Last fall I hit some nice clearance sales and picked up some off-season summer clothes for my kids to grow into. This spring I pulled them out and, all new and with tags and exciting, except that during the intervening six months my son Worth apparently decided he will no longer wear plain pocket t-shirts. They are “plain” and “babyish.” Because, you know, all really big boys go around with gigantic lizards or tractors on their shirts, right? Hmmmm. But instead of just giving up on these perfectly nice shirts I decided to try and liven them up a bit to suit my boy’s taste. I made freezer paper stencils and painted little “friends” coming out of the pockets. Now he likes them and wears them quite happily. I’m a little horrified that I ruined perfectly nice shirts with my bad freehand “art,” but am just going to focus on the positive. I told him this one was a little buddy–but he calls it a pocket monster.
This one is a shark that looks sort of like a blue banana too. But Worth loves it.
And finally…I realize this is probably going to end up on one of those websites where mean women make fun of other people’s blogs, but whatever. In retrospect I should have printed images on the paper to make my stencils, but I felt all self-empowered to do my own bad art, so I did. This one was supposed to be a dog, but Dorothy thinks it is a giraffe, Rob says llama, and Worth calls it a wolf. Really, I don’t care, I’m just glad it is shirt #3 that my son will now quite happily put on and wear.
Has it been almost a month since I’ve blogged? I can’t believe it! I haven’t lost interest, but somehow this school year I haven’t been able to build this into my schedule. I should, because I get a cozy little sense of accomplishment when I look back over my blog pictures, and sometimes when there is kid crap all over the floor and my dog is barking at the mailman and my son is peeing on the floor…well, I just need that sense of accomplishment! So I’m stating for the record that I AM going to blog three times per week until I get caught up on some of these projects I want to record.
First off, I’ve been obsessively covering things with scrapbook paper. I don’t “scrapbook” in the sense of sticking photographs on cute paper and adding stickers, but I do love to buy those big, awesome stacks of scrapbook paper they sell in crafts stores. Those pretty 12×12 sheets can be used for anything! Lately I’ve been recycling containers, such as this pretzel tub I’ve turned into a dog treat jar, by gluing scrapbook paper on them and then covering it with clear contact paper, which protects the paper and allows me to wipe the surface clean. This jar sits on top of my fridge and looks much better than the Target bag that was holding dog treats up there before.
This is not a crafty thing but is just a favorite recent photo. Kentucky is partaking in this Midwest cold snap, and we’ve never been happier homeschoolers than on these frigid mornings when we can roll out of bed and light a fire and read books by it in our pajamas. I snapped this photo a couple evenings ago, when the kids were ending the day basically the same way we started it.
This is an awkward collection of photos of an otherwise cute skirt. It’s hard to get blog photos of an object that is basically made to cover my own bottom.
My husband had a work-related event last week that involved taking me to the track for the afternoon (that’s a horse track–I’m in Kentucky) to spend the afternoon gambling and drinking with strangers. Hmm. It was a chilly day and I knew I’d have to be outside part of the time, so I wanted to wear something comfortable and warm. I was thinking on the morning of the event that if I had a charcoal-colored knee-length skirt to wear with a sweater and boots it would be perfect. Then I remembered that I had an old charcoal-colored wool blanket downstairs in my fabric stash that I’d picked up at a thrift store last year. Why not see if I could whip up a simple skirt to wear that afternoon? I set Dorothy to some independent school work and fetched the blanket.
Unfortunately one of my cats seemed to have found the wool blanket on the low shelf where it was being stored and had been using it as a napping spot. No problem, the skirt wouldn’t require much fabric–I just cut some skirt-shaped pieces from a non-hairy part of the blanket. I didn’t use a pattern, just eyeballed the shape of panels from another skirt and cut an appropriately-sized waistband. The boiled wool wouldn’t fray so I didn’t even finish the top of the waist. I serged it all together with purposely exposed seams and a perky little button at the waist. I tugged it on over some tights and was pretty pleased, but decided I needed to press it out a bit because the wool had some creases. When I pressed the warm iron onto the wool I realized the problem–it smelled like stinky cat. In a very bad way. Ick.
Because this is my homemade blog, not a what-to-wear blog or a fashion blog or a how-not-to-stink-in-public blog I’m going to confess that I wore it anyway. Once the wool cooled I decided that no one would smell it if they didn’t press their nose right up against my skirt or apply heat to the wool–both quite unlikely. The skirt served its purpose perfectly that afternoon and I don’t think anyone would have guessed that it was an old blanket a few hours earlier in the day. I felt kind of crafty-powerful after my successful quick project. When I got home I gave the skirt a little rinse and soak in some lavender Eucalan and now it no longer stinks. What more could I ask?
