I made printed napkins this year as holiday hostess gifts and gifts for friends. I bought several dozen cloth napkins from an eBay seller because I could not have made such nice napkins so affordably myself. I carved several simple Christmas tree and star shapes out of carving rubber, used a brayer to apply fabric paint to the stamps, and then transferred the stamps to the napkins. Stamping the napkins took a little longer than I’d envisioned, in part because I had to find space all over my house for several dozen painted napkins to dry and in part because the paint was messy business and I frequently had to stop to wash the stamps and the brayer, but I was pleased with the results. They are uneven and blotchy and very homemade looking, but I kind of like that about them. I kept a set for myself too!
I also helped the kids make reindeer napkins for their grandparents. The reindeer face is made by the side of my son’s fist, the eyes are Dorothy’s fingerprints, and red nose is Daphne’s thumbprint. I carved the date and the antlers out of carving rubber. Actually, because I’m an idiot, I first carved the date exactly as I wanted it to appear on the napkin, which of course makes it appear backwards when printed. Oops! But the second time I got it right. These napkins were a big hit and I will enjoy using them at my in-laws’ home during Christmas celebrations of the future.
This year my boy Worth started kindergarten. Somehow going from homeschooling one child while I had two littles at home, to homeschooling two children while I have one little at home felt like a real shift. Now that I’m lesson planning for and teaching two children the job of “homeschool teacher” feels more like a vocation than it ever did. I feel very satisfied in this roll, and I wanted to do something special to signal our shift to being a household where two of the children are officially learning at home, and their mother isn’t likely to see a paycheck in this era. So I enlisted a designer on Etsy to create a homeschool logo for us. We call ourselves DeWees Academy. We sent the designer some ideas (like including our beloved blue sofa, where all the action happens!) and she sent back her ideas, which she patiently revised until our family reached consensus on this nice design. Then I had the logo digitized for my embroidery machine, and I stitched up sturdy canvas school supplies for all my kids. Though not-quite-2-year-old Daphne is still a long way from needing a school bag herself I didn’t think she’d appreciate being left out. Each kid got their supplies in a different color for ease of sorting, and each got a canvas tote for taking work in the car when necessary, a pencil case, and a composition book cover.
On the first day of school I posed Worth in this big t-shirt, which (inspired by Pinterest) I fabric-painted with the year he will graduate. If I’m really organized, I will take a picture of him in it every year on the first day of school. Or maybe I’ll just have this cute picture of him in a big shirt. We’ll see…
Then we took our own version of the “first day back” picture, of our bare feet propped up on our chalkboard sofa table, where all the magic (and the work, and the crying, and the success, and the complaining) happens. Here we go!
I think I’m reaching new lows here with the mirror selfie. Apparently if I have time to document my projects at all, the best I can do is with a cell phone selfie. But since the point of this blog is just to be a diary for myself of my projects I’m going to go with it. Project recorded! I bought a plain gray t-shirt at Costco and embellished it with a freezer paper stencil. I’ve used and loved freezer paper stencils before (t-shirts for the kids, a bat table runner, Worth’s pocket friends come to mind immediately) but never used the technique to make a shirt for myself. I was downloading some feather and arrow embroidery files for another project (check them out if you are on Pinterest) and I got to thinking that feathers and arrows are kind of like the new owls and chevrons but I like them better. Which led to me thinking that maybe I needed some cool feather and arrow stuff myself, but all the embroidery files for my machine are a little small for adult apparel, and then I thought that maybe I needed to spend $100 buying cool feather and arrow fabrics on Fabric.com (because, you know, it’s like Target–you can’t ever check out with less than $100 even if you only needed one thing), and then I decided that maybe I should just try to use fabric paint and save my $100. And so I did.
I used an Xacto knife and straight edge to make the arrows and just freehanded the rest with the knife. I’m not very artistic when it comes to two dimensional stuff but feathered arrows aren’t too complicated. I used the multi-surface Martha Stewart craft paint and the kids’ paint brushes to fill in my homemade stencil, and that was that. I’m pleased with the shirt and the stencil is still intact after peeling it off, so I think I may put my design on a tote bag next.
