The Case for Premium Denim

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I’ve always been mildly addicted to getting the best deal (can it still be considered a mild addiction if I’ve been known to check a website obsessively for weeks on end until my favorite dress goes on sale??) but I’ve also realized that there are few items that are worth investing in.  Jeans are at the top of this list for a few very important reasons: fit, fabric and longevity.

FIT: If you’re the sort of person who can grab a pair of jeans off a rack and have them fit perfectly without trying them on, then…well, I think we probably can’t be friends anymore.  JK! But seriously, I don’t think you exist.  There are about a million different styles in almost as many brands so finding the perfect fit can almost drive a person crazy.  Premium denim is a lot more likely to fit correctly right off the rack since the nicer brands use real-life fit models (instead of just measurements or mannequins) and they cut in smaller batches, etc.

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FABRIC: Have you ever found the perfect pair of jeans only to have them start to sag and bag out terribly after a couple wears?  So disappointing, right?? When I spend a little more on my jeans, I find that the fabric holds its shape much better, the stretch stays in place and the dye doesn’t wear off as easily.  Because all blue denim is dyed, there is usually some fading and possibly color transfer at the beginning but premium denim will hold its color a lot longer!

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LONGEVITY: If I’m going to spend decent money on an article of clothing, then my one requirement is that it last forever!  And higher-end denim promises to do just that.  Some of my favorite brands for longevity are AG (the pair I’m wearing here are their Stevie cut that I’ve had for a few years…I hear great things about The Stilt and Legging fit as well!)  J Brand, Paige, Hudson, and Citizens of Humanity, to name a few.

Now the big question…how much to spend??  All the brands I named above run about $150-$200+ per pair.  I know that’s pricey but that doesn’t mean you have to spend that!  Here’s my favorite tip: head to your local high-end department store (my favorite is Nordstrom) and talk to a salesperson in the premium denim department.  Explain your body shape, fit issues and other concerns and have her help you find 2 or 3 perfect pairs for your body.  Then, write down the brand, fit and sizes of all those pairs, go home and start researching!  I keep a running list of my favorites on my Nordstrom wishlist so that I can snag them during their big sales, but eBay, Nordstrom Rack and other discount sites are a great place to look too!  With a little hunting, you can find an amazing, quality pair of denim that won’t cost you a million bucks.

Above all, though, remember that you probably wear jeans more than any other item in your whole closet.  It’s worth it to spend more on them than on anything else.  If you pay $150 and wear them 3 times a week for a year, it ends up only being $1 per wear!  And with proper care, you can wear them for years and years.

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This last shot had to happen because I ran into a bathroom that matched my shoes exactly!!  Yes, I totally laid on a gross bathroom floor to do this.  Anything for the shot!  Haha.

AG Stevie Jeans (in my experience, these run slightly small)
New Balance sneakers (these are on sale and I love them!!)
White lacy top (similar here and here and lots of options here)
Michael Kors Watch

DIY Diaper Caddy: Simplify Motherhood

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SuperAbsorbent #CollectiveBias

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Hey mamas!  Today’s post is all about simplifying life as a busy, crazy insane mom….specifically, diaper time!  Over my 11+ years of diapering babies (ay!), I’ve learned one very important thing: skimping quality when it comes to diapers is never a good idea.  I’m as much of a bargain hunter as the next mom of a million kids, but we’ve been using Huggies diapers exclusively ever since our oldest, Liam, was a baby.  I’ve tried the off-brand diapers before and the blowouts and soggy messes were just never worth it!

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We love these Huggies Little Movers Plus diapers (only from Costco) because they absorb whatever Marilyn and Finn can throw at them (and even Vivian who wears them at night…that girl can soak a diaper like no other! #gross) plus I’m always a fan of Costco’s prices (see the end of this post for the current deal going on!).  They also carry Newborn sizes now too!   The “Plus” in the name means they’re Huggies’ most absorbent diaper and perfect for the crazy active toddler, in sizes 3-6.  We keep an extra box or two of these on hand at all times, because there’s not a disaster in the world quite like running out of diapers; I always keep at least 5 in my purse, a couple in my car’s glove box and more in each diaper-wearing kid’s room.

Nothing ruins a nap, playtime or car ride like a leaky diaper so here are a few of my favorite tips for making sure that doesn’t happen!  First, I always change my kids right before nap and bedtime, even if their diaper feels dry.  A fresh Huggies Little Movers Plus diaper can always handle whatever messes my kids make!  Next, I don’t leave my kids unsupervised without clothes over their diaper (i.e. in bed).  Too many of my naughty toddlers have learned to pull off a diaper or even pull something OUT of a diaper (blech!) and it always helps to have a onesie or pajamas keeping those little hands out of trouble.  Lastly, we try to change our kids’ diapers as often as possible on car trips.  My kids always eat and drink nonstop when in the car so this way we avoid messes while from the comforts of home.

