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.


twin sock monkeys

My family left me alone in the house all day so I could sit quietly and heal a sprained rib that's aggravated by talking and moving. So here I am in my house, alone, with the inability to pick stuff up and move it to a different location. Which is, let's be clear, pretty much what I'm either doing every second or THINKING ABOUT doing every second that I'm in the house. I mean, without cleaning, organizing, or reading books to children, what do people DO all day? I'm having a bit of an identity crisis.

Then I remembered I wanted to finish some sock monkeys.

hello hello

This is what happens when I get two pairs of Christmas socks that are too small. My feet aren't as petite as they were before I had my babies and started spending long periods of time picking up heavy things and moving them to different locations.

I've written about making a sock monkey before. They're not at all hard, though more time consuming than you think for something that necessarily comes out looking "homespun." The only downside to making sock monkeys is you really need a new pair of socks to pull one off. In a used pair of socks it's the heels that go first, and it's precisely the heels that you need to create the shape of a monkey (two to be precise: one for the butt and one for the nose). You can make a bunny form a worn pair of socks but it looks even MORE homespun, even on the verge of venturing into the "trash" category. So unless you have a new pair of socks that just ain't working for you, a sock monkey isn't really upcycling in any way.

On the other hand, maybe the upcycling obsession is a little much in this case. Maybe you can show your friends enough respect to not give their kids trash toys made out of your old dirty socks.

bye bye

I don't really know who these monkeys are destined for. The next pair of siblings to have a birthday, perhaps? The next two one-year-olds who invite us to parties? The couple at church who I barely know but I know are having twins? All possibilities, now that they're in the "finished" drawer. Oh how I love that finished gifts drawer.

Of course, Harvey and Zion were eyeing the first monkey as it came together, each of them fighting for their turn to hug it. So if I run out of steam next month maybe these could serve as impromptu Easter gifts for my boys. On the other hand, they act like that with EVERYTHING I sew. They pretty much want every toy they have ever seen or heard of, ever. And Harvey already has two sock creations that he never plays with. Except to throw at me when he's angry. So maybe no more monkey business for that one...


pregnancy baskets

The nice thing about baskets is that they come together rather quickly. It's an intense coming together, yes, with a focus-filled half hour of needing to get the bottom finished before all the wet bits get dry and you start yelling at your family that you can never get anything DONE around here. Then it's smooth sailing to add more weavers whenever you want, but I usually put them in all in one go because of the set-up cost of filling the sink weighs heavily on my mind. Also because that's the fun part. Then I let the thing dry overnight before doing a final pack and lashing the rim. All in all, each basket takes about 2-3 hours spread over the course of two days. It's a VERY satisfying hobby.

But it's precisely the kind of project that'll be difficult with a new baby, what with the wet things and the specific time constraints and the mess making. So I've been planning ahead to get done all the "important" baskets I need in the next few months before this baby makes an appearance.

First up, I made new easter baskets for the boys.

ready to be filled with... oh crap I guess I have to make presents too

These are the first baskets I made with round bottoms, and the process was surprisingly easy, perhaps even easier than setting up a square basket. My only complaint is that the handle I used stretched the baskets out a bit, making the finished product more oval than circular. Of course, I could have bought the right size handle, as opposed to just using some reed from my stash, but I hate buying stuff. I'd rather dummy something up, even if it's the wrong thing. Anyway, it made the boys excited for Easter.

Gosh, should I make an easter basket for the baby? I didn't even think! Does a two-month-old have anything to put in a basket? (Dan says, No, give it a rest.)

I also make gift baskets for each of my three midwives.

ready to go, alongside the rest of the birth supplies

I filled the baskets with preserves Dan made, and then I stashed the them inside this baby basket in a corner of my bedroom. The baby basket I didn't make... what do you think I am, a genie? But I did get pretty quick at putting together these things.

how can one ever really say thank you for the gift of life?

At one point I posted on facebook: "Does seagrass or flat oval reed better say 'Thank you for encapsulating my placenta?'" In the end, I went with the flat oval reed. Makes the basekt more sturdy that way.

I also made a new basket to hold the boys' trains, since the non-homemade train basket was juuuust a bit too small. I tried a new technique on the bottom to make the thing a bit stronger.

diagonal weave to hold in Thomas

Here's the basket in its new digs, holding trains. It goes next to the big basket I made last summer to hold the tracks.

ignore the stereo cable and the scotch tape on the wall... i do

With the train basket off my list I'm feeling a little complete with making baskets for the moment. If this baby delays longer I'll have to do some sewing or knitting or, i dunno, whittling or something. But I could be persuaded to try a seagrass baby easter basket. Just to see. You never know...


quick baby gifts

Even as I await for this baby to emerge and suck all the crafting time out of my life (in addition to most of the sleeping, eating, and showering time I've grown so accustomed to), other friends keep having babies or announcing they'll be having babies in the near future. So I find myself on this perilous tightrope: on one hand wanting to make beautiful baby gifts for my friend, on the other hand needing every project to be small and easily completable within a couple of hours.

Right now I'm relying heavily on my favorite quick baby patterns. Here, let me share my secrets with you. If you're a pregnant overachiever who handmakes gifts months in advance, or if you're just lazy and need a gift tomorrow without leaving your house, this is a blog post for you.

First of all, here's the quickest baby gift I know. Sewn baby booties.

sew cute

The pattern for these comes free from the burl bee, and they're intended to be sewn out of felt, though I always use a felted sweater. (In the picture above I actually used a sweater that I cut up raw and felted in the washer after the booties were sewn.) I guess you could use regular felt, if you're not like a magnet for everyone's unwanted wool sweaters. But one wool sweater will get you several pairs of booties, so its worth stashing the old things away instead of trashing them. It helps if your husband himself is a magnet for old mason jars and toilet paper rolls; in that case he can't say anything to you.

I've given these booties at least five times now, and I always get a good response from the mom-to-be, especially if she's a hippy and appreciates the up-cycled street-cred. But as I was making a pair for a friend last month, I realized I should probably do my diligence and TRY THEM ON A BABY. Because seriously, I've always taken the pattern at face value and never really tested if they fit on a newborn or stay on for more than two minutes. So the pair above is for baby Archibald as a tester. The pair below was a gift. I added an elastic around the ankle as an afterthought, just incase my doubts about the pattern functionality are correct.

gift basket of hippy

For this gift I paired the booties with a feed-bag bib, which is my second go-to quick baby present. Looking back at our archives, it appears I never actually blogged about these feed bag bibs. I should rectify that some day, with a tutorial or whatever. For now I'll just throw up a really old picture and give you the one-sentence instruction. Cut two bibs out out of a feed bag and sew em together with bias tape. If that's not self-explanatory, a pattern and tutorial for such a thing (albeit with vinyl as opposed to plastic) can be found in the Oliver & S pattern book.

zion when he was little and let me put a bib on him

That's a 30 minute project if there's bias tape and velcro in the house. If you have to make your own bias tape it will take much longer and you may want to kill yourself. Then again, if you have to run to JoAnnes for bias tape you may want to kill yourself after sitting in the Burlington traffic. The moral of the story may be ALWAYS BUY BIAS TAPE. At least there are always empty feed bags in this house, THAT I can be sure of.

But if the woman having a baby is not just an acquaintance but a friend? The kind of friend who comes over your house once a week and listens to you complain about your fat uterus and your acid reflux and your unborn child kicking you in the vag? Well, for that friend you should really knit something. Even if it takes a few hours longer, suck it up and get out the needles.

knit with love

I've written about these booties here and here. They're from this book, and they're a quick knit as compared with anything else you might think about knitting. These I HAVE used on my own babies, and I'm pleased to report they stay on VERY well. So they hit all my good gift button points: they're a gift I'd like to get myself, they're pretty enjoyable to make, and I can use up materials I already have in the house (in this case scrap yarn.) Here I am yesterday, knitting another pair that happened to be the exact same yarn as the sweater I was wearing.

black is not so slimming in this picture

Those are for a friend, of course. I made a fresh pair for baby Archibald in white, and I tucked them into the drawer next to the sewn test booties and a bunch of hand-me-down knits and onesies I hope to use VERY SOON.

pink and blue both well represented

So I guess we're ready to go, then. My baby has its drawer all set, and there are gifts for the next few months quickly filling up the drawer in my closet I reserve for homemade presents. It's good to get some things neat and finished. Especially when what looms in the future is labor and delivery and RAISING ANOTHER CHILD.


my favorite waldorf dolls yet

I made these dolls a month ago for a birthday party that was supposed to be in January. But the party got pushed back to next weekend, and while the dolls are still in my closet waiting for their big debut I thought I'd better blog about them now just in case I go into labor before I get another chance. I fear the details of my latest sewing project may pale in comparison with photos of a newborn child, and that would just be sad.

Because you might need to know for future reference what to make for the 4-year-old Little House on the Prairie fanatic and her 1-year-old younger brother.

Waldorf pillow doll and grown-up doll in pioneer clothes

Waldorf pillow doll and grown-up doll in pioneer clothes

According to the one book I've read on the subject, the Waldorf method has one-year-olds playing with "pillow dolls," dolls where the body is a square pillow with hands and head sticking out. This is an easy doll to make in some respects. There are fewer pieces to cut out and sew together than a full nude, and the hair is just a bit of embroidery that peaks out from under the (permanently sewed on) cap. Plus the colored body counts as clothes, so there's no set of clothes to make just when it feels like you're getting finished. On the other hand, the shirt pattern is designed to gather around the neck and sleeves, and it's rather tricky to get the gathering perfect if you're prone to OCD. And there's also a bit of gathering that happens naturally with the neck of this doll. That irks me to no end, even though I see it happening on the text book examples (just add more stuffing, my butt!). Still, the end result pillow doll is very cute and cuddly, and it's a good way to use up soft wool scraps. This one's body came from someone's unwanted sweater - either Jake's or Andrew's. Whoever it was, thanks!

baby carrie close up

Yes, I am always accepting unwanted sweaters for up-cycling. But your used jeans you should just throw away.

The Laura doll was more interesting to me for several reasons. I set out to create a Laura Ingalls Wilder doll, and I like the choices that this forced me to make. First of all I love the way the hair turned out, even though it had to be "boring brown." I managed to use four different colors of brown yarn and that wasn't even all the options in my scrap bin. If you have infinite options of scrap brown yarn you know you knit for a house of boys.

laura's hair

and she wished it could have been blond

The other fun thing about this doll was making the clothing. I'm always trying to make doll clothing as easily cuttable as possible, and I think this dress is the easiest construction yet. The skirt and top are each perfect rectangles, hemmed, with the skirt part pleated as it's sewn to the top. I left the back of the top open to be secured with a button. And since I hade my buttonhole maker out already, I stitched some buttonholes to neaten up arms. All in all you can sew everything flat if you do it in this order: hem the bottom of the skirt rectangle, hem 3 sides of the top rectangle, sew 2 buttonholes for the arms and one for the button, pleat the skirt rectangle against the top rectangle and sew (still flat), then connect the skirt to itself. Booya.

the back of laura's dress

easy piecing!

From this picture you can also see the back of the bonnet, which is similarly a rectangle hemmed on all sides. It's gathered on one side with a ribbon tied tight, and un-gathered on the other side with a ribbon sewed to the edges. Together with the dress, I think it makes a big impression for such incredibly simple sewing.

complete laura doll

ready to play in the creek. No, not really.

To my great delight Harvey and Zion stole the dolls off my desk and immediately identified them as Laura and Baby Carrie. I don't know if the sunbonnet tipped him off, but I feel like Harvey understands subtle cues of color and costuming.

Harvey with Laura and Suzanna

You do realize these are gifts for our friends? I said about a million times over three days.

Zion with Suzanna and Carrie and a barrette in his hair

Then I made sunbonnets for the Suzannas and "going to town" hats for the PowPows, and that was a sufficient distraction to let me get the presents away from my children and packed into the closet.

Are there more Little House waldorf dolls in my future? Not before the baby comes. But after that, you never know. If I get the right invitation from the right little girl I can always be convinced.


Lazy project

Here's a project that's easy to make, if your kids are already pounding at each other with homemade swords about the width of pipe insulation. Make sword holders! I mean.. sword belts? Er... sheaths? What's the proper term for this piece of mediaval kit? LARP nerds help a girl out here...

By the power of Grey Skull!

- Cut a piece of fleece a little bigger than your kids mid-section.
- Sew some velcro on each side to make it close (by machine so it's faster)
- Sew a paper toilet paper roll on one side (by hand otherwise it's impossible)
- Do it again for your other kid
- Don't clean your bedroom before taking pictures. That would spoil the laziness.

on guard!

If your kids only use these for ten minutes, well, that's longer than it takes to make them. Sit back and watch the fighting, or close your eyes and take an ill-deserved nap.

Just don't let them get any ideas into their heads about helmets or shields.


stuff i made: hats and sentences

Today I have a guest post on the new blog Composting Faith. I write about making soap. Mostly it's me complaining about how much of pain in the ass it is to make soap. But then I try to turn it around and say something deep and spiritual at the end . So pretty much my normal schtick. Go and read it if you like, and check out better articles while you're there.

That reminds me I have to make soap again before this baby is born. Ugh.

Meanwhile, here's something I made which wasn't a total pain in the ass. In fact, I knit it in under a week, mostly during two trips to the Discovery Museum. I wrote about Harvey's bear hat here. Zion has been asking for a bear hat of his own, so I thought I'd whip one up for him before the baby comes and the winter ends. I had the yarn scraps on hand already, which helped get me over the hump of not wanting three wollen hats per child in an already crowded closet.

Zion is happy to match his big brother

Getting dressed for the outdoors is a big production in my house these days. I thought having multiple hats and pairs of mittens would make life easier. Instead, the raft of choices is near paralyzing for my toddler, a toddler who looks up to his big brother as if he's a combination of Michael Jordan and Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear.

Dressing goes something like this these days:

Me: "Do you want to wear your Christmas hat?"
Zion: "Harvey wear his Christmas hat?"
Me: "Yes, Harvey is wearing his Christmas hat."
Zion: "I wear MY Christmas hat!"
Me: "Great! Here are your snow mittens."
Zion: "Harvey wear his snow mittens?"
Me: "Yes, Harvey is wearing his snow mittens."
Zion: "I wear my snow mittens."
Me: "Okay, just the coat and we're ready go."
Zion: "Harvey wear his red coat?"
Me: "Yes, Harvey is wearing his red coat."
Zion: "I want a red coat!!!"
Me: "Well, your warm coat is blue. It's the same as Harvey's, but his is red and yours is blue."
Me: "I know, but when grandma bought you the coat your favorite color was blue..."
Zion: "I like red AND blue!"
Me: "Okay, so next time you get a coat you can choose, but right now your coat is blue..."

Etc. Etc. until one of us gives up. This is why I have photos of my toddler eating snow in his cotton undershirt like a catalogue model for casual winter attire.

pride over warmth

I don't know when Zion switched from wanting everything blue to wanting everything the same as Harvey. I don't think I should humor the impulse (I'm certainly not buying new winter coats) but I don't know what we'll do come spring when we need to buy new clothes. All in all, I fear the days of easy red/blue sorting may be coming to an end.

Though who knows - he may be just looking for things to fight about. Today he stomped and screamed for 20 minutes because I wouldn't pour water on his socks before putting them on his feet. (Originally he wanted his wet socks back on, so pouring water on his clean pair of socks was actually a concession, one he was greatly surprised I did not accept.)

Despite these normal frustrations that come with parenting a toddler, I am happy to knit hats on demand and I am so very grateful for Zion's love for Harvey. It makes life pleasant having a house with so much love in it. Plus I can't think of a 4-year-old who's more caring or considerate or deserving of admiration.

I want to be like you


What I'm good at

Dan owns a beautiful book called The Homemade Pantry which he takes off the shelf every time he needs to make marshmallows. Alana Chernila, the book's author, includes a little story with each recipe about how she started replacing some pantry staple with her own homemade version, and what that has meant for her family. My favorite vignette in the book is the one titled "Marshmallows, or what we're good at." In this section Alana describes her family's first camping trip:

I brought home-made marshmallows and graham crackers for our little fire. The marshmallows charred and smooshed, the chocolate melted just right, the graham crackers crunched, and we were all happy....

The next morning, as we started to break down our tent, the sky opened up with the most torrential and driving rain I have ever experienced. I had to face the truth: I had carefully packed my misshapen homemade marshmallows and cinnamon graham crackers, but had neglected to bring a single raincoat.

I was thinking of this story this evening, though I'm not making marshmallows. That's not what I'M good at! Instead, I'm happy to report that the felt-board advent calendar is all freshened up and ready for next year. I repaired the Magi's star and replaced Gabriel's halo. Then after reprinting all the scriptural readings (some got lost over the course of December) I sewed three new pieces to excite the boys imaginations. I made a crown to go on Mary's tummy during her pregnancy, a second owl to sit atop the stable, and a sheep dog to guard the sheep while the shepherds run to find the Christ child.

When I go into labor some time in the next few weeks, there won't be any frozen dinners to bring up from the freezer downstairs. I hate eating frozen food, plus my husband is an excellent cook. I don't have play-date distractions lined up for the boys either; I figure I can parent on the fly with a baby in my lap, and there are always chapter books to read if worse comes to worse. But I DO have a drawer ready packed with knitted baby clothes, including a fresh set of booties which I just completed — 3 to a set is my new moto for booties. I also have two new Waldorf dolls ready for the birthday party we're invited to mid-February, and a set of feed-bag baby blocks wrapped and in the closet just in case there's a baby shower I forget about in the next few months. And now there's the advent calendar zipped up in its bag, all ready to go on December 1st just in case I'm a little tired by then.

Dan vetoed me starting the kids' Easter suits before the baby arrived (how can we guess their sizes 4 months out, and shouldn't you wait until you know whether you need a third suit or a dress?) so I'll have to allocate a few hours to sewing after the baby comes. But it's still nice to know some things are done ahead of time. I'm starting baskets tomorrow for the midwives, and if I can knock out three in one week I figure I can get some new Easter baskets for my kids done too while I'm at it.

As long as we have homemade baskets, I have no worries about the spring.

I don't know if this is how normal nesting mothers act, but whatever. At least I know what I'm good at.


Christmas making 2013, part 2

a grown-up doll for my grown-up niece

My Waldorf doll technique is improving, as demonstrated by this doll I made for my niece, complete with a cute little button nose. Dan says all the dolls I make in the future should have cute button noses. I also seem to be getting a bit faster sewing on the hair. All this bodes well for any girls who might invite us to birthday parties in the future. Unless it's a baby's party, in which case I might have to make blocks.

Yes that's a full bag of feed in the background. For ambiance and also because we didn't put it in the basement yet.

These blocks are part of an ongoing investigation of mine titled: What Can I Make from Chicken Feed Bags? So far it's just been bibs, tote bags, and now blocks, but I have some more ideas if I get really creative in the new year. Meanwhile, these blocks were super fun to make, because I got to use the serger on plastic which makes a VERY. LOUD. SOUND. If you have feed bags of your own (or vinyl from another source) here are the instructions: cut 6 equal size squares, serge all the edges, sew it on the regular machine in the shape of a block. Leave one side open, stuff with stuffing, sew up the last side. I know, right? Rocket science.

fun to stack and to topple

Last but not least (especially not least in terms of time spent) were the hand woven dish towels.

better than regular rags

These were supposed to be my crowning glory this Christmas, but I'm not totally in love with the way they turned out. Because I tried to make them as thick as possible, and because I'm limited by the number of heddles on my loom, each dish towel turned out a bit narrower than standard dish towel size. Also the cotton shrunk a bit in the wash, so the length now leaves something to be desired as well. Still Dan assures me they are the loveliest hand woven dish towels he's ever seen, and I have more cotton to string the loom again. Just as soon as I get new years cleaning out of the way.

There is a part of me that is glad Christmas is over for another year. I have a list of things I was putting off until after Christmas, (switch health insurance plan, clean laundry room, sort and wash the baby clothes) and now I can use my free moments to tackle these life-organization projects head-on. Not that I like de-cluttering any better than I like making things, it's just that TOO MUCH making things swings the pendulum in one direction and awakens the cleaning monster within. And now that the beast is fully awakened I cannot imagine crafting one more thing until the house is perfectly livable again, down to a freshly sorted drawer of newborn onesies. Sorted onesies, stacked tupperware, and then maybe we can get to weaving again. It's going to be a busy January.


Christmas making 2013

Here are the presents I made for Christmas this year, in reverse order of completion:

Zion's PowPow with his stocking and teddy

Zion's PowPow with his stocking and teddy

This is one of the PowPow teddies I made on Christmas Eve. Zion and Harvey helped me make the little stockings sometime during Advent, but it was only the day before that it sunk in I might have to make something to put IN the stockings. I used this online pattern for the teddies. Even I am not dumb enough to free-hand a softie pattern the day before Christmas.

Harvey said on Christmas morning: "Who made this little teddy? You did? I love him!" Of course, now his is lost...

Then there was the play house I made TWO DAYS before Christmas:

a shot of the play tent from the outside

a shot of the play tent from the outside

I made this felt house to fit over my desk, which the kids were playing under anyway. First, they pushed the chair away from the desk so often that I donated the chair because I was tired of seeing it in the middle of the room. Then they started playing house under there, asking me to take the covering off the couch and tuck it in on all sides. This irritated me, because I like the covering on the couch where it can catch Rascal hair. So I designed this custom-fitting play house desk cover as a solution.

close-up of the working mailbox

close-up of the working mailbox

The mailbox fits a regular sized letter, which Harvey discovered immediately. The fence can also hold a stuffed animal prisoner, but they haven't figured that out yet and I want to see if they come up with it on their own.

The flaps behind the windows were Dan's idea. I had a mind to make curtains, but Dan said they would be too hard to open and close. The boys would mostly want them closed anyway, with the ability to peak out quickly to check for intruders. So flaps sewn at the top was the best solution, plus they were far easier to sew than curtains. The whole house was easy to sew, in fact. I cut everything freehand without measuring and I finished the whole project within a 24-hour period, a personal record made possible by two hours of work before the kids woke up and two hours after they went to sleep. Plus it only cost me $10 in brown felt (the colors were left over from other projects.)

Here's a peak into their house from the side window. They requested not one but TWO inside lights.

inside the playhouse

inside their lair

You can see Zion brought in a blanket and a pillow. He likes to be cozy.

Of course, after the house has been up for a few days and I see how much the boys are playing in there, I realize this might mean the permanent loss off my desk for desk purposes. Already I'm typing this blog post from my bedroom, and I've moved my charger and camera cords up here. Sigh. If I realized I was ceding ground, I might not have had so much fun making this thing.

Four days before Christmas I sewed up the last ends of their bunny sweaters.

both boys in their christmas sweaters by Grandma's tree

This is the first time I've tried a knitting project with the intarsia color-blocking technique. It was not at all difficult, either to figure out or to accomplish, but all the same it's not my favorite technique because it means you have to knit a sweater back and forth over knit and purl instead of just knitting in the round. But it is the way to get a giant bunny onto a sweater, and Harvey like his so much that he wore it for two days straight and slept in it in between. (Zion took his off after an hour because he hates sweaters.)

Now for a color-work technique I like, here are some fair isles hats I finished at least a week before Christmas.

harvey, zion, and dan in their new hats

three frozen peas in a pod.

Harvey had asked for a hat to match his Dada's, and then Zion asked for a hat to match Harvey's. Here they all are playing kick the snowball down the street. The hats are made from Drumlin Farm undyled wool, and the pattern is made up out of my head.

ready for an expedition

ready to go out in the cold

Here the boys are ready to go out on an expedition in their new hats and new backpacks (not a homemade gift but packed with awesome factory-features, including a built-in whistle!) The backpack is a good example of something that's good to buy from a store. Look how well PowPow peaks out of the mesh pocket.

harvey with powpow in his backpack

peaking out from behind

I made some more things but I see now that I'll have to split this blog post into two parts to save on reading fatigue. So that's all the exhaustion inspiration you get for now. Next up will be: hand woven dish towels, waldorf doll, and baby blocks.


christmas magic

For the past few days Harvey has been really excited about Christmas. REALLY. EXCITED. So excited that on Christmas Eve we could barely contain his excitement within our house, and I offered to take him to an indoor playground to run around, but he said No, he would prefer to run around the house, and just wait... for... christmas... to come.

In the evening when we got back from church Harvey helped Dan lay out the stockings on the couch. I reminded them to put out PowPow's stocking, since we had gone to the trouble of making it and all. (Never mind that I hadn't finished the presents for the PowPow stockings. Really, how long could two tiny teddy bears take?)

Harvey looked a little worried and confessed "I forgot to make a present for PowPow."

"Maybe the stocking will get filled magically," Dan said.

Harvey furrowed his brow and considered this statement. "I don't think magic is in our world," he said finally.

Later when I put Harvey to bed he repeated the story. "Dada says PowPow's stocking will be filled by magic."

"If you put out a stocking," I told him, "It will get filled."

"How?" he asked.

"Mama and Dada fill it. Mama and Dada make sure there are presents in every stocking."

"Oh." Harvey exhaled deeply and looked relieved.

Perhaps my explanation isn't festive enough — indeed some might accuse me of stealing all the magic away from Christmas. But I never grew up with Christmas traditions, so I don't have fond memories of fabricated gift origin stories. My current approach to Christmas is wonder within the context of reality. I don't know if the thought of magic elves in my living room after dark would make me feel more excited about the world, or more safe in it for that matter. Mama and Dada staying up till 11pm to make sure everyone has enough presents in their stocking? At least that's an explanation that lets my children know they're loved. Plus it's the truth. A truth, at least for me, that still feels alive with magic.

At least for me, homemade Christmas at our house was magical.

zion playing with a wooden chicken puzzle Dan made for him for Christmas

harvey hugging his new knitted sweater

the first time one of my children successfully wrote my name on a gift tag. Swoon.

The kids peeping out from their new play tent, which we had to coax them out of to open other presents

zion playing with his gingerbread action figure

I feel like we finally right-sized Christmas at home this year. We spent precious little on store-bought gifts: the boys got two books and a game, Dan got a new pair of Carharts and a calendar, and I got a thread organizer and thimble. The rest of our gifts were handmade. I made the boys some presents they were expecting (knit hats and sweaters) and some they weren't (a giant play house, and tiny teddy bears for their PowPow stockings.) Dan made some things that they had asked for (pickles, marshmallows) and some things that were completely surprising (wooden action figures with removable swords, shields, and standards.) Harvey made me a framed picture of himself and Dan made me a picture frame ornament, both of which made me cry. I made Dan a hat that I gave to him two months ago, because he needed it then, and some hand woven dish towels because we need more dish towels.

Some will read this and think that yes, I do not understand Christmas magic.

But as I was walking the dog this morning I passed a street called Colonial Ct, and I had this flash of an idea, a feeling of connection with our colonial ancestors who wove and knitted and whittled and baked up until Christmas day to bless their families and fulfill the desires of their hearts through the work of their own hands. It was a really lovely thought.

Of course, maybe our colonial ancestors would have killed for Amazon Prime. I am not an objective judge.

I do not get to control Christmas for my children any more than I control the rest of their lives. Their grandparents shower them with other gifts, and my version of Christmas is merely that, a version among many that they get to experience. In the same way, my ideal world is just an opinion. In the end they each get to choose how much magic they want, and where it comes from.

both boys in their christmas sweaters by Grandma's tree


an almost-Christmas poem

Twas the week before christmas, deep hours of the night
and Mama was riding the exercise bike.
She'd fallen asleep with the children at seven
and there went her sewing time shot straight to heaven.

Then one in the morning she woke with a fret
to the four-year-old screaming "Maaamaaaa! I'm all wet!"
Quick off with his PJs, quick change all the sheets
quick cuddle two shaken boys safe back to sleep.

And then in her head there arose such a clatter
to out-shout the stress of a child's active bladder.
What presents are finished? What still to be made?
Do you have enough thread for the doll's coat's brocade?

How long will the knitting take? How long the baking?
How much are you counting on children not waking?
And what shall they eat while you fill their gift sacks?
Yes, what are you serving for dinner and snacks?

So down from her bedroom she floated etherial
to pour almond milk in a bowl of cold cereal
and try to set goals for the upcoming day
all while biking a few stress-made hormones away.

And as Mama sat cycling she thought of the reason
why Mamas work so flipping hard all this season.
She thought of her children in (pee-smelling) beds
while visions of wrapped presents danced their heads:

The sweaters with bunnies in colors they favor,
the candy like that which we gave to the neighbor,
The robot they asked for in felt that is washable
because they still believe her that ANYTHING'S POSSIBLE!

They still think that Mama makes all things from nothing
that all good things come from some felt, fleece, and stuffing
that whatever they think of, whatever they need,
they can get if they help, choose fabric, and plead.

So she gets off the bike, puts the dishes away
knits a few rows of sleeve to keep worries at bay,
And she prays in her head as she turns out the light:
"Happy Christmas to all! And to Mamas, sleep tight!"


first fruits of the loom

Everywhere I look in this house there is work to be done. The chalkboard reminds me seventy times a day that something must be cooked for dinner tonight, and something must be purchased from Whole Foods, and after that if I can stay on my feet we really need more soap set up to cure.

Meanwhile, the dishwasher and the washing machine are ravenous beasts that can never be satisfied. Though I offer them sacrifices at least twice daily, still it is not enough. Their tribute piles up on every surface, demanding to be fed to the hideous dirt demons.

So for a few minutes every day I am actively trying to stop looking at my house. It will never meet your standards of cleanliness, I remind myself. Not with two kids and a dog and a wheelbarrow of soil-covered parsnips drying in the middle of my living room. (Yes, that is a real thing that's in my line of vision right now.) Look at something pleasant and orderly for a moment, I tell myself, and don't think about the next ten years.

So for now I am looking at my loom.

a crappy flash photograph because I'm too busy cleaning dring the daytime to take pictures when it's light

The first slap-dash warping job I mentioned is already used up and off the machine. I had hoped to turn the product into Christmas gifts, but as with everything I make the first fruits needed to be immediately tithed to the children.

Harvey: "It's finished! Can it be for me?"
Me: "Well, I was going to give this as a present."
Harvey: "It can be a present for PowPow!"
Me: "What is PowPow going to do with a dish towel?"
Harvey: "He can use it for a blanket."
Me: "PowPow already has a blanket. I made him a quilt and a pillow!"
Harvey: "He doesn't have a WARM blanket. And Suzanna doesn't have a blanket!"
Me: "Okay, you can have this for Suzanna, but I am NOT making a separate bed for her; she needs to share with PowPow and that's final."

