March 2009

Monthly Archive

A little bunny for a little friend

Posted by on 26 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: animal crafts, friends, sewing

A little bunny for a little friend who was much sicker last week than any little person should ever have to be (or any mama should have to see), but is thankfully all better now:

Bunny

I used the now famous Wee Wonderfuls Bunny Pattern, but with Bitter Betty‘s modifications (moving the face to the back). It also took all my determination not to make the bunny out of solid-colored corduroy. I’m all about corduroy and plain colors. But I love how quilts look, and while I don’t trust my ability to choose coordinating fabrics, I made myself follow through. I honestly had to fight the urge to return to the corduroy even once I had cut all the pieces and sat down to my sewing machine.

And as midnight came and went (why do others use the term “whipping up” a few of these or “quick and easy?” Am I really that bad on the sewing machine? Yes, yes I think I am.), I began to panic that I am terrible at embroidering even, round eyes and that I’d ruin the fabric trying. And I didn’t want to use sew-on eyes for such a little person as the recipient. Being rather sleepy myself, it occurred to me that maybe a sleepy, wool and lentil-filled bunny was in order.

Bunny

I think he’s pretty cute, though I think I sewed the side-seams a little too far down, not leaving enough room for the bottom circle, which I then had to butcher a bit to make it fit. It’s a little wonky, but he still sits, so I’m calling him a somewhat reasonable success. Now I just have to make three more for my two little ones’ Easter baskets and one for a little cousin who will also be at Tony’s aunt’s house for Easter.

The End.

Bunny

Felt Mailboxes: The project that took forever

Posted by on 25 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: sewing, wool felt

I’ve been working on these little felt mailboxes for ages now, and had planned to finish them much earlier. I have visions of leaving little love notes to my littles for them to find in their mailboxes. I hope they’ll be as popular as I keep imagining… things rarely are!

Felt mailboxes

Felt mailboxes with doors open

I was sort of making it up as a I went along, and now looking at the finished project, I’m thinking they are a bit long… they could stand to be a house shorter, or maybe even half the length they are now. And the felt on the inside is a bit loose because of some spatial-relation deficits on my part, but otherwise, I’m pretty pleased.

Felt mailboxes

I think if I made them again, I’d just glue on the countless little, itty, bitty, teeny, tiny windows and doors rather than blanket-stitch them all. Really, what was I thinking? So now, I definitely should be back here more often. No more marathon projects for a while… I need to do some Easter crafting and a few other little things. But for now, I’ll enjoy the finished mailboxes (and the freedom their completion gives me to FINALLY move on to the next project).

Felt mailbox

Spring Nature Table

Posted by on 20 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: nature table, spring

So, I got caught a little bit off guard. I thought seasons always began on the 21st — but no, apparently not. Mia insisted spring was going to start today (the all-knowing preschool had told her so), but I said no, tomorrow. But then my own knowledge authority, the all-knowing NPR confirmed that today was indeed the first day of spring.

Had I gathered flowering tree branches for our spring tree? No. Had I made any spring nature table crafts? No. Had I scrounged together spring-themed books for the nature table? No. And worst of all, I hadn’t finished their little spring gifts. Little in size, not in time commitment. It’s the fault of those little gifts that I’ve been so absent lately because they are taking a lot longer to make than I thought. I imagine it also has a little something to do with kids staying up later due to daylight savings time (what about mama’s crafting time?), and the fact that we have a few other little projects we’re working on right now (Tony’s tearing up the old, peel-n-stick vinyl tile out of the front hall at this very moment)… but whatever the exact cause, I’m not finished, though very, very, close!

So, instead of scavenging the neighborhood for flowering trees, I bought some peach branches and pussywillows for our table. And instead of covering the nature table in spring crafts, I had to pull out some of my childhood German flower children figurines (they are so very beautiful, I’m glad I was reminded of them out of desperation). A little green roving in the tree branches to replace the white (some tears from Mia that it wasn’t pink roving), parts of the winter nature table that could be used for spring as well, some green mummy cloth to replace the white, and voilà, the beginnings of a spring nature table.
Spring nature table tree
Spring nature table scene

Spring nature table scene

Spring nature table scene

Spring nature table

I plan to add some craftiness to it as spring progresses and once I finally finish these not-at-all-spring-themed spring gifts for the littles! I’ll be back here more regularly now!

