Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stuck in Customs

No, we haven't left the country yet. We haven't even packed
yet. It's just that I've realized a person can't really make
any progress, packingwise, while the children are awake.
My only hope is to pack when they are in bed. So today,
we went to Home Depot and bought these little doodads

to make cardboard suitcases.

What for?

Why, to play customs and immigration, of course.

The kids are bouncing off the walls for excitement about
the upcoming trip so might as well harness all that
energy and make them do dry runs of the whole
fascinating, lovely, spirit-uplifting experience that is
airport customs and immigration.

First, we made and decorated cardboard suitcases

- nesting ones, to save space when storing

No, I don't have a pattern - they are just rectangles
with rounded corners and a gusset hot-glued all around.
We used little hinges (pack of 4 for just under $2) for the lids

and some sort of hasps (less than $2) to keep them closed.
Note: if you are going to try this project, I recommend not
hot-gluing the hardware on. Try a slower-drying, stronger
glue, or use paper fasteners or something to
really get them to stay put more securely.

The handle was just a loop of cardboard that slid in
and out for carrying and storage, respectively.

We also printed out flags of different countries and used
our sticker maker to make them adhesive. Emily especially
enjoyed this part because we got to talk about which
countries I or her dad had visited, and which countries
were part of which continents and why North Carolina
didn't have a world flag of its own.

We stitched together little books for passports and
the girls got to draw in their mugshots and choose a
fictitious name and country of origin (Kate picked
Candyland). For simplicity, we assumed all countries
world-wide were part of the visa-exclusion program.

We added luggage tags and then assigned roles.

Whomever's turn it was to be Airport Officer got to stamp
in the passports with all the Thomas Tank Engine and
Hello Kitty stamps, and inspect the luggage for smelly
socks and vials of suspicious liquids and pointy objects.

If you can't beat 'em, might as well join 'em eh?

Packing tonight. Must. Or we might never leave.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Whole Lotta Clothes

Some photos of the outcome of Manic Sewing Week!
I enjoyed the adrenaline rush and the feeling of being
completely bonkers throughout. Before we go any further,
let me just say that I also went out and bought vast
quantities of summer tops, like basic tees, blouses and
tank tops, for the girls. I am not that bonkers to have
my kids wear only home-made. I only sew what I cannot
find in the stores, like skorts of a modest enough length.

Here's a montage:

So a variety of skirts, dresses, skorts and basic shorts,
including some plain white ones (no photos) to wear
under the skirts. Apologies for the wonky lighting and
some funny-looking hems - I stuck them on the wall
with masking tape just to get them in some natural light.

In spite of intending them to be quick, boring and
functional, I caved and added pockets and trims.

Pockets are so much fun. Like these triangular ones
(second row of the montage), which are so apron-y.

Kate has an abundance of summer hand-me-downs
from her sisters, so I made her just one little thing -
these short-alls or bib-shorts, or overall shorts
are they called anyway?)

I haven't done enough pants-drafting to ever be satisfied
with the fit of pants I make, these overalls included.
Gathered-waist shorts in knit are so incredibly forgiving
that any random pattern shape will fit any bottom. But real
pants and real shorts, made from unstretchy fabric, are
another matter altogether. Anyone who has worn pants
will know that the back is very, very different from
the front, for two simple reasons:
  1. (and there is no way to put this delicately): buttocks
  2. people who wear pants need to sit down at some point
These differences are taken into account in many areas
of the back pattern - a longer crotch seam, a little pointy
bit at the crotch intersection, darts, the slant of the hipline, etc.

And yet, against all common sense, I went and
cut the front and the back the
I figured, well, maybe I could get away with it since
overalls are baggy anyway. Not a chance. All I will
say is never, never buy or use a pattern (for fitted pants,
I mean) that has the same front and back piece. Don't
even think it. The outcome will be so hideous you will
want to rip a hole in the back of your awful pants just
so you can sit down. And then pray you never have
to squat or bend to pick up a pacifier - more merciful
to take your shoes and socks off and use your toes. Really.

