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Before and After: High Chair Seat Cushion & Cover

Hauck Alpha Chair with New Seat Cover

Ah, the plethora of kid stuff. I don’t know about you, but I thought we’d get by with a lot less gear than we actually have. I’d done my homework, read reviews and comparison shopped. I’d wanted to make the right choices the first time around. But the truth is, you don’t really know what will work until you try it in your own home with your own kid. Our first high chair, for example, had great reviews, two trays, folded for storage and could convert to a small chair for later. It sounded great in theory, but despite all those things we never liked it. The footprint was too wide, it was heavy, the trays were too big too clean in the sink, and we never folded and put it away between meals. What’s the point if it was going to be used 3+ times a day? We used it for both kids for the least amount of time possible.

As soon as Leo was old enough we switched him to a booster and tray set that sat on top of one of our dining chairs. It worked fine for a while, but I could see that Leo couldn’t rest his legs comfortably, plus it was too high to push under the table. We would all occasionally trip on the back legs. I began to look for other options.

Thanks to craigslist I found a like-new Hauck Alpha Chair for a bargain. It was and is the perfect chair for Leo. I could go on and on about it, but I’ll limit myself to saying that it is super sturdy, adjustable, comfortable, promotes good posture and he can climb into it easily by himself. It also matches the rest of our dining chairs (unlike Chloe’s Ikea Urban Junior Chair). Winner!

We’ve had the Alpha chair since January and just recently took the seat and the foot plate down a notch to accommodate Leo’s growth (my little boy is growing up!). Actually, the only thing I didn’t love about the chair was the seat pad. It was thin and lumpy. If food spilled on it, it would immediately stain. More like a bib than a seat cover. Yuck. Here is the “Before” photo:

Time for a new seat cushion! Here is what I sewed up to take its place:

Much improved wouldn’t you say?

My cushion cover skills were limited to the one I made for our storage bench years ago. This time I had to buy the foam padding and add a strap down system, too. Luckily it was easy to find a sheet of foam at Mill End and it easily cut down to size (the sheet was so large, that I also ended up making a cushion for under Barkley’s dog bed). I used the same strap/velcro system as on the original pad (see above photo), but I chose PUL (or polyurethane laminated fabric) for the covering. It is water resistant and popular for cloth diaper covers. It is easily also easily wiped clean or washed, and came in prints suitable for a young boy.

Leo sitting in his Hauck Alpha Chair

Much better!

So far the seat cushion has held up nicely during the past couple months. Makes me glad I took the time to do it right. Do you have a chair that could benefit from a new seat or cushion cover?


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Craft Re-fashion Tutorial: T-shirt to Girls Tank Top with Rosette

If you read yesterday’s post, you realize that I had a partially ruined purple shirt that I didn’t know what to do with. So, after mulling over that problem for a couple days, I decided to re-make it into something wearable for Chloe. A craft fail to a craft fashion, if you will.

The easiest item to make would be a tank top or tank dress. I wanted to do the least amount of sewing that I could get away with. After sketching a few ideas, I decided on this style that I had made for Chloe before. I’ll mention right now that this was my first time sewing knits, and could tell almost immediately that something wasn’t right. The material would get all bunched up under the needle. Some quick internet research revealed a special “stretch” needle is required to sew knits. Ah.

After returning from the craft store with a pack of “stretch” needles, I hesitantly began again. As long as I took things nice and steady it worked great. And now Chloe has a super cute tank top to wear this summer. I couldn’t be happier with the result. Yay! Craft Fail to Craft Re-fashion!

Have a t-shirt that needs a little make over? Here is all you have to do.

