Worth turned six in February. He requested a “knights and dragons” birthday.Inspired by Pinterest, I cut flames from a sheet of red poster board. Stuck to the door with painter’s tape, it became an opportunity for Worth’s guests to “breathe fire” and get their photos taken.
Worth wanted a dragon hat, so I used a basic hat pattern to sew a black hat from fleece, then added fleece ears and spikes and some greenish-yellow felt eyes. Worth has worn his Toothless-inspired hat in both cold and warm places (like to bed) quite frequently since I made it, so I felt good about his its reception.
My mother totally outdid herself with an enormous, amazing dragon cake!
And what’s a knights and dragons party without some castle-storming food? Or something. I also cut shields out of cardboard and spray-painted them silver, then let Worth’s friends decorate them with paint as a party activity. I thought these turned out cute but I somehow never managed to get a photograph of them.
Notice my oldest daughter (above) is wearing a tiara. Apparently she felt that her role at a knights-and-dragons party should be royal princess, subtly outranking Sir Worth at his own event. We did manage to talk her down to lady-in-waiting, however, with the help of paid duties involving the herding of six-year-old boys and shield paint cleanup. Shew!
This project was inspired by a bout of lusting after all the clothes in Sundance Catalog. All the nice (expensive) basics in that catalog seem to be just good quality but ordinary things with a creative twist that make them unique and special. I was at Costco after drooling over that catalog one day and I saw this pink sweater, which looked to me like something the catalog would have sold, but with cute embroidery along the front and at a markup of about 400%. So I bought the sweater for $29.99 and decided it wouldn’t hurt to try and give it the twist myself. I used Curio yarn from Knitpicks and some instructions from this booklet because I am absolutely not a person who knows how to hand embroider. I had to pick out at least as many motifs as I stitched on, but I was happy with the final product. I probably should have practiced some stitching on something that wasn’t my sweater first, but I didn’t, and really it turned out fine. One of my concerns with this project was how well it would wash, but I did launder it on gentle and hung it to dry and it doesn’t seem worse for wear. I’ve been keeping a Pinterest page now of “plain sweater rehab” ideas, so maybe I’ll do this again on a thrift store cardigan or even a tee. It’s always fun to learn a new crafty skill! I’m amazed by the lovely embroidery that some people can do; I hope to learn how to do it better.
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.
I make or buy new aprons periodically. They aren’t investment pieces, right? Aprons are meant to be worn, to get dirty, to get worn out. I usually have one that I wear basically every day while I’m cooking dinner, and a couple others hanging just for fun. Maybe a lightweight one for when canvas is too hot, or a cute vintage one just because. I had a purchased sturdy canvas one that had been a favorite for a year or so, but it was starting to look like I’d cooked a few too many meals in it. For my new one I just cut around the last one to replicate the shape. I used this cute Premier Prints Arrow fabric from Fabric.com (I know, more arrows! I can’t help it.) And I put my name on it with the embroidery machine because why not? The big improvement I made over the last one I had was that I added a nice, deep pocket to the front. Now the the only reason I’ll have food smeared all over the front of my clothes is the fact that I live with a 2-year-old.
Sewing for my tiniest girl is easy, because thus far she’s never refused to wear anything I made for her, and because toddler clothes are all cute. Sewing for my tween is a little trickier. In addition to taking into account her numerous preferences I feel pressure to sew things for her that are appropriate to her specific age, which is in itself a tricky thing. She’s tween in truth–neither a child (though often childish) nor a full-fledged teenager (though she often acts like that too). She’s big and little, she’s responsible and flighty, she’s wise and naive, she’s precious and difficult, she wears pigtails and ratty friendship anklets until they fray and fall off. She’s into horses, so when I saw the Michael Miller Wee Wander Summer Ride fabric I thought of her. If you zoom in on the fabric you can see that it has an image of a girl with long, dark hair riding bare-backed, fast and free. It’s the perfect tween fantasy fabric–sweet and feminine, but with a strong, independent subject. Once I had the fabric in my stash and a girl who felt excited about it, I wasn’t sure what to do next. After some searching, I found this tutorial online for a piped-pocket skirt. Again, it’s a good tween pattern. It is twirly and fun, but it has sophisticated little piped pockets. Perfect! My daughter wears the same size as the model child in the tutorial, so I followed her instructions almost exactly. It’s in centimeters, so I had to drag out a tape to convert everything to inches, because none of my cutting rules show metric measurements! But it came together nicely, and most importantly, Dorothy loves it. She decided her pink hair extension coordinated with it better than any of her other hair extension color options. Who am I to say it doesn’t?