Okay, don't look at me that way. I put my foot down on A LOT OF OTHER THINGS. Besides, Harvey helped weave this textile, so it's only fair that he should help decide what it's used for.

All tucked in and warm

Meanwhile I poured a hundred bucks into my new hobby and ordered a warping board from Etsy to try to take the set-up down from three hours to one. While I waited for that to arrive (plus the other warping tools and some yarn which tipped the scales over the free-shipping mark) I strung a small warp to make some headbands for Chanukah.

Harvey didn\'t ask for a headband at least

This headband was made from some heavy wool I found left over in the box of loom accessories. Thanks fourth-grade self! You saved me some money! (Although you really should have bought us a warping board, just saying.) I made the headband in plain weave and sewed some fabric-covered elastic on the back. I hope it wasn't too rustic for my brother's fancy girlfriend... I tend to make things I might like to wear, forgetting that I'm a filthy hippy while my brother only dates brilliant accomplished tiny women. (This one is a doctor!)

This headband is made with relics!

The second headband was for my mom. In the box of ye old goodies I found something that really brought me back in time; a ball of yarn I had spun from Chocky's fur. Chocky was a samoyed my parents owned when I was young. He was a very special dog for my family, a dog with a larger-than-canine personality that was only matched by his thick white coat of fur which needed constant maintenance. It was my mother who did all that brushing, and even though she cursed when she hit a snag in the fur, and even though she yelled till she was horse when that dog wouldn't come back in the woods (which was most of the time) she loved Chocky dearly. She keeps a photograph of him in the place of honor above her kitchen sink.

When it came time to bury Chocky's ashes in the backyard, the whole family assembled. My brother even drove in from the city for the funeral. But it turns out my family is terrible at acting formal and we had some trouble striking the right tone. Dan was there, though, and he had brought his trumpet. So when when everyone was standing around cracking stupid jokes because we didn't know what to say, Dan walked a few paces off and started to play Taps. As the notes of the music drifted over us in the setting sun, the weight of the moment finally settle on us. We all realized how much we really loved that dog. I have never been prouder to be married to a horn player with an appreciation of high church ceremony.

So I wanted to make something for my mother with that tiny bit of fur, but it was too thin to hold together on its own in either weaving or knitting. After a few failed attempts, I paired it with some blue mohair and cashmere and alternated rows unevenly to create this woven look. Again it came out rustic, but like Taps it was just beautiful enough to stir the right emotion. Mom really liked it.

sentimental gifts for my mom

Meanwhile, the warping board came in and I am ready to start on actual dish towels.

Of course, Harvey is eyeing the red thread that I bought and keeps asking when it's time to work in HIS weaving. And Zion, apropos of nothing, asks if I can sew him a robot. So it's not like the to-do list is getting any shorter...


bits of embroidery

I am far enough away from Christmas still that I can gleefully forget about the things I've committed myself to making (two sweaters and two hats, only three of which are in progress, for example) and get caught up in creative whims. This week I went off on a bit of an embroidery tangent.

little things mama's working on instead of knitting

No one really NEEDS embroidered ornaments or hair clips as much as they need warm winter clothing (or the play tent I promised to sew the boys, the one I haven't even sketched yet, ugh.) But embroidery is fun, and hair clips can come together in an hour without transferring too much fabric from the shelves to the floor.

The important thing was that Harvey was inspired by my work, and he wanted to embroider an ornament as well. I set him up with some burlap on a hoop and a tapestry needle, and he cleaned out my stash of embroidery thread, starting with red and then working through everything else I had in the color family.

Harvey's first solo sewing project

He decorated two pieces of burlap like this. Then with the newfound manual dexterity that this sewing practice gave him, he stitched the two pieces together around the edges, all by himself. He only needed my help for tying the knots.

This was so different from the pillow he made two months ago where I had to hold the fabric for him and remind him whether he was going up from the bottom or down from the top. Here I didn't have to hold or coach anything. So my pride when I saw him coming around the last corner? Pretty much indescribable. Would you like to see another picture? I took about a thousand.

the most beautiful work of art I've ever seen

I had to take many pictures, because this precious handmade present is soon leaving our home. Check it out all wrapped up in paper that Harvey painted himself. Apple, you don't fall far from my tree.

not that she'll appreciate it as much as me

Here I only helped with the writing and the bow. Well, and the hole punch. And the pinking sheers. And laying out the brown paper so he could paint it. And waiting for that paper to dry and then stashing it in the wrapping paper drawer for later. And reacting excitedly when Harvey said he wanted to embroider an ornament, and having burlap and dull needles ready for just an occasion. And gently reminding Harvey of every next step in the process so that his disperate creative efforts could turn into something real and tangible to give as a gift.

And looking at him when he said, "It's nice sewing with you, Mama," and replying, "Harvey, it's my favorite thing in the world."

Yeah, I guess there's a lot that goes into a four-year-old making a present on his own. But that doesn't make me any less proud of him.


hallway complete!

Would you like to see my new upstairs hallway? It is a work of art.

After 4 hours of painting and 3 hours of stickering

Weeks ago, before I got all nesting crazy about the hallway color, I was working on this idea that I could put up some vinyl decals to freshen up the space without having to paint. Then I went down the rabbit hole that is shopping for wall decals on Etsy. After several days of thinking nothing but DECALS I asked Dan to approve my choice. The man not only said Yes you can put a giant tree silhouette up on our wall, but he also said "If you're going to pay $50 for decals that can only be put up once, you might as well paint first."

God I love my husband.

Then I dragged him to the hardware store to help me choose a PINK color, and at this point I might have thought, well, maybe I don't need decals after all if I'm totally redoing the hallway with fresh paint. But by then the decals were already IN THE MAIL because when I am pregnant my DECISION is not separate from my ACTION.

So yesterday I spent three hours sticking brown leaves to a pink wall. When I pulled off the first sheet of contact paper I remarked to myself, "Wow. I am finally realizing my dream of living inside of an Anthropologie dressing room."

with the view of the boys' room

I don't know if you've taken proper notice of the chickens.

I spent at least a half an hour trying to arrange the chickens into a configuration that I felt was both loving and biblical. Since the cock and hen are facing the same way the male has to lead, obviously. But arranging the whole family in size order would make the rooster look cold and distant from his children. The woman had to be bringing up the rear, then, but not in an useless way. After a few failed attempts at spacing I got it so the first chick subtly fits into the empty space under the cock's tail, thus demonstrating his fatherly nurturing AND leadership abilities. The hen for her part had to be close enough to the chicks to be comforting, but not so close that she seemed smothering. Also it was hard to get a proper vertical alignment on her with her one foot lifted. There is a lot to consider when you're placing sticky vinyl doppelgangers of your family in poultry form.

a loving family insomuch as chickens are capable of that

When I was done with the chickens I invited the children upstairs to view the masterpiece. Harvey gasped, "It's like we live in the forest!"

Then he noticed an unused chick sticker on the floor. "Where can I put this one?"

"Well, right now there are three chicks on the wall," I told him, "One for you, one for Zion, and one for the new baby. I'm not going to put up this forth chick now because I'm superstitious. But I'll keep it in a safe place in case we have a forth baby some day and need it."

Then I thought to myself, "Well, I didn't really leave enough room for another chick. I guess it could go on the other side of the rooster..."

And then I thought, "If we have another baby after this one we'll have bigger problems than where to fit a 3-inch vinyl decal."

Because seriously, if we have another baby after this? Someone might have to stage an intervention about my decorating.


Watch out; someone's nesting

Dan will assure you, thought I will be the first to admit it, that this pregnancy has temporarily transformed me into a different person — someone who is insane. Well, I'm always a little bit insane anyway, but now I'm insane about HOME DECORATING. Things that I never noticed before, things that haven't bothered me about our house in the past eight years are suddenly MONUMENTAL PROBLEMS that need to be remedied RIGHT NOW. Like the color of the upstairs hallway? DISGUSTING! How could we even LIVE in a house with such an uninviting hallway? How can we bring a BABY into a house like this? Nevermind that I'm already raising two children here who could not possibly give a shit about a the color of the wall at the top of the stairs.

The upstairs hallway, for the record, bore the only interior walls that were completely white. Not a nice clean "I trust my surgeon that I'm in good hands" sort of white, but a dirty yellow-and-green tinged white that seems to say, "Oh, you're coming up the stairs? Why don't you go fuck yourself?"

So on Thursday evening amidst terrible traffic on Great Road I forced my entire family to accompany me to the hardware store to choose a new paint color. Because it was TERRIBLY IMPORTANT to my sanity.

I had in mind an earthy shade of pink, having been inspired by a trip to the Lexington Waldorf school where every wall is some version of soothing pastel. Dan used his superior design skills to help me pick out a color that wasn't too dark, or "institutional" as he put it. Once I had the paint in hand I could think of nothing else. Despite two days packed with social engagements I managed to paint a first coat over the entire hallway this weekend.

You wanna feel real productive about your weekend? Go paint something! Then even if the rest of the house is dirty, some part of your house is A DIFFERENT COLOR!

The look of the upstairs is already much improved. Now as you come up the stairs a bright cheery pink wall greets you as if to say, "Hello darling! Would you like to play fairies? Would you care for a massage after visiting our native american sweat lodge?"

Of course, there's still a second coat to do, and new outlet covers to pick out, and hanging some vinyl decals I bought on Etsy. Is $100 too much to spend on a hallway? Wait, don't tell me.


my savvy dresser

May I crow for a moment about my oldest child?

Harvey wearing a tie over his jacket and a hat with earflaps

my homespun fashion model at drumlin farm

Harvey loves wearing clothes. Clothes, costumes, accessories, you name it. I love clothes too, and I love to make tiny clothes, but Harvey's zest for homemade fashion is an extra sweet reward for my efforts. When I couldn't find his regular Drumlin Farm hat I pulled this one out of the bottom of the closet hoping it might fit. Instead of throwing a you're-changing-stuff-on-me tantrum, Harvey perked right up, saying he LOVED the wooden buttons. He thought they looked like bear eyes, and he thought the ear flaps looked like bear ears. So he called this his "bear hat."

Harvey standing by an enormous jack-o-lantern

my big/little guy

My little catalogue model. It's the whole milk that makes those cheeks.

Harvey was happy to wear his knitted mittens too (even though he really wants RED ones, another thing to add to my list). The tie was his own addition to the outfit. In all of this he stands in start contrast to his younger brother who HATES all outerwear. Zion absolutely refuses to put on mittens, even after he says his hands are cold. The coat alone is a big production. After the coat, I have no more energy to fight about mittens. I guess that's what pockets are for.

Harvey and Zion standing on a rock looking at each other


Harvey on the other hand? Harvey is a joy to dress, to knit for, to take to Drumlin Farm on a cold November day.

Coming home in the car Harvey said, "A lot of people admired my tie on this trip." Which was true.

Then he said, "When we get home can we read Anne of Green Gables as a refreshment?"

God I love that kid.



When I was a child I made a dollhouse, a beautiful ornate wooden mansion that I constructed from a kit with considerable help from my parents. I don't remember doing any hammering myself, but I remember painting and painstakingly gluing on every tiny shingle. So when I noticed Zion playing with a dollhouse at a friend's house, I thought to ask my parents if they still had the thing. My mom checked the basement and said they had it but it was huge. I said it can't possibly be that big. She said to take a look next time I came over.

So last week when I brought the boys for a play date, my mother urged me to look at the dollhouse in the basement. It was bigger than I thought, so big in fact that we'd have to remove shelving to find a place for it. Also the furniture has disappeared. Well, I certainly couldn't afford new furniture for a dollhouse that's half the size of my real house. Dejected, I started back towards the basement stairs.

That's when I saw it.

"Mooom!" I yelled from the basement, my voice filled with childlike excitement, "Forget the dollhouse! I want to take my loom!"

as fascinating now as it was to me 23 years ago.

I thought they had sold it. They had asked me if they could sell it. Indeed, when I came up the stairs with an armful of loom parts under my arm my mother asked me, "Didn't we sell that?" No, all this time it had been hauled up in a corner of the basement. Not getting in the way, but not making cloth for anybody either.

You might be asking yourself: why do your parents have a barely used table loom in their basement? The answer is because they love me. When I was in fourth grade I was part of a Waldorf-style experiment in the public school (described in a book by my former teacher in which he erroneously called me by a different name.) I really took to weaving that year, so much so that my parents bought me a little loom that I could use at home. We paid some fiber-crafty neighbor to teach me how to set the thing up. In reality, though, we just paid her to set it up. Because while the process of weaving is meditative for a meticulous 9-year-old, the process of stringing a warp onto a loom requires a complicated number of steps that challenges my brainpower even now.

And so I wove a few tapestries all those years ago, enough to fill up one warp stringing, and then I never picked it up again. A poor mostly-new loom sat in my parents' basement collecting dust. Thankfully not mold, though. My parents' basement is remarkably dry.

So last week I piled the big loom and all its accessories into the back of Dan's station wagon. (Actually, my mother who just had knee surgery did it for me, because she won't let a pregnant lady lift things.) On the way home my excitement started to temper with a bit of worry. Would Dan raise his eyebrows at the enormous piece of equipment I was bringing home? I thought of saying something like: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is I brought this loom home! The bad news is I brought this loom home."

Thankfully Dan has a soft spot for pioneer crafts, and he didn't protest the loom's entrance into the house. We put it in the middle of the living room and admired it for a moment. Then Harvey started asking when he could start weaving.

Excitement is a virtue in our house, clearly. Patience is something we're still working on.

There were two problems we had to tackle before weaving. The first was that we couldn't permanently store a loom in the middle of the living room. After some negotiations between me and Dan (who was running out the door at the time and therefore not at his hard-line best) he agreed I could remove the door-side table with the promise that we would find a smaller table to hold the lamp and the dog leash. Then later Dan volunteered to make such a table himself. Doesn't sound like much of a negotiation really.

Then again, Dan brings a lot of potted plants into the house, so I guess I've built up a credit.

The second problem was stringing the warp. I looked up a few videos online but there was nothing posted for my particular model and every method looked more confusing than the next. After careful examination of the machine, I decided to wing it and try to figure it out myself. In what is probably an unapproved warp stringing method I cut approximately 200 strings of similar length and tied them in groups of 4 to the front and back of the loom, stringing each through the little holes. The process took me three hours on Saturday night.

I just want to emphasize that. Not three hours during the day while I was playing with the kids and serving snacks, the way I might say it took three hours to cook a turkey. This took three UNINTERRUPTED hours after the kids went to sleep. I considered it an act of love for my oldest son.

And it was completely worth it. Because Harvey's joy at loom weaving? Incredible.


After we wove a few rounds together, Harvey felt confident enough to try it by himself the following day. He banged the beater so hard that the picture on the wall next to him shook crooked, but his weaving looked nice and tight.


Here's our work together so far. It's slow going, because I have to be on hand to untangle the shuttle thread and because Zion can't find a productive role in the process. But we'll probably get some fabric ready for Christmas. Harvey says the first thing he wants to make is a present. For PowPow.

fanciest dish towel you've ever seen

My favorite thing about the loom as a teaching tool is that a child can't really break it. The worst they could do is bend the metal strips, and even then there are extras. The rest of the loom is made up of wood and string, bits that connect together in ways that are obvious and replaceable. Unlike my computerized sewing machine that is breakable and therefore attracts scolding, this is a truly child-friendly adult tool. Plus merely touching the wood makes you a gentler person, if the Waldorf method is to be believed. All mocking aside, it certainly makes me happier than an end table.


more about the king costumes

At the beginning of October I asked my kids a question that used to be a favorite from my own childhood: "What do you want to be for Halloween?"

Harvey said, "A king!"

Zion said, "A pirate!"

"No, you were a pirate last year," I said. "What NEW costume do you want me to make you for Halloween?"

"A pirate."

"Nevermind," I said, "I'll make you a king costume and you can wear it if you want to. Or you can wear last year's pirate costume if you'd rather do that."

We looked at portraits of English kings online to see what they looked like. We decided to make capes, crowns, pantaloons and vests. Harvey's would be red of course, and Zion's would be blue because those are their favorite colors. Which you know, obviously, if you've been around my kids for longer than five seconds. Favorite colors are a BIG DEAL in our house.

While I was planning our trip to the fabric store Dan took me aside. "Does Zion's pirate costume still fit him? Can he wear Harvey's old one? Should you make a new pair of pants?"

"Oh he'll want to wear the king costume," I said. "He just doesn't know it yet."

a kingly bow

The costumes are all fleece (cheap!) except for the trim which is some polyester fur thing I bought very little of because it cost over $10 a yard — thank God I don't make fuzzy stuffed animals for my hobby! The vests and pants are as simply constructed as possible, both from patters that I'd cut before so I didn't need to trace anything new. I embroidered the edges of the vests by hand, and I had wanted to do more hand embroidery as embellishment but Harvey put a stop to that. He wanted the vest to be soft to touch, he said. Mostly he likes to wear things as soon as possible, and as soon as I fitted the vest on him he refused to take it off. "It's done" he told me.

Dan masterminded the design of the capes and of the hat, telling me how much the underside of the cape should curve and where the darts should be. The crowns were a similar collaboration, with Dan dictating the shape of the pieces and handing them off to me to sew. The gold cross pieces are from thick stabilizer that Dan spray-painted gold. I sewed them late on Monday night and I think I'm just now recovering from the fumes.

follow the leader

This is Harvey at 10am on Halloween day, which is the lastest I could hold him off from putting on his costume. I even used the costume as an incentive to get him to submit to a haircut and a bath. Then we put on the whole ensemble, with me saying some things I never thought I'd say to my son like, "Let me cut your toenails before you put on your tights - I wouldn't want them to run."

Zion, for his part, barely submitted to a very quick (moving target) haircut. And though he likes taking a bath, he did not want to put on his costume following it. He wanted "regular clothes" he said, which you can see from the photo above include his green cape. This should not be confused with a costume. His green cape is his normal street attire that he wears each time he leaves the house.

At 4pm Zion still didn't want to put on his costume, but Grandma showed up with candy that proved to be an incentive. There was some negotiation over the cape. He wanted to wear his regular cape and I wanted him to wear his king cape and in the end he wore both, one over the other. As we stepped outside after a 15 minute dressing session, Dan said to me, "You know, this is the last year you make them dress the same. Next year they can wear whatever they want."

Fine, I thought. As long as I get to force them into matching Christmas sweaters one more time.

Zion was initially unhappy but still photo obedient

Then Grandma gave each of them a full-size bag of M&Ms and Zion started warming up to this Halloween thing.

are you serious?

Though he really enjoyed the M&Ms, Zion was fading through dinner and by the time we got out trick-or-treating we said we'd only hit three houses and then go to bed. Dan decided to take the kids out while I stayed home wrap up and hand out homemade Halloween cookies. Well, I quickly wrapped the cookies and sat down to wait for my family's return, but three houses turned into an hour-long excursion. When they got back Zion was bubbling! He showed me a lolly pop which was BLUE! HIS FAVORITE COLOR! Could I open it for him please?

Dan said, "We tried to be quick but one of them kept wanting to go to more houses."

"Harvey?" I asked.

"No, Zion! He kept saying, 'One more house? Two more houses? All-the-all-the houses have candy?"

It was nice to see him finally enjoying himself, even if the stimulus was a poisonous looking amount of sugar. But the first thing he did after showing me his blue lolly was hand me a big peanut butter cup and say, "This one for Mama."

I looked up at Dan. "Did Dada tell you to give that to me?"

No, both of them shook their heads. He thought of it on his own.

One of my kids can't wait to jump into his handmade costume, the other one picks out the best candy for me. Honestly, I don't know how I lucked out with these boys.

So that was Halloween here. Meanwhile I ate way too many cookies while waiting for my family to get back, and then following that a peanut butter cup. Now I'm wondering whether I can plan three meals tomorrow made up entirely of carrots.

Until next year!


Harvey's Waldorf Doll

Not to be out-toyed by Zion, Harvey demanded his own Waldorf doll, this one with RED eyes and RED AND GRAY hair, but with the same white dress as Zion's. "No, actually," he said, making the clothing request more specific, "I want mine to have TWO buttons."

now with two buttons!

There are no pristine craft blog shots of this one; this picture was taken after Harvey dropped the doll in the dirt. It's a tough life for dolls in this family.

help me up!

Harvey asked for this doll to be a playmate to PowPow, though for now the dolls are not doing so much playing with each other. Instead each is being lovingly cared for by Harvey, and when he remembers he asks me to watch them when he leaves the room. He insisted that he take them BOTH to bed with him last night, and then in the middle of the night he called me to his room because he woke up and couldn't find either. I found the Waldorf doll right next to him, ("find" is a relative term with Harvey) but PowPow was lost in the bedclothes. I had to wake up Dan to ask him if PowPow had been in the bed when Harvey fell asleep.

So yes, both parents and a child were awake in the night over the whereabouts of a 7-inch doll. I now have some doubts as to whether bringing MORE cloth babies into this family was a wise idea, but oh well.

Even if I now have to monitor FOUR special toys on all our outings, seeing the kids interact with their dolls is certainly worth it. Harvey insisted on taking both dolls on the spooky hayride today. Zion gave me his toys to hold after just a few minutes at the farm (and I admit to a certain sigh of relief when the toddler's dolls are safely in my bag). But Harvey carried his babies the whole time and arranged them carefully on his lap so they could enjoy the ride.

baby doll love

That boy. He is love. Makes a mama want to sew stuff.

Oh, and Harvey hasn't completely decided on a name for the new doll yet. Zion calls his, "My baby doll" or "My Wadoff doll," but Harvey says he's thinking of a name. Then on the hayride he got very serious and announced he might reveal the name now. "I'm thinking about..." he said with a dramatic pause, "PowPow Two."


Waldorf dolls

This is what I've been doing to distract myself lately. Making Waldorf dolls. And why not? Big projects like Halloween costumes make a big mess all over the floor of the office, whereas dolls are neat and cute and come together in under four hours. It's just the thing to do when I want to act productive but I can't bring myself to clean anymore.

a doll with brown hair and a yellow dress, with her purple pillow

farm girl (and pillow)

This one went to a 2-year old on her birthday, and Harvey sewed the purple pillow himself (I'm so proud of him.)

Here's a close-up of the hair, which comes from my basket of yarn scraps.

a close-up of the doll's yarn hair


Then I tried making a boy with mixed success. If you know a boy who wants a Waldorf-style forest sprite then this one is up for grabs.

a green-haired and -clothed doll

in his natural environment

But my favorite turned out to be this ice princess. I'm partial to the blue in her hair, but maybe that's just because I'm getting old.

a doll with a white dress and pale hair photographed on the lawn

she's bringing the winter

Of course, Zion noticed the blue too and immediately claimed this doll for his own ("Boo my favorite color!) Harvey will not be satisfied until he has his own RED haired Waldorf doll now. It's upstairs now ready for stuffing. Good thing my part of the Halloween costumes is done!

Space Party!

This weekend we went to a Space Party (!) to celebrate Harvey's friend Hendrick's 4th birthday. This was actually the first themed birthday party we ever attended, and I was very impressed with all the Pinterest-worthy details. Space bunting, Mars pinata, space themed party games (which Harvey and Zion only watched, naturally.) Harvey even got to decorate a paper-plate UFO... after all the other kids left the craft table to do something else, of course.

pealing stickers and sucking on a lolly: now that's a party!

I thought I would make a space themed present for the occasion, but it can be hard to think of handmade gifts for little boys. Harvey kept suggesting that we sew his friend a baby doll, and I hemmed and hawed a bit because they don't know each other THAT well these kids, and I want Harvey to be invited back to more age-appropriate parties in the future. So I procrastinated until the week of that party. Then an idea struck me as I was unwrapping a new bed sheet (Thanks to Judy who hears we need a new bed sheet and actually goes and buys us one!) The sheet was folded around cardboard and came in a fancy ziplock bag. I thought to myself: this could be the start of a space-themed coloring set!

total cost = $2 for the markers

I cut out the cardboard pieces with an exacto knife, leaving extra cardboard at the bottom to fold under and make a stand for each piece. Then I outlined the drawings with a sharpie. All in all a pretty low-intensity project, but I was happy with the result. Hopefully it'll be fun to color in for like five minutes.

ready for color!

I don't know if the present was well received or not. The gift time was hijacked midway through when Hendrick opened a Nano Hex Bug. If you have a 4-year-old boy in your life, do not waste time cutting out cardboard; go online and buy him a Nano Hex Bug for his next birthday. Better yet, buy him several Nano Hex Bugs. That way you don't have to retrieve each one when it scurries under the sofa. Trust me on this one. These are tiny robotic bugs that vibrates, and the vibrations make the things wander around when you put them on the ground, as well as really annoy other kids if you put it in their hair. Really, the party theme should have been Nano Hex Bugs. I don't want to try to tell them what to do for next year, but I'm just saying...


train basket

Harvey chooses pieces carefully

Using up the last of my 1/4 inch flat-oval reed, this basket is just big enough to fit on the shelf while holding all our train tracks. It's a pretty big basket.

going in for a closer look

I have sworn I won't buy any more basket material until two thing happen: 1) I clean and organize the office, and 2) I get some extra money somehow. Neither seem likely, so it looks like a break from baskets is in my future. Unless I can figure out how to get my small scraps into two Easter baskets for next year. If I can use 1/4 inch flat for stakes and weave with seagrass, then the answer might be 'maybe.'


dehydrator cover

A few weeks ago I got a free dehydrator from my sister-in-law. Well, I should back up in this story. A few months ago I was standing in front of two large bunches of kale looking like they were too big to ever fit in a pot, and I was thinking to myself, "I want a dehydrator. I want to make kale chips. How come everyone else can buy all the stuff they want and I can't get a dehydrator?"

And then I didn't even look up dehydrators online. Because we don't actually buy things.

Then we were in Ithaca and my sister-in-law whipped out this old dehydrator from her closet and said, "Do you want this? I bought it for $10 at a yard sale and I never use it."

Suddenly there were A LOT of kale chips.

After a few hundred kale chips I realized why someone might want to GET RID of a dehydrator. Because while it's awesome for dehydrating food and all, it's not awesome for constantly being in the middle of your kitchen and being the size of a small oven.


I decided I needed to make a dehydrator cover.

"You should make it quilted!" said Dan, who still hasn't gotten his custom queen-size quilt that he asked for over four years ago. I don't love quilting.

But because it would be pretty in the kitchen, and because it's quicker to make than a queen-size quilt, I set about to make a quilted dehydrator cozy. Here is how I do quilting:

First, I look through my shelf of cotton fabric, which is mostly tiny pieces of fabric that other people have given me, and I hold up colors together until I have chosen five or six fabrics that look lovely in a stack. Then I congratulate myself on a project started and go do something else. This step is marked with elation and over-confidence.

A few days later I set about cutting the fabric into strips. This is where I start to get disheartened about quilting. Cutting up all this fabric? Only to sew it up again? Everything is meaningless! Also, I realize some of my fabric isn't big enough to stretch across the dehydrator, and I go to choose more fabric, and then I don't like the colors of the second string fabric, and then I start to complain, "How come everyone else can buy all the fabric they want and I have to sit around piecing scraps of fabric?" And then I remember: because that is the actual original purpose of quilting. To make bigger things from scraps of fabric. In my cheapness I am like a reborn pioneer! The feeling of smug self-congratulation carries me to the next step.

Which is sewing. Sewing can happen only when the children are awake and happily occupied without me. If they are asleep the sewing machine will wake them up, and if they are bored they will try to destroy the office until I yell at them. So I do my quilting in 20-minute increments right after they have a snack.

At some point I have made enough quilted fabric to sew up the dehydrator cover. I do the final steps at warp speed while Dan has the kids at the library. I hastily sew the sides and hastily hem the bottom. Turns out the cover is a bit big because I didn't account for the stretch in the fabric. Too bad! I'm not redoing jack! I am already 100% fed up with this project.


After all that cursing, the final project blends in with our kitchen almost (ahem) effortlessly.



stuff i made

I'm planning on posting a few crafting entries this week: short blog posts with pictures of some stuff I made over the past month. I have mixed feelings about doing this. I've recently fallen out of love with craft blogs. All of a sudden I decided that posting pictures of stuff you make seems so... so... self-congratulatory. Like, did you enjoy making it? Is it useful? Great, why not just leave it at that. Why does it need to be also: and then I made my friends and family feel inferior by cataloguing my creative gifts plus my perfectionist drive to do hours and hours of extra work while healthy people would be resting.

But whatever. I made some shit and I took photos. And I may want to have a record of my projects for the future. So I'm gonna post them in the hopes that my stuff is so low quality that no one reading this blog will feel at all inferior.

In that vein, let's start with the quickest, lowest quality sewing project of the month. Ninja turtle masks. This was a birthday present for our neighbors who asked for them specifically. I took about an hour-and-a-half to make four of them. Not too bad.

heroes in a half shell

They tie behind like the real masks on the cartoon characters. How did mothers accurately recreate superhero masks before Google image search, I'll never know. Here's a lame picture of me squinting into the sun while trying on Raphael's.

cool but rude

The kids looked much cuter in them, of course, but I didn't bring my camera to the birthday party. Because I have a very low level of commitment to my craft blogging.


More crafting as beekeeping diversion

While I wait for Dan to upload the photos of the hive work I did on Wednesday, I'll share some images from a different hobby, something I don't suck at as much as beekeeping. I'm talking about making crap out of felt.

Harvey and Zion sitting on the porch in their felt crowns

kings of the front porch

Harvey asked for a new crown for his birthday, but a crown is so easy to whip up I thought why wait a month when what he really wants is to play with a crown right now. I let Harvey and Zion pick their felt colors, and I also let them lay out the "confetti" embellishments on the top, which was an exercise in not being controlling. (Zion's you can see is a little too precise, evidence that I did it for him under loose direction.) Once the pieces were in place I embroidered them down with french knots, some of which, Harvey points out, are looser than others. I have no idea where his perfectionism comes from.

it's good to be the king

I also increased the number of felt characters Zion can play with in his Easter set. You remember the original three I made on Easter, in addition to the cross and the tomb:

easter starter set

Under the children's direction I added some other characters. See if you can identify all of them from your vast knowledge of biblical iconography.

the new guys

Hopefully everyone correctly identified the angel and to his left Pontius Pilate (the bowl for hand-washing is the clue). On the bottom row we have four disciples: Peter who is holding the rooster, Simon the zealot, Judas Iscariot carrying the money bag (whose hair is streaked gray from worry), and Mark, whose robe is loosely tied like it's about to fall off when he runs away. I listed them from right to left because they lived in Hebrew times.

