Friday, December 24, 2010

What we MADE for Christmas: All done!

We are almost there, but I am scheduling this post for a little later (it is now only about 11:30 am) so by the time it hits we (hopefully) will be totally done!

Here's a shot of the girls' stocking loot--Suzi's on the left and Ivey's on the right. That doll drives me nuts but I think Ivey will still love her. As you can see, we caved and bought some Play-Doh and a book at the store. I don't regret either of those. The other two storebought gifts are for Suzi--a really cool German-made wooden fire truck (which we never could've made ourselves) and a Don't Break the Ice game, which is one of my childhood favorites. I feel pretty good about our gifts for the kids this year. Wow, have we come a long way from Christmases past. I know it looks like Ivey has more stuff, but Suzi has more--and wayyy more expensive--gifts to open.

These are gift baskets for a couple of the guys on our list. We were going to make the baskets but we didn't have time, so we picked a couple up at Goodwill yesterday and tied ribbon on them. We made our favorite chocolate chip cookies and beef jerky, and all that is missing is a cute little bird ornament. For Jordan's brother we made a cheesecake. Important note: If you plan to give cheesecake as a gift and don't want to give away the bottom of your springform pan along with it, research how to get the cake out of the pan before you bake it.

So far, this is all that exists of the bird ornaments. Some cut out wool pieces. I will finish these later at my parents' house and on the road tonight if necessary. I've made a bunch already so this is no big deal to finish up.

The other night we finished this Coke cap basket for my brother. It was about ten times more trouble to make than we expected. I wired one little row because it looked like fun and then said "no thanks Jordy, you can finish it!" He did a great job. I hope my brother the Coke enthusiast appreciates it.

And finally, the Wardlaw shield for my dad, who is really into his Scottish heritage and going to highland games events. Jordan cut it and sanded it and sprayed on the blue, and I insisted on painting it all myself, because I knew I wanted it a certain way and allowing anyone else to lay a paintbrush on it would only end in fighting and crying and drama. I am just like that. It might look simple but gosh this took some work. Those estoiles (the starfish things) had to be turned a certain way and spaced a certain way, at a certain size, and the mascles (the diamonds) had to line up right. I had to put four or five coats of paint on the things. Now it's done, though, and I'm so happy. I hope my dad likes it.

I am feeling so much better now. Ready to chill and open presents. I go through moments where I think no one is going to like what we made, our gifts are horrible, everything is awful, but then I think we did a pretty good job. I hope that even if people aren't necessarily giddy over the actual item, they can see that a lot of love went into them. We did our best and we did it out of love and because of this.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What we're making for Christmas 4: Fly Through My Window

Once I started making birds, I thought it might be fun to have a little set of different birds to go with Elizabeth Mitchell's "Little Bird" song. We love that song. So I made these for Ivey, along with a little nest for them to live in together. It was a major accomplishment for me to finish it today, but it looks like (as long as Jordan doesn't get sick) we are all getting better. Hooray!

Blackbird, cardinal, robin, and bluebird. Not claiming to be accurate or realistic in any way.

I'm glad I could make a nest out of this sweater, because there wasn't much else it would've been good for.

Whenever we sing the song we have to add the robin in, and then I joke that this spring a little Robin really is going to fly through my window.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

A stomach bug themed slumber party

So things have changed a lot since my last post. As soon as Ivey started getting better, I came down with it. I'm so happy it's just a stomach virus! The bad part is that Suzi caught it at the same time as I did, and she, unlike me, is vomiting. Ivey is not a dramatic puker, but Suzi takes after me and it's a major ordeal. She's actually even worse than I was when I was little. Hand over her mouth, doesn't want to go to the toilet, screaming, jumping up and down in a circle, shaking her head back and forth. Oh geez. I feel so bad for her. Right now we are letting her lie on the love seat and watch whatever movies she wants until she falls asleep.

