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craft

A New Project on the Needles

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in knitting | 10 comments

Work in Progress

It occurred to me that I’ve been knitting so much lately that I should start posting some photos. In fact, doing a Work In Progress Wednesday might even inspire me to knit more because I fear your judgement get to show off what I’ve been working on (my kids aren’t remotely impressed).

And really? I can use all the motivation I can get, given that I’ve entered the black hole of knitting. Knitters of course know the black hole well – where the laws of physics no longer apply and you knit for days but your sweater doesn’t get any longer. Do you know why shrugs and boleros were invented? Because some poor knitter knit and knit and knit and knit and her sweater never got any longer, and eventually she ran out of her exquisitely beautiful hand-dyed yarn and decided that the cropped sweater would just have to be a thing. Luckily for her, fashion loves all sorts of odd-ball looks (denim overalls of the 90s, I’m looking at you) and now the cropped sweater is here to stay. Knitters everywhere rejoice.

So my current work in progress: I originally planned to do a pullover when I bought this yarn, but then I got pregnant and realized that another couple of years of breastfeeding would make a pullover impractical. The project got ripped out and started again, this time as a nursing-friendly cardigan.

Lady Sunnyside Cardigan

I’m using the Lady Sunnyside pattern on Raverly by Tanis Lavallee. I changed it slightly by doing a garter stitch on the shoulders instead of a cable because I like things pretty simple. I think I’m happy with my decision, though I’m a bit nervous about the yarn that I chose. In a lot of lights it’s actually quite pale and I’m afraid it washes me out. I’ve never cared about that before, so hopefully it’s not something I’ll dwell on once my sweater is actually done.

I mean, what are the chances of me finishing anyway?

Ha. Not funny.

In fact, to quell any rumours that I never finish anything, I’d like to present some photos of the longies that I finished weaving the ends into yesterday. Tonight they will be given a dose of lanolin, which magically will turn them from cute little baby pants to amazing leak-proof cloth diaper covers.

Second set of Knitted Cloth Diaper Pants/Longies
First set of Knitted Cloth Diaper Pants/Longies
Third set of Knitted Cloth Diaper Pants/Longies

I used the For the Little Ones pattern on Raverly by Allison Lawler. Of all the cloth diaper covers I’ve knit, I think this is my favourite pattern. It’s easy to get the hang of – after doing one pair, I had the pattern virtually memorized, making it the perfect take along project for the park or the library. I’m working on a fourth pair right not, but to be honest, I need a break from longies.

Which is why I started the sweater. I wish I had just done a hat.

Anyway, by next week I hope to have made more progress on my sweater. Or bolero. We’ll see how I’m feeling after seven more days of the black hole.

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Will My Baby Boy Wear Pink?

Posted by on May 31, 2014 in knitting, motherhood, organization, sewing | 0 comments

Our living room has been buried under piles and piles and PILES of clothing all week long. Seriously, it looks like Thing One and Thing Two ditched the Cat in the Hat and took over my house instead. Except that in this version of the story, my kids and some random talking goldfish actually encouraged the chaos instead of trying to contain it.

It all started earlier this week when I realized that I have four months left in my pregnancy and I’d probably need to start gathering clothes. So on Monday morning, I started pulling all the bins of clothing up from the laundry room and dumped them on the couch. Then, basket by basket, I brought them back down to the laundry room  to be washed and dried. In retrospect, I probably could have skipped a step there.

Since I was in a sorting mode, I pulled out half the clothes from the girls’ dressers and closets as well. Six years of clothing, all on my living room floor.

Now, when it comes to dealing with children’s clothes, I follow the sorting method described on The Happiest Home. I store ALL the spring/summer and fall/winter clothes together, regardless of size. I used to try to be more organized. I had a bin for 0-3 month clothes and a bin for 3-6 month clothes and a bin for 6-9 month clothes and a bin for 9-12 month clothes. I had a bin for 12 month clothes and a bin for 24 month clothes and a bin for 36 month clothes. And I had no floor space in my laundry room whatsoever. Just bins.

But of course, Murphy’s Law would kick in and things would get lost. Item’s would get stashed in the wrong bin and were as good as gone. Or labels fell off the bins and the clothes weren’t discovered until halfway through a season. Or clothes were put away because they were the “wrong” size – even though they fit perfectly well – and replaced by clothes that could have stayed in storage for another year.

