Sunday, December 18, 2011

Toadstool Fairy House

When I was pregnant with my second son, several people said, “well, you’ll just have to have a third!”

Really? I hadn’t realized that there was a requirement that everyone have at least one child of each gender. Personally, I really like boys! I wouldn’t mind having just boys… maybe even three or five of them (if my energy and ability to support children financially were somehow to grow substantially). And besides, you never know what your boy is going to be like. He might like girly things, and I’d be okay with that too. 

Of course, now that my boys are more vocal about their preferences, I’m learning that biology has a much bigger role to play than I’d originally thought. How on earth did my older son learn that sticks can be weapons? And why does the baby generally ignore dolls even though he’s very fond of people’s faces?  

Conveniently, I really like a lot of things that are typically thought of as boy things. Building, digging, exploring, finding bugs and frogs, and all manner of other things are the reasons I had children in the first place. I also strongly dislike many of the stereotypically girly things, like princesses and the color pink. 
 
There are very few things I feel like I’m missing by not having a girl. But this toy made me pine for that girl. (Note: I think this is more gender-neutral than many toys, but my boys aren’t so into relational play… unless it involves destroying something). I found this toy on the blog IkatBag and I had to make one. Blog author Lier offers the pattern for sale here: http://www.ikatbag.com/p/patterns-for-sale.html .

I modified the pattern slightly. First, my fabric store didn’t have any red fabric with white polka dots, so I decided to use red canvas and applique some white dots. I wish I had persevered in my fabric search because I’m quite sure that it would have been less time consuming to drive to another state to find red and white polka dot fabric. I also discovered that canvas frays a great deal, so I hope the dots won’t fall off too quickly when my bestie’s daughter starts playing with it. 

The pattern suggests brown cloth for the underside of the mushroom, but I went with off-white instead… because, you know, I thought it was important for the toadstool fairy house to be accurate and the amanita muscaria has light gills. The pattern author’s suggestion to sew the gills before cutting the hole in the center was a wise one that I wish I’d followed.

The pattern creator offers this stipulation: “items made from these patterns are only for personal use and for gifts, and not for sale for profit,” which seemed entirely reasonable as I was downloading the pattern (I’m a big fan of being explicit about intellectual property). After I finished the toy and re-read that, though, it cracked me up. Perhaps other people are more efficient seamstresses than I am, but there is no way on earth that I could charge enough to get a fair value for my time. Let’s just say that this is not the one-sitting project that I wrote about several posts back! Overall, I’m pretty pleased with it, even though there are a few wonky parts.  I’m also pleased that I’ll be able to move on to the next project now!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brought to You By the Letter S

My younger son's class at day care is discussing the letter S this week. They've made sock puppets, painted spiders, played with stickers and sand, and talked about the sun and smiling. I thought it was a good excuse to make square shortbread cookies with silver sugar stars. My son isn't actually old enough to eat the cookies, but, you know, I'm just trying to support the school.... and perhaps getting to eat the broken ones was an added incentive.

Shortbread is remarkably simple: just butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and flour. I say "just" butter, but in truth it's an ungodly amount of butter. But, wow, the buttery-ness! My best friend and I were discussing fruit crumbles once and she said, "yeah, a stick of butter makes pretty much anything taste phenomenal." Indeed, a stick (or, ahem, a stick and a half) makes for a divine dessert.

Let's just hope this batch makes it to day care.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reversible Pinafore Dress and Bib

I came across a free pattern for an infant pinafore dress at Smashed Peas and Carrots and I’ve made two of them so far. It’s an incredibly satisfying piece: The pattern is easy to download and tape together, the instructions are fabulous (and include lots of helpful hints and illustrations), and the sewing is straight forward. The dress itself is adorable.

I bought some cute buttons to match the different fabrics I used, but I wasn’t sure which side of the reversible dress would be worn the most, so I couldn’t decide which side to sew the buttons on. Also, buttonholes are a pain in the neck to sew, so I kept putting off finishing the dresses… Until I made a coordinating bib, that is, and broke out my “Easy Attacher” for its inaugural run. 


I picked up the Easy Attacher at the fabric store for about $7.50. The kit includes a small plastic contraption that holds the pieces of a snap. You align the snap pieces, close the tool, and give it a few whacks with a hammer. It’s about a million times faster than sewing button holes or sewing on snaps. Of course, the plastic will probably break quickly and I haven’t had a chance to test the strength of the snaps yet, but as of this moment, I love this thing!  
Note: I put the Easy Attacher on the carpet before using the hammer.

Disclosure: I have not been paid to endorse any products or companies on this blog. All opinions are based on my own experience.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Canning

I’ve been on a canning kick lately. It started with a recipe for peach butter that Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted. It was so, so good. I ate a spoonful  every morning in my oatmeal and it was hard to resist dipping the spoon in the jar at other times. My stores of peach butter started to run low right when the farmers’ market was packed full of delectable local apples. I brought home several bags and made some apple butter without a recipe. It was… meh.

I’d been craving lemon, so on Friday, I made a lemon raspberry marmalade.

It was a bit too sweet. I think I’ll leave out a tiny bit of sugar if I make it again. It’s a lovely, vibrant color, though, and very lemony.  I zested the lemons, rather than grating them. Grating would make it more like orange marmalade and less like raspberry jam.
I had to wait several days for my Bartlett pears to ripen in a paper bag with bananas and apples, but today they were just the right degree of squishiness. I made this pear-cranberry butter from a 1982 New York Times recipe. It took about five hours to firm up (not 50 minutes), but I hope the butter will be worth the wait. The jars are still cooling now.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Baby Overalls

Here's a shot of the baby overalls I've been working on. They're not quite done, but I'm close. It's surprisingly hard to sew for 20-30 minutes at a time and then pack everything back up so that little people don't play with pins and thread!

I'd intended to share some of the patterns I create on this blog, but this pattern needs a bit more work. I think I will try to make it reversible to add warmth, versatility, and durability (it's sized for crawler-age babies). I'd also like to add a few different sizing options, since I sketched this only in a nine month-size and my own baby will soon outgrow the size. 

I bought this fabric many years ago and I've been waiting to use it for something special. The selvage says Michael Miller Fabrics LLC # C-163 Caribe.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Simple

I enjoy many different crafts, and there are few things I love as much as developing complex plans. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to devote to projects and many times I start a project, only to realize that I don’t have some vital ingredient to finish it.  Of course, getting to the store consumes the scarcest resource: time.
After countless aborted craft missions, I had an epiphany: attempt simpler projects and you will actually complete them. Designs with simple lines (and no lining!) make sewing projects more manageable. Working with chunkier yarn saves a great deal of time.  Often, making smaller things saves both time and materials.  
Items for babies meet a lot of my criteria. Having a couple of little people around the house helps too. I also have a lot of friends who are having babies, and they need presents.  Babies tend to be less horrified by homemade things (ever notice that there are fewer babies on Regresty?).
Last night I started sketching out a pattern for a pair of baby overalls. The pattern has four pieces, so it should be quick to piece together.  I just have to carve out a little time.  

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Make Me Drink

I forget to drink.
Often.
In fact, I teeter on the edge of dehydration most of the time.
My typical emotional state is similar. I work and care for others until I’m almost entirely depleted. Drained and dizzy, I’m less than nice.
Some people recharge by going out on the town with friends. Others head to the gym or to the shrink. For me, doing just about anything creative is like drinking from the well.  It’s time to replenish my reserves and I feel so much better afterward.
With this blog, I hope to force myself to drink more regularly.