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.
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!
You may not have noticed that I’ve been missing, but I have! Was I off dealing with that cute but rather fussy baby? Well, yes and no. My computer died almost a month ago, shortly after my last post, and it’s taken me this long to get the stupid thing replaced. First there is the denial (maybe it’ll come back to life!), then the half-assed attempt to fix it myself (will the vacuum cleaner help?), then the grief, then the period of pretending I know what the little numbers in a computer description mean so I can make a wise choice in a new one, then waiting for the damned sale to start (frustration is mounting!), then realizing that the stupid thing must ship from China (Costco, you’ve never done me wrong like this before!), and finally nearly knocking the poor FedEx guy over when he finally brought it to my door all these weeks later. In retrospect I should have just gone to a store and bought a machine that was more expensive but could have been in my hands immediately following the grief stage. My mental health is worth something, right?
Anyway, I seem to be up and running now (please, go knock on wood), and here I am. In the interim I’ve made matching Christmas outfits for my kids and they are cute. I bought a cotton plaid in Christmas colors at my local fabric store that seemed soft enough to put on a baby and used it for pants for Worth, a skirt for Dorothy, and a dress with bloomers for the baby. I also bought red t-shirts for the big kids from Children’s Place and painted a tree on the front with fabric paint. They have plans to embellish my tree with fabric paint ornaments themselves but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Which basically means that the day Mommy could handle three kids, no computer, and permanent paint all the same day had not yet arrived, because it is still warm in hell. But I digress. The trees will be embellished in due time, before the outfits get worn on Christmas. That they were not yet embellished at the time of our Christmas-card picture-taking may have secretly been part of my plan all along, because who knows what they’ll look like after the kids go at them with paint. But if I had plans for a perfect Christmas card they went awry anyway, somewhere between not being able to get five people to look at the camera in a pleasant manner at the same time and having hair that mysteriously poofed into the shape of Church Lady hair on the day we took the picture. I promise the shape of it in this photo has nothing to do with my usual hairstyle or my actual theology, and it calmed down later and fell into a more natural-looking, messy, lefty-Presbyterian style. But I’m rambling. Just so glad to be back online.
Worth’s pants are from the book Sewing for Boys, Dorothy’s pleated skirt is McCall’s Easy Stitch N Save M5909, and Daphne’s dress and bloomers are from Making Baby’s Clothes. I need to make some elastic adjustments yet on the skirt and pant waistbands so they don’t fall off and ruin Christmas, but other than that they turned out well. Though I have to admit that after finishing two whole Christmas outfits and still needing to make one whole Christmas outfit it did occur to me that I actually have three whole kids now and that that’s kind of a big deal. Like, a lot of kids. But it’ll be fine–at least I’m online again. Oy!
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 made this little jacket for the new baby of a friend. It’s from a pattern in the book One Yard Wonders, which I think I’ve mentioned lately. I got to see it modeled on the new little guy himself last week–very sweet! This was a good baby gift for a friend who knits herself, and thus already has supplied her little one well with booties.
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.
Happy (homemade) Halloween!
We’ve been on the move again. My awesome parents flew the whole family with them to Florida for some fun times at the beach. The last time we’d all been to the beach together was to celebrate my Mom’s retirement in 2010. I made Dorothy and her cousins matching dresses to wear on that trip, pictured below. They were so cute running around in their little coordinating beach gear that I knew I had to do the same thing for this trip, plus some shorts for Worth. I bought this fabric and used McCalls MP339 as a basis for the dresses and just improvised Worth’s little shorts. The pattern was simple and adorable and the sizing was right on except for the straps, which had to be shortened considerably from what the pattern called for. I added the ruffles to the top and bottom. The kids collected smiles and coos everywhere we went, and they liked their matching outfits so much they wore them for two days straight.
This was the 2010 picture, with sweet little Maggie just 3 months old and Worth only a dear hope!
I’ve been going through some photographs from the last couple months and I found these two that I’d taken this spring but not yet blogged about. This one above is a picture of our “toothpick lunch.” Dorothy and Worth are not the pickiest eaters I’ve encountered, but they aren’t exactly omnivorous when it comes to food either. One of the strategies I find very useful for feeding them at lunchtime when I know we may not have their favorite foods on hand is to declare that we will have a “surprise lunch,” and that they must play away from the kitchen while I fix it. For some reason the pleasure of having the table set with food laid out on their plates (like a restaurant!) is so compelling to them that they may eat food they would otherwise not have selected. One day I really couldn’t come up with much that looked like lunch in a just-bef0re-grocery-time refrigerator and pantry. I had some cheese sticks the kids rejected because they weren’t the right color (the horror of yellow cheese when one prefers white!), some crackers they didn’t like, some fruit. For some reason the line from the original Fancy Nancy book, about sandwiches tasting better with frilly toothpicks popped into my head. I sliced some fruit, cut up the despised crackers and smeared them with a little hummus, cubed the rejected cheese sticks, located a few other bite-sized goodies and arranged them on a breakable platter I wouldn’t ordinarily use for the kids, then I got down our cocktail toothpicks and set out an assortment of colors. The kids totally bought the “toothpick lunch” idea. They loved the colored toothpick frills, they giggled, and they ate every single thing on the platter. The color of the cheese or the substance of the cracker was never even mentioned. I’m absolutely going to use this idea again.
Finally, Dorothy has been into puppet shows lately. We have a small store-bought puppet theater but the game would be just as fun with a cut-out cardboard box. I’ve printed some scripts for her from a website I use as a resource to our homeschooling. She’s had a blast coloring simple paper doll forms into the characters for each script, gluing them to popsicle sticks, and then putting on performances. She can spend a long time doing this on her own, and I’ve also divvied up characters with her and participated in her performances. I love that she always dresses her narrator characters in black–how did she know? In this photo she’s holding Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.
I did some sewing for the boy this week. At 23 months Worth is on the young side for potty training by today’s standards, but we’ve decided to give it a go anyhoo. He’s not potty aware or anything, but I figure even if we spend a month wiping up messes from the floor we’re still coming out ahead of spending another year waiting for him to initiate the thing himself. I don’t really buy the arguments that one should wait until kids ask to be potty trained. Like really? It’s the toilet, not the shaping of his ego or creativity or anything touchy-feely. I’m not going to beat him for making messes; I’m just his mother explaining to him that life without diapers is better. We’re taking a low-pressure, high-enthusiasm approach and it is going well so far. We’re letting him hang out at home in the new pants, encouraging time spent on the potty, and then putting him in dipes for trips out. On the first day he seemed totally clueless; on the second day he consistently told me when he was peeing, and today (day 3) he actually made it to the potty once. Dorothy and I danced, we cheered, we passed around chocolate cake. Seems like progress. Anyway, Worth needed big-kid pants for this experiment but I got sticker shock when I went to look for some. Then I remembered my sister-in-law Molly had made some for Maggie, so I decided to do the same. I used the same pattern she used and they were easy to make and turned out really stunningly adorable. I used some cotton knits left over from a recent scarf project (stay tuned for a blog about that one) and mixed up the colors. I made six pair and spent $0 on materials, since I was using scraps. That’s totally in my budget.
And while I was being so frugal I hated to throw away the long, skinny leftover shreds of fabric in those bright rainbow hues, so I braided them into long braids and then knotted the braid into a new toy for Belle. She seems pleased.