Archives for August 2009

Halloween Swap Reminder

I’m thinking I’m going to extend the dates on this swap. I’ve been hearing from a lot of you that you’re so in the middle of getting kids back to school that you can’t even consider Halloween yet. So let’s say that you have until September 7th to sign up with a swap date of October 5th. Hopefully that extra week will give us all the time we need to switch gears a little bit.

I’ve been working on Halloween stuff all summer long. I started really early to try and send some things off to the magazines, but I still ended up missing deadlines. They all work so far ahead that they’ve almost lapped us!

I intended to make a Halloween tree this year, but I couldn’t narrow my focus. So I think I’ll eventually have two. I was really feeling a black and ivory, gothic, Poe, Burton type of theme, but then I also wanted glitter and fun and lots of orange and green and purple. So I just started tossing paper and glitter and fabric around and now I have a big mishmash of Halloween fun.

2009 Halloween Peek

I have a lot of fun planned once we get closer. I’ll share a bunch of free tutorials as always, but a lot of the projects I’ve been working on require more of a pattern. Some sewing, some embroidery, some just more detailed explanations than a blog post allows. I’m toying with the idea of doing a little pdf pattern shop for those, but we’ll see.


End of summer doldrums

Baby Crawling

I came back from that conference so inspired in so many directions, but also buried under all the stuff that comes with being away from home for a week. Piles of laundry, a floor covered in cat hair, a baby with separation anxiety, a garden that is threatening to give up the ghost altogether, and I kind of wanted to implode with the tension of it all. I felt so overwhelmed with what had to be done, and what should probably be done, and what I wanted to get done, that I kind of went into a little bit of a funk.

Don’t we all go through those periods when we feel like our juggling is totally out of rhythm? When we feel like we’re doing everything halfway and not really getting anything done right and disappointing everyone in the process? A span where you just feel like you suck at life? Yeah, that’s hit me big time this week.

I went back to the doctor’s on Monday, and bawled my head off like a crazy person. Luckily I have a really great doctor so she listened to all my concerns and just came up with the next step. All it takes is one doctor calling you crazy, and it ruins you for life. Every time we’ve done a test and had it come back clear, I feel that old worry creeping up on me more and more and more. So far we’ve discovered that I have a heart murmur, but it appears to be a “functional murmur” which apparently means that I just get to live with it. We did a pulmonary function test and after all these years of different asthma medications, it turns out that I do not in fact have asthma. I’ll go on to see the lung doctor in a few weeks, but for right now it’s looking like whatever is wrong with me is going to stay that way. So I need to start a workout program that is pretty much on the level of physical therapy.

I spent yesterday thinking about everything I have on my plate, everything I do for Atti, for my family, for myself, thought about what I could let go of, and I wasn’t willing to give up anything. I can’t exactly slack off on his therapy, I’ve tried giving up crafting and it doesn’t work, and I’m finally writing after a lifetime of guilt about it. Plus I need to find a way to exercise every day. And maybe feed my family something that doesn’t come in a bag.

But instead of falling back into that trap of being overwhelmed and getting nowhere, I decided to follow the example of my doctor and just focus on the next step. How could I fit in as much as possible, TODAY. Without worrying about a whole new structure to the rest of my life or trying to fit in every good thing every single day, what can I do right now. And yesterday turned out to not only be a really really great day, a day I enjoyed but also a day where I felt like I was doing a much better job at life. And best of all I came up with some creative little multi-tasking solutions that really will change the structure to the rest of my life. I don’t think I could have entered problem-solving mode until I could just stop being scared by the size of the problems.

There is so much about parenthood that is overwhelming and stressful, but man, when you figure something out, it is the most powerful feeling in the world.


2009 Year of Pleasures #33

Love Bump

This picture blows the lid off of any pretense I may have cultivated that I actually maintain basic levels of personal hygiene, but I just couldn’t resist. Three day unwashed hair or not.