Last night I knew we couldn't all sleep in our own beds, so I told Suzi we were going to all stay downstairs and have a slumber party. We'll all stay down here together, and watch Rudolph, and then fall asleep. Sound fun? She said yes. She's probably going to lie around and sleep on and off most of the day. I might go get back on the couch soon too. I really hope we are all better in time for Christmas, and I really hope we can finish making our gifts for people. All that may or may not happen, but at least we will all be okay in a few days. I'm still so happy about that, because for a while when Ivey was the only one sick, I wasn't sure.

Oh, and it's our anniversary today. Number six! Really, really romantic so far. Oh well. We did get our ornaments made for each other, but I haven't had a chance to take a picture of them yet. Maybe later. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The worst feeling in the world

Sitting on the couch playing with Suzi, seeming better

And not very much later, feeling awful again

Ivey has been sick, and although this is an inconvenient time to blog, I want to do it now so I can remember this later. It's funny how our lives can change back and forth so much in just a couple of days.

Right now I am holding Ivey in the ring sling (on top of my pregnant belly, not very comfortable) and placing a goldfish cracker in her mouth every time she says "moh." This is the only way we've found, for the moment, that she is somewhat happy. Like, not screaming.

About a week ago, I noticed she wasn't herself. She fell asleep in her lunch, on a day when we hadn't been anywhere or engaged in any tiring activity. She normally wouldn't nap until at least 2 or 3 pm, if then. Friday morning she had a little of what seemed like diarrhea, but nothing too bad, and then Friday evening she threw up at my parents and we took her home. She continued to vomit, but not with the force or frequency of a stomach bug, and there was no fever or anyone we could think of that she'd caught it from. We were going to go visit Jordan's parents on Sunday after church, but she threw up Sunday morning. We skipped church, and then when she seemed better we decided to leave on our two-hour drive after feeding the kids dinner and waiting a bit to see if it stayed down. Everything went fine at Jordan's parents. No vomiting, and she was even in a decent mood and seemed to be getting back to normal.

Then, around 12:30 am on Tuesday, she threw up again. We thought it was just that we'd started her back on regular food too soon. She threw up again around 11 am and I thought maybe I'd fed her too much applesauce. So we took her to the doctor, which was a mistake. It took several hours out of our afternoon, and we had to subject her to a chilly car ride and an hour long wait in a little exam room. We were then told to take her home and keep doing what we were doing, and charged $20 for it. Duh. Next time I'll know better.

Until last night, we really did think she was getting better. My mom came over yesterday and Ivey was playing with her and seemed to be more herself than she had been in a couple of days. And then we took her to bed and she barfed up her soup and some jello from the night before, around 1:30. I was really upset last night. It just seems so wrong that she would be taking this long to get over a little "stomach bug," and also have no fever, and not have spread the illness to anyone else. I mean, she's puked on Jordan at least five times! Right now I would love nothing more than to get this stomach bug myself, just to prove that's all it is!

And it's Christmas time, and I have no idea when she'll be better. I have no idea when we're going to finish making our gifts. I haven't even made Jordan's anniversary gift, and that's a priority for me, and it's only two days away. This is a horrible place to be. I have a new respect for people whose children are seriously ill. I just have no idea how they go through months, years of what I am having a hard time doing for a week. It sucks.

She got tired of goldfish and fell asleep as I typed this, so I am going to try to get some sewing done now while my hands are free. I don't really know where to start. Tonight Jordan will probably sleep on the love seat with Ivey, because lying flat in bed seems to make it more likely that she'll get sick, and I will sleep on the couch. We will keep on feeding her bland foods, and hoping she doesn't throw up again. We will watch her play and seem happy for a few minutes and then start getting lethargic and irritable again. Knowing that 24 or even 36 hours of no vomiting doesn't necessarily mean anything.

