Outdoor Movie. DIY Screen

It all started with an amazing find for only $3 at our local Goodwill… a vintage school projector screen.  I knew I could do something with it.  Plus, it had the nostalgia factor going…brought back memories of the overhead projector and dittos at school.  Not sure why it reminded me of dittos, but it did.  Remember getting hot off the press ditto sheets passed out at school, and every kid would lift them up to smell them?  Ahh, memories.  My kids have no idea what I am talking about.  I am old.  Anyways, back to the projector screen find.  My husband (on a very rare thrift store appearance) agreed it was cool, so we brought it home and thought immediately of using it for an outdoor movie screen.  Inspired by sites like this and this, I was determined to plan an outdoor movie night for the girls.  Laying out blankets, eating popcorn and sitting under the stars while enjoying a great movie.  Like a drive-in without the car or the commute to the theater.  While we are lucky here in Buffalo to still have  a Drive-In theater close by (within 30 minutes) you just can’t get any more convenient than your back yard!

So, the invitations went out, the movie was chosen (Willy Wonka- the original!) and we did a trial run of the borrowed projector and our vintage screen.  BUST.  Romanced by the nostalgia, we didn’t really think about aspect ratio, the size of the screen vs. the size of a widescreen modern day movie.  Not ready to cancel our party I had to come up with a better idea.  Armed with some spare blackout lining from my latest roman shade sewing project we headed outside to test it out as a movie screen- and it looked pretty good!  A trip to Joann’s was in order to buy enough for our screen and I got to work.  After some research on aspect ratio (google it- it is a real thing!) we determined our ideal measurement would be to use the width of the blackout lining fabric of 54 inches, and a length of around 96 inches.  You can look up aspect ratio here, but we went with a 16:9 ratio.  I purchased 3 yards of the lining to make it easy, and cut it down a bit to 100 inches.  Measurements do not have to be totally accurate, you just want a good ratio between your height and width.  I used PVC pipe to stabilize the top and bottom, using a heavier pole for the bottom to weight it down.  Head to your local Home Depot or hardware store and buy a 1/2 inch PVC pipe, and a 3/4 inch PVC pipe.  Home Depot will cut it for you for free (at least mine did), so go ahead and have them cut each to 100 inches.  The poles cost less than $5 total, and come in 10 ft sections.

At first I planned to use Duck tape and tape a border around the screen and onto the poles, as I found a few online tutorials doing this with white fabric screens.  My instincts told me to sew it, but my husband vetoed that and said- keep it simple…tape it.  I agreed and bought some black Duck tape to mimic a real movie screen and got to taping.  After the tape sticking to itself a half dozen times, and the girls running in and interrupting, and me messing up again I decided this was far from simple!  Yikes.  A big mess.  Trimming a piece of fabric 100×54 in sticky tape is not an easy job!  So, I ignored the tutorials (and my husband) and went up to my sewing room.  I broke it down in case you want to make your own!


the kids at their “drive in” with their decorated box cars


Sorry about the horrible pics- it is really hard to take good pictures at night when you are entertaining a dozen kids (and you are shilling out tons of candy!).  The wrinkles that show up weren’t visible during the movie, and had we set this up earlier than 10 minutes before our party we would have spaced our hooks out farther!  Live and learn.  Also, want to copy the sweet (no pun intended) lollipop balloons?  I used the tutorial here as a guide. I skipped the paint and tape and kept it simple (or lazy).   I bought dowels at Joann’s for 1.00 each, blew up a balloon, placed it into a cellophane bag, twisted around the base of the balloon,  and tied it onto the dowel and just stuck them in the ground.  The balloons and cellophane basket bags (2 in each pack) were from Dollar tree.  Super cheap- I made 4 for only $7, but I still have plenty of balloons left and plan on using this idea again- for Halloween ghosts!  The kids loved these, the perfect touch for a Willy Wonka movie party!



