There are a lot of, how shall I put this, less than glamorous aspects of our current residence. Areas that I have been avoiding pointing my camera lens at for various reasons (as you will see). But the other day I realized that, when we move from this place we are renting, I would not want to forget these quirky things. Besides, there are other aspects of this house (townhouse actually) that are beautiful. So, I went around our house taking pictures of both the glamor and the quirks so I can preserve the memories of this place. Here is a tour of some of them.
Here is the view from my bedroom window. This beautiful tree is growing next to our neighbor's house and is visible from both bedrooms and from the front deck. It must be more than four stories tall, and when the wind blows it sounds like a million sheets of paper fluttering in the breeze. Once Spring came, the birds started to land on the branches and whistle (or squawk) me awake in the morning.
This chair is in our living room area. The fuzzy koala blanket (which my mom made for me years ago) is stuffed under the cushion to prevent head bumps. It doesn't exactly match the pillow or cushion cover (both of which I made), but it does the job.
In the same room is a fireplace and hearth. We taped a piece of cardboard over the opening because Goen wanted to crawl inside. Unfortunately, he realized pretty quickly that duct tape is no match for his opposable thumbs. When we moved in, the hearth already had strips of safety foam around the edges and corners, but Goen decided they were perfect for chewing so we put a blanket over it. And then he discovered that he could pull the blanket off so we put pillows on top of the blanket. It's only a matter of time before he figures them out, too.
The front deck outside our living room has views of trees and mountains. I try to focus on these rather than the buildings that surround us (which I cropped out).
This plant was already here when we moved in and we decided to leave it. Goen likes to pull the leaves off, so it is a little worse for wear.
Whoever built our place had an interesting sense of humor. Not only did they put a sliding door in the bathroom, but they made it the only way to get out onto the back deck. We had family visiting recently and almost burned a batch of chicken to a crisp because someone decided to use the bathroom in the middle of barbecuing. But I can't complain too much. Some of our neighbors in the same complex don't have any sort of backyard. Plus, it is a bit of a conversation piece and we show it to everybody that comes over to visit. Okay, so maybe we like it more than I let on.
Here is part of "The Man's Kitchen." Okay, so it's just a couple of grills on the back deck, but my husband is usually the one to cook out there, hence the name. We got this infrared grill on closeout special for $88 and my husband had the brilliant idea to use terracotta planter pots as a stand. Unfortunately, now I can't use them for planting, but check out this post for what I did instead.
This is the view walking up the stairs between the lower and upper levels. More beautiful greens and browns. The drapes are original 1970s, and there is a matching pendant lamp hanging just out of the shot. We almost never close the drapes so we can enjoy this wonderful view. Every time I walk up the stairs I pause a moment to admire the natural beauty and to check if there are any deer or birds outside.
Oh, my! The kitchen. Although some things have been updated (such as the dishwasher we never use), most of the kitchen is vintage 1970s. The oven is a perfect example. We don't use it much since there is a newer oven and stovetop installed below it, but occasionally it comes in handy. In the meantime, we use it to store the pots and pans we don't want Goen to have access to.
Over the sink is another perfectly placed window looking out onto the back deck. I can wash dishes and keep an eye on Goen playing outside and look at the plants on the hillside. Just ignore the pile of dishes (I know I do, but at least it is a pile of clean dishes).
This picture was taken from our back deck. There is an ugly cinder block retaining wall, but above that is a hillside with lots of trees and bushes growing. Birds and squirrels call this scrap of nature home, so we get to enjoy watching them while sitting on our deck chairs.
This is also a picture from our back deck. It's hard to tell, but those flattish areas that criss-cross the the picture are deer trails. When the weather is nice we often see does and fawns cruising through as they forage. I saw six up there a couple weeks ago and one of the fawns was running up and down the hill. It reminded me of my little runner. More recently I saw a couple stags hanging out together under a tree.
Thanks for joining me on this little tour of our home. I feel so fortunate to be able to enjoy this space and the bits of nature around us. If you would like to share pictures of the cute and quirky spots in your home, feel free to link to them in your comments.
