posts tagged with 'crafting'

soap boats!

Harvey owns a set of wood-carving tools, but it's Elijah who uses them the most often. But making a piece of wood into what he can see in his mind isn't always easy for him. So he was immediately taken by a project in a wood carving book we got from the library that's all about carving soap. Significantly easier than wood! The only holdup was that we don't actually have any bar soap, just artisanal pucks and blobs, but he had only to suggest to Mama that he needed supplies and she instantly procured a three-pack of Ivory soap for him to work with. His first boat took a little bit of time, as he puzzled out the instructions; he was so delighted with it that he immediately started on a second one, which came together much more quickly. Then he thought of saving the last bar of soap for its manufacturer-intended purpose, but I told him that I wouldn't be able to stand the smell so he should go ahead and carve it. The third boat was a three-master! Then he molded a lifeboat out of the left-over chips. You can't do that with wood!

a soap boat Elijah made

model 1

The only problem he ran into was in testing the boats. He filled the sink to see how well they floated; they did, but they also immediately started lathering. Ivory soap is soft! So now they're display models on the windowsill above his desk, which is right next to mine. It's just like having an air freshener. I'm going to try and find him some softish wood to carve into a boat along the same lines, but that's going to have to wait a bit: now he's into clay.

more

kit-based artisanry

Friday there was practically a hurricane, so we were limited to indoor activities. That wasn't a problem—we always have plenty do, especially now that we've added the option of Pokemon TCG Online—but a stormy day seemed like the perfect opportunity to open a craft box we've been saving since Christmastime.

Lijah looking into the craft kit box

he is interested

For Christmas my brother and his family gave our boys a subscription from Tingomo, a company that makes kits highlighting traditional arts and crafts from around the world. As I understand it we're getting four kits; the first one—the winter edition—highlighted wooden Dala horses (Dalahäst!) from Sweden.

The only problem is that the kits are made for two kids, and the gift was for Harvey and Zion. That won't fly in our household. Good thing we own a jigsaw and plenty of scraps of pine board! I defy you to tell my horse from the two which were industrially mass-produced to simulate traditional Dalecarlian artisanry.

three wood horses

see? three!

Then we painted them. The kit came with not-totally-washable acrylic paint—great for turning out an attractive finished project, less-great for a three-year-old's painting style (that's why the kits are officially six and up). And then there were some tears when we didn't let Lijah use his usual technique of dipping his brush in each of the colors in succession. There were instructions for painting a horse in the traditional style, including some brush mixing techniques; we followed them to the extant of starting with a solid-color base layer, but from there creativity ran (relatively) wild.

three painted wood horses

accomplishment

All told, it was a fun craft with high-quality materials attractively presented in beautiful packaging. With our budget I'd never be able to justify buying a kit myself, but it was a fun gift to enjoy on a rainy day. Thanks, Tom!

more

crafting enlightenment

Leah isn't doing quite as much crafting lately as she has at other times, and almost all of her efforts are going towards making the house more beautiful, with new paint and custom switch plates and outlet covers for every room. I don't blog those—just like I don't blog all the furniture I've been making—because I want to wait until it's "done" to show anything off. And home improvement is never "done". But last week she took a little time off from the switch plate work (and her day job) to learn needle-felting, and in true Leah fashion climbed right up the learning curve in no time. Since she's not writing here these days, it falls to me to present you with her latest creation.

a needle-felted buddha

Buddha

It's for her brother, as a late Hanukah/birthday/housewarming present. He's into meditating, plus he's in LA now so it will help him fit in with the natives. He appreciated it.

Sadly, I missed the needle-felting homeschool day, so I'm not qualified to explain the details of this particular project. But even seeing it take shape I was delighted and astounded by the final product, and I couldn't let it go unblogged. And it's nice to remember that, as much as our time is taken up by encouraging creativity in our kids and putting food on the table, we still have time to be creative ourselves.

the buddha in sunlight

enlightened from the side

more

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.

more

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...

more

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.

"music"

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.

debonaire

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!

more

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.

mine!

more

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

more

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.

more

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...

more