Friday, February 27, 2009

Cardboard Bunk Bed

For the past couple of days, Emily has been thumbing
the pages of old Christmas toy catalogs, picking out gifts
for her wish list. We don't buy many toys online but I like
having the catalogs in the house because there are so
many good ideas in them for adapting to handmade versions.
One of the items that made it to Emily's wish list was a set
of bunk beds for her dolls. I'd considered buying these
last Christmas but the ones I'd seen had as many bad
as good reviews, usually with adjectives like "flimsy" or
expressions like "you get what you pay for (and not
in a good way)". In other words, they might as well
have been made out of cardboard.


So yesterday morning while Emily was in school, I cut up the
particularly sturdy box we'd been using for Kate's easel
(she'd lost interest in it and preferred to eat the crayons)
and made these bunk beds.

They are essentially two flat box-shaped beds supported by
4 dowels at the corners. I cut out a heart from the headboard

and stuck it on the footboard - that was the only embellishment.

With Jenna hanging on to my hair and Kate trying to grab
at my supplies, I finally gave up about an hour and a half
later and went to pick Emily up from school.

After lunch and while the kids were napping, I continued work.

First, the ladder - probably the part of the
project I enjoyed the most!

It's made of craft sticks hot-glued together. The hooks are
florist's wire bent into shape with pliers and then hot-glued
onto the top ends of the ladder. Upon hindsight, oversize
garment hook fasteners look almost identical.

But anyway, the hooks allow the ladder to be used
anywhere along the rails of the upper bunk

or the footboard.

And because I lack the common sense needed to keep
projects simple, I spent the rest of the napping
hour making bedlinen.

and discovered a way to bind the blankets without basting,
sheer laziness being the mother of improvisation. I suspect,
though, that those talented quilting folks out there
might already know this.

Here are Suzie and Lana asleep in their new beds
(although Lana never closes her eyes).

As expected, the girls immediately fought over their new
cardboard toy. But not because they both wanted the
top bunk. Jenna wanted to play the traditional way but Emily
removed all the bedlinen. She folded the blankets, put away
the pillows, rolled up the mattresses, secured them with
rubber bands and proceeded to play Slumberland and go
furniture shopping. Children!

I apologize if anyone would have liked a tutorial for this.
Often when I am working with cardboard, the process is
so disorganized and non-linear that it is almost
impossible to document. And completely pointless
to photograph. I am, however, happy to roughly describe
what I did if anyone is interested to make this for
themselves. Just leave a comment to say so, or email me!

Nursing Cover

Made a couple of nursing covers yesterday. These are the ones
that have a length of boning that pops the fabric out and away
from one's body so there is ventilation and a
nice view of baby while one nurses.

The ladies in our church were all walking around with these
and one of them was nice enough to let me examine hers
(first removing it from her person, of course). It was simple
enough to sew just from that once-over itself but I googled it
and found it all over the internet. How wonderful not to
have to guess at dimensions myself! I used this wonderful
tutorial but if you are disinclined to make it,
you can buy the originals here.

I discovered something about myself when I went shopping
for fabric for this project - I don't care much for prints,
particularly florals. Some day when it is easier to leave
the kids at home, I plan to venture to faraway chic fabric
boutiques. But for now, I shop at the faithful old chain stores
that are are closer to home. So there I was in JoAnn, staring
at the print section (i.e quilting cottons and whatnot) and
it was excruciating. All I remember was desperately scanning
row after row of prints, trying to find one I liked a bit.
Finally pounced on this apple-pear one and gratefully
had the staff measure what I needed.

Isn't that weird? I never realized that about myself. Looking
back now, though, I've always preferred working with solids
or embellished solids (embroidery). I also remember going
through an odd phase about fifteen years ago when I
suddenly decided I liked small florals and sewed numerous
chiffon ankle-length A-line skirts in small florals for work.
Mum was a little frightened (chiffon? work? flowers?) and
seriously thought there was something wrong with me.

Perhaps for this reason I haven't dabbled in online fabric
shopping much. I've bought oilcloth online, and some
stretchy powernet that mum wanted to sew undergarments
with but that's it. I think I've always liked the physical
shopping experience - it's fun to feel a fabric between my
fingers and immediately see in my mind the entire garment
/project that it is going to become. And some of my favorite
shopping experiences are for bizarre materials like ripstop
nylon, neoprene and marine upholstery fabric. So much fun
to work with! I very, very rarely buy fabric because I like the
print but don't know what to do with it. Pity, because I
think I could really become dangerously addicted to
online fabric shopping if I let myself order all their little
sample swatches. Someday soon I will post on one of to
hose bizarre non-cloth fabrics so you'll know the sort of
crazy things I do with them (no, not dresses).

But back to those nursing covers - I almost wish Kate were
still an infant so I could use them. But we're close to
being weaned, so these are for gifts. And I know of at least
two other friends with Spring babies so I know I'm going to
be making more, provided I get over the
fabric shopping hurdle first!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Felt Pictures and Miscellany

A low-adrenaline week.

