posts tagged with 'crafting,'
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:
On Easter itself I wore a white sweater that was equally unflattering..
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.
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.
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.
Next year, maybe they'll all have morning coats...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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."
Zion: "I WANT A RED COAT!"
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..."
Zion: "I WANT GRANDMA BUY ME A RED COAT!!!!!"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last but not least (especially not least in terms of time spent) were the hand woven dish towels.
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.