My coffee table was looking really shabby. I bought it used on Craig’s List back before I had kids myself, when a friend’s son drew all over my old one in black Sharpie. It served us well through Dorothy’s toddler-hood, sustaining the abuse of many marker and crayon episodes, though I kept my Sharpies under lock and key. By the time Worth came along I thought it really could use replacing, but I hated the idea of getting a new one and then watching it suffer through another child. I decided to stick it out, and that poor old table got pock-marked when Worth banged on it with wooden food, scuffed when the boy and his puppy made a game of chasing each other up and over it and off the other side, and colored on some more. Then the legs, which always needed a periodic tightening, actually reached a place where they just wobbled hopelessly and no amount of wood glue could keep them from going askew when someone forgot, once again, that the poor old table was not for sitting. I still wasn’t sure I could get another one–after all, dog and boy are no more reliable around furniture than they were, and the Sharpies are bound to come out sometime. But then I saw the one in the picture above at a local thrift store for $15.00. I figured that for $15 I could watch the decline of another table; at least this one seems sturdy.
I sanded it and used chalkboard paint on the top panels. Maybe having a legal place to write on the table will save it from other child artwork mayhem. (A girl can dream.) I painted the rest in a shade of red that goes nicely with the flowers in my curtains, then distressed the edges a bit with sandpaper so when my paint job starts getting chipped it might look a little intentional.
The chalkboard panels look interesting and are functional too, since we often sit on the sofa to do our homeschool work. This is our official “first day of school” photo from this morning. I love not rushing out the door in the morning! We aren’t morning people, my kids and I.
I sewed erasers from scraps and an old towel. It has pockets on the back to stow the chalk.
I had some red paint left a the end of the project so I painted an old end table to match. I love the way paint makes non-matchy things go together.
Since I was already in furniture-painting mode I finally got around to sprucing up a desk chair I’d bought at a thrift store more than a year ago. I was using a very ugly, wobbly chair at my desk and I’d found this sturdy wooden one to replace it. I painted it in black paint left over from my china hutch project and recovered the seat, which had been wearing ripped faux leather. Now it feels good to have this room that we spend so much time in be a little brighter and all around less wobbly as we start the school year.
I feel like this is one of those instances where the final product looks much cuter in my kitchen than it does in this crummy picture. I should outsource my photography to someone with better skills! Disclaimers aside, I gave my kitchen canisters a little update. The sturdy glass jars where still in perfectly good condition after ten or so years of wear, but the metal lids were starting to rust. I used craft paint on the lids, then coated them with a polyacrylic sealer. The top of the lids don’t come into contact with food, nor do they need to be dishwasher safe, so I’m hoping this solution stops the rust and improves the look of them.I tried to get a picture of one of the lids in front of the curtains that inspired the design. In retrospect I could probably have stamped on polka dots in the same paint colors and it would have looked nice with less work, but I didn’t think of that in time.
Belle the dog was the
victim recipient of another of my recent projects. I’m quite pleased with this one and foresee homemade collars to match every season and holiday in lucky Belle’s future. I purchased inexpensive parachute clips, nylon webbing and D rings at my local crafts shop. I sewed decorative fabric over the webbing and then assembled the collar. This would have been a more complicated project if I’d had to make the collar adjustable, but since I was only sewing it for one full-grown dog I just based it on the measurement of one of her other collars already adjusted to fit her. The whole project only took a few minutes and a couple dollars–now I have to figure out which of my camper fabrics to use on the next one!
Belle models her new collar.
Two unrelated projects, two different kinds of paint, but one color scheme. Here we go:
Folding chairs, rescued from my basement. They came with the house. First I spray painted them…
…then made fabric covers for the back and a nice padded foam one for the seat. I’m keeping these in my garage to pull out when I need comfy seating for child-watching in my back yard and swing-set area. Love making something cute out of old forgotten items left in my basement!
And the new camper. Unfortunately I haven’t finished this job because of threat of rain, but I have one coat on most of three sides. It looks sweet. Here’s the door side before (can you find me in this photo?)…
…and after. Check out my rims! It’s hard to tell exactly what the original blue shade was on here, but I think I probably went just one notch brighter. I love it so much that the first night I had to keep peeking at it our my bedroom window, just to take one more little look at the awesome aqua stripe. My husband has started teasing me about it, which I totally deserve. I can’t wait to finish up the exterior paint job and really make some progress on the inside. It’s going to be so cute! I’ve been watching (and winning) some online auctions for vintage Pyrex dinnerware, with turquoise and flamingo (reddish pink) bands. It’s going to look perfect in this little camper. You know me and dishes, right? I can’t pass up the opportunity.
