be proud of that lengthy list, or ashamed that I’ve obviously been such a fabric hoarder for so long that it’s no problem for me to create something from start to finish without visiting the fabric store. Uhhhhh.

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Thanks for following along as the internet craft community kicks off #SewMyStash2015 this week!

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Throwback Thursday, sewing edition: Casserole Carrier

I recently scrolled back in my blog draft archives to look at some entries I started and never finished. I had completely forgotten about some of these unfinished drafts (oops) so thought I’d take advantage of the #ThrowbackThursday trend to highlight some oldies-but-goodies!

Today I’m throwing it all the way back to Christmas… of 2013! Yikes! I’m over a year overdue on this one. Insert “embarrassed” emojii here…

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This is my creepy, personalized “Bitmoji”

 

Anyway.

Last year for Christmas, I made my mom a simple casserole carrier, knowing that my parents are often attending parties in their new retirement community. It’s lined with Insul-Bright, which is a heat resistant insulating material that can be used for making things like oven mitts. The Insul-Bright will ensure the dish stays hot and my mom doesn’t burn her hands when handling the carrier. Safety first!

To use the carrier, you just place the dish in the middle, and then pull the singular strap through the two loops on each of the opposite corners. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

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I used this amazing YouTube video from the Crafty Gemini for the pattern and instructions when making the carrier. I would highly, highly, highly recommend these Crafty Gemini videos for beginners. Vanessa’s directions are really clear and make it easy to follow along!

She uses two solid pieces for both sides of the carrier (22″ x 22″) – but since I used a variety of fabric remnants I already had on hand, I didn’t have enough fabric for two full sized pieces. Instead, I went with patchwork squares on one side. If you want to make a patchwork version as well, I used nine squares (8.3″ x 8.3″) with a 0.5″ seam allowance.

I could really use one of these for pot lucks at work! Let me just add this to the laundry list of “selfish sewing” projects I want to make for myself this year. ;)

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It’s your birthday, baby!

Meet my friend Laura — we have known each other since we were in kindergarten and she is still one of my dearest friends.

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Eighth grade volleyball, dorky haircuts… and proof that we turned out alright in adulthood despite the dweeby photos.

Laura is pregnant with her first child and due this month! When your childhood BFF is pregnant, and you’re a fan of handmade gifts — the pressure is high! When I first heard Laura was pregnant, I knew I wanted to make her something really special, but I wasn’t sure what it should be. Although I adore the rag quilts I made for baby Liam and baby Sophia last year, I wanted the project for Laura to be one-of-a-kind — not a repeat of one of my previous projects. Laura also sews (Reason #923498723 why I love her) and has made a number of items for her baby’s nursery, so making another quilt didn’t feel very earth-shattering since she had already conquered rag quilts herself.  I was also looking for a project that would stand the test of time.

A few years ago, I received the book “Countdown Calendars” for my birthday, at my request, because I had fallen in love with the birthday countdown calendar pictured on the cover. I even wrote about the book in my blog.

Countdown Calendars sewing book

Countdown Calendars: 24 stitched projects to celebrate any date!

Knowing that Laura has a very close-knit family with lots of family traditions, I decided that this was the time to tackle that pattern and make a quilted birthday countdown calendar for the baby. And by the way, this pattern happens to be on my list of 100 No Pressure Projects!

At first, it sort of seems like a weird gift for a baby, but I believe many family traditions start with the birth of the first child. I wanted to provide something Laura’s newly expanded family could look forward to using together year after year… and what better day to start celebrating the baby’s birthday than on the day it’s born?

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Laura and her hubby are waiting until the baby is born to find out if it’s a girl or a boy, which worked out perfectly for this project which should remain neutral anyway.

Here’s how it works — each day leading up to a family member’s birthday, you Velcro a felt candle to the cake. Once you use  up all the candles, it’s your birthday! And then there’s a little Happy Birthday banner that snaps to the top.

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The candles are stored in fourteen little pockets at the bottom of the wall hanging.

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Isn’t it so fun!?

