Tag Archive | child

I may be worthless, but my girls are productive

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I still haven’t made anything. I’ve been doing some more drawing, practicing my crayon skills. I’ll post on that another time. But for today, an actual finished project completed by Granota!

The other day, she came to me asking to “sew little squares.” A quick rummage through my scrap fabric yielded a nice assortment for 6 little squares. Ok, techinically they’re rectangles. She can’t thread a needle by herself yet and she needs me to anchor the first two stitches, but after that, she’s good to go. She spent all yesterday afternoon happily sewing away while watching Curious George.

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First, she sewed the squares in pairs, then she laid out her little strips in an arrangement that she found pleasing. She’s a diligent little worker. Her stitching is a little large and uneven, but I was really impressed at how much she has improved since last spring — and she hasn’t even had any practice! I guess an extra year gave her a steadier hand and more disciplined approach.

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With all of her colored squares together, she heaved a sigh and said, “This isn’t turning out how I expected.” I realized she had been looking at the wrong side all this time, not understanding that it was the other side that would show. I flattened out her little quilt and showed her the right side and she was much more pleased. Then I cut out a large rectangle of white for backing and explained how she was going to sew around, but leave a hole at the end so we could turn it right side out. She followed instructions well and thought it was funny when it came time to reach her little arm inside and pull it all out through the hole. A little pressing, a little whipstitch over the opening and she’s now the proud owner of a tiny quilt for her stuffed animals.

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And I’m very proud of her! She had such a good time doing it, that today she has been working on a new little blanket for Rana. What a sweetie.

I mentioned that both of my girls were productive — I’ve been helping Rana sew up a little dress for her favorite stuffed bunny. Rather than do it all myself, I’ve been teaching her how to read a pattern, lay out the fabric, cut it, etc. I know she won’t retain all of that information this first time around, but I wanted to at least plant the seed! I’ll post her little dress when we’re done.

Toasty toesies

All the hard work paid off! Finally, a success story! Last Friday I finished Konik’s second little sock.

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Matching socks!

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Ribbed cuff!

I used Patons Kroy Socks in “blue striped ragg;” it is a 75% wool/25% nylon blend and feels so nice. It was easy to work with and I didn’t have nearly the problems with splitting like I did when I made my first sock (different yarn). And because the socks are little, it really didn’t take that long to finish them! The best part about using self-striping yarn was that I didn’t have to measure anything on the second sock — I just matched the stripes. Three cheers for laziness!

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Nice thing with the loom — I don’t have to worry about tension. All the stitches come out nice and even!

They weren’t without their issues, though. Inexplicably, I twice made a little row of purl stitches on the first sock. And very nearly ruined the whole thing when I lost a stitch while making the heel. My repair wasn’t kosher, but I did manage to stop the unraveling and then sewed up the hole. Phew! I had a similar near-miss with the second sock. Knitting is scary.

Floating purl rows

Floating purl rows

Konik was thrilled out his little 3 year old mind to have his new socks. As soon as I finished, he peeled off the socks he had been wearing and put on the new ones. And then wore them for 36 hours straight. ha! I was a little surprised to see how they pilled up already after one (very long) wearing. Hopefully they don’t get any worse!

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It was so much fun, I’ve started one of my own.

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Warm fingers

A couple of years ago, I knitted sweet little woolen mittens for the girls. They were pink and chocolate brown variegated yarn. I felted them down so that they would be nice and dense. And then, Rana proceeded to lose every one of them over the next couple of months. At school, at a park out of town, who knows where else. I think we ended up with one mitten; it was the designated spare as it had turned out a slightly different size than the rest.

Since then, the kids had been wearing those little stretchy dollar store gloves. Those are fine for chilly days, but when it starts getting cold, they’re just too thin to be of any benefit. Besides that, my kids managed to lose one glove from each of about six pairs.

Rather than spend money on new mittens, I dug around through my yarn bin and found most of a skein of Lion Brand Wool-Ease in an odd sage green color. I don’t remember buying this. I can’t think of what I have used it for in the past since it wasn’t a full skein. Why do I have this? Where did it come from? And what happened to those few yards of it? There are no answers.

Utilitarian mittens.

Wool-Ease is an acrylic-wool blend (70%-30% I think, but I don’t know because the wrapper was also missing). I won’t be able to felt anything with this, but I am hoping that there is enough wool content to keep small hands warm and dry. In all of my crochet patterns, I couldn’t find one for child-sized mittens. There were baby mittens and adult mittens, but what about for a five-year old girl? Nada. I didn’t want to use the knitting board pattern again because, without felting, the stitches are prone to snagging (learned that the hard way with a pair of tiny mittens that I made for Konik). I found this pattern via Crochet Pattern Central. It works the mittens in one long, continuous piece, forming ribs the length of the mitten. It looks very crocheted and homemade. Stylistically, it’s not my favorite, but the pattern was easy to do and easy to size up, since it turned out to be written for baby size (where are the kids’ sizes?!). It may look cuter in a better color.

To make them a little more “fancy,” I stitched X’s up the middle rib on the back of each mitten using crochet thread. Granota protested about me crocheting a string to keep the mittens together. She may not like it, but I’m going to do it anyways. I don’t need any more lost mittens!