Kate, though, loves her overalls, the sweet, forgiving child.

And finally, my own skirt!
Isn't it astounding how absolutely plain it is?
Not a single square inch of print. Ha!

Just good old plain denim-colored corduroy with sable
embroidery floss (yes! I used it! I had nothing else in the
house!) along the pockets, waistband and hem.

I am loving the fit. I am particularly pleased
with how it hides the bulgy bits!

I can see myself wearing this a lot - with Tshirts and
henleys and fancy white button-down shirts in the summer.
And leggings and boots in the fall.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

dot com!

My wonderful husband went and set things up so that this little blog is now


Please update your aggregators if necessary. Although the old address will still work, though - everything gets redirected to the new address.

Cardboard Mannequins

More cardboard!

Last week was Sew, Don't Think Week (aka 7 Days of
Manic Sewing) so the kids were promised that Mom
would do cardboard crafts with them this week to
make up for doing zero crafts last week. I have a head
full of various 3-D cardboard projects and tiny bits
of hardware from Home Depot (which I am liking much
more than Michaels as a source of craft supplies) but
we're going to tackle them only after our trip.

This morning, we did a very simple cardboard craft for
no purpose other than decorating. I can see possibilities
to extend this to something actually fun,
but we stopped at pure embellishment today.

Here are some girl outlines on corrugated cardboard
(ours were about 15" high)

and two rectangles per figure, with slits cut into them
for slotting together. The figure's feet also
have two slits cut into them.

The actual distance apart is not important (although
obviously the farther apart, the more stable the
whole structure is), but the width of the slit roughly
matched the thickness of the cardboard, and the
length of the slit was roughly half of the width of the rectangles.

The two rectangles slotted together,
leaving two slits at the other ends

to slot the figure's feet into.

The girls decorated them, adding faces,
google eyes, buttons etc.

and they were done! We added a couple of boys so
the girls could each have a girl and a boy to decorate.
Kate gave up halfway so we didn't give her a boy.

As I type this, the girls are using them as skittle-men
(and -women) and knocking them over with
their plastic bowling ball. Fun.

If we were going to invest more time in this craft,
we might do the following:

  • Trace their outlines on colored paper and make clothes to stick on.
  • Make wrap-around clothes from scrap fabric, like skirts, vests etc.
  • Stick on wool and other hair-like material to change their hairstyles.
  • Make tiny paper masks.
  • Make one mannequin of each family member and dress them funny.
  • Make different figures for different occupations that involve distinct uniforms.
  • Set them up on a shelf or a ledge (or our deck if it were summer!) and throw balls to knock them over, fairground-style. Or practise pea-shooting.

Speaking of paper and Home Depot, I got to make a
pattern of a very different kind yesterday! Our bathroom,
as I mentioned earlier, is being completely worked over
by the husband. I get to chip in and do little bits like
paint the walls, but mostly it is his masterpiece. Last
night I was deployed to make a floor paper pattern with
which to cut our flooring sheet. Very fun. Of course true
home improvement folks use those retractable metal
measuring tapes and he-man flat graphite pencils,
but I used my floppy sewing measuring tape and drafting
pencils and felt all smugly wrong-genre and rule-
breaker-ish. As my reward, I have inherited the rest of the
massive roll of brown paper he (husband) bought from
Home Depot for this, for arts and crafts! Whooo!

Off to clean up the post-lunch mess in the kitchen now!

P.S. All the sewing is done, by the way. Completed Sunday night, but did some final hand-stitching of buttons and hems yesterday. Photos later.

Edited to add: No, I don't have a pattern for these. I took a black marker and drew the dolls out free-hand, which explains their inconsistent heights and lack of symmetry. Feel free to enlarge the photos and print them out to use as templates if you need to.