posts tagged with 'crafting'

Zion's blue monkeys

When asked what he wanted for his birthday this year, Zion would pout and mutter, "Everything," or "Nothing." Sometimes he would just put his thumb in his mouth and scowl at me. To other people he announced that he was turning two, not four.

The pour child. He has some issues.

Despite his obstinant regression, I still wanted to make Zion a present to commemorate his birthday. I still love him, even if he's not the baby anymore. Even if he craps his pants four times a day and tries to kick me in the tits when I unbuckle his carseat, I still love that little gremlin. He had asked a while back for a sock monkey just like Harvey's, only BLUE, so I whipped up this striped lady.

blue because Zion likes blue

But that didn't seem to be enough, given the emotional intensity of the situation. So I sewed an additional component. Zion had a pair of wool socks he never wore. He is super particular about his socks; they have to be dark blue cotton with scratchy letters on the bottom. Indeed, he's said to me, "Even when I grow as big as you I'll still wear socks with scratchy letters." So in honor of Zion's definitiveness on this and every other subject I took his non-standard wool socks and turned them into a baby monkey.

baby because baby is an important concept in our emotional universe

Mama and baby monkeys both have velcro hands and feet, so that they can hug Zion or each other as he sees fit. It's my subtle way of saying to my stubborn child: You can't get rid of me that easy. Hit me, hate me, my love for you is like mother-f-ing velcro.

i love you Mama monkey

Zion is going to be okay in the long run. I's legitimately hard being four. It's hard not being the baby, being little, being bossed around by the person you love most in the whole world, your dominating older brother. Zion's anger is good and honest resistance to the difficulties he faces. As a resistor myself I want to tell him something like: Go on with your bad self. It's okay. Just come to me when you need a hug. You crazy little monkey.

i love you baby monkey.


20 hours of sewing and I can't be bothered to blog about it

In the past I've taken the week after easter to write some self-congratulatory blog post about the adorable suits I sewed for the boys. Either I'm becoming more mature in my old age or I'm just too tired now to self-congratulate. I sit down in the evening and think: I should write a blog post something. Then I do the dishes.

This is half blogging procrastination and half because there are now a lot of dishes to do. Our dishwasher is broken, and washing dishes by hand is the way of the past that is now the way of the future.

Also, I've had a negative attitude after Easter, and not just because we threw a BIG party with A LOT of dishes. I let Harvey take my camera the morning after Easter and he shattered every shred of self-congratulation I had left with pictures such as this one:

skipping the easter chocolate was apparently not enough

On Easter itself I wore a white sweater that was equally unflattering..

a friend totally snapped this with her iphone and emailed it to me as if it wouldn't completely break my self-concept

Maybe if I'd been doing Pilates for an hour a day in March instead of wasting all that time sewing, it would look like I have a jelly-roll or some similar glutinous substance hanging over the waistband of my pants. Instead, I have ugly photos of myself and lovely photos of three very well-dressed children.

well dressed gentlemen

For those who want to sew along with me, I used the same pants and vest patterns I used in previous years, modified for size. The new sewing challenges this year were a morning coat for Harvey and ascot ties all around. The morning coat took the most time out of any piece of sewing but it was the most well received. With Dan's help I modified a jacket pattern to make it longer and more fitted, and I lengthened the colar. I added welt pockets, turned up tails in the back, and a boutonniere hole that Harvey didn't want to use in the end.

Harvey in his Easter suit leaning against the wall of the house

what a good looking guy

As for the ascot ties, they were much easier to make than the traditional elastic-necked ties I made in the past, but much less confortable. Indeed, Zion was the only one who stayed in his tie the whole day. Harvey had a minor melt-down before church regarding his neckware, because he wanted to please us and complete the suit, but he didn't like the feel of the tie around his neck. The two competing pressures broke his chocolate-bunny-for-breakfast brain. So he chose not to wear the tie, but whenever someone complemented him on his outfit he said, "There's a tie that goes with it."

Poor boy. He also struggles with perceived judgement around his appearance.

Previous Easter suitings, if you want to look back are: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.

Next year, maybe they'll all have morning coats...