I have several more faces made for other disciples and for Pharisees, but I don't have any black for the priests and I didn't know how to convey 'tax-collector' or 'doubter' or 'son-of-thunder' in felt accessories, so I took a break. Maybe I'll have a burst of creativity next time I sit down at my sewing desk.

The boys are playing with the characters right now, and they seem to have lost one because they are standing on the porch calling "Jesus? Jeeeeeeesus???" Either that or something really cool is going on outside.


a new sweater

Fourteen new frames are ready to be added to the bee house tomorrow. They're all assembled and prepped with wax starter strips, an effort which took several hours over the past few days. In the two weeks since I got these bees it seems that I've done absolutely everything wrong short of killing the queen. The hive is an absolute mess inside, and they are building comb willy-nilly and attached to the feeders. To rectify the situation, I will need to take the hive apart, insert the new frames, and remove the two feeders. Removing one feeder last week killed 50 bees. Tomorrow's job will be about 30 times more difficult. I am... how do you call it? stressed.

So can I change the subject and talk about something I'm good at for like half a second here? I recently finished a sweater.

This is a do-over of a sweater I made last year and then ruined. Because I tried to wash it on a hand-wash cycle in the machine. Because I 'm lazy. Shit, this was supposed to be a feel-good post where I don't look like a moron... oh well, I guess that's not true to life.

This new sweater is knit out of superwash blend, which means it can go in the washer and dryer and all that'll happen is a bit of pilling and maybe some un-raveling in the ends of the colorwork. Which is a fine trade-off to washing by hand and drying for three days every time somebody pukes on me.

Meanwhile, if anyone with narrower shoulders than me wants an all-wool sweater that's kind of maternity puffy in the middle on account of the hip flare shrinking up to sit over the stomach? I have just the thing for you. If you want to trade for beekeeping assistance, that's even better.


birthday baby beds

This is what the children requested for Zion's homemade birthday present. Baby beds. It was a collaborative effort between the in-house seamstress and the in-house woodworker. Which is to say, mama and dada.

tucking in pow pow

The boys both picked out their fabric from the shelf of cotton and I made the simplest pillow/quilt combinations I could come up with. Lines and squares. I don't have a lot of solo sewing time these days, so I'm not really stretching myself creatively. You want a quilt? You can have lines or squares. You can have anything you want, as long as I can do it nearly in my sleep.

well matched for my well matched boys

Dan did some fancy wood-working to produce the beds, which involved the scroll saw I annoyingly gave him for his birthday last year. ("Here's a saw, now make waldorf toys! I can't make them; you make them! happy birthday!")

We finished up the mattresses and mattress-holding-elements just a few hours before Zion's party. Dan didn't want to finish the frame until he saw the stuffed mattress, and I didn't want to make the mattress until I could see the frame. We've been married for seven years now, but one of these days we'll figure out how to work on something together. Then on Saturday afternoon when we were sewing and nailing AND hanging up party decorations I said to Dan, "We can really get stuff done if we leave it to the absolute last minute."

nice and comfy

At any rate, the babies in this house are very well-cared-for. Sleep well sweet PowPows!


a piece of lace

My dear friend Oona is getting married this summer. This is the Oona who shlepped all the way across the country for my wedding seven years ago, who followed me around for a week holding my purse, who patiently laced up the back of my corset dress as I sucked in my breath and hissed, "I want it thinner! thiiiiinnnnnneeeer!"

I even LOOK bitchy

This dear Oona is getting married, and I will not be there because I am totally lame. Because I have two young children who I don't want to take on a plane. EVER. Because I have crossed over that line between cool-wedding-goer and just-wants-to-go-to-bed-at-a-decent-hour. Because I now get my kicks by staying home and knitting.

pristine for the wedding day

To assuage my guilt over not flying to Seattle, I knit Oona something special for her wedding, a lace garter which holds the distinction of being the first piece of lace I ever tried. I knit it out of white cotton on size 1 needles. There were 23 rows in the lace sequence, none of which were easily rememberable, and my children rejoiced in stealing the stick-it I was using for a place holder. In other words it was a uphill battle. I don't think I'll do another lace project until my children are grown and/or I have another wedding to decline.

Suffice it to say the difficulty of the project assuaged my guilt over missing the wedding, at least for the moment.

And hey, if Oona doesn't want to wear the garter as her "something new" or "something blue" she can always save it for her future progeny. It doubles as a mean headband.

not old enough to know why this might be weird


the sweet Well Done in judgement's hour, aka Easter sewing revealed

The Lord hasn't given me any female children (yet), but Jesus be praised I have two boys who love dressing up. Especially in mama-made clothes. The only problem with doing fittings on Harvey is it's hard to get the clothes back afterwards! And there's only one thing they love more than new handmade clothing: dressing their babies in new handmade clothing.

at least PowPow's vest doesn't have cream-cheese on it.

When the boys found the tiny suits in their baskets on Easter morning, they both immediately asked to have their babies dressed. Zion's 22-month-old voice saying "My baby easter pants on?" was just about the sweetest sound I ever heard.

Harvey proudly showed PowPow to every adult at church who looked his way, but he was quick to point out that, "PowPow's vest doesn't have pockets." So don't say that they match, okay?

Because it's not enough that I copied the kid's pants pattern by giving the babies tiny hand-sewn cuffs that were too small to stitch on the machine. 1/8 inch pockets would have made the match BELIEVABLE.

I actually had a conversation with myself on Friday night: should I edge-stitch the baby vests? Yeah, I should definitely edge-stitch them. But I'm not going to do around the armholes because that would just be CRAZY.

Which goes to show that everyone's definition of crazy ends in a different place. Harvey just thinks mine should have extended past pin-sized pockets.

Here's Harvey lifting his hand to experience more of the Holy Spirit.

Actually, he's not saying More Lord as much as he's saying More Juice!

I am so proud of my two beautiful boys. Every single moment of sewing is worth it.

you bite that snake's head, Zion


Easter report 2013

Harvey in his brown Easter suit holding his basket

welcoming the happy morning

Easter is about many things, chief among them the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but around here we tend to focus on cute clothes for the kids.

Harvey is always appreciative of his finery, but Zion wasn't the biggest fan first thing in the morning; his refrain of "no Easter pants!" lasted until he realized that he would be the only one among boys and baby dolls without a matching outfit if he didn't go along with the program. Even then, he wasn't entirely happy to stand and be photographed.

Zion in his brown Easter suit holding a baby doll and a snake

I don't know what the snake represents

But after a delightful time at "big church" (that's what the boys call it when there's no Sunday school and they come in to worship with the grownups) even he started to feel like there might be something in this Easter business after all, especially when playgrounds were involved.

Zion smiling at the top of the slide

preferred activity

Then we headed home for our giant party, which was well-supplied with food and drink by our wonderful friends and family, allowing us to begin it with a nearly clean kitchen. Our part was setting up the egg hunt and, while there was some brief unpleasantness over the unequal distribution of eggs, in the end I think we managed to provide everybody with a passable entertainment.

Harvey and friends opening their plastic egg finds

checking out the haul

We didn't manage to get a good family photo this year, but we had a wonderful day otherwise and feel full of both the Holy Spirit and the love of friends and family—not to mention a tremendous lot of food too. Now why do I have to go to work tomorrow?!

Happy Easter everyone!


At least this much is done.

It's that time of year again, the time for frantically sewing Easter suits. Well, the pants are done, and the ties, and one vest minus buttons and pockets and suspender clips in the back. And one pair of pants for one Pow Pow baby doll. That's all done. What's left is another baby doll pair of pants (hand sewn because they're two small to fit under the machine) and two baby doll vests and ties, and finishing Harvey's vest and starting Zion's. And cleaning my house for a party and stuffing 50 plastic eggs. And cooking... something.

Hosana in the highest.

In past years I've made stuffed animals to go in the easter baskets, but I backed off this year because the kids didn't really take to the chicks I made last year and because they have too many animals as it is. And I'm doing the suits for their babies, which is sort of a toy. I did, however, make them an 'educational' present to share. They've been having fun playing with the felt board sets lately, so I made them an extra fancy felt set for Easter. I give you the Golgatha play set:

felt board crucifixion figures

the tomb doubles as a carrying case!

I made a tomb, a big stone, Jesus, Mary, and a soldier. I know there are more characters in the story but I got bored. This will be enough for one year.

felt Mary Magdalene

early in the morning the women went to the tomb

I said to Dan while I was making Mary Magdalene, "This is the sluttiest looking two-dimensional felt doll I've ever made!"

Okay now, let's get serious.

felt board Jesus on the cross

embroidery floss crown of thorns

When Zion saw this figure in process he exclaimed happily "Dedus!" But that was before I attached the hair. The hair confused him and now he thinks it's a girl. I kept saying "Jesus" and he kept shaking his head and saying "gu-gul" and sometimes "mama." Yes, I know mama acts like a martyr sometimes but this would be pushing it.

Here he is with the stone rolled away.

felt jesus outside the empty felt tomb

For those of you who sew you can tell that both stone and tomb were dashed together in no time at all. I told you, I've got a lot to do this week.

Since this is a blog post about religion and crafting I should now say something high-level about offering faith to my children. Something stirring or questioning or heart-warming. But it's beyond me today. I don't think anything I can sew or say will romance my children into a relationship with Jesus. And that's probably for the best. If Jesus isn't compelling and magnetic, if he isn't good to his word and good to those who give their lives to him, then he isn't real. I'm banking on Jesus being real, so my only job is to get my children to recognize him when they see him.

With or without long hair.


ask and it shall be given unto you

complete with baby pocket

Pre-dawn prayer merits a response, even if it interrupts the progress on the Easter suits.

two pockets for two babies!

Two mornings to make two aprons. No, we could not make just ONE apron. What kind of a monster do you think I am?

I don't know why Zion sneaked his arm out the shoulder. It's not meant to be an asymmetrical style, but maybe he's got his own fashion ideas. After destroying the office with fabric scraps, buttons, and pins the boys were very happy to stand and pose. Say cheese little chefs!



sweaters for Pow Pows

I've mentioned recently on this blog that my children are a bit baby-crazy these days. The other night at the dinner table Harvey broke down crying and wailed, "I want another baby in our family!"

Harvey, I said, you can't wait seven minutes for pasta. I promise we'll have another baby some day, but you have no idea of the lead time involved.

In the mean time they have their baby dolls.

driving ms. baby

The baby dolls have become such a big deal this winter that I have taken to bringing them everywhere we go. I used to ask the kids if they wanted to bring a toy when we go out, but now I reflexively grab the babies and shove them in my purse. Heaven forbid we should arrive at church or Whole Foods and someone forgot that they wanted to hold their Pow Pow. That's what Harvey named his baby, "Pow Pow." Then he said, "What's your baby's name, Zion?" and Zion said "My baby Pow Pow." I can't say that surprised me.

Pow Pow rides on the big boy bike

As with other plastic toys, the babies came into our lives unbidden. Some boxes were passing through our home from Toys for Tots enroute to a friend, and one small box with a small baby accidentally slipped out where it could be found by Zion. That was the end of that - Zion NEEDED that baby doll (and after a week of very intense fighting it became clear that Harvey needed one too.) That, and a search on Amazon for "baby doll 7.5 inches" yielded twin babies with slightly different facial expressions. Though I would prefer they play with the hippy toys I sew for them, it warms my heart to see them caring for these dolls. They request empty bottles and bowls and spoons so they can feed the babies. They hand me books and ask if their babies can sit in my lap.

my dream family

During the snow storm I knitted the twin sweaters you see Pow Pow and Pow Pow sporting in these photos. Harvey and Zion each picked out a color of yarn and then I spent three days stitching away at a pattern I downloaded from Ravelry. The pattern was made for an 8-inch doll so the sweaters are a touch big. I was too lazy to size down and truthfully I didn't think it would take me as long as it did. Dan says the babies can grow into them.

When I think about what I want to teach my children, there are a lot of things I would like to model. I'd like them to see me make things with my hands, to see me approach chores cheerfully, to see me pray for other people. I worry that I don't have enough time for crafting or for charity, that I spend all my time tending to the kids' needs and those of the kitchen. Yet as I worry about the things I'm not demonstrating well, this one success quietly slipped by me.

Over the past two years I have successfully modeled how to lovingly care for a child.

attachment parenting pay it forward

I mean, I guess since that's what I've been doing with 95% of my time it's good that the boys noticed. Either that or they were just born unbelievably sweet. Probobly both are a little bit true.



Harvey lost his nice handmade mittens from two years ago, so this winter he's been making due with store-bought-by-someone-else hand-me-downs from our neighbor, while Zion went with some fleece ones I whipped up on the sewing machine. Neither was making me smile, so my early February project was a new set of mittens.

three pairs of mittens hanging on the porch rail


The brown ones in the middle were a touch too big for Harvey, so I saved them for next year and knit him the green pair for now. Zion picked out the yellow/blue color combo and they fit him the first time round. Thank God, because it took me at least a day to knit each mitten, and that's provided I scale down the house cleaning to a minimal level. I like making things a lot, but my stress is moderated better by a clean house.

close-up of the yellow and blue striped mittens

these ones are Zion's

I made some slight changes to Zoe Mellor's pattern, knitting these in the round to avoid purling and nixing the right-side/left-side differences because seriously kids do not need sided mittens. And if I say that you know it HAS to be true, because I insist that my store-bought SOCKS have a right and left side. If they don't start out that way they GET that way.

Also, this year I braided sone mitten strings, which I highly recommend doing. All kids mittens should have strings and should be strung through jackets. Then leaving the house will be theoretically stress-free and easy. Here is Zion demonstrating his awesome new mittens on strings. You can see he is wearing his coat and ready to leave the house. Behind him you can see Harvey, who even though he said he wanted to go to the feed store and Dabblers has now removed 100% of his clothing and is lying on the furniture basking in his nakedness.

we were so close to leaving...

"i got no strings to hold me down," he would say. If I let him watch Disney movies.


I guess I should blog the Christmas crafts some time

I made my family several from-the-heart gifts this year. To Harvey I gave these three wise-men dolls to go with the nativity set I made two years ago.

the three felt kings held in front of the Christmas tree

bearing red, orange and green

Also to go with that nativity, I made a (cashmere) donkey for Mary to ride on. But mostly for Zion to cuddle.

stuffed donkey in a sunbeam

soft and cuddly beast of burden

Of course, the boys promptly threw these gifts over their shoulders in search of the Thomas trains. Indeed, I was going to title this post "Shit I made that my children didn't want," but then Thursday morning I came downstairs to see Zion hugging the donkey and I exclaimed: "Oh Zion! You just saved Christmas."

I also knit my children sweaters, and forced them to pose for a picture. Because I want my love to be associated in their minds with torture.

Harvey in his sweater on Grandma's porch--motion blur on his arms

One more second out here and then I'm running back to play with my trains

Harvey liked the sweater well enough but didn't want to be photographed. Zion didn't want ANY part of any of it, but Dan somehow got him to smile for one second. Probably because he feared I would cancel Christmas next year if I didn't get a sweater picture.

Dada holding Zion on Grandma's porch

Dan refused a new sweater this year, so I made him a hat he didn't ask for

Those are new hats too. Dan's was actually a Christmas gift, while Zion's was taken from the open-to-gift drawer at the last minute when I couldn't find his normal hat. (Note for the future: it was in the sleeve of his coat.)

The boys wore their sweaters for over 24 hours each, so I guess this round of gifting was a success. Truth be told, amidst baby sickness and big-boy greediness I mostly just wanted to get Christmas over with this year. It can be hurtful to me when my kids don't like the things I make out of love for them. At the same time, I realize this puts way too much pressure on them, emotionally speaking. I am now an expert on the emotional development of children since my mother-in-law gave me not one, but TWO parenting books for Christmas. So now when I say, "Do you like your gifts?" and my kids shout, "I only like Thomas trains!" I know that what they're really saying is "Do you love me unconditionally?"

"Do you love me unconditionally?" their little subconsciouses cry, "Or do I have to be all getting high on your hippy up-cycled Martha Stewart BS to receive your love?"

And when you put it like that, well no, none of this is important. Maybe I should love you some other was that isn't so time consuming. Maybe Christmas just makes me crazy. Good thing they love ME unconditionally.

outa here!


Christmas woodworking

I'm gradually scaling up my Christmas woodworking. Two years ago I made a spice rack; last Christmas it was a much-needed shoe rack to go by the front door. This year I made an attempt at a bed for Harvey—well, a headboard—and I think it came out fine.

Harvey's new head-board on its test run

testing if it fits

It was motivated by my desire not to have Harvey resting his pillow, or his head, directly on the baseboard heater—and to make the room just a little more beautiful, of course. As well as being necessary to fit around the windows, the design was inspired by Handmade Houses, a book the boys and I very much enjoyed looking through last month. Only I haven't sorted out access to any sustainable or repurposed lumber, so I settled for good old #2 pine from the Home Depot, which was lovely soft and easy to cut and sand. Smells nice too when you're lying in the bed.

This is not great carpentry; it's barely even acceptable carpentry, in fact! But I like it, and Harvey likes it, and it cost about $30 to make, so that's not bad. I think there can be many good arguments made in favor of enthusiastic amateurism: as I reported to Leah in regards to the sewing, "I made lots of mistakes, but most of them not more than once. That's called learning!" The same applies to my woodworking. I'd probably do even better if I made more than one thing a year!


some of my home-made Christmas output

two pot-holders and an ornament

the best I can do

I lead with the sewing because I'm so inordinately proud of myself. Leah is a great teacher but can't be blamed for any of the flaws in the finished products: I'm rather a poor student.

several jars of jam, jelly, and pickles

new lables for 2012

With the preserves I'm more in my element; ditto for the label design. The hardest thing here was figuring out what to give everyone: we put up so much this year that I had to restrain myself from giving each family member multiple jars of various jams and pickles. I know not everyone goes through preserves as eagerly as we do.

I didn't spare my immediate family from the jar-based gifts either. Leah graciously accepted a jar of apple butter that she had as much of a hand in making as I did, and Harvey delighted in his little jar of bread-and-butter pickles. He opened it right up and ate who knows how many right away; apparently they went very well with his Christmas banana.


home-made hardships

The problem with doing a home-made Christmas is you actually have to make the stuff. That's easy enough for some people, but as I've lamented in the past, I'm not that good at it. Especially the sewing, where I'm in fact aggressively, embarrassingly bad. Yet I persist, for lack of any better ideas. Between that and the wood-working attempts—not to mention the Christmas baking—I'm pretty busy, and I also have to make sure to give Leah some cover to work on her own projects; you know, the ones that actually turn into something beautiful and useful.

Not that I'm a complete failure. The jam and pickles I suppose are passable, and this year I should get some credit for growing yet more of what we put up (and for an ever greater variety of preserved product). I may also have ventured once more into the world of beer-making, with a little more independence this time, so that's something too. But it's all hard work, and keeps me up well past my bedtime night after night. Despite what you might think, the hippy crafting lifestyle isn't always joy and rainbows!

It sure does make us feel proud in the end, though. I think that makes it worthwhile, right?


Hand-sewn iPad case

wrap your ipad in a cozy sweater

My friend Luke asked me to make a pattern for an iPad case that could come together without the help of a sewing machine.

peaking out to ask if you want to watch trains. WE DON'T RIGHT NOW!

If you enjoy hand-sewing, then maybe this could be a fun and easy project for you too! I sew a lot of things on the machine, but I find a quiet hour of hand sewing particularly restorative for my soul. If you want to try it out for yourself then follow the steps below.

The finished iPad case will be 10 inches high by 8 inches wide. I use 1/2" seam allowances for the whole pattern.

Here are the materials:

the materials

actually I ended up using brown thread instead of white. But if I wasn't doing a tutorial I would have used coordinating thread as shown above.

I need 3 fabrics: outer layer, puffy fabric, and lining. For the outer layer I'm using an old sweater. For the lining I'm using some white cotton. For the puffy layer I'm using quilt batting but you could use fleece or another layer of sweater. I also have thread, embroidery thread, and a needle. Oh, and in the end I use a button and a strand of elastic, but these are optional.

Cut one piece 11" x 9" out of each fabric. (I cut this piece out of the cotton first because it was the easiest to measure being the flattest. Then I traced that piece for the other two fabrics.)

cutting out the pieces

the lining fabric cut out and on top of the outer layer

Note: If you are using a recycled sweater, it's best to cut off the sleeves and cut through the side seems first so you have a flat single-layer of fabric to work with.

Cut another piece 9 inches wide and 11 inches high with a trapeziod shape coming off the top for the closing tab. (because this part can be any shape I cut it free hand on the first piece and then traced that piece for the other two.) For those being finicky, the top of my closing tab was four inches higher than my other piece, and 5 inches less wide at the top. Just look at the photo if you're confused.

ipad case pieces

all the pieces, 6 in total

Now you'll sew each half of the ipad case seperately. Make a sandwhich, stuffing down first, then inner layer right side up, then top layer right side down. What's important is that the top and lining layer have right sides facing each other. Sew around this piece using a running stitch and a 1/2 seam allowance. Leave 2" unsewn for turning it inside out. I used regular thread for this part. I'll use dark brown so you can see what I'm doing.

one side of the ipad case inside out

one half of the ipad case sewn all the way around, less 2 inches

Note: my running stitches are 1/4 to 1/2 inches apart. This doesn't need to be your life's work because you will sew on top of this again later.

Do the same thing for the other half of the ipad case. I made the turning holes in different places so they wouldn't stack on top of each other when the case is assembled.

Now turn each piece right-side-out through the hole you left so you can see the top layer on one side and the lining on the other.

halfway done!

halfway done!

Lay the pieces together in the way they will look in the finished case.

take a long piece of embroidery floss or yarn, (I used three lenghts of my 2 arms). Pull the needle from the bottom to the top through all the layers about 1/4" away from the edge. Lay the tail over the working thread.

the start of the buttonhole stitch

Take a stitch, 1/4-inch from the edge and 1/4-inch to the right of the previous stitch, entering from the upper piece. Pull the needle out through the sole keeping the needle on top of the thread coming from the previous stitch, as shown above. This is a buttonhole stitch.

finishing the first buttonhole stitch

keep it going! It gets fun after a while!

Continue around the whole piece with buttonhole stitches. When you get to the part where the opening for turning is, hold the edges folded closed as if they were sewn and sew the buttonhole stitch on top of them.

At some point you will reach the top of the case where the iPad goes in. Don't sew it closed! Instead, continue buttonhole stitches straight across the shorter part leaving the curvy part unstitched. Then rejoin when you get to the other side of the opening.

After I've sewn across the straight part of the opening and I'm rejoining the two sides of the case together.

And then continue down to where you started. Tie a knot with the beginning string.

two strings ready to be tied in a double knot. I confess I always use a triple knot for safety.

Now for the top flap. Attach a new long piece of embroidery floss to a stitch on the inside of the case. Button hole stitch around the top part. When you get to the end make another knot on the inside.

where you attach the string to edge the top flap

Lastly for the closure. I sewed a button to the short side of the case roughly 2/3 of the way up. For a button hole I threaded a piece of elastic through the lining and tied a knot.

Tah dah!

Tah dah!

So there you go, a soft iPad case that you can make without any loud whirrs that might wake the babies. If you make this and it gets you out of buying someone a Christmas gift, please consider kicking back some money to the hard-working moms at Embracing Hope Ethiopia.

And Luke, if you want this as a more printer-friendly PDF Dan can make that happen for you. Um, after Christmas.


advent calendar

For the past two weeks I have been hard at work on an Advent calendar. That turns into a felt board. Made of very. small. pieces.

little guy

Come have some story time with me!

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."


Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

everyone must go!

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

in that country

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

they were sore afraid

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

we three kings

They followed the star until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Of course, when I tell the story to the children it'll be spread out over the month of December so they get a little bit each week. Each day there is a different felt character to find, and some days have bits of the story printed out as well. This is what it looked like laid out before I stuffed the pouches.

what a lot of stuff!

Well good thing that deadline is over! Wait, I have to make Christmas presents now???

Happy Advent!


Halloween crafts

Hey, here's a post about halloween crafts half-way through November! No judgement!

Actually, I've been waiting for a day when I have five minutes to spare and no deep thoughts... today seems to be the day! So without further ado here is some other crap I made for Halloween.

To go with their pirate costumes I made Harvey and Zion matching treasure chest bags.

ready for (more) goodies

Harvey had been asking for a bag that he could use to collect leaves and sticks without getting the inside wet. So I lined these bags with some vinyl I had lying in the scrap bin. I told Harvey the bag could serve two functions, first to collect candy, and then after to collect nature treasures.

harvey carrying his treasure bag through the woods

so much to look at, what should I pick up?

He quickly filled it with sticks and leaves, but then quickly took them out again. Still too dirty, he said, even with the easy-wipe interior.

Sewing experts will notice that the sides of the bag are a little too floppy, and I should have added a stabilizing layer. I agree. But I didn't have any stabilizer on hand and I'm out of money for crafting supplies until.... (?) These were made solely with materials I had laying around. The fleece handle was pure laziness, though. I should have used a less stretchy scrap fabric for the handle. Even Harvey complained that the handle was stretcy. All I can say is I learned my lesson on laziness this time... maybe.

On the other end of the DIY spectrum, we got some little kids craft kits from Grandpa's work. They contained all the pieces to make these hanging bats. The hard part was tracing the kids' hands for the wings and cutting them out. Other than that, everything stuck together like stickers.

Harvey's is the one with the non-standard nose

I dislike craft kits as a general rule. My kids are at an age where have to do 99% of the crafting work for them, and if that's the case I'd rather work on something creative I want to do, rather than pealing the backs off of pre-cut stickers. Which is just to say I think it's not worth the money when I can jimmy up two treasure chests for free from my fabric scraps. That said, my kids LOVE pre-packed bags full of craft crap, and Harvey for his part LOVES instructions and knowing how something is supposed to look. So they had a fun time, even if it was a mama set-up, mama cut stuff, mama clean-up kind of thing.

And now that it's November, the photo is all that remains of those stupid bats. That I moved from the floor to the refrigerator seventy times before finally putting them in the trash. Hey, it's almost time for turkey crafts anyway!


Halloween tricksters

The excitement over Halloween was higher this year than it's EVER BEEN in our family before. Harvey has reached the age of reason where he understands the excitement of trick-or-treating, the excitement of wearing a costume, the excitement of his friends coming over to GO TRICK-OR-TREATING IN COSTUMES, OH MY GOODNESS THE EXCITEMENT IS TOO MUCH.

Zion picked up on Harvey's energy, and it took a full hour to get them fully ready in their costumes. In a moment of brilliance I insisted that a bath was an essential part of transforming into a pirate. Then Zion ran around for a half hour in a pirate vest and nothing else. Once they were dressed it was no less crazy. Turns out pirates are difficult to photograph.



I also made myself a pirate costume. Unlike my children, I can stand still for a photograph.

would be sexier if the corset strings weren't elastic

I'm so happy with the way these costumes came out I'm thinking of starting a dress-up box for the kids so they can play pirates more often. Katie suggested the improvement of sewing the sashes to the vest to keep them in place. Of course! Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that? I only adjusted their sashes like fifty times while trick-or-treating. I'll have to fix that as soon as I figure out where in the house they stashed their sashes.

Though you can't tell from the photos, these costumes were the most complex ones I've made to date, even using "real" clothing patterns for the shirts and pantaloons. The fabric was rather cheap; I did it all with $20 of supplies, but then I spent $15 on the stockings to wear under the pants so I don't really feel that thrifty. (Also, stockings? WTF? Parents of girls put those things on their children all the time? It took me like ten minutes alone to get those stockings on my kids.) Dan's mom made a comment that sewing will get easier once Zion can wear Harvey's old costumes and I was like, "What are you talking about? They have to MATCH!"

After canvasing the neighborhood for candy we came back to our house for a big halloween bash. It was a bash in the sense that it was a smashing good time and also because the kids bashed the house into every kind of mess you could possibly imagine. We haven't quite dug out yet. Everyone here has a mega candy hangover. No wonder his holiday is scary!

storm something!


on booties and babies

booties on the steps

booties for upcoming babies

I have two friends with babies due in the coming months, so I spent a week making booties. Each will be presented with a set of ties in blue and another set in pink. It gives me a warm feeling when other moms wait to find out the gender of their child. I didn't find out with both my pregnancies, but then our choice of treatment was such that it excluded ultrasounds. Still, there are good reasons to wait other than the ultrasound place is way across town. When I was pregnant with Harvey, a woman in the grocery store (after accosting me by saying "OMG YOU'RE SO HUGE! IS IT A BOY OR A GIRL?") told me, "I liked waiting to find out with mine. There are so few surprises in life."

Upon reflection, this is water-spittingly false. So few surprises in life? Whose life are you leading, lame-o? My life is FULL of surprises. What will my family be like in one year? In five years? How on earth can I know? When I think about it, what's stifling is how few things I can actually PLAN. So to prospective parents I say: don't find out the gender of your unborn child. Let the lack of foreknowledge prepare you for the wild ride of uncertainty that is parenthood.

Speaking of "planning" and "families," in my master plan for my life I was supposed to get pregnant this month. We were supposed to conceive all our children two years apart, stamping em out, until we get a girl, cough-cough gag, I mean, until our family is the perfect size that Jesus intended.

I say this last line a little sarcastically. I hold in tension two opposing views of conception, one that God has a plan for each life he wants to bring into our family, and two that this is what crazy rabbit people say when they are being crazy about not using birth control. Seriously guys, life may be an amazing miracle from God, but we're not really in the dark about how it happens, are we? A good portion of my brain is the rational cause-and-effect part of my brain, and that part says unprotected sex results in babies. Period. If you have unprotected sex you are making a choice. As God is your witness.

Because I have this curse of rational thinking, we are not getting pregnant this month. A midwife costs $3000 and we don't have that kind of cash on hand. Also my health has been poor recently and Zion's baby-ish behavior makes me worry he's not quite ready to be a big brother. All good reasons to put off conception. Economists everywhere, you may now rejoice that poor people sometimes behave rationally.

