Making Beautiful Things … And Sometimes Just Average-Looking Ones

Posted by on Jul 10, 2012 in children's toys, craft, home life, motherhood, sewing | 9 comments

Welcome to the July 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Creations

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared crafts, recipes, and philosophies of creativity. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to crafting. Pinterest, of course, is a close second.

I have all sorts of wonderful ideas in my head of things I’d like to make for the girls – costumes, play spaces, toys. I enjoy making lovely things and I know that I can do it well. I love to knit, and sew, and embroider and decoupage. In fact, I originally thought this blog would be a craft blog. As I create handmade gifts for my girls, I eagerly anticipate the look of delight on their faces (which is sometimes closer to dismay, depending on the daughter). Then while they enjoy my gift, I get to snap lots of adorable pictures and post them on my blog or Twitter or Facebook. Sometimes I come up with a especially great idea and then I dream about selling on Etsy or in my store.

I think about all these things while I’m scraping dried oatmeal off the high chair. I don’t really have time to do much beyond dream.

And honestly, if I had the time, I’d still be held back by my obsessive need for perfection. This isn’t new. I wrote about it almost exactly one year ago here. Apparently I have a hard time taking my own advice.

When I think about it, I’d like to spend more time on crafts. It’s important for me and my girls. I’d like them to see me start a project, work on it daily, and finish – it models creativity, contentment, and perseverance for them. (Yeah, I know, you’d all like to see me actually finish something too.) At the same time, I’d like them to see me create things on the fly too – it models resourcefulness and ingenuity.

And sometimes creating things on the go works out great. For example, I’ve been wanting to make the teepee from the book Cool Spaces for Kids for years, but I’ve never had the time. A couple weeks ago I was particularly annoyed with myself for not getting around to it. The sun was out and I wanted the girls to go out back and play. So I improvised. I tied some twine from the fence to our cherry tree and we threw some sheets over top. Then we strung up the fabric bunting we’d made for The Princess’ birthday a couple years ago. It was totally functional. Pretty, even.

Just call me Mama MacGuvyer.

Another example? Last week The Princess wanted bunny ears. My first thought was of course hand-stitched felt ears, possibly with contrasting fabric, sewed on to a band with a velcro closure to guarantee the perfect fit. But my mommy-sense detected that The Princess wasn’t interested in sourcing 100% pure wool felt at the moment – she wanted to dress up like a bunny. So we grabbed some extra scrapbook paper, cut out some ears and a band, and then (ugh) stapled it all together. Done. And she was thrilled.

The ears have been pretty much destroyed now (how long can stapled scrapbook paper really last?), but I almost feel like I should rescue them from under the couch and mount them on my wall like some sort of easter-coloured hunting trophy, forever reminding me that perfection is not required.

It’s a lesson I’m still working on, and a good one to teach the girls. I don’t want my children to feel that a hobby isn’t worth doing because they aren’t skilled enough, and I know that The Princess in particular feels this way sometimes. In the past, we’ve been given craft kits to do together and The Princess has insisted that I do at least half of the project myself so that it’s “right” – meaning, it will look just like the front cover of the box. While fun for a bit, we’ve kind of moved away from these types of activities, instead spending a lot of time with free-form drawing, colouring and sometimes cutting.

For the most part, I’m happier this way. Still, deep down I know that The Princess enjoys crafts too, so I would like to come up with some more crafts that we can do together. Last week I was reading on Amber Strocel’s blog about monthly eco-friendly craft kits sent in the mail and it occurred to me that I could do something similar myself. I could plan a series of crafts for the summer, buy all the supplies in one trip, and then sort them out so that they’re ready to go. It’s like big-batch freezer cooking but with glitter and crazy glue. I’m going to do it, and while I’m at it, I’m going to pick out a summer knitting project to work on too, something mindless that I can do at the park while I watch the girls play.

Who knows? Maybe this blog will become a craft blog after all.

Any suggestions for my family-friendly craft bin? What do your kids enjoy making?