Where I've been.... mostly in the laundry room

I have been off the blog for a month now... it's not for lack of things to say it's just that I've been WORKING. By working I don't mean exchanging my time for money, haha. More like exchanging my time for meals and reasonably happy children and laundry-not-soaked-in-vomit. I sometimes fantasize about working elsewhere, somewhere quieter perhaps, but then I'd have to exchange money for meals and happy children and sheets and I don't think it would come out even in the end. Anyway, here are a few things I've started this past month while being completely underwater, and by underwater I mean under vomit. Can I say vomit one more time in a paragraph? No, that would be declasse. I'll say puke.

Threaded the loom, and wove a few rows because I have an undying sense of optimism even in the face of parenthood.

the loom looms

We did some literal garage banding at a friend's party. They just moved into a new house so there basement is unfinished and unabashedly loud.


I made a muslin for Harvey's Easter coat. One more week until I need to get the real things finished, not only coat but vests and ties.


Meanwhile, he hasn't taken the tester off since I gave it to him. He just keeps changing the pants to go from sailor to king to pirate. I love this boy so much, and next time I make a muslin I'm going to fully line the collar so it sticks up straight.

Okay, enough wasting time on the internet! Back to work!


A lion for Lijah

Leading up to Elijah's birthday I was thinking about what I could make for him by way of a present. Suddenly I had a terrible realization. In his first year of his life I made exactly ZERO original items for him. Knitting and sewing for Lijah has been a null set, due to 1) the abundance of hand-me-downs and 2) his complete lack of giving a shit about sewn or knitted items. And it's been a hard year too - a lot of evenings punctuated every half-hour by screaming. Most rational humans would shy away from the noisy sewing machine under those conditions. Still, I couldn't let this continue past his birthday. S in 20-minute bursts (punctuated by screaming) I cut up a sweater and upcycled a cute stuffed lion.

cuddle rawr

I repurposed a sweater with a bottom ruffle that came to me used and proved completely unflattering on my body. The ruffle became the mane of the lion, which wasn't as self-explanatory as I originally assumed. Here's my tester piece for reference - you can see that sewing the ruffle on straight didn't work and I had to gather it in the final version.

lion ski bum?

Also in the final I added a tail with a ball on the end made from a button and its frog closure (which I meticulously un-picked). The second closure I unpicked to turn into ears.

loves you

Lijah liked the present just enough to drop it from his highchair repeatedly. He's not very into stuffed toys, like I said — justification for my laziness over the past year. Still, it's nice for him to grow up with homemade toys. Even if they never really PLAY with them, my older boys often ask, "Did you make this for me?" I like to pretend it's a tangible way that they know they're loved. Especially since I enjoy the challenge of making new things from unflattering sweaters.

Meanwhile, Elijah is into toys that he can gum more effectively. Here he is stealing a plastic ball from another babies at his party. Kid can stick up for himself. Nobody has to hear him rawrrr.



christmas sweaters

It's the twelfth day of Christmas today, which we celebrated in our house by taking down our Christmas tree and demolishing our gingerbread houses. It's the gingerbread houses that had the boys asking for several days now, "When is Christmas going to be over???!!!" The potential consumption of store-bought candy glued to a stale cookie with dry sugar paste has been a very compelling topic of conversation. In the event, however, the process turned out to be more staid than I'd imagined. You can't really shove your face at a house made of candy. You have to carefully chose an angle and wedge a butter knife up in there. Maybe after a minute you get something off that's worth putting in your mouth. "Worth putting in your mouth" being subjective to age and gender. I personally feel that no part of a gingerbread house is worth putting in my mouth, but my family feels the same way about my paleo flax seed bread, so....

Before we put this season of excess behind us, there's one more thing I have to record here. The excess knitting I did for this year's presents. I give you the Christmas sweaters.

the three boys--Harvey holding Lijah--posing in their new sweaters on Grandpa's front steps

sweater brothers

When I took their sweater requests back in October Harvey said he wanted a sweater to make him look like TinTin. Zion jumped on the idea and wanted one to turn him into Snowy, Tintin's dog. They chose the colors online (Cascade 220 superwash) and I tried to find sweater styles that might best match the shape of the cartoon characters. Harvey and Zion for their part could not possibly care whether I knit a raglan or a fisherman's pullover, but they were very specific about the finishing details. Whenever I held up a half-knit sweater for sizing they reminded me that Tintin's sweater needs a collar, and Snowy's needs ears.

Harvey and Zion posing in character in their Tintin and Snowy sweaters

good dog Snowy

Which, ahem, I finished attaching to the sweaters on Christmas morning. At 1am. This was not a good year for handmaking for me. I spent most of December holding a sick baby instead of knitting, and when I freaked out that I probobly wouldn't have time to make the poor little guy anything new Dan reasoned with me: "He doesn't care from sweaters, what he wants for Christmas is to be held."

Leah and the three boys sitting on a bridge rail, all in home-made sweaters

generations of sweaters

Which is why I wrapped up two hand-me-down sweaters for Elijah his first Christmas. Though it makes me cringe at the failure, he needed love this year in a way that wasn't sweaters. There will be many years in the future to make him new sweaters. Once he doesn't need held so much, once he figures out where he fits in the Herge universe. Captain Haddock has a lovely pullover, for instance, but the boatman's hat would have to be purchased.

Meanwhile, the older adventurers gratefully take their costumes and walk away with my heart.

Harvey and Zion walking along a path away from the camera

warm for the walk


pony up

It must be December because my crafting level has been set solidly at FREAKING OUT! Nevertheless, I took a week away from my Christmas preparations to make a hanging embroidery for a special little girl who's moving to the UK after New Years.

a bible verse and an unbiblical character

At first I thought i would sew a pony softie, since I have a horse pattern I turned into a Zebra for Zion a few years ago. But that was before I realized I might have a horn and wings to reckon with. I messaged the girl's mother and asked her which was her daughter's favorite pony. "Princess Twilight Sparkle" came back the reply. I googled the phrase and exclaimed "God damn it! She's a mother fucking Alicorn!"

For those of you who don't have a small group filled with little girls:

Alicorns are pony characters in the show who have both a unicorn horn and Pegasus wings.
-source = a wiki devoted entirely to My Little Pony. Bet you didn't know THAT existed.

So instead of spending several hours cursing white felt into a conical shape I decided to make this embroidery. When my photoshop failed Dan took over the layout.

Me: Why are you googling pictures of Princess Twilight Sparkle? Didn't the one I send you work?
Dan: I'm trying to find the exact font associated with this pony.
Me: Be careful with that image search, it's gonna turn into porn in like half a page. You think it's just gonna be purple ponies and then it slowly morphs into purple ponies wearing stocking and showing you their butts.
Dan: I have safe search enabled... I think.

So you see, it was a group effort, and an appropriate sendoff for the only little girl who's let me braid her hair.

I think she'll like it in England. There all the horses are called ponies and some are REAL royalty.


Halloween Recap

It behooves me to post a photo of Harvey and Zion in their halloween costumes, since I made them and all, and there should be a running record somewhere of my sewing exploits. Although really, I'm not too proud about this year's costumes. Once the children decided what they wanted to be for Halloween I dashed off their tunics in an hour as shoddily as possible. The pants took a bit more time, but only because I mistakenly cut out a pattern that needed pockets, and then I had to go ahead and make the stupid pockets. So there you have it, crappy Peter Pan and Sharky the Pirate costumes, complete with pockets. And not hemmed because I encouraged them to go for the "ragged" look. I bet that's the way Wendy would have done it.

Peter Pan and Sharky at the Wilsons Farms costume contest. They didn't win.

One of my great joys as a mother is fulfilling my children's desires through sewing. A little bag for lost teeth, a treasure sack, theses are the requests that warm my heart down to its very cockles. That said, I feel like taking a break from big sewing projects right now, at least until the Easter suits demand construction. The simple halloween pants took me weeks to complete, as each five minute burst of sewing inevitably woke the baby. In this light I've decided to scale back my normal Christmas expectations. Just sweaters and candy this year, no late nights in the sewing room. Sweaters because they are an important (quiet!) tradition and candy because I'm always in the kitchen anyway. So this year expect a lot of candy. Peppermint bark naturlicht, but I intent to branch out.

Speaking of candy, you might be wondering how the rest of Halloween went. The answer is delightfully sugar-filled. And now the boys can't stop talking about Christmas...


fairy house

It began with a trip to Michaels.

Okay, so full disclosure, I should not be allowed to go on a trip to Michaels. Michaels is a crafting superstore one exit past Joanne Fabrics, and unlike Joannes which is mostly sewing stuff, Michaels stocks materials for EVERY hobby under the sun. Painting, beadwork, scrapbooking, not to mention fake floral arranging (?) and knock-off American Girl Doll clothes (??). It's just so overwhelming that my normal thrifty instincts break down, and I end up leaving the store with a bag full of hobby supplies that do not even match my hobbies. I never go to Michaels for that reason, but Dan had to get some things for work and I had to pick up a canvas for my mother's birthday present, so we went on a family outing together.

