Thursday, April 30, 2009

How To Buy Fabric

This is a brilliant post from A Dress A Day that made me laugh out loud when I first read it (and still does with each re-reading). Not that any of us needs help in this particular area of our lives, I mean. Now I need a similarly liberating writeup on how to work with cardboard so it takes over all the space in the house. Mmmmm.

ikatbag elsewhere

This has been an odd week. For one, I'm finally catching up on backlogged email and commenting on other people's posts, which feels cathartic in a spring-cleaning sort of way. There has been sewing going on but not manic like when I did my previous silly horticultural projects. That's also felt strangely relaxing. And then I've been overwhelmed at seeing ikatbag appear in other places - oh, such fun! But here's the weird thing - immediately after, I felt a great urge to hug my children and cook food for them. I'm weird that way. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the lovely people who shouted out about ikatbag - look where it's landed up - here, here and here

Very thrilling and humbling and very exciting and weird and I want to do a little jig and also crawl under my sofa and hide all at once.... say! That sounds manic! Hurrah, I'm back!

Passing on the Kindness

Many, many days ago, two very nice people put these 
nice pictures on their blog and listed me among some 
other, very cool blogs. What a lovely surprise, one, and 
two, what a lovely surprise first thing in the morning 
when, rudely awakened by needy child, I flip open the 
laptop in the nursery and see these. I'm almost certain 
the two nice people have probably forgotten about 
the awards they sent my way, so long have I sat on 
them. But I haven't - and here I am at last to pay tribute!

Thank you, MaryAnne, for this award!
I 'm going to be naughty and not pick 15 blogs to pass 
this on to. Instead I am going to pick 3 of MaryAnne's 
posts to tell everyone about. They aren't all about 
crafting, which she does incredibly well, but about 
other important things that are close to my heart 
and about which she wrote so compellingly:

Thank you also, MaryAnne for opening so many doors 
to other fascinating and clever people, whose creativity 
and general zaniness have been so inspiring.

This next one came from The Adventures of Bear, which 
is full of wonderful things to do with small kids, whom 
I seem to have lots of (small kids, that is). 
Thank you, Girl Who Painted Trees!

The naughtiness continues - 
here are 3 of my favorite Bear posts: 

1 This wonderful alphabet Alphabet book which I want to 
make soon for my youngest.
2 Lovely color collages with fun ideas on how to use them. 
I love the color names in other languages. 
3 100 books to read, and a sensible, balanced view on 
reading to kids. I don't recognize a lot of those books 
and I want to check them out!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A bit of luck

Giveaways are such fun! Pity I never win anything, though. 

Last month, the long thread hosted a giveaway by etsy 
sellers and I won this gorgeous organic wooden hippo 
teething toy! It is from Little Alouette who makes beautiful, 
beautiful wooden toys. Our little Kate got to keep it because 
she is the only one of us at home who still has bare gums, 
but it was also a wonderfully timely gift for her birthday. 
Am going to wrest it from her soon and put it by my 
sewing window for the trophy it is.
Thank you, Little Alouette and the long thread!

Then a couple of days ago, I won a giveaway on 
my measuring tape! A child's clothes pattern! 
So now I have one less to draft myself! A bit of shameless 
plugging here because Jen, whose blog it is, is one of my 
oldest friends - we were in school together since we 
were 9. She custom-makes clothes for people, and 
among these, corsets. Corsets, people! Stunning 
handiwork. Go visit her blog - she's newly put up 
a free pattern and tutorial for a little girl's dress. 

Then as of today, the wallet is coming together with 
hardly any unpicking or head-banging. 
Suspiciously unusual. 

Also today all three children took naps simultaneously. 
And were not grumpy when they woke up!


So am all in a dither now from this sudden lucky streak. 
In fact, I feel so lucky that I might even consider trying 
baking yeast bread again. Whenever I think I'm being 
Mother and Homemaker Extraordinaire, I bake yeast 
bread and my head very quickly and effectively deflates. 
No more, though - this lucky streak will end the 
humiliation of flat starters and expired dough! 
Tra la la! 

But back to earth now - I am grateful. For the 
generosity of crafty people out there, for the courage 
it takes to share one's stuff with other eyes, 
for the kindness of readers who raise their eyebrows 
and say nice things anyway. And for my husband whose 
work lets me be unemployed so I can keep doing what I 
rather like! Can't guarantee anything, given the state of 
things around here, but I'm hoping to get my own 
giveaway ready to go by the end of next week and I 
promise it will not be yeast bread.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Foam - looking back, looking forward

Thank you all for following along with the Foam Saga, 
now ended, and for the wonderful comments! 
For those just joining us, welcome - 
here is a pictorial recap of the projects

(clockwise from top left: Blocks, Cushion, Cake, Dirt, Sofa)

Foam is at half-price at JoAnn this week, incidentally.
Strangely, I no longer feel the urge to procure any. 