What you’ll need:

3 yards  54″ Blackout Drapery Lining (I used RocLon Budget lining in ecru/white)

100 inches 1/2 inch PVC pipe

100 inches 3/4 inch PVC pipe

White thread

pipe caps to fit pipes (optional)

rope/hooks depending on your mounting situation


1.  Hem your short edges; the 54 inch width using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.  You do not need to double fold the seam, just fold it over once and sew using white thread.  This will be a bit difficult to do given the weight and amount of the fabric.  Do not force it through your machine, I found it helpful to use my left hand to hold up the weight of the excess fabric and let my feed dogs pull it through the machine.  Take your time!  Repeat this with the other 54 inch side.
2.  Create your “pockets” for your poles.  Fold down one side roughly 2 inches and sew.  Again, no need to double fold.  Adjust if necessary depending on the size of your poles.  Repeat on the other side but fold down 3 inches to fit the larger pole.  Be sure to backstitch a few times at the beginning and end of each since these will be holding a bit of weight.

3.  Insert your PVC pipes into the pockets and pop on your pipe caps (optional).  I found them at the end of the PVC aisle, and bought two in each size- 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch for under 40 cents each.  These finish off the look of the poles, and help keep the poles from slipping out of their pockets.  Your screen is done!

4.  Now for the hanging hardware.  We chose to hang ours on the front of our garage.  My husband screwed in two of these type hooks to the wood trim above our garage door.  You could purchase these and just rest the ends of your pipe in the hooks if you have a similar place to hang it, or you could eliminate the pipe caps and slip some rope or string through your pipes and hang from two trees or across a fence or structure.  We simply rested ours on the hooks and it worked great.

Thanks to the fabric being on sale at Joann’s ($4 a yard!) the total cost of this project came under $20.  Can’t beat that!  When you are done simply roll it up around one of your polls and store it away until the next time.  After the fun we had, there will surely be a next time!!


I’m in a New York state of mind

We just got back from an amazing, exhausting and all too short (and expensive!) trip to NYC.  Although I have been several times, and my husband spent much of his life living there, we always find new ways to explore the city.  This is the second time we have taken the girls, and it was a whole different ball game. The girls are old enough to know what they want to see and do, but still too young to really have enough energy to do it all!  We spent way too many hours walking to toy stores and looking at American Girl dolls, but still managed to get in some culture and (amazing) food.  The best part?  Taking the girls to Washington Heights to see where their Daddy grew up when he moved to the U.S. and watching him share a bit of his Dominican culture with them…along with the most delicious food from Malecon.  Too bad our hotel did not have a fridge and leftovers were not an option.  Ugh.  So good.


Most of our first day was spent on the train, does Amtrak ever run on time?  After spending way too many hours aboard we decided to check into our hotel and stay close by.  Luckily we were staying near Times Square so walking around was easy…a bit too easy.  A visit to the Plaza (looking for Eloise), ridiculous pizza for dinner, American Girl doll store (we broke down and bought Eleanor Kit), Toys r us and the Disney store.  Crazy.



After crashing for the night we spent the following day going to Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park again to check out Belvedere Castle and headed uptown to Washington Heights for a walk around the “hood” and eat dinner.  Dessert was shaved ice on the street and we returned to walk around Rockefeller center.



Our last day we headed towards the water.  First we stopped in Hell’s Kitchen to check out the flea market…which was a big disappointment compared to the bargain deals we have around here.  Then we headed to the South Street Seaport, had lunch and took the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  After exploring the sights, we headed back and went to Rockefeller center again, this time in daylight so that the girls could check out the Lego store.  So cool.






It was a much needed trip out of town, but as with every vacation I am now recovering by doing laundry, grocery shopping, unpacking etc.  I always feel like I need a vacation from my vacation.  Right?  It might take a few days before I post about sewing, but I have a bunch of back to school sewing along with a few projects for myself…as well as my goodies from Purl to show you (couldn’t just do toy shopping!).   You might notice the cute little drawstring backpacks the girls wore on much of their trip.  The best thing ever.  Super easy way to get them to carry their own gear.  Perfect for the little lego cameras they used nonstop.  Tutorial of how to whip em up coming soon.  Until then I am going to relax, drink my coffee and start the laundry!


*yikes.  I just previewed my post and saw that all of the girls outfits were handmade.  I guess I favor my own creations when it comes to packing…this way the girls have no choice of what to wear- ha ha.


Simple summer fun: A day on our ‘hood.

Enjoying our home, our neighborhood and surroundings.  I am so happy to live where we live, in an old city, with sidewalks, beautiful architecture, shady mature trees and a real sense of community.  Simple pleasures like riding bikes, playing in the grass, having a picnic on our front lawn and relaxing.