Atti is such a fun and happy little guy, he’s the world’s easiest kid to entertain. Boop his nose and he’ll laugh for days. We’re always inventing one goofy game or another that we forget about by the next day, but this game seems to have staying power.

I tilt my head way back like I’m going to sneeze, and then as I bring it forward I say “Loooooooooooooooove…” and then he brings his head forward to meet mine as I say “Bump!” and then we both roll around with the giggles.

“Love Bump!” “Love Bump!” All I have to do now is say the words and he’ll still collapse with laughter. Plus, I think this is a good trick to have in my pocket when he gets so big he doesn’t want to cover my face in slobbery kisses.


The big conference

Panel on Online Lesson Resources

I suppose after all that talk before hand I should probably talk a little bit about how it went, right?

Not to get too grandiose, but I really do think that last week was one of the most productive and inspiring weeks of my life.

My panels went really really great. Other than wishing there were more people in attendance, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. But what made it so great is how receptive people were to what I had to offer. All week I was surrounded by brilliance. PhD’s, internet celebrities, and incredible talent, and – maybe this sounds ridiculous – but it really thrilled me, Stay At Home Mom and Craft Designer, to be so included and respected. And heard.

When the circles you run in are essential your child, the people who teach your child, and the people inside the computer, I think it’s human nature to think of yourself as nothing special, with nothing very special to offer. This conference made me see that, first of all, we all see ourselves that way, and then also, the rest of the world is not as far away as I think it is.

Growing up, my parents were realists to the point of pessimism. They never really told me how they got that way, but I think somewhere along the way they had to have had some dreams crushed because every time one of their kids started getting carried away in their dreams they would remind us how hard the world was, how many people want to do [fill in the blank], and the only way to be happy and safe was to do something that would always be needed. A nurse, a dental assistant, and if I *had* to go to college then be a teacher. It must have been an endless source of frustration for them to have a passel of creative kids.

I started working as a Craft Designer by accident. I was too sick to work a regular full-time job and I was making stuff without even realizing it. Creating is a bodily function to me, just like circulation or breathing. It is so essential to me that for most of my life I didn’t even realize it was so essential. It was just there. You don’t notice you’re breathing until you stop. I think if I had been aware of it at all I probably would have heard my mom’s voice in my head and not pursued it.

That’s how writing has been for me. One of my secret most heartfelt desires was to write, but I was terrified I’d suck, which of course everyone does at the beginning, and I was convinced that since it was so competitive to get a book published, than it wasn’t worth all that effort anyway. This week there were publishers and editors there that were so supportive and interested in what I had to say, it just made me realize that that world is not as removed as I had always been told. I’m sure it is competitive, but not insurmountable, and I just have to get to work so that I can push past the part where I suck. I learned that I do have something to say and that there are people in the world who want to hear it.

So now I have one more thing to do in a day.

Panel on Disabled Children
Deseret News
Salt Lake Tribune


Rustle Bag

Rustle Bag Toy

Rustle Bag Toy


A couple of months ago I looked over from the computer and saw this:
Atti plays with a plastic bag

Atti had discovered this plastic bag I use for one of my crosstitch projects and had himself a ball crinkling the plastic and shaking the threads all around the floor. I nearly had a heart attack when I realized my immobile baby was suddenly able to get into trouble and I had all kinds of visions of what could happen if he kept playing with the plastic bag.

But he loved it. And every time I left it on the floor, or even dangling from off the edge of the table, he found a way to get to it. Sometimes I couldn’t even figure out how. So I decided that if I was ever going to get any peace, I better make him a version that wouldn’t threaten to smother him.

Rustle bag with little rustle squares

I just used fabric that I had in my stash, quilting cottons for the bag and lining, wool felt for the “bobbins”, and some cellophane I had for a halloween project, and in an hour I had a bag that he loves and that lets me relax.