There are few times in my life I've felt so awful. All I want for Christmas is a healthy Ivey.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What we're making for Christmas, part three

The thing I made today was for Suzi. I made a cloak, using this pattern. Jordan and I spent all day at home with a sick Ivey, and Suzi has been at Grandma and Grandpa's, so it wasn't a bad time to work on it. I have to be honest, I did not have fun making this. It was so big, and I prefer to make things really little. I felt like I was playing Twister when I arranged and measured the fabric in the floor. Lots of pinning was involved, and in general, if you mess up something big you have a bigger mess. This cloak was only 32 inches or so long. I can't imagine making one for an adult!

I am fairly happy with it, all things considered, now that it's over. I hope Suzi likes it and that it fits okay. I may make one again someday, but if I do I am not going to line it. That was the worst part. I should have probably used crushed velvet like the lady recommended, but it's not my favorite fabric. I intended this to be an open-ended costume and also somewhat warm just in case Suzi wants to wear it to highland games sometimes. Probably she will mostly wear it while pretending to be Prince Philip. I do think this is a wonderful gift for a child, and it's empowering to know that it can be made at a very low cost. If you try it, be sure to take the tip at the bottom of the instructions page about folding the fabric in half to cut so the fold is in the middle of the back. It'll save a lot of trouble!

This doll, made by me and Megan on Friday, is not a Christmas gift for one of our kids. It's for a little girl who is in the hospital, but I do plan to make similar dolls for Suzi and Ivey. Megan already finished Evie's and it's adorable! These are not as hard to make as I thought they would be, and we managed to do pretty well for a first try even without all the recommended materials. I found a remnant at the fabric store for the face and hands, and we couldn't find wool stuffing so we used bamboo. Megan made Evie's doll hat and bunting out of a felted wool sweater, and it worked great. If you'd like to make a doll but don't really want to spend $15 a yard for two different organic fabrics, check out this lady's Dollar Store Dolly! Similar dolls retail for around $100, and she made it with stuff from a dollar store. Wow. Here are some good free instructions, too.

I have a long list of things to make still, but I feel ten times better having the cloak behind me! Now I can focus on arm warmers. An apron. Ivey's quilt. Flannel hankies. Finishing the girls' Waldorf babies. Pumpkin bread mini loaves. And I really want to try some felted wool slippers for the girls. As soon as I cross something off my list, it gets even longer. Oh boy, it's a good thing I'm nesting.

What are you making for Christmas?

Previous posts:
Part Two (and here's the pattern)

More later!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Losing count... 23 weeks? It's nesting time!

First, some unrelated pictures.

Our town's Christmas tree the night it was lit

They both want Daddy to hold them. People are asking how he's going to hold one more. We're not sure yet.

You're how old? Three?

Yep, three! And I want a fire truck!

I should be 24 weeks on Saturday. I had a pregnancy ticker last time that helped me keep track, but it annoyed me because once I passed my due date it started counting the days back up. I was a little insulted that the designers of the ticker hadn't thought of that. Women go past their due dates all the time! It should've gone down to zero and then been like "Jenny is ___ days past her due date! Give that lady a medal for patience!" But it didn't, so I didn't get a ticker this time.

I had forgotten how wonderful pregnancy gets about halfway through when I start really nesting. My house is clean and decorated for Christmas! The laundry and dishes have been under control and I am undertaking large organizational projects that normally I would put off forever. On Monday my parents took both the girls to their house for the afternoon and in about four hours I transformed our craft room from a disastrous, shameful mess into a space we can actually use! I wish I'd taken before and after pictures. That room was where craft projects went to die, but by Monday night it was nice enough that on Tuesday I had my friends Megan and Jenn over to make Waldorf bunting dolls. (Well, Megan and I made dolls and Jenn gave us advice and tried to get some knitting done.) Yesterday I went through all the girls' clothes, got rid of some and packed most of the rest away. I'm almost done with that. I washed Robert's newborn clothes too and they are hanging in the Robert section of the kids' closet. It's a little early but I figured I might as well since I was in the mood!

