My blog seems to be experiencing a little seasonal slow down lately. The sun is shining, the days are heating up, and I want to be staring out my open windows or watching my toddler figure out the plastic slide in the yard instead of doing cozy crafts (or blogging about them) on the couch. Everything has a season, right? But I do have a couple things to write about today. First, it’s that time of year again when people are thinking about next year’s educational choices. If you want to read about why my family educates our kids at home, it’s all right here in a post I wrote last year. Next, I feel like it’s also sort of seasonal for people to get tired of everything they’ve been up to all year, now that spring break is almost here and the school year is winding down. All the experiences that seemed fresh and crisp in September feels sort of limp and blah now. It’s fine for some things to go by the wayside in spring. Why not spend more time cloud-gazing and less time on everything that feels less important compared to that view? But don’t take down other mommies on your quest for personal happiness, ok? Letting yourself off the hook doesn’t have anything to do with the girl next door, whether she’s one of the Joneses or Martha Stewart. If someone else’s leprechaun trap made you edgy this week, please read this instead of posting a link to an article about how other people overdo it. XO.
My photos today are of a project from earlier this winter that really didn’t turn out all that well though I liked the concept. I made cute boy pants out of brown corduroy and an adorable camper print cotton I bought last year. The pattern, from Sewing for Boys, is one I’ve made before. The problem with the pants is that they are too short. I made the same size I’d made for him last year, erroneously thinking those pants still fit. Oops. Fine in the waist, but a good two inches too short. He’s worn them constantly anyway and they look goofy. I finally hid them so he’d quit wearing them and have plans to turn them into shorts, even though corduroy isn’t exactly what perfect shorts are made of. The shirt is just a plain white tee with a panel of the fabric appliqued on. Again, my problem was with fit. I was apparently careless when I grabbed the shirt from my stash and it’s the wrong size. It’s too big in every direction and he’s never worn it again after the day I gave it to him. Probably he’ll wear it constantly next winter, with pants that clash. Oh well. Sometimes the point is just that my middle kid (and only boy) needs to know I made something just for him, and there you have it.
Today’s post is about birthdays and half-birthdays too. In our family we celebrate six-month birthdays with cupcakes, as was the tradition in my family growing up. For Worth’s half-birthday we made Pinterest-inspired monkey cupcakes with chocolate frosting, vanilla wafers, white chocolate chips, and piped dark-brown frosting. My kids had a great time decorating these, and they were simple enough that the 4-and-a-half-year-old boy of honor could fully participate.
Dorothy wanted un-decorated cupcakes that we could upend over some clipart of the Wicked Witch’s feet (see my photo on Instagram) to make the cakes look like houses that fell on the witch. Fun! We’d just been on a field trip to an apple orchard, and I was still working my way through the huge bag of apples I bought, so I made apple cupcakes with caramel icing. The apple cake recipe I used calls for shredded apple, so there is a nice apple flavor without the chunks that end up mealy or tough in some apple cake recipes. I substituted pie spice for the cinnamon, and the moist consistency of the cake made perfect cupcakes that don’t fall apart when you eat them and peel away from the paper easily. Go and make these cupcakes this afternoon–seriously, they are so good. And the cakes would have made a perfectly nice dessert or snack without frosting, but of course for us they were meant to be cupcakes, so they really had to have frosting. I used this caramel frosting recipe and it was just right, Caramel frosting over apple cupcakes–yum.
Amid our half birthday celebrating at home, Worth got invited to the birthday party of some friends. The kids were having a space-themed party so I made them embroidered comet t-shirts. Some of my favorite free embroidery designs are the retired sets at Bunnycup Embroidery. I used a design from the Stars N Stripes set, but rotated it to look like a falling star or comet. I like to do embroidered shirts like these, where the embroidery is done on a fabric panel that is then fused and sewn to the shirt, rather than directly on the shirt. That way I don’t have to deal with embroidering on stretchy knit, and the itchy back of the designs is not up against the wearer’s chest. I think the children liked their shirts.
We took a family vacation to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, this summer. I put together matching outfits for the kids. Matching outfits on vacation serve the dual purpose of looking cute (in real time and in photographs) and helping me keep track of everyone more easily! I used fabrics from the Michael Miller Shore Thing collection. Dorothy’s dress was a little halter pattern from Girl’s World, and Worth’s was the cute pattern from Sewing for Boys I had also used on his fox shirt last winter. I think Dorothy’s pattern would have been more flattering on a less willowy girl–I had to add some ruching under the best to give it a little shape.
