Friday, December 31, 2010


First of all: harvest the root vegetables before December 30 next year.

On the creative side (shamelessly ignoring the "shoulds"--pile of mending, I'm not looking at you):
  • Make myself a dress
  • Sew something with knits
  • Design fabric on Spoonflower
  • Natural history embroidery (What? Stay tuned...)
January to-do list for the house:
  • Make over street-find desk/bedside table
  • Living room curtains
  • Art wall in kiddo's room
What are you looking forward to working on, this last day of the year?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mustard After Dinner*

Wednesday before Christmas, 9 a.m.:

1 p.m.:

5 p.m.:

Oh, $(%((^##. But, I managed to finish everything. The really important things, anyway. (The poinsettia hair clips will have to wait until next year.)

And this week we're still doing Christmas crafts. Just finished this today:

Or, in case you can't read that:

It was a collaborative project:

*Post title: learning new Dutch expressions (and getting inspiration) from here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Henry's sweet face (and the rest of him/her*)

*(Because my daughter uses the name "Henry" with the masculine pronoun about 50% of the time and the feminine pronoun the other 50%. Clearly, her conception of gender is not very advanced. Or perhaps it IS very advanced. Hmmm.)

So here is what I have done on the cat doll so far. Using one of the Henry books as a guide (this is "Henry the Sailor Cat") I sketched out some lines on the pattern where I wanted his markings to be. I wanted each limb to be different so I made two different lines on the legs and the arms.

Then I traced these shapes onto this nice pattern making material. I'm not sure exactly what it's called--it's kind of like interfacing. I really love this stuff--sturdy, yet transparent enough to see through for easy tracing.

I traced the pattern pieces as written too. It's an extra step, but I really prefer to do this for PDF patterns that I print out. The pattern making material is so much less stiff and easier to work with than copy paper, especially for small, curved pattern pieces.

Then I cut everything out (hint: cut on a double layer of fabric so that your front and back paw pieces will match up). I used fusible web to attach the darker markings to the lighter body. I'll zigzag over any boundaries that won't be encased in seams.

Big pile of legs! So cute!

Here's that sweet face I mentioned.

And everything else.

Here's how I plan to put it together.

Actual kitty supervises the proceedings. (She's supervising the writing of this post too, FYI.)

Meanwhile, my mom sent another one of the dolls I made when I was a kid. So funny!

So I'm about ready to try to sew this one together. I think I can do it. I'm a little nervous about the human doll, though. Especially the yarn hair. Yeesh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Felt Needle Book

I made this little felt needle book for my mom to keep her embroidery needles in. (That much more accomplished piece of embroidery it's sitting on is something she made me for my birthday last year. Right now it's an apron, but I'm going to have to find a different way to use it. It's too pretty to wipe my dirty hands on, but too pretty to sit folded on a shelf.)

The needle book is a simple project--cut two rectangles of felt for the cover, and a slightly smaller one for the inside. Stitch a design on the front, then sew the two cover layers together using a running stitch. Place all three layers together and backstitch down the spine (there's probably some official bookbinder's way to do this but heck, I just ran with it.)

I still find embroidering on felt really challenging. So I'm all the more impressed by other people who are so good at it.

But the nice thing about making something for my mom is that I don't have to worry too much about how it comes out. I don't mean that it's an invitation to slapdash work, and I did unpick and restitch several places. But that then I was able to simply let the wonkiness be and enjoy the making, because I know that when she receives it she won't focus on or maybe even notice the imperfections. And so making this was like reliving a bit of my own childhood. Try your best. Fix your mistakes if you can. Let go of the rest. If only I could pass that down to my daughter as easily as a necklace or a needle or a piece of finely embroidered cloth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Yule Factory

From an Internet friend I borrowed the idea of having the kiddo scribble on a big sheet of paper and then use it to wrap gifts. Sadly, this activity engaged my elf for all of three and a half minutes. Then: "YOU draw it, Mama." "Hey, I have an idea, I'll trace around some cookie cutters and you can draw some decorations on the inside." "Let ME do it, Mama." And so, a paper filled with amoeboid gingerbread men. Oh, and four servings of Christmas Juice (your guess is as good as mine on that one) there in the upper-left corner.

Glittery nail polish to the rescue!

The baking endeavors resulted in a batch of Lussekatter, or "Lucia Cats," traditionally served in Sweden on St. Lucia Day (that's today). I'd give you the recipe, but the truth is I haven't mastered it yet.

So I'll give you some advice instead. I hate to make you even more stressed out at this time of year, but my advice is to hold tight to your holiday traditions, because traditions can be hard to reestablish. (Okay, in my ancestors' defense, I think they left Sweden before St. Lucia Day celebrations existed in their current form. I'm just saying I wish I already knew--deeply, in that muscle-memory kind of way--how to make these kitties.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The words "hot damn" may have been uttered

You remember the spiderweb wreath, right? Here's how it was reborn as a wintry landscape fit for an ice bear.

Making a yarn-wrapped wreath is pretty self-explanatory, but if you want more details here's a tutorial. The polar bear is a shadow puppet template from Martha Stewart.

The snowflakes are made of waxed paper. I think I got the idea to do that somewhere on the Internet but now I can't find where. Here's how to make (scientifically correct!) six-pointed snowflakes.

The snowflakes are attached with straight pins (don't push the pin all the way flush with the wreath or the snowflakes will wrinkle--pull the pin head out just a little bit). The polar bear is attached with masking tape (for real! hey, it's held for almost a week now so I'm calling it a success.)