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Garden Soup — Bailey finds a way to help momma Katy (from Muse of a Daffodil) in the garden.
  • This One Time, I Tried To Make a Car — Ashley at Domestic Chaos tries once again to make something crafty from stuff around the house.
  • Pin-tastic creative ideas — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares how Pinterest is inspiring creativity in her family this summer.
  • Baby Hiccups In The Womb — Alinka at Baby Web shares one of the ways she bonds with her unborn baby.
  • Turtle Mosaics — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school and her little family spend a quiet hour making a turtle mosaic inspired by the work of Melanie Mikecz.
  • Edible Art Plus 8 Art Supply Recipes — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares some natural, chemical-free art supply alternatives, which are gauranteed to be tons of fun for children or all ages. They taste great too!
  • A surprise art lesson — Tat at Mum in search has been taking art lessons from her 5-year-old son.
  • Memory Creation — Laura from Pug in the Kitchen talks about how her family aims to create as many memories as they can as a family.
  • A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words — Melissa at Momma Beer tries to replace cars with crafts.
  • My Creative Family: Sometimes Messy, Always Fun — Emily at S.A.H.M i AM embraces the messes that sometimes accompany creative play but admits you don’t always have to get dirty to have fun.
  • Fun Family Learning: Constellation Cave Tutorial — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter gives step-by-step instructions for building a fun new twist on a cardboard box playhouse.
  • Cooking… Kind Of — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings makes pizza with her daughter, hoping to inspire a love of cooking and encourage a bigger interest in food. As well as making mess and having lots of fun, of course!
  • Crockpot Refried BeansThat Mama Gretchen‘s family loves to experiment with new recipes, and today she’s sharing a kitchen success!
  • Creating Memories — Andrea at Tales of Goodness reflects on how the best creations can emerge from just letting kids be kids.
  • Making Beautiful Things … And Sometimes Just Average-Looking Ones — Tamara at Tea for Three looks for ways to add more craft and creativity into every day family life.
  • Making Fruit Leather Together — When Amy Willa at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work took some time to involve her children in the process of finally trying a fruit leather recipe stored on her Pinterest food board, she got more than just a scrumptious homemade snack as a result!
  • Making Glasses from Children’s Art — Mandy at Living Peacefuly with Children used her children’s artwork to make some very special glasses for her husband for Father’s Day.
  • Preparing Family Meals Together — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares how she started the tradition of creating meals together with her children, which makes family gatherings more fun.
  • It’s a trap! — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares the innovative snares her son and husband have set for her.
  • How To Make The Most Of A Very Wet Summer — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shows us the first few weeks of the Summer Camp At Home project for keeping boredom at bay.
  • Creating with… well, what do we have? — If necessity is the mother of invention, Momma Jorje thinks perhaps boredom is (or at least can be) the mother of creativity. In a pinch, she got creative with a household item to entertain herself and her toddler.
  • Creating Joy! Felt Counting Fish and other Fun — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle started creating Felt Counting Fish and then fell down the rabbit hole of fun with a number of other games.
  • I Am Going! (A Code Name: Mama Homemade Theater Production of Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie book) — This might be the finest example of child and baby acting ever recorded. Enjoy this Mo Willems treasure via video from Dionna at Code Name: Mama.
  • DIY Summer Sleep Sack for Baby Tutorial — Shannon at GrowingSlower made an organic summer sleep sack for baby, and you can too with her easy tutorial.
  • Chalk It Up! — Amy at Anktangle recounts how an impulse buy has turned into a fun collaborative activity that she hopes will continue to foster creativity in the whole family.
  • The Family Garden — Excited that her son has been a big help in the garden this year, Ana at Pandamoly shares how her garden grows and offers up some secrets on how a toddler can be a great assistant in the garden.
  • Getting my craft on — Jona at Life, Intertwined takes a trip down memory lane — and finds it in stitches.
  • Easy DIY Sandpit for Toddler Play — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares her easy DIY toddler sandpit tutorial.
  • Building Without Nails — Laura at Laura’s Blog builds a swinging bar using just sticks and twine.
  • Family Talent Show — Erika at Cinco de Mommy holds an after-dinner family talent show.
  • Ar matey! Fun and Learning with Pirate Play. Positive Parenting Connection is sharing lots of really fun Pirate-themed learning activities for the whole family.


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The Fanciest Tent I Ever Made (Do You Know Where this is Going?)

Posted by on Aug 14, 2011 in children's toys, craft, motherhood, sewing | 3 comments

Remember the fabulous twirly skirt I made that my daughter loved for thirty seconds and then discarded in favour of a princess gown? It turns out I haven’t learned my lesson.

