Monthly Archives: October 2014

A scary Halloween project–no, really



You know the meme circulating on Facebook with the picture of how your fall display looks in your head, versus the one you actually manage to execute? (Hopefully this link works if you haven’t seen it.) Well, this project is kind of like that. Somehow we never manage to get our pumpkins carved until the last minute, so it’s just our big ol’ pumpkins sitting there on the steps until right before Halloween, at which point they both promptly rot and look out of season. This year I got the idea I’d crochet up some quick pumpkin cozys to slip over them to decorate them until they are carved. Charming idea, right? Like little jack-o-lantern sweaters. Maybe I’d make one with chevrons and it would look so very a la mode. Well, it’s ok to laugh. It totally didn’t turn out right! I sketched out a little face on graph paper and estimated the size I needed, using bulky yarn and a big hook to go fast, and this pumpkin cozy looks stupid. ūüôā The face is askew and the whole thing is too big. So it’s tricks instead of treats for me this year! And you know what? I kind of like it anyway. Happy Halloween!

Two Elsas and an alligator


alligator elsa1 elsa2 elsas-togetherHappy Halloween! As is my usual custom, I did not make my kids’ costumes. I like to take advantage of good pre-made costume deals and then spend my crafty time on things I’ll get to enjoy seeing the kids in on a more regular basis. I’d been pretty pleased with an eight-year run of costumes that did not ever include Disney Princesses, but this year Dorothy has been particulary enchanted by the movie Frozen and she jumped on the bandwagon with her choice to be Elsa this Halloween. We happened upon these costumes at a Cracker Barrel at the end of summer, and Dorothy was thrilled to see that we could get an Elsa dress for her and a matching one for her sister. So of course I bought the dresses, and Dorothy finished them off to her taste with blue capes she sewed herself and some Photoshopped snowflake magic, art directed by her but executed by me. The girls are cute in their dresses. Worth was inspired by the alligators we saw on our Hilton Head trip this summer and chose to impersonate this carnivorous swamp creature. He’s been pretend chomping everything, just as you’d expect from a 4-year-old boy/alligator. Hope your Halloween is magical!

More deer for my dear


deer-girl deer-shirt shirt-close-up

Many knitters got started because they know someone who is always knitting, and they are a little jealous of all the fabulous things they make, right? It was no different with me. One of my mama friends is an excellent and avid knitter, and she inspired me to figure out the whole knitting thing a few years ago. She’s also generous, so for Daphne’s first birthday she made these gorgeous legwarmers that match the sweater she made Daphne as a newborn, and which the baby can still wear. Lucky Daphne! I wanted to create an outfit around the legwarmers, and I thought I already had the perfect skirt on hand so I sewed an embroidered applique to a white bodysuit to complete the outfit. I got this embroidery file free on when it was their featured file of the month, and it couldn’t be any sweeter. One a cooler day she can swear it with the matching cardigan and she’ll be the cutest, coziest baby in the whole world. (I’m pretty sure.)

Canvas shoes



The bigger kids and I decorated canvas shoes as a school art project recently. I bought them inexpensive canvas high-tops (green, because that’s what we found cheap in their sizes), and I got white slip-ons from Amazon for myself. We decorated the shoes with Sharpie markers. I thought we might spray them with rubbing alcohol to get the fuzzy effect, but once we were done we were all too attached to our line art as it was to spray it. The kids immediately wore their shoes until the grommets fell off and one of them got a hole in the toe. I didn’t love mine; the black pen on the white shoe just wasn’t doing it for me, and the stark contrast called¬†too much attention to my I’m-not-an-artist pen work. Then my daughter and her sleepover friend were decorating t-shirts with fabric paint, and I got the idea to give a similar treatment to my shoes. I watered down multi-surface craft paint, then sponged the color all over my shoes. Even watered down, the paint covered my pen drawings a little too much, so I ran the wet-paint shoes under the faucet, and then I thought they looked just right. The color kind of settled into patches like it’s supposed to look like that, and now I’m pleased. This was a fun project and the shoes fit comfortably and feel just like my Tom’s.


Here are Dorothy’s, before the hole in the toe. ūüôā

A bat table runner


runner runner2

I love Halloween! Last year I made this photo garland for our favorite costume photos; this year I decided to upgrade our dining table. I sewed a simple table topper out of a burlap-colored fabric, then made a freezer paper stencil of a bat to paint on. I’m not very good at drawing, so I admit to tossing three bat attempts before settling on this one, but the good thing about freezer paper stencils is that you can use them several times, so after I peeled it off my dry bat on one end, I just ironed it down and used the same one at the other end.