When I read the post last year on The Happiest Home, I realized it could all be much easier. Each season, I go through all the clothes that we own and I pick out the season-appropriate ones that will fit each of the two girls. Clothes that are too small or too big or too warm or too cold or too polyester (fabric snob alert) go back in the bins to be sorted again in the next season. In this way, I don’t miss anything and I make sure that the closets aren’t filled with clothes that don’t actually fit properly. While I sort, I remove any clothes that the Pixie has outgrown and I either donate it to a thrift store or move it to a small bin of my absolute favourites, kept for a hypothetical third baby.

And now that baby is far less hypothetical! There’s just one problem: he probably doesn’t want to wear the beautiful plaid dress that the Princess wore for her 6 month pictures. And he probably won’t like the handmade dresses and skirts that I lovingly sewed. And he probably doesn’t want his 1st birthday picture taken in the same outfit that both his sisters (unintentionally) wore.

A lot of clothes had to go.

Seven Boxes of Clothing

I started sorting into seven boxes. Everyone in my house was under strict instructions to NOT. TOUCH. ANYTHING. The Pixie promptly took that as a personal challenge, but I foiled her mischievous plans by turning on Blue’s Clues.

My seven boxes were as follows:

1. Box one was for clothes that were in pristine condition. This box was taken up to a local children’s thrift store and almost completely rejected. We were offered $6.25, which is probably less than we paid in laundry soap.

2. Box two was for clothes that were still nice but not perfect – maybe they were a little worn or had a small spot. These clothes are destined for a donation bin at a local charity.

3. Box three was for clothes that my friend may like for her coming baby.

4. Box four was for clothes that are sentimental items – little dresses and hand knit sweaters that I will insist that my grandchildren wear, regardless of how out of style they are by then. Will cotton even still exist in 20 years?

5. Box five is the garbage can. Anything stained got thrown out.

6. Box six was for clothes that will fit the Princess of the Pixie in the fall or in years to come.

7. Box seven was for clothes that can be used for our little boy.

It’s a surprisingly small box.

When the Princess was born, I had visions of beautiful, handmade clothes made in simple fabrics – unpatterned linens and cottons accented by cute prints. Lots of neutral colours. But the pink came anyway, and as the Princess got older, she embraced the colour and the ruffles and the glitter. When the Pixie came along, I admitted defeat and just used the clothes that we already had. And now I have almost nothing that will suit a boy.

What do boys wear anyway? When I look through the stores, I see mostly blues, greys and browns. Almost all of the shirts have trucks or sharks or dinosaurs on them – the world must know that our baby boys are tough, I guess.

It bugs me that gender-training begins from birth. My baby boy can wear whatever I want him to! Yet as I sorted through the clothing, I found myself passing up anything with a hint of pink on it. While I cheer for older boys with the courage to wear pink to school, I find it somehow different to be putting my boy in pink as a baby. Clearly I am not as liberated as I thought I was.

I was even more surprised to discover that my husband couldn’t seem to care less. The aqua striped shirt with two pink birds on it? “Keep it”, he said. The yellow sweater with the big pink kitten on the front? “Yeah, why not?” he asked. I really thought I was more open-minded than this. I at least though I was more open-minded than my husband.

Huh.

I’m slowly coming around though. It took me a while but I’ve realized that girl’s clothing is fun – they get ruffles on their bums and puckered princess sleeves. They get lace accents and lots of gathers. Maybe boy clothes are boring in comparison, but that’s okay too. My little baby will get the beautiful, simply styled clothes that I had originally envisioned for my girls. Handmade linen pants with knee patches in fun, colourful prints and hand knit sweaters made with variegated yarns. My boy will have a rainbow. He will wear blue because there are so many beautiful shades of blue. But he will also wear reds, oranges, greens, purples, and yellows. And he will have splashes of pink.

Which means I better get the sewing machine back out.



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First Knitted Piece for Baby!

Posted by on May 14, 2014 in homeschool, knitting, motherhood | 0 comments

Want to know a great thing about homeschooling? Something that no book ever mentions, no website ever hints at?

You get to knit. A lot.

Crazy, right? You think that knitting would be right there at the top of the “Reasons to Homeschool”, along with enhanced socialization and personalized education plans, yet for some reason, knitting never makes the list.