Yet when it strikes the desire for a baby is rather strong, isn't it? Or is it just me. I'm torn between labeling this a "normal biological imperative" vs "crazy Leah type of bullshit." The truth is I find my desires a bit scary and uncontrollable. (I'm not talking in a cagey way about sex here - those desires mostly bore or irritate me.) When I feel like I really want to do something, like dreading my hair for example, the desire sweeps in like a cold front, like a force of nature. It consumes me waking and sleeping until somehow I find a way to make it happen. Sometimes I think this is a good thing - I must have a strong ability to feel the leading of the Holy Spirit and that's why I can't let something go when it feels important. Sometimes I think it's more likely a bad thing, like undiagnosed bipolar disorder. And I should remind myself that not every crazy desire is a mandate from Heaven that THIS. MUST. HAPPEN. Over the summer my urge was impossibly strong to move out of our house and live something somewhere else for a while, but that thing didn't pan out and the world hasn't collapsed as a result.

Anyway, yeah. Baby booties. A little bit sad and a little bit relieved that they aren't for my baby. I don't know if or when the next baby Archibald will be needing booties. For now I'd better get to work on those big boy sweaters.


first fitting

harvey and zion in the first fitting of their costumes

almost ship shape

Dan gave me lots of time to sew today, so by afternoon we were ready for the "full" fitting of the Halloween costumes. I've gotta change the hem of that vest to get it out of Harvey's face, and also make a sash that looks a bit more "finished" aka not cut out of felt. Zion for his part refuses to wear his vest and sash, though I'll alter his as well in case he changes his mind come Halloween night.

Oh, and it also turns out that putting a pirate costume on a three year old makes them go CRAZY.

harvey going crazy in his pirate costume



sometimes I get things done

I made myself a sweater.

a mama-type sweater

This is a raglan-style sweater, the pattern for which I bought off Ravelry. I won't link to the pattern because it's got problems. Mainly that the sleeves balloon like hammer pants. I'm a bit disappointed, but not enough to take out the sleeves and re-knit them. A sweater is a sweater, and it serves its purpose for the chilly fall days.

Leah (in her new sweater) and Zion enjoying a fall picnic

enjoying a fall picnic

I'm just starting the boys' Christmas sweaters now. I'm using yarn I got for $5 at a yard sale, so I'm crossing my fingers that I'll have enough and that the finished products will turn into something usable.

I like having knitting projects ongoing because it's fairly easy to pick them up when I have a free second, and then put them down again. Unlike sewing projects which need a good chunk of time to accomplish anything. Those are driving me a bit batty these days. As in Halloween batty. I swear, why I settled on identical four-piece costumes is beyond me. I still need to hem the pants, and then I have vests, sashes, and hats to make. Every day I announce to my family "I want to do some sewing today," as if that'll make my children say, "Oh sure, go ahead, I'll just take out this book and read to myself quietly."

So, yeah, knitting it is.


all this could be yours

Are you so envious of our hippy lifestyle that you want to take home a little piece of the squibix farm? Well now you can. Under great pressure from family and friends I've opened an Etsy shop.

soap labels

if you live locally you can just stop by and avoid shipping and handling charges

Over there you can buy things like my home-made soap. Or toddler ties. Or a bib made from a genuine chicken-feed-bag.

chicken bib

prevents against spills and pecking

That's all there is for the moment, actually. In my overall life I make a lot more things for which people tell me, "You could SELL that!" (monetary value being the dominant way to ascribe value to anything) but the fact that something could be put up for sale doesn't mean that it should be, and Etsy seems to be great at pitting artists against each other so that everyone's time ends up valued at something like $2/hour. So what we have for now is soap, ties, and bibs, and if the whole thing is a waste of time it can come down in 40 days with me only losing $4 in listing fees.

Also, the pictures of Harvey modeling ties are fairly cute. I would say, "He could be a model" but that's another example of valuing things by stating only how they could be monetized. I'd hate to fall prey to Balam's error (Balam's error being that he tried to monetize his gifts from God) but then again that's only really explained in Jude 1:11 and Jude has a lot of biblical interpretation that is a little "what the what" in relation to the rest of the bible so take it all with a pillar of salt.

So, er, check it out. This is somewhat purposefully the worst marketing pitch I have ever written. I have been out of the game a long time.


wedding weekend

Zion and Harvey sitting against a cabin door wearing matching outfits

this was the spot they chose for their photograph

As Dan mentioned, we had a big weekend of wedding guesting. I went easy on myself and just made ties for the boys instead of full suits. And a gift basket for the bride & groom, which we filled with lovely jam and soaps that I failed to photograph because we're not a real crafting blog here.

Harvey raising a beer

saddle up to the bar

I mean, I just wanted to get to the partying! Thankfully the other parents at the wedding were pretty laid back and nobody called DSS on me for letting my child play with a beer bottle. That, um, had actual beer in it. That Harvey swigged before passing to his friend.

Harvey handing a beer to his new friend John

can you say "enabler"?

I swear it was only a very small amount of beer. And it was MY beer bottle, so at least it didn't carry outside germs. I mean, for my kids, not for the kid who got the sloppy seconds.

We did a lot of swimming and playing with the Ithaca Archibalds. It sure is nice to be on a beach filled with boats. On the second day Zion finally deigned to go in the kayak with me, but only if he could go naked.

Mama and naked Zion in the kayak

the cuddliest kayak partner

And the elder Archibalds went on an adventure together.

the canoe with Dan, Harvey, Nisia, and Uncle Tom

the big kids back from their long adventure

All in all a lovely weekend, though tiring. Weddings and swimming both have a way of making a lot of laundry, so in a way I'm glad fall is coming and no one else is getting married for a while.


something I made... a long time ago

I made this shirt for Harvey back in my t-shirt making craze of twenty-ten. It never fit Harvey quite right, but Zion's turning out to be a bit slimmer in his toddlerhood so the shirt is getting a second life.

pom pom shirt on zion

late summer ice cream

I upcycled this from Dan's old PomPom shirt, purchased from way back when it was the height of internet entertainment. Harvey says that the character looks like a "batman turtle."

Oh yeah, and we ate some ice-cream. Harvey ate some too in his non-handmade shirt from the gap.

harvey eating ice cream

messy too


lowering local property values with fabric!

As Dan mentioned a few weeks ago I rustled up some new fabric decorations for Harvey's birthday party. It wasn't a major production. I just grabbed some pieces of scrap, cut them into strips and tied them together. I did the whole thing downstairs sitting with Harvey in front of the air conditioner. I'm into small projects these days.

birthday porch decorations

easy and festive

Dan came in several times to ask if I was suuuuuure we'd still have enough fabric to quilt with later, and things like, "That fabric? It's so pretty! Are you sure we can't use it for something else?" I've given him little evidence in the past to trust my resourcefulness, so I guess it's fair.

After it was all done and installed, though, Dan seemed to like it and added, "You should make a patchwork flag!" So next time he took the kids out to Market Basket I took him up on the idea.

patchwork flag

proudly flying for... something

Two hours total. No hems, because I want it to fray in a "funky" way dash I am sooo lazy right now. Have I mentioned I'm really tired?

Anyway, I hope the flag announces in some symbolic way that we're a hippy crafty house. But I guess anyone could tell that by the sheer volume of bikes and lumber and crap on the front porch. No wonder no one notices the flag!

outside our house

what it normally looks like around here... stroller parking


Zebra for Zion

I did make Zion something for his birthday, by the way. I'm not a completely failed crafter. It was a pretty easy project; I'm trying to make my gifts for the kids smaller in general because I have to find places to store all these things, and at the rate of 6 stuffed animals a year, that's a lot of places to find.

zion's zebra

zebra for Zebra

I made the body of the zebra from the arm of an old sweater. (Old being a relative term. It's not as old as it should be to end up in the scrap pile, but old enough to not fit over my fat post-pregancy shoulders. Seriously, what happened to my shoulders these past three years?) I did the stripes with ric rac sewed on after the zebra was stuffed. The tail and mane are also ric rac. I'll give you a belly shot so you can see how the ric rac was spiraled.

belly of the zebra stuffed animal

belly of the beast

Harvey also made a present for Zion, a train that we assembled from a kit with glue and paint and lots of frustrated perspiration.

harvey and the painted train

that artist and his creation

It's not that I don't like doing crafts with my child. I get frustrated trying to do something as simple as read a book to Harvey. Anything other than playing blocks on the floor, and Zion crawls on top of me, bites the book, and then starts screaming. In this environment I don't know why I thought it would work for me to hold the pieces of a train model together as the glue dried.

Suffice it to say that I don't have process photos.

It's a good thing Zion liked both of his handmade presents. When you're actively trying to please him he's rather easy to please.

zion playing with his presents

birthday boy, with lots of makers who love him


more baskets

I have some more baskets to share. I've been kind of running low on creative juices following the Easter craft-a-ganza, so I'm just gonna share a bunch of projects I made in March and let you think that I'm a supermom when in reality I'm just, like, a lazy blogger. Okay, full disclosure out of the way, then. Baskets!

First the ugly.

ugly basket

holding ugliness, among other things

After I got this book in the mail I thought I would start from first principles, so I made the "basic basket." Only I thought it would look nifty if I alternated oval weavers with flat ones and turned out this messy looking mess. Not hideous, just not something I want to look at every day in my home. So I have an extra gift basket come Christmas. I already told Dan he needs to build more basket storage in the basement.

Then I made this one for Dan which I LOVE.

muffin basket

for muffins or eggs, as you like it

This is everything a basket should be, in my opinion. Simple, baskety, with a functional handle that doesn't require adding additional pieces at the end. It's called a muffin basket in the book, but we use it to gather eggs at the end of the day. Maybe I'll make more of these if we want to give away muffins in the future.

Now here's one I actually made recently. When my bestie Oona called to say she's getting married (!!!) I knew I had to make her a special engagement present. Indeed, I blurted out over the phone, "I'm going to make you something. It might be like... a basket filled with soap."

oonas fancy basket

a big basket for big news

I wanted to make a basket that would be useful in the married home, so I decided to make something kind of massively big. This one looked big enough to store all of our Thomas tracks and trains, so theoretically it could store towels, or linens, or sex toys or whatever it is that childless people keep in their homes. Really I don't know.

It's also the first basket I made with a filled-in bottom.

inside of big basket

sturdy bottom

I love the way the handles look wrapped in the sea grass. I went a little overboard securing them with hot glue, but I wanted to make sure the thing would be super strong for lugging a heavy load of sex toys. God forbid a handle pop off in mid flight and then Oona blame me for breaking all her expensive sex toys. Also the embroidery is made of seagrass too.

What, too much about the sex toys? Well that's what Oona gets for making me a bachelorette party packed with penis paraphanalia.

And yes, I did fill the basket with soap, and jam and relish and a jillion packing peanuts. In the future I'll be a bit more aware of standard package sizes before I start weaving... I had to cast about for an applieance box to send this thing to Seattle.

That's all the baskets I have to share for now. I'm slowing down a bit on the baskets since I realized they cost me at least $10 a piece in materials, which is kind of a lot to be throwing around when there's a lack of basement storage and no one really asking me for baskets. The kids ARE asking me for t-shirts, but I can't figure out what's wrong with my serger and it doesn't help that I want to punch it every time I turn it on. Maybe I'll just order some more reed on Amazon...


Easter Suits

Getting a collared shirt, bow-tie, and vest on Zion this morning was like trying to wrestle an alligator. An alligator who only wants to suck his thumb. For a moment I was convinced that "all is vanity." Why do I put myself and my children through this? Then Zion flailed towards me and I caught a glimpse of him, orange bow-tie, orange buttons, orange cheeks, and suddenly tears rushed to my eyes. My beautiful little boy! He's soooooo cute!

zion with easter egg

gentleman farmer

Harvey for his part likes getting dressed in lots of clothes, and together they made a striking pair.

Harvey and Zion posing in their Easter suits below the flower tree

still presentable after church and party

The sewing details are as follows: The pants are the Little Heartbreaker pattern from the book Sewing for Boys. A good pattern, even though it is long and exacting. Nothing too hard, just a lot of steps with the pleats and the pockets and the edge stitching every which way. Still, I really like the look, if you can make it in the right size. I made Harvey's in size 4/5 and that was a big mistake. He normally wears a size 4, but the pattern came out way too big and I needed to take in an inch on either side. Even so the pants were falling down throughout the day, and I had to make some impromptu pleats in the back with safety pins. So he won't get much wear out of this pair, but I'm thinking of making some jeans for him in the 2/3 size. He really does like those pockets.

zion standing in his easter suit

serious duds for a serious baby

The vests are based on a free Burda Style pattern that Dan helped me size up for Harvey and down for Zion. They go together really easy for a big presentation value. I got some great compliments at church along the lines of "Where did you FIND those outfits?!! Gasp! You made those?" (Yeah, that's totally why I do this, ego pet pet.) Unfortunately, our best guess at the pattern drafting wasn't quite wide enough for Zion's ball-shaped body, so I used elastic closures around the buttons instead of button holes. It ended up looking really cute, and gave him a lot more room to maneuver his pudgy little torso. And it was easier for me than making another entire vest. Drafting is not really my strong suit. One day I'll learn my lesson and make a stupid muslin.

Dan came up with the idea of bow-tie for Zion / tie for Harvey, and as always he was spot-on with his fashion sense. Both come from internet tutorials that I altered so much it will not serve you to see the original links. If you want the accessories like the ones you see here you can come to my house and copy my pattern. Or you can buy some from my etsy shop... when I get around to creating one.

kids playing by fence in easter suits

It's nice when have boys clothes have a pop of color

Harvey is so lovely to sew for. What an appreciative little child. In every fitting he just gushed over the pants. "Beautiful beautiful pants you made, Mama!" "Can I try on my Easter pants again?" And when he knows I'm making something for him he's so excited about it. "Is my tie ready?" "Can I wear my tie tomorrow?" What a doll. I sure do have a nice family.

the four of us in Easter clothes in front of the flower tree

looking mostly presentable

But what is Easter really about? Photos? Presents? Bragging about my sewing and my stunningly cute children? No, Harvey said it best when he was playing on the floor this evening: "Life is risen! He's risen indeed!"

Happy Easter everybody!


Easter crafting

We're probably not getting more baby chicks this year, so instead the boys are getting some more squeezable versions in their easter baskets.

pile of sewn baby chicks

dive on into a pile of chicks

I used a cashmere JCrew sweater that will no longer accommodate my post-baby body. Did I really ever wear a size small? It was a favorite sweater, though, so I was very conservative with the fabric. I made 10 baby chicks from just the two sleeves. There's still the entire body of the sweater left! Maybe I'll make a cashmere chicken sometime down the road...

Continuing with the bird theme, I ordered some white rubber duckies online and decorated them with sharpies. The "Joseph" duck is for Harvey and the zebra duck is for Zion.

painted rubber duckies

you're both the one

I washed them with soap and hot water after coloring, so I think they should be safe for both bath time and chewing on. It's a fun little project, although it's hard to keep colored fingerprints off the ducks while you're doing it, as evidenced by Joseph duck's head tattoo. I have 10 more for the kids to color at our easter party. Sharpies and Easter clothes? I don't know, I'll see how the other parents feel about it.

We are hosting an Easter party you see, for our small group and accompanying ten children. I wanted this to be the biggest egg hunt these kids have ever seen. It's the first one I'm making personally, so I'm just full of a converts zeal about it. I ordered a gross of easter eggs online and then when I had them in front of me decided that this was nowhere near enough. This is what it looked like in our living room when I stuffed 190 plastic eggs.

messy egg stuffing

Harvey, how many M&Ms have you already eaten?

In addition to candy, playdough, and plastic trinkets, I also made bunny finger puppets for each child.

bunny finger puppets

hippity hop

Sorry the shot is blurry, I took it in the midst of egg-stuffing madness. Yes, I put the bunnies in eggs because I thought they'd be fun to find, and I wanted a mix of hand-made stuff with the store-bought crap. Dan asked me, "How can we ensure one child won't find them all and hog them?" The answer is, I don't know. I mixed up all the eggs so that the bunnies won't be hidden close to one another. Beyond that? I'm relying on the resurrected Jesus to help me out. Also, their godly parents will probably make them share. If I have a few extra minutes before Sunday I might make another two bunnies to keep in my pocket just in case.

the boys' new Easter clothes hanging on the fence

formalwear for farmers

Of course, I don't anticipate many free minutes before Sunday afternoon. The boys outfits (as you can see from Dan's lovely photography) lack ties. I'll write more about the clothes next week when I get some good on-person shots. What I will say now is this: I get quicker every year at turning out these Easter clothes and yet.... For some reason I remain surprised that my idiotic refusal to make muslins results in stupid alterations to what should be finished garments. Whatever, I don't want to talk about the pants now. I'll talk about them in a later post. Now I have to find a bow-tie pattern for a one-year-old.

This is going to be the best Easter ever.



One big bonus to having two boys is that clothes I made for Harvey get a second life as handmade-me-downs. Remember these pants I made for Harvey? When he was walking around and all? Well they're now gracing this cute crawling bottom.

zion in harveys tan pants

budding cyclist

Or the octokaidekapus t-shirt. Here it is on Harvey and then on Zion.

Harvey modeling his oktokaidekapus shirt

18 arms to hold you

zion in octo shirt


What is it with my babies making Rollin with the Homies hand gestures anytime I try to take their picture?

Anyway, it gives me incentive to work up some more upcycled pants once the Easter sewing madness is done. And by done I mean began. And also middled. It's so difficult when playing on the porch is so much more adorable!

zion smiling in the high chair



my first basket

In 2003 I drove across the country, bound for my new life in California. As my friends and I traveled through Indian country, all I could talk about were baskets. These baskets are incredible! Have you seen these baskets! Look more baskets! My friends were somehow unmoved by the amazingness of basketry (Hi Oona! Hi Janet! Can you believe you put up with me for two whole weeks?). But I had met a burning passion in myself and I knew with certainty: One day I would weave baskets.

Fast forward nine years. The life in California didn't work out (at least it started this blog!) but I never lost my desire to some day pick up basket weaving. Then I saw this book in the new books section of the library and it all came together in my mind. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the time to make Zion an easter basket.

basket being woven

in process, curious head in the background

Baskets are made out of reed (i mean, usually. That's like saying sweaters are made out of wool, but whatever...) Reed come in various sizes and widths for different purposes. So the stakes of the basket are a different size from the weavers, and then you need something else for the rim and a further size to lash the rim down. Reed is sold in one pound bunches, which give you a lot of baskets worth of material but means you're like $80 in before you can start your first project. That seemed a little daunting to me, so I bought a single-basket kit to hedge against the possibility I wouldn't like the hobby.

basket without rim

before adding handles and rim. Displayed with the other random crap I was working on.

Why would I think I wouldn't like it? Obviously because I'm crazy. Of course I'd love it. Because oh my goodness, it's basketry! It is to knitting what crack is to cocaine.

The directions for this basket say 5 hours, and that's probobly right. I had this on the kitchen table in various stages for about two weeks, though the weaving part went really quickly. It was the wittling for the handle that took longer than fun. I'm not really a big fan of wittling it turns out. So much scraping and not getting anywhere, and it hurts my hand. At one point I said to Dan, "This is stupid. Can't I just BUY a basket handle?"

And he was like, "Leah, you can just buy a basket."

the finished basket

dah duh dah

Here is the finished basket. I know, a cat's head shape isn't really traditional for easter, but it was the best kit I could find. Plus the swing handle is super fun to play with. I might just make Zion another easter basket and save this one for gathering eggs. That is, if I can get it away from Mr Grabby McGrabbersons.

harvey stealing the basket

hey! I was trying to photograph that!

Harvey, meanwhile, is adament that he doesn't need a new easter basket. He's pretty attached the the CVS white-painted version that Grandma got him two years ago. But he's more than happy to play with "Zion's basket," and just now asked me if I was going to make Zion another basket to put toys in. Oh Harvester, you know me all too well. There's about $80 of reed on its way to us as we speak.


crafting with kids

Doing crafts with your kids is very important, because it exposes them to a project that takes you hours to prep and even more hours to clean up. No, just kidding. It's really important for some reason. To make the other mothers feel guilty, probably.

pieces of joseph

not yet technicolored

These are some pieces I prepped for our smallgroup to create Joseph dolls, complete with custom-designed multi-colored coats. Harvey made his early as a demo. And then insisted on taking him everywhere. "Can I take my joseph in the wagon with me?"

joseph in the wagon

it's a long wagon ride to Egypt

He also said adorable things like, "Mama! Zion's trying to eat the coat of many colors!"

butterfly footprint card

as seen in their natural habitat, under a refrigerator magnet

In the same vein, I made these butterfly footprints with the kids for valentine's day. It's not so hard to do, really. First you spread paint evenly over every surface in your kitchen. The kids walk all around getting paint on their feet. They you wait for one to kick you and at the last minute, BAM, hold up a piece of paper. Repeat for other side.

No, I'm just kidding, the actual process is slightly more messy.

I've been thinking about the difference between doing "art projects" with the kids and just doing art. The former is contained within a clear set of steps, and there's a final product in mind. The latter is an invitation to make a big mess, but theoretically more creatively engaging.

harvey painting

artiste hard at work

I think I'm in favor of free-form art, at least until Harvey's finished products approach something I can coach into presentability. Or until he can do a craft kit on his own without asking me to do EVERY SINGLE STEP for him. (Dude! If I wanted to make a doll myself I'd make a BETTER one.) Now if only I could get him to stop drawing on the toys. ("But Grandma did it!" he says. I guess we all just have different metrics for how much we're willing to suffer for art.)


Sweater update

So after several tears and much wet stretching, the sweater is somewhat wearable. The flare that used to be for the hip is now up at the waste, making it a somewhat unflattering babydoll-type shape that'll come in handy next time I'm pregnant. For my own vanity I won't include any of the full body shots. I'll just focus on the positive and say it's nice to have a warm sweater for holding a baby on a chilly morning.

mama holding zion and wearing her new sweater

snug and warm, both of us.

(Yes, that's the Octokaidekapus t-shirt I made for Harvey.)

And when sitting and snuggling isn't sufficiently entertaining for a 10-month-old, the bell-shaped sweater works for dancing around the kitchen too.

mama dancing in the kitchen in new sweater

feeling flouncy

Meanwhile... watch out. Mama's got a new hobby. More on that next week. Tease tease.

beginnings of a basket

dun dun dun


the spiritual side of sweater slip-ups

So I made a beautiful sweater, the first sweater I ever made for myself, actually. It was a massive project. I was so excited to finish it this week. I wore it for one minute to photograph it. Then I ruined it in the washing.

my sweater. before.

my sweater. before.

I thought I'd try a hand-wash cold cycle in the machine, since I have to wash my sweaters at least once a week due to baby vomit, and hand-washing in the sink takes an hour, and I don't have an hour to wash sweaters. It still seems like a good idea to me, actually. But just the motion of the washing machine felted the wool. 60 hours of work and in 30 minutes it was ruined.

In a way I'm sort of glad that I ruined this sweater. Far worse things could have happened. I could have built my own house and saw it burn to the ground. I could have lost my wedding ring down a storm drain.

There is a sort of freedom that comes when I do something terribly stupid. Of course I'm an idiot. Of course I do stupid things all the time. That's my nature. That's why I need God all the more. If I do anything right ever it's because God helped me. Without God, everything I do quickly turns to shit. It's freeing to think that there's no middle ground. As much as I wanted that sweater, I want God more.

I keep imagining disappointments that could feel worse. I could have moved across the country to start a church that never got off the ground. I could have lost a pregnancy. I could have been the australian relay runner who trained her ass off for years to get to the Beijing olympics, only to have the US runner fall into her lane before she ever got to pass her baton. (ed. note: I tried and failed to find a picture of this. I can tell you from my memory though, that the woman looked wicked super pissed.) I have a high opinion of Australians, so I imagine after the foot-stomping was over she went back home to her massive sheep farm and went on with life. If a reporter asked her about it the olympics she'd be all, "Yeah it was disappointing, but things like this happen. Stop running??? Why would I stop running? I run all the time. You got to around here, mate, to avoid all the poisonous snakes."

And there's something else. I take a lot of pride in my knitting. Too much pride, probably. Pride is a sin, and how much worse if you stretch it out over 60 hours of thinking, "Everyone is gonna think this looks so good. Everyone is going to be so impressed by my craftiness." I love knitting, but I don't want to spend my free time weaving garments of condemnation upon my soul. I want God more. I want to stitch away thinking, "Let this glorify you somehow, Jesus."

Dan said something very encouraging yesterday. He said: "You're so brave to make big things that can get ruined." I think this needs to be true for crafting and for everything. Let's admit there's an element of risk in doing big things. Let's lean into that risk anyway.

Dan things the sweater is salvageable. We put mason jars in the sleeves to stretch them as they dry, and I'll see where things end up in a few days. Maybe it could come out as some sort of tight pullover. If not, I can always felt it some more and cut it up for slippers. 60-hour slippers. I don't want to think too hard about it.


a quick knit

I'm really into vests for Zion these days. He hates having the bulk of a sweater around his wrists, but oh it's cold on that floor! The one I knit him for Christmas is a little big still, so he's been sporting two hand-me-downs store-bought versions in heavy rotation. Then on Saturday I remembered I had started a vest back when Harvey was a baby. I had abandoned it because the neck was coming out too small. All of a sudden the DUH hit me like a ton of bricks. "Why don't I finish it with buttons?" I said to myself.

Zion modeling his vest in some extreme lighting conditions

And there you go. Zion had a handmade sweater in under an hour.

I used this adult sweater as inspiration and just worked it smaller I guess. I don't really remember how I made the pattern, actually. I should start keeping a book for these things. When I took the two pieces out of the box on Saturday all I needed to do was finish a strap already in progress. Perfect for adding button holes! Then I sewed up the sides. I really should have noted it in a book, because I think I may have finished in a gauge bigger than when I started. I'm not too concerned thought. A useless waste of scrap turned into an instantly wearable sweater in just an hour, and that's worth a bit of a gauge-jog along one strap.

Zion on his tummy smiling about his new vest

The neck is a little too plunging, but I made it at a point in my life when I had more confidence in my pattern creating abilities than those abilities actually warranted. Two years later I've got a bit more sweater knitting under my belt, so I feel more confident I won't make such stupid necklines in the future.

Zion sitting modeling his new vest next to a ball of yarn

In the meantime, it's nice to have a quick knit for the baby to model.


Mama's mittens

The week between Christmas and New Years is the time for a little selfish knitting, at least according to my own one-year-old tradition. One day I'll knit myself a sweater to match the boys, but at this point in my life the most I can handle is mittens.

mitten front

Who do you think made this?

The yarn came from a fantastic tip from our friend Cindy, who yard sales like a superhero and follows Craigslist like it's her job. She sent me a link a few months back about a yarn sale down the street from me. A woman was clearing out her mother's stock of yarn and I got two skeins of the beautiful handspun wool for $3. $3! Isn't that crazy? I'd pay like $30 for that in the store! (And, er, diminishing on the savings I got a whole lot of other yarn too. More than I have shelves, actually. But that's a story for another day.)

mitten back

talk to the thumb gusset

The pattern is Give a Hoot, by Kelbourne Woolens. It is lovely to follow a line-by-line pattern that is not only free but comes out correctly. The shape of the mittens is beautiful even without the front design, and I think I'll use it as my default mitten pattern in the future. Just look at that thumb gusset in the photo above. If that doesn't stroke you right in your desire for perfection then you don't have OCD.

mitten reaching for the door

back into the fray...

The sleeve part is also nice and long, so it's a good mitten all around and very warm and cozy to wear. Almost makes me want to finish the socks I started last summer. But not enough to keep me from sewing baby gifts instead. Ahh for the vacation knitting of last week!


The last of the Christmas sewing

Here's the rest of the sewing I did for Christmas. Mostly pragmatic things. An apron for Dan.

dan in new apron

what's cookin?

Some oven mitts, to replace the ones with the stupid silicone thumbs that keep wearing off, defeating their main purpose of not getting you burned.

oven mitts

already food stained. all is vanity.

I thought making oven mitts was a no-brainer since they seem so easy to sew. Unfortunately the thickness of the heat-proof material jammed my machine like seventy thousand times, making this one of those projects that you just want to be OVER ALREADY but it takes more and more hours trouble-shooting the machine, and then when you give it finally it's like, "Oh. Oven mitts. They must be easy to sew."

I'd probably like Christmas better if I didn't get so frustrated over things.

judy's pillows


I also made some pillows, by request. These actually were easy, though I had to learn a new skill to get the piping in. The piping turned out to be rather fun and I hope I get another chance to add piping to something in the future. I had three special requests this year from non-immediate famliy, these pillows, a skirt that my mom wanted the waistband shortened, and a pair of mittens that needed darning. I feel no small degree of pride that people ask me to mend things. It's nice to make presents without needing to come up with ideas sometimes.

And that's all I have to blog for Christmas! What a relief! I'm feeling a big of post-Christmas depression at the moment. I've been sick for over a week, the baby has been sleeping poorly for a month now, and I'm having trouble getting to that higher altitude of thinking where it looks like I will ever feel normal and rested. At least I can stop sewing on a deadline!


Christmas Critters

I had it in my mind to make Harvey and Zion matching toys for Christmas. I wanted to make Harvey a version of the chicken I made for baby Reuben, with a few small alterations. I eliminated the egg channel for ease of sewing and I cut the eyes in one piece rather than two because I found them difficult to line up as written in the pattern.

close up of chicken face

well, bok then.

Harvey opened the bag and exclaimed "Oh! It's a chicken!" He reacted with similar glee to every christmas present, but it was extra cute for the ones I made him.

harvey and his stuffed chicken

Harvey pointing the chicken in the direction of greenery

I also made one for Zion, but because the stuffed version would be as big as he is I made a flat blanket/chicken hybrid.

i have feeties too!

I can't tell if this one ended up weird looking or just weird to photograph. I was trying to get a shot of the feet on the bottom but it just kind of ends up looking like a smushed chicken. Oh well. A blanket doll is more about tactile experience than presentation, after all.

zion and his flat chicken

i'll chew on anything

I also made a toy for our niece Nisia, a pink cow at Dan's suggestion. The cow is kind of a big multi-step project, so I agreed to try only after the sweaters were finished. Dan was so excited about it that his eagerness carried the project through, and I sewed this up insanely fast. The previous cows took three hours to sew; this one I made in just an hour and a half. I didn't pin anything. I just crossed my fingers, whispered "this is a well-made pattern" and hoped the ends would line up on the other side. And with a lot of last-minute grace, it worked.

pink cow

Le Moo

Dan came back from walking Rascal on Christmas morning and I was just about ready to stuff the thing. "Should I give it eyes?" I asked.
"How long will that take?"
"Two and a half minutes."
"Okay, yeah, I guess give it eyes."

Crafters have weird conversations. As much fun as this all was, there's definitely a part of me that's glad December's over.