My life has been tied up lately with ridiculous “first world” problems–the kind that aren’t a huge deal to begin with but which suck up my time as if my very survival depended on them. You know, like when your garage door opener stops working and you think it might be the motor…but then it also might be the outlet..so you have to call the electrician but it takes a few days for them to come…and it turns out to be a loose wire but your garage door opener still doesn’t work…so you call that guy and he thinks it’s a problem with the outlet…and you have to plug in your radio and play music to prove it’s not…and the problem turns out to be one that fails to fit into the typical repair scenarios (maybe lightening?)…so the garage door guy half-secretly thinks you’re a fruit bat weirdo who messes with your own garage door…etc., etc…and he finally fixes it, but then somehow a lot of your wild and precious life has passed by while you were preoccupied with the garage door. You know that scenario? It doesn’t always involve the garage door, but it feels like it visits my house regularly. Oy.
I did manage to finally finish the coverlet for Dorothy’s bed, however, at some point between bothering the electrician and secretly sabotaging my own garage door just to mess with people. I bought several bags full of old floral sheets in yellow tones almost exactly two years ago with Dorothy’s bedroom in mind. I bought them before we even knew we would buy this house, only a few months into the house-selling odyssey that did finally lead us in a roundabout way back to the very same yellow-wallpapered bedroom. I cut and pieced the top of the coverlet last March and really should have finished the thing shortly thereafter, but when I was machine-stitching the face to the backing the tension on my sewing machine went all wonky and wrinkled up the back side of an entire, long seam. The prospect of ripping a seam out of the face, batting, and backing that extended the entire length of the quilt threw my frustration-meter into overdrive and I dumped the project into a bag in the basement and left it there for a year, at which point I begged my mother to rip out the seam for me, and she did. (Thanks, Mom.) After that it took me another couple of months of procrastination and exactly one afternoon of hands-on sewing to finish sewing the thing together and add the binding.
The quilt really does look sweet in Dorothy’s room. She continues to be fond of the vintage wallpaper, and there is something about the hodge-podge of patterns and colors in the sheets that looks very good with it, as if more outdated yellow flowers really is more.
I snapped the photos of the coverlet right after I put it on the bed, but then I had to sneak back in the next day to take this one to show how it really looks with her heap of stuffed animals, messy desk, and perky little matching milk glass lamp. It’s cozy and sweet, it’s feminine, it’s a mess–it fits my daughter pretty well.
I never know what to hang on the front door after Christmas. Holly berries no longer seem right, but it’s definitely not time for spring flowers either. I decided to buy a cheap thrift store wreath and winterize it. The photo above is the wreath I started with, purchased for about $2.
I lightly spray-painted the whole thing white. The original colors still show through, but it looks kind of frosty. Then I added silver snowflakes (white ones from a craft store, spray-painted silver), a colorful bow, and a vintage bird I found at a yard sale last summer. I like that the blue gives a little color to my winter front porch but I still feel seasonably appropriate.This might not be the best photo of my new pillowcases but at least it shows them in action. The striped print, Robert Allen Kukula Pinata, coordinates with my new curtains (finally all finished!) in Kiki Pinata. I like that the boldness of the stripe and color anchors my sort of washed-out old sofa, but that it isn’t so matchy-matchy with the curtains that anyone is going to get seasick from all the flowers. The kids and dog obviously like them as well. It has been part of our daily homeschool routine for Dorothy to read a book or two to her brother, so that is what is going on here. I don’t actually want to talk about why my 22-month-old is sucking on a pacifier, and since this is my blog, well, I won’t.
Belle’s doggie bed was originally intended to occupy space on the second floor of our home, but it ended up being more useful in our main living space. The downside to finally finishing the curtains in this room was that the bed, covered in fabric to match my bedroom, now looked kind of clashy in the family room. I found a nice, washable fabric to make a new dog bed cover at Joann. It’s the Lisette brand but I didn’t see this print on the website. It looks like an Ikat print and is a color that should both match the room and the dog–so her hair won’t show so badly! Both the person who cut my fabric and the person who checked me out asked what I was going to do with the pretty fabric. It was kind of funny to tell them it was for my dog, but she should have pretty things too. Why not?