What you need:
T-shirt
Matching color thread
Elastic thread
Sewing machine
Scissors

  1. Cut your shirt. One straight horizontal cut right beneath the arm pits and then another straight cut about two inches below the first cut. The bottom piece will be the body of the tank top and the piece above that will be for your straps.
  2. Wind your bottom bobbin with the elastic thread by hand and insert it into your machine. Excellent directions on how to do this can be found here. Thread your matching color thread on top.
  3. Starting at a side seam on the body piece, sew a straight line horizontally one-half inch from the raw edge. Sew all the way around until you are back where you started and backstitch at the beginning and end (alternately, you can tie the elastic together where the ends meet). Repeat this step 3 more times, a half inch below each previous line.
  4. Steam your stitches with an iron -or- mist with water and gently and quickly press with a hot iron. This will cause the elastic to draw together, giving that puckered, shirred or “smocked” look. (If your girl is small like mine, you may need to stitch once more down a vertical side to take in some of the width).
  5. Replace your elastic bottom bobbin with regular thread. Using your little model (in this case, it was Chloe), measure and pin the shoulder straps in place and stitch them on. I used a zig-zag stitch here for stretch.

To make the rosette:
I followed a couple different directions online, but basically, the rosette shown is a lot like this video except I made two layers – a larger bottom layer and a smaller top layer (the rosette was an after thought – you’ll have to cut your fabric strips from the leftover neckline piece). Another interesting rosette tutorial can be found here and here. I pinned ours on with a safety pin, so I can pop it off and onto something else, if we want.

And that’s it! Chloe loves it and so do I. It is almost like it was meant to be. Maybe failing isn’t so bad after all. What do you think?

And here is one final photo of that face I love so much. My little sweetheart.

If, at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. – Old proverb


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Stitched Fabric Heart Cards

The other day at Ikea I finally convinced my husband to let me purchase a batch of Ribba frames. I’ve been wanting to build a display wall of photographs in our hallway, but David isn’t really a family-photo-display-wall kind of guy. However, this time he was into it and I jumped at the chance. I’ve been spending time today looking through my Flickr account, trying to decide on the photos I’d like to use. That is when I came across these fabric heart cards I made from two years ago. Wow. You mean I actually had time back then (with only one child) to do fun projects like this?

Anyway, you can see they are very simple. I had a batch of blank white patterned cards, cut out a silhouette from the center, backed it with another piece of white card stock and sewed up the edges to secure it. The stitching also added a nice little frame on the heart and tree versions. On the flowered version I cut out some fabric flowers, pasted them on and stitched a line down the center. Not sure what happened to these, but I’m thinking I might have given them as part of a gift. It sure what fun to see them again!

 


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The Extra Large Really BIG Bag

I sewed a new bag this weekend! This is a really BIG bag (almost 3 feet across). I wanted one because both Chloe, and Leo & I have a swim class that meets twice a week, during the same time. The bag had to be large enough to carry three towels, three sets of dry clothes, snacks, diapering items, etc., yet be light weight and easy for this mama to carry. This one fits the bill with room to spare!

The pattern came from a blue plastic Ikea shopping bag. We have two, and they are really handy, especially at the beach. Sand slides right off the plastic. The handles are really clever, too. Each side has a loop of material that is attached in way that creates a shoulder strap as well as tote handles, so you can carry it both ways (you can see them best in the top photo). Essentially, those blue Ikea bags are large tarps with handles, but they stay crazy wrinkled and are ridiculously noisy because the plastic is so crackly. The design is perfect, though, almost exactly what I wanted.

Sewing notes: The Ikea heart fabric I already had in my stash. I used Pellon fusible interfacing to add body, but it didn’t adhere to the outer fabric properly, and I’m not sure I would use it again. As I said before, this is a basic, but cleverly designed bag, made of only two large and one small rectangle (for the bottom). I thought about forgoing the bottom and just sewing the side rectangles together, but it is the bottom that makes the bag roomy and gives it a wide opening. The handles are grosgrain ribbon and the top edge and the inside sides seams are finished with bias tape. Pretty snazzy!

Here are links to the other bags I’ve made: Freestyle tote, Hobo Slouch, Green Felt tote,  Zippered Felt bag and Tokyo Tie bag.