A tribute to our sweet man

Posted by on 20 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years. Well, two years ago yesterday. The hardest day of our lives. We lost our sweet, sweet boy, our one-in-a-million, our fellow adventurer, our pink-bellied charmer. Only eight years old. We all fought the cancer as hard as we could. Maybe longer than we should have, before we took him for that last ice cream cone and held him as tightly as we could in our arms as he took his last deep breath. He’d been with us almost as long as we had been with each other, and we weren’t sure how to be without him. Life has gone on, life has still been good to us, but we lost a certain innocence, the sense that we lived a charmed life. And yet we know how lucky we were to have had him; to have gotten to share his life when everyone who met him loved and adored him. We got to know him best, he slept in our bed every night, he went with us to Berlin, he was our boy. Oh, how we still miss him.

Bogie on the Rhine fall 1999

thebogeinthecanoe

thebogeandmiasnuggle

thebogeruns

I’ve been writing his story, and I thought I’d share a little bit of it, of our beginning with him. Here’s the bit where we first see him at the animal shelter, and how quickly we fall in love with him:

Technically, he had white fur, but it was so short, and his belly so bare, that he looked more pink than anything. He was overjoyed to see us, as though he’d been waiting just for that moment when our eyes met his. His whole body wagged and wobbled with pleasure, his green eyes blurred with motion, his red watercolor nose, its color spilling onto his surrounding skin, pushed towards us. His ears stood out from his head at odd and delightful angles, one straight, one flopping over at the tip. We put the camera aside — he’d be too hard to photograph right now anyway — and instead, we gave in to his affection. He licked our faces, nibbled our ears, climbed in our laps. As we laughed and hugged and petted him, we noticed he was slowly starting to swell. His face looked even pinker than before, and lumps were appearing under his thin white fur, covering his body. Tony stayed with him while I ran for help. The shelter staff had seen this sort of thing before — he was having an anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine he’d just received, and he needed an antihistamine shot immediately. One of the staff members grabbed him, put him in her car, and headed for the vet’s office.

We had to leave before the staff member returned with him, but we couldn’t stop thinking about that sweet, pink boy. The shelter staff had named him Petey, after the Little Rascals’ pit bull, but the name didn’t seem quite right to us. Not that it mattered. After all, we were leaving for our junior year abroad in Germany in less than a month, and we certainly weren’t about to adopt a dog. Nevertheless, the next day found us back at the shelter to check on the patient. He greeted us just as happily, though he was maybe not quite as pink as he had been the day before. We spent a disproportionate amount of time visiting this happy boy. While we normally made it to the shelter once or twice a week, we were finding ourselves there daily.

It was exam time, so we would lug our books the three miles to the shelter, and spread out a blanket in the grass to study with Petey. He would sprawl happily beside us on his belly, legs stuck out straight behind him, snoring contentedly. Days turned into weeks, and the end of the school year approached, bringing closer our departure date for Germany. Our days with Petey began to be shadowed in sadness, until one day we decided we just couldn’t leave him. Another volunteer declared herself willing to keep him at her house for a month while we traveled and then found an apartment in Berlin. Dan volunteered to pick him up at the volunteer’s house and drive him to the airport. Our parents declared us insane — or rather, Tony’s parents did — my mom was so horrified, she hung up on me for the first and only time in my life when I told her we were adopting a pit bull and taking him to Germany. We saw the complications and difficulties multiplying, but we didn’t care. We were elated, we were happy, we were in love. Now that he was ours, we could find the right name for him, too, and we chose Bogart, though he quickly became known as Bogie, or Bogieman, the Boge, the Man, the love of our lives.

Mia’s Garden Plan for 2009

Posted by on 12 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me, gardening, kids' crafts, local food, spring

Normally by this time of year, we have our garden all planned out, our seeds ordered and some even planted. But last year was an abysmal year for our little garden and it has sapped a bit of our motivation. Oh, we’re still going to try, but we’re missing the usual get out in the dirt right this second bug that’s usually bitten us by now.

Mia, on the other hand, is ready for spring. On the way to preschool one very warm morning this week, she said, her little voice almost trembling, “The birds are making my heart beat faster because their song is so beautiful.” I love that kid.

And this weekend, in the 80 degree weather, she went outside to inspect her beloved strawberry plants that every year take over more and more of our garden. We never have the heart to stop them. Who can destroy a strawberry plant? Not us. Especially not after getting a taste of one of these sweet, sweet berries.