Pretty simple stuff, but they’ve saved us time and time again!

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We used to have an actual changing table in our first couple babies’ rooms, but after a while we needed the space so we got rid of it.  Now we simply change the babies on the floor near the crib cause we’re classy like that.  I came up with this DIY diaper caddy to hang on Marilyn’s crib in order to keep all the diapers, wipes and paraphernalia close at hand, especially while wrangling a poopy, wild toddler.  This is a super easy project that’s great for beginners…you only need to sew straight lines!  Let’s do it!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 yard fabric for caddy front
1/2 yard coordinating fabric for the backing
1/4 yard coordinating fabric for straps (I used quilting cotton for all the fabrics)
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  1.  Cut 2 rectangles of fabric for our caddy front and back, each measuring 19″ x 30″.  Next, cut 4 pockets measuring 7″ x 7″, and cut one of these pockets in half to make 2 smaller pockets.  Finally, cut 2 strips of fabric for your ties, each measuring 24″ x 3″. (My pockets in the picture are a little wider than these measurements but I ended up cutting them down to hold the diapers better).pockets
  2.  Begin by finishing the top raw edges of each of your pockets (with a serger, pinking shears or zig zag stitch).  Fold this finished edge under (about 1/4″) and press well.  Topstitch close to this fold on all 5 pockets.  Continue folding under and pressing all other raw edges of each pocket.

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3.  Pin each pocket to your caddy front where desired.  I put the 3 big pockets in a vertical row on the left side with the two smaller pockets stacked on the right, but of course you can do it however you see fit!  Stitch them on by sewing around the sides and bottom of each pocket.  You might want to reinforce the top sides of the pockets by backstitching a couple times.

4.  Create the ties by folding each strip in half lengthwise (right sides together) and stitching it closed all the way around the open sides (the 2 short sides and one long side), leaving a 3″ opening right in the center of the long side.  Clip the corners of the strips and use the hole in the stitching to pull them right side out.  Press well, turning in the raw edges where you left the hole.

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5.  Fold the strips in half widthwise (right where you left the hole), and pin this fold to the front of the caddy, with the fold of the strips lined up to the raw edge of the caddy front.  Baste these strips in place.

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6.  Lay the caddy back on top of the front, right sides together and pin.  Stitch the front to back, all the way around the rectangle, reinforcing the stitching where the ties are and leaving a 5″ hole in the stitching at the bottom of the caddy.  Clip the corners of the caddy and turn it right sides out.  Press well, turning in the raw edges of the fabric where you left the hole.

7.  Stitch the hole closed by topstitching along the folded edge.  You can also topstitch around the entire perimeter of the caddy if desired.

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That’s it!  You’ve got yourself a fun and useful little diaper organizer for all the changing necessities.  I hope you enjoy these pics of my chubby little monster…and I’d love to hear any other great diapering tips you mamas have!

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Deal details: Huggies Little Snugglers Plus (Sizes 1 & 2)  are regularly $37.49, now $31.49 after $6 discount; Little Movers Plus (Size 3, 4, 5, & 6) are regularly $42.99, now $36.99 after $6 discount, plus free shipping (valid 9/1 –to 9/25).  Starting this month, Little Snugglers Plus will also be available in size Newborn starting at $29.99 (available in select warehouses and at Costco.com)…SO excited for this once our new little one comes next year!

You’re Not a Good Mom…You’re a GREAT One

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I’ve got a deep(ish) motherhood post for you today, because so much mom-stuff has been on my mind lately.  These posts can get really wordy though, and so I’m excited to be working on some brand spanking new videos for the blog!  I can’t wait to share more mom-musings and DIY tutorials via video because they’re just so much fun! (But also so, SO much work…yikes!).  Here’s hoping they’ll be ready soon!

Before our France trip last month, I’d found myself turning into a pretty mean mom: there was lots of yelling, impatience, frustration and I was really slow to appreciate my kids.  We all get this way sometimes, and for me as a full-time SAHM (especially one who doesn’t send her kids to school…believe me, there are days I WISH I did – haha!) it can be really difficult to pull myself out of that funk.  Summers are especially hard on us here in Phoenix cause it’s so darn HOT and everyone’s cranky and miserable and stuck inside with too much screen time; i. e. recipe for disaster.