They look huge, but her fingers really are that long.

Next up, mittens for Rana. We’ll see what I find in my yarn bin!

Toasty warm

The cold weather kicked in all of a sudden up here. I noticed that the girls’ winter nightgowns were looking awfully short and snug (not in a good way). I’ve gotten several seasons of nightgowns from Simplicity 5118, even making tissue paper extensions when the girls outgrew the printed pattern.

But they’re both long past that now, so first I had to find a new pattern. I located McCall’s 6500 which was nearly identical to the previous one, just in larger sizes.

I don’t get the bunny.

The flannel selection at Joann’s was a little disappointing this year. I didn’t find anything that appealed to me, but once I laid eyes on the penguins, I knew that was the right choice. When I picked up Rana from school that afternoon, I showed her the fabric and was met with squeals of joy. Yep, right choice. Granota had a similar reaction when I got home.

Nice and long

Roomy for pulling legs up inside on a cold morning

I’ve made this so many times that I didn’t bother with the instructions. It’s a little freeing to just set to work, knowing exactly what to do. Both nightgowns were completed in two days. Breezing through a project like that got me in a productive sewing mood. I’ve got a dress for myself all cut out on my sewing table! If we can get this cabin warm enough so that I don’t feel paralyzed from the cold, I’ll finish that up this week.

I’m not kidding about the cold. Often, it’s about 52 degrees when we wake up in the morning. But at least the girls are warm at night in their flannel nightgowns (and the rest of us just pile on the blankets)!

Betrayal and triumph over adversity

This is the tale of the purple floral dress that almost wasn’t. But first, it almost was.

Last week, I told you how I was merely sleeves and a hem away from completing the dress. It was looking good so far. Well, all except for the zipper; apparently I had been out of the game for too long. The next one will be better, I promise!

The dress was laying out on my cutting table to stay out of the way while I worked on the sleeves. But, as happens so often around here, something distracted me and the sleeves were left on the ironing board and the dress remained on the table for another day. Until…

“I cutting! I cutting!” came the happy little cry from the other side of the cabin.

I was only half-paying attention as I was thoroughly engrossed in Twitter something really important. “Ok…” I absently replied.

“I cutting!”

This time the words sunk into my brain and I glanced up in horror. “Where is he?!” I demanded of Mr. Gren.

“I here!” Konik answered happily from my sewing area.

“Oh no! Oh no no nonono!!!” I dashed across the cabin to the scene of the crime. Konik looked up at me in terror and threw down the scissors he had been using. My gold-handled DMC scissors that I had bought in France. The gold handles had been peeking out from underneath my sewing machine cover, beckoning, luring little 2 year old hands. Oh, my scissors, how could you?! I trusted you!

Konik ran for his life while I crumpled over my purple floral dress with its new fringed hem treatment. The snips were nearly 2″ deep. I was too distraught to do anything about it that day and I needed a day to think things over and decide the best course of action. Because the dress has princess seams, adding something along the bottom would just look unnatural. Besides I barely had enough of the fabric for the dress (darn 36″ width sneaking in there amongst the 44″ bolts!). There was nothing to do but trim off the cut up edge all the way around and just suck it up and deal with a shorter dress.

Pre-surgery, I was really liking this dress. Once I finished it and put it on, I felt like an 8 year old. I always feel a little ridiculous with skirts above the knee, especially on a flared silhouette like this. I went ahead and wore it to church anyways and got a few compliments, so I guess it doesn’t read as juvenile to everyone else as it does to me.

Apart from the length, the armscyes turned out to be a little… restrictive. I wore the dress all day but never could get over the sensation of having my arms cut off at the shoulder joint. Apparently it was made for people with matchsticks for arms and I do not fall into that category. The pattern (McCall’s 6504) does have sleeveless options, so I’m seriously considering just removing the sleeves altogether, cutting the arm holes bigger and then just binding with bias tape since I have no fabric left for facing. In fact, if I’m going to wear this dress again, I’m going to have to do this. I hate having to go back and do major reconstruction (I know, somebody’s going to tell me that this is what muslins are for), but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal and I’d rather have something wearable.

But there’s not time for that this week — I’ve got to finish getting wedding clothes sewn! More on that to come.

Finished fairy doll part 1

Two weeks ago, I began making a doll for Granota’s 4th birthday. You can see the beginning stages here. This week I sewed up a little fairy dress, embroidered the face, and sewed on the hair. Whew!

The hair was the most interesting part of this process. In the past, I’ve seen little bags of doll hair at the thrift store, so I went trolling back when I started this project and couldn’t find any. I did, however, find one of these big Barbie heads.

Half-brushed

I got it for $1.99, which is a pretty good deal, especially considering that this doll bust has enough hair for at least three other dolls. That is some thick and luscious hair. As artificial hair goes, that is. Next step: hair transplant.

I found this tutorial that explains how to make wefts of hair. After smuggling the Barbie head up to my sewing room, I began cutting off hanks of hair as close to her head as possible.

