Handmade Gifts: Personalized Ragdoll

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Last Christmas I decided to make my nieces and nephews dress up clothes for their gifts. For the girls I made Cinderella dresses and a Pirate and Woody (from Toy Story) for the boys. The gifts went over well, thank goodness since I was sewing day and night for two weeks to get them in the mail in time for Christmas. My sisters both live in another province and we don’t get to see them much. Because of the distance I am not up on what toys they have or want. By making the gifts I was certain to give them something that they wouldn’t have and hopeful they would remember past January.

My youngest niece’s birthday is coming up in a couple weeks so I decided that I would make her a rag doll for her birthday. A couple years ago Martha Stewart had a segment on making ragdolls from by Black Apple on the show, I used that design as a jumping off spot for making my niece’s doll. You can find the original pattern and instructions on Martha Stewart’s website.

I increased the size of the doll to 155% and here are PDF of the pattern at the increased size, Black Apple Doll enlarged Head and Black Apple Doll enlarged Body and Legs. This pattern is not mine and is for personal use only not for commercial use.

My niece is fond of monkeys so I decided to use some of my sock monkey fabric scraps for the dress. I made the hair brown and added an embroidered applique of her name on the dress.

The Black Apple tutorial has you draw the face on the doll, you could hand embroider the face, or do as I did embroider the face on with an embroidery machine. I recently purchased an embroidery/sewing machine and have looked for any chance to embroider something. I do have the embroidery file available at my Etsy store.

I adjusted the pattern to fit the face, the hair was made slightly larger to fit the face. I also needed to adjust the pattern for the dress to attach to the face and hair properly.

Once I had cut out the head, hair, dress, arms and legs I laid out the pieces to see how they fit together and to check to see if I needed to make any adjustments.


I then began to put the doll together starting with top stitching the hair to the face. You then attach the front head to the front body and repeat with the back pieces and sew the arms and legs together leaving the top open to stuff. With right sides together pin stuffed arms and legs between the front and back. Make sure a little bit of the ends of the legs and arms are sticking out so you are sure to enclose the ends with the stitches, and leave a space unstitched so you can flip the doll right side out. Stuff the head and body of the doll and stitch up the opening.

The dolls are easy to make and personalize and make a great gift that will hopefully be cherished for years. Check the Martha Stewart’s website out for more complete instructions with pictures.

A Better Way to Keep and Share Your Family Recipes

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I saw a great idea for a Photo Book recently. A friend of mine wanted to make a cookbook of all of her favourite family recipes and give to her siblings so she made a photo book with all her recipes. She incorporated pictures she took of the food or put in family photos along side the recipes—it was a nice idea. I have made up recipe books before for friends and family, but this was nice because it was more like a real cookbook.

You can use an photo book company like Picaboo or, if you have a mac, iPhoto to create it. They have great templates to use.

One thing I like about Picaboo is that they have lots of tips and samples of books people have made. There is a nice one under the “winter” category—it had pictures from an ice storm.

Checking out Picaboo’s site recently I saw that they expect to have a mac version out sometime this year.

8.5×11 custom photo book. Buy 1 get 1 free with coupon code: 1PB1GF-CB

Photo Books: My New Obsession

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This year for Christmas I was looking for a gift idea for my parents and Jay’s parents when I stumbled upon photo books. They are like scrapbooks—only they are done on your computer.

I have a macbook which comes with iPhoto. In iPhoto I can make a photo book right in the program. When you are finished creating your book—which includes style selections, image resizing and more—you upload your book to Apple and they send you out a finished book. The books come in a variety of sizes, colours and types, (soft and hard cover) and, in a wide range of prices.

I have played with different photo book software before from Picaboo and Shutterfly but I had never actually finished a book and ordered a printed copy. I was very happy I did at Christmas. The Photo Books were the favourite gift. The book was a collection of pictures from Georgia’s first year. Jay’s Dad takes it everywhere with him to show.

Since the success of the books I gave as gifts, I made a smaller softcover book of Christmas 2006. It is a nice way to showcase your photos—and in many ways is nicer than uploading your images to be printed—rather than putting them in a photo album.

I must admit almost all of my photos I have had printed in the last 10 years are sitting in photo boxes and are never looked at. I plan on scanning all of our wedding photos and making a wedding photo book as well as taking pictures of my grandparents and making a memory photo book for Birthday or Christmas presents next year.

The nice thing about the photo books is that if you are not that creatively inclined they have different themes to help you lay out your pictures. The other reason I really prefer it to scrapbooking is that it is digital. I have found that with digital scrapbooking you can easily change something you are not happy with.


While I liked the ease of using iPhoto to create the photo books, it is limited in the number of themes. Picaboo is a free program that you download to your computer and you can easily use your images to quickly make a book and you don’t need to be hooked up to the internet to create your book. The downside of Picaboo is that they don’t have a mac download.

Shutterfly also has a large number of themes and styles to choose from but you need to upload your images to their site which can be time consuming if you want to play around with more images than you plan to put in your photo book. However, since it is a web based system it doesn’t matter what OS you are using. They also carry a range of other photo gifts, prints, and free online photo sharing and photo storage.

I think the next photo book I make will be from Picaboo. They have a wider variety of page layouts and backgrounds. Unfortunately because they don’t have a Mac download I will have use my PC.

What has been your experience with making a photo books, and how did it turn out?

Picaboo – Create a Photo Book. Special Offer: buy 1 get 1 free!

Baby Pictures – One Mom’s Tips on Taking, Editing, and Sending Digital Photos

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Thanksgiving Dinner 2006

One thing is certain with a new baby: you are going to be taking lots of baby pictures. Digital Cameras are great for capturing every moment. I love our digital camera, I bought it for Jay a couple of Christmas’ ago, but I seem to be the one who uses it the most.