This weekend I made my daughter a small hula hoop tent. All you do is hem the end of a bed sheet and thread it with some rope. Then, tie it up and spread the fabric over a hula hoop that has been strung from the ceiling with some more rope. Easy peasy. I added a strand of fancy jewels that I knew my daughter would love, but other than that I left it as simple as I could. The full instructions are found in the book Cool Spaces for Kids, which has so many more clever ideas – such a great resource. I’ve been wanting to make this tent for awhile, and since I had a couple of hours to myself on Friday, I thought it would be a a great quick and crafty project.

I love that the tent can be taken down easily and doesn’t take up too much room. I do wish I had used a bigger sheet so it would spread out more at the bottom, but I was just using what I had on hand.

As for my spirited daughter, she seems to be okay with it. She cried for awhile because I had the audacity to move the glider from one side of her room to the other, but I was sort of expecting that. She doesn’t deal with change well – I mean, this is the girl that cries when I hang up a picture in my house because everything is suddenly *so* different. But it did make me wonder why I even bother.

Why do we do things if our children don’t appreciate them? Why did I spend an evening making this tent, or a week making her a skirt, or even an hour each night making supper that often gets one or two bites and then goes cold? I’m not really sure. I guess when you’re madly in love with your kids you just love to see them smile. Maybe that’s why we all spend hours making goofy faces at our babies, or spend countless days at the park, pushing our kids on the swings. They may not seem to appreciate any of it, but just the possibility of catching a look of joy on their faces is all the motivation we need.

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The Fanciest Skirt I Ever Made (and She Doesn’t Want to Wear It)

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011 in craft, girly-girl, motherhood, sewing | 0 comments

A couple weeks ago I found a whole bunch of wonderful fabric on sale at Fabricland, and I pretty much bought it all. I mean, who can resist a great ladybug print or some wacky birds? It all begged to be made into a fantastic twirly skirt for my sweet girl.

It took me a full week to make the skirt. Looking back, that doesn’t really seem too long, but to me it felt like forever. I was doing bits and pieces during my baby’s 10 minute catnaps, and I was sure it would never be done. But last night I was able to finish with a flourish and I proudly handed the skirt to my daughter. Who refused to wear it. “Maybe tomorrow”, she said.

Seriously, why do I even bother?

So this morning I hopefully handed her the skirt, and after a bit of a fuss, I was able to coax (bribe) her to wear it, and I even got to take some pictures. :)

Twirly skirts of course are good for all sorts of activities. Making pained faces while mama takes a picture, playing with the doll house, twirly around for the amusement of your baby sister, even riding a bike.

As soon as we got home, though, the skirt came off. It appears that no degree of twirliness can compete with a good princess gown.

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Embracing Imperfection

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 in craft, home life, living peacefully, motherhood, sewing | 0 comments

When my older daughter was little I wanted to get her a kid sized table that she could use for arts and crafts and meals and tea parties and all those other fun things that kids do. Because she was still learning how to walk, and with memories of a bad fall still fresh in mind, I decided to buy the plastic table and chairs from Ikea. I figured that if she fell on it, the plastic would be more forgiving than wood.

And I’ve regretted that decision ever since. I hate that table and chair set (apologies to everyone else who has it, which is pretty much everyone I know). I’m not a fan of plastic to begin with, and for the last three years they’ve been the sore thumb sticking out in my kitchen or living room. I mean, you can’t really miss bright green and red.

There was another set at Ikea that I liked a lot more – just plain wood. Simple. Cute. And guess what? This week it all went on sale – 100 bucks off! Score!

My mother tried to talk me out of it at first – after all, I really don’t need a table and chairs for the girls when I have a perfectly good adequate one already. Besides, bringing in new furniture is definitely not helping me in my quest to declutter my home. Lucky for me I ignored my inner voice of reason and bought the new set anyway. After all, I’ll probably have a children’s table and chairs on my main floor for at least another three years, so it might as well be one that I like.

When I set it up in our living room however, I was kind of bummed at how bland the space suddenly looked. At least the plastic set brought some colour into the room. So I quickly decided that the only logical solution was to sew up some seat cushions to bring a splash of colour.

Enter silly obsessive perfectionism.

When I do anything, I want it to be perfect. I haven’t finished a million projects because they aren’t up to my ridiculous standards. Knitting projects are the worst – I’m sure every project that I finish has been restarted five or six times because I can’t stand mistakes.