I am trying to transition Goen's stuffed animal collection (all hand-me-downs from his mama, papa, and big brother) to handmade, natural-material stuffed animals. Here is the first installment of the "Getting Stuffed" series. In this post I include a tutorial on how to use jar lids to make a jointed head or limb.
thick sweater so i stitched down seam allowance on the tail tip towards the white felt using a stitch length of 4.
I checked out several books from the library to try to find some stuffed animal patterns that I would be able to make, that would not be too complicated, and that would stand up to the wear and tear of a toddler. One of the books I found is called Easy-to-Make Stuffed Animals & All the Trimmings by Jodie Davis. The book has many different animals, including three types of cats, farm animals, a penguin, dinosaurs, a bat, and more. For the more basic stuffed animals, there are both reclining and doll variations. It can be a bit confusing to follow since all the variations use the same pattern with a bit of "if you are making this animal, do this" type of instructions. On the plus side, all the patterns include a seam allowance (which I found out not all of them do) so all you have to do is trace the patterns directly from the book and get to work.
Soon after I found the books at the library, I came upon an orange sweater at the thrift store made from 45% angora rabbit hair, 40% lambswool, and 15% nylon. I quickly picked it up, paid the $4 for it, and took it home. I did some research and read that wool will felt as long as it is at least 80% wool. I wasn't sure what would happen with the angora, but I decided to give it a try. I turned the sweater inside out and put it through the washer and dryer to felt it. It shrank quite a bit, though not as much as I thought it would. It was felted, but still a bit stretchy. It pilled up a bit on the inside and outside, but a quick trim with a pair of scissors fixed that (I only did the side that would show).
I looked through the patterns I had marked and decided that the orange would be perfect for a fox. I added a bit of white wool felt that I had left from a previous project for the chin and inside of the ears, and a bit of brown flannel for the outside of the ears. Although I decided to use the ribbed side as the right side, I think it would have looked smoother and more fur-like if I had used the loop side as the right side.
After looking at pictures of foxes, I noticed that they have brown legs. But the pattern for the fox did not call for brown legs. However, since the book uses the same body pattern pieces for all the reclining animals, I was able to use the pattern as if I were making the siamese cat variation. I just used some of my brown flannel for all the leg pieces.
I pinned and cut all my pattern pieces. Since I was using the siamese cat variation for the legs, I only needed half of my sweater to make the fox.
I started by sewing the head together. I used wool felt for the nose and eyes instead of plastic. The nose was cut freehand from brown felt and then stitched on with a backstitch. I couldn't find a tutorial for fox eyes so I based it on a picture of a fox. I cut out an almond shape from brown felt, a circle from light orange felt, and a circle of white felt. I satin stitched over most of the white using black floss to give the appearance of a shiny spot in the center. Most of the stitches follow a circle, but one stitch goes all the way to the center to give it the look of reflected light.
In order to get the ears to lie flat (the wool felt kept bubbling out), I did a running stitch in off-white floss all around the ear through the seam allowance. The short stitches show on the back side of the ear, which I think adds a bit of interest to them.
The mouth is stitched with black embroidery floss. Again, I couldn't find a tutorial for a fox mouth shape so I just made it up based on a picture of a fox.
After sewing the head together, I noticed that the pattern calls for a jointed head. Last time I made a stuffed animal I used washers and wire, but a 55mm washer for the fox would be expensive and would likely wear through the knit fabric. A quick internet search showed that I would be forced to buy a dozen joints and spend over $10 once shipping was included. As I thought of my options, my eye landed on a baby food jar lid sitting on a shelf. Aha! A makeshift washer. Here is a tutorial to make your own:
Here is the head with the lid washer already inserted and the neck cinched. The wire is poking out. If you installed the lid properly, you should be able to see the label side through the little gap.
Once the head was finished, I got to work on the body. To make sure no thread was visible on the seams, I used brown thread when sewing the flannel and orange thread when sewing the sweater fabric. This required several thread changes on my sewing machine, but the result is worth it. For the tail tip, I topstitched the seam allowance towards the felt so that the different fabrics lay flat together. Then I stuffed the body part way so I could get an idea of where I wanted the head to be.
I positioned the head on the body and made sure I liked the placement before twisting the wire. After stuffing it to my desired fluffiness, I stitched the seam closed using a ladder stitch.