Then Luke and I took a 10 day trip away from everyone and I came back with a fresh perspective.  Life didn’t get any easier (coming back to real life is always an adjustment, especially after a selfish vacay where you only take care of yourself!), but I noticed that my mindset had shifted, just the tiniest bit.

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I came home and found a rejuvenated interest in making a good dinner for my family, keeping my house picked up and spending quality time with my kids.  I slowed down my blog posting schedule and stopped worrying about my next sewing project or social media post. I rested more.  And now, almost a month after coming home, I still find myself watching my kids’ faces intently, laughing at their funny phrases and completely soaking up their cuteness and unique personalities.

It’s made me realize that even though I do a pretty good job of taking care of my own needs and getting regular breaks from the work of motherhood- the fact is, being a mother is brutally and overwhelmingly exhausting.  Whether you have 2 kids or 12, you stay at home or work full time, you homeschool or use daycare- being a mom takes everything you’ve got and then some!  There is literally no other job on the planet (except maybe fatherhood) that requires as much unselfish service to people who generally don’t notice or appreciate how hard you work.  It’s often disheartening, frustrating and emotionally draining.

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I guess when I’m saying is this: we are doing a GREAT job! Yes, all of us!  No matter how much we yell and have meltdowns and want to just tear our hair out, (unless you’re some horribly abusive and neglectful mother- which I seriously doubt) we are giving our child or children EVERYTHING they need.  Seriously- everything.  They don’t need a mother who never loses her patience or never sobs herself to sleep out of frustration or who always makes a perfectly healthy dinner (or ANY dinner…cereal FTW).  They need a mom who truly loves them and who just TRIES. Some days that’s all we can do, and thankfully, that’s all that’s needed.

When Luke and I took classes to get our foster care certification several years ago, I remember going in thinking that the classes would be a great tool to help me become a better parent.  Instead, you know what I learned?? I learned that I (and every single mom I know) was doing JUST fine.  Better than fine- great! We are literally GREAT mothers when we wake up every day, sober and aware of our children, when we feed them (yes, even if it’s just corndogs), when we hold them and comfort them.  We are great moms even when we’re overwhelmed by our screw ups…because that means we care!! Children really need very little: they need their basic physical needs met, some boundaries and a lot of love.

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Above all, kids need a mom who takes care of herself.  So moms, go find a sitter or swap babysitting with a neighbor or drop them off at grandma’s house and get out by yourself.  Have fun, eat some good food and rest.  And then go get your babies, hug them a whole bunch and count yourself among the very blessed; because what matters most is that we have each other, no matter how imperfect the relationships.

DIY Full Skirt & Boxy Top

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I almost forgot to share these fun and easy sewing projects with you all from a month or so ago!  I’m mildly obsessed with all the full skirts we’ve been seeing this year and last and so when I saw this Anywhere Skirt Pattern from Made Everyday, I snatched it up and decided to make one in my favorite fabric: black and white stripes!

Here’s the cool thing about this pattern – it’s not actually a pattern, as much as it is detailed instructions on how to take your own measurements and get the perfect fitting, custom skirt.  Since you’re basically just cutting a bunch of rectangles, Dana tells you exactly how to get the right size and she even shows you how to leave the gathering off the hips, for those of us not built like Barbie.  Bonus for not having to print and tape a billion pattern pages.

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I really love how mine turned out…the wooden buttons are my favorite part!

This top was a cinch to make as well.  I’ve hoarded this rayon floral since my trip to the LA fashion district last Fall and I love how it drapes in this simple boxy top.  I basically followed this simple tutorial and it turned out great.

Now that I’m looking over these pictures though, I’m not really totally in love with wearing these two prints together.  Maybe if the skirt had been black with white stripes, instead of vice versa….ah well, file that under the “live and learn” tab of fashion adventures!

Also, fun fact: see that little scar I didn’t Photoshop on the back of my left calf?  That’s from stepping over an open dishwasher and getting skewered with a steak knife.  It probably needed stitches but I’m lazy and just superglued it shut.  #momscars