Think about it though – you spend a ton of time just sitting while your child learns. Read out loud time? Work on a skirt. Practicing math equations? Start the second sock. Acting out the 17th play of the day? Start a sweater for yourself – believe me, you aren’t going anywhere. There is SO much time for knitting! And this doesn’t even include phys ed – which in on our house means mommy sits quietly on the bench while the kids test the laws of gravity in the park playground. ALL this is time you can spend knitting. And if you pick the right curriculum, you’ll be knitting WITH your child as part of their lessons. I know, it’s awesome.

For the past couple months, I’ve been making good progress on some old projects. Here’s the shawl again that I finished last month:

Follow Your Arrow Shawl

I’m also nearly finished a cotton skirt that I started last year. I’m not sure yet if I should make the top to fit my pregnant belly or hold off until after the baby is born and have it fit properly. I’ll probably just add a drawstring so it fits either way.

I’ve also discovered a sock that I started ages ago. Now that I’ve turned the heel, it’s a great mindless piece that I can take pretty much anywhere.

But the best thing I’ve done this week is finish a sweater for our new baby … boy!

Gift Wrap Sweater

This is the Gift Wrap sweater by Carina Spencer. I did it in the size 3months in hopes that it would last a touch longer. It is delightfully easy to knit and super quick – I started it less than two weeks ago and I haven’t been working on it exclusively at all. My knitting friends probably noticed immediately that the buttons aren’t attached (I don’t care, I still consider the sweater done!) – I just haven’t decided 100% on them. I can’t wait to start a second sweater, this time in the yarn that I used for the trim.

Thank goodness we have a lot of math to catch up on today! :)

Have you come across any great patterns lately? Send me a link!

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Sewing My Own Maternity Shirt

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in home life, motherhood, sewing | 0 comments

A few months ago, I took the Pixie with me to the mall. She looked around with wide-eyed wonder at the stores and the lights and the displays and the people and asked me THREE different times, “What is this place???”

We learned two things that day: 1) that I don’t take the Pixie to the mall very often and 2) that she has the memory span of a fish.

There’s good reason that I don’t take my kids to the mall – they don’t make it a fun place to be. I remember shopping at Limeridge Mall with The Princess when she was two – while I was trying on clothes, she climbed under the change room door, ran out the store, and made it half way across the mall in 10 seconds flat. Thank goodness I had on both pants and a shirt as I tore out of the store after her, price tags flapping in the wind behind me and socks skidding on the shiny floors.

Honestly though, even if I had any control over my kids, I still wouldn’t go there often. I just don’t like shopping at the mall. Or shopping for clothes in general. I don’t like most of what’s available and when I do find something I like, I find it suits the hanger better than my body. Seriously, I’ve had two kids – no one wants to see my midriff. And I’ve discovered a new problem in the last few years: nothing lasts!

My t-shirts look worn out after a few washes. My sweaters pill up almost immediately. In fact, that’s the reason the Pixie and I were at the mall. I was returning some clothing that I purchased online, including a $60 knit sweater that had pilled horribly after wearing it just three times – I had never even washed it! To the store’s credit, they took it back. But really, can’t I expect something to at least last a season? Because when I buy something, I expect it to last years.

Every season that goes by further convinces me that if I want something I like, I will have to make it myself. And this was going to be the year that I started my total DIY wardrobe. Except then I found out I was pregnant, and making maternity clothing isn’t quite what I had in mind. It seems like an awful lot of effort, doesn’t it? I mean, as much as I hate the idea of being done with clothes in half a year, that’s kind of the point of maternity clothing, right? So I put my sewing plans on hold and started hitting my favourite maternity clothing stores.

But you know what? Maternity stores are just as bad as everywhere else. The shirts are flimsy and see-through and look like they’d fall apart after a few washes. And while the clingy styles probably would have looked cute during my first pregnancy, I have no desire to wear them now with my third.

Next week I’ll be 20 weeks pregnant and my wardrobe is painfully sparse. In an act of desperation, I hit a few stores on Saturday looking for a nice shirt to wear to Easter dinner and after a day of unsuccessful browsing, I decided that I’d just have to sew something myself, despite my rusty sewing skills.

When I got home, I Googled the Wiksten Tova (get pattern here), a shirt that I made last summer and that I thought could work well for pregnancy. I found some extremely simple instructions for a maternity variation – so simple that even I could manage. It was a go.

I pulled out some fabric from the basement and spent an hour or two each day working on the shirt when I had time. On Sunday, the Princess and I assembled the pattern and cut out the fabric. On Monday, I made the placket and sewed it to the front of the shirt. On Tuesday I sewed the front and back together and hemmed the bottom. On Wednesday I realized that I had never before sewn sleeves in a shirt before, but I chose to ignore that fact and managed to sew them in without too much trouble. I finished the collar at about 11pm. Done.

Sew Your Own Maternity Shirt

Honestly, I’m so pleased with how it turned out. And it fits over my 19 week belly just fine and I can’t wait to make more. Except there’s that nagging question – how long is this pretty shirt going to fit? My thought  was that it would be fine until about 30 weeks and then I’d pack it away to wear again post-partum. Well, that was my hope at least. But I don’t really want to sew too many of these tunics if they won’t even last me another month, know what I mean? If only I could remember exactly how big I got last time….

…well, hello there, belly cast.

Belly Cast by Love Bump Baby

Hanging on my office wall, I have a belly cast that was done by my friend Karen from Love Bump Baby when I was pregnant with the Pixie. An exact replica of my shape at 37 weeks. Bwahahaha. Perfect. My husband looked at me like I lost my mind as I hauled the cast off the wall and shoved a camera at him. He clearly doesn’t understand the lengths a crafter will go to for good results.

9-months

Look at me! I’m suddenly nine months pregnant! And the shirt still fits! So I’m looking forward to another weekend of sewing. The next shirt will be essentially the same but a touch longer, and any future ones will likely be sleeveless like the one I made last year.

And hey, because I’m in bragging mode, here’s the knitted shawl I finished last week.

shawl
Pregnant or not, my DIY wardrobe is off to a very small but very pretty start. :)

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Tutorial: Easy Last-Minute Fairy Wings

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in children's toys, craft | 7 comments

Yesterday was Magic and Mischief weekend at the Royal Botanical Gardens – an event we look forward to ALL YEAR LONG. So you would think, with 52 weeks to prepare since last year’s event, that I would have thought, just maybe, to get proper wings for the girls in advance.

Crud.

Well in my defence, we did have one pair – but they made a flight up to my mother’s house on Saturday and forgot to return home. Nope, I was left with two wingless fairies on my hands.

I wanted to get some gorgeous silk wings from Citizen Kid here in Hamilton. But when I casually mentioned them to my husband, he casually mentioned the garage door that broke last week. And the iPhone that I shattered on the weekend. Not exactly the best week to be buying fancy costumes.

So, with a mopey face better suited to a six year than an adult, I sat down at my computer to look at the pretty wings once more. And then – an epiphany! I realized that the wings were pretty simple. And that I can could make some myself from playsilks that we already have.

It took all of 45 seconds to make a pair of wings for The Princess. And they were SO CUTE!

What are playsilks? They are  colourfully-dyed  pieces of silk that children can play with.  Most of our playsilks come from Sarah’s Silks at Citizen Kid or from Beneath the Rowan Tree - this is an amazing site to check out. The site even has a Playsilk Shopping Guide if you’re interested in learning more. My girls use them as super hero capes, doll blankets, wrapping paper for pretend birthday parties, fancy head scarves, snowy scenery for the train set, and “water” for their stuffed animals in need of a bath. They can be used for pretty much anything. Including last minute fairy wings.

Playsilks

The Oh-Shoot-I-Need-That-Yesterday Guide to Super-Easy, Last-Minute Fairy Wings

Things You Will Need

  • One large square piece of silk or other gauzy, light fabric – 35″ x 35″
  • One small square piece of silk or other gauzy, light fabric – 10″ x 10″
  • One long piece of ribbon – approximately 50″ inches long
  • Two short pieces of ribbon – approximately 20″ inches long

1. On the small square, tie two corners together in a double knot.

first-knot

2. Pull the large square half way through the hole on the small square and spread the fabric out. Feel free to close your eyes and dance dreamily in the wind during this step. Or not.

looks-like-wings

3. Tie a loose knot in the top two corners of the large square.

second-knots

4. Thread a small ribbon through each of the two knots, then tighten the knots so that they will not slip out. These are the ribbons that you will tie on your child’s wrists.

5. Thread the large ribbon through the hole in the small square. This is the ribbon that will go up over your child’s shoulders, cross over their chest, and then tie in the back.