I’m not very gadget-oriented but I did feel like it would be handy to check e-mail away from home, especially in a few key places where I already get reliable wireless service so when I heard about the new Kindle Fire I jumped. I’m lucky to be able to text on my poor old phone so this is a big jump into the portable technology ether for me. In anticipation of receiving my new toy I decided to make it a cute sleeve. I’d purchased a very pretty wool crocheted blanket at a thrift store last year but hadn’t done anything with it yet. The blanket was probably at the thrift store because someone had partially felted it, likely by machine washing it. I went ahead and felted it the rest of the way, making one big, colorful and unique piece of scalloped-edge wool felt. The felt is too thick to machine sew but I thought it would make an awesome protective cover so I created a binding with some thrifted sheets and a decorative machine stitch in contrasting (red) thread.
I hand-stitched the binding along the top edge and up the sides of a long piece cut from the felt, then made a really simple closure from a vintage button and some ribbon sewn to the scallops on the flap. When my new Kindle arrived I was so happy both to use it and my new cute sleeve! I love the mix of the old and the new; the scratchy boiled wool and the sleek new screen. I’m absolutely certain that this new device is going to make me better organized. There will be no more forgetting of canned goods for the Girl Scouts drive or missed volunteer appointments. For sure not. Because the whole problem was my lack of a new gadget, right?
While I’m dreaming let me tell you about pear ginger jam, because this is the stuff dreams are made of. I have made this every fall since the recipe came out in Vegetarian Times. (Disclaimer: I’m not veg but like the magazine.) I never hesitate buying huge quantities of good pears when they are available in the fall because letting them go overripe is practically a mandate for me to make this recipe. The first time or two I made it I processed the jars as directed, but after that I realized we eat the whole batch in a couple of weeks so there is no need to bother prepping it for pantry storage. I ladle it into clean jars and then keep it in the refrigerator until we eat it up. This year we finished it particularly quickly because my daughter has been volunteering to make her own sandwiches–apparently just so she can stand alone at the counter with a spoon and this jam. And I have to admit, she is basically living out my dream. Although my very favorite way to eat this jam is on homemade pumpkin bread over top of a schmear of cream cheese, and it’s also terrifically good in a sandwich with almond butter. In the photo it is prepared the way my daughter likes it best (next to the spoon), which is on freshly-baked white bread with cream cheese. Jam seems like such a big project but it isn’t really. I started peeling the pears for this at 5:30 on a day I had to be across town at 6:30 and I was on time. So worth the messy kitchen I came home to that night.
About this time every year people start complaining about Christmas stuff being out, about the rush of the season, about holiday music. I’m not one of them. The kids and I had the Pandora holiday music station on the day after Halloween, and although I won’t decorate our house until Thanksgiving I’m thoroughly enjoying the pre-holiday planning. Christmas is fun; why not stretch it out a bit? I’m so glad we won’t have the craziness of last year’s Christmas-week move, and it’s going to a blast to have two kids at the perfect ages to enjoy all this holiday hustle-bustle. I like to take a photo for my Christmas cards pretty early every year so that if it looks terrible I have plenty of time to bribe them more and try it again. This year I was really lusting after some Hanna Andersson matching outfits for the kids to wear in the picture, but just couldn’t bring myself (meaning, well, that I just couldn’t afford) to spend so much money on clothes they’d only wear a couple times at most. Right as I was about to buy them anyway I remembered this pretty turquoise Christmas fabric I’d purchased on clearance at a quilting store over the summer. I’d only bought a yard and had planned to make myself a tote bag out of it, but I realized I could probably stretch it to come up with homemade matching outfits for the kids.
I definitely got my money’s worth out of less than $5 of Christmas fabric. I sewed Dorothy a dress out of a winter white fabric I had in my stash, which I think I got from Wal-Mart’s $1 table a few months back. I made the dress from Simplicity 2237 and sewed her a bolero from the Christmas print from the same pattern. I’ve used that dress pattern before and found it to be a bit wide; this time I cut the pattern a little narrower and it fit perfectly. The bolero pattern wast just right. It fit adorably without any adjustments.
I used more of the turquoise fabric to make a ruffle around the bottom of her dress, which I sewed to the lining of unbleached muslin so it peeps out all around. I used gold thread and a decorative stitch on my sewing machine to add some gold embellishment along the hem of the outer skirt.
For the boy I made a bow tie out of the Christmas fabric and an oh-so-debonair vest out of the same fabric as her dress. I read this terrific tutorial on another blog, then sort of cut around a vest he’d outgrown. I used leftover curtain backing for the lining and back and buttons from my stash, which I think were torn off an old sweater that got turned in to something else a couple years ago. His bow tie is not really tied on because I’m not that brave–I sewed it to a hair clip. I ended up getting an acceptably good photo of the two of them (not pictured) and am glad to have that happy task checked off my list, and for less than $10 total.