And voila!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Halls: Decked

Well, mostly decked, anyway. I still have a few schemes. But it's starting to look pretty festive around here.

The kiddo insisted that we hang that sheep ornament way at the top of the tree. She also managed to place the naked plastic baby with my name written on the butt front and center. Thanks! Thanks so much!

I decided I'm keeping one of the salt dough ornaments for our own tree. I love this reindeer that my daughter painted white with just a hint of pale purple. Such a modern color scheme!

A reliable source informs me that salt dough ornaments need to be coated with shellac or something similar to preserve them long-term. I have a bottle of glittery clear nail polish that I plan to contribute to the cause.

As you know, my house is only just becoming gezellig, so most of what I have to offer here are extreme close-ups.

This little Goebel figurine was my husband's grandmother's. She was mad for Christmas and a lot of our decorations are inherited from her. The little girl's face reminds me of my own little girl. Of course. Just like pretty much every cute little figurine in the universe. I see her face everywhere, that's how I know I'm a mom.

The print is from The Permanent Collection on Etsy.

Are you looking at this wreath and thinking, "I wonder if she is quite pleased with herself for making that"? Why yes, yes I am. More details to come.

My hyacinth bulbs are growing soooo slowly. I wonder if I did something wrong?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weekend Update

Here's what we worked on last weekend--a batch of salt dough ornaments. I had this idea to use them as gift tags on packages to some of our family members.

And then my daughter got so into stamping out gingerbread men that I thought she could give them out to her classmates at preschool. (Hopefully their parents will realize that it's the thought that counts and that it's okay to dispense with the actual physical object...)

There are tons of recipes for salt dough all over the Internets, and they're all basically the same. We used:

1 Cup salt
Very scant 1 cup lukewarm water
2 Cups flour

(It's easy to make a bigger or smaller batch, just keep the same proportions.)

Stir the salt into the water (the idea is to dissolve it but in my experience it doesn't really dissolve completely). Add the flour and stir/knead to make a smooth dough.

Roll out, cut into shapes, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 250 F for 2.5 hours. Paint/decorate when completely dry.

Salt dough ornaments aren't something that I recall making as a kid, and my rookie status shows here. Our ornaments puffed up in the oven--I'm guessing we overworked the dough a bit, but that might be inevitable with a three-year-old assistant...we did a lot of starting over when shapes didn't get entirely on the dough, overlapped with each other, etc.

Nor have I found a perfect solution for decorating the ornaments. We used this washable kid's paint, and some of the colors did fine but others cracked badly. I've read that you're supposed to paint salt dough with acrylic paint, but acrylic paint isn't washable, and I'm just...not going there. And I have a feeling any water-based paint would crack like this (though I wonder if I would get better results with table salt rather than coarser Kosher salt?). Oh well.

(Oooh, and as I'm typing another idea occurs to me...maybe markers would work better than paint. Hmmm...)

I couldn't believe my daughter stuck with the project and painted all the ornaments in one sitting. After she finished the gingerbread men and was about to move on to the Christmas trees, she needed more paint, and we had a little altercation about what colors to put on her palette--I'd already squeezed some green on there, and then she decided she didn't want green. I tried to talk her into it by pointing out that she was about to paint Christmas trees, and trees are green, so really green was an ideal color to have available.

She looked at the gingerbread men she'd just painted in a rainbow of colors and said, "But gingerbread men are brown!"

And I had two simultaneous thoughts: 1) Hmm, maybe I should have said something sooner, and she would have made gingerbread men that other people would actually recognize as such; and 2) Oh crap, I just killed her childhood.

Anyway, humble and imperfect as this project turned out I kind of like that she did it pretty much herself. I think maybe we'll start a tradition of making ornaments each year--I know a couple of grandparents at least who will genuinely appreciate it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Here goes...

I'm planning to make my daughter a pair of dolls for Christmas. Above are the raw materials.

One will be a girl doll, for which I'll use Hilary Lang's Kit, Chloe, and Louise pattern. (That little blondie on the left there is a pretty good facsimile of my daughter.)

The second doll will be a Siamese cat, in honor of my daughter's alter ego, Henry. He's the hero of a series of books by Mary Calhoun, and my daughter has been obsessed with him for months now.

Frequently she'll narrate what she's doing in the third person, substituting Henry's name for her own. ("Henry dashed to the window and looked outside"--this said while dashing to the window.) Asked her name by a clerk in a grocery store, she'll reply, "Henry," leaving me to explain that she's really not confused about her gender, she's confused about her species.

Anyway, my plan is to adapt this cat pattern above from Etsy seller Bit of Whimsy Dolls. So my first step is to figure out how to get that pattern to reflect Henry's markings.

Of course, it's now less than three weeks until Christmas, and I've never done anything like this before. Or at least, not in a long time. The last time I made a doll I was about 12 years old, and here's how it turned out:

Charming in its way, but I'm hoping for something a little more, uh, true to life this time. Anyone have any magical doll-making wisdom?

Friday, December 3, 2010

My little Emily Carr

To my daughter, painting is still mostly a matter of sensory exploration rather than artistic expression. Even so, sometimes I find the results really evocative. (Yeah, yeah, I know I'm her mother, but still.) This series of green paintings that came home this week reminds me of Emily Carr, a Canadian artist I've loved for a while now. (To be precise, ever since the first summer my now-husband and I were dating, when we went to Vancouver for a weekend and he agreed to come to a show at the Vancouver Art Gallery featuring works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, and Emily Carr. Yep, that's how I knew he was a keeper.)

You can find out more about Emily Carr's life and work here.