The Hardware

We have a Canon A85—I highly recommend their cameras if you are thinking about buying one—the optics are great and the model we have has a tonne of options. I will admit, I prefer the “auto” setting—just point and click.There are lots of great buying guide websites around if you are looking for reviews of cameras like DP review.

The Canon A85 is 4 mega-pixels—most cameras available now have at least that many mega-pixels. One thing I would recommend looking for in a camera is an optical zoom vs digital zoom. Optical zoom is the zoom using the lens, a physical magnification of the object vs digital which is just a magnification of a portion of the picture. With a digital zoom you can end up with a pixelly image.

The other important factor with digital photography is the memory card. The bigger the memory card the more pictures it can hold. Speed is also important. The memory cards come in different speeds the faster the card, the faster the recycle time which means more pictures. I didn’t realize how important it was until I used my sister’s camera last month, she had a slow memory card and it seemed to take forever until I could take another picture.

To Print or Not to Print

When it comes to printing off the pictures a film camera does not compare. You can pick the images you want fix them with your photo software and print them at home or send them to your local photo store. When ink-jet printers first came out I loved the idea that you could print the pictures at home. The problem I have found with printing at home is that it often takes 2 or 3 tries before I get a decent quality print and with the cost of ink-jet ink and photo paper it is kind of expensive.

Now I send all my pictures to a photo-lab to be printed. There are so many choices and you can get the pictures for such a good price. I use Blacks Photography. They are more expensive but I think the pictures look great! We usually pick them up so they are printed in the store and I think that the store that we use, at Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth, is far superior to other Black’s stores. In my opinion, if you find a spot that does excellent prints stick with them, because good quality prints are often because the staff in the photo lab are good at their job.

The Software

As well as printing pictures, I find that with a baby I am e-mailing a lot of pictures to people. I had been using Adobe Photoshop to prepare my images for e-mail. I would colour correct, I would use the dodge tool to fix red eye (a very common problem with babies) a very tedious way to fix it, then resize the images for mail. There is nothing worse than getting an email of a picture and all you can see is a giant eye.

I started using Picasa, Google’s photo software, which I downloaded for free. It has a very easy to use red eye fix and when you want to e-mail the picture you just click the e-mail button and it resizes it for you! Now Picasa also has a web album so you can resize your images and people can look at them online and download images suitable for printing—something that e-mailed photos not always great for. The free online album offers 250MB of space but you can buy more if you need too ($25 for 6GB).

If you are Mac user iphoto has similar software with an easy to fix red eye and the one click e-mail.

What tips do you have for digital photography?

RSS Feed –What Is It and What Can It Do for Me?

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You probably have seen an RSS, (Real Simple Syndication) link on many web sites, and like me until recently, probably never thought twice about what it was and what it does. You are not alone only about 2% of web user use RSS feeds.

What is it?

The definition from Wikipedia is RSS is a type of web feed. What that means is when you sign up for a RSS feed from a web site you will get an alert from your feed reader anytime their is a new post or announcement on the site. Feed readers come in a number of forms. There are web based readers and can be accessed via your browser, desktop based and require that you download and install a program onto your computer, integrated readers which may be added on to certain Internet software or as part of the standard program. This page has a concise definition with links to different readers.

My First Time

I was first introduced to RSS when I ordered my new Macbook. It was shipping from China and I wanted to keep up to date with its progress to Bridgewater. Checking the Fed ex site every few hours, (yes I know it sounds obsessive but I couldn’t wait for it to come), and logging in the tracking # got old fast. I found isnoop.net they had a universal package tracker with a RSS feed. Once I downloaded a feed reader and subscribed to the feed, every time my Macbook moved closer to be my feed updated.

What It Does for Me

After the success with the package tracking I signed up with CBC to get regular updates from their news site. You can get updates from eBay, your favourite blog posts, and from Etsy stores without actually logging on to their site.

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One Family’s Cloth Diaper Experience

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Before Georgia was born, my husband Jay and I decided to use cloth diapers instead of disposables.

I didn’t like the idea of throwing all that plastic into a landfill and the chemicals used to make diapers white—not to mention having those chemicals up against my baby’s skin all day.

As I started to look into cloth diapers I could not believe the cost difference. Although cloth diapers are expensive in the beginning, I think we have spent about $600-700, that is much less than the costs of disposables. The cost I have read are about $2000/year!

While researching the different cloth diaper manufacturers, I was pleasantly surprised a lot of the companies are Canadian. The two spots we have bought diapers from are The Baby Marketplace and Mother-ease. I loved the way the MJ fitted diapers looked and they have worked very well. The air-flow covers by Mother-ease do not leak. We had used Bummis diaper covers at first and found that they leaked, I am not sure if it was us or the wraps themselves. Luckily I was able to sell them on eBay .

I must admit we have used some disposable diapers. It just seems like to much work to bring cloth diapers with us when we are away from home, not to mention carrying the dirty diapers around with us. There are some diapers that are chlorine free, Seventh Generation. They seem to work better than huggies and pampers with no leaks, although because of their taupe colour and lack of cartoon characters they do attract attention.

Overall I would have to say I am happy with our decision to use cloth diapers as our primary diapering. Laundering them isn’t much work, an extra load every other day. Cloth diapers today are not the same as years ago no folding or pins, they have been replaced by snaps and Velcro.

The one item I need to recommend for all cloth diaper users is the gamma seal lids for your diaper pail. The lid screws onto standard 5 gallon buckets (the kind used for paint or pickles) and no smell comes out, but when you open it watch out. You can get them at The Baby Marketplace and Lee Valley.

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