Some updates on how the kids and foam toys are getting on:
Emily loves the cake and upon getting it, immediately
prepared it as a birthday cake for Kate. She surprised me
with her restraint in picking felt pieces to decorate with.

Her restraint is all the more evident when you
consider the enthusiasm of the neighbor kids,
who came to play cake with her.

Here is Jenna with her bit of overzealous gardening.
It was so much fun to watch her painstakingly pick all
the strawberries off the plant, count them, lovingly
apportion them to various family members, then put
them all back on the stems, all the while yelling,
"Kate can't have the strawberries! She's too little!"

Now I feel a bit restless for some quicker projects.
But first, a bit of a pesky emergency
- my wallet's days are numbered:

The sad, sad coin-pouch zipper split last week and
the bit of masking tape is all that protects its modesty.
Aesthetics aside, I am also growing tired of ripping off
and replacing the masking tape each time I need change.

So new wallet in the works.

Or two.
One to keep and one to give away.
Check back here again if you'd like to win it!

Earth Day Cardboard Revolution

Maybe not really a revolution yet, but a person can dream..........

Anyway, I thought I'd commemorate Earth Day by shouting out about some of the recent cardboard creations I've seen at some of my newly-favorite blogs.

Kitten Muffin at Filth Wizardry made, among other spectacular cardboard things, a very clever pizza, beautiful  flowers and vases, ingenious carwash, and giant rocketship that I covet but have been banned from making by husband because I reached the space limit in our house several cardboard projects ago. Sad. 

MaryAnne at Thrifty Craft Mama made some marvelous cardboard furnishings for kids and dolls, including a washer/dryer, a fridge, doll beds and a classic and simple birds-eye-view dollhouse for peg dolls.

My current cardboard favorite by Karin at made by k is this unbelievable cardboard model of her nursery

maya*made's cardboard easel is one I've used over and over and over with the kids.

See this ingenious cardboard weaving loom that I want to make someday, at CraftStylish.

And here's my bit to start a cardboard revolution - some links back to old cardboard posts - boomerang,  TV, doll bunk bed, traffic signal lights, cake, box of dirtcar, mailbox, doll wardrobe and some other things to make with a box.

What can you find in a box?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dirt- Foam Part 5

Specifically, a rectangular patch of dirt

to plant flowers in.

and herald in the warm, happy, growing seasons
that are spring and summer.

These are the old unicorn food flowers

The fuzzy-looking purple flowers were from the 
dollar section of Michaels -
a very affordable way to fill a flower bed.

But dirt is also good for vegetables! These plastic carrots
were another dollar-store gem - 8 in a pack. They had
powdered candy in them, which I emptied out.

I first saw a similar dirt bed at our local children's
museum and it turned out to be Emily's favorite exhibit.
Each time we were there, we had to play hunt-
the-flowers because the other kids liked them too. It
made me wonder how many little kids would enjoy
planting and picking flowers and vegetables in
their very own dirt patch, so I thought I would do a
tutorial in case their parents wanted to indulge them.

Sadly, it had to be abandoned halfway for two reasons:

First, the photos all looked like this:

Bad. Very bad.
I mean, what is that, for goodness' sake?
Goaty-looking, is all.
Even in focus, they were absolutely unhelpful.

Second, assuming I could even explain how to sew
the brown flannel case, the foam was very
uncooperative to insert into it.

I couldn't possibly, with a clear conscience, subject you
poor folks out there to something like that, could I?

Therefore, here is a modified version of the dirt bed -
this needs a box to contain it so the ends do not have
to be sewn together. If you buy one of those rectangular
planters from a garden store, it might even look a bit
authentic! But any old cardboard box is great. The pattern
below is for a single-furrow dirt bed but you can modify
it for two furrows like the one I made.

Note: The box also provides a nice pressure on the
long sides of the foam to keep the furrows narrow.
But don't make the foam fit too snugly in the other
direction because the end-to-end pressure would
only make the furrows gape open instead.

Now this dirt is so versatile that I'm betting it can also be
made of cardboard! Anything can be made of cardboard,
really, but I'm not going to get started on that here.

Either way, the right fabric will make it work so much 
better - so stick to something that has a brushed 
surface - flannel, fleece, velvet, velour and the likes 
are all good. Avoid silk, satin, quilting cotton, 
chiffon - you get the idea.