Rustle bag tutorial
You’ll need:
Bag pieces cut to 6.5″ x 9″
2 outer pieces
2 lining pieces
4 cellophane pieces
Side pieces cut to 3.5″ x 9″
2 outer pieces
2 lining pieces
4 cellophane pieces
Bottom pieces cut to 3.5″ x 6.5″
1 outer pieces
1 lining pieces
2 cellophane pieces

Rustle bag tutorial

Sew the sides to the front and back pieces to make a tube.

Rustle bag tutorial
Open up the bottom end of the seams 1/4″ and sew the bottom on. This is just like sewing a box pillow, but since you have seams at every corner, you don’t have to snip anything, those open seams will fall into place just right.

Rustle bag tutorial
Repeat this process with the lining fabric, and again with the cellophane but at a double thickness. I wanted to maximize the rustling effect, so there are two pieces of cellophane on each side.

Rustle bag tutorial

Stack the lining bag inside the cellophane bag, making sure that the right side of the lining is what is showing. Then place both bags together inside the outer bag.

Rustle bag tutorial

To finish the bag I zigzagged all three layers together and then just folded it over about a 1/2″ before securing it with a simple running stitch.

To make the bobbins I just cut a bunch of squares of wool, stitched them together on three sides, stuffed some cellophane scraps inside, and sewed it shut. Easy as pie.

Atti playing with rustle bag

Now my only problem is that Atti loves this thing so much, and the cats love chasing after the wool bobbins flying all over, that my house is littered with these little toys. But at least they don’t hurt when I step on them barefoot.


2009 Year of Pleasures #32

As much fun as last week was, I’m thrilled to be home goofing around with these little characters.


Another bracelet

My other clothes might have been storebought, but I couldn’t resist a few more handmade bracelets. I have kind of an obsession with them.

brick stitch bracelet

The basic premise behind this bracelet was floating around in my head for literally the past nine years, so it is such a relief to get it out of there. I basically just needed to get my beading skills up to the level of my ideas.

I started by using the brick stitch to bead the gray sections, then wove in all the remaining threads. I found this amazing animated tutorial to show you exactly how it’s done.

Then I tied a thread onto one end of the clasp, threaded on a bunch of seed beads, threaded that through one of the rows of the gray brick stitched piece, threaded more seed beads, then another brick stitch, etc. until the bracelet was the size I wanted. I did this seven more times so there was a turquoise beaded thread running through each row of my brick stitch beaded pieces.

Then I did it again exactly the same way, eight times (once for each row) out of the brown beads.

Then I did it again with the turquoise, only this time I added a few beads between each gray piece so that it would kind of hang loose and flapper-y, and then did it yet again with the brown beads the same way.

Brick Stitch Bracelet back
32 total strands – 1 tight turquoise, 1 loose turquoise, 1 tight brown, 1 loose brown. 8 times each.

All tied onto a multi-strand bracelet clasp.

When I first had this idea, I imagined the woven pieces to be done out of the same small seed beads as the strands, without thinking through how I was going to get a thread through that tiny bead at least six times. That didn’t work so much. But these larger square beads are perfection.


2009 Year of Pleasures #31

I’m leaving in minutes to spend the rest of the week in Utah for this conference I keep talking about, but I’m most excited for it because I get to catch up with some of my most favorite people from around the internet.

FMH Party
The women of Feminist Mormon Housewives being charming and ridiculous and charmingly ridiculous.

Janet any my baby in love
The dearest Janet transfixing a cranky Atticus with the power of her mind.

Sara and Atticus
Possibly the best picture ever. Trying to get a picture together while her Atticus and my Atticus kept trying to grab each others faces off.

As if the internet hasn’t brought me enough bounty in this life, it’s brought me just the greatest people to be my friends.