But back to Mia. She came inside, drew a garden plan and composed a song, which Tony wrote out for her. She also added butterflies, drawn from the letter “B” just like Fancy Nancydoes, though inexplicably she left out two of her favorite veggies — Snugger Shnap Peas and Tomatoes! Still, I think it’s pretty perfect:

Mia's Garden Plan for 2009

Little woodland fairy box tutorial

Posted by on 11 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: autumn, kids' crafts, tutorial, wooden toys

Well, our sunny, warm weather is starting to turn cool again. Just as we’ve been spoiled with a taste of spring, almost summer, really, we’re back to expecting a wintry mix on Friday. I wouldn’t mind if it were real snow again, but I guess I can’t expect another one of those any time in the next decade. Instead, it will be just yucky enough to keep us inside. Sounds like time for a little crafting.

Here’s the little box I made for our little friend’s fairies — it’s so easy, a child could easily make it, as long as an adult handled the hot glue gun!

Fairy box with mushroom chairs and table

Supplies:

1 large wooden spool
1 wooden circle to serve as tabletop
3 small wooden spools
3 small wooden circles for the seats
small wooden box
acrylic paints in cream, white, red, browns and greens
paintbrushes
hot glue gun

Step 1:
Paint the spools a cream color, and the circles red (you may need a couple of coats of red for good coverage). Once the tops are dry enough, paint little white dots in varying sizes on the red. Paint it on rather thickly, though you may still need two coats to hide the red.

Painted mushroom chair and table parts

While they dry, blend two or more shades of green together, not mixing so they are uniform, just enough so you’ll get some of each color on your paintbrush with each stroke. Paint the top of the box green.

I used a dark brown to paint the bottom of the box, using a thin enough coat that the grain of the wood still showed through a bit. Alternately, you could go back through with a lighter shade of brown to add some details such as knots or shadings in the bark.

Painted fairy box

Step 2:
Once the pieces have dried, hot glue the tops of the seats and table to their corresponding spools. Place them onto the top of the wooden box, spacing them as you would like, but making sure the fairies would have enough room to balance on the stools without the table getting in the way. Hot glue the table and stools into place.

Step 3:
I rubbed some natural beeswax polish onto the chairs and table for a little added durability.

Applying beeswax varnish to painted surfaces

You’re done! Well, almost. Be sure to make some sweet little fairies and add a nice little scrap of fabric for them in their little woodland home bed!

Fairies in their box

Fairies on their chairs

The Three Little Fairies Tutorial

Posted by on 07 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: friends, tutorial, wooden toys, wool felt

Our little friend Meredith turned three yesterday, and I thought she should have a little fairy for each of her years. I (well, mostly Tony) followed along with the camera so that you can make some little fairies of your own if you like.

Supplies:

little boy wooden peg shapes
acrylic paint
fine paint brushes
drill with very small drill bit (Tony used 1/16″, but I had skinny 3mm pipe cleaners, so you might need a larger one for larger ones)
pipe cleaners
felt in assorted colors
embroidery floss to match the felt
fairy pattern
beeswax polish

Step 1:

First, I took three little peg dolls — these are the little ones, called boy peg dolls. I painted their heads in a peachy color using about three coats of acrylic paint.

When they dried (I didn’t wait very long at all), I painted on their hair, parting it in the middle and sweeping it out and then down to frame the face. I very carefully dotted on the eyes, and carefully drew a little mouth with a very fine brush.  I really need a finer brush and found myself having to paint over and redo the mouths a couple of times — don’t be afraid to make a mistake, it’s fixable with a little more peachy paint.  Then I mixed a little pink with the peach of the skin and added a hint of pink cheeks just below the eyes.

I was inspired by these clothespin dolls at Posie Gets Cozy, but wanted something a little smaller and simpler to start (though I’m definitely planning to try some clothespin dolls before long!)

Here are Meredith’s three girls in production:

Fairy faces

I realized only after I had finished them that I’d forgotten the little hair bows, so I painted those on at the end. It’s a much better idea to do all the painting BEFORE dressing them — all went well this time, but it would be sad after all that effort, to have to start over on an outfit.

Then, as Lucas slept on my lap, Tony took the dolls and drilled small holes through at shoulder height. They should be just large enough to fit a pipe cleaner through the hole, but preferably no larger than that! Here are the rather creepy pictures he took of this step:

Drilling the fairy arm holes

Fairies with arm holes

Step 3:

I fed the pipe cleaners through the dolls so that 2 inches extended on either side. I bent them to find the middle and then wrapped the pipe cleaners using the technique I learned from Felt Wee Folk. Basically, you just tie the floss onto one part of the pipe cleaner, wrap down around the bend of the pipe cleaner that will be the hand (be sure to cover all the fuzzies!). Then, just above the hand, pinch the two pipe cleaners together and wrap the rest of the way up the arm, tying the floss off at the top. Repeat on the other side.