This was a fun project and my favorite part about it is how much the kids like it. I’ve often thought that one of the best things¬†about having a daughter is her genuine appreciation of my crafty efforts. I can show my husband one of my projects when he comes home from work, and he’s very polite, “oh that’s great! Looks so nice,” or whatever, just like he’d have said if I’d bought it from Costco. He’s a nice guy and he’d never omit a loving comment about something that’s important to me, but he doesn’t get it. But when I show my daughter something I’ve made, she bubbles over with genuine enthusiasm: “Mom! You made that! It’s amazing! Show me how you did the….” And I thank my stars, once again, that I was blessed with a girl-child. (Two, even.) But both of my kids were truly pleased with this one and Worth is now drawing bats on every scrap of paper in the house. Fun times.

apple-jar2 apple-jarThese little jars got left out of my post about Daphne’s first birthday a few weeks ago. They are baby food jars painted with glass paint, spray-painted lids, then a little bead and felt leaf glued into place on the top. I filled them with M&Ms and gave them out as party favors to our small guests. They were inspired by a Pinterest pin and turned out cute, but the glass paint didn’t look like I wanted it to. ¬†I’d watched this Youtube video about liquid fill glass paint, but my paint wasn’t runny enough to do this technique. My bottle says “opaque,” so maybe that’s why? I just brushed it on instead and the jars were still nice gifts.


A travel mirror



I frequently wear my hair up and get irritated in hotel rooms when I can’t check the back of my head. I love my Eddie Bauer toiletry bag because it’s so well-designed and sturdy and perfect–there are some classics that don’t need much improvement. But the one flaw is that it lacks a decent mirror. The teeny one that is attached to the kit with hook-and-loop tape is surprisingly hazy, and only shows part of the back of my head at best. I did some shopping for a mirror I could just slip into my new¬†auxiliary¬†travel bag¬†that holds bulkier things like brushes, but it seems that all mirrors are either a) too large to be portable, b) too fragile to be portable, or c) too small to see the whole back of my head.

Then I was at the Dollar Tree the other day and I saw that they have surprisingly clear mirrors of a decent size for, you know, a dollar. So I bought one and decided to turn it into a travel-safe mirror. I popped the glass out of the plastic housing it was in and glued it to really sturdy piece of davey board cut just a little larger. Then I cut another piece of davey board the same size to make the other side of a little padded travel mirror portfolio. The board and the fabric give the glass protection, a hook-and-loop tab serves as a way to hang it from my travel bag in a hotel room, and then closes it all up securely when it’s time to go. I used Waverly’s Starry Eyed Peackock fabric to match the¬†new luggage tag¬†I posted a few weeks ago.

Mama can be warm and text too


mitts mitts2 mitts3mitts1

First, can I say that my nails are never this fabulous? I think it’s a little ironic that the one time in years I have ruby-red nails, I also happened to be including my hands in a photo for my blog. Maybe it was a decision made by my subconscious, as I saw the mitts nearing completion. My conscious self painted the nails to hide the superglue that is holding one of my nails to the bed after something horrible happened while I was changing someone’s sheets. So far the nail is actually hanging on there, so perhaps vanity (in the form of red fingernails) is actually a way to avoid pain just this once.

Moving on to my cute fingerless gloves, which I hope will far outlast both my manicure and my injured nail. I bought two pairs of cheap fingerless gloves last year after I finally entered the smartphone part of the population several years after everyone else. I have to admit, I totally didn’t get the fingerless gloves fashion thing until I got the phone, and then the little lightbulb when off–oh! You can text with them, but they still keep your hands warm! Yeah! So one pair has the part that keeps your thumb warm, but the other pair, which is brown and actually goes with more of my outerwear, does not. I don’t know what kind of trick of thermodynamics causes fingerless gloves with the thumb part to be warm and toasty, while fingerless gloves without the thumb part do nothing to keep your hands warm and might as well by ice cubs laid directly on your hands, but it’s true. So I needed a brown pair with the thumbs, and since I don’t have a newborn tying up my knitting space this year I decided to make a pair for myself.