When my husband got home, I proudly showed him the finished fox. He asked me if the fox had a name. I thought a moment and then said, "I suppose the best name for him is Mulder." He chuckled and sighed at my joke. I think the name will stick for now, at least until Goen is old enough to want to name his fox himself.
We went to the park in the evening so I took the opportunity to have a photo shoot. I love how it turned out. It certainly is a fantastic fox!
A few months ago I created a project board to help keep me on task, to remind me of what I am working on, and to show that I am making progress and finishing things. Unfortunately, I'm not always good at keeping my board updated. I have projects in the works that are not on the board and projects on the board that I no longer want to work on. So, today I went over it and refreshed the whole thing. I removed projects that have been completed for over a month, removed projects that no longer interest me, added current projects, and added projects I am planning or thinking seriously about.
Every project gets its own piece of paper. I write the project name on the top and then list the necessary materials and tools.
There are four columns on my board: Planning, Acquisition, In Process, and Completed. The Planning label is self explanatory. I considered labeling the second column "to buy" until I realized that some materials were already owned and some could be borrowed. So I called it Acquisition. All the materials and tools listed get checked off as the item is sourced (whether from my craft supplies or the store). In Process includes current unfinished projects. I considered adding another column labeled Holding for projects that have been put on the back burner for one reason or another. But that would just get too complicated. I decided to include a Completed column during a time when Goen required so much of my attention that I was only getting a few minutes of crafting time per day. I was discouraged because it felt like nothing was getting done from the "one minute here, one minute there" method of working. The Completed column lets me know that I can relax and things continue to get done.
And there you have it. My updated project board. Perhaps this will help kick me into high gear and I will start the projects I have been putting off.
What about you? Do you have a list of projects that you are planning, working on, or just finished? I would love to hear about them! And stay tuned. As projects move through my Project Board I will share them here. If there is one you see that interests you, let me know and I may get to it sooner.
My baby and I flew south last week to attend my younger sister's wedding. It was nice to have the opportunity for me to visit my family and for them to have some time to get to know Goen a little more. But it was a bittersweet visit. I have many fond childhood memories of the house where I grew up, but as I looked around at all the renovations, building projects, and other changes that have happened since I was little, I realized that it is no longer the place where I grew up. All the carpet has been replaced with wood floors, the bathrooms redone, the backyard is half covered with a colored cement patio and deck.
Some of the memories are still visible, but many are covered up. The giant hole we played in after removing the palm tree is now a landscaped area where no hands are permitted to dig. The old, sturdy wooden shed where we held club meetings has been replaced by a flimsy metal shed that houses yard equipment. The carpeted stairs we used to slide down in plastic containers have been ripped out and replaced with sturdier wood stairs that are far too dangerous for such games. Two of the trees that we used to build forts out of sheets and clothespins were uprooted. I could go on and on.
The city itself has also changed tremendously. Many of the buildings have modern facades that no longer match the cities quaint beginnings. A Starbucks recently opened and I didn't even think the city was big enough for one (the population signs say about 30,000). There are also a lot more apartment buildings. All these new sights made it difficult for me to see the city where I was brought up, the place I used to know. And while the memories will always be in my head, they are no longer in the place I called home.
I'm sure you've experienced it before. The moment when you realize your toddler has been quiet for just a little too long. And when you go to check that everything is okay, you see him (or her) standing right in front of something he is not supposed to have or touch. He hasn't done anything yet, but you can feel his intense energy focused on it. He gives you "the look," smiles, and makes a move to do the thing you don't want him to.
I have heard people describe this look they see on their little one's face as mischievous or a sign of willful disobedience, but, when I see this look on my baby's face, I see something else. When I see Goen waiting there, looking at me, and smiling as he goes for it, I recognize that he does have self control, that he knows, on a certain level, that I don't want him to do this thing. It hit me one day that this look does not mean he is purposely going against my desires. To me, "the look" says "Oh, good. You are finally here. I know you don't want me to do this so I waited as long as I could for you to stop me because I can't stop myself." It is the times when I am not paying enough attention, not listening for those silences, that he ends up doing that thing I don't want him to do before I can intervene.