Christmas sweaters

I had a simple wish for Christmas this year. To see all my boys wearing matching hand-knit sweaters on Christmas morning.

archibald boys in sweaters

the adorable archibalds

Okay, so actually that wish wasn't so simple.

Dan had asked for a fisherman's sweater, and I asked him about five trillion times to clarify what that meant to him. Really I didn't need much clarification, I just tried to force him through my constant pestering to agree that what he really wanted was a casual-style wool sweater and not an intricate show-piece with owls and cabling an popcorn stitches in between. In the end he got the intersection of what he wanted and what was possible for me to do with a baby on my lap; a casual wool sweater with simple vertical stripes. One day he will have his cables and owls, but not while our children still whine and suckle.

I adapted a pattern from my favorite men's knitting book, using smaller needles and worsted weight and knitting the bottom part in the round. (Though I did end up knitting the sleeves straight and then sewing them up... I tried to pick up and knit from the shoulder down but it was too much for me to figure out on a pattern with so much fudging already.)

dan sweater close up

so handsome! and nice sweater too.

I started Dan's sweater in July and finished knitting by the end of November. That left me a month to do two child-sized vests. Which would be crazy any time of the year, but doubly crazy in December. When I show all the crazy shit I sewed this month, you'll understand. But out of everything I made this year, the sweaters were really a project for ME. I'm the one who wants to see my boys matching on Christmas morning, to beam with pride and parade them in front of extended family and friends so that everyone can compliment me on my work. Also, God promised me I would be able to finish the sweaters before Christmas, and I didn't want to make him a liar.

harvey sweater close up

insisted on wearing it atop his other Christmas sweater

I finished the neck ribbing on the two vests the afternoon of Christmas eve. I left off the ribbing around the arm holes because I was starting to hate knitting. Maybe I'll do it some day. Maybe not.

zion head


This is the only picture I could snap of Zion because I was holding him. He looks like he's floating in a sea of gray stitches. And I guess that's the point of mama knits, really. If anything is a physical symbol of what I want for them, how much I want to wrap them all in love and warmth, squeeze them and spoil them with the work of my hands, it's these sweaters. Merry Christmas to my most loved boys. You all look darling in gray.


christmas preview: Harvey's backpack

I have a secret drawer in my closet filled with finished Christmas presents. (For those of you who weren't reading last year, it's kind of a thing for us to do home-made Christmas. We're both poor and over-zealously ambitious, you see.) My drawer not as full as I'd like it to be, but it's coming along.

things in drawer

lying in wait

You may well wonder who's that spotted friend peaking out from top. Let me introduce you to Harvey's new back-pack.

front of back pack

I can't wait to hug my Harvey!

He saw the examples in this book and declared that he wanted a back-pack that was both a penguin AND had spots. I fought him for a while saying it should only have spots, that a beak and wings and feet would make it too busy. Then I got over it. I do so like to make him happy.

back of back pack

so much edge stitching!

Here's the gratuitous strap shot. I started this bag just after Halloween, and finished it just after Thanksgiving. I cannot tell you how many hours exactly... somewhere between ten and thirty. There were a lot of details. And the fact that the iron lives in the same room as a sleeping baby.

ready for an infinite number of pennies

I had originally wanted to make him a backpack in September to celebrate the start of kids church, Harvey's first away-from-mama activity. Buuuuut there was fabric to choose, and then a zipper and buttons and strap adjustors to buy, and then strap adjustors to replace the first ones which were really belt adjustors, not to mention the ten to thirty hours of sewing. Now I'm just happy to have it done for Christmas. Every bone in my body is fighting the urge to give it to him RIGHT AWAY just to see the smile on his face. He can wait four weeks for the bonus Christmas excitement, can't he? CAN'T HE?

Yes, because if I get nothing else done the backpack will make him so happy.

But oh how I wish I had a shot of Harvey carrying it. Neither of us are good at delayed gratification.


Zion's lovey

This is the part of the year where I suddenly get obsessed with projects that have nothing to do with Christmas. I know I know, Christmas is right around the corner, but I simply can't start the sweaters until I make a few upcycled pigs, some sock bunnies, a backpack for Harvey and new oven mitts. Because, you know, we made it through the last YEAR AND A HALF with crappy oven mitts, but another four weeks might kill us.

Not helping matters, Dan suggested last week that Zion might like a lovey: a soft blanket which he could cuddle with while he sucks his thumb. Of course Zion needed one. As soon as the thought entered my mind Zion needed that lovey so badly I packed the kids into the car that very afternoon headed for JoAnne's.

zion playing with his lovey

all I cares about is can I chew it.

I bought some fuzzy baby blanket material (some polyester variant; it doesn't pay too much to know) and some cotton ribbing for the edging. I figured the cotton was at least a natural fiber for the part that would most go in his mouth. Harvey liked the green fuzzy cloth I chose, but was appalled by my choices of edging. "They don't match together! They don't match together!" he screamed as I put the bolt in our cart. "Put it back!"

He continued to explain to me that the edging wasn't green. I'm glad he understands the concept of matching, but I've got some work to do on teaching him about "coordinating" fabrics. Anyway, something to practice.

Meanwhile, I got some practice making mitred edges!

lovey mitred edges

give it back!

Could use a little more practice still, it looks like. Although I'm sure they lie flatter when you're not using inch-wide knit ribbing.

Anyway Zion seems to like it well enough. He even used it for its intended purpose.

zion sucking thumb with lovey

the only way this could be more soothing is if mama was wearing me

Sorry for the lack of daylight photos. I'm not up to making craft porn these days... there are too few hours of daylight and too few days until Christmas!


non-Halloween report

Harvey and Zion in their monkey suits on the hammock

two little monkeys lying on the... hammock

The Halloween costume pictures didn't come out quite as well as we'd hoped. Harvey was a little excited the whole time and didn't keep still enough for the low light... just like a monkey, I suppose. Too bad, since Mama did a grand job with the costumes!

Zion in his monkey suit

this monkey stands still to be photographed

Zion's limited mobility was better suited to photography work. But then, he didn't know enough to look forward to the prospect of candy. For Harvey, it was enough to cause him to overcome his usual fear of speaking to other people or, you know, looking at them. At least in theory.

Harvey waiting on the street to start trick-or-treating

ready to roll

Because of course, he didn't get to try it out on more than a single foreign door. Oh well; if we do it again on Saturday we'll have another chance at the photos.

Not everyone's Halloween was postponed, though, and the two monkeys weren't the only Leah-made costumes out and about yesterday evening. Our friend Bridget requested a Yoshi costume for her oldest son, to complete a Mario-themed set. It came out pretty good too.

Bruce modeling the Yoshi costume indoors

striking a pose in preparation

You can see many more photos at the Stevens Family blog. I understand that Leah, pleased by the positive reaction to her creation, is thinking of making this a thing; we are now accepting orders for Halloween 2012.

Yoshi out trick-or-treating

in his natural habitat


flower sow

So I did end up sewing Harvey that pig he'd whined about on Tuesday. I couldn't put off the project for too long. Cashmere animals... upcycling... who could resist such a request? It's as if he spent the day whining "mama, why can't you spend an evening eating chocolate?"

flower pig from the front


I cut up an old J.Crew sweater, my favorite former sweater, actually, from the days before children. Alas, it was never destined to fit me again. I used to wear a size small, if you can believe it. Even though I've lost all the weight from my second pregnancy, and only 2 lbs to go to my pre-Harvey weight, I will never again be a size small. Something happened to my, er, mid region in the process of having two babies. And now there are too many sweaters waiting to be turned into stuffed animals and far far too few in my drawers. Oh well. At least I get to see this pretty pattern on a daily basis.

flower pig from the side

flower power

Harvey was delighted to meed his new friend on Wednesday morning. Unfortunately he has seen me working on Dan's christmas present lately and started whining for a sweater of his own. Perhaps I can sew him some horses to hold?


at least Halloween costumes are done...

We have an errand to the toy store that I had planned for today - Zion got two presents which are duplicates of toys he already owns, and I must take them back before their 30-day exchange window runs out. I was all packed to go today, but Harvey screamed and threw a fit. He was not having any part of the toy store; all he wanted in the world was for me to sit at the sewing machine and make him a stuffed pig.

"Let's go to the toy store!" I say excitedly.

"Nooooooooo! I need a piiiiiiig! You made a pig for a baby but now it's gone!!!!"

"Harvey, that pig was for baby Vivian. I'll make you another pig somed—"

"Noooooo! Make it NOW!!!!!!!

"But Harvey, the toy store has trains! I will buy you a train!"

"I already got a train in my basket!" he says tearing up. "I need a piiiiiig!!!!"

This is the monster my hippy values have created. Refuses toy store. Wants nothing more than to sit behind me at the sewing machine.

Also he needed a nap.

Pig pieces are cut now and Harvey is asleep, but Zion is not cooperating. Oh for a bigger studio with room for an exersaucer.


baby gifts

We are such a stunning example of parenthood, it seems, that everybody around us has started having babies. That and we're in our 30s, but I digress. I have a lot of baby gifts to make these days. I wish there were more to report, actually, but two gifts completed in a week should be something to crow about given the level of babitude we have in our own home at the moment. Anyway, here's a hat I made for Dan's work colleague, modeled by the lovely Zion.

zion in helmet hat for baby shower

he just slays me with that cuteness

When Harvey saw me knitting this he said casually, "You havin another baby, Mama?" I was all, "No! Certainly not! This is for Dadda's FRIEND'S baby." and then "Why, do you WANT another baby around here?" "Yeah," Harvey shrugged as if it's no big deal.

top of green hat

gratuitous knitting shot

Anyway, this hat is made entirely of scraps from other projects, which is why the dark green stops repeating after two go rounds. No one else probably notices, but it's the kind of thing that drives me so crazy I'm glad to have the hat out of the house.

cashmere pig side shot

cashmere pig

Onto a girl baby present, I sewed this sweet soft pig out of a BCBG cashmere sweater that never quite fit. That sounds extravagant and fabulously out of character, doesn't it? Let me put it in context: I bought an unworn BCBG sweater set at the thrift store for $20. I wore the sweater to death but never put on the camisole portion because it didn't cover my boobs. It's that extraneous part that just now got turned into a pig. The fancy sweater, which as I stress I bought rather cheaply, is still in my drawer.

cashmere pig front shot

oink baby!

Everyone's baby should have cashmere animals, they're just so soft and cuddly. I have two JCrew sweaters which have stopped closing over my nursing boobs; I'm trying to think up the perfect critters for the colors. Which is good because there's one other baby already been born who needs a present, and more always on the way. That's what you get for having inspirationally cute children, I guess.



Remember this outfit I made for Harvey last Easter? Well, Harvey leant it to his friend Noah for use at a wedding a few weeks ago, and Noah's mom just posted photos of the event on her blog today. I don't know why this is like the most exciting thing since radial-cut fabric, but seeing my clothes on another kid makes me feel like a real live seamstress. (I'd say "clothing designer," but I bummed someone else's pattern for the vest.)

Image does not want to load here so I'll just send you over to her site to see.

It makes me excited for next Easter and matching suits for Harvey and Zion! That is, if I survive Christmas first. Is it all crafters who start stressing about Christmas in September? Or only the insane ones?

How sewing is like religion

... not only because their practitioners end up wearing some weird looking garments.

When you're starting a new hobby like sewing it's so exhilarating. You can make ANYTHING. A wonderful world of possibilities opens up to you. Just grab a bit of cloth, cut out some shapes, whip em through a machine and viola! You've made a hat! You've never worn such a rewarding hat in all your life! It's incredible! You're really sewing! Now all you need to do is keep at it for a few years, and in no time at all you'll sit back and look at a closet filled with your own handiwork and think to yourself:

"That hat looks like crap."

Because what on earth was I thinking, cutting AGAINST the grain? Now the stupid hat doesn't stretch horizontally and it's all bunchy on top when I wear it. Once when I was in high school I was making a pair of pants as a girl-scout project, and in a fit of industriousness I thought I would pre-cut all my pieces before bringing them to my girl scout leader. You know, to save time in our sewing session. She spent the whole time shaking her head saying, "I can't BELIEVE you cut your fabric without talking to me first!"

And I was all, I'm not supposed to cut fabric without a chaperone? Sewing is unbelievably lame.

Now I look back on that experience and I am of two minds. On one hand I say, wow, that really turned me off sewing for a while. I wish I could have been given free range to be more creative and learn my own lessons progressively. On the other hand, what was I thinking cutting all my pieces out willy nilly? If I brought my current self those pieces now, I would be all, "I can't BELIEVE you cut your fabric without talking to me first!"

Religion is like that too. As helpful as it may be to your overall life happiness to, I dunno, read the bible or tithe or respect your husband, if someone tells you that in a you-must-do-this sort of way I'm all, "This religion stuff is lame."

It's only after years of having your life go poorly that you turn to your younger doppelganger and scream "For the love of God, PLEASE don't have PREMARITAL SEX!"

I find myself sometimes acting as a sewing killjoy these days, looking at my friends getting all excited about sewing and yelling "PREWASH YOUR FABRIC! PAY ATTENTION TO THE GRAIN! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T CUT THAT INTO QUILT PIECES IF YOU DON'T OWN A SEWING MACHINE!"

As if whole continents hadn't hand quilted just fine for hundreds of years without the aid of machines.

If I think handmade hats are ugly it's probably sin in me that tells me so, and I should certainly stop judging the quilts at church for being finished without bias tape. As for religion, there seems to be no good way to mind-meld our dogma onto other people, as helpful to them as that might be.


seriously last minute gifts

I emailed some friends this afternoon, all like "It's been a long while since we've hung out. You want to get together over the weekend?"

Minutes later I got a reply: "We're leaving for Germany tomorrow. Dinner tonight?"

As in, leaving and not coming back. They're German, these friends, and I kind of knew they were leaving some time this summer but I had thought, well, that it would not be so tomorrow-ish. Of course I had two immediate thoughts: 1) Thank God we found out in time to get together one last time, and 2) What kind of a going away present can I make for two kids in one hour?

Luckily, I know of a toy that can be completed in a single nap time with moments to spare for wrapping and packing a diaper bag. I'm talking about a bunny ruby.

quick sock bunny for Noah

a traveling companion

This one from a sock that wasn't so much used as sat in the bottom of the drawer for a year being too small. This little bunny will head off with 2-year-old Noah to Germany tomorrow. If he finds a place in the luggage, that is. If not, he only took 45 minutes and after all it's the thought that counts.

And for the baby girl born on the same day as Zion?

hat for baby nala

in case they get any sun in Germany

A pink sunhat, completed a few days ago, and luckily too, since this 4-hour project wouldn't have fit into this afternoon's sewing allotment. Okay, so this hat was actually supposed to be for my niece, but I have a whole nother week before her birthday and more of this fabric. Baby Nala's boarding a plane tomorrow and I wouldn't want the sun to get in her eyes.

We traveled to Cambridge this evening to picnic on the floor of our friends' empty apartment. It's sad when people go away. I cope by making presents and Dan copes by making food, and if my silly little gifts don't do enough to say 'we'll miss you' then I can absolutely count on his brownies to do the trick. But golly, it's hard having international friends.


appliqued onesies

It's been challenging finding time to sew these days. Zion decided he will only nap when strapped to my chest, and I simply can't cut out a pattern straight on the fold with only one hand.

I can, however, complete tiny finicky projects like cutting out shapes and sewing them onto onesies. Which, incidentally, is the only thing I got done this week other than folding diapers.

Zion modeling his raised-fist onesie

young revolutionary

I got 3 onesies for $.30 thanks to a Target gift card from one of Dan's students. All the contrasting fabric came from recycled t-shirts in my stash, making this a very cheap project.

Zion modeling his no-cars onesie

although sadly also too young to bicycle

I have one more blank onesie to embellish. Any ideas?


mobby ruby and chicken

We are in a bit of an imaginary hippy race with a couple out in Ithaca. The gentleman is a childhood friend of Dan's, and their Christmas card always seems to one-up us in terms of alternative parenting. Two years age the shot of their three kids featured one boy naked and the other wearing a dress. Add this to their pictures of farm animals and we're clearly falling behind. They also added to their family recently, and our "born at home" birth announcement crossed in the mail with their "born at home on the farm." poo.

Anyway, I wanted to make something for baby Reuben, and I thought a recycled sock toy would be just the hippy thing. So one day while the children napped I whipped together this bunny-type creature.

striped sock-rabbit posing in the grass


When Harvey got up from his nap, however, he snatched the toy still in process right out of my hand. "Das mine?" he said.

"No, that's for baby Reuben."

Harvey looked at the toy again. "Mobby Ruby," he said definitively. "Das Havey's?"

Then as Dan and I both patiently tried to explain how the bunny was going in the mail to baby Reuben, Harvey ran around the house hugging the toy singing "Mobby Ruby, Mobby Ruby, das Havey's!"

And in the end, I had to let him keep it because it's the first toy he named.

So while mobby ruby moved into his new home on Harvey's bed, I made a new toy for a present, this time keeping each step in the process hidden away in a bag. Yesterday Dan went on a Harvey-less errand to mail it off, a new chicken for their farm.

the stuffed chicken roosting atop the cucumber trelis

bawk bawk

In retrospect, this was probably more appropriate to begin with, and I'm kind of glad I didn't end up sending a pair of Dan's old socks.

I bought an online pattern which is how I roll for 3D stuffed toys. It's worth it to me not to spend 5 hours pattern drafting, although I think some people really like that kind of thing. For me it's enough to think about how I'll alter the pattern next time I make it, which means there is probably a stuffed chicken or several in Harvey's future.

Oh, and a baby chick.

the little stuffed chick and her green egg

tap tap and crack

Although one stolen toy is enough for him right now.


trash clothes

Right after I swore yesterday that I would never find time to make another onesie... I made another onesie. All it took was a long Harvey nap and breaking the cardinal rule of parenting: never wear your baby while operating a rotary cutter.

It's a little messy at the edges, but Zion will only sleep while being held this week so I had to cut and sew the whole thing with him in the sling. Surprisingly easier than trying to unload the dishwasher while wearing the sling; that's a friggin nightmare! The subject for another post, though...

The material came from a men's t-shirt that came free with our trash can. No joke, Simple Human is a trash-can maker and they threw in a free shirt with Zion's diaper pail. I even used their catchy slogan for the back of the outfit:

If only grown up shirts were as easy to throw together as onsies, I too would have something clean to wear.


stitching the moments together

Harvey went to hug Dan goodbye this morning, got within a foot of him, and threw up. When you start the day by washing a rug and a couch, it really puts the normal laundry level in perspective. Meanwhile Zion is leaking every other diaper since we switched him to cloth (why does such a big baby have such scrawny legs?) and I really need a few minutes alone in the sewing room to stitch together some more onesies. They're really not that hard, all you need is an hour alone to yourself. Which is to say HAHAHAHAHA!

I made this onesie last week while Dan very kindly took the two boys for a walk in the stroller. Since I cut up an existing t-shirt, I leveraged laziness by using the existing hems everywhere but the bottom, which I left raw. (Hey, it's knit, it's not gonna fray.) I used velcro for the closure because, um, I have a lot of velcro on hand and no snaps. You know what? It works. I have a lot more t-shirts that could be converted to onesies this week if only babies would deign to be put down and older children would keep their breakfast inside their tummies. Which is to say, in my fantasy land. In my fantasy land there are a lot of handmade clothes.

At least now everyone has their own panda bear shirt.


Harvey's own baby and new mama-made present

When he found out that I was pregnant, our pediatrician advised me to buy Harvey a baby doll to ease the sibling jealousy; Harvey could take care of his baby doll while I took care of the new baby. I contemplated making a Waldorf doll for a while, but in the end I determined that I think they're weird looking. I tried to sew a cloth doll out of scrap fabric but my homemade pattern was too small and I couldn't turn the wrists inside out. Then Zion was born two weeks early and I gave up on making something and bought a very hippy looking homemade doll at the Bedford 4H fair. Harvey played with it for a day or two, until Grandma showed up with her a solid hunk of plastic that smells like poison strawberries. With which Harvey fell immediately in love.

And now Harvey has his own baby.

you go here!

Harvey calls him "Havey's baby" (it's a boy baby, Harvey says, don't let the pink confuse you) and he frequently steals Zion's blankets and and hats for use in its care. I don't mind one bit; we have lots of blankets around here, and the doll was invaluable in the flash weening I put Harvey through this month. As soon as the baby doll came into the picture, Harvey's demands of "Havey nooning" when he saw Zion nursing could be effortlessly redirected into "Havey nooning Havey's baby."

nursing on the go

Because I'm so very proud of my big boy, I wanted to make him something for his baby, and I decided on the doll carrier from the Oliver + S book. (Also so that Harvey would stop trying to steal the bjorn for his own purposes - it doesn't fit him anyway.) This very simple project took me from Thursday to Tuesday to complete, with a little bit of work every day (including running to JoAnne's for buttons - why is it that the buttons I have in stock are never the buttons I need?) Also, I let Harvey pretty much destroy the office and all my sewing supplies in the process. He loaded my serger with pins and drew over the sewing patterns with magic marker while I was trying to alternate between nursing Zion and any productive activity. It's as if the instructions in the book are trying to mock me "You'll be surprised how quickly this little carrier comes together!" Ha. Yeah right.

harvey's baby uppy

Either way I managed to get it completed, and Harvey was overjoyed to walk around carrying his baby on his front like a real mamma or dadda. "uppy baby" he calls it. My that boy is turning out to be such a little responsible young man.

Harvey wearing his baby doll in its new carrier

so mature for almost 2

And just like mama, Harvey likes to kiss his baby while he's in the carrier. So maybe it's not the end of the world that he got a big plastic doll. It means it can stand up to a lot of love.

big boy love


you got enough sweaters for all the babies you got in there?

pink cotton baby sweater in garden

like it grew right out of the ground

This is the last baby sweater I finished lately. I think I've finally burned through my enthusiasm for baby sweaters now... four is enough to knit in one month, don't you think? So I'm keeping this one and the other one in organic cotton because, ahem, they were the most expensive ($15 for this one! that stuff is expensive but oh it's like knitting with a cloud!) The other two sweaters I'm giving away and taking a break from baby knitting.

As you can see, I also knitted a hat to go with. That makes something like 6 hand-knit newborn hats in the baby drawer upstairs. I think I'm done with hats too for a while.

pink cotton sweater on clothes pins

dan likes this picture the best.

The all-pink looked a little boring to me so I crocheted on a white flower after the fact. It doesn't look half bad, I don't think! Perfect for a little tiny girl to wear to a garden party, or to church.

And it's a good thing I've got some girly knits in my arsenal now, because everybody and their nosy-ass mother is telling me I'm having a girl, you know, by the time-honored scientific method of looking at my belly and SAYING OUT LOUD WHERE I LOOK FAT! Seriously, a grandmother at the library today was like "I can tell it's a girl, because it's SO WIDE!" and then she held her hands out on either side of her like she was describing a fish. Excuse me lady, but the "it" in your sentence happens to be referring to MY BODY! I don't really know what to say to that other than, "Thanks but fuck off.... I mean, er, no thanks."

And that was after her whole shpeel of "WHEN are you due??? Is your doctor SURE???" To which I have many answers that are not appropriate for the children's room at the public library, including "It seems like you may not be clear on how babies are made, but it wasn't the doctor who was fucking my husband 9 months ago. I did that. And then I circled the date on the calendar. Because I was trying to get pregnant, dumbass. So yes, I'm sure that I haven't yet reached the mid-point of my bell-shaped curve which idiots generally refer to as a due date, even though no one can really be sure of when a baby's coming because a due date is actually more like a due month statistically speaking...

I mean, er, no thanks."

Man, I'm testy today. Must be the ginormous pregnancy crowding out all the space in my brain because OMG it's so WIDE are you sure you only got one baby in there?


mama's bonus birthday present sunhats

Saturday evening our friend Becca came over with a birthday present for me, in a gesture that was beyond touching. We don't usually exchange birthday gifts with bible study friends, since our bible study is kind of big and that would mean like everybody buying gifts like every weekend, which is sort of insane for young poor people, even if we are Christians. So I was really moved to find a gift for me on the table on Sunday morning, Yes, er, I was asleep when Becca and crew came over, it being after 8pm. Anyway, I could tell right away that the present was going to be something awesome because it was WRAPPED IN FABRIC!

Harvey's hand reaching for the present

a little hand is very eager to open any present

Harvey was excited too to help me open it. He's really into opening presents, as well as blowing out candles. Today in fact I caught him trying to blow out a pawn from a chess set. If that doesn't just warm the cockles of your heart then I don't know what will. Anyway, inside the fabric were some new onesies for baby #2 (yeah! not everything will be hand-me-down), some boxes of yummy tea, and a nice gift certificate to Joanne fabrics, which is like giving someone a gift certificate to Mexico, everything is so cheap. Exciting exciting!

The best part instant-gratification wise was of course the fabric. Even though I promised Dan that I would clean up my sewing stuff from the floor of his office before embarking on any more projects, I jumped right into cutting some pieces out of the new fabric for sun hats - matching ones for Harvey and baby. Hey, since I didn't have to sort through my stash to find fabric I figured this was a give away. Also, I couldn't help it; I was dying to try a pattern from the new book Dan bought me, and fabric suddenly appeared at my door. How could I resist? There was no floorspace left in the office so I sat out in the hallway.

This sunhat is the result:

the new green sun hat with a little bit of Harvey underneath

summer style

And a smaller one for baby, lined with yellow so we can tell the difference from the other side of the room.

two new sun hats posing on the rock wall

and one for baby

This is the pattern that everyone seems to be jumping on first when they get the Oliver + S book, although I don't know what they're talking about when they say it comes together relatively quickly. These two hats took me 5 hours of dedicated sewing time, which is a crapload of alone time for me, time I only got this weekend by virtue of illness (I felt too sick to go to church on Sunday so Dan and Harvey went without me) plus two Harvey naps. A whole morning alone plus two naps is a long ass time for two sun hats if you ask me. There seem to be so many ways of making a reversible hat by sewing the whole outside to the whole inside and leaving a small hole for turning, it seems overkill to include a step of blind stitching the inside before edge-stitching on the machine. Still, it did turn out a very tidy little hat, so if you're the type of person to look up close then probably the extra care is worth it.

There's still enough fabric left over to sew a baby dress, and as soon as I make good on my promise to clean up my sewing space I'm gonna throw together a little outfit using the matching ribbon as straps.

This gift and project came as a nice relief after the week I had last week, with Harvey groaning all day and throwing up at every meal... I was starting to feel like I didn't exist apart from song singer/back rubber/puke catcher. Even though we made it through a fancy meal for my birthday, I spent the entire time worrying that Harvey was going to projectile vomit all over the table or his fancily dressed grandparents, which is not the state of vigilance ideal for consuming a huge amount of rich food (witness the illness on Saturday night and Sunday morning). We skipped my birthday expedition on Saturday because Harvey wasn't feeling well, no one wanted to make or eat birthday pie, and I had a mental breakdown from not getting a break all week and then finding out our fence can't go in the ground until the end of May at the earliest because the corner of our property lies 50 feet from a wetland and we need to go in front of a public hearing not to mention pay 50 bucks to the friggin local paper to publish a legal notice, and that's just for a 3 foot fence, we haven't even started the process on Chickens because the stack of paperwork for the stupid fence is so confusing it makes me want to cry and that's not even involving the health department. So the fabric and accompanying present was a real real nice break. A reminder that I'm a person too, with value and interests beyond reproduction. If only just slightly beyond.


Baby knits

I've been keeping my hands busy with some baby knits lately. They're so little that they knit up quite quickly, and they're easy to take here and there in a little plastic bag thrown into a purse. Also it's something to do outside when I can't bring myself to stoop over a weeding project. Harvey knows just how to manipulate me too, and when he wants to keep playing outside instead of heading out on errands he points to a chair and says, "Mama sit dere ninning?"

pink and gray and green sweater

pink, but not tooooo pink

I started by using up some small balls of scrap wool and a pattern from this book (thank you Bedford public library for your large and awesome knitting selection). If you're looking for a learn-to-knit book, this is a really good one, and the instructions for each project are written out in long descriptive form. If you already know how to knit and follow a pattern this feature may be kind of annoying, but the projects are so good that it's still worth a look, especially if it's in your local library and therefore free.

close-up of the pink and gray and green sweater

made from bits and pieces and showing it

The problem with working with bits of scrap, though, is that you never know if that ball of yarn will hold out till you're finished, and in the end I didn't have quiiiite enough gray to complete the edging. So as you can see from the photo above, the front edge is half gray and half green. Enough to make my eye twitch when I look at it, though I'm sure no one else would ever notice. Good thing I know 3 people about to give birth to baby girls, because this one is going into the gift pile.

pink sweater

bubble gum pink and ready for the carnival

This next sweater also came from scrap yarn - some cotton I had bought for a girl dress right before Harvey was born and then abandoned for obvious reasons. I wanted to try out this pattern for a baby cardigan knit all in one piece. Turns out it was extremely satisfying to knit. If you stitch up the seams as you go using a crochet hook then you never even have to break your yarn, making this a project I can complete from start to finish in just 4 days. Since this one ended up being more of a 6-month size than a newborn size it's also going to go into the gift pile too, for a baby shower this weekend in fact. I'll gladly trade the fact that I have no girl sweaters in my drawer for a season of free baby gifts.

close-up of the pink sweater

so sweet you could eat it

Dan suggested the big white button. He should be the knitter, really.

I liked the one-piece cardigan pattern so much that I decided to knit another one, only this time in more neutral colors and using up a bunch of different yarn scraps. I was inspired by a sweater I saw Harvey's friend Noah wearing at church. It had wool mixed with silk and ribs mixed with straight stitch in absolutely no predictable fashion. I was all, "That's CRAZY! That sweater should not be able to exist!" Then I spent I week wondering if I could hold my OCD at bay long enough to make one. The result is this newborn sweater:

white, green, and brown sweater

pleasantly unplanned

This was a rather difficult exercise for me, trying to make a sweater that's patterned in a fashion of n'importe quoi, but I really like the result. It's easier to make the mental leaps required for an experimental sweater when it takes less than a week and all the materials are free. I ended up liking it so much that I made a matching hat.

white, green, and brown sweater and matching hat

perfect if I give birth to a woodland elf

After all that I still had some white organic cotton left over, so I made a cute little turbain hat from this pattern (bigger than newborn size, fyi).

will probably fit for fall

And some fantastically soft booties.

white knitted booties

Harvey wants these for himself. Sorry dirty boy, you need real shoes.