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.
Now that my family room has a new color scheme I needed to change up some of my seasonal accents too. My old fall pillows weren’t going to look right in the new space with all the bright green. Actually, I wasn’t sure what kind of autumn fabric was going to look right so I decided to improvise. I bought bright orange home dec fabric of a similar intensity to the green in my curtains and I cut a tree and leaves out of freezer paper. I free-handed the cutting with my X-acto knife, but was using several images I’d printed from the internet as inspiration. I just searched for “fall tree graphic” to get ideas.
If you’ve not used freezer paper stencils, it’s very easy. You cut out the image you want, press one sheet of uncut freezer paper (always shiny side down) to the BACK of your fabric with a hot iron to stabilize it, then press your stencil to the front. Then just dab Martha Stewart Craft Paint (or some other fabric paint) into the cut areas of your design and let it dry.
This is the mess you will have after all the cutting.
Then after the paint has dried, carefully peel off the freezer paper. Usually the stencil can be reused a couple times.
This is what my new pillows look like on the sofa. The stencil turned out well and the colors are perfect, bringing in fall without trying to overthrow my punchy bright green.
I also cut leaves out of scrapbook paper and made a leaf bunting for windows on each side of the room and one to go over the fireplace.
To cut the leaves I just printed some leaf templates off the internet and used them as cutting guides. It didn’t take long.
After I got my pillows and my leaf swags done I lit a pumpkin pie candle and then felt sort of pissed off that the weather was still very summery! I’m not one to rush the seasons, but my shorts just weren’t working for me after I cut out all those leaves. Fortunately, Mother Nature seems to be cooperating with my seasonal decorating scheme now and has cooled things off a bit. Then I dug out my pie spice from the back of the cabinet and made spiced applesauce muffins and everything felt just fine.
I made and hung brazen, bold and beautiful family room curtains about five years ago. You can see them in this photo from 2011. They were from Robert Allen’s Kiki Pinata fabric and they set the stage for my family room, which was bold and cozy at the same time. Here are some other pictures of the room as it was, in an old post. I loved it, but I was getting tired of it. For one thing, it’s just a really bold fabric, and one nice thing about homemade curtains is that it’s okay to change them in five years if you’re a little tired of the print. For another, I thought I would like the coziness that the bright yet dark colors would bring to the room, but instead it was starting to feel too dark. In the winters it gets dark so early; lighting a fire at 3:30 and settling into our family room was so great, but sometimes by 9:00 I just wanted a break. So this summer I gave my family room a lightening-up. I’m not posting pictures of the whole room yet because the final touch is going to be a makeover of our fireplace and that requires my brother’s DIY skills instead of mine, but here’s what I’ve got so far, before he comes and finishes the job for me. I made a sign for our homeschool, complete with our new logo (read more here). I designed the sign on the computer and had it printed on canvas.
Then I picked out new, white things for my mantle. I spray-painted branches for a tall vase, then crocheted and stiffened medallions out of cotton thread to make colorful ornaments. Instead of making new curtains, I ended up buying some ready-made ones that were such a good deal they were cheaper than sewing new ones myself. The white lets in so much light, and really brightens up this room.
My sewing area got a little lift too, with new dust covers for my machines and some new white storage containers for supplies.
Of course Belle was not left out; her new bed fits the new scheme!
And new coasters from the dog bed scraps!
And I have been using a cart next to our sofa to coral some of the school things we need close at hand. I made it a tablecloth to keep it from getting beat up (it was my Grandma’s) while tying in all the green stuff I’ve added to the room. I’ve also painted some furniture and I’m gathering up the courage (and funds!) to buy a rug, but I’ll save all that for the post after the fireplace is done. I’m really enjoying the room’s new vibe. It’s still cozy and lively, but now the daylight seems to go much farther in here.
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!