I try not to miss out on opportunities to dress my three kids alike while they are still willing. It does get a bit harder, though, as they get older and their ages more diverse. This year I chose red t-shirts for all three (Children’s Place offered free shipping on all orders for months last summer/fall. Wish they’d kept that up!) and created ornament shapes out of a gender-neutral striped print. I machine embroidered their names on the front and then attached the ornaments to the shirts with fusible web and zig-zagged around them with the sewing machine. I bought Daphne an adorable tutu made by an Etsy crafter, but sadly she refused to ever wear it again after the picture. So I guess I have a used Christmas tutu for sale! The shirts, at least, got worn many times over the holiday season by all three kids and I used these cute pictures for my holiday cards.
Well, I think 3 months might be a new record for me away from this blog. Seems like my blog comes in “seasons” now, kind of like Downton Abbey. Then it’s just re-runs for a while. (This is a joke, just in case you think I have delusions of grandeur.) But I’ve been recording projects here for six years now, and in spite of this and other absences I haven’t actually stopped. In my time away the holidays happened, with their busy, crazy, happy rush and mess. My computer went all Blue Screen of Death and every second of my laptop time for weeks went to trying to get all that back in order. But mostly the daily chores of keeping three kids alive and reasonably educated has prevented me from taking the time to keep my little record of the other, more tangible, stuff I accomplish in the corner moments. Yet here I am again, rounding up some photos I’ve snapped here and there in the last weeks, writing down my projects notes so I can hold own to my own accomplishments and so my comments can join everyone else’s in the best thing that ever happened to the handicraft universe: the internet!
I’m going to reintroduce myself since I’ve been gone so long. This is my family on Christmas Eve. My babies are Daphne (2), Worth (5), Dorothy (9). We’re a homeschooling family in Louisville, Kentucky. I bought the elf hats at the Dollar Tree and put the kids’ names on them with my embroidery machine. They cheerfully wore the hats everywhere during the Christmas season, which is possibly the only thing they all did cheerfully and in tandem except open gifts. Daphne is at a “difficult” age, which means that she occasionally lays on the floor and screams for upwards of 45 minutes because her mean parents insist on things like Closing the Refrigerator. Worth, sandwiched between my two intense girls, has a sweet spirit and his generous smile and goofy sense of humor makes the time-consuming task of teaching kindergarten very worth it (pun sort of intended). Dorothy is my very tweeny tween. She loves dolls and likes boys (already?!), still plays with Calico Critters, wears ripped jeans on purpose, loves big earrings, but still wears her pioneer girl dress-up dress out in public. I’m Renata, keeper of this little online crafty scrapbook that reminds me I occasionally produce something besides dinner. Check back in here on upcoming Mondays and Thursdays, for at least the next few weeks!
I’ve already confessed a fondness for the current feathers/arrows trend. I know it’ll look as tired as pink and turquoise owls with chevrons in a couple years (yawn), but I really think it’s cute now. This is based on a pattern from the bargain book Cute Clothes for Kids. I added a pocket with this embroidery from an Etsy seller, and orange trim all around. It’s a wee big on her, but hopefully that means it can be a dress this year (over long sleeves) and a tunic after that.
I hope my sister-in-law doesn’t mind her gift sharing a post with a dog collar! Both of today’s items go around necks that are dear to me. Giggle. This is a crocheted necklace I made as a birthday gift. I got this idea from Pinterest, and it originated on Craftsy. I used Gloss lace-weight yarn from Knitpicks because I already had some, then put it on a black metal chain. I felt like it needed to hold its shape so I soaked it in some Stiffy (why oh why is it called that?) that was a little watered down, and now it’s just right. It holds its shape without looking…stiff. Now that I’ve made this and given it away, I sort of feel like making another one for myself. I could just make sure not to wear it where Molly is, right?
I got some new embroidery software for my birthday. My embroidery machine is a simple, inexpensive model (the Brother PE 500), but it does basically all I think I’d want in an embroidery machine. I’ve considered upgrading to a bigger or more complicated model, but I like things that are simple and straightfoward, and I really appreciate owning things I can afford to replace if a rowdy child “accidentally” knocks it across the room. One thing I wished my machine had was more fonts, and the ability to lay out more than one line of text at a time. So for my birthday I got this Letter It! software. It’s great, and it makes me feel like I can now get even more out of my little machine. It works basically like a word processing program. It comes with a nice variety of fonts, and you can purchase and import more if you want. Then you lay out your text just the way you want it to look on your final product–with multiple lines, mixed fonts, and distortions like curves if you wish–and then just save it as a file that you send over to your machine. I tried it out on this collar for my dog Belle. I liked being able to line up her name and my phone number just the way I wanted it, and she likes not having a dangling metal tag.
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!