 


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Before & After: Cubbie Storage Bench + Greatroom Update


There has been a little sewing going on around here. We purchased this Martha Stewart cubbie-storage bench from Home Depot to put right inside the french doors in the great room. It came with a plain cushion so I bought some home dec fabric during the labor day sale at Joanns. What I really wanted to do was a whole entry-style unit including wall hooks for hanging jackets and such, and use the cubbie for shoes, dog items and other outdoor paraphenalia. David didn’t agree, saying that it would just accumulate junk, so we comprimised. We got the cubbie, but instead of hooks we hung our new tree of life print above it.

Do you remember this photo of our under-construction great room? Well, besides the cubbie bench we’ve finally started furnishing it to a point it is somewhat livable. We’ve been really budget conscious, so it remains on the bare side as we decide over time how best to use the space. The sofa was a happy hand-me-down from David’s parents. Otherwise the most expensive item in the room was the Ikea Bjursta dining table and bench (which we keep in the bedroom unless we have company for dinner). This is a bit of an older photo, but you can get an idea of the layout (a rare moment not toy strewn). I’ve since changed that stretch-frame fabric for a different print in an actual frame (see below). That wall is so big, I’m not sure what we’re going to do there. Shelving? A collage of frames? One huge piece of art (that we likely can’t afford)?

The only other purchases I haven’t mentioned are the 8×10 rug we bought for $100 at HomeGoods and that coffee table ottoman that we bought on sale at Fred Meyer for $50 (which I love because it is soft – no bumped heads and such). Everything else we’ve had.

P.S. After re-reading this I realized I wanted to mention that quilt above the sofa. My mother-in-law made it for us from  an old Pottery Barn sample book of discontinuted (mostly) velvet swatches of upholstery fabric. For the backing and sides she used an old deep burgundy velvet table cloth we were getting rid of. Its very heavy and very cozy. :-)

 


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Handmade camera accessories

I love to see the creative things people sew for cameras. At one time I was all proud of myself for sewing this camera strap cover, but that was peanuts compared to the beautiful patchwork versions from House on Hill Road. The blue one in colorway thirty-six is my favorite.

And check out these SLR camera covers by Pixbag. Talk about stylish.

Then there are Lens Pets by Mandee Franee – perfect for anyone taking photos of children. I’d smile if I saw these, too. What do you think? Over the top or just really fantastic?

(Thanks to greenclogs for the facebook shout out about the straps, and to my husband for sending the camera cover link).


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Baby Boy Quilt

Check out baby boy’s beautiful new quilt, handmade by my mother-in-law. She took Chloe and I to the fabric store the last time we were in Colorado and helped me choose complementary patterns in the colors I liked. They are all Robert Kaufmann fabrics except for the floral. I love how it turned out, and can’t wait to see our baby boy snuggled up in it. Alternate photos here and here.

The cradle is one I found for a steal on craigslist several months ago. It is basically a DaVinci Futura Cradle, although mine says Million Dollar Baby. I had  a craigslist-purchased co-sleeper with Chloe, but it never fit next to our bed properly because the side of our bed frame left a gap. I ended up selling it back the same way I bought it. I know the cradle won’t last as long, but it’s narrower profile is easy to move from room to room, and it rocks. The only problem was fitted sheets for the cradle pad were hard to find. I did spot these Jill Mcdonald swaddling blankets the last time I went out looking. I know. Swaddling blankets are also short lived, but I love the modern simplicity of these and hope they’ll make for cute newborn photos.


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More home addition progress

Things are still happening here on the house. Most notably, our master bath is close to complete! I wanted to wait and do a big reveal, but I’m too excited not to share. Everything works – our new dual-flush toilet, rain shower, and sink faucets – but there are still a few finishing touches left, like putting up the wood trim/moulding around the door, window, and floor, priming and painting the pocket door and adjusting the drawers on the sink cabinet to open and close properly. We’re talking about painting the bathroom door a fun color, but that is still undecided. Right now we’re just using a shower curtain, but eventually I’d love to have a frameless glass shower door put in. Unfortunately it costs big $$$, and there is still so much left to do yet in the rest of the house. And see that curtain? I made it from some Ikea fabric I had on hand, and I’m quite proud of how it turned out (simple as it is).