Also? I should not be allowed to bring my kids to Michaels. Because my kids are exactly like me only 30 years less mature. So when they saw FOAM CRAFT KITS! ON SALE! they immediately said, "Mama Mama Mama I think we should get some!" To which I replied, "Which ones do you like?" and my husband walked away from all of us in disgust.

only $5 each! For a toy AND a creative experience!

This is how Harvey got to make his first fairy house.

Well, okay, so first I made them wash the windows. Because we don't just BUY presents for NO REASON. When the windows were clean we got to work on the craft kits.

First I assembled Zion's boat (in approximately seventeen million minutes) then Harvey and I set to decorating his foam fairy house. We worked on it together, with him telling me where to squirt the hot glue, me working the glue gun, and him sticking on a pom-pom or glittering leaf. I've heard there are such things as low-temperature glue guns, and I may need to invest in one of those for the future. Or three.

Looking at the materials

After an hour of QUALITY TIME with my child (and trashing two rooms of the house with tiny pieces of foam) we had a fairy house all ready for its residents.

foam fairy house completed!

It was lovely! For about 24 hours. Then Zion got mad and tried to rip it apart. It doesn't matter what he got mad about - it's just that we shouldn't have rip-able toys lying around the living room. This includes paper, cardboard, and yes light foam. We should know better with an angry three-year-old in the house.

Harvey, to his credit, didn't stoop to destructive levels of anger. As he grows his moments of emotional resilience increase in number, and instead he casually remarked, "I think we should make a new fairy house. Out of FELT."

Oh my sweet sewing-inclined son. You always have excellent ideas.

felt fairy house, purple upon request

The next morning while Zion and Elijah slept, Harvey and I cut out felt pieces for the new house. While I tried to steer him towards brown and green (to make it look a tree, or something dumb like that) Harvey insisted that both body and roof be purple. With a red floor on the bottom. I followed his wishes because it was his fairy house after all, but I took charge choosing the accent colors (because I am controlling, and I like to LIKE the things I sew.) We had to abandon our project when the younger two children woke up, but when Harvey and Zion went to Grandma's later I finished the thing in a whirlwind three hour sewing session. I was supposed to clean and rest during that time, but sewing feverishly is a kind of resting, right? For manic people?

Of course, once that was done I needed to make some fairies.

"tinkerbell and snowy" according to Harvey

Truth be told, I wasn't really happy with the first two fairies. They didn't exactly match the aesthetic of the house. So I made a more basic model.

simpler fairy so the kids like it less

Then I decided I really MUST clean my house for a birthday party.

The first thing Harvey said when he saw the finished fairy house was, "Oh, this is a good surprise, Mama! Thank you for making it! I like how you made a leaf for the doorknob."

the fairy landlord

The other kids at the party were SUPER interested in the fairy house, and for a moment I thought it might get ripped in two. Thankfully however, felt and stabilizer turn out to be pretty strong. I was also nervous that Harvey's school-going friends might make fun of him for wanting a purple fairy house, but it turned out they thought it was pretty cool (though they did fight over who got to be the BLUE fairy.)

Of course, there were lot of new toys at the birthday party, and once Harvey abandoned the fairy house for some newer hotness Zion filled the space by making it a setting for his story. With his (new) (disney) (plastic) peter pan figures (thanks Grandma.)

mixed media


first Easter with three

Every year I sew my children suits for Easter. I have great commitment to traditions I completely make up, you see. Especially if they make me look good. I gave up on the hippy ideal of sewing all my children's clothing myself, but if I make Easter suits and Christmas sweaters that's two major photo opportunities which make me look like a much more dedicated crafter than I am.

Harvey in his Easter suit atop a hay bale, holding PowPow

working hard to project my well-crafted image

With the brain-drain of a new baby this year I wanted to pick a pattern that I'd be sure not to muck up with mistakes. I used the pants pattern I've used for the past three years (from this book), and happily I dashed off two of them without having to rip out a pocket seem or anything major. I drafted new vest patterns since they don't come from a book, but having done the construction of these vests three years in a row I felt like it would be difficult for me to do anything stupid. In the end it turned out I was right. Suits went off without a hitch (if a little booringly) and I made it work in 30-minute increments when the baby slept.