Once a week my kids and I meet a group of homeschool friends at a local park. It is the highlight of everyone’s week. The kids pick up their imaginative games where they left them the week before; the grown-ups sit and drink coffee, knit, and care for babies under the shade of trees. Playgroup itself is a joy, but I was feeling a little frazzled getting us all ready for playgroup every week as we were getting back into our warm-weather routine. Did I have the sunscreen? Snacks? Water bottles? Revolutionary War trading cards? (Don’t ask.) I decided I should make myself a bag just for playgroup, with pockets for all the things I need and keep it loaded all week, so all I had to do was pop in the refilled water bottles, hot coffee, and off I’d go. I used a medium-weight canvas to make the bag and designed it to be most useful as an object that is sitting in the middle of the picnic table, though it’s comfortable to carry as well. I put outside pockets for our water and inside pockets for sunscreen and my keys. A wide, spacious interior has been reinforced on the bottom with davey board (removable for laundering) and holds all our other necessary sundry. I bought more cute arrow embroidery from DesignsbySugarBean on Etsy and love the way it looks on this project.
I generally have a harder time coming up with homemade (or at least home-customized) gifts for our little boy friends than their female counterparts. I’ve never been brave enough to try to machine-embroider directly onto baseball caps, but after watching a few online tutorials recently I decided to give it a go. Basically you stitch the hat to the stabilizer that’s already in the hoop, do the embroidery, then pull out the basting stitches. I did four hats for upcoming birthdays and one was crooked, but I’m hoping it doesn’t show on a moving 3-year-old. I’m happy to have another boy gift in my crafty arsenal!
This is a baby gift I did for a friend who is pregnant with twins. She’s having one boy and one girl, and she likes colorful tie-dye prints and rainbow things. I bought the machine embroidery pattern for the arrow on Etsy, and I knitted the hats out of self-striping, washable yarn. I thought these were so cheery and cute that it almost made me want to have twins. Okay, that’s actually not true at all. But they are cheery and cute!
These are some gloves I made last winter for my niece. She (like every other small girl, it seems) likes to pretend she’s Elsa from Frozen. Since gloves are kind of central to being Elsa during part of the movie, I thought it would be cute to make her an Elsa-inspired pair. I thought the lace pattern from the Edge-of-Lace hat and mitts I’ve made before were reminiscent of snowflakes, so I used it for the cuffs, then decreased to make child-sized mitts. I used acrylic yarn so they’d wash up easily. My niece seemed pleased with them.
The change of seasons got me hankering for a new handbag. I saw a Pinterest pin for bags made from vintage linens and it provided the inspiration for my new spring bag. I drew the pattern to be similar to the Pinterest bags but bigger to meet my needs. The main body of the bag is made from 2 vintage tablecloths and an old flour sack towel. The flap is black quilting cotton that I’ve done machine embroidery on in the style I was wanting, and it is lined with a thrift store sheet. The bag is nice and roomy to hold Daphne’s diaper change things and is nice weight because I added fusible fleece to the body and flap. Fusible fleece really is the best for bags, I think. The fabric doesn’t want to pucker like it does with regular heavyweight interfacing, and it is more stable and smooth than just adding a layer of flannel. It would have been nice if I’d had vintage tablecloths that didn’t have white backgrounds because it is going to be hard to keep the bottom of this bag clean, but that is the nature of old finds, right? At least they were already stained anyway, and the only supply I purchased just for this project was the fusible fleece.
I’m happy with the way this turned out. The bag seems like it’s going to be functional, with a nice shape, two interior pockets, and easy magnetic closure. And it’s pretty and springy, vintage and new, all in one. I like seeing it hang on the hook by the door because it puts me in a picnics and flowers frame of mind!
It still feels like spring is a long way off here in Kentucky. We’re under a foot of snow now, and my cuted-up basement playroom is (big sigh) leaking again. But aside from the basement issue, I might be the only person in Kentucky not complaining about the weather. I like emphatic weather. It feels weird when a winter is just sort of damp and mild. Winter with actual snow and freezing temperatures feels like a very decisive, black check in the “winter” box, so that when spring actually comes it’ll feel more right too. I also just don’t mind the cold and snow. After a decade of living north I’m not afraid of driving in it, and it’s pretty and fun for the kids to play in. I don’t mean I won’t be glad to be skipping outside in flip-flops as soon as that can happen, but I’m willing to be totally present in this snow right now. Warm, beautiful knitted things, a fire in the fireplace, hot tea, and snug wool socks–it’s all good.
I’ve completed a handful of small life-improvement projects while we’ve been holed up inside. One of them is that I took my cheap IKEA dishtowels, which are soft and absorbent and generally a good buy, and put our name on them. It only took a few minutes and was totally unnecessary, but it just makes them feel more nice now. Like I’m a hotel chef instead of dishing up cheese enchiladas to picky kids.
This is a picture of a snow project my kids did. (The little one did not participate in the craft but insisted on being included in the picture.) They cut snowflakes out of freezer paper, then I ironed their favorite snowflakes onto canvas boards, then they covered the boards and snowflakes with a blend of blue paints. When the paint was dry we peeled off the snowflakes. This was a nice project because it turned out equally well for both eight-year-old and five-year-old.
And this is just a cute photo of Daphne experiencing her first snow play. She’s all bundled up and wearing mama-made hat and mittens. She could barely walk with her too-big snow bibs on, but she enjoyed bumbling through the snow and, of course, tasting it!