Daphne’s dress is just a simple little halter with ties over the shoulders, and she got matching bloomers from the plaid. The outfits were breezy and comfortable for the kids, and were so fun for me to see in action!
I took this babywearing selfie, since I’m often not in the pictures. This carrier came off my sewing machine just over a year ago, and it has gotten almost constant use! I love the mei tai style carrier.
I made myself several new bags for our trip. I often find that we take evening beach walks to find shells or get ice cream, and while I need to carry my wallet, room key, and sunglasses, I do not want to tote my beach bag or even my purse. I sewed this small pouch with a long strap to throw over my shoulder and carry just the essentials. It was handy for the beach and has gotten quite a bit of use back at home too.
I had quite a bit of laminated cotton left over from a project of recovering my kitchen chair seats. I decided it would be good fabric for a new beach bag. I needed a new one anyway, now that we had grown to a family of five beach-towel users! I lined the bag and made pockets out of a brightly-colored striped sheet, then made a little zippered pouch to match. I downloaded the embroidery file for the monogram from the JoyfulStitchesEtsy shop and have loved it so much I’ve been stitching it onto everything! I thought laminated cotton worked well for the bag in that sand and water could be easily brushed off, but not as well in that it wrinkles badly in a hot car.
I wish I had a better photo of this project, but this one will do. I found this adorable mermaid-printed cotton last winter when I was looking for something else, and I bought it not knowing what on earth I’d use it for. I made the girls matching bermuda-style shorts and they’ve worn them together all summer. Love it when my girls dress alike! I found their matching green tops at Children’s Place. I used their other shorts as a pattern, sewed on decorative lavender drawstrings, and made a leg-band facing out of the lavender. There was just enough of the mermaid fabric left from the project that I got a little mermaid coin purse to carry my quarters in to the beach laundry-mat!
Like many other kids, mine have fallen prey to that funny What Does the Fox Say video. Inspired by this love, Worth decided to have a fox-themed fourth birthday party. I made him this 70s-style shirt from a pattern in the book Sewing for Boys: 24 Projects to Make a Handmade Wardrobe. I wasn’t planning to sew snaps on the shirt since he intended to wear it open, and because brown snaps (plus shipping) were going to cost almost as much as I paid for the cute fox fabric, but the birthday boy complained, so (expensive) snaps were added subsequent to the picture-taking.
I decided to make small gifts for Worth’s party guests instead of the usual little baggie of throw-away goodies. I sewed sleeves for standard composition books then ironed on fusible printer transfer paper circles with the kids’ names on them and a little fox I designed on the computer. The sleeves were easy to make and slip easily over the books, can be reused, and are appropriate for party guests of either gender, which is something I was going for. I’m not sure they were as exciting to take home as bags of candy and plastic frogs, but hopefully they will prove to be a more lasting and useful gift.
This is the invitation I make for Worth’s party. I haven’t done much with computer graphic stuff in a while, and while I’m far from proficient or professional, I was pleased with how these turned out and was happy to test the waters in a crafty/homemade area outside my usual sphere. Worth certainly thought they looked fine because they contained a fox–his one requirement!
My blog is not among the things foremost in my mind lately, in this season of snow and ice and ballet lessons and diapers and learning phonics and fixing hot meals and gluing Valentines and getting babies baptised and preparing for birthday parties and reading novels late at night and watching my daughter sew and…you get the point. But I’ve carved out a little moment in this coffee-fueled afternoon to prove to myself that I have something to show for my labors, besides the usual (and priceless) web of love and connection that I’m always working on but can never photograph.
We aren’t big television watchers at my house, but do enjoy keeping up with the Olympics. Through some combination of moments of prime-time viewing on our rarely-used antennae-powered basement tv, online video streaming, the newspaper, and a homeschool unit I designed on the history of the Olympics with a bit of Russian history thrown in, we’re enjoying the Sochi Games. (Aside: what it is with me and run on sentences today?) It feels a little sketchy that we enjoy watching great feats of strength, grace and athleticism while sitting on our own bums eating pretzels, but it does provide some inspiration anyway, right? It’s like the Pinterest of sports. We’re just browsing, but it reminds us of the grace and strength our bodies (or at least some people’s bodies!) are capable of. Dorothy and Worth have enjoyed the spectacle of the opening ceremonies and have each “adopted” an athlete to follow. They’re becoming aware of sports they don’t ever see here in Kentucky, and of the rush of competition. I saw an online advertisement for Team USA t-shirts and was inspired to provide my little Olympian-wannabes with some home-team shirts of their own to support their patriotic spirit. These are just store-bought shirts that I’ve embellished with scrap fabric and my embroidery machine, but they were fun to design and create. Daphne also got little red and white bloomer-style pants, based on a pattern in Making Baby’s Clothes.