Our little house is going to require some work before this baby comes or it's going to feel super cramped. We have three bedrooms, one of which is the craft/guest room. There is no garage and very little storage space. But the other day when I was cleaning out the craft room, as I piled up at least four tubs worth of stuff to haul to Goodwill, I thought, even if I lived in a mansion with a craft room three times this size lined with drawers as far as the eye could see I wouldn't want all this stuff. And no matter how big the room was it would still be a mess. So we have been regularly and ruthlessly hauling stuff to the thrift store. We have a tub that we keep in the dining room and we keep filling it up until it overflows every two or three days. We'll need some extra space for when we bring in new Christmas stuff. We asked our families to please take it easy on us this year, especially when it comes to toys. Hopefully by the time Baby Robert arrives we'll have plenty of space for him and his stuff! Someday we'll have a garage and another bedroom, and perhaps a sunroom. Someday.

My belly is getting "out there" and it's a different, more bubbly shape. I've gained about ten pounds and it looks like I'll end up weighing a little less than I did with Ivey at the end. A lot of my maternity clothes that fit the two times before are too big this time, so I've had to buy several new things. Sometimes I think I haven't felt the baby kick in a long time and I get worried, but usually it's just because I've been running around too much and once I sit down I realize he's fine. Jordan's been able to feel him for several weeks, but not as much as he could feel the girls.

Overall, this pregnancy has been way nicer, especially when compared to Suzi's. Robert is a sweet little boy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to sew Ivey's dog

This is a follow up from my last post. I hesitated to share this because it's not a fully tested pattern. I didn't lay a paper template over the fabric and carefully snip it out; I just kind of eyeballed it. Please keep in mind that the pattern offered below is merely a loose suggestion of how you might like to cut your dog out. I wanted a somewhat longer, skinnier dog, so if you wanted a shorter one you could adjust for that. This is also not to scale, so be sure you cut your arms and legs and everything to be a good size for the body. Please do *not* try to enlarge this and copy it exactly, because that may not work. There's nothing here you can't just eyeball and cut out, or at the very least draw off yourself. The wonderful thing about this is that if it's a little off it won't matter much. This is just a sweet, silly little dog and it isn't meant to look realistic. I'd highly recommend felted wool for this, or at least another forgiving fabric such as fleece.

In cutting out pieces, a couple of tips: Cut the arms a little longer than you'd like them, so you'll have some options when sewing them on. Also, don't cut the back of head piece at all until the whole dog is together. You won't know exactly what size and shape to make it until then.

1) I did the head first. It's encouraging to see the head shape come out right.

Cut the ears a little wider than you think. I didn't cut mine wide enough and that is why they look like lamb ears. In case you didn't know, you sew right sides together and then turn them right side out using the blunt end of a chopstick or something. Not scissors, because they can stab through. Lay those aside for a minute.

For the bottom/sides of head piece, sew that little V together, and curve toward the middle as you do this (otherwise it'll look squarish, but if you don't get it right the first time you can easily go back and try again without having to rip out stitches). Your dog's nose will go where the top of that V comes together, and the mouth will go down the line you sew.

Now you will be sewing the top of the head point to the top of where that V came together, which is where the nose will be later. The ears go on with the top of the head. Here is the tricky part. Since you will be sewing right sides together (sewing the head together inside-out), you need to put the ears on the inside. The raw edges of the ear should be sandwiched between the raw edges of the top and bottom of the head. I like to hold these edges together and turn the whole thing right side out for a second to check if it looks right. If you think you've got it in a good place, pin the ear so it'll stay put until you sew along the dotted line. You could also sew starting at the nose, leaving the ear off and stop to put it on when you get to the right spot. Either way, depending on how thick your fabric is, you'll probably have to hand-stitch the ears and other parts on even if you have a machine. Four layers of wool can be really thick!