But you know what? I’ve come to realize that it’s silly to be obsessed with perfection. When things look perfect, nobody even knows that you made them yourself. Its the little flaws that give things character, and I’m actually big on character. And its not like my daughter is ever going to notice one way or the other. So I decided to ditch the obsessive perfectionism and embrace a zen-like state of craft-induced bliss. At least until I get through this next batch of projects.

So, when I couldn’t find fabric in the exact shade of daffodil yellow I wanted with large pink flowers, I took a deep cleansing breath and instead took the bright pink fabric that I knew my daughter would love. I brought it home and I made two seat cushions. The stitching isn’t perfect and the straps on one cushion are a quarter inch wider than on the other. But unless you’re as anal as I am (or you read my blog), you’d never know.

And I love the way they look. I’m coming to realize that if I aim for 85% instead of that perfect 100, I can get a lot more done. And in the end, I enjoy the process so much more.

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My Homemade Binder Cozy

Posted by on Jun 27, 2011 in craft, home life, motherhood, sewing | 3 comments

This week I had the rare chance to pull out my sewing machine. It was great – the house was relatively clean, my older daughter was in bed, and my baby was sleeping soundly wrapped on my back. I made a sweet little cover for my small ‘mommy docket’ binder with some scrap fabric that I love.

Ahhhh… instant gratification…

Organized Simplicity

Recently I’ve been reading through Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider from This book helps you make your life more organized by simplifying it, and it makes your life more simplified by being organized.  I suck at both, so this book has been truly helpful for me.

To keep life reasonably sane, Tsh uses a planner filled with docket sheets, which can be downloaded from her website. Each night she fills out the next day’s sheet, which includes space for:

  • a to-do list
  • the top three Most Important Things (MITs) <- any more is too demanding
  • a rough schedule for the day
  • an inspirational thought
  • dinner and notes regarding its preparation
  • a chart to keep a tally of how many glasses of water have been drank <- I’ve doubled my water consumption just so I can cross out the little droplets
  • a spot for an exercise plan
  • blog ideas
  • general notes

I decided to give it a shot, and I soon found that I LOVE this system. Suddenly, I am so much less stressed!

Planning My Days

Normally when I go through my day, I’m trying to remember what needs to be done as I go. So I might have a spare half hour before my 3 year old Berry’s school lets out and decide to run to the bank. At the bank, I remember that I need to stop at the deli, but now I probably won’t have time to do that until after I’ve picked up my daughter. Then I have to drag both my girls into the deli and deal with a meltdown because I won’t buy Berry a Kinder Egg, which are kept just low enough so that she can reach them. The whole day goes on like this, and while I may get all my tasks done, I feel drained by the end of the afternoon. And that’s usually when Berry will remind me that I promised we’d go to the park. Ugh.

By filling out a docket sheet the night before, I can plan out how my day will go. I’ll see that I have a spare half hour and schedule a trip to the deli while Berry is in school, choosing instead to take her to the bank with me. Then I’ll pick the bank that has a play area to entertain her and is also close to a park that we like.

Either way, I do the same amount of things, but I feel so much less frazzled. Instead of trying to quickly figure out our next task on the run, I can happily check items one by one off my list.

My Personal Mommy Docket

I wanted a smaller sheet to carry around in my bag, so I made my own template inspired by Tsh’s pocket docket and put them in my new snappy binder.

Planning my days in advance makes them go more smoothly. Instead of trying to fit in what I can, I now spend some time picturing how I want the day to go. For example, I want to spend more time each day playing with my three year old, so I created a space for a Play Date, which could be anything – a trip to a park, a hike, a library visit, even hanging out at Ikea for awhile. When I choose an activity the night before and make it part of the plan for the day, it becomes far easier to do.

I also realized as I made the binder cozy that I absolutely love to create things but I rarely have the time or energy. The night I made it, I felt so satisfied. Now I set aside time each day to craft, and it gets written right into my schedule.

The best part of planning out my days is that I get to be intentional about how I’ll spend my time, and as I go through and cross things off my list, I know that my time has been spent well.

How about you? How do you make sure you have time for the things you enjoy?

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WIP – Some Fancy-Schmancy Longies

Posted by on Jun 15, 2011 in craft, knitting | 1 comment

Almost done my first pair of longies using the Budgie Bloomer pattern from Ralvery! I still need to do a tie to tighten up the waist, but apart from being a touch long, they fit nicely! Testing them out right now – we’ll see how well they absorb. :D

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