Here are some pictures of our day today.  At home.  In what we proudly call our ‘hood.

bike ride/fashion show


little library
little library
afternoon activity
afternoon activity
when I look up
when I look up


lunch on the lawn
lunch on the lawn


our garden
our garden
secret clubhouse
secret clubhouse






The day is almost over, but I’ve got to meet my challenge!

So, this is a pretty lame post, but I must keep my challenge…to post every day and contribute one item to the Kids Clothing Week Challenge website at: kidsclothesweek.com.  Today we spent the entire day at Jellystone Park, swimming, playing mini golf, going down water slides, baking in the sun and playing on the beach.  Overall a wonderful, sweaty, sticky, and wet summer day of fun.


Before heading out there this morning I did manage to finish up this cute pair of sailboat shorts, too bad Isabel says they are too boyish.  Any little boys out there want them?  Seriously, send me a message at smallseams.gmail.com if you live local and have a little boy who wears a size 6.


An easy pull on elastic waist, with a preppy sailboat cotton fabric.  I love them.  I remember having a top with a similar pattern on it when I was a kid and I loved it, but that was before little girls wore so much pink and bling.  Oh, the late 70’s and early 80’s when girls played with classic legos (did they really have to come up with pink legos?), star wars toys and wore whatever their Mom gave them to wear…or was that just me?


Toronto: Spent, and I am not just talking money

I am spent.  Exhausted.  The heat does that to you, so does driving.  How do people do long road trips with kids.  A few hours is my limit!  Just got back from an awesome overnight adventure in Toronto, I also spent way too much money.   Doesn’t that always happen when you are out of town, even if just for one night?  Thankfully, my dear friend Jen was up for following me on some craft shopping with  her little baby Leona (the real reason we went to Toronto- I swear!)  in tow and I made some great finds.  Of course I had to whip up a new dress for the occasion- pattern is from the Stylish Dress book- AGAIN, pattern A.  The fabric was a red tag apparel fabric from Joann’s- a black and white check with stretch.  Total cost=$9.  Awesome.  Thanks to Jen’s sneaky picture taking I have evidence of it. Was I that entranced that I didn’t notice she was snapping MULTIPLE pictures?

checking out the selection with Leona
checking out the selection with Leona

Our first shopping stop yesterday was at The Workroom.  I am in love with this place.  It has been my fantasy lately to open something similar in Buffalo, a cute little shop where folks can come in and use a sewing machine, collaborate together, pick up some amazing fabric and attend classes etc.  I would say next to Purl Soho in NYC, this has to be one of my favorite shops.   I also totally nerded out and introduced myself to the owner Karyn, who couldn’t be sweeter.  It was like meeting a celebrity in person, isn’t it strange meeting someone you have followed online?  I picked up and splurged on an amazing Liberty of London print  in the most beautiful deep pink hand sketched floral print to make a dress for myself, as well as coordinating prints for a bag and a sweet nautical fabric for a girls dress.

photo 5

photo 4

We didn’t let the 90 degree heat get us down, as we walked from The Workroom to Romni wools so I could build up my stash of fabric and yarn.  Just what I need right?  Stopping on the way for an iced coffee sure hit the spot as well.  It is probably a good thing that you don’t live in Buffalo Jen, or I would be in trouble!  Thankfully the husbands took the other kids (three other girls between us!) to a splash pad and lunch while we meandered the city streets in search of crafty deals.  I had an amazing time!  The basement of Romni wools is like a labyrinth of bargain yarn, I could get lost in there for hours.  You never know what you are going to find, I always find something and visit every time I make it up to Toronto.  After our shopping was done we headed back to her house to eat some delicious Portugese chicken and hang out before heading to our hotel.  I think the hotel was the most exciting part of it for the girls, it doesn’ t matter where it is or how fancy or not- something about packing their bags (and dolls) and sleeping in a hotel is super-cool to them.  I love seeing their excitement and joy as they jump onto the beds and run around.  Hilarious.



Before heading back home today we met up at The Junction Flea market and checked out some vintage and handmade goods and ate the most amazing Pollo Rojo tacos.

Yummy tacos, say Hi Bert!

Also, who knew iced coffee served out of the side of an airstream trailor would taste sooooo good?