When you finish this step, you should be able to turn the head right side out and see the ears hanging attractively at the sides of the (almost) finished head. I suppose you could go ahead and sew on button eyes and nose before you stuff this. I didn't, because I wanted to pick buttons and where they went after seeing the whole dog. It would be easier to sew them on now, but it's fine to wait until later. I did go ahead and stuff the head, just to get a better idea of how she'd look. Putting the back of the head on is the last step.

2) Next, I sewed the butt to the back of the body. The tail goes on in this step, too. If you haven't already, sew the tail along the dotted line with right sides together and turn it inside out with a chopstick. (If you want the tail stuffed, you'll have to do it now. I did not stuff mine though.) Now, onto sewing the butt to the body. Pick one side of the butt and pin it to the bottom of the body's back. These parts will not sew together flat; you'll have to curve them a little. Just like you did with the ears, you'll be sewing right sides together with the tail flipped to the inside.

3) Now the front of the body will go on the other side of the butt, and the legs will go on too! We are getting there! Sew and turn the legs just like you did with the tail, but stuff these. It's handy to have a chopstick or something to push the stuffing down to the end of the leg. In placing the legs, I'd recommend putting them where you think they should go and then flipping the body right side out to check if it looks right. I wanted my legs pointed slightly outward, so that meant they were pointing together when they were on the inside. (Does that make sense?) Also, make sure they end up the same length. Mine didn't, but oh well.

4) The arms go on next, as you finish sewing up the sides of the body. Just leave the hole at the top for the head to go on. Be sure to make the arms a little longer so you can pick the angle at which they hang off the body. If you want them pointed slightly downward, you'll need to sew them on that way and that takes a little extra length so you can sew them on at an angle. I didn't cut mine very long so it looks like Ivey's dog is ready to give you a big hug. That's cute too if that's what you're going for. When picking a spot for the arms, make it just *below* the shoulder curve. I didn't, and it resulted in odd-looking side-boobs right below the arms. Luckily her dress covers them.

Go ahead and stuff the body and head to desired firmness.

5) Now you should have a complete dog body and an almost complete dog head and all we need to do is sew the two together! Yay! Go ahead and sew the dog's, um, chin/neck area to the top of the front of the body. It's hard to describe this part precisely, but just sew it together until you have a hole in back that looks about the shape of the back of head piece. Kind of like a railroad tunnel. Now you need to cut a piece to fit the hole. The curved top of it will be sewn to the top and sides of the head, and the straight bottom piece will go along the top of the back of body piece.

I had to try twice to get this piece cut out right. Then I started sewing the curved edge. I lined it up and pinned it about 1/3 of the way over, to be sure it didn't end up in the wrong place. Then I started sewing right sides together as best I could. You can't really do that the whole way along the curved edge, though. Around the halfway point you'll have to turn it over to where it goes, fold the edges under and pinch them together, and sew it as invisibly as you can from the outside. This is not my strong suit, but it doesn't matter much if you've picked a fuzzy, forgiving fabric like I told you.

Now you should have a hole several inches long where the body meets with the back of the head. Go ahead and add any stuffing you need to add to the body or head. It's your last chance!

Once the curved edge of the back of head piece and the top and sides of the head are totally together, you can sew the straight part together the same way you finished up the curve. Ta-da! Your dog is now together!

6) Now all you have to do is add a little flair. I used vintage buttons for the eyes and nose, and dark red embroidery floss for the mouth. I also sewed Ivey's dog a little dress out of the same sweater her ear tops are made of. You don't need a pattern for that--it's basically a tube with a halter strap to hold it on. I also added a belly button because Ivey loves belly buttons. You could do features totally out of embroidery thread for a safer dog, or if you do use buttons and are giving this to a young child, make sure you sew them on really well. Sewing buttons on an already-stuffed animal was a little tricky. You have to sort of pull the button up at first to get it going, and then take the needle only through the button and then through the fabric once you're a few stitches in. You'll see what I mean when you get there.