Fairy pipe cleaner arms

Wrapping the fairy arms

Wrapping the fairy arms

Wrapped fairy arm

Step 4:
Print and cut out the fairy pattern for the fairy dress and wings. Cut fairy dress and wings out of felt, making sure to make the neckline no bigger than it is drawn in the pattern, maybe even a little smaller.

Felt fairy clothes and wings

Step 5:
Pull the dress over the fairy’s head and position the wings in the center back, high enough that the wings don’t extend too far below the base of the fairy. Use a double strand of floss to do a chain link stitch to sew the wings onto the dress (you can take the dress back off of the fairy for this step).

Basically, pull your thread up through the fabric, then put the needle back through the same hole (or near it). Before you pull all of the thread back through, push the needle back up through the fabric where you want your next stitch to go, but pull the needle through the loop of the thread that you have remaining from your first stitch. Does that make any sense? Then you repeat it again — putting the needle back through where you just emerged, but not pulling the thread all the way through, instead leaving a loop through which you push the needle when you make your next stitch. Here’s what it should look like:

Sewing on the fairy wings

Completed fairy wings

Step 6:

If you wish, you can add a little embellishment to the front of the dress (such as the hearts on Mia’s Valentine fairies), but I think they are pretty cute plain, too.

Using a single strand of floss, blanketstitch to sew up the seams along the lower arms and sides of the dress, but also to finish the sleeves, bottom and neckline of the dress. A great blanketstitch tutorial can be found here.

All three fairies

All three fairies

Step 7:
For a little added durability (and sheen), I rubbed the painted faces of the fairies with a little beeswax polish

Applying beeswax varnish to painted surfaces

I finished up our gift for Meredith with a little woodland box home for the fairies. But I’ll be back tomorrow or the next day to share a little tutorial for that!

Fairies in their box

Fairy box with mushroom chairs and table

Enjoy!

An update filled with excuses followed by some real craftiness

Posted by on 07 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: about me, family, winter

Well, it’s been ridiculously long since I last posted. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. My grandmother has had to move out of her home, and all five grandchildren came from near and far to help empty her house. We found incredible treasures in that home — childhood pictures of my dad we never knew existed, decades and decades of my grandfather’s journals, the receipt to the Plymouth Coupe he purchased in 1938, and beautiful paintings and other creations my grandmother made.

I came home with a wonderful St. Francis of Assisi statue my grandmother had made, which is just perfection — my grandmother’s craftiness gene and the patron saint of animals. Can’t get any more Emily than that. Speaking of which, I also found this treasure, which I like to call “Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist:” (click for a larger view)

Confessions of a 4th Grade Socialist

I do have to cringe at the dog breeding part. Someone told me in second grade that animal control officers picked up animals and killed them, even puppies, and it wasn’t until middle school that I really understood what happened in shelters. And now sheltering is such a core part of my identity that, well, I’m a little embarrassed by my fourth grade self.

And then, there was the huge snowstorm that dropped more snow on Richmond (I think about 10 inches) than we’ve seen since we moved here in 2002. FINALLY, the snow I’d been waiting for, with real sledding that didn’t expose grass after one run, real snowman building, real snow angels. It was amazing. We went sledding in the park and it was packed with people. Craftiness and innovation surrounded us as people sledded on beach boogie boards, wearing plastic bags over their shoes, cobbling together warm outfits out of an assortment of forgotten articles of clothing. We Richmonders may not have been ready for the snow, but we were sure going to enjoy every second of it. And while the sheer joy of it has us contemplating moving to colder climes just as those living in colder climes are considering relocation to Florida, mostly it just reminded us what a magical effect snow, especially unexpected snow, has on people. Strangers smiling at each other, giving each other a hand after a crash at the bottom of a hill, exclaiming over the beauty of it all.

That was Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday, I drove to my parents’ house, where I spent two days with them and Big Sister before coming home to a lonely and sick husband. And then today (Saturday), was 80 degrees! Sledding on Tuesday and getting sunburnt at the kite festival today! What a crazy week!  I’m going to go ahead and post some craftiness, but will be back in the next couple of days to share some pictures of these weather flukes, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed.