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




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


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
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.


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


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.

Feeling good when you’re feeling sick

Posted by on 25 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: about me

We had been healthy ALL winter up until a month ago. Since then, one or another of us (mostly Tony) has been sick. I have this bad cold that I caught from the little ones, though luckily not their accompanying fever, and being a mama and therefore ineligible for sick days, I was feeling a little worn thin. Well, tonight, my sweet (and also sick) husband volunteered to take the kids after dinner and what did I do? I crawled into bed and read a book. It was luxurious!

I have always been a huge reader, devouring book after book, but I have to admit, I’ve read hardly anything in the last several years since Mia was born. I am deeply ashamed of this, and I’m turning it around. Reading tonight was so wonderful. So much better than being on the computer, finally writing those overdue thank you cards or doing dishes. It was just what I needed. Of course, the fact that I am reading Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World isn’t helping my stuffy nose much, what with starting to cry at the dedication and continuing right on through to page 107, where I stopped for the night. But it felt great! I feel recharged and what’s more, reminded of why I should read every chance I get.

And then I did get on the computer, and went to SouleMama, where I not only saw the cutest, twinkle-eyed little man in a beautiful knitted vest, but also discovered this beautiful YouTube video.

I may be making only halting progress on my own project, but my evening was filled with beauty and art all the same. I hope yours was, too.

Mia’s Valentine Fairy Gourd House

Posted by on 24 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: tutorial, Valentine's Day, wooden toys

Whew, so I’ve been gone a while! We’ve been sick at our house (I’m just getting it, so I figured I’d better post before I’m out of commission. I also thought, I’d better paint the front hall and clean the house. Front hall is painted. House is not so clean.). This is really the first time we’ve had more than a cold since Mia started preschool in September, so I guess we should count ourselves lucky, even if we’re not feeling so lucky at the moment.

But you’re not here to listen to me whine. Here’s Mia’s fairy gourd house:


She really does seem to love it (which is unfortunately rare for many of my creations — not that it stops me)! And the Mitten animals also took up residence in it right away. Lucas obviously made the connection between the book and the mitten full of critters (by pointing from one to the other and grunting — his typical mode of communication), but found them a bit creepy. He’ll look at them, but won’t touch them. Luckily, his sister is getting some enjoyment out of them:


I got the idea and initial instructions from this great tutorial over at Bitter Betty Blogs. I’d been planning on making one of these since I first saw it in September, but time and other projects sort of slipped up on me. I borrowed a fancy Dremel tool from Lynn (thanks, Lynn!), and spent one night carving gourds by our front door light. It was messy, especially scraping the inside. And I had a hard time getting the curves to look anywhere as clean as Betty’s, but they were okay.

Then, I let them sit around. For months. Until Mia and Lucas discovered them and immediately turned them into playthings. It wasn’t long before one was shattered. I realized I’d have to make the finished one a little more sturdy. So I made up a trusty old flour/water/salt mixture and put one layer of Papier-mâché on the gourd. This had the added bonus of hiding my somewhat jagged edges that sanding had not managed to soften much. I let it dry for about a day and a half (half of it hanging in the wind outside because it was drying so slowly inside) and then painted it inside and out:


I then found a piece of wood about a foot square in the laundry room. I’m not sure of it’s source, just that it was real wood, not plywood. I sanded the edges a little, and then painted it green:


Then I used the brush to sort of sponge some darker green on it to give some texture and depth and a more grass-like feel:


I gathered some little wooden hearts, four small wooden spools and one bigger spool, and a wooden disk for the table top. I painted the hearts pink, saving four for little fairy stools. With a hot glue gun, I added one heart above the doorway and laid a little heart path up to the front door of the gourd. I also added fake rose petal curtains to the windows:


I then painted the large wooden disk to be the table top, the large wooden spool as the table base, and each of the smaller four spools to be the fairy chairs, matching them in color to the outfits of the fairies:


I secured them all with hot glue when I realized how easily they tipped with a fairy on them, wanting to avoid the inevitable frustration of falling dinner guests. I had also hot-glued the gourd onto the base, but it has since come off, peeling some of the paint off the bottom of the gourd in the process. So I’m going to have to figure out another (pretty non-toxic/child-safe) way to attach it. I’m not sure I could get a drill in there to screw it to the wood, and I also worry about splitting the gourd, but I may try it if I can’t think of anything else. Any suggestions?

For now, here’s a shot of the sweet little fairies, sitting at their table:


I’m working on another bigger project, though I have to admit I’ve been delayed a bit, first by sickness, and then by Mia’s proud announcement that she had cut out a bunch of little houses today. A bunch of little houses out of the only-piece-of-that-color-I-have wool felt that I had already cut to size. I think it may all be her father’s fault. He’s the one who suggested at lunch that she needed her own craft blog since she’s been so crafty lately. And I do love to see the creative urge rubbing off on my little one! I’ll hopefully be back in a couple of days with something new! Thanks for reading and happy crafting!

My new Mei Tai!

Posted by on 17 Feb 2009 | Tagged as: babywearing, family, sewing

I’ve wanted a Mei Tai for years, since my oldest was a baby. But I have a beautiful, beautiful Didymos wrap and felt like I couldn’t justify another one. The Didymos is beautiful, but it’s not the most practical — tons of fabric and no stretch. Mei Tais just seemed so perfect. And expensive.

But then I found this tutorial and decided to try it. I’m terrible at machine sewing. Really terrible. But the tutorial was so clear that I managed it! The stitches may be a little wonky, but I’m thrilled with it. I’ll have to practice getting Lucas in and out by myself, especially in a back carry, but it feels great.

Scandi Mei Tai

Scandi Mei Tai

Scandi Mei Tai

I especially love the snuggly front carry.

Scandi Mei Tai

I had originally picked out some really cool fabric, but then the lady at the fabric store mentioned, as she was cutting it, that she had made herself a blouse from it, and after that, all I could see was blouse. So instead I used two non-coordinating fabrics and made it reversible.

I love my fall leafy print, but it did seem a little seasonal, so I went with a cool batik for the other side.

Scandi Mei Tai

Scandi Mei Tai

Somehow, the kids let me work on it all day (I cut out the pattern and the straps last night), though Lucas was pretty clingy by the end of the day. He was happy to discover my project was designed for snuggling.

I have Mia’s finished Valentine’s Day present to post, but I’ll save that for tomorrow. I have a sleeping babe in arms, and Tony just carried a feverish, sleeping Mia upstairs to her bed. Looks like she’ll have her first sick day from preschool tomorrow. Pretty impressive, really, but I feel like I jinxed it by announcing this weekend that she hadn’t missed a single day of preschool due to illness since she started in September. Oh well, a snuggly, rainy sick day for us tomorrow! Poor girl!

« Prev - Next »