Of course the best part of our mini-vacation was seeing our girls play, laugh and bond together.


Having been great friends for about 18 years (wow), Jen and I surely have a special bond- but seeing our little girls together has got to be the sweetest thing ever!  I was finally able to give baby leona my presents I posted about here.  Thankfully she still fit in the snugglers!

Even the crazy construction traffic on the QEW won’t deter us from planning our next visit- we can’t wait!



Moving at a Summer’s pace


Summer feels like it is already slipping away, how is it already mid July?  We are frantically working on our summer bucket list; swimming at the pool, playing outside, heading to the playground as much as possible.  All while I try to keep up with this blog…I am finding it hard to find time to write!  Not that I am not “creating”, I am more than ever.  Once I have made or done something that I hope to post on here I feel like I have to stop and play with the girls, or head outside, or spend time singing Sofia the first songs or making snacks.


Here is a bit of a snapshot into what has been going on around here.  I hope to post alot of more on the projects I have been working on: the handmade wardrobe for Eleanor’s birthday bitty baby, my 5th dress from the Stylish Dress Book, modern retro redo baby pattern and what I am knitting right now.



I have been enjoying time spent lounging in the yard while the girls play.   A nice slow pace to the day, some knitting or hand sewing in the back yard listening to the birds sing and the girls laugh.  Can’t get any better than this.


Well, until the joy is interrupted by cries of anger and “Mommy, Isabel…or Mommy, I need…”  Am I the only one who has kids who fight or are “bored” after about 20 minutes?  Anyways, I have been thoroughly enjoying those 20 minutes of silence in between their bouts.  Enjoying watching them as they develop their sisterly friendship and develop their little fantasy world.  Pretending the back yard is a farm, or building fairy houses, playing school or library.  Reducing TV time whenever possible.  It is a good thing.






For now, it is time to pack- we are headed to Toronto tomorrow!  I can’t wait to see friends, do some shopping and get out of town.  I am sure my obsession with The Stylish Dress Book is obvious on this site, I am so excited to find out that a blog I have been inspired by-makesomething.ca has a fabric store in Toronto!  She has made some amazing dresses/tops from this book using the most beautiful Liberty prints.  A trip to The Workroom for fabric and Romni Wools for yarn is in order, I’d better think of some projects I want to work on next so I can stock up!


Sometimes you’ve just got to go with EASY

My baby is turning 4 this week! How is that even possible?  My little snuggler, super attached, huggy, kissy, sweet and crazy  girl.  I just want to hold her, squeeze her, smell her and soak her all in before she is “big”.  Before she is gone to school everyday in the fall, too old to sit on my lap and sing “you are my sunshine” nonstop, gone to experience the world on her own without me always by her side.  Can you tell I am a bit emotional about her starting school?  For now I am going to try to enjoy her craziness, her following me around the house, her favorite place to sit on my lap, her constant hugs.  Part of me knows I will enjoy the time alone in the fall when I am not at work, but rather home- by myself for the first time in almost 7 years- wow.20130707_142644

Ok, enough of me wining- back to the birthday!  To celebrate Eleanor’s big day we have a special party planned around her favorite character- Strawberry Shortcake!  I am not normally into character parties, or character anything really but given this is her first real birthday party (poor second kid!) I just had to give in.  Off to Party city we went to buy Strawberry shortcake plates, napkins, favors etc.

She is so excited!  Of course a special birthday dress was in order, and it had to be strawberry.  After searching online for strawberry fabric and in the stores I started running out of time and was limited to what was sold in stores.  Why do I always procrastinate to the point of being stuck?  So much time browsing online, only to run out of time and have to settle?  And can you believe Joann’s had NO strawberry fabric, none?  Cherries, lemons, watermelon, apples- but not one strawberry in site.  This is one case where my original idea pales in comparison to what I ended up with!  My original idea was to order this fabric from Fabric.com:

Riley Blake Sweetcakes Strawberries Pink
Riley Blake Sweetcakes Strawberries Pink

Cute right?  But, given my waiting until the last minute I didn’t have time for shipping, so off to Joann’s we went.  After searching high and low for something similar I came up with an idea to use coordinating fabrics to make the dress look like a strawberry, rather than use a strawberry print.   I found a red and white polka dot tutti frutti print juvenile fabric and paired it with a solid green cotton.