Two other notable occurrences include the professional installation of our ultra-high efficiency heat pump and the installation of our new bamboo floor. Being extra sensitive to sounds, our new heating system is taking a little getting used to, especially that only-noticeable-to-me “newly-installed” smell. I understand it is very quiet compared to most systems. Previously we had baseboards, which were almost noiseless except for occasional ticking. We used Pyramid Heating and Cooling, so if you’re in the Portland area, we would highly recommend them.

The bamboo floor was purchased from Costco, and David installed it himself over a couple of weekends. It’s noisy and repetitive work with all the pounding and sawing.   I had to take Chloe and get out of the house several times to save our sanity. It looks awesome, though. Makes me think of a ballet studio, so smooth and satiny. The above photo also shows a new-to-us Crate & Barrel sofa. My in-laws got a new sectional and drove this one out with them (from Colorado!) when they came to visit in April. It’s SO much more comfortable and better looking than our old Pottery Barn Basic sofa..

Things are really shaping up around here. Today David painted and installed lighting in our his-and-her closets. He wants us to move into the master bedroom before the baby comes, but for some reason I want to wait. It’s such a big change. I think I want to keep some sense of familiarity, plus I want to stay close to Chloe during this transitional time. Maybe I’m just silly. :-)


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Wonderland Skirt

This darling skirt came in the mail from Australia for Chloe last week. It was handmade by my craft swap partner, Doreen. I adore the Wonderland fabric she chose, and that she thoughtfully left a small opening in the back, so I could fit the elastic waist perfectly on Chloe. Good thing Chloe and I wear vastly different sizes, or I might find myself stealing this little gem right out of her closet.

Some of Doreen’s other projects can be seen on her brand new blog Phil and Jack.


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Updated Tutorial & Printables List

I updated my Downloads + Tutorials page (see link under the header bar) with all the project tutorials and printable pdfs I’ve included on this blog. Hopefully they’ll be easier to find and use all in one place. Here are some:

1. DIY iPhone 4 Bumper Idea_2b.jpg, 2. Paper-Wrapped Jewelry Organizer, 3. bird magnets1.jpg, 4. Free Printable Valentine Flower card, 5. Chocolate Gift Jar Oreos.jpg, 6. Baby bib, 7. Halloween “Cauldron Bubbles” Treat, 8. IMG_7332.JPG, 9. “Dad” Father’s Day Card, 10. Cute Baby Hair Clips, 11. Holiday Gift tags, 12. Printable Holiday Gift Wrap, 13. Printable Holiday Cheer game board, 14. Felt photo album cover, 15. Vinyl Record Bowl, 16. Modern Happy Holidays Card


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Fabric | Greek food

I’ve been stuck in a sewing rut this summer. After this top for me and this dress for Chloe, I just put away the sewing table and have barely used it since. Then I went with a friend to Fabric Depot this morning. Just when I thought I was going to get away with only a couple of lengths of belting for Chloe, I saw a sign at the register for 35% off all Alexander Henry prints – one of my favorite brands (also used on Chloe’s baby blanket and crib skirt). So back I went to get some yards of the fabrics I’d been eyeing earlier. I’ve got a few project ideas in mind, but we’ll see if any of them come to fruition.

Then, this evening when David got home from work, we went to the nearby Greek festival for dinner and treats. It was my first experience with traditional Greek coffee. While the strength of it didn’t bother me, the gritty texture was a bit of a turn off. I did have the best kourabiedes (Greek shortbread cookie loaded with powdered sugar on top) that I have ever tasted though. Will definitely be looking up the recipe!

Fabric images from Funky Fabrix and Pink Chalk Fabrics.


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Spring Tunic

I did it! My first top! And just in time, too, to enter Spring Top Week.

This was the most challenging sewing project I have ever completed. It is the Baby Doll Tunic from the book Sew Teen. As I mentioned before, I thought it was strange that I couldn’t find a single reference to anyone making this top. Now I know why – several key measurements and details in the instructions are incorrect. I know this because I followed them step-by-step, and the first top I made was wildly out of proportion. So much for “the perfect guide for first-time sewers”! I was pretty disappointed at first, but after putting it away for a few days I decided to take it apart and try to figure it out on my own, with much better results! Despite the setbacks, I learned a lot, and am glad I gave it another try. :-)

Notes about the pattern: Despite specifying the “bust measurement” (and showing how to measure for it), this particular pattern is actually asking for the underbust/ribcage measurement. Big difference! I also noticed other instances – like writing 10 “centimeters” instead of 10 “millimeters”, and having certain steps and diagrams out of order. I couldn’t understand attaching the bias-binding at all, so I just had to figure it out from the photos. I also chose to use 3/4″ elastic and made the ties a tad thinner.


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Make your own bean bag chair

Check out this cool bean bag chair by Joanna at Stardust Shoes. I never thought I’d say this about a bean bag chair, but I think this one is so fun. I wish I had one like it for Chloe’s room. She would totally dig it. Not only does she love to climb on chairs in general, but also to get in and out of boxes, bounce on cushions, and land in piles of dirty clothes on the floor. Wouldn’t playing with an oversize bean bag be like all those things?

Joanna offers both an adult-sized (shown above) and child-sized pdf tutorial, so technically I could make one myself. Maybe I will someday. Right now I’m stuck with a halfway finished spring top. I can’t seem to figure out the next step, and I’m not sure how best to move forward (Sandy, maybe I can ichat you and hold the instructions up to the camera?). Also strange is that I can’t find a single reference of anyone sewing this top, or any photos on Flickr or anywhere else. Maybe because it was written for teenagers and there aren’t any teenager-sewing-bloggers? Oh well. I might just try and wing it.


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Smocked sundress


Chloe in her new dress, trying to accessorize with her daddy’s grungy fishing hat

After writing the last post, I remembered that I still hadn’t shared photos of Chloe’s new smocked sundress from Weekend Sewing. I finished it right before Easter, and really love it. I honestly can’t believe how easy it was. I can see how sewing with elastic thread can seem daunting, but there really is nothing to it. Plus, there is a helpful video of Heather Ross giving a demonstration on Martha Stewart. I had already read through the instructions and set my mind to making it though, so the video was a lucky bonus.

Posing with her baby doll
Back view, halter version
Chloe’s stubborn tough-girl pose

Eventually I plan on making myself a top in similar fashion, but I’d like to make another kind of top first. Plus, Heather offers a free adult pattern in pdf called the Mendocino Sundress that is similar to the child’s smocked sundress in her book. Hmm, maybe I should just go for the dress and forget the top for now. The material would make a nice dress…


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Stumped

Ever since making this Blossom Blouse for Chloe, I’ve been thinking about making a top for myself. I already have the fabric, but I can’t seem to make up my mind on which top to make. There is a surprising amount of factors that weigh on this decision. For example, I’d rather not buy a pattern for this initial attempt. I’d also like it to be easy enough to muddle through with minimal frustration, in a style I’d actually wear, and look decent with the large floral print of the fabric I’ve chosen. And so on.

A few contenders right now are this Spring Ruffle Top Tutorial, the Strapless Belted Tunic from One-Yard Wonders, and the Baby Doll Tunic from Sew Teen (laugh if you want). Also, I’ve really enjoyed seeing the 2010 Spring Top Week entries – the three pictured above are a few styles I could see wearing myself (in different prints). I guess I need to get sewing if I want to enter my own!


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Sewing Machine Cover + Smallest Sewing Table Ever

My sewing machine has a new dress! The ugly plastic one it came with finally got the heave-ho. Looks nice, doesn’t it? I got all ambitious and added a back pocket and a hole on top for the carrying handle, except I couldn’t figure out how to properly fold inside corners with bias-tape. It ended up oval, except I had already cut a rectangle in the fabric and the bias-tape didn’t “catch” the corners. I fixed that with a little fabric glue. Just don’t look too close.

Before Chloe, the “spare” room (that is now her nursery) used to be where we kept the TV, the sewing table, and the futon. With Chloe’s arrival, we had no choice but to move the TV into the living room and the sewing table into our bedroom, wedged between the dresser and the hamper, because there was literally nowhere else in our little house to put it. Luckily, it folds down really small, as you can see. I also took a photo of the table fully opened.