I used Knitpicks’ Swish worsted yarn (my go-to favorite) in Bark for this project, and Valerie Teppo’s One Cable Mitts pattern, as suggested by a friend. I decided to do an extra repeat of the cable pattern going up the arm to make them extra-long, so no cold could creep up my sleeves. I also made the hand part just a bit longer than the pattern calls for, again for added warmth. These have already been through the washer and dryer and are soft and cozy and just what I wanted. I’m excited to toss out the useless thumb-less pair I bought last year, and use touch-screen electronics fearlessly in the cold this winter!

Aside note for knookers: As usual, I knitted these mitts on a knook instead of knitting needles. Cables are super-easy to knook, but something went a little wrong with the way the thumb attached to the main body of the mitts. I don’t know if it’s some quirky knooking problem, or if the problem was just the way I translated the pattern to knooking myself. Anyway, there were open spaces that needed to be seamed up at the end that shouldn’t have been there, but seaming them up solved the problem just fine.

Our apple birthday party


apple-dress birthday-dress daphbirthday2 daph-cake1 daph-cake3.The baby turned 1! Her apple birthday party was on a beautiful fall day, and Daphne heartily approved of the cake her Nana made. I made her dress from an Anna Maria Horner pattern in the book Handmade Beginnings. The skirt fabric is Timeless Treasures Kids Apple Orchard, and I bought the embroidery pattern for the front panel from here. The dress was sweet by itself, and over a red Kickee Pants union suit to make it warmer on the “crisp” (pun intended) day of her actual party. I love fall colors on this baby, and I plan to enjoy this dress on her long after the leftover cake is gone.

Why not all hobbies are business endeavors



Ok, this post is a rant, but it really is not meant to be unkind. If I thought someone in my life read this and felt like it was directed at them I would die of humiliation. It’s not directed at anyone, nor has anyone in my life offended me, but I do just need to get this off my chest. So here it goes.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a stay-at-home mother¬†in possession of good crafty¬†skills must be in want of a side job.” Oh wait, that’s not true at all.¬†Let me explain.

My life and home are¬†filled with homemade stuff. Curtains, pillows, napkins, tablecloths, hats on top of kids’ heads, socks on my feet–you name it, I’ve sewed it/knitted it/crocheted it. I even blog as¬†as a hobby to document my hobbies. Because that’s fun for me–it’s my pastime. I don’t want to sew as a job. I don’t want to knit as a job. I don’t want to crochet as a job.

It’s not ok to ask someone to sew, knit, crochet or craft for you unless that person¬†has a business or has been known to solicit work before. Asking a person to make something handmade¬†for you is an unacceptable presumption. If you thought someone had a beautifully clean house, you would never ask them to come be your housekeeper. If you thought someone did a nice job painting their woodwork, you would not ask them to come paint yours. If you thought someone had a well-behaved dog, you would not randomly ask if you can pay them to give your dog lessons. (I could go on.) There are exceptions to these, of course, for very close friends or family who have a history of sharing labor and time with each other, but I’m not talking about those exceptions.

I am never bothered when friends or acquaintances compliment my projects, wish they could make those things, wish I would make them one (teasingly), or ask me to teach them how to do something or give advice on a project. (Actually, the opposite–I’m flattered by all those things.) Teaching a friend how to do a skill is well within the scope of friendship. I don’t actually think I’m very good at teaching crafty skills, which is one of the reasons you almost never see tutorials on my blog, but I would never be bothered by someone asking for my help, nor would I ever mind giving it a try. I also love making gifts for friends and relatives. Being able to give handmade gifts is a special joy. People who know they are going to get a gift from me and give me a hint about something handmade they want are just making useful hints. I’m not talking about that.

Asking someone like me to do unsolicited paid work is completely different. I do not like it when people ask me to do jobs for them. I don’t do it, either, because I’m not for hire. I’m not offended, but I just want to explain why it’s not really ok to ask me or any other crafter, even if the intention is good. I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago. I’ve held professional jobs making a reasonable amount of money. My current state of unpaid employment is something my husband and I have put a great deal of thought into. (You can read our reasons for homeschooling here.) Our family budget is not of public¬†concern, nor would it¬†be polite or acceptable for anyone to presume that the amount of money I could make by sewing for someone would be worth the bother to me. Adorable and fashionable clothing and home-furnishings can be purchased at Target. (Talking about the lives of the people who made those items is beyond the scope of this post, but you you probably have a good idea.) Beautiful and high-quality clothing and home-furnishings can also be purchased lots of places from upscale stores to small boutiques or online from domestic sellers on Etsy. When people suggest that I do a sewing project for them, they seem to think they could get a quality, hand-made item from me for under the price of a similar item at Target. Inevitably, they also significantly underestimate the time and effort involved in creating their desired project. In fact, just purchasing good-quality yarns and fabrics often causes home-sewn or knitted items to be more expensive just in materials than their Target counterparts. If I were doing sewing or yarn-craft jobs, I would be forgoing the precious, hard-won moments I wrench from my busy life to enjoy my crafty pursuits, giving up creative control over my projects, and creating an item that would net me (maybe) just enough money to go buy non-handmade items for my own children and gift recipients at Target. I’m profoundly uninterested in doing that.