And the actual birthday pants! My boy wanted a “vroom vroom” birthday. I made his pants out of a medium-weight blue stripe with the side panels and waistband made from this Boys Toys Cars Blue fabric. This is the same pattern as the pants in my last post, from the book Sewing for Boys. I made a simple applique for the blue t-shirt by cutting out an oval patch from the car fabric, fusing it on, then zig-zagging around it.
This picture shows the cute waistband, as well as the adorable dinosaur headdress and mitts his Aunt Molly made for him.
Here’s the birthday boy with his vroom vroom cake, baked and iced by my mom. He loved it. He’s trying to show us that he’s three, but he can’t get his cute little pinky finger to stay down! Now, a couple weeks out, he’s learned to hold that finger down while he’s giving us his age visual. Sweet boy.
So after all that energetic blogging I was doing this winter I’ve now taken an almost month-long break. I’ve felt lousy and been laying on the sofa sick, and I’m still not feeling great, but I’m up on the sofa right now, so I guess I’ll give this being upright at the computer thing a try again. Worth has had this third birthday in the interim, and I made him some special pants for his big day. These pants are the birthday pants prototypes–a muslin of sorts to try out this cute pattern before I cut into his very special fabric chosen for the birthday. These pants are made out of brown scraps and some puppy print sheets I found at a thrift store. The fabric is a bit lightweight for this pattern, but still turned out cute.
Here’s a side view of the pants. They have a “treasure pocket” built into the side panel. Of course that is his favorite feature; he feels like it is made to hold matchbox cards, which I guess it sort of is. This pattern came from this book Sewing for Boys. It’s the first pattern I made from the book and I’m excited by how much I like it. The fit is perfect, the pants are comfy, the directions made sense, and my boy loves the final product. Next time I’m up on the sofa I’ll post pics of the final birthday pants themselves!
I think I’m setting a new record here for time in between blog posts. Fall is such a busy time anyway, but this year ours has been plagued by time-consuming work duties (Rob’s work, but I’m helping), home repairs, more home repairs, and car malfunction. Ouch. These things do seem to come (unpleasantly) in clusters. I’ll not drag you through the details, but do look for an upcoming post about camping with a Uhaul pickup–once I can laugh about it. But we’ve been crafty in between all these diversions. I made a sweet new dress but don’t have any pictures yet and we’ve gotten a little obsessed with freezer paper. I made these shirts for my kids and nieces for my sister-in-law’s 30th birthday. You can find good tutorials for making freezer paper stencils on other blogs–the basic idea is that you cut out our design for the shirt with a craft knife, then iron the shiny side of the freezer paper to your shirt and dab paint in the missing spaces. I was able to make all four of these shirts from one stencil; you can just peel it off and reuse it several times.
I had picked up packs of plain t-shirts at Target for us to be crafty with this year (they came out to $.80 per shirt, on sale) so I was well supplied when I got the idea to make more shirts to support my friend Toby who was participating in his third Ironman triathlon. The marathon portion goes right by our house, so the kids and I like to cheer him on and be inspired by all the men and women competing in that very impressive event. This time I used a stencil font (I print out the words and trace them onto the freezer paper before I cut) and that made the project easier than the Mollukah shirts because there were no insides of round letters to worry about.
This was a different kind of freezer paper project. I saw this on Pinterest and had to try it. You print directly onto the shiny side of the freezer paper with your computer printer, then dampen the fabric you want the image on, then rub the printed image onto your damp fabric. I thought it worked pretty well. I made a little bag for a friend’s birthday and then another just for fun. These images look better if you’re going for a somewhat rustic or primitive look–they aren’t vibrant or crisp. It’s still a fun, low-cost method and I’m sure I’ll use it again.