If you are uncomfortable with things tied around your child’s neck, you can skip this ribbon and pin the wings to your child’s shirt, or just let the middle hang down unfastened. It’s cute either way.

ribbon

That’s it. Your done. Don’t you love the way they billow in the breeze?

Magic and Mischief at the RBG in Hamilton/Burlington

 

from-behind

 

The BEST part about this costume is that the knots come undone and you can use the silks for regular play again when you’re finished. My favourite kind of toy.

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Making Hand-Dipped Beeswax Candles – or – How I Almost Destroyed My Laptop

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in craft, Hamilton Blog (#HamOnt), home life, living peacefully, motherhood | 1 comment

Please check out my first guest post on the Hamilton momstown blog today too!

candle-featured

We’ve recently started burning a candle each night during supper as part of our evening ritual, and so I thought it might be fun to spend the evening making our homemade candles with The Princess.

As far as crafts go, this one is super simple. We learned how to make hand-dipped beeswax candles at the Halton Waldorf School back in December; I remember that the entire process was very relaxing. And I already had a brick of beeswax left over from making hand lotions last month, so all I needed was a wick.

Which was a bit more complicated than I thought.

I read that cotton wicks are the best for beeswax candles. They don’t burn as hot as the wicks with metal and they don’t contain lead. After calling every candle and craft and health food store in Hamilton, I finally found some at Dutchman’s Gold out in Carlisle, which is a pleasant 20 minute trip from our house. We headed out on our country drive as soon as The Princess finished school, and we bought our wicks and some Blueberry Blossom honey too. Yum.

After supper, The Pixie went to bed and The Princess and I got to work. I had almost a full brick of wax and I started off by grating it like I did when I made lotions.

candle1

Once it was grated, we melted the it all. We don’t have a double boiler so we put about an inch of water in a large pot and put a smaller pot inside with the wax. I have to say, it looks like there’s a lot less when the wax is melted down, so we ended up throwing the rest of the brick in the pot. This time, we didn’t bother to grate it. That’s probably just necessary if you need to measure  accurately.

candle2

When all the wax had melted, we poured it in an old travel mug that has a broken (ie useless) lid. We wanted something tall and skinny and we thought the double-walled stainless steel mug might even help keep the wax warm.

Next, we dipped the wick into the wax. Again. And again. And again. For ever.

Now, the trick is to dip it in quickly, then keep it out for 5 – 10 seconds until the wax dries. If you leave the wick in the hot wax too long, the wax that’s already on the wick melts back off. At first it feels like nothing is happening, but after awhile your candle begins to take shape and show some character.

Despite how tedious it was, The Princess seemed to really enjoy herself. She is five years old and she is cautious enough that I wasn’t worried about her burning herself – even so, we didn’t leave her alone with it at anytime. The wax is really hot. If you’re doing this with kids, you need to decide first if the children are cautious and careful enough to be safe. And if you haven’t already, making candles with your kids is a great opportunity to talk about the importance of fire safety.

candle3

In the end, we made three candles before I sent her off to bed. I love the personality that they have! One candle looks like a gnome and one looks like a tree (we covered the candle in drips of wax to achieve this effect). We also made a third candle by putting a wick in a mason jar and pouring all the excess wax around it so it wouldn’t be wasted.

My kitchen smells SOOOOO GOOD right now. I hope it still smells as lovely tomorrow when I’m picking wax off my dishes and my floor…

candle4

Some tips:

  • We tied the wick around a chop stick and let The Princess dip the candle in the cup like a fishing line (you can see this in the picture above). This stopped her fingers from getting anywhere close to the hot wax, but it also made her candle move around a lot more, flinging wax on to the floor. 
  • The floor. Oh my goodness, you cannot imagine how messy my floor got. PUT DOWN SOMETHING UNDERNEATH!
  • And by something, DO NOT USE A LAPTOP. Yup, I know this is what you’ve been waiting for! I foolishly was playing with the mason jar candle while chatting on Twitter and managed to cover my hand, my keyboard and my laptop screen in a whole lot of burning hot wax. The wax oozed under the keys and then solidified, which led to quality tweets like this:

I think it’s okay though. I had to remove some keys but I think it will survive. Lesson learned! And now we have three beautiful new candles to choose from for our dinner tomorrow. Although I might just keep using our old one and treasure these ones for awhile first.

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