Oh say can you see my eyes, if you can then my hair's too short

This was going pretty well and I got a few locks sandwiched between tissue paper like the tutorial says, adding more as I sewed along until I ended up with this.

Shining, gleaming, Streaming, flaxen, waxen

I measured around the fairy doll’s head and cut that long strip of hair into sections that I could sew onto the doll. At this point, my sewing room was a mess. There was hair all over my sewing table, all over my cutting table, all over my lap, and the floor, and every now and then, some of it made it to the trash can. Making the wefts wasn’t particularly difficult, but it certainly was messy.

Last night, after Granota was asleep (because it’s not enough to wait just until she’s in bed. Bedtime with my kids is like the Whack-a-Mole game at Chuck E. Cheese) I finished embroidering the face and managed to get most of the hair sewn on. I sewed on the last weft and the part today. This fairy has one thick head of hair! Here she is, all finished:

For the most part, I’m pretty happy with how she turned out. There’s something weird with the lower face. Either the lack of chin or too-long neck. I’m not quite sure. Also, it bugs me that the stuffing wouldn’t stay in the nose. Hopefully Granota is not as picky!

I used purple thread on the eyes (she’s a fairy, why not?), but it doesn’t really show up now that they’re done. Oh well.

Two-tiered petal skirt

The dress was made from green and teal shimmery polyester of some sort that I snagged out of the remnant bin. I had to line the bodice of the dress with a thin piece of pale blue cotton because the pink of the doll showed through the green too much and made a rather putrid color. The silver wing fabric was also a remnant bin find. And, now that I think about it, the doll itself was made out of an old crib sheet. So how about this for a cheap project, huh?

Tomorrow is Granota’s birthday, so I will post part 2 after she opens her gift. I really hope she likes it!

What are little boys made of?

Do you have a favorite illustrator? Have you ever thought about it? It’s usually not a completely conscious realization, but there may be a book from your childhood that captivated you, drew you back time and again. For me, it was (and still is) the Dean’s Mother Goose Book of Rhymes.

I used to think it was my Uncle Dean who gave it to me.

I’m not sure who gave me this book or when, but it has been a cherished part of my life for nearly as long as I can remember. My first real memory of this book took place on the way to a family picnic. The ranger at the gate to the state park gave me a sticker, which I promptly stuck on the back of my book.

Branded!

At least my 4 year old self had the foresight not to plaster my love of Oregon State Parks right onto that adorable little mouse. The book is full of gorgeous illustrations like that: Beautiful animals, graceful people, charming children, detailed period clothing.

Two of my very favorite pages

My copy of this book has been… well-loved. It is missing pages, has a convenient pull-out section in the middle, and half of the binding is gone. The Oregon State Parks sticker has become a rather minor issue. Mr. Gren and I have looked on Amazon or Abe books and were stunned to see used copies of this book going for $100, $200, $250, with a new copy priced at $499! What kind of treasure did I have here on my hands? Of course, I was sure that the illustrations were the attraction, so the other day, I did something I had never done before: I turned to the title page and looked up the illustrator’s name. Turns out there were two: Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone. Do those names mean anything to you? They didn’t to me, either. After a quick search on the Interwebs, I discovered exactly why this book is such a treasure. Without rehashing every brief biography that I was able to find of these two sisters, suffice it to say that they illustrated hundreds of books together, one of the most famous being Dodie Smith’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Ah, now it makes sense!

The clothing is so inspiring that I have begun sketching out designs which I hope to translate into actual 3-D clothing. Today, I wanted to do something a little more artistic than making basic line drawings of uninhabited clothes. This morning, I was watching my 20 month old son, Konik, walking around the living room towing a pull-toy hippo behind him. It was so simple and sweet and matched the childish innocence in so many of the Grahame Johnstones’ illustrations, that I knew I wanted to use the book as inspiration to capture that moment. Wouldn’t you know it, on the second nursery rhyme in, there is a picture of a little boy with a pull-toy.

Until I grew up and met some Brits, I never knew “Norwich” and “porridge” could rhyme.

I made some small changes to the original drawing (aside from the fact that the face on my boy turned out differently). It was fun to do. Drawing is kind of relaxing for me, even though I’m hunched over a paper, studying minute details. Here is the progression of my drawing.

First pencil sketch

Color added

Finished. Maybe.

You can see that the color varies wildly from the middle to final picture. My house has the ceilings of a cave and it was a gray Northwest day today, which results in poor and uneven lighting. Even photo editing couldn’t bring out the correct colors. The middle picture probably looks truest to life. Anyways, at some point I will even out the background on the final picture, but I’m happy with it overall. And I’ve got the drawing bug back and will most likely mimic another one of these beautiful illustrations sometime in the near future.

And one of the best things about drawing this little boy and writing this post is the brief search I did for the book as I began in order to verify the outrageous price to obtain another copy of it. Why is that the best? Because I found someone on etsy who was obviously ignorant of the gold that they had and priced it at $9.95. Mr. Gren chanted, “Buy it! Buy it now!” next to me as I scanned the listing to make sure that the book really was intact and the verdict is:

This time next week, I’ll have a new (new to me) copy of my most cherished childhood book, this time with all the pages. Score!