There are definitely more precise, tried-and-true stuffed animal instructions to be had for free online. One that leaps to mind is this Martha Stewart one, which I linked to earlier. But what I love about doing it this way is that this dog can take on a unique personality based on how you sew it. You could make a skinny dog or a fat one. You could modify it just a little and make a lamb or a goat. You could do a small one if you only have a little sweater to work with, or you could make one taller than your one-year-old, without having to enlarge the pattern and cut it out and lay it on your fabric. There's no need.

I'm sorry there are no pictures of the process. Suzi saw a picture I'd taken of Ivey's dog and said she really wanted a dog like that! Looks like I'll be making another one, so I'll be sure to take pictures when I do and I'll come back and add them.

I hope this makes sense and helps someone. If you try this and find a mistake, please come back and tell me! And definitely tell me if it works :-)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What we're making for Christmas, part two

It's hard figuring out what to get for a kid who only knows a few words. I know Ivey loves food, and she enjoys playing with certain toys we already have. But what could we get her for Christmas? Or really, what could we make her, because there's only so much money we have to spend and Suzi's big gift was a lot more expensive than we'd counted on.

For a while now, Ivey has liked to pick up a doll or stuffed animal or something and smack sweet little kisses on the top of its head. In fact, she was doing it while I typed that sentence. I thought it might be fun to make Ivey a special stuffed animal, but I didn't know what. Those little monster dolls are cute but I couldn't come up with a design I liked. I just got more and more frustrated trying. I was tired of making owls. They are wonderful but they are also two-dimensional and they don't have arms to hug you, either.

I started to think the thing to make would be a dog. I had a sweater the right color, and I thought I could probably make it work. I started looking around for inspiration and found this on Etsy. Cute! Just the type of thing I wanted to make. It was going to have to be modified a lot though, obviously. This Martha Stewart lamb pattern helped me figure out how to do the nose. I drew off a little plan for how to make one out of a flat piece of wool, and then started cutting a sweater up.

I wish I had taken pictures of the process but I really didn't think it was going to end well. I had no idea what I was doing. I broke a sewing machine needle in the process, but after a lot of machine sewing and hand sewing, she turned out okay after all. I got the dog part finished and thought I might as well make her a little dress. I used vintage buttons for the eyes and nose. The green eyes came off a card that had "Aug 1950" stamped on the back. Thanks for the buttons, Mom!

And look! Just for Ivey--butt-butt! (That is how Ivey says "belly button," for those of you who missed my previous post on that. She loves to poke people's belly buttons.)

Carried away much? I just couldn't stop.

Anyway, Ivey's dog might not look much like a dog, and she's definitely not perfect. She's a bit of a stargazer and one leg's a little longer than the other and her smile is crooked. Like I said, I had no idea what I was doing, but I did learn a lot. I don't think I've ever had so much fun sewing anything. I had to make lots of little adjustments and cover up mistakes all along the way, but I never knew how she was going to end up looking, so there was nothing to be disappointed over. There was no pattern to make me feel like a failure. I kind of like her and I hope Ivey does too!

If you haven't ever made a stuffed animal, I'd highly recommend trying it, especially with a low-cost material such as reclaimed wool. Felted wool is a very forgiving fabric. It stretches a bit and sloppy stitches get lost in the fuzz.

Have you ever made your own stuffed animal? Was it all you hoped it'd be, a disaster, or in between?

Here is my first Christmas craft post, in case you missed it:

There is lots more to be made!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One $1 cashmere sweater, with a hole in the sleeve

Behold the pocket owl.

What is he good for? Absolutely nothing, other than looking cute and being soft, and fitting in someone's pocket. He will also fit nicely into my girls' stockings. Things like tiny fuzzball owls make them grin and squeal.

Also, finished my cashmere wrist warmers! Sorry there's not a decent picture. It turns out it's pretty hard to take pictures of arm warmers you yourself are wearing.

One $1 cashmere sweater from Goodwill. And there's still a bunch of it left.