Some craftspeople and artists decide to transform their skills into businesses, so they sell on Etsy or on their own websites or in stores or boutiques. They make crafting their job. Just like other jobs, they turn part of their day over to the execution of the tasks that encompass their job, and it happens to be crafty-related. That’s terrific, but I don’t want to do that. Being able to do something is not the same thing as being interested in doing that thing as a job. Prices of items on Etsy or of handmade goods in boutiques reflect the amount of time and effort it takes to sew or craft. The prices of domestic-made goods on Etsy are fair, and they reflect the time and materials in the handmade objects. ¬†That’s how selling handmade items can be a living for some people, but it would not be worth it for me. I don’t want to put my children in daycare so I can craft¬†for money.

Here’s a concrete example. I recently sold my fox purse in an online forum for used goods. I blogged about the purse here. I actually made it last winter, I think, and by this fall I was tired of carrying it. It was showing a little wear after 4-6 months of use and had a stain on the handle, which I disclosed in my online ad. I paid $17 for the two pieces of fabric I used to make the bag, then let’s say another few dollars for the other bits–a zipper, 2 D-rings, elastic. thread. I’m not sure how long it took me to design and sew the bag, but I’m going to estimate three hours. This would have been three hours squeeze out over the course of several days and across multiple sittings. It would have been a few minutes while supper was baking, a little time while the baby was napping but after I’d finished shorting laundry, a stolen moment while my oldest answered math questions I’d set her. It was time I spent at the sewing machine sewing instead of keeping my kitchen floor clean, catching up on the church committee work, or grading last week’s spelling work. I could not put a price on that three hours. No amount of money could have made the effort worth it if my project weren’t meant as a treat for myself or someone I love. Yet I felt like the effort was worthwhile to me just for the love of crafting, and the satisfaction of making something just right for myself. I enjoyed envisioning and creating the bag in those stolen moments. I enjoyed carrying it and knowing it was unique. I enjoyed turning $20 in materials into a bag that didn’t come from Target. When I was done using the bag, I asked $10 for it because I thought that was a reasonable price for a used bag with a stain on it–the price had no relation to the value of the bag to me when it was new. I was pleased to sell it almost immediately; I was vastly annoyed to immediately receive solicitations that I make new ones for would-be purchasers. They had no idea how much I’d have had to charge for that bag to make it even remotely worth making it new. The $20-ish dollars in materials plus the¬†$1,000,000¬†for my time would have undoubtedly seemed outrageous to them (they who expected me to produce more to sell for $10!???). I’m sure the would-be buyers didn’t mean to offend, but just the suggestion made me realize how far afield the perception of the value of handmade items is from their actual value, both in time and money.

So my point is this. If you want handmade items, patronize an established business, art fair, or Etsy. Expect to pay more for the item than you would pay at Target. Do not ask other people to use their crafty skills for you. Do not offer to pay people for items they are not offering for sale. You may mean well enough, but it’s thoughtless and annoying. This is a public service announcement and is intended as enlightenment and explanation, not as chastisement or ridicule. XO

Yet another baby frock


bird-dress1 bird-dress2 bird-dress3This was the next installment in the Dresses for Daphne Before She Can Decline series. I love bird prints for her things since I made her baby bedding, mobile, and many of her bibs from bird prints. This print is Michael Miller’s Garden Walk Wing Song, accented with some bright red chevrons.¬†¬†The pattern is one I used before in a smaller size, from Making Baby’s Clothes, and I did my own things with the ruffles. With my two-tiered ruffle on the bottom it’s just a wee bit long on her now, but with the loose fit she may be able to wear it over a red bodysuit this winter and as a cute sun dress in the spring too.