The booties are a brilliant pattern from the book I mentioned above, knit all in one piece with almost no finishing. I'm starting to feel that I can take on any knitting project as long as I don't have to weave in any ends.

After three sweaters two hats and a pair of booties I finally exhausted my supply of scrap yarn and buttons. Just the excuse I needed to order a some more organic cotton and pick out a few more buttons, which Harvey and I did this week. So hopefully there'll be some more projects to show before baby shows up, and maybe I'll even keep some of them.


knitting fail

I had a goal last month to knit a hat for every member of my family out of our local Drumlin Farms wool before their annual sheep sheering festival. Well, Woolopalooza is long since past, and I did in fact complete three hats by that weekend. I just didn't show you mine because, well, it sucked. My hat sucked big time.

I wanted to try my hand at making a beret for myself, so I used a free pattern from Ravely which was a big mistake because apparently the pattern was sized to fit some manner of frisbee rather than any person's real head. If you cock the thing all the way back it sort of looks like something you could wear to a renaissance fair.

If you cock it to the front it looks like a pizza on your head.

The sad part was that I did all that purling before admitting that the finished product would be awful. And then I finished it off anyway, because I wanted to be SURE that the finished product would be awful. Still, I'm not the kind of person who will rip apart a knit work to reclaim a measly skein-and-a-half of yarn. For one thing I hate re-knitting with kinked-up yarn, and for another thing I might want to save this for a Swedish chef costume some day. Unless anyone is going to a renaissance fair in the future, in which case by all means the hat is yours.

There. Lest you think all my free time is productively spent. Also, I'm going to post about some lovely baby knits later in the week, and I wanted to start with the bar low.


me sew sew

Since Harvey moved to his big boy bed earlier this year I have spent A LOT of time lying in his room, wondering if he'll ever fall asleep for a nap, all the while staring at his IKEA curtains and wondering what other items the fabric might be used for. After months of imagined sewing I simply had to get off my ass and make a baby dress.

the finished product next to the inspiration

Because the windows in Harvey's room are sized appropriately for our 1910 farm house and not for the gargantuan Swedish loft windows that IKEA imagines, I had a LOT of fabric left over when I shortened the curtains. Which is to say, more play clothes could still be made from my ample pile of scraps without disturbing the curtains on the wall. If Harvey ends up with a baby sister who fits into this dress I just might have to make him a matching pair of lederhosen.

green dress in the garden

ready to become play clothes

What is she talking about? you ask. Lederhosen? Of course I'm referencing The Sound of Music wherein the governess Maria fashions play clothes for all her charges out of her bedroom curtains. Then they run around singing Do A Deer, from which the title of this post is surreptitiously lifted (if you remember, in the middle section the children are each assigned a note and they sing Do Mi Mi, Mi So So. Probably you'd only have that section memorized if you are a total dork.)

So yes, I can't say we'll be COMPLETELY unprepared if this baby turns out to be a girl. These dresses do come together quickly ... even quicker than all the pink sweaters I've been knitting. But I'll save the pink yarn porn for another post.


Easter clothes!

It's only when I stop and reflect on years past that I realize how much my sewing prowess has come along due to our sweet firstborn and his tendency to outgrow clothes in a manner of seconds. Last year I only managed to make him a measly pair of pants for Easter clothes. This year I pulled together a set of pants, a vest, and a tie, all the week before without too much sweat.

Harvey posing on the playground

playground catalogue shot, courtesy of Harvey not being able to sit through church

The pants are the same pattern I keep using over and over, which is to say an elastic-waste pattern drafted from a current fitting pair of pants. The vest uses an online pattern from burda style, and the tie is someone's temporarily free online pattern which I found and drastically reduced in size (be warned if you're trying to make this one - it says toddler tie but it's really quite too big for a 2-year old.)

You may recognize the orange fabric from last year's eater pants. I bought 2 yards of this fabric in Ithaca the summer before Harvey was conceived... I saw it in a sewing store and immediately pictured a beautiful baby dress for my hypothetical one-day daughter. That daughter not yet materialized, over the intervening years the fabric went to a dress for someone else's baby, the lining of last year's pants, and then this ensemble. This project pretty much decimated the rest of my stash: the vest is completely lined in orange and the back is orange as well, and that teeny tiny tie ate up a huge chunk of fabric as ties surprisingly do. I'm not sure if the bits and pieces I have left will be salvageable for a baby dress of my own. It's sad to see it all gone, but somewhat gratifying as well. I can't just use the same orange every Easter in perpetuity, after all. And as Dan lovingly encouraged me, "You'll find other fabric you like some day."

I also made Harvey a critter for an Easter present, which I guess is becoming tradition too. Last year it was two bunnies, this year it was a sheep.

a black sheep in fleece

baa baa

I used this pattern, which I also used in miniature at Christmas for Harvey's nativity sheep. The pattern calls for strips of fabric to be sewn on as wool, and while I'm sure that looks lovely in quilter's cotton it just looked stupid in the fleece I had on hand. So I scrapped that idea and embroidered little curly-cues to represent the sheep's wooly tendrils. Perhaps you can't tell from the picture, but there are three colors of embroidery thread interspursed over the body of the sheep. Yeah, it kind of took a long time, but not as long as say knitting a sweater. And in the end all that matters is that he picked it up and hugged it.

Harvey in his Easter togs holding his lamb

mama made all of it

So a rather successful day for crafting all around. Dan will write later about all the fun things we did today. I only provide the wardrobe.


Gifts for baby Nathan

matching blanket and bunny

hurray for baby shower gifts!

I saw this posh-looking blue and brown fleece at JoAnnes a few months ago, and I remember thinking at the time that it would be just the perfect thing for Katie and Tim's baby if said child turned out to be a boy. Since the fabric happened to be on sale at the time I bought up a yard to keep in my stash. The "what to do with it" came to my mind last week when Harvey was doing all that throwing up. Going through Harvey's closet one absorbent linen after another, I realized that my most used baby blankets were the simple ones just one layer thick which sport surged edges instead of bulky hems. That's the type of gift I wanted to give Katie and Tim, I decided. And what could be easier, I reasoned, than to take a piece of fabric and surge the edges?

Indeed, what could be easier. I know, how about quilt along EVERY LINE of the plaid to make LITTLE TINY quilted squares that are ONE INCH apart. Actually that's the opposite of easier, but once you think of it how can you go back? So I did that, for like seventeen hundred hours. Because, you know, otherwise it wouldn't look "done."

I had a bit of extra fabric left over so I decided to make a matching critter, the kind of thing that you can hang from the handle of your car-seat. You can't see it from the picture above, but this bunny has got a little velcro strap in the back to keep him tethered to his post. When I was cutting the fabric for the strap I was all, "Hey Dan, do you think this is about the right size to hang from a car-seat?" And he was all, "I don't know - you could measure it against a real baby car seat. We have one IN THE NEXT ROOM, which is like TEN FEET AWAY FROM YOU."

That Dan. As long as I share an office with him he's determined to squeeze the retardedness out of my sewing process.

Harvey for his part was VERY UPSET when he saw a completed stuffed animal in the room and was told that it wasn't his to play with. So upset in fact that I had to make him his own bunny, while he was standing there, actually standing on the chair behind me pushing buttons on the sewing machine and pulling my hair. I made his gray instead of plaid, to avoid the slight chance of Nathan coming over one day and freaking out that another kid had HIS BUNNY - OMG THE FABRIC OF THE UNIVERSE IS RIPPING APART AT THE SEAMS! Says something about my childhood that these are the possibilities I try to ward against. Anyway, Harvey's new bunny is now his favorite toy, and everytime he picks it up he makes sure to clarify "Harvey bunny. Baby Nathan bunny dada's office."

Here he is hugging his bunny before naptime.

harvey in his bed cuddling his bunny

bunny tuck in

And here he is giving baby Nathan's bunny a proper send-off:

Harvey holding one stuffed bunny and kissing another



crafting ahead

Projects are flying off needles all around the house these days. It's the way this mama does nesting I suppose, what with the house already 90% prepped for a new baby and little desire to go up and down the attic ladder to finish off the last 10%. Yes, I have lots of baby creations I'd like to share with you, but with two showers coming up this month and two more friends pregnant on top of that, and with a little uncertainty still remaining over handmade gift allocation, I can't afford to spoil anyone's surprise just yet. So instead I'm spoiling a surprise for Harvey today, only because I'm sure he doesn't read this blog. I'd like to introduce you to my new friend:


Over the past few months I've re-written my crafting priority list several hundred times, trying to get squared away with baby showers, Easter, and Harvey's birthday before my new little life interruption arrives. Many ideas rotated out next to the line that read "Harvey's birthday," but for some reason "sock monkey" was the one that seemed to stick. This boy loves monkeys, after all, and I've been wanting to try my hand at a sock creation for some time now. So going through the priority list ass backwards as is my fashion (Easter is still not done of course) I just finished this gift for Harvey's birthday. All it took was two naps and one very long chunk of night-time time. Oh how I'm going to miss these quiet naps when I have two babies...

sock monkey

don't you want to hug me?

I referenced a pattern from Miyako Kanamori's book Sock and Glove. I use both the terms "referenced" and "pattern" loosely, because this is mostly a book of ideas and pretty pictures, leaving someone to their own devices for figuring out how to best cut, stitch, and hand finish knit fabrics to create something like the creatures therein. Aside from general sewing competency (or a flexibility with the outcome, either one will do) there is only one piece of information someone needs to create a sock monkey, and that is the diagram that shows how the second sock should be cut to form the arms, nose, ears, and tail. If you're interested in making one, you can find such a diagram here. I was fortunate that Kanamori's book appeared at eye level in my local library this week; It saved me printing out another piece of paper to lose five times over the course of one project.

The finished sock monkey is super soft and snuggly, and I do think Harvey will fall in love with him as quickly as I did. I only hope it will feel to me like enough of a "real" birthday present to keep me from pulling late nighters come the end of June. I know that with big presents likely coming from two sets of grandparents, and new pants and shirts that need to be sewn anyway, all that the boy really needs from his mama is something simple and heartfelt to let him know that I love him. In general I am trying to adapt my way thinking around gift-giving occasions. I tend to go overboard for each holiday, thinking I have to make EVERYTHING that comes into my head, which in turn only makes me stressed and anxious and sometimes moody on party day if something doesn't turn out right. I'd like to just be able to say, "This is my handmade gift. I put a lot of time into it and I think it's pretty good. I think you'll like it too. You don't need 20 of them to know that I love you."

Anyway, it's a work in progress. Me, I mean. Not the monkey, though. He's finished.


panna bear shirt? own shirt? Havey own shirt?

The World Wildlife Foundation is a charity that I enjoy supporting, not only because they do a really rigorous and well-rounded job of protecting the most endangered wildlife on the planet, but because they send you really awesome stuff when you donate to them. Take for example the 100 different adorable stuffed animals you can choose from when you symbolically "adopt" an endangered species. Also available are all sorts of merchandise - cups, clothes, and totes- bearing their signature panda bear logo, a sight that might make you nostalgic for your childhood if you grew up in the 80s watching PBS fundraisers.

So a few months ago I was making a donation online, and I asked for an extra large t-shirt as my gift with contribution. (The extra 40 pounds sticking straight out the front of me is making it a wee bit challenging to squeeze into t-shirts these days.) The problem was that the design on the shirt was soooo awesome that whenever I put on the thing Harvey would get all crazy and scream "Panna bear shirt? on Havey? Havey on? Havey, Havey, Haveeeey?" So I told him I would buy him his own panda bear shirt, which also turned out to be a mistake, because from then on every day Harvey would ask me, "Panna bear shirt? Havey? buy one? come inna mail?"

Finally it arrived, the smallest branded shirt that WWF offers. Unfortunately the size was youth medium, which was like a dress on Harvey. He walked around proudly for a few minutes in his very own panda bear shirt, until he tripped on the bottom hem and suffered a disappointed melt-down. So I promised him then and there that I would do some sewing to make the shirt smaller. And then he jumped on that idea. And then he jumped on me. And jumped and jumped and jumped until I ran to the sewing room and pulled out the scissors.

Using the 47-cent Halloween shirt that I finally dismantled as a template, I cut pieces out of the front and the back, trying to keep the entirety of the design in tact while still making use of the existing neck ribbing. Then I sort of trimmed the sleeves by eyeball, and surged the thing together. It was a hack job at best, and a testament to the awesome properties of cotton knit that it even ended up a workable t-shirt at all.

Mama and Harvey in matching panda bear shirts

panda bears

The fix would have taken but a few moments, only I had to start by rethreading my serger, which itself takes 15 minutes, all the while with Harvey whining and whining and whining at me for his new shirt which was NOT DONE YET BECAUSE I NEED TO RETHREAD MY FRIGGIN SERGER, DO YOU WANT ME TO MAKE THIS SHIRT FOR YOU OR NOT? YOU DO? THEN SHUT UP AND LET ME SEW!

I'll admit, it wasn't my finest hour of patience.

Because I was in a rush I didn't even hem up the bottom. I wanted to see how long the shirt came down on him and make a mark for a hem, but once it was on of course it couldn't come off for the hemming, silly me. I should just write down his measurements somewhere, but that would be the kind of pre-planning that's possible for a person who does things like rethread her serger the moment the thread breaks. Instead of, you know, picking up a knitting project. In other words, not me.

Mama hugging Harvey (and showing off the back of his shirt)

huggy bear

After the shirt spent a day on Harvey and came out of the wash again I noticed something funny... the back label seemed to be on the outside. I kept turning the thing inside out until I realized what I'd done. In my haste I didn't check to make sure I was sewing right side to right side and managed to throw on the back panel inside out.

And I just thought, yeah, that makes sense. That sounds like me these days.

The important thing is that Harvey LOVES his new shirt (he's wearing it again now, in fact) and I've already ordered another to see if I can recreate my work a bit more neatly (and possibly while he's asleep.)

Oh, and yeah. I know there's a picture of me up above. I thought it would be cute if we took a picture together in our matching shirts. Because I am completely comfortable with how gigantically fat I get when I'm pregnant, so comfortable that even though I can hear you over the internet asking ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO MAKE IT TILL MAY? and HOW MANY BABIES YOU GOT IN THERE? and I'm totally cool with it because I know where you live and once I have my homebirth I can sent bio-hazardous material there. Commenters, consider this your only warning.


Disappointments and new clothes

I consider myself an intermediate-to-advanced knitter. I don't do intarsia patterns and I have no desire to go near lace, but I feel fairly confident carrying multiple colors for fair isles or other such things, and I'm precise enough with my finishing techniques that most of the time I can turn out a finished garment of the same or higher quality than you'd buy in a store. Overall my failure rate for knitting is about 10% ... of the projects I knit I'd say one out of ten of them will end up so hopelessly ill fitting that they need to be discarded completely. Sometimes it's the pattern that's bad; sometimes it's the overzealousness with which I launch into a pattern, and sometimes there's no pattern at all and I should have known better.

I consider myself an intermediate-to-retarded sewer. I know a lot of sewing techniques, but I'm so impatient sitting up in that little room that I skip some steps and rush through others. I often end up doing something stupid, like cutting a pattern piece mirror-flipped or sewing right side to bad side. All that means that my success rate with sewing is abysmal. I'd say about 50% of my attempts end up in the scrap bin, and I'm never 100% happy with the things that do make it to the closet.

So it should only be expected that some months come filled with disappointments. You can't win em all, either sewing or knitting. March was such a month. Here's Dan's birthday sweater which took me most of January and February.

dan in herringbone sweater

a warm sweater for a cold march day?

The measurements of the sweater were perfectly tailored to Dan's body... that is until I washed the thing and the sleeves and body each stretched about five inches longer. I have no one to blame but myself for this. I should have knitted a sample swatch in herringbone and washed it before starting in on the project. The thing is, I wasn't 100% confident on HOW to do herringbone before I started in on the line-by-line instructions. Indeed, it was only by the time I got to the end that I really understood what was going on. To do all that learning up front would have made the sweater never happen at all. So yeah, I never knit a gauge swatch and now Dan has a $60 / 50-hour alpaca sweater that's too long in the arms.

dan in herringbone sweater, close up

trying hard to model, even though it's too long to put hands comfortably in pockets

At least he looks cute with the sleeves rolled up. I've told him that now I'm out of my mourning period and am willing to cut off the bottom of the sleeves and re-knit the cuffs. So far he's declined the offer.

After Dan's birthday I was happy to turn to some sewing. Harvey is desperate for pants, since he's wearing an average of 2-3 pairs each day (can I get an amen from my people with the cloth diapers?) so I thought I'd make him another up-cycled pair like the last two I threw together. Of course, this involved drafting a whole knew pattern for 4T. They ended up way too baggy in the legs, and more than a little haphazard in the construction.

harvey sitting in his patched pants

raggedy Harvey

I used a pair of women's pants generously donated by my friend Katie. I thought I would be wise to re-use the pockets in front and back, but when I put whole thing together it turned out that the women pockets looked really, er womanly on Harvey. The cuffs also looked dumb when rolled up, so I cut them off and added contrasting cuffs to match the patches. All together my second-round edits took more time than the initial construction... I should have just ironed my fabric well and done it right the first time.

harvey outside in his patched pants

crazy pants match crazy hair

It's draining when I feel like everything I make comes out crappy. Since it takes so much time and energy, since it means somedays dinner didn't get made or the house didn't get cleaned, to have it all come out disappointing is, well, disappointing. I say to myself: how am I supposed to be on my way to clothing self-sufficiency if I can't even turn out a well-tailored baby pant? Dan keeps asking me for suit jackets. But the last long-sleeve shirt I made Harvey had half the seems accidentally inside out. And that's only a 4-step t-shirt! You want a jacket with a liner? I'd likely strangle myself in tweed before I finish.

On the other hand, they're clothes. They done got worn this week. Better than going naked.

harvey's bum in his patched pants

the end


If you reverse engineer the human heart, you're bound to find love at it's core*

Since Harvey was born we've had a bit of a problem in our household with leaving things on top of the car. It started with Dan's camera left up there on the morning of Harvey's baptism. Thankfully, his wallet was inside the camera case too and a neighbor returned it to our house that afternoon. Then two weeks ago Dan drove away with a pair of ski mittens on the top of the car, which I thankfully retrieved when I spied one sitting in the middle of our local thoroughfare moments later. But last week a heavy sadness came over me when Dan told me one of his favorite mittens flew off the roof of the car into the middle of the highway. Those mittens, his FAVORITE black mittens that he's had since high school, for whose sake he would never accept from me another present of mittens. Down to half a pair.

I almost started crying. Look, I'm still pregnant, okay? I'm a sentimental utilitarian at the core. For me there's nothing worse than losing something that's both loved and useful.

Dan has often extolled the virtues of these fleece mittens, the PERFECT mittens the likes of which no other mitten has ever be created. They're warm but not too heavy. They fit just right. They roll up small to fit in his pocket. They're mittens straight from heaven. So after this terrible tragedy last week he handed me the lone remaining mitten and said, "Make me a new pair like this one."

No pressure.

With teeth gritted I ripped out every stitch in those mittens, taking careful photographs of the inner seaming along the way. Then using the mitten pieces as a pattern I cut a new pair out of black fleece and stitched them together with my breath held in.

Here is the result:

dan's new black mittens

They fit at least!

They're not a perfect replica. The elastic is a bit too loose, and the old ones had a tag on the inside which helped him tell right from left. So the reverse engineering is still a work in process. I have more black fleece from the yard I bought on Friday, so I can theoretically make three more pairs with minor tweaks in them before I use up the $5 worth of fabric.

To soften the blow of less than perfect mittens, I paired them with a batch of home-made chocolates (the mold was on sale for 50 cents at the fabric store, and the candy-canes were left over from Christmas.)

mittens and chocolate

be mine?

And there you go, happy valentines day! You see, that's how we roll in our house. I make something off the request list that I was already making anyway, and then hand it over saying "happy whatever."

I also had in mind to reverse engineer a new t-shirt pattern for Harvey. My sized-up Carters pattern isn't really working now that we're into the toddler sizes, so I wanted to find a cheep 4T t-shirt to cut up and use as a template. Thankfully on that same Friday trip to JoAnnes the adjacent Old Navy provided such a product:

haloween shirt on the table

it'll be a collector's item!

Yes, the shirt says Happy Halloween 2010. I snapped it up for 47 cents.

I wanted to use Harvey's nap time today to take apart this t-shirt and make a valentines version, but unfortunately he spied me taking the photograph and immediately demanded the orange shirt go on his body. And then he looked down stroking his stomach lovingly and cooing "owange shiwt."

valentines harvey in halloween shirt

thank's mom! this is the best halloween 2010 ever!

So that's where we're at. Mitten pieces all over the office, and Harvey napping in a 47 cent Halloween shirt that I may never be able to dismember. Oh well. Happy whatever!

harvey proud in his orange shirt


*Phineus & Ferb, what do it do


Useful sewing

At Dan's request I recently made Harvey a his-size apron so that he could help in / destroy the kitchen without needing a change of clothes afterwards.

Harvey in his new apron

uh, catalogue shoot director? Can we get someone from hair over here?

I fudged the pattern by putting a bigger apron on Harvey and pinning it to fit, tracing that piece onto paper, cutting out one side in the polkadot fabric, and making adjustments before cutting out the second side. All in all, it should have been a quicky-quick project. Indeed it would have been if only I had sewn on the binding the easy cheat way. But for some reason I didn't want to risk missing a curve and staring at my busted up handiwork every day for the next two years, so I sewed all the binding in regular 4-step process: pin, sew one side, pin, sew the other side. That made this silly little apron about a 4-hour project, including a full hour of Phineus and Ferb.

Oh well. At least it has a pocket.

Harvey showing of a spoon in his apron pocket

careful, he's armed

Both the fabric and binding came from scraps from other projects, which means that this project was sort of free! Well, free to an economist at any rate, because he would call fabric scraps a sunk cost. An accountant would call the fabric inventory and allocate some cost to it. Then again, the economist might assign a cost to my 4 hours of work and list it as an "opportunity cost" where I could have been acting profitably elsewhere. So like I said, sort of free. Golly, I'm sure glad I went back to school for the MBA.

The big red splotches are not part of the fabric pattern, by the way. So necessary was this apron that we had to ply it into service before mama could get in some clean daytime shots. On Wednesday night Harvey helped with the quesadilla sauce and pretty much poured salsa all down his front side.

harvey getting his apron dirty

nom nom nom

Well, that's what it's there for!


bits and pieces

As Dan mentioned in a previous post we recently consolidated my sewing workshop with Dan's office to give Harvey a room all his own. I haven't come close to organizing my sewing supplies yet, because every time I try to move something, I think, hey, just a few snips here and a few stitches there and this fabric will be all used up and out of this room! And then there I go, snipping and stitching, only in 20 minute bursts between child-rearing, and wouldn't you know it for a solid week there's a heaping mess all over the floor 4 times as big as when I started. But then in the end a small bit of something used up and turned into something else. So, er, progress? In our world it is.

closeup of the scrappy fleece quilt

gone with a whole bag of fleece!

My former sewing space had a whole shelf full of fleece and pieces of fleece. After making Noah's cow last week and cutting some ear-warmers for next Christmas (I know, ambitious) I realized that most of the rest of the scrap pieces were too small to be usable on their own. So I went at the whole pile, cutting what was there into strips and sewing the bits together however they would fit. The result is this rather haphazard baby quilt.

We know three babies coming in the spring, so I was hoping to add this to my pile of shower gifts. Unfortunately, I think the randomness and complete lack of form in this quilt means it needs to be destined for a particularly hippy type of family. As I was trying to put it somewhere for a photo shoot I was thinking: who has a mish-mash fug-clectic house where this would fit? And then it dawned on me. We do.

quilt staged in our living room

We have a mish-mash fug-clectic house.

Note how the huge spherical cow pillow matches the lamb toy on the floor. That was totally planned.

Still, I'm not attached to keeping this for little baby Archibald. So if anyone wants this one, please speak up.

In an effort to make something more classy for the upcoming babies I dove into my pile of patterns and put together a soft fuzzy bunny.

stuffed bunny close up

dapper bunny fuzz face

This bunny that I made for Harvey last Easter is perhaps my favorite thing I have sewn for him ... ever. It's just the perfect size for a little person to love and cuddle, and it fits so snuggly under his arm when he falls asleep. Also, it makes a nice shelf decoration in baby's room if you happen to have a certain fug-clectic hippy style. (I also made some as wedding gifts. A versatile pattern this one.) So the other night I threw this guy together out of an old cashmere-blended scarf. Nothing against this scarf in particular, I just never wore it because I have A LOT of scarves. Maybe I always thought it would make a better bunny.

bunny on horsey

ride em cowboy

The tail comes from the fringe that was originally on the scarf, which was a nice bonus. I still have more scarf left, but no more fringe, so this might become a set with a little lamb to match.

This blog post is becoming rather long, but there's still one more project I made last week. This also used up scrap, but the point wasn't so much to use up the scrap as it was to keep Harvey's pants up. I give you the frat boy baby belt:

frat boy belt on Harvey

scooter? Mary this is a vespa!

It's a little wider than I would like, but that comes from barely measuring and whipping the whole thing up in less than 20 minutes. It's got a single D-shaped loop in the front, and the rest of the belt just gets stashed under his pant loops. All in all, a big amateur act, but that's fine. The point is to hold up his jeans during the three or so weeks when his 4T Gap pants are too snug to close at the fly all the way. Pretty soon that belly fat will shoot all down his legs, he'll get an inch taller, and his pants will suddenly fit again, albeit rolled down. Life with a toddler is a moving target.

harvey in his new belt, front shot

So slowly and surely we're making progress over here. A year ago I wouldn't have thought I could have turned out 3 finished projects on the fly in one week. I also would have never believed I'd let a plastic scooter into my house, but it's been a very snowy stir-crazy couple of days here, and yesterday I found myself not only retrieving said scooter from the porch but giving it a shower to get off all the stray bits of ice. So yeah, that's a very clean scooter. It showered with me yesterday.

And here's one last picture I had to include even though it doesn't show anything particularly crafty. This is my little boy holding onto his bike in a pose that's all Dan, with a WTF expression on his face that's so familiar it's as if I'm looking into a mirror. Man I love that little boy.

harvey in a wtf pose

uh, mom? are we done here?

That dog barrooing in the background isn't too bad either.


more on stuff

Pursuant to our earlier discussion, I just wanted to point out that someone else agrees with out position on stuff. The Path to Freedom family are the most hardcore homesteaders on the internet, and they recognize that you can't make stuff without a lot of other stuff. Of course, organization is good too, and Harvey and I spent an hour or so this evening trying to create a more usable space. The new combined office and sewing room here is pretty crowded and disorganized as well at present, but that's not stopping us from getting work done in it! Leah is on the verge of finishing her second project of the day, and I have no doubt that details and pictures will be forthcoming presently.

More crafty birthday presents!

My little brother Jake turned 26 last week and we celebrated with a festive dinner at my parents' house. My present to him, knitted this month in down moments and sometimes while playing legos, was a fair isles hat using the remnant yarn from his sweater vest.

jake modeling his birthday hat

night owls demand flash photography

This is my first 'completed' project involving fair isles technique... I've done my share of color stripping in other projects but not until recently did I feel confident enough to attempt carrying two colors at the same time. I'll admit, it's both easier and harder than you think. The knitting part is fairly easy switching between colors (especially when you throw the yarn like I do in the fashion of gaudy Americans), but just like everyone says you gotta get serious religion about passing the second yarn LOOSELY in the back. You can see the hat is a bit tighter in the snowflake part, evidence of my failure on the latter point. Oh well. A learning experience, certainly, and a fun break from the HEAVY DUTY two-color project I'm working on for Dan.

I was afraid the night-time flash photos might not come out, so I made Dan model the hat for me earlier in the day. Look at what a cutie he is! He just might need his own earflap hat some day, even though he swears he doesn't want one.

dan models the earflap hat

my winter woodsman

(Pay no attention to the state of our living room unfortunately also picutred.)

It was also my father's birthday last week, but thankfully for him he didn't need to submit to my knitting whimsies. Instead he got some wine (not homemade... we're not quite up to that yet...) and a set of homemade candles, which is to say some old candles re-melted into baby food jars and fitted with new wicks. This project seemed a bit of a cop-out to me, a little more recycled than upcycled, but whatever. There's new candles and a few less baby food jars in our basement. Hopefully with the next baby I won't be working full time come solid food stage, and I'll have more opportunity to make my own baby food. Then I won't be sitting around saying to myself, what can I do with all these jars?


candles in baby food jars

All in all it was a big weekend for birthdays, which is rather satisfying for me seeing as birthdays and holidays are the only thing that gets me finishing any projects around here.


blue cow fuzziness

Yesterday Harvey attended his first toddler birthday party (well, other than his own of course). Our friends' house was packed with toddlers and their German-speaking parents. These friends are German, you see, along with (apparently) many other young families in Cambridge. Everyone had a great time, especially Dan and I who indulged in far too much German-styled cake while we tried to act sufficiently cultured as the only Americans there and field questions on why Americans don't let their children run around naked at the beach (answer: we don't know.)

For the occasion, Harvey helped me make a special present for 2-year-old Noah:

blue fleece cow

clearly related somehow to Babe the Blue Ox

It's a blue fleece cow according to this pattern. I had made two of these cows for Harvey's birthday ark, but those were half sized and in felt, so this fleece full-sized rendition was an absolute pleasure to sew something, all on the machine, without any hand stitching.

Harvey at work cutting out pattern pieces

a great help with the pinning

In keeping with my new years resolution, all the fleece was from my scrap pile, meaning that the present cost me no new outlays of cash, except for the $3.50 that Dan invested in a new bag of stuffing.

Dan even made an awesome card to go with the present:

a birthday card featuring the blue cow

moooove over, Hallmark

For his part, Noah was very pleased with the toy. He carried it around immediately, calling it "horse cow."

noah hugging his new cow


Of course, most of the credit for this project goes to Dan. It was his idea to make a big cow in blue fleece, and as much as I love my earthy crunchy felt, I do have to admit that toddlers love fuzzy fleece. I've been cutting up a lot of my fleece scraps for a quilty baby blanket, which means it's almost time to go back to the store for more. You know, just in case there need to be more big fuzzy cows in the future.


The tail end of Christmas crafting

Our Christmas tree is coming down today, so I took an hour yesterday to finally make Harvey an ornament for this year. Here it is.

snowman ornament


He is, or course, a recreation of Harvey's favorite storybook character, and a nod to Harvey's current obsession with all things snowman. I swear... you could have a snowman the size of a pencil head drawn on wrapping paper and Harvey would plow through a room of excited children and dogs to point to it.