Another alternative idea came to me as I was in 
my neighbor's garage* the other day. She had some 
of those foam pool noodles sticking out of a box, 
and I'm almost sure that if you cut two or three 
equal pieces out of one, wrapped each snugly in fabric, 
and stuffed them side by side into a tightly-fitting 
box, you'd get some decent dirt, too.

So, now that we've discussed some of the exciting 
ways to make dirt, I'll confess why this project took 
such a long time to get posted (apart from me
generally being slow, I mean). The dirt itself was 
finished in just a few days. But I wanted to go 
overboard as usual and make some plants

with pick-able strawberries

and pea pods-

you know, to sort of compensate for my
 very ungreen thumb with real plants.
Supposed to have been a winter project but look 
when it finally got done! Maybe the girls can practise 
for the late-summer harvest of the real stuff in our 
backyard garden (planted by husband, luckily, 
so likely to thrive).

The bendy stems of the plants are fabric-covered 
piping with a wire insert. The strawberries and pea 
pods have velcro stems that allow them to attach to 
little velcro squares on the stems. 

When the girls started playing with this
today, even little one-year-old Kate was able to
plant and pick flowers and harvest fruit and vegetables.
She also tried to plant whole strawberries in the dirt,
but at least she got the whole gardening thing right
anyway. More ideas to further complicate this came to
me as I lay in bed but I drew the line at making small
caterpillars to hide among the leaves for the kids to
find. I, who have serious caterpillarphobia!
Lunacy, that's what it was. So I didn't. Phew.

Go to the next posts for tutorials and patterns for

*No, I don't usually lurk in neighbor's garages looking for craft inspiration. 

Edited to add the flower patterns - forgot yesterday.

How To Make Strawberries for Picking

I must give credit to this tutorial by mr. monkeysuit
which was my starting point.

What you need:

  • 1" of green loop velcro (3/4" or 1" wide)
  • Circle of red felt, 4-5" diameter. Cut this into 2 halves.
  • Green felt, cut into shape of a calyx
  • Straw-colored embroidery floss
in addition to polyfill, red sewing thread and green
sewing thread. Here is the printable pattern for this 
strawberry and the apple from this earlier post.

Step 1
Cut the velcro into half lengthwise.

Step 2
  • Fold each half lengthwise and sew, backstitching to secure. This is the stem, although it looks more like a caterpillar in rigor mortis.

Step 3
  • Using three strands of embroidery floss, sew tiny stitches all over each red felt semicircle.
  • Each semicircle will make one strawberry.

Step 4
  • Sew the velcro stem anywhere along the curved edge of the semicircle, as shown.

Step 5
  • Fold the semicircle in half, with straight edges meeting and right sides facing.
  • Sew along the straight edge with a narrow seam allowance (I used 3mm or an eighth of an inch).

Step 6
  • Turn right side out.

Step 7
  • Thread a needle with red thread, knot the thread, and sew running stitches all along the curved edge.

Step 8
  • When you come to the bit with the velcro sewn on, sew behind the velcro so the thread makes a big stitch behind the stem as shown.
  • When you return to the knot where you began, pull the thread tight to gather the opening closed.
  • Stuff with polyfill.

  • The stitch behind the velcro stem will cause the stem to stand up but as you stitch across the opening to tighten it, loop the thread around the stem to further secure its upright position.
  • When the opening is tightly sewn closed, knot the thread and cut off the excess.

Step 9
  • Cut a small slit or "x" in the center of the green calyx shape to make a small hole.

Step 10
  • Push the calyx down over the stem so that the stem goes through the hole.

Step 11
  • Using green thread, sew a small stitch on each petal of the calyx, securing it to the strawberry. Knot the thread underneath the calyx when done, and cut off the excess.

Step 12
  • Make more strawberries

How To Make Pea Pods

What you need:
  • Green flannel or felt for the pod
  • Green felt for the calyx
  • Green velcro for the stem - see the strawberry post for how to make this.
  • Some beads (completely optional)
in addition to sewing thread and polyfill.

Here's the printable pattern for the pea pods,
as well as the carrot found in this earlier post.

Step 1
  • Cut out two pod pieces.
  • Place the velcro stem between the top part of the pod pieces so that most of the stem is hidden in the pod as shown.
  • Stitch around the outline, leaving a gap of about an inch, backstitching on either sides of the gap.

Step 2
  • Turn right side out. The velcro stem will be pointing outwards.

Step 3
  • Stuff the pod with polyfill. If you want to insert beads for the added tactile experience of peas-in-the-pod, do so now. I did this for one pod, then got lazy and decided not to for the others.
  • Stitch the opening shut.

Step 4
  • Cut the calyx out of green felt and lay it over the top of the pod.

Step 5
  • Stitch the calyx around the top of the pod.

Step 6
  • Make a whole bunch of pea pods.

Step 7