Laura lives across the country and I wasn’t able to attend her baby shower. Since I couldn’t be there in person, I wrote a poem to explain the reasoning behind the gift and how it works. I won’t post the poem here, because it’s a little mushy, but what I basically said was this: For your entire life, you’ve always celebrated your own birth date. And then you met your husband, and the date of his birthday became really important to you too. Now, your little duo is about to expand to a family of three, and you’ll be adding a third date to the mix – the birthday of your baby! So every year, hang up this little calendar — and count down to that special day!

Okay, maybe my poem summary was equally mushy! Oh well. ;)

Can’t wait to meet your little one, Laura, and celebrate his or her birthday with you for years to come!

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Mom’s Zip and Go

Tis the season for sewing gifts (“Let it sew, let it sew, let it sew”) and this year, the most adventurous pattern I tackled was the Zip and Go bag from Dog Under My Desk. I’d previously written about one of the free tutorials offered from the pattern maker, Erin, on the same site (see my post about earbuds zipper pouches) but I’ve always wanted to try one of her paid patterns. The pattern was worth every penny – loved it!

(I apologize in advance for the lame lighting in these photos – I was antsy to wrap this and put it under the tree as soon as I finished, so I rushed through the photos on a cloudy day…)

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I decided my mom needed the Zip and Go for her new lifestyle in a Florida retirement community. She’s not retired, but she’s got one foot in the retired lifestyle and attends lots of craft fairs, farmers markets — that sort of thing. I liked the Zip and Go because it looked light and compact, but big enough for day trip essentials like a phone and keys.

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Even though I’ve made lots of zipper pouches and lined bags, I never could have wrapped my brain around the double-zipper/double-pocket layout of this one without the pattern. Also — I thought this part was so cool — on the front panel, you don’t need to whip out any fancy fussy-cut moves in order to get the fabric design to run continuously through where the zippers intersect it. If you follow the pattern, that just happens on its own. Really cool, especially for beginners who can’t be bothered with fussy-cutting.

This was also my first time venturing into the world of hardware like lobster clasps and strap slider thingies (I like to make up my own sewing terminology)… I had trouble finding the exact hardware I needed in the store, but thank goodness for etsy – I found some great prices when purchasing the hardware in sets of ten. Guess that means I will be sewing a few more Zip and Go bags! ;)

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Erin’s pattern-writing skills are awesome. The pattern was loaded with photos and little sidebar reminders. So in other words, NOTHING like a “Big Four” store bought pattern written and illustrated by a caveman. Her patterns are great for beginners – I felt like I had an instructor alongside me the entire time I was sewing. Even when tackling skills that I thought I had already mastered, like zippers, I still learned some little tips and tricks to enhance my existing skills.

My mom said she loved the bag and already got compliments on it when she used it last weekend — she could be fibbing, because that’s what moms sometimes do when you give them handmade gifts (it’s a part of The Mom Law) but this bag has come a seriously long way from the types of handmade gifts I used to give her in like, 1991, so I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt and put my money on “she’s not fibbing.”

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With my mom in 1991… my handmade gifts were a little different back then.

 

And as a testament to how much I love Dog Under My Desk, I’ve already purchased another pattern — the Takeoff Tote. Can’t wait to get started on that one… someday! Maybe I’m just feeling the Christmas burnout, but I’m already leaning towards declaring 2015 the year of “Selfish Sewing.” If I don’t take a break from gifting, I’ll never get around to the Takeoff Tote… or that darn duvet cover!

More gift-related posts coming soon. In the meantime… Happy New Year!

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Sewin’ and Sergin’

A little belated, but Merry Christmas, my friends!

Santa was oh-so-good to me this year and brought me a Brother 1034D serger!

Serger love + Winnie photobomb

Serger love + Winnie photobomb

There have been a number of situations in the past year or so where I’ve thought, “I wish I had a serger” while working on one project or another. I even included “use a serger” on my list of 100 No Pressure Projects. Now I have no excuse not to cross that goal off my list!

If you’ve never heard of a serger (also called an overlock machine), it’s a type of sewing machine that will add nice, finished edges to projects. Sergers are most commonly used for the seams of garments – refer to the fancy stitching on the inside edge of your t-shirt to see what I mean. Even though I haven’t completely delved into the world of garment-making, I still have a bunch of ideas in mind for how to use this machine.