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Hassle-Free Jewelry

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As much as I love trying to dress stylishly, even when just hanging out at home with the kids, I don’t usually put much effort into my jewelry.  While I have a few decent pieces that I get a lot of use out of, they’re mostly statement pieces that are impractical to wear to Walmart with 7 kids.
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I’ve been looking for more simple, everyday pieces that dress up my outfit without going overboard, but I also don’t want to spend a ton of money (especially considering how hard my children try to strangle me with my necklaces).  The pieces pictured here are from Rocksbox and I’m really impressed with them!
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Rocksbox is actually a jewelry rental service, where you pay a flat monthly fee ($19) and are then sent 3 gorgeous pieces of designer jewelry to keep as long as you like!  It’s an easy way to stay up on all the latest jewelry trends of the season.
In my first box, I got these two beautiful layering necklaces.  I could seriously wear the short one every day since it’s so easy and unobtrusive.  The longer one I save for dates with Luke and for church.
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But my favorite piece is these filigree earrings.  They are so pretty in real life!  All three pieces look really good together and I think fancy earrings just seem to pull a whole outfit together.
Now the best part!  You can try a full month of Rocksbox for free with the code bonniewhiskemxoxo!  You even get to request the pieces you like best on their website and, if you fall totally in love with a piece, you always have the option to purchase it.
If you try it out, let me know what you think!
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I’m getting ready to send my first box back and I’m excited to see what I get next.  It’s basically like getting a birthday present in the mail anytime you want…from a friend who has impeccable taste and would never send you a lame sweater.

Upgrade Your Casual

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Does anyone else have a hard time looking put together on those lounge-around-the-house days? Or heck, even running-mundane-errand days?  When wrangling kids, I need comfort and easy-to-wear outfits, but I also want an upgrade from yoga pants and a dirty T-shirt.  Bonus if it keeps me cool when it’s 8 billion degrees outside.

So, here are a few tips for turning a simple, comfortable outfit into something stylish – even when it’s hotter than Hades!

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  1.  Pick a top with visual interest.  I’m all for living in comfy tees, but I like mine to have that little je ne sais quoi: a print, funky pocket, interesting neckline, unique sleeves – you name it!
    I also love this slightly dressier blouse and this cute printed top in a million colors (both on sale!).
  2. Choose neutral, flowy bottoms.  Knit skirts, cropped pants and joggers like these are all my go-to choices for bottoms.  If it’s bearable to wear jeans where you live, they’re always an easy choice.
  3. Add fun accessories.  Here, all I added was a chunky, colorful necklace and fun sandals and voila!  It looks like I actually put effort into my outfit, when it really just feels like I’m wearing pajamas.

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Lastly, if you need confirmation that your outfit will work for all the rigors of motherhood, just try a little acrobatics, as illustrated below.  You might pull a muscle but you’ll know that your outfit passes the test.

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Girls’ Skirt Tutorial Roundup!

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Are you seamstresses out there following along with Skirting the Issue over at Project Run & Play?  It’s a massive effort where sewists everywhere are encouraged to make new skirts for foster girls and donate them just in time for back to school.  Last year I invited several friends over to my house to sew up skirts and we had such a great time!

This year, I wanted to share some of my very favorite (easy!) skirt tutorials so that anyone else who wants to join the effort can feel confident enough to do so.  All these are perfect for beginners and advanced sewists alike!  Let’s get sewing!

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One of my favorite skirt styles that we used during Skirting the Issue last year is this one from Dana at Made Everyday.  It is ridiculously easy, can be dressed up (if desired) and she even has a video for the tutorial!  Perfect for the newbie sewist.

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This reversible circle skirt from You and Mie is to-die-for cute and much simpler that it looks!  Just beware: once your little one tries on a circle skirt, you’ll never get away with making any other less “twirly” skirt again!

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Isn’t this kangaroo-pocket skirt the cutest thing on the planet?  Over at It’s Always Autumn, you’ll find the tutorial for making this skirt out of a castoff pair of sweatpants!  You can, of course, use lighter fabrics for the summer as well.  But what little girl doesn’t love pockets??

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If you’re a slightly more advanced sewist and not afraid of zippers, this darling skirt from The Polka Dot Chair is perfect for the older girls!  From what I understand, tween and teen girls are in a much greater need for clothes to fit their changing bodies, especially while in foster care.

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Even though I made this flat-front elastic waist skirt for myself, it would also be a perfect skirt for the teen crowd!  It’s ever so slightly more advanced that your basic elastic-waist skirt but still easy enough for a beginner.  And it can fit a variety of sizes!

I hope these skirts got your inspiration juices flowing and thinking about making skirts for a great cause!  The effort runs through July so you still have time to whip some cute skirts up and donate them.

Have fun!

Harry Potter Fan Tee

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We kinda, sorta missed a couple kids’ birthdays while in France, so we did a little late celebrating this past week.  Liam turn 11 (ELEVEN!!!  How did we get here??) this month and I’m absolutely in love with the little man he’s becoming.  Now that we’ve figured out his stomach problems, he’s such a pleasant, sweet kid with a hilarious sense of humor.

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He’s also completely obsessed with Harry Potter and has now read the entire series through FOUR times!  That’s dedication, man.  I decided to make him a fun HP-themed shirt for his birthday and this is what we came up with.