I was this close to using Alexander Henry’s Mocca for the sewing machine cover, but after walking it and the Joel Dewberry Ginseng into the bedroom, I realized right away the Mocca wouldn’t jive with the serenity of the bedroom. Much the same way that I wouldn’t have been able to stand the TV in the bedroom. The walls are white, the curtains white, and my favorite duvet cover is white with only a few oversize, very abstract, pale blue, taupe and brick-colored butterflies. It was meant to be.

Good tutorials and inspiration for making sewing machine covers can be found at Chez Larsson, Spool, and Creative Reveries.


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Blossom Blouse

I finished this child’s Blossom Blouse for Chloe over the weekend. It is a pattern from the book Sew Liberated: 20 Stylish Projects for the Modern Sewist. I think it is just adorable, and I love this print. The smallest pattern was for size 2-3, so obviously it is way too big for my tiny daughter, but the fact that  I sewed something that came out okay is pretty miraculous. The last time I tried to sew a piece of clothing without help, I ended up getting stuck in the middle and giving up. It didn’t matter much though, because I could easily see that it was turning out more than double my size.

It is hard to see, but what drew me were the 3/4 bell sleeves with the little gathers just above the elbow. I love details like this, even for my own clothes. However, mine didn’t turn out quite right, because I couldn’t get my stitch to lengthen to the specified size, even though I turned the thread length indicator as high as it would go. I’m okay with that though, for a first try.

Now that I’m feeling a little of that “I’m sorta getting it” feeling, I’m trying to decide what to make next. Maybe a new sewing machine cover to replace the ugly plastic one. Or maybe a matching, mommy-size Blossom Blouse…


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Chloe’s new mittens

I’m happy to say that I completed a craft project for January! I had seen a pair of fleece baby mittens in a store downtown and couldn’t believe the price tag said $20 bucks! More than I’d spend for two tiny swatches of fleece that Chloe would use only for another month or two. Plus, I hate to admit it, but her grandma sent out a set earlier in the year that Chloe wore once before we misplaced them. Not a good track record for us.

All in all, it was pretty easy once I got started. Unfortunately, one of my bad habits is spending way too much time thinking about a project, instead of just trying to do it. The leftover fleece came from my stash, and though it took two tries to get the shape and size right, I’m pretty happy with the results. I worked on these after Chloe went to bed, so they were hand sewn. I kind of hemmed and hawed over leaving the wrist edges raw (one thing I love about fleece), but then decided to finish with a blanket stitch. I also added a ribbon to secure them to her wrists. Sewing on velcro or elastic just seemed too complicated for my limited skill and patience.

I think the funnest part of the project was doing a mini photoshoot with Chloe! She really liked them! I thought she might have a problem grasping things, but she didn’t seem to at all. If I have time, I’ll post my pattern and maybe a brief tutorial. Now, all I need to do is find a new recipe to try and I’ll be done with my blogging goals for the month!

P.S. We found her old mittens in the tray compartment of the stroller. Of course! And I’m also proud to say I made her hat, too. The easiest beginner knit hat ever. I see more of those in her future.


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Chloe’s playhouse


Isn’t this a fabulous little playhouse? Chloe’s Grandma Sandy custom made it just for her! What a lucky little girl. I can see years of fun out of this particular gift. It fits perfectly over our kitchen table and includes lovely details like windows complete with white eyelet curtains and pink ribbon tie-backs, a sewn-on garden hem, half yellow and half pink interior walls and little buttons to hold the door flaps open. That Grandma Sandy is just so clever, I tell you what. Of course Chloe loves it! What little girl wouldn’t want a cozy and fun place to play (or simply enter and exit over and over)? Thanks again Grandma Sandy!

See more photos in Chloe’s Playhouse Set. Other Grandma Sandy related projects include these baby bibs, appliqued handtowels, and nursery mural. Just wait until I get a chance to photograph Chloe’s Busy Book!

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