I decided to embrace this look and the energy that comes with it. My baby is in this world to discover and play, to learn and grow. I am his facilitator in this, the person who keeps him safe without stifling his growth, the person who is there to pick him up when he falls. It is a difficult job to protect a baby as he traverses an adult-sized world, and sometimes I will fail. But I am learning also. My baby and I will fall and learn together.
I came up with the idea to create my own nursing top out of an existing camisole when my search for functional, pretty, and inexpensive breastfeeding clothing failed to come up with anything. Nothing could measure up to the comfort and ease of my favorite Mossimo shelf bra camis. After over a year of constant wear, I find myself in need of replacements.
My tutorial covers how to convert a cami to a nursing top. Since the tops are so stretchy, they can even be worn while pregnant. The most important thing to remember when purchasing or selecting a top is sizing. Before I got pregnant I wore a small cami. Afterwards, as my milk came in, I had to increase my size to a large.
Although the cost of this top can vary depending on what you use, I generally pay about $12 each, including all the supplies and taxes, and everything.
Nursing Top Tutorial:
- Mossimo cami with shelf bra (I get mine at Target)
- Fashion straps like these or these from your local fabric store (one package per two tanks)
- Fabric scissors
- Needle and thread or sewing machine
Cut the straps of the cami about 1.5" from the peak (where the strap meets the shirt fabric).
Fold the 1.5" piece of strap so the cut end is tucked behind the peak, creating a 1/2" loop.
Stitch this loop in place using a matching thread.
Take the purchased straps and remove the hooks. If you have something similar to what I have, there should be two hooks per strap (four hooks per packaged pair, which is enough for two tops).
Trim strap if necessary (I usually cut about two inches off, but test before you cut). The advantage of trimming is that the straps will still be adjustable when they stretch a bit. Position the first hook on the strap, making sure that the open end is pointing in the direction you want it to. The strap end should enter through the front (or what you have decided is the front since they are reversible). I prefer to pull the hooks towards my head to unhook so the open end points away from my head.
Fold the strap over and stitch the loop in place. Stitch very close to the hook piece to prevent it from slipping on the strap loop while it is being worn. Repeat the steps for the other strap.
A few notes:
The hooks I used are designed for 3/8" straps, but the straps on the tank are narrower. This can cause some slipping but is generally not a problem since the hook prevents the strap from "jumping off" the loop.
I prefer the metal hooks because they have a smaller profile than the plastic ones, and I would worry about the plastic ones breaking. I have not had much issue with paint coming off them despite many, many cycles in the washer and dryer.
It is best to wear the top with a cardigan or something over the shoulders to prevent the straps from falling to the back.
In addition to the conversion method described above, I also tried two other ways. One was to use the fashion straps "as is." To do this I cut off all of the existing strap except what I needed to make a loop on the back and front of the cami. Although I liked the more substantial elastic, the straps were bulkier and tended to come unhooked. Plus, you lose the matching color of the strap and you only get one cami from a pair instead of two. For the other way I removed the existing straps completely and stitched on Dritz replacement bra straps. Again, I liked the more substantial strap, but the glue they used to hold the strap together failed after only a few washings and the whole thing came apart.
Remember this thrifted sweater from my baby beanie post? Well, it's back. By that I mean that the back of the sweater is back (the rest will show up later). In the first in the series of sweater posts, I mentioned that I would be making a baby blanket, and that is what I am sharing with you today. I actually finished it last week, but I had to wait to show it to you because it was a gift for my friend (and fellow blogger) who just had a baby and I didn't want to spoil the surprise. I got the idea for the blanket from this tutorial. Since I was unable to find a wool sweater in the size I wanted, I decided to use the cotton knit and just make up my own way of doing things (my specialty).
Here is my tutorial for making an upcycled cotton knit sweater baby blanket.
The first step is to cut the blanket shape. The back of the sweater is best because the neckline is higher and the knit design is smaller and more regular (compare the ribbing in the pictures below to the front ribbing in the picture above). In order to maximize square inches, you can include parts of the arm fabric (see images below). Although I cut a straight line following the grooves in the knit, my blanket did not come out exactly square or rectangular. It is wider at the bottom, which I assume is a result of the knit getting stretched out when it was worn. Leave the bottom hem of the sweater intact (aside from maximizing blanket size, it provides a perfect place for turning the layers right side out without unraveling). I also left the tag attached since I didn't want to risk harming the knit to remove it.