I used a tried and true pattern from one of my favorite girls sewing books.  This book has taught me so much, it was my first real book of patterns I used for my girls when I was first learning to sew.  I have made countless peasant dresses, tops and skirts from this book.


To resemble a strawberry I adapted the ruffle top peasant top from the book, but used the basic peasant top pattern and lengthened it to dress length omitting the shirring and using the green cotton for the ruffle.  I absolutely love how it turned out.


From start to finish this took less than an hour to sew up.  Easy peasy.  When you are up all night with a feverish kid, watching Sofia the first at 3am and surviving solely on caffeine the next day sometimes you just have to go with easy.  Sometimes easy and simple is actually what’s best.



Sewing, Friendship and History

Sewing means more to me than the actual garment that is produced.   Clearly, it is less expensive, faster and easier to walk into a store and purchase a t-shirt or skirt than it is to purchase the fabric, prewash it, choose  a pattern, trace it, cut it out, pin it, sew it, finish the seams etc. etc.  The history and legacy of sewing is what gets me.  Spending time finding the perfect fabric and pattern for my little girls, combining special buttons and notions to make a one of a kind dress made with my own hands rather than mass produced in a factory and sold at the mall.  This means something to me.  My favorite thing to do is to comb thrift shops and antique markets for vintage sewing materials.  Bakelite buttons, silver thimbles, wooden spools of thread, delicate and decorative scissors.


I have amassed quite the collection of these throughout the past few years.  The connection to women in the past through their sewing seems so personal to me.  Going through an old sewing box provides a great picture of it’s owner…the amateur sewer with mending needles, utilitarian buttons, and plain scissors to the sewing pro with fancy scrolled scissors, mother of pearl buttons, thimbles and trims.

scissors, buttons, needle guide and calendar 1948 from Montreal
scissors, buttons, needle guide and calendar 1948 from Montreal

I like to imagine who owned the materials, and what they used them for.  Sewing had a different meaning back then, it was certainly more mainstream and popular than it is today.  The decorative packaging and labels give it such an elegance that is missing today.

I like to think I am carrying on a small piece of history when I use these materials, especially when I share this with my girls.  Luckily they love it as much as I do, nothing holds their interest quite as long as rummaging through a pile of old fancy buttons!


Unfortunately, I am the only one in my family that sews/knits or crochets.  This interest is not something that was passed on.  I did not grow up watching or learning from my Mom or Nana (grandma).  No handmade clothes for me as a kid!  All of my vintage sewing notions have been purchased, not passed down or inherited.  Growing up my sister and I spent a great deal at Nana’s house.  My mother was diagnosed with MS when I was 5, and for much of my life my Nana lived next door.  My mother being the second oldest of 7 children, many of my aunts and uncles were still living at home when I was a child and the house was always full of family (albeit pretty dysfunctional at best!!).  Anyways, my Nana has to be the most eccentric person I know.  Quite the character for sure.  Growing up I never saw her go anywhere, or have any friends come over.  I did however always hear about “Jackie”…her best friend.  Jackie passed away at some point when I was a child, and although that was quite a while ago her name is still mentioned by Nana.  Many of her belongings are now stashed away at my Nana’s house, along with a great deal of junk/antiques/old toys/crap.  With Nana now in her 80’s, she has been clearing out some of this stuff and while most of it is unusable, there is the occasional gem.

This is where sewing comes in…there is a connection to this post I swear!   When Nana told me she had some fabric and sewing stuff of Jackie’s for me I was a bit apprehensive.  The state of the fabric I will not get into- yikes.  But the sewing box is what I had been looking for.

DSCN3879 The closest thing to an inherited sewing history in my own family, it was a link to my Nana’s best friend.  The only woman she ever spoke of, a bond that must have been so strong it still held on 30 years after she passed.  Thinking of my Nana holding on to this sewing box, with its random buttons, scissors and old rusty pins makes me smile. DSCN3876 Will someone cherish mine after I am gone, or will it be relegated to the thrift shop like so many I have combed over in the past?  For now, I will enjoy going through this with the girls and hope that they find an interest in it as well so that this history lives on.  That crazy crochet doll face, however, is welcome to stay in the past!