Moving away from the freezer paper, I made a baby carrier for my cousin. I make this carrier from my own pattern, based on my most beloved carrier purchased from Babyhawk. I made it reversible in pretty, bright fabrics that reminded me of her. I made a little drawstring bag with her monogram on it to stow the carrier in. I hope she gets as much use of it as I did of mine. I think of the smell of a fuzzy little baby head snuggled up onto a mama’s neck in one of these carriers…and it reminds me that I’ve got my hands totally full now, in spite of the baby-lusty feelings that daydream provokes! Maybe I can just borrow the carrier and its baby from my cousin for an afternoon. 🙂
I knitted (knooked) a coffee cozy to keep in my purse so I don’t have to feel guilty when the baristas at my frequent coffee spot act like they aren’t really supposed to be giving out paper sleeves anymore. What’s up with that anyway? But now that I’ve got my sweet woolen one I’d never go back. The coffee heats up the wool and it feels so cozy and nice in my hands; it definitely enhances an afternoon coffee-on-the-run experience. I used this pattern and wool left over from my Bonita hat. I followed the pattern and had the correct gauge but I think I could have gotten away with skipping the last set of rows. I usually order smalls and this fits mediums or larges a bit better. This is one of those frivolous projects that you don’t really need but can really make you feel pampered when you use it. It would make a great gift for someone, especially paired with a special bag of coffee beans or a reusable mug. Every time I’ve pulled it out and slipped it over my coffee someone has smiled at it or told me how pretty it is. Why not have nice little things that elevate small moments in a typical day?
I don’t even know how many times I’ve made this pattern but I continue to love it. These booties are my go-to baby gift. I don’t usually photograph them but I felt like it had been a while since I’ve blogged about them. (They’ve probably appeared here a few times since Worth wore a pair home from the hospital–I’ve even made them bigger and felted them.) Sometimes I change the look of the booties a bit by crocheting in the backs of rows the pattern says to crochet into the front of, and sometimes I do the ankle bands differently. I think doing a nice high ankle with some ribbing helps them stay on. I usually embellish them with buttons or bows or something to make them unique. They really help little baby socks stay on. This pair is for a friend whose baby is due any day now. Homemade baby gifts are so nice for being able to take a little time to think about the new little person who will wear them. I hope the wee girl getting these little booties feels snug in her community of family and friends as well as her warm feet.
I can’t seem to get one great photo of this wolf hat so I’m trying to make up for it in quantity. Worth is so fond of the hat that for a couple days he even wore it at breakfast. (Aside: Every time I see Worth in this hat inside the house I have to think: “The night that Worth wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another…”) I got inspired by this hat in Crochet Today but decided I liked the shape of this knitted one a bit better. For some reason I was never able to just sit and work on this project for a long stretch so it seemed to take forever in starts and stops for me to actually finish it (and I knitted one row that should have been purled–don’t look too close). I went back to the original crocheted pattern to make the ears but then the hat looked so cute and Worth was already so fond of it that I just stopped. I can’t remember exactly which yarn I used but I think it was a bulky washable merino from Knitpicks. It’s very soft and warm and should fit him next year too–good, since winter seems to have exited early and I finished the hat rather late.
I’m behind in blogging! Worth tuned two at the end of February. He celebrated in mama-made pants featuring rescue vehicles and a fire truck t-shirt (iron-on transfer paper on an undershirt). I didn’t use a pattern for the pants, just traced around a pair that already fit him well and sliced it in two to make the red contrasting panel on top.
I made a banner out of more fire truck fabric and ironed felt letters on the front to spell the birthday boy’s name. After the party I hung the banner in his bedroom window as a personalized year-round decoration. I used a bright outdoor stripe print on the back of the pennants, picked up as a big bargain at a thrift store. Unfortunately the fabric didn’t seem like so much of a bargain after I ironed it and the whole house started to smell like cigarette smoke. Gross! I’d washed it too, but that smell is so persistent. It doesn’t seem to be giving off smells just hanging there, though. Shew. Fabric thrifting gone wrong! Mildly funny that the firetruck banner smells like smoke though.
My mom made Worth’s birthday cake in the shape of a fire truck, which he identifies by the sound it makes, “awoooooooo!” I made little gift bags for the cousins out of things I thought firemen might need–lip balm, band-aids and kisses. They didn’t get the connection but I felt clever. I think my little aspiring rescue worker had a good birthday.