Clothes for the big talk

I leave tomorrow for the Sunstone symposium I mentioned a few weeks ago, to give some presentations on parenting a child with special needs and teaching teenagers. I’m going to be there with some very well respected experts, so I had to shake off my mom-frump and find something to wear that was stylish without being ridiculous, and serious without being pretentious. As a woman with some serious curves, I am a major proponent of the pencil skirt, and if there is ever a time to rock the sexy librarian look, I’d say it’s as a layperson at an academic conference.

Butterick B5429 skirt

This is Butterick pattern B5429, a really great pattern. I ended up modifying it a little because the waist went in rather a lot, but it was easily done. The fabric I chose is a little busy to be ideal for this pattern, you miss some really cool pleating that makes a couple of pockets, but the home dec weight fabric makes a really lovely structured skirt.

green bead bracelet
Since I have really long arms and fingers, I always go for a big substantial bracelet. After years of mourning that I wasn’t more graceful and petite, I just learned to embrace what works for me and what a difference that has made. When I actually take the trouble to dress decently, I’m almost always wearing either a collection of bracelets or a big fat chunky cuff. This was just a simple three strands of these green glass beads that I tied onto a vintage clasp.

Pearl Constellation necklace
And to finish it off, the necklace I started a few weeks ago. I inherited all these vintage costume pearls from Bear’s grandma when she died, so I just used them altogether, every size and color, and tied knot after knot after knot to keep them all in place.

The rest of my outfits are storebought, after a sewing attempt that went swimmingly other than the small catch that it was absolutely unflattering on me. I might have to pick that one back up some day, but it was not the right project for deadline sewing.


Jumbo Picnic Blanket

Jumbo picnic blanket

Late in the Spring I ventured out to a couple of thrift stores, which I really don’t do very often. They are not known for their treasures around here, a lot of people live off these stores, and California is pretty young for antiques. You East coasters don’t even know how lucky you are. Anyhoo, I went looking for some vintage linens I could turn into a beach blanket. I knew that vintage linens would be a tall order, but I at least managed to find a couple of old sheets that would do the job. Combined with some fabric I had left over from my stash, I chopped everything up into pieces measuring 3 1/2 x 5 1/2, and sewed them all together into a brick pattern.

Since I knew from the beginning that this was going to be used outdoors and on the ground, I didn’t want to spend weeks making an heirloom quilt, so I used the brilliant idea from this book and the Super Quick and Easy Baby Quilt. In a nutshell, you skip the binding portion altogether by sewing the quilt right sides together and then turning it right side out, and instead of complicated quilting or tying you just use those decorative stitches included with your sewing machine. Just inspired.

My own brilliant little bit of inspiration* was an answer to a problem that drove me nuts at the beach. About two minutes after you spread out your blanket, the first time anyone shifts around or somebody walks by, your blanket ends up in a tangled pile. So I wanted to stake it in place.

*At least I’m pretty sure it was mine, I feel like it came from my own head but since I’m not exactly easily mistaken for “outdoorsy”, this could just be how it’s always done and I’ve reinvented the wheel.

picnic blanket tie downs

I used some leftover fabric to make a piece that measured 3 1/2 x 10 inches and sewed it right sides together to make a tube, then I just tucked it between the layers, one in each corner and in the middle of each side, lining up the raw edges before sending the whole quilt sandwich through the machine.

I tried to just carry this mondo blanket loose during our ill-fated beach trip a couple weeks ago and it was absolutely a mistake. I made this blanket as big as I possibly could – it’s about a queen size – so that it could be used for big family get-togethers or play dates, but it was just impossible to carry. So I had to make a big jumbo bag to carry the jumbo blanket, complete with extra long handles so I can toss it over my shoulder and keep a hand free for kid wrangling on walks to and from the car.
Picnic Blanket Tote

And then while the sewing machine was still hot I kept right on going and sewed up a little drawstring pouch to keep the tent stakes in.

Tent Stakes Pouch

In my head this was going to be a quick project finished before spring ended and put to use all summer long. It took a whole lot longer than I planned, but I did it. Just in time for the fall, which all the locals know is the best time to visit the beach anyway.