Actually, we had about a billion and one other ideas first, but kinda ran into an old “paralysis by analysis” scenario and finally went with the absolute simplest idea we had!  (another front runner was making two shirts, each with a wand pointed sideways and red and blue sparks coming out…so when he and Toby stood next to each other, it’d be like they were Harry and Voldemort battling!  But that required more artistic skill than I currently possess.)

IMG_0696 (2)For the shirt pattern, I just used size XXS of my Alcoy dress pattern, raised the front neckline, and made the shape a little boxier instead of form-fitting.   It worked great!  Next time I think I’ll lengthen the sleeves a tad and maybe still lower the front neckline just a tidge.

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If you’ve never painted fabric before, you’re in for a treat!  It’s so easy and really fun.  I usually try to use fabric paint when possible, but if I don’t have the right color, I just mix regular acrylic craft paint with fabric medium (available at most art and craft stores) and then it works just like fabric paint.  Don’t forget to heat seal the paint before washing, by either pressing with a hot iron for several minutes, or putting it in the dryer for about 30 minutes.

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Voila.  A ridiculously easy, personalized and unique birthday gift!

If you’ve also got some HP obsessions going on at your house, check out Raegun Ramblings huge Harry Potter giveaway and blog series here!  There are so many cute and creative HP ideas for every fan!

Highlights from France

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Hey all!  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve been seeing some fun updates from our recent trip to France!  Now, before you wonder what sort of hateful person I’ve become, jet-setting off to Europe like a carefree DINK instead of wiping multiple poopy butts like I’m supposed to be doing, let me explain.

Luke’s dad’s company (where Luke works) is a travel agency for performance groups, so every other year, his dad puts together tours to some fun, historical and cultural locale (usually Europe) and invites friends and family to come along.  This may or may not have a little something to do with the timing of our children’s births (i.e. in the summer, on the off years).  Heh heh.

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We hit up Normandy and Omaha beach first…very moving being in the American cemetery there and a stop I highly recommend !

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We also got a day and a half in Paris to see the usual stuff including the Louvre.  Definitely not enough time for Paris but we’d been there before and so I was OK with just a little refresher of that amazing city!

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Once we hit the southern coast, the real fun began!  None of us in the group (there were 35 of us) had ever been there before and we all loved it!  We showed up in Nice just 2 days after the terrorist attack on Bastille Day which was just awful.

We were, of course, so grateful that we hadn’t showed up just a few days earlier, but seeing the aftermath was heartbreaking.  Policemen and big guns everywhere, news trucks and memorials placed up and down the promenade (the boardwalk right along the beach and 2 blocks from our hotel).

While staying in Nice, we also drove up the coast towards Monaco and saw some incredible sights, including villas and yachts of the uber wealthy.  I’m not talking celebrity-wealth, I’m talking ridiculously stupid, rule-the-world wealth.  The most expensive house (can it be called that?) in the world is located along this coast, and last sold for 500 MILLION dollars.  Doh.

All in all it was an amazing trip!  Leaving the babes for 10 days is always hard, (especially the coming back adjustment!  Why are my children so LOUD??) but I think trips away help me appreciate them more.

I’ve got LOTS more pictures which hopefully I’ll get around to posting soon!

Easiest Swimsuit Cover-Up

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I’ve got a super easy tutorial for you guys today! This super cute and simple swimsuit coverup is my new favorite project.  If you’ve got a yard of fabric and 20 minutes, you’re well on your way!

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I found this cute open weave fabric at my local discount fabric shop but any lace would work just as well.

First, I folded my fabric piece in half widthwise and cut along the fold.  Then I cut out a neckline along the side I just cut (I made mine a little wide so I can wear it off the shoulders if I want), and sewed the pieces back together along both shoulders.  Then I hemmed the neckline with a baby hem so that it looked a little neater.

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At this point I tried it on to see if I liked the length…mine ended up being a little long so I trimmed it to about mid-thigh.

Lastly, I stitched the front and back pieces together underneath my arms on both sides: I began sewing about 9 inches below the shoulder seams, (and about 5″ in from the side raw edge) and sewed all the way to the bottom hem.  This seam can really be placed wherever you like, but these are the measurements that worked for me.

Because my fabric didn’t have a distinct right and wrong side, I didn’t worry about my pieces being right sides together, but if it does matter on your fabric, then sew the shoulder seams right sides together, and the side seams wrong sides together.

Essentially you end up with s big rectangle caftan with a neck cut out and two quick side seams.  That’s it!

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I left my side and bottom edges raw because this fabric doesn’t unravel and I’m lazy!  Easy peasy and a great payoff.

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I hope you liked this tutorial…check out some other simple projects under my Tutorials menu!