If you want rounded corners, now is the time to trim them. You can use a cup or bowl to get the right shape or just freehand like I did here.
Select a bottom fabric that is lightweight. Quilting cotton for cool weather or flannel for cold weather would work well. Lay the knit fabric over your bottom fabric, right sides together, and cut it to size. Make sure the layers are smooth and the knit fabric is not too loose or pulled too tight. Pin the layers together. Pin closely to prevent shifting or stretching while sewing.
Here is the existing hem of the sweater. See the double pins there? That is my way of marking a stop and start. This method is even more important here since it is necessary to pin the opening to prevent the layers from shifting. Sew the layers using a 1/2" minimum seam allowance, leaving enough of an opening to turn. A longer stitch length is necessary because of the thicker materials. I used about 3.5. Sew with the knit on top and the woven fabric being pushed by the feed dogs.
If you rounded your corners, you may want to clip the woven fabric around the curve to help it lay flat. Do not cut through the knit layer. Unpin the opening and turn the blanket right side out. Make sure to poke out your corners. Iron everything flat. Repin the opening closed, making sure to keep the seam allowance of both fabrics turned under. Before topstitching, pin all around the sides to prevent the layers from shifting. Topstitch in a coordinating or contrasting thread using a stitch length of 4. To doubly secure the knit material to prevent unraveling, sew the topstitching close to the edge so it goes through the knit seam allowance. Note: when sewed my topstitching, I thought I would need to loosen the tension because of the thickness of the materials. It turned out that this was unnecessary. Just to be sure, check the underside of your fabric when sewing to make sure the stitching is the right tension.
This concludes the blanket portion of the tutorial. The next section shows you how to quilt the layers so that everything stays in place.
As with any quilting project, the first step is to smooth out the layers and pin, pin, pin. The layers tend to slip and slide so I recommend putting a pin every couple inches or so. There are several methods to quilt a blanket, including machine stitching, hand quilting, and ties. I decided on a variation of the tie method. It is essentially embroidery, but with a couple stitches that go through both layers to tack them together. Read on to see what I mean, and to find out how I did it.
My embroidery design is just simple circles, but the idea can be used for many different designs. An awl is an essential tool for this project if you are using yarn. The only needle I had that could accommodate my Sugar 'n' Cream yarn was a tapestry needle. The awl allowed me to easily pass my needle and yarn through the tightly woven bottom fabric without messing up the twist in the yarn. Go slowly with the awl to prevent breaking threads. Make the gap wide enough for the eye of the needle to pass through with minimal tugging.
Put the needle down through the gap you just created with the awl, making sure to pass through a larger gap in the knit fabric so your knot can pop through the knit. The needle will go through both layers here.
For now, let the knot rest on the top of the knit fabric so you can use it as a guide for where to place your upcoming stitch.
Using the awl, create a gap in the bottom fabric about a quarter inch from the knot and along your design line. Bring the needle up through both layers.
Use one hand to hold the bottom fabric and the other to pinch the knit fabric. Pull them slightly apart until the knot pops through the knit and rests between the layers.
Complete the tacking stitch by taking the needle down through the first hole you made with the awl and up again through the second. The gaps from the awl should still be wide enough to allow the needle to pass through with a little tugging. This will result in two overlapping lines of stitching on the bottom fabric, and one line on the top. This provides a secure tack for the two layers.
Work your design using a backstitch (as I did here) or other decorative stitch. Except for the tacking stitches, the entire design is stitched only through the knit layer. The tapestry needle is ideal for this since it gets between the knit without dividing the yarn fibers.
Since the knit is still stretchy (as opposed to a wool sweater that has been felted in the washer and dryer), it is important to make the tacking stitches fairly close together. When you reach another spot in the design where you want to tack, use the awl to spread the threads of the bottom fabric along the stitch line. Take the needle down through both layers.
To complete the tack, use the awl to open a gap in the bottom fabric at the place where you want to continue your design, but not more than about 1/4" from the yarn's current position. I chose to create continuous circles, so I had the needle come back up right next to the last stitch.
Continue working the stitch. Again, non-tacking design stitches only go through the knit layer.