Emily has been asking for more shapes for the felt board 
and I've been putting it off forever- my felt stash is so 
inaccessibly messy that I don't touch any of it if I can help it. 
Last week I made myself buy an interim (until I install more 
cubby holes or cabinets somewhere) tub to store them 
because I could no longer bear the sight of it all. 
And then the neatness of the stack of colors, now sanely 
contained, was rather motivating and exciting, so last night 
I cut out some new felt shapes. Emily was specific in what 
she wanted, which is always helpful, so it took me less than 
an hour to make some new scenes for her 
(and mess up the felt stash again, bah).

A princess castle

with new royal outfits and hair for the old Felt Girl and Boy

and their horse-and-carriage. The poor old horse looks 
a bit off because I forgot to cut a mane. The carriage is 
what became of the pumpkin after Cinderella's fairy 
godmother's nifty spell - it still bears some of its 
original pumpkin-ness.

This next scene is my current favorite because it has no pink 
in it and appeals to my inner nerd (I used to be a high school 
Physics lecturer/tutor before being promoted 
to domestic engineer):

Here's a shuttle taking off from Earth

and landing on the Moon. Old Felt Girl and Boy are now 
astronauts making giant leaps for man (and woman)kind.

Closer-ups of the shuttle and spacesuit, which , incidentally, is 
the easiest thing in the world to make. Trace the outline of the 
felt figure and cut a squarish hole for the face.

Building on the old sea scene, here are some new fish 
and Astronaut Boy is now a deep sea diver, with an airhose. 
Versatile outfit, that spacesuit.

I've always liked fish for art subjects because one can do 
so much with them. The ones in the left picture are assembled 
from individual shapes and random left-over felt pieces. 
The ones in the right picture are fish-shaped and I set 
Emily loose on them with fabric markers. She had a blast.

Finally, here are some simpler shapes for Jenna. Recently Jenna 
has been associating the "snowman" with anything that consists 
of shapes in a row, touching. For instance, when laying cookies 
or biscuits on a tray to be baked, she has their sides touching 
and says she's making a snowman. So I cut out shapes for 
a snowman and Emily added a snowball being thrown at it.

Semi-related point: you can quite clearly see the awful fuzzy 
pilled surface of the light side of our feltboard. Serves me right 
for using horrid acrylic felt instead of the Good Stuff.

Jenna loves her toy cupcakes and muffins so here are 
some felt versions. Emily suggested the tops could 
double as scoops of ice-creams 

so we added some cones and made Confectionery Transformers.

So not very difficult to make, really. 
Emily's ideas were a good springboard for bigger scenes 
so if anyone is looking for new felt cutouts, the kids 
themselves probably have the best ideas!

And now for some updates.
I haven't been making anything fun this week - mostly just 
utility sewing. Patched and re-hemmed three pairs of jeans 
so I could stop wearing my lone, last pair of decent pants 
every day. Then sewed up Emily's flannel nightgown that had 
been cut out and sitting on my sewing table for weeks. 
Also finally loaded the overlocker with woolly nylon and serged 
some fleece blankets for gifts- they'd been lying around in the 
Low Priority section of the room since Halloween. 

How good it feels to be done with these 
housekeeping projects at last! 

Saturday, February 21, 2009


A lovely surprise last week: MaryAnne from Thrifty Craft Mama 
gave me this award! Thank you, MaryAnne! She has a very 
cool blog with lots of very interesting ideas and projects 
she does with and for her two kids. There are patterns, 
tips, and so many things I want to do from there, like 
this lovely fleece dress. And she makes things out 
of cardboard -go see her washer/dryer! What's not to love?

Here are the rules for the award:

Thank the person who gave the award to you, post the award 
on you blog or on a post, nominate 10 blogs which show 
great attitude/gratitude, link to the people you chose on 
your post, and comment on their blogs 
to tell them about the award!

I know I'm supposed to pass this on to 10 blogs 
but I really like these 8, so here they are:

Enjoy, ladies!

Edited to add: I just realized that I mist-typed the link to Three Sneaky Bugs so that clicking on it led nowhere. I am so sorry! I've just corrected it so it should work now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Full Stable

We had some new equine visitors this week.

This is Jewel -

one of a pair of twins -

and a couple of brand new horses - 
Strawberry II and her less-pink friend.

You know all about Strawberry already, but you might not 
have met Puzzle - he's a bit of a country cowboy horse.

They hung around downstairs in the sewing room for 
a few days while I was working on their bridles

and today they were finally all ready to go. 

There's a silent auction at Emily's preschool next week 
to raise money for their scholarship fund. We are giving 
Strawberry II, Puzzle and Jewel to them - hopefully some 
nice families will bid a princely sum and take them home. 
I'm quaking in the knees as I type this - and crossing my 
fingers that someone will want them at all. 
The kind husband and excited children think so, 
but I am suffering from the Night-Before-Craft-Sale Jitters.