Sergers can be a little intimidating, with four spools of thread, two needles and even a blade that will cut fabric as you feed it through the machine, so it might take me awhile to get the hang of it. I fully intend to sit down with the machine, the manual and a bunch of YouTube videos sometime soon. Right now, I’m still a little overwhelmed with my standard machine while I finish up some belated Christmas gifts! Yes… I know… Christmas is over…

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Funny story: I made the mistake of giving my dad a pair of too-long pants for Christmas, only to have him hand them back to me and say “hem them with your new machine!” So I guess I will have to figure this thing out pretty soon… either that, or take a secret trip to the dry cleaner with my dad’s new pants in tow. ;)

More news about things I sewed throughout December, coming soon!

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Paper piecing time machine

This fall/winter, I haven’t been that great about updating the blog – yikes. But just because my blog has been stagnant doesn’t mean my crafting has. I’ve been doing lots of things behind the scenes, just haven’t taken the time to write about them. Or I can’t, because I’m in Christmas elf mode and everything is a secret!

So hang in there while I jump in my sewing time machine and show you a project I tackled that has a Jack O Lantern on it. Yes, a Jack O Lantern. I told you I was jumping in a time machine, stop judging! ;)

Even though Halloween is over, I want to rewind a little bit and highlight this little experimental project I tackled earlier in the fall. I took my first shot at foundation paper piecing a quilt block! In my quest to follow crafty social media accounts, I’ve found a lot of quilt-y friends who frequently post about paper piecing. Needless to say, their constant paper piecing posts (can you say “paper piecing posts” ten times fast?) piqued my curiosity and I decided to give it a try around Halloween with this pumpkin paper piecing (free PDF pattern available here).

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I watched a few YouTube videos to learn the basics and then gave it a whirl. Once I wrapped my brain around the concept, I was able to do it pretty mindlessly. My technique still needs a little work, but overall, I’m satisfied with this experimental block and plan to paper piece a lot more in the future – there are some really cool patterns out there I can’t wait to try.

My cute pumpkin is still just sitting there as a lonely little block – he has yet to be turned into a pillow, a wall hanging, a tote bag, etc. And now that Halloween is over (waaaaay over), let’s be honest, I probably won’t be motivated to do anything special with him until next fall. I’m sure it will be a pleasant surprise to re-discover this guy and turn him into something festive and fun!

I have a fun paper piecing related project in mind for a Christmas gift, but I have no idea if I’ll get around to it in time. The clock is ticking! So much crafting to do, so little time…

Did I mention that paper piecing a quilt block was one of the items on my list of 100 No Pressure Projects? One more project done. Check!

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How to build a (magical) wreath

It’s Christmastime, which means I can’t talk about any of my sewing projects because they’re all a secret. But even though I have to keep my projects under wraps until the holidays are over, I still have a fun Christmas craft to share!

One of my favorite Christmas decorations to pull out of storage each year is the Mickey wreath I crafted over five years ago. Come December, I swear I have more interaction with my neighbors than I do all year long… all because they are asking about the wreath!

Mickey Mouse Wreath Tutorial on SewLindsaySew.com

Last year, I decided to replace the lights on the wreath with twinkle lights – turned out they were the “cool white” lights and are a little more blinding than I had anticipated. I’m pretty sure planes have thought about landing on my house. But I love the twinkle!

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Here’s a quick little guide for how to make your own Mickey wreath!

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  • Start with three plain wreaths – one should be slightly larger than the other two.
  • Use craft or floral wire to attach the “ears” to the larger wreath. Floral wire can be a little flimsy, but has the benefit of blending in with the wreath. You may want use a hearty amount of wire to make sure the ears stay secure!
  • Wrap the entire wreath in lights. I used two boxes of 60-count twinkle lights for mine. Start with one ear, work through the larger wreath, and then end on the third ear. Make sure the  end of the strand ends up in a place on the wreath that makes it easy to connect it to a power cord — which could be the top, bottom, or side, depending on where you plan to hang the final product.
  • Add optional accessories! I added red ornaments to my wreath. The floral section at the craft store has little ornaments with wires on the back so they’re easy to secure.
  • You can also add a big, festive bow! I had a bow on my wreath but it fell off last year, so I need to go get a new one (sad face). Add the bow to the bottom of the wreath to look like Mickey’s bow tie, or between the ears to look like Minnie’s bow. Either way, your wreath will be magical!

Happy holiday crafting, magical friends!

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