Indeed, when I gave him the ornament this morning Harvey exclaimed "noman!" and shook it excitedly.

Come to think of it, this guy needs a scarf if he wants to match the drawings in the book. Okay, so there's one more thing to do before all the ornaments go into the box.

Before we close the book on Christmas crafting 2010, I wanted to share with you this picture book I made for Harvey. It started off as a fun thing to do while we're coloring together and turned into a billion-hour project with far too many steps going into binding and prepping for binding and gluing and binding.

cover of harvey's board book The Great Thanksgiving

Go ahead, judge it by its cover

The book uses the text of The Great Thanksgiving (according to the Book of Common Prayer - I used Eucharistic Prayer C if you want to get technical) to tell the overall story of God and his people.

a picture from the book about creation


God created us, we turned against him, yaddah yaddah yaddah, then came Jesus.

mary and jesus

my drawings are kind of crude, but you get the idea

I tried to use pictures that Harvey could recognize. This one he can call "huggie."

One day Harvey slept for a whole two-and-a-half hours, letting me complete the last of the pictures and do all the lettering in one amazing afternoon. The hymn singer picture below was one of the two drawings I made during that session, and I'll always remember it as a testament of praise to a toddler in slumber as much as to God.

hymn singers out of harvey's book

unending hymn

I consider it one of my better qualities that I often plow into projects without thinking through their completion. This book was a good example. I can now tell you much more about binding your own board book, perhaps enough to put you off the project. I thought I would glue each page to cardboard and then laminate with contac paper. The gluing took about ten billion times as long as I thought it would, since each page needed to be lined up on the cardboard just right. I thought I would use rubber cement but that ended up being slippery, so I went back to using glue-sticks, which as it turned out were out of stock in our office four days before Christmas. One of the low (or high) points of this project was me promising Dan sexual favors if he would run out to Staples at 8:30pm on a Monday evening to buy me more glue. Then Dan used his school's laminator to seal the pages, and I taped down the laminated edges using $15 of invisible tape. Well, I only used about 50 cents in the end, but I had to buy $15 because the packages were sealed in the store and I couldn't tell which kind I needed.

And so, on the verge of switching to all cloth bags for all future Christmases, we nowown about ten years worth of scotch tape.

No matter. That's what Christmas is all about.

back of harvey's book

love mama


bonus bonus knitting

If I have any semblance of new year's resolutions this year, it's to make more stuff with less stuff. For me this means finding small but useful projects to use up scrap yarn, doing some dreaded quilting with scrap fabric, and making more clothes for Harvey using our cast offs.

After making this christmas hat I had a very small ball of dark blue left. Serendipitously I also had a very small ball of blulky light blue wool left over from a hat I made for Lisa last year. I decided to put these two together into some sort of headband.

blue scrappy headband


(Apparently my other new years resolution is to make quicker blog posts by not taking real photos.)

I was bummed yesterday evening when I ran out of dark blue yarn to get it all the way around my head. I thought of finishing it with fabric and then despaired that my simple project was turning into something that needed, ugh, elastic. Then a few hours later I thought of a rather simple solution... make the back band thinner and use up the rest of the slightly longer light blue yarn.

blue scrappy headband - showing off the back

showin off the back band

In the end it juuuuust fit around my head. Even Harvey likes it.

harvey steals the blue headband

"Havey do it?"

In fact, he stole it for himself, which is what happens to most headbands in this house.

headband on Harvey

the natural order of things


bonus knitting

One of the most lovely and surprising gifts I got this Christmas was a skein of yarn from a sheep farm in Ithaca, local to my brother-in-law Tom who picked it up there (along with some sheep's milk cheese which Dan enjoyed.) The yarn was big and bulky and a lovely deep blue color, the kind of thing I love to knit with but don't usually buy for myself because it's so expensive. So I decided to be luxurious this week and knit myself a new winter hat. I stole a cabled pattern idea from some nice photographer on Ravely and used my tried-and-true bulky hat pattern as a base shape. First I made this red and white version out of scrap yarn to make sure the pattern would work:

red hat tester

someone's christmas present for next year

Then I made the real one for myself in deliciously thick wool:

leah's new blue hat

merry christmas to me!

So that was my knitting fun for this week, before I seriously start in on the next round of birthdays and baby blankets. I have to keep reminding myself that knitting is a hobby, not my job. And, you know, my real job takes up a lot of my time. Being a housekeeper dash Laundromat. I mean mother. MOTHER.



blue and yellow quilt hanging on the line

a baby quilt 2 years in the making

I started this quilt before Harvey was born. It was supposed to be a baby quilt for a few-month-old to lie on top of, but the finishing stages were such a pain in the ass that I never got it done. I made a valiant effort to finish it before last Christmas, but I stupidly thought I would save time by not changing the foot on my machine. That 10-minute time saver turned into six hours of ripping out stitches. At the rate of an hour a month. If you're a quilter, you don't need me to warn you to change the foot on your machine before quilting. If you're not a quilter, DON'T START!

another picture of the blue quilt

meticulously randomized color gradations.

Anyway, I finally got the last of the bad stitches out and decided to make a go of finishing it before Christmas this year. When properly executed the finishing wasn't the end of the world - about four or five hours all told, and I did it in two days during naps and nights. Boy did that make me feel stupid. Because, you know, here's Harvey now with a tiny quilt he can't much use, that I could have finished when he was 6 months old if only I stayed up an extra few hours.

Rascal on Harvey's Christmas quilt

he relaxes after opening presents

Fortunately Rascal redeemed the project by lying right on top of it as soon as the quilt was spread. We even used it later in the afternoon to protect my in-laws couch when Rascal wanted to take a nap. So all's well that ends well I guess.

I love the look of quilting, but it turns out that I hate almost every step in the process. I hate cutting fabric, especially geometrically. I hate lining up the top layer with the batting and backing. I hate making bias tape only slightly more than I hate buying it. And I hate the long boring and crazy-OCD-making process of quilting. The only thing I like is sewing the pieces together. That 1/10th of the process is so satisfying.

I've been debating whether to start some sort of blanket for the new baby. A knitted blanket plays more to my strengths, but a nice patchwork quilt would use up some scraps and not require the expensive outlay of a full blanket's worth of yarn. But, you know, would fill my house with cursing. Decisions decisions.


my Christmas accomplishments

some of the preserves we gave as Christmas presents

giving the gift of summertime flavors

As I mentioned, I did my best with the limited skills I possess to come up with a minimally acceptable set of homemade presents this Christmas. Preserves I can handle, but all that I needed to do for them last week was applying labels and making boxes. All the hard work was way back in the summer, which doesn't quite seem fair.

I did manage a little bit of baking: I made some well-received orange-chocolate shortbread and some ugly and deformed peanut-butter cups. Perhaps I would have done better had I started the whole project earlier than 9:30 in the evening on Christmas Eve. Next year.

My other project was a set of calling cards—mama cards, if you will—for Leah. She asked me to make her some: they're apparently a thing, and really do seem like a good idea for when you happen to meet someone at the playground. Not that that's likely to happen for a couple months; Harvey and I tried to go yesterday, but the snow cover was complete enough to prevent any fun from being had. In any case, this was one task where I could fully leverage my core skill-set of putting a little bit of information on a document with a whole lot of white space around it and calling it elegant design. Really, Harvey is so photogenic that nobody will be looking at the text anyways. Unless, I suppose, they want to call Leah. Luckily her number isn't blurred out in real life.

calling cards for Leah, featuring Harvey's cute little mug

look at that little model

I also made that stable for Harvey's nativity set. Oh, and a spice rack for Leah's use! Can't forget that! Except that I haven't managed to put it up yet, so full credit is yet pending.


Harvey's Nativity

This was Harvey's "big" christmas present from this year. Not that he liked it the most - that prize went to a bouncy ball and two wood cars I got at the paper store. No, this 20-hour present is more of a gesture, a holding place, stock for later Montessori moments in his life when he may want to learn more about Jesus' birth.

the members of harvey's nativity set

all together now!

Every doll in this set is hand-sewn, even the sheep, because they're too small to put through the sewing machine. That makes for about 2.5 hours per doll, not counting the clothes.

mary and the baby jesus

the virgin mother mild

All the dolls in the set use the same pattern, except for Mary who has a special pocket in her nether regions from wence the baby can emerge. It's a play set with a life lesson thrown in to boot! Don't worry, I've spared you the detailed pictures here, though you're welcome to come over and play with them yourself.

For his part, when I showed Harvey the baby coming out he said, "No? No?" Too bad junior. That decision isn't up to you.

nativity exterior shot

a place to creche

Dan made this awesome stable out of wood to hold the playset. The roof even comes off for easy access! It was very exciting to collaborate with Dan on a project, especially since I don't do wood working, and I was less excited to try my hand at a felt stable than I was about the arc. In the end the set could use a few more things... a manger out of popcicle sticks, three wise-men which I wisely declined to make at the last minute. That just means there are some no-brainer gifts for next year's stocking. You know, when he might actually be interested in playing with dolls.



The one thing that Dan requested from me this Christmas was a thick knit hat with a fleece lining inside. A seemingly simple request, so I started on this one quite early. I had picked up some un-dyed yarn from our local sheep at last spring's woolopolooza, and it seemed like the perfect thing. Two skeins ended up being enough a matching set of boys hats. Indeed, a third hat came out of the lot too - a casualty from my habit of always knitting the first Harvey hat too small. That one went to our friend baby Noah, since it's too much for me to keep two identical hats of different sizes in the house, even if we do have another baby on the way.

harvey and dan in their new christmas hats

harvey dada hattey?

You may notice a row of black stitches on the bottom of Dan's hat. That's holding the fleece lining in place, the key detail in Dan's initial request. In theory it seemed like a cinch to sew a fleece layer to a knit cap. In practice it's not something I'd willingly do again outside of a special Christmas request. I had wanted to use the grey hat yarn as thread, but it refused to go through the thick fleece. The next best choice was black thread which matched the liner, but my OCD over making messy sewing stitches over the nice neat knitted ones made the last step of this project stretch to almost three hours, about half as long as it took me to knit the whole dang hat! Also, the knit and fleece stretch differently, which means I had to set up the spacing with about a zillion pins. All surmountable hurdles in theory, but not the thing you want to be dealing with at 10pm two days before Christmas. Anyway, I think it came out looking pretty good, although that Drumlin sheep wool pulls together like crazy. I was expecting more stretch with wearing, but after two days Dan says it's still a bit tight. I just might have to wet block the thing over a bowling ball this week.

I made some other hats for this year's holiday season. Here's one for my mom featuring a cute little knit leaf. I also make one for my Dad and one for our sister Nelly, although I didn't snap good pictures of these. Oh well, such is life.

beth in her chanukah hat

elegant for an elegant lady

The other big knitting project I completed this season was a vest for my brother. You'll notice the resemblance to the vest I made for Dan last year on his birthday.

jake in his chanukah vest

pass the chopped liver, man!

It's a fantastically simple pattern, and a good semi-big knitting project for boys. It's not as mind-numbing as a sweater since there are no sleeves, but it certainly makes me feel more accomplished than a hat. I'll always think of this vest as the sandbox vest, since I knit most of the base while sitting next to Harvey in the sandbox this summer. That's the key to getting in six knit gifts by Christmas - starting in July.

So those are the things I knitted this year. Resolutions for the new year include working through my stash of odds-and-ends (baby mittens anyone?) and trying out my first carrying-color pattern for Dan's birthday. Which is less than three months away! For a sweater with sleeves! Eek! Better get knitting!


Christmas Sweater

A brief programming note for our faithful 100 readers: I aim to write a few separate posts about my Christmas craft projects this year, if only to spread out the self-congratulatory photo dumps a little longer. So we'll celebrate Christmas on the blog for another week, and starting in the new year I think I'll start a series of posts about being a full-time mom of a toddler. Because, you know, that's ground-breaking blogging right there. But for now, onto the knitting porn!

I give you Harvey's Christmas sweater:

harvey in his new orange sweater

happy to be warm outside

Harvey picked out the yarn for this himself, way back in the summer when we were more mobile and could bike all the way to the Lexington knitting store. That's only to demonstrate how frigging long this sweater took me to knit. With 168 stitches around the middle and 87 around the sleeves, I could have knitted a while adult sweater in the time it took me to make this 2-year-old version. That's due to the small size of the needles (2 and 3 US, respectively) which for some reason didn't give me pause when I picked up the pattern. Although I love the way the tiny stitches look and the amazing elasticity of the ribbing, I'd still prefer a 7 or 9 for future sweaters.

orange sweater side view

steppin out in style

The sweater is knitted almost entirely in the round, which is lovely for the base rows and would be more lovely if more than half the sweater wasn't ribbing. Still, it's a nice technique on principle, though I'm not super keen on the gigantic external seam along the shoulder that's left by casting off two sets of stitches together. I know the point of the round method is to be seamless on the inside, but after working all those tiny sleeve rows on double pointed needles I've decided that I rather like seams in the end. They're handy for hiding your yarn ends, after all. Another point of contention with the pattern: what's that weird neck gusset interrupting the ribbing? Does anybody find that odd? I am told by the now-out-of-print Debbie Bliss pattern that this is a traditional guernsey sweater, but I don't know how many fisherman I've seen walking around with big neck and gussets.... maybe I don't see enough fisherman.

orange sweater back

what Christmas magic lies ahead?

No matter how many curse words go into knitting a sweater, it's always an unspeakable joy when it's finished. When I opened the package for Harvey on Christmas morning he looked at it and said, "ninning?"

"No sweetie, mama's all finished knitting this. It's a sweater now." I held it up for him to see that it was in fact a garment and not something he would get yelled at for touching.

"On?" he said immediately, sticking out his hand.

For the rest of the day he refused to take the thing off, even when it reached 80 degrees next to the fireplace and his cheeks turned apple red. Of course this makes the whole project worth it, all the late-night error-fixing and the times these past two weeks when I let him watch an extra episode of Phineus and Ferb just so that I could get in a few more rows. All that is more than doubly worth it for that one moment of "On?"

harvey watching computer in his orange sweater

I love that boy so much it's stupid


what I'm working on

With just a few days do go I'm feeling more confident than I have ever been about home-made Christmas. This year I made more nice gifts than I ever did before, on account of starting in June on some bigger projects. This means that not one, not two, but six members of my family will get hand knit somethings this year, several others hand sewn somethings, with lots of other mini projects here and there to fill in the gaps.

As always, there are set-backs, like finding out that the mice ate Harvey's handmade stocking from last year, finding out at the same time that Dan hates his current stocking, and running out to JoAnnes to confidently purchase $25 worth of wool that has yet to become 5 new stockings. Errr, that's a project for tomorrow night.

Today I'm finishing up the cuff of Harvey's sweater, and it looks like a real Christmas miracle will occur and my tiny ball of yarn will hold out another 20 rows. If that gets done before 10pm I'm going to finish binding the board book that started out as a whim and ended up in 20 plus hours of work. Harvey's nativity set has already taken about three billion hours from September to present, and as of yesterday I officially gave up on adding Wise Men. That set already contains six dolls and two sheep all painstakingly hand-stitched, so I'm ready to call it a day, or rather call it a Luke-version Nativity and leave it at that.

All of these projects are to be photographed and blogged about in time, but probably not before the holiday, so in the meantime I leave you with two short Christmas projects that I blatantly stole from someone else's blog. The first is Peppermint bark:

peppermint bark

not just the thought that counts

I made this on Sunday and when Dan tried a piece he said, "I demand you make more of this." This is good stuff, y'all. I would be making more at the moment but it only takes white chocolate chips with real coco butter in them, which only come from Trader Joe's, and after the JoAnnes run the other day I have refused to drive anywhere near Burlington until Christmas is over. But if you can find the ingredients (and can slog through a recipe the size of Moby Dick) I strongly suggest you try it.

peppermint bark

that shit is good

My other new obsession this year is making re-usable wrapping sacks. They're like wrapping paper except reusable and more time consuming and you need to get out your stupid iron and why aren't you making Christmas stockings what on earth is your problem?

cloth wrapping paper

getting there...

I've made three more bags since this photo, and I would so much like to do ALL my wrapping with cloth bags, even though it adds so much time to the already late evenings. I don't know, something about the idea that it might ease my time next year, that makes it justified in my mind.

If knitting and book binding and stocking sewing go smoothly (and why should they?) then I'm sure I'll find something else to do before Saturday. Ornaments? Another hat? I really love Christmas.


elvish effort

We're working hard here at squibix enterprises, inc. to get ready for Christmas. Well, some of us are working; Harvey does his part by going to bed early without a fuss to let us get some serious holiday prep done between the hours of 7 and 10 pm. Leah of course has a variety of craft disciplines well in hand: sewing, knitting, even book-making. It's harder for me without any actual skills, but I'm doing as much as I can with graphic design and preserves (and the intersection between the two). I'm even branching out a little into sewing and carpentry!

We won't have an entirely home-made Christmas, but a significant percentage of the gifts will be products of our own industry. It's very gratifying to our hippy sensibilities—and it's also a great way to save money, especially when your hourly labor is valued as low as ours is.

You'll notice, though, that even with all the work we're doing we still make time for blogging. That's our gift to you!


Holiday making is making it's way...

All knit and jammed for the Bernstein's festival of lights...

chanukah presents ready to wrap

chanukah presents ready to wrap

Some Christmas things done already... things that were not finished last year...

christmas quilts drying on the line

christmas quilts drying on the line

Some things in progress but getting oh so close to done...

christmas sweater all but the sleeves

wip 1 - only 2 sleeves to go!

Some things just started but very very exciting...

wip 2 - one sheep of many

wip 2 - one sheep of many

And more surprises I can't even share until later. It's a fun fun year for us!


mousing around

Here's a little preview for you of Harvey's halloween costume. I made him a mouse hat using the base from this martha stewart bonnet. That took about thirteen seconds, while the ears took about two hours to sew on. Man, there's nothing worse for someone with OCD than hand-sewing animal ears on a hat when THEY NEED TO BE SYMMETRICAL IN THREE DIMENSIONS!!!!! Fortunately, I was able to devote my full attention to the task because I did it at jury duty earlier this week. They wouldn't let me bring in my knitting needles (those bastards) but I did manage to sneak in a small sewing needle thread. Good thing too, because this left me time to make a mouse body costume this afternoon, although sadly after this video was shot. Oh well. You'll have some pictures to look forward to this weekend. Happy pre-halloween!

Mitzvahs and new pants

We went to a Batmitzvah this weekend, and while I had hoped to come home with a picture of Harvey spinning around in neon sunglasses and a plastic top-hat, such a thing was not meant to be. The music and the older children were a bit too overwhelming for him, so he spent most of the time grabbing onto mama or running around the quiet outdoors. Here's a shot of the latter:

harvey playing outside

up? up?

For the occasion he wore a second-hand button-down shirt and some new pants hot off mama's sewing machine. I cut the pieces from some old cargo pants of mine that no longer fit and added a green band around the top to hold the elastic. I made Harvey pull up his shirt in this picture to display the contrast edging:

harvey displaying his new pants

an obedient model

The benefits of this pant-making method are of course that
1) recycled material means almost no cost (although I'll admit that it's a hard thing to keep enough elastic in the house), and
2) pre-made cargo pockets make them look not quite so home-made.

Also, obviously, pants take less time to make when you don't have to make the pockets. On the other hand, fitting a pattern piece onto a pre-made garment is kind of a bear, so there's 6 of one...

The best part of the event though was getting to see my two handsome boys all dressed up.

harvey and dan playing

Aren't they the cutest?



Christmas knitting is behind schedule. It seems there's this pesky season called fall which comes before Christmas and necessitates making new things for growing family members. Take for example mittens. The good thing about mittens is that they're relatively quick to make: two full evenings will suffice for a pair. The bad thing is if you've never knit the pattern before you will invariably make the first one too big or too small, but then you'll need to go make a matching one the complete the set, grumbling all the while. Which is why Harvey now has mittens for now AND for next year.

2 pairs of mittens

2 for the price of none!

All the yarn is scrap from other projects, which makes these "essentially" free.

But best part about the mittens? Harvey actually wants to put them on!

harvey and mittens

on? on? on?

No, just kidding. The best part is he can still eat cheerios while wearing them.

harvey and mittens eating cheerios



labor day t-shirt

On Friday I decided that I wanted to make Harvey a very special t-shirt for labor day - something that would represent the hard-fought struggles of labor movements in this country. You know, the stuff we celebrate this weekend by giving everyone a day off... as long as you don't work in retail or food service.

I give you the labor day t-shirt:

the labor day t-shirt

labor unite!

Dan did the design, naturally, and I made the t-shirt and appliqued on the pieces. After I ironed on all the bits it looked so good, I liked it so much, that I couldn't bear the thought of any parts fraying in the wash. So I hand-embroidered around all the pieces. It was 11pm when I started. I went to bed very very late.

t-shirt with a raised fist

labor power

The t-shirt got a lot of positive comments at the weekend's BBQs, although we had to explain several times that the fist was black and not red because we're anarchists not communists. And yes, that may be confusing vis-a-vis black power, but no one would ever accuse this little toe-head of having very much black power.

power to the babies

so white his hair is yellow

Happy Labor Day!!!


my boys and their Ts

I needed a quick success for myself this week so I made another t-shirt for Harvey. I up-cycled the material from a box of Dan's old t-shirts that are too big or too worn to be fashionable, but too precious to be thrown away.

harvey in an upcycled t-shirt

modeling at the playground

While I was surging up the side seams I got a flash of remembrance... an image of a sixteen year old boy in a green baggy t-shirt and cut-off shorts nonchalantly practicing rollerblade cross-overs on the corner of where his street meets mine. He's looking at the ground in front of him so his bangs cover his face entirely, and I am so painfully in love with him.

To think that that was 15 years ago, and now I'm turning the same shirt into something for our child.... it makes me believe that life is magical. Life is crazy and dazzling and amazing in its breathtaking boringness.

Or maybe this shirt isn't that old. I just grabbed it from the pile.

I'm going to make a few alterations to the pattern to fit my growing boy. The next version will be bigger in the chest with more room for the neck. This one is sort of clingy so that if Harvey sticks out his belly it looks like the sun is setting. You can kind of see it in the photo below.

harvey in a shirt with a sun on it

big belly sunset

Sunrise, sunset, etc.


Some babies get all the luck

On Friday Gramma Bef came over with an arm-load full of unwanted shirts. "Ooh!" I said, pulling out one then another. "This one is nice! I'd wear this! Thanks!"

Leah wearing the


"Um, I thought you could use them to make some clothes for HARVEY?" she suggested with eyebrows raised.

"Oh. Right. Harvey."

You know... your son? Who you love? And make clothes for? REMEMBER?

Anyway, by dinnertime on Saturday I had him looking like a little Frenchman.

Harvey in the

it's hard to concentrate on the modeling sometimes...

Thanks to the wonderful convenience of owning a serger, this piece only took me 30 minutes. I used the existing hem from the t-shirt for all four pieces, so alls I had to do was cut em out, serge the front and back neck-lines, and serge the whole thing together. No pinning except for the sleeves. And then he had a new t-shirt!

There's a little bit of scrap left over... I might make myself a headband. I know right? INDULGENT!!!!!


independence crafting week - refashion

When Harvey was born I invested in some nursing tops, which the magazines and blogs say are absolutely ESSENTIAL for breast-feeding discreetly in public.

The first few times I went out in my special tops I beamed with confidence. I can breast-feed whenever I want, wherever I want! I thought. That is, until I tried the dang things out. "Let's see... reach through here, unsnap this here... pull this out here... cover this with this... wait, he can't find the... hold on... I've just gotta cover this with this...." After a few tries I just said "To hell with it!" and pulled out my entire breast to offer to my child. The world can see an inch of exposed breast once in a while and not explode. And in the end, I decided that I hate nursing tops. Because when you're not breast-feeding, they look pretty frumpy.

the shirt before alterations


I wanted to end independence crafting week with a re-fashion, so I decided to re-fashion this nursing top into something I might actually like to wear these days. The first thing I had to do was get rid of the double layers of fabric on the top. I cut free the top layer, folded it down, and turned it into a long belt loop through which I could string some ribbon. Then I shortened the straps (thank you serger), sewed a dart in the back, and embellished with some spare fabric and the ribbing I had cut off the top.

the shirt after being upgraded


I'm pretty happy with how it came out (if not so happy with looking at myself in pictures).

I'm also happy that independence crafting week is officially over! It's been a hot week in the sewing room!

Jammin the Jams

Almost to the end of independence crafting week, and I feel a bit cheated because really my pictures from yesterday had two crafts in them. In addition to the t-shirt, I also made the shorts Harvey is wearing in those photos. With the recent heat-wave light-weight cotton shorts (Jams really) have proved to be just the thing. So last night I made him another pair.

Harvey posing on a chair

watch out, he can climb now

This time I used two of my old t-shirts from the scrap bin. The yellow one came from my old Santa Monica room-mate KPPM, who got the monkey drinking alcohol masterpiece at the local Goodwill. I wore it hiply many a time, but after I became a mom I felt that a super-tight alcohol-themed tank top no longer jived with my overall image. So I recycled it into these shorts, along with another black t-shirt from the scrap pile.

I'm finding with these shorts that the stiffer and less stretchy the knit, the better (making the green ones from yesterday my preferred pair). Also, I'm not a master pattern draftsman. These shorts are a bit big and the rise is too long, even after altering the pattern to try to compensate for these factors. There's something to be said for buying patterns, I guess. Because this little guy needs a lot of shorts. He's on the move!

Harvey going up the garden stairs

up the stairs that dada built


baby oktokaidekapus

Okay, so I work in online marketing. In the boring IT space, but still. That's what I do all day. I read up on best practices. Blogs. Twitter. I do a lot of data analysis. My job is to keep my clients relevant on the internet.

My stuff on the other hand? Not taking a hint. There was this fantastic idea tossed about over at paperpools a while ago: make some sort of t-shirt design referencing to The Last Samurai. I instantly wanted to try something out. I asked Dan to draw the picture.

Then I said, I'm getting a serger for my birthday. Why not wait a week and make the whole t-shirt from scratch?

Then I took some time threading the serger. Then adjusting the tension. Weeks went by. I made the base but got stuck at the sleeves.

I asked Dan again to draw the pattern, but a moment later I asked him to make dinner.

I made the shirt sans logo and poked Dan in the ribs saying "I can't draw!" but then Harvey needed a clean t-shirt and so he got just a plain gray t-shirt for a while.

There was an interruption in the project for Harvey's birthday. I had to sew an ark.

Then I got rolling again. Is this story taking a long time? I stopped for a while to read The Last Samurai and that was much more interesting. Dan made a beautiful design and we tested a t-shirt transfer but the test looked crappy. We decided to print on fabric and applique the printed piece to the shirt. That required a bit of a re-design. Dan had to do the same work three times because Illustrator kept quitting.

But finally! We have the shirt. Only it appears the original inspirational conversation occured on April 17th. See? There's your lesson on how not to be relevant on the internet.

Harvey modeling his oktokaidekapus shirt

18 arms to hold you

At any rate, he looks just adorable. Here is the source design. You can verify for yourself the number of legs.

The t-shirt is made from jersey knit and totally serged, which means the actually sewing part of this project only took like a total of 45 minutes. Embarrassing. Oh well, it's the cute baby picture that counts in the end.

a closer-up of the new duds

count the legs, they're all there!

At the bottom left of the image you can just glimpse a container of bubble suds. He's saying "bubble" now, my little brilliant boy. Novels next year, I think.


A Week of Independence Crafting - Day 2

As a general rule I don't make things for myself. There's always something that HAS to get made for Harvey, or something for some upcoming occasion, and it just seems so frivolous to spend time on an item for myself that I'll inevitably hate. When a home-made garment goes on Harvey or Dan they just look so cute that I ignore the piece's inevitable flaws. But when I wear my own work I do nothing but fume all day on how the seaming is messed up in one spot, or how the pattern is so stupid that it said do the ruffles before the straps, and I should just throw the whole thing into the fire and myself in after it.

Despite the obvious perils, I went and made something for myself last Friday. A top (again by Rae) with quilting cotton from the baby section.

Leah in a shirt she made

catalogue model

Dan says I look like a catalogue model. Did you know that they made a catalogue for chunky moms with Jewish looking noses? It's called, "For you? a little clothing. It couldn't hoiyt."

A Week of Independence Crafting

In honor of independence day, I'm going to celebrate our household independence from the corporate machine by blogging a full week of sewing projects. Or I'll try at least. I've got the craft projects to talk about, but finding time for the photography and explanation can always be a bit tricky. It'll depend somewhat on the corporate machine that employs me, and how busy they are this week.

yellow baby dress, front view

sunny for a summer baby

For starters, I wanted to share the dress I made for our soon expected baby niece. The pattern is the itty bitty baby dress by Rae. It's free on the internet if you want to duplicate the work. I made some alterations by making both the bodice and skirt fully lined, with the lining color extending to the front of the dress on the bottom. (This saved me needing to run to the store for piping. Or from making piping. Both things I didn't feel like doing a day before the baby shower.) I also added a belt with a bow in the back. That piece needed to be hand-sewn on the bottom, but I made up for the extra work there by leveraging some hot serger action to finish all the inside seams without pressing.

the bow in back

it ties in back

As fun and pretty as this was to make, it does not make me long for a little girl one way or the other. On one hand girls clothes are much cuter and come in much fancier colors, on the other hand pleating and ruffling are a big pain in the butt. I say it's a toss up.

You may notice that the orange fabric here is the same that I used to make Harvey's Easter pants. There's still some left over, so I'm looking for a good pattern for a little boy's button-down-shirt. Not for this week, though. I do still have a full-time job, after all.

Anyway, we eagerly await your arrival little Awangi [insert something else African sounding] Grace Archibald. Happy independence from Carters day!


get those children out of the muddy muddy

So sometimes I do this thing where I work for two months straight on a craft project, and the whole time I'm working I'm thinking about how wonderful it'll be when I'm finally done with this stupid thing and I can get some photos up on the blog. And after a billion late-night sewing sessions it's finally done, and then I pester Dan to take nice photos, and then I pester Dan to get the photos off the camera, and the I pester Dan to send me the photos, and then I upload the photos, and then I'm like.... duh, writing is hard. Explaining this project might take like a total of three paragraphs. That's like half an hour. Who needs that kind of effort.

Which is why it's almost two weeks after Harvey's birthday and I'm just now showing you what I made for him. I made an ark.

the passengers inside the ark

coming aboard?

The entire project is constructed out of felt - recycled plastic felt to be exact. The ark took the longest part because I made up the pattern for the body of the boat and did a demo. Dan helped tremendously in drafting the shape of the top decks. The little house on top was all trial and error.


there's gonna be a floody floody

Of course, there are animals on an ark too. I figured the farm animals were the most important, so I made those first. First I made some pigs.

two pigs

La La

Because felt has a tendency to pull apart if it's stretched too thin, I had to stitch these pigs entirely by hand. I learned this after the first pig I made came apart in the stuffing. Total time spent making pigs, 5 hours. You don't want to know the time total for the whole project.

stuffed cows

two cows say moo moo.

The cows were a bit bigger so thankfully I could make these on the machine. The draw-back is that they had like a billion tiny pattern pieces to cut out. I bought a pattern for a 9-inch cow and scaled it by half. All the animals had to scale with each other and the door of the ark, you see, which also had to fit the normal stuffed animals that hang around the living room. So much thought went into the sizing. It's called OCD. Or parenting.

And of course I had to make Noah. He's entirely hand-stitched, although I used the machine to make his clothing. He has hair and a beard that are removable, because it's a long voyage. I figure he either grows a beard or loses his hair over 40 days.

noah without hair

before 40 days adrift

Harvey isn't so keen on Noah, although he likes the ark to put things in... out-of-playset things like legos and sippy cups. And he likes the cows very much, probably because every time he picks one up I say "Moooooooo." These days he's starting to grab one and say "mmmmuuuuuuh." He's pretty smart that little guy.




What's craftin around here

- Updated this post with a cute picture of Lily in a felt headband.

- Made a baby-sized baseball cap for baby Noah which do to the timeliness of babyhood eluded photography.

- Made some gifts for Gramma Bef and baby Grace which should soon be photographed. (with help from Dan, the only one with a working camera in the house)

- Made some headway (but not enough) on arc animals for Harvey's birthday.

- Finally sent my camera back to the manufacturer for repair. To avoid more posts like this one.

Dan, for his part, made a design for a t-shirt transfer that should be completed as soon as the t-shirt comes out of the dryer, and started on birthday party invitations. Harvey's party is in a week and a half, so hopefully we'll get something in the mail before then.

T-11 to H1! I'm exhausted!

it's coooooming........

birthday bunting on the table

unsuspecting Harvey, there is something looming over your future

Harvey's first birthday is less than a month away. For someone with untreated OCD and a bunch of working mommy guilt, his party is becoming rather a big deal. Since the beginning of May I've been racking up many hours on the sewing machine (not to mention two practice cakes so far). That bunting you see there on the table is all ready to be sewn together and hung, just as soon as I stop my baby from licking the carbon monoxide detector.

Anyway, on Sunday I took a break from my H1 mania to make something for a very special little girl who's turning 3. Since I don't get to make girly stuff very often, I though I'd use up my purple and pink felt on a flowered headband.

a headband in pink and purple flowers

so boisterously spring only a 3-year-old could pull it off

I tried it on Harvey, with the intention of making some joke about how the child is secure in his masculinity. But he's apparently not. He is either offended by girliness or by having something strapped to his head.

Harvey modeling Lily's birthday headband

get it off get it off get it off!!!

Maybe he'd like it better if he knew it came with cake and presents. Just you wait little boy... just you wait.

UPDATE: In the end, Lily looked cuter in the headband than Harvey.

Lily wearing her headband

lookin cute!


Clothing and Crafting: Wedding Edition

On Saturday our friends Becca and Andrew tied the knot in Scottish style.

the bride and groom

taking the high road

I asked Dan if he wanted I should make him a kilt for the occasion, but he hemmed and hawed and decided to opt for a plaid tie instead. Still, we matched the theme as best we could, given the small 40-minute Burlington-mall window that we had to compile our outfits.

Leah and Dan looking sharp upon a rock

rockin the wedding finery

Can you believe we were only married 4 or 5 years ago? It feels like seven thousand million hundred.

Becca and Andrew are big stuffed animal fans, so I wanted to come up with something cute and stuffed and personalized to accompany our Crate & Barrel gift card. (Hey - buying presents off the registry is for people who have longer than ten minutes to go shopping.) So last weekend when thanks to Mother's day I got two-and-a-half blessed hours to myself, I stitched some very special felt friends for the happy couple.

bunny closeup

is there room for one more in the wedding bed?

One says B+A, while the other says their wedding date, 5-15-10.

closeup of bunnies in box

a pair of hares

I packaged them up in a little bunny house, and went way overboard with drawing all the little circles for air-holes. I drew the first row the way I wanted them, and then said, "Oh crap. That's a lot of circles I have to draw now. Oh well. In for a penny, in for a pound."

the bunny box

caution: over-designed wedding present inside

I'm a big fan of marriage. Ours has worked out pretty spectacular so far. So I wish Becca and Andrew all the happiness that Dan and I have have in our marriage, and for good measure I'll throw in a prayer for a bit more sex. For them I mean. I'm too old and tired and my back hurts.

Yeah for young love!


Sunhat ready for the beach or playground!

I mentioned previously that I was sewing up another sun hat for Harvey. I actually finished this project several weeks ago, but in the busy insanity that is our home this month it took a long while to get ahold of any photographic evidence. Then this weekend we took an excursion to the playground, and Danny loaned his photographic expertise. So drumroll please... I give you blue nautical sunhat:

harvey plays on the playground with his new hat

momma's love keeps the sun out of my eyes

I made this one from the same pattern as the green hat, with the alterations of a shorter brim and added straps. I also added the braided detailing, which took me longer in net time than all the sewing. But hey, my mother was out on a date with Harvey and I was feeling creative.

I'm not completely happy with the way the sewn button came out. I may re-sew it someday, but for the moment all machine time is devoted to a certain upcoming birthday...

Harvey climbs on the playground

must... get.... to.... slide...

Look at that little guy go! Can you believe he's almost 1 already? You can see he's almost grown out of these pants I made him for Easter. Time to make some more pants!!!

on the swing

push me momma!

I may be a biased momma, but it's not hard to make Harvey look beautiful, is it?


This is a mood booster: BABIES! CRAFTING! LIFE!

A few weeks ago my friend Luke handed me a cotton T and said, "This shirt fits weird. I'm going to throw it away unless you want to make something from the cloth."

So Harvey got a new striped shirt.

harvey in a home-made striped shirt

am I .... a cutie?

The t-shirt is soft and stretchy with room to grow in. But oh, those belled sleeves. Every time I look at them I cringe. I couldn't loosen the tension on my machine any further, so this is what I got. Jersey knit, you are a beguiling temptress. Why are you so soft and common yet so difficult to work?

But there is hope! Next week is my birthday and I have a very exciting present on the way... It's a magical contraption that combines four spools of thread with a die cutter such that future t-shirts will look twice as good with half the effort. Yes - I'm getting a serger.

The stack of "fits weird" is piling up in anticipation. Harvey is excited.


on the sunny side

In yesterday's parade photos you may have noticed Harvey's stunning new green hat. The hat is actually a new creation just added to his wardrobe, made from the remains of a designer thrift-store dress. I made the pattern using this tutorial and sewed it up in no time at all.

Harvey in his new sun hat

a new look for summer

Sewing a baby sun hat with 12 identical pieces is a very heartening sewing project. I recommend it highly for lifting your spirits when something goes wrong. In fact, I'm working on another one right now!

Soon Harvey will have infinite choices for keeping the sun out of his eyes... provided he deigns to keep anything on his head.

Harvey removing his hat

get it off, get it off!


we're in ur woods, hippying ur neighborhood

On my run this morning I ran into a friend from grad school who's contemplating a home birth. With her was a neighbor who's a birth educator by profession and also home-schools her kids and does a little light crafting. Which is to say: WATCH OUT, STATUS QUO! WE'RE TAKING OVER YOUR FRIGGIN NEIGHBORHOOD!

Well, the statistical sample may be skewed a little bit. Towards individuals crunchy enough to use their saturday morning to walk in the woods in the rain. nevertheless...

Last night we went out for margaritas with my parents at a restaurant (appropriately titled) Margaritas. Harvey was wearing his easter pants and seedling shirt. My mom recognized the pants and said, "Look what nice pants your momma made you!"

"I made the shirt too," I said. Because I don't let well enough stand.

"You MADE the shirt?!"


"Oh, you mean you sewed the leaf on it."

"No, I made the shirt."


"From cloth."

"You made this??? This is incredible! You made a whole shirt? I can't believe you made this!"

"I made the pattern too..."

And with that, my mother's head exploded.

So in conclusion, your level of outlandishness just depends on who you're talkin' too.

Why am I kind of wet? Oh yeah, because I just went running in the rain. I'm not too earthy crunchy to shower!


Bunny #2

Not completely satisfied by the first bunny I crafted last week, I went on a mission to sew another bunny. A bigger, more opposable, infinitely more difficult bunny. He made his way into the Easter basket this morning.

Two stuffed bunnies and no chocolate. That's what you get at nine months, and you're going to LIKE IT!

the second Easter bunny, standing

baby bunny baroo

The pattern comes from some ridiculous book that Cara gave me from a yard sale. It's actually the pattern for a bear, but I added floppy ears and made it into a bunny. The book is a million and one christmas crafts all thrown together - knitting, crocheting, sewing, and paper-craft. Because there's so much crap in the book, the directions for each project are painfully brief. Cut out these pattern pieces... Fuggin.... sew em together. It harks back to a simpler time when the Joy of Cooking still included instructions for skinning a squirrel. And mothers knew how to sew absolutely everything, but they still needed help coming up with ideas that are unbelievably tacky.

The big bunny features arms and legs that rotate, thanks to a swivel system made of eyelets and buttons. I know they sell real swivel systems for stuffed animals, but the wall at Joanne's was completely overwhelming so I just went with the eyelets. Hey, the arms turn. What else do you want from me?

I was unhappy with the naked bunny - he looked too much like a bear in my estimation - so I gave him a cut-off shirt and a diaper. When I pulled the pom-pom tail out of a hole in the diaper it gave me a big chuckle.

the second Easter bunny, sitting down

cotton tail - literally

For now I'm done with bunnies. Anyway, all we need is two, and they're supposed to do the rest. Right?


The Easter Bunny Cometh

Don't tell Harvey, but there's a new friend waiting for him in his Easter basket.

an Easter rabbit made from an old quilt

sniff sniff

This bunny sprang to life from this pattern and the remains of an old quilted pillow-case that didn't survive as long as the bed quilt. This means that the bunny already has a weathered look despite never having been weathered by play. It also means that the toy will get completely lost from view anytime we put it down on top of the bed. Oh well. We'll find it when we sit down.

There was just enough fabric left over to make a second little friend for Harvey. That guy is still on the sewing machine as of now. If he gets done in time for the basket tomorrow then he'll get his little stuffed butt blogged on Easter. Otherwise, have a very happy holiday all of you, whether you call it Easter, Resurrection Sunday, or just plain "the weekend."

Easter Basket Pants

A few years ago I read a charming story on Soule Mama about how she accidentally started an Easter tradition around linen pants. One year she made linen pants, and then the next year she made linen pants, and then before she knew it she was sewing three pairs of linen pants into the wee hours of the morning.

For this reason, Easter crafting brings to my mind thoughts of guilt and linen. No, just kidding. I think first of competition. Amanda, I will not be out-done.

Harvey models his new trousers

new trousers and a classic album from the '90s

Using same guidelines from the last pair of pants I made, I created a linen outside pant and orange liner pant. I sewed the first together and realized my pattern was vastly too small. So I added stripes on the sides and an extra gusset in the back.

homemade trousers: rear view

the view from behind

Necessity is the mother of orange.

Of course, once the pants were finished last weekend I couldn't wait till Easter. He's a growing boy after all. He needs all the pants he can get.

Thank God he's too young to think of tradition. I loved making these pants, but I'm not jumping to make another pair quite yet. Maybe about a year is the right amount of time.


Sunday Best is sometimes a T-shirt

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and we celebrated by shaking some palms and dressing Harvey in his brand-new spring sprout t-shirt.

Harvey in his new sprout shirt (with Palm Sunday palm)

the sprout looks kind of like a palm...

This t-shirt is my second try of this pattern. The first one came out a touch too small, so of course the second is too big. Some day I'll get it. In the mean time, it's the perfect thing for an extra layer beneath overalls.

Palm Sunday begins holy week, a seven-day spiritual event where you reflect on HOLY SHIT WHAT IS HARVEY GOING TO WEAR FOR EASTER???!!!

Just kidding. Sort of.

On the topic of holy week, last night we had a seder at my parents' house, and I noticed our Christmas card still displayed prominently on my parents' fridge. "Harvey was so cute as a sheep!" I said.

"Yeah," said my mom, "I've been meaning to ask you. What does it mean 'All We Like Sheep?'"

"Well," I said, "We usually read from Isaiah at Christmas. Isaiah writes that 'All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord has laid on him - him being the messiah - the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.'"

"Oh Goodness." My mother said rolling her eyes and walking away. "That's terrible."

My dad was in the kitchen too. "That's sad" he said.

They both walked away shaking their heads.

You annoying morbid Christians. Why on earth would you put such a thing on a holiday card?

Holy week is a time when we celebrate a lot of things. Bunnies. Babies. Cadbury Cream Eggs. The fact that Jesus died for our sins.

As a latecomer to Christianity, I appreciate the idea of a God who didn't just make cute things to turn a blind eye from the bad and ugly.

So anyway, if you're into it, have a wonderful holy week. I'm celebrating on the blog with some fun project revealed every day. There is easter sewing to photograph, and videos in editing, and minimal complaints about my breasts, so it should be a fun week!



I'm not a champion sewer by any means. I mend. I dash off a stuffed lamb now and again. But I'm trying to move in a more competent direction. I'm making an effort. And this season, I've vowed to make a more concerted effort, especially in the face of the high cost of crappy boys clothing. So on Friday of last week I took scissors to another one of Dan's hand-me-downs and made Harvey a T-shirt.

Harvey modeling his new shirt at the pond

elegant and stylish

The first job I had out of college was at a store called Lululemon. At the time, Dan wore this Lululemon T-shirt so much the letters faded down in the middle. After a while it ended up in the pile of shirts that are no longer in rotation but were once so loved that they can't be thrown away. Now Harvey is proudly carrying the torch of Lululemon. or Ululemo in his case. His chest isn't that big.

I used this tutorial to make the shirt, and I can't wait to make another, and another, and ANOTHER! The stack of useless but beloved T-shirts is big, after all. By the time I've gone through it, maybe I'll really know how to sew.


it's in his jeans

This week I made Harvey some jeans.

close-up of Harvey's new home-made jeans

ready to rumble

I upcycled an old pair of Dan's jeans which had become too patched to be worn in polite company. I was going to make a simple pair of linen pants using this tutorial, but it turns out that I hate learning basic skills. If it can be done in linen, it can be done in jean, dammit! So after a lot of fudging and improvising an addition of knit fabric for the waist-band, I ended up making a cute pair of jeans for Harvey with plenty of room to grow (both vertically and horizontally).

Harvey's bum in his new jeans

shake what yo mamma gave you

The patches and slight bell-bottom and general cobbled-together nature of the pants make Harvey look like a real hippy. Much to the pride of his parents. The look is perfect for sitting outside on a gardening afternoon.

harvey in home-made pants in the garden

off the grid and out of the shitstem

I just need to make him a straw hat and he'll be all ready for spring!


birthday knitting

On the heals of the fun-colored but not-super-practical sweater I made for Dan at Christmas, I decided to take on a similar project for his birthday. Except this time the product would have to be more staid, less ostentatious, more useful for day-to-day wear. After five weeks of intense knitting I finished a day later than his birthday. Oh well. At least it was ready in time for church. I give you the brown sweater vest:

close-up of the sweater vest leah knit for dan

refined yet elegant

The pattern comes from this book which I highly recommend for beginning-to-intermediate sweater knitters. I used good old Cascade220 for the yarn, so the whole thing came to less than $22, and that's with some left over for a hat! Not only is she talented and productive, but thrifty! Someone's racking up the good wife points this month!

Dan in a brown sweater vest that leah knit

dapper who?

Oh, who am I kidding. He more than deserves it.


what's old is new

A few months ago my mother dug a box out of the attic filled with hand-knit sweaters made for me and my brother when we were wee ones. The majority were knit by my Grandma Shirley. Shirley was married to Harvey Bernstein, who lends his name to our darling boy. So you can imagine that Great-Grandma might be pleased as punch to see this photo:

Harvey in a 28-year-old sweater

a classic look

A visual reverse-engineering tells me this is a "surprise sweater" of the Zimmerman variety, though the detailing is much more impressive than any lazy-ass surprise sweater I had planned to make. Why all those cables are passed in back rather than in front I'll never know. An extra labor of love, perhaps.

Upon seeing the photo my mother sent this blessing-dash-warning:

That sweater was always one of my favorites. Jake wore it all the time. take good care of it (no washing machine)

Good advice! Knitters everywhere take heed - do not put your hand knit wool sweaters in the washing machine.

But beyond that, what does it mean to take good care of a sweater? I would posit that the right way isn't to handle it with kit gloves like it's on auction at Christi's. No matter how vintage it is.

As a knitter myself, there's one thing I fear about every project. Not that it'll come out bungled or I'll run out of the right color yarn (although on my budget that's always a concern.) My fear is that it won't be worn. Hours lovingly poured into a project stitch by stitch, only to know that it gets thrown in a drawer or an attic box, sitting unused for years.

So I say this to all future wearers of my sweaters in all generations to come: wear with abandon! Roll in the leaves. Spill your soup. Wrestle with the dog and pull at a thread or two. When it comes time to wash the thing, of course have momma use some cold water and re-block it on a flat surface. But when it's dry again, take it out to play. And hopefully, when the sweater is good and destroyed, there'll be someone new with a set of needles ready to nock out another one. She may not do the button-hole edging in popcorn stitch, and she might pass all the cables in front, but for the love of God no one in their right mind is going to notice.

harvey in a 28-year-old sweater, smiling

feeling warm and fuzzy

Alls I ask is that you take a picture. In digital. It'll last longer.


Project Journal: Sew something already!

One of my resolutions for 2010 is to share on this blog more of the things that I make, along with their little stories of trial, error, extreme disappointment, and after a mourning period, acceptance. Sharing my projects one by one, I think, should be much more satisfying than posting large image dumps like this one which screams CHECK IT OUT I AM A PROLIFIC CRAFTER when really it represents six months worth of sewing and knitting and hurling half-finished wreckterpieces into the garbage. And really, one image of a sheep puppet isn't really enough to satisfy your craving, is it? You want a front image, a side image, and a long synopsis of how I had to rethread my machine four times to get you to that vicarious crafting high. So without further ado, here's what I made last weekend.

applique bags for holding cords

bringing order to the electronics

Five bags to organize the chargers and cords that hang around my desk, only get used once a week, and serve as choking/strangulation hazards for the extra six days. I sewed the felt bags out of leftover material from Harvey's Christmas stocking, and appliqued little images on top to tell me which chargers go where.

I played around with how I wanted the top hem to go, so you'll see they're all different. In the end, I think I like the front-ways sheered hem the best, but perfection is fleeting in life as in art, donchathink?

detail of the applique on a cord bag

stylish and functional

The iPod fabric is a cut-out from 2 yards I bought in Ithaca the month before I got pregnant. I'd been saving it for a baby dress in the event that Harvey was a girl, but he wasn't, and I'm still hoarding that fabric miserly, cherishing it for little B whenever she decides to show up in our lives. (Earth to Leah: sex is required for conception of a second child. This perhaps is the subject of another post.) On the other hand, it's wasteful to keep so much inventory clogging up the shelves, and I should just make that dress already and use the rest to sew Harvey some pants. Maybe that'll be the subject for next weekend. After all, he does love orange.

So that's what I made over the weekend. Two hours tops, which makes me think I should spend less time talking about what I'm going to sew and more time just sewing it. Oh, and bragging about it. Did I mention I sewed something? You can leave your amazement in the comments.


Christmas Making 2009

The last few months have been a blur of yarn and thread and the same three rows of stitches ripped out over and over. Now that it's all over, I think the little elves in our family are entitled to brag a bit. So here, in short, is a sampling of the projects we made for Christmas 2009.

First off, here's Harvey's new stocking (from Santa's point of view).

... which got filled with ornaments by Dan:

And Dan really took strides in the quilting department this year, turning out some nifty potholders, including this one for his mom:

I had a quilt in the works for Harvey this year, but it's back in the to-be-finished pile after being hurled across the room a few hundred times. To calm myself down I made some embroidery for some of our bible study friends:

And finally finished a new Hat for Harvey (as seen in this video). Third time's the charm in hat patterns it seems this year... I've got one too-big and one too-small hat waiting in the wings for any friends with children of deformed head sizes.

You can see from the photographer's angle that Dan was most charmed by the pom pom. I guess more pom poms are in the future for the squibix family.

Returning to the sewing machine, I refused to be out-done by Dan's beautiful white and blue ornament for Harvey, and so I knocked out this lamb-headed taggie blanket between the hours of 6 and 9 on Christmas morning.

This present is also pictured in the video. Edited out of the video was Dan's mom saying "Can you imagine making a toy from scratch on Christmas morning for a 6-month old who doesn't even know that it's Christmas?" Yes, I can imagine. It's called having a mental illness.

But the big present this year, the one that I had planned from September and which took me perhaps three months to complete, was this sweater for Dan.

My first adult sweater... indeed my first adult knitting project that doesn't fall under the category of "accessory." This project came from the book Men's Knits by Erika Knight, and I can't recommend this book enough. Unlike a certain baby knitting book that deserves to be burned for kindling (I'll never get those hours back, Natural Knits for Kids!) this book has patterns which are well written, beautifully photographed, and generally do what they say they're going to do. Which is to say, make an awesome sweater for my special snowbunny.

As always, there were some projects that took weeks in the knitting but somehow can't make it to a five minutes photo shoot. These include hats for Tom and Lisa, a beautifully cabled cowl neck for Dan which he will likely never wear, and the Jam, oh the Jam, that deserves a post for itself!

We've already got big plans for Christmas 2010! Including plan #1, start earlier, #2 photograph more, and #3 chill the f—- out, it's only Christmas! Merry Christmas everybody!


busy elves

Despite all-encompassing fatigue, Leah and I stayed up late this evening—til now, in fact!—to work on Christmas. It's some fun! There's a few more things I might like to get done, but if none of it happens that's fine too. Well, a couple things to wrap are less negotiable. Leah is a little more stressed, but I think we're going to make it. Plus, we're skipping the late service tomorrow night so we might actually get some sleep!

Merry Christmas

To the best of my knowledge everyone for whom we have mailing addresses has already received their annual holiday card from us, unless your name happens to be Matt, in which case ITS IN THE MAIL! At any rate, it seems safe to unveil our latest christmas card design. Dan may have more to say later about its painstaking creation, but for this post suffice it to say that All we like sheep wish you a very merry Christmas!

cards of Christmas past

Since our this year's Christmas card is about to "drop", I thought I'd provide a little retrospective of previous years' efforts. Above you can see the outside of last year's card; the inside is after the jump. The idea to use the song came first, and the design followed.

The year before that Leah had a great idea about featuring Rascal in a scene from Isaiah. She did the photoshopping of the lion and lamb, and I finished up with the other layout.

In 2006 I failed utterly at producing a card for the first time in at least three years, so Leah made some beautiful hand-made cards for our closest friends and relatives. Luckily we didn't know so many people back then!

2005 was the year we got Rascal, so of course he was the main feature; we didn't even feel the need to spruce him up with any photoshop work.

There were cards before that, but I can't seem to find them. There was another computer then, as I recall. If they do turn up I'll add them to this post, for the sake of the historical record. And if you want to get on our Christmas card list so you can see fabulous products like these first-hand, just let us know... or, better yet, send us a card this year! We love getting cards, and of course we always reciprocate.

What about this year's? Well, I'm afraid I can't reveal it until after everyone gets a chance to receive their paper copies: wouldn't want to spoil the surprise! The things always look better on paper anyways.


Homemade Christmas 2008

We're making initial preparations for homemade Christmas 2009, so it seems like a good time to take a look back at the exciting projects we worked up for homemade Christmas 2008. I never managed to post those pictures last year on account of a camera battery that flickered out like a chanukah candle. What made me think of them now was an email I just got from church about the Advent Conspiracy and un-shopping and other exciting things that hippy Christians do around this time of year. With one knit sweater 99% completed and jams and pickles already stocking our pantry, it's easy to get overconfident with our one-month time frame. But this photoseries rams it home just HOW MANY homemade gifts we'll need to make 2009 match up with precedent.

Knitted felt bag for Rebecca, the midwife of a million bags:

Napkin and coaster set for Judy, embroidery on linen.

Embroidery for Tom, my favorite brother-in-law.

Jams and pickles.

This cabled hat was the big project of 2008. In the process of perfecting the pattern for Dan I knocked off similar hats for Merideth, Ashley, and Jake.

Not pictured here I also sewed a hat for Nelly, a purse for my mom, a sleep cap for Alan, a coaster for my grandma, and pillows for Margaret street. I'd better get crankin!


white in the fleece of the lamb

I had so much success making the halloween lamb hat for Harvey, that I thought why not try my hand at sewing him an outfit for his baptism? I already had some white fleece lying around the sewing room, and I figured why not reinforce our family values of simplicity and craftsmanship as a way to further celebrate this sacramental rite of renewal.

I lie. What really happened was I googled "christening outfit" on the internet and the cheapest one was like fifty bucks. And I was all, WTF? No WAY am I paying that much money for a dorky elf tux that he's going to wear one time! I'm going to sew that effing baptism suit if its the last thing I do!

All this decision making happened on Monday, when I had a full week in front of me to dream big crafters dreams and poo-poo the christening industrial complex. Unfortunately, it was also a week full of a big conference at work, which meant that I got all the way to Friday (two days before the big event) with narry a stitch done sewn. So Friday afternoon as soon as the work whistle blew I threw the baby at his father and locked myself in the craft room. Which is a lie too, actually. The craft room is really just Harvey's room with a sewing machine in the corner, so there's no locking myself in there unless I want to cut off access to the changing table, which oh I DO NOT want to do.

Anyway... the outfit. It came together in about 5 hours, with extra minutes thrown in on saturday and sunday to add buttons and make slight adjustments. It's a one-piece sailor suit made entirely out of fleece. The pants are pleated at the waste and flounced at the bottom; two flourishes that took a long time to do for not really coming across in any of the photo. The top has a bow-tie sort of thing that I threw together without bothering to look at the directions or even any picture of what a sailor suit should look like, so I take full responsibility if you (like my mother) think it looks ridiculous.

The hat I didn't make. It, like our bagels, is used, or as I prefer to say "vintage" from our local consignment store down the street. I hadn't planned to pair the fleece suit with the silk hat, but Dan put them together this morning and marveled that we had a budding french chef on our hands.

Harvey performed admirably in his holy spotlight today. He slept through the church service until it was time for the baptism, and didn't make a peep when the water hit his head or when the priest carried him down the isle to the congregation. He suffered being passed from hand to hand at the big brunch we threw for him, and generally showed off what a good baby he was. Although when I took him upstairs for his nursing it was clear he was exhausted from the social effort. He fell asleep after just a few bites.

But our little guy is a party trouper! After a brief nap, he joined the crowds again, who in their brew-filled merriment insisted on seeing Harvey in his halloween hat. At the same time folks were passing around some hand-made lollypops that our neighbor Jen had made, and one made it into Harvey's hand, which is how we got this photo:

Sailor suit, sheepy hat, cross-shaped lollypop, and brown winter boots. It's a confusing world we live in, Harvey. That's why Christ walks it with us. Happy baptism!


bitching about stitching

In July I started knitting a onesie for Harvey, out of the pattern book Natural Knits for Kids. I won't include a link, because I wouldn't strongly recommend this book... there were some silly omissions in this pattern that gave me a lot of trouble, and in the end I think that this yarn (made from woven corn husks) is too rough to sit against a baby's skin without an intermediate layer. All in all, not a super successful project... only successful in the fact that I FINALLY GOT IT DONE this week and can now move onto other things in my life.

For weeks I've complained and complained about this onesie; that the summer was leaving us with nary a chance to test it out; that all my 3 month knitting effort was misplaced and should have been diverted to dieting. Today however, after an evening of re-sewing all the buttons, I finally got my chance at a photo shoot.

At was nice to have a real hot day to test drive the scratchy monstrosity. And also, you know, get outside by the water and look all boating. Now it's off to the closet for you, mister!

Yes, I'm talking to you mister corn-husk bum.


a momma moment

So we took a walk this morning, me dan harvey and rascal, with Dan carrying Harvey in the front pack. We were halfway down the street before I took a look at the two boys together, and when I did my heart skipped a beat.
"You're both wearing the hats I made you!"
"Yeah, so?" Dan replied. "It's cold out."
"Oh my boys! My boys are both wearing my hats! I think I'm going to cry..."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"To see you both wearing your knitted hats, and I made you those hats... I'm going to cry.."
"You're CRAZY!"

So maybe I am crazy, but I knitted those hats for my two favorite people in the world, and then they ACTUALLY WORE THEM to keep their heads warm. That people is a momma moment.


kickin it old school

Leah and I don't always get a chance to relax together in the evenings, both of us having jobs that often require some after-hours work. When we do, though, it's board games if we're feeling adventurous; if not I read to Leah while she knits or embroiders. Or winds yarn, which is what she did this evening. Our literary selection was By hook or by crook, David Crystal's book about whatever random facts about English and England he can come up with, mixed with some Old English poetry. Yes, we're that cool.

When people warn us ominously that having a baby will keep us from doing all the exciting activities that they imagine young couples enjoy, we laugh.

trafficing with the natives

Oh my goodness. This evening I was trapped for two hours in an unholy snarl of terrible traffic created, I can only imagine, by folks trying to get to the mall to shop. And subsequently to get out of the mall. I was only going to the grocery store, but I wasn't spared for that and I've now learned my lesson: never leave the house in the week before Christmas. At least not in the direction of any conglomeration of shopping locations.

It's really a good thing we're doing a home-made Christmas this year, so I didn't have to go into the mall itself even once. And then there's the fact that, while Leah is obviously quite adept at the handicrafts, I'm quite incapable of making anything at all. That really makes for relaxing holiday preparations on my part!