For the last backstitch, bring the needle up in the same place that it came through for the previous stitch. Pull the yarn through and tighten the stitch. Clip the yarn, leaving a tail about 4 inches long.
Separate the strands of yarn into two pieces (my yarn is four ply so each resulting length of yarn has two strands).
For the next few steps you will need a small crochet hook (mine is 1.5 mm and it was perfect).
Slide the hook under one of the stitches adjacent to the tail of yarn, hook it around one of the tail pieces, and pull it through. Taking your crochet hook under the other adjacent stitch, hook it around the second tail piece and pull it through. The idea here is to separate the yarn tail so the knot can't pop out to the top of the blanket.
The divided tail pieces should look something like this. Enlarge the image to get a good look at how the two tails go under separate stitches in the design.
Next, insert your crochet hook into one of the larger gaps in the knit 1/4" - 1/2" from the edge of the design and close to both tails. Bring the hook out right next to one of the tails, yarn over, and pull through so that the tail goes under the knit and back out (see below for clarification). Reinsert the hook into the same place, but this time it should come out right next to the second tail piece. Yarn over and pull through as before.
This image shows both tails coming out of the same gap in the knit. If the previous steps caused your yarn plies to untwist, take a moment to twist them again. This is especially important if you are using cotton yarn as it has a tendency to break when knotted. The twist keeps it stronger.
Tie a knot (use your preferred method, but I just did a simple granny knot) tightly so that the knot goes deep between the knit fibers. If you use cotton yarn, pull gently but firmly to prevent breakage.
Pull the tail up while simultaneously pushing the knit fabric down so that the knot comes away from the fabric. Cut the yarn close, but not too close, to the knot.
The knot can now be popped through the knit layer by pulling the layers apart as before or pushing it into the knit with the crochet hook or using the crochet hook to lift the knit away from the knot. Use whatever way works for you. If the knot does not pop through, you may have caught some of the knit fabric in the knot or (worse) the divided tails were not brought through the same gap in the knit as described in a previous step.
Here is a finished design.
As a final touch, I added a tag made from twill tape and stamped with fabric ink. I stitched it on last so I sewed by hand so I could go through only the bottom layer.
My original intention was to do a crochet edge, so I started doing a blanket stitch foundation on which to attach it. The stitch looked fine on the woven fabric side, but terrible on the knit side because the yarn would sometimes disappear between the knit and I could not keep the lines of the stitch straight. I ripped it all out and decided to go for a cleaner look. I don't recommend blanket stitching on knit.
If you try something similar, I would love to see it. Just leave a comment and link to your project.
I had an Aha! moment yesterday. Goen and I were on the back deck. I was sweeping and Goen was behind me pushing my legs to "make me move." As I started to get annoyed, an image flashed into my mind from earlier in the day when I had gently guided him through the safety gate at the stairs by pushing his shoulders in the direction I wanted him to go. I felt disappointed in myself for getting so frustrated at him when I had done the same thing, yet I expected him to move where I wanted him without resisting. I wanted to control him, yet I was unwilling to be controlled.
We all want to have some control over our environment and the people around us. Why should toddlers be any different? One of the ideas that I have tried to keep in my mind ever since Goen was born is that all people, even little ones, have a mind of their own. They have desires, wants, and needs. They have their own thoughts and ideas about the world. One of my favorite people in the whole world (and one of the women who assisted at Goen's birth) happened to be visiting us during my baby's birthday. She brought him a gift of music. One of the CDs she gave to him was of an a capella group called Sweet Honey in the Rock. One of the songs they sing, On Children, is now one of my favorites. They sing that children do not really belong to us. We are their caretakers in the world, the people responsible for providing them love in all the ways we can. As I continue to live with this child who is mine, yet belongs to himself, I want to keep this song, this idea, in my mind.
Today, as I was getting pushed around again, I made an effort to have a little fun with his desire to control my movement. And you know what? It wasn't long before he ran off to find something else to do.
If you have been inspired by a song, poem, or quote that has influenced the way you parent, please share it by leaving a comment.
Hi. My name is Carley. I love to sew, craft, and create. As a Jane-of all-crafts so to speak, I enjoy sewing, writing, cooking, drawing, photographing. But the constant thread (if you'll excuse the pun) throughout my weeks is needle arts.