Dorothy and I made lacy heart t-shirts for ourselves to wear today. I’m pretty sure I read this idea in Family Fun magazine, but when I went to their website to search all it would show me was an ovulation calculator (let me talk about the Top Ten things I am not interested in right now…an ovulation calculator is waaaay up there!) link over and over and a bunch of stuff I was not interested in. Were they always owned by horrid Parents magazine? Maybe that is the problem. But now I’m rambling and showing no love…on Valentine’s Day even.
Since I can’t find a link to the article I got this idea from, I’ll just explain. We took paper heart-shaped doilies and adhered them to our shirts with low-tac adhesive. We dabbed fabric paint in the doily cut-out areas, let them dry, then peeled off the doilies themselves, revealing the pretty designs. Dorothy had trouble picturing what we were doing, which is why she began dabbing paint all around her heart on the first one, but then she caught onto the vision. We’re doing to enjoy wearing these today.
This is our basement playroom. This is also the room with the old fireplace insert and all my fabric on shelves. We bought an IKEA futon when we moved in and I would haphazardly cover it with quilts to try and combat our cat hair issue, since our cranky old cats have staked out this room as their particular habitat. I had a cheap butterfly chair in the corner and we tossed toys into plastic bins. It was fine, blah, a basement playroom. Last year we did most of our homeschool lessons down there, but this year we’re more likely to camp out with our stack of books and manipulatives in whichever part of the house seems most appealing on a given morning, so this room is really used exclusively for playing and crafting. Unfortunately this room also used to flood in heavy rains, which meant that our train table (not pictured) had yogurt cups around the legs, we couldn’t have a rug, and all the storage and furniture had to be made of water-resistant materials. Ugh. This fall, however, we had our basement waterproofed and I decided to improve on our newly dried-out space. I found a sweet vintage toy box to store the dress-up things, an old comfy rocking chair, and an inexpensive rug. I recovered the seat on the rocker and I sewed a new cover and pillows for the futon out of sturdy indoor/outdoor fabric that stands up nicely to the cat wear. A set of old wooden shelves became easy toy storage.
The pillow covers have overlapping back panels so they stay on well but also come off easily for washing.
The old rocker now beckons you to the basement to “reboot” and relax. (Freezer paper stencil and fabric paint.)
I dressed up more old kitty litter tubs with scrapbook paper covered with contact paper to store small toys such as balls, matchbox cars, and little people. Now the whole family gets more (and more pleasant) use of our playroom space. It has a cozy cabin feel with the fireplace and the old pine walls. We appreciated it fully earlier this week when we spent part of the night down there, listening to tornado sirens howl outside!
We did some early Christmas unwrapping today, allowing the kids to paw through the little items that were from their parents, as opposed to the more mysterious gifts that will come from St. Nick tomorrow. I made the kids these canvas art smocks/aprons to wear during their own crafty pursuits. Dorothy had a tiny little painting smock when she was a toddler but it long ago lost its straps and fell by the wayside. My method of keeping the kids clean during art projects has been to send them upstairs to change into old t-shirts when I think about it, but that’s rather inconvenient when one has been hit by inspiration. These sturdy canvas smocks should allow them to act on their inspirations without the burden of climbing two flights of stairs and locating an acceptable shirt. I used fabric paint and freezer paper stencils to paint their initials onto each apron.
Of course unwrapping the smocks caused inspiration to hit immediately, so we had to pull out paints and brushes and canvas boards to try them out.
I made these “favorite newspaper” cufflinks for Rob. He likes novelty cufflinks to lighten up his stuffy lawyer garb and we’ve had fun in the past gluing Legos and bottle caps onto cufflink hardware. This year I used a 1-inch round craft punch and epoxy dots to make cufflinks from his own used newspapers. I punched clear plastic (like from the packaging of new toys) for the backing.
And this is a brand new batch of cold-process (lye) soap. I make unscented “man” soap for my brother whenever he starts to run low. He likes a soap without weird chemicals or fragrances and I like the opportunity to make something handmade for a brother who doesn’t need much. This soap will come out of my extremely expensive and fancy (ha!) dishpan mold later today and I’ll cut it into slabs before I give it to him tomorrow. It will still need to cure for 4-6 weeks, but if I give it to him straight from the mold then he will be able to cut it into just the right size bars himself.
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. 🙂