Elijah also got a matching outfit, though I didn't want to mess with a 6-week old by forcing him into a vest. Instead I sewed a tie to the front of a onesie, and I made a coordinating pair of easy pants, also from Sewing for Boys, without pockets or too much fuss.

Leah holding LyeLye, who is sporting an orange tie

dapper baby

Oh, and both PowPows got new suits, with a simplified pants pattern this year. The pants were made in one piece as opposed to three, but I made up for it with complicated ties. The ties took me longer than the pants together, and I have ideas next year to simplify the process, if I can remember sewing lessons from one year to another, which is questionable.

I was pretty pleased with my ability to get stuff done, and I went to bed on Saturday night bursting with my own hubris. The suits were done, the house was clean, and I had fancy organic chocolate bunnies on the table in their hand-woven Easter baskets.

Zion in his Easter suit holding his basket

ready for egg hunt action

On Sunday morning however I learned that no amount of prep-work can make my life okay if my children, like, don't behave.

Zion woke up on the wrong side of several beds. He wouldn't eat, he ripped Harvey's artwork off the wall, he threw a decorated easter egg on the ground smashing it to pieces, and he refused to put his suit on screaming, "I DON'T LIKE YOU EASTER! GO AWAY EASTER!"

Meanwhile Harvey radiated gladness, cackling when he saw the bunny and begging me to button up his vest. That's why I have multiple children, I guess. One to tell me that the things I care about matter, and the other to assure me that I'll NEVER earn his love, NEVER EVER, so I shouldn't even bother trying.

And a third to make me so distracted with poop and puke that I can't get emotionally invested in the reactions of the older two. Altogether we make quite a family.

the five of us in our Easter finery, kind of looking at the camera and kind of smiling

family portrait: the best we're going to do for now


6 weeks

Today I am six weeks postpartum. I had a goal of losing all 35lbs of baby weight in six weeks, because my life is built on setting impossible goals and then beating myself up when I'm not a superhero. Suffice it to say I didn't lose 35lbs. But I got within a ten pound range that at least allows me to wear some of my old clothes. Fugly clothes, mom clothes, but not clothes that say MIMI MATERNITY proudly across the tag. Yesterday I put on jeans for the museum, and it was the first time I didn't put on my pants and immediately scream MUFFIN TOP!!!

6 weeks postpartum at the discovery museum

How does one go from maternity sizes to rockin the mom jeans in a matter of weeks? I would like to say something hippy and loving like "Breastfeeding! And holding my babies! And walking outside to take in the presence of the sun!" But the truer story is that losing weight takes real work. Like exercise. Hard sweaty exercise. The kind you can't do pushing a stroller. Here's me in my running clothes yesterday before I forced Dan to watch the kids so I could log a quick two miles.

living the dream

Also it takes going to bed hungry. A lot of going to bed hungry. Because if I go to bed hungry I will post a weight loss the next day, but if I lie in bed thinking about something OTHER than food because my willpower died and I am pleasantly full, God help me in the morning there will be a weight gain on the scale and I will rain down curses on myself and my body and the possibility of having more children ever again.

So whatever. Six weeks. Sarcastic hurray.

Getting in the way of my exercise time, I am working hard on preperations for Easter. In the past month I have spent at least ten hours sewing suits, and that's just for Harvey and Zion; Elijah doesn't have ANYTHING to wear yet. Three days away I'm down to baby's outfit and ties all around, so I can probably acquit myself in five hours or so. That's not including the time it takes to clean the entire house for a massive party and make food for 20 people. That should be a cinch.

still need ties

All this leads me to the inevitable question: What is important? I don't mean generally like "Family is important" because no shit, I spend like EVERY FRIGGIN SECOND with them. But within the scope of housewifery, what is important? Do handmade Easter suits really matter? Do handmade DOLL SUITS really matter? Does it matter if it matters to me? If seeing my children in matching suits gives meaning to my life, and seeing them match their dolls brings us all joy in the way that two hours of sleep does not?

I was reading a book about surviving baby stress, and it was all like: See what you can stop doing! Can you order out more for dinner? Can you pay a housecleaner? Can you get other people to watch your children so you can sleep?

The truth is that as soon as I think of a suggestion I immediately shoot it down. We can't order out because eating healthy food is important. We can't have someone else clean the house because that's part of our hospitality and hospitality is important. I can't sleep because sleeping time is sewing time. EVERYTHING IS SO IMPOSSIBLY IMPORTANT!

I can't think of anything except keep being a superhero.