Tomorrow we'll be handing them over to the committee 
in charge. Jewel's twin will be staying home with Emily, 
so she will probably survive the farewell ceremony. 
Speaking of surviving, them horses/unicorn might be 
bedding down in a school storeroom for the next week, 
so we're sending some food with them to tide them over 
till they get adopted. See this post for food pictures!

Horse (and Unicorn) Food

Technically, this would be a Felt Food post but I really don't 
have time to make felt food unless it's in context. Like the 
donut shop, for instance. All the food in this frivolous post is 
to save horses and unicorns from starving to death. If I've 
learnt anything from being a mother, it is that children always 
know best. Especially when it comes to nurturing. Who else 
would make playdough noodles for Playmobil? Or painstakingly 
cut tiny paper squares to feed paper fish? Or roll paper 
bones for cuddly, polyester Spot/Fido/Whiskers?

Last summer, Emily raided the fridge for real baby carrots to 
set in a bowl for her stick horse. She invited a neighbor over 
to play and taught her to feed real food to toy pets. So when 
I was planning the horses for Emily's school auction, she 
reminded me that they needed food. And to make sure I got 
the right information, she told me what horses ate. 

So we made apples,


and potatoes

for the horses. (Emily wanted to make oats for them, 
but I talked her out of it). And today she declared herself 
Vegetable Girl and waltzed around the house with 
her basket of harvested produce.

Horse food - check.

Now unicorn food was a different story altogether. 

To begin, making Jewel was tricky on so many levels. For one, 
unicorns don't have harnesses or bridles or reins or whatever. 
They (as far as I remember) run free and aren't much keen on 
people riding them, let alone keeping them in a bedroom 
closet stable. Still, commitment-loving unicorns and their 
Small Girl Owners/BFFs are compatible at least in said 
Small Girls' minds, so I thought it was safe to domesticate Jewel.

And then there was the issue of sustenance.
I mean, what do unicorns eat, if they eat at all? Moonbeams 
and sunsets and rainbow glitter would have been my guess. 
At any rate, Emily would know. 

"Flowers," she told me.

So flowers it was.

Tulips, daffodils, daisies and bluebells

with florists' wire in their stems so they stand up

and make colorful bouquets

or rainbows.

We packed all the edibles in bags 

so whoever brings home a horse or unicorn won't be at a loss 
for snack ideas for their new pet. Unless they have a Small Girl 
at home running the show, of course.

Edited to add: These are not hard to make. But the felt stuff 
is time-consuming because of all the small pieces that need 
to be cut out. I didn't use patterns- I made them up. I had 
a little help with the apples, though. I cut a real Honeycrisp 
in half and traced around the cut surface. Then I cut that 
half into thirds, skinned one of those segment and traced 
the peel to make a pattern! (Yes, cheating, in other words). 
But you can't go wrong with nature, can you?  

See this post for a tutorial on the potatoes.

How To Make Pantyhose Potatoes

Finally, a project that did not take me a week (and longer) 
to complete - so I thought it would be safe to suggest to 
other people that they try it if they find 
stocking potatoes as funny as I do.

You will need
  • Nylon stockings/pantyhose (old/laddered is great)
  • Stuffing
  • Needle and light-colored thread.
Step 1
Cut a length of the stocking so that it is a tube. The length doesn't matter - obviously the longer it is, the bigger the potato will be.

Step 2
  • Cut a length of thread (at least a yard and a half), double it through the needle and knot the end.
  • Sew a coarse running stitch about a quarter inch from the top opening of the tube.

Step 3
When you have sewn all round the top opening and returned to the knot, pull the thread tight.

Step 4
Secure the closure by winding the thread around the puckered lump a couple times and then tying a knot, or sewing a few small stitches through the puckered lump.

Step 5
Turn the tube inside out and poke the needle through the puckered lump to the outside, a distance away from the secured opening, as shown. This is so the thread is in position for the first "eye".
Step 6
Stuff the tube as full as you like.Step 7
To make the eye, sew a single stitch (mine was about 3mm in length) as shown, with the needle emerging roughly where the thread originated.
(Note: the other end of the potato is gaping open with stuffing spilling out but we'll come to that later).

Step 8
  • Pull the thread through and re-insert the needle roughly where you poked the potato in step 7.
  • Poke the needle out a distance away from this stitch, so it is in position for the second eye.

Step 9
Pull the thread tight. The stitch will form a little dimple.

Step 10
  • Repeat Steps 7, 8 and 9 to make as many eyes as you want. 
  • When you get bored are done, knot the thread to secure the last dimple and poke the needle out about a quarter inch from the open edge of the potato. You are now ready to sew up the open edge.

Step 11
Sew the coarse running stitch that you did in Step 2 and pull the thread tight to close the opening. 

I find it helpful to stuff your finger in the opening to push down the edges.

Step 12
Secure the closure by sewing a few stitches through the puckered layers, knot the thread and pull the needle back through the potato and out again to end. Cut the extra thread off.

The finished potato.
Now make several more and play Supermarket/Farm/
Horse Ranch! If you have the right colored stockings, you 
might also make onions, radishes.... but I still think the 
dimpled potato is the funniest!