Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Apparently, I've just turned 30

On Saturday (the 24th) I turned 30.  This would have felt more frightening, except for the fact that I was distracted by my husband's violent turn with a stomach flu, and the fact that my brother Jonathan was here for a pre-deployment visit.


On the upside, we managed to go out for some fantastic sushi the night before the sick started, which was great, but I can't even think about it now...because now I'm the one puking my guts out.  So much fun.

I would show you pictures of the cake I baked for myself...but that would not be wise in my current state.

For now, I've got these cheerful little people to keep me company in my convalescence.


Hopefully I will feel strong enough by this afternoon that I won't puke on anyone's shoes when we pick Andrew up from school.  I can always hope.  :)


Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy 3rd birthday, Lavella!

Dear Lavella,

On Saturday you turned three.


You're growing up so quickly, it takes my breath away.  Since I haven't found a way to slow down time, I try my best to really SEE you as much as possible.  Your serious, beautiful dark brown eyes; the soft curls of your hair; the way you fold your tiny body into my lap for a cuddle; your substitution of the letter "W" for both "R" and "L".  I try to take the time to listen to your stories, and to keep up with your abrupt, random subject changes mid-sentence.  When I hug you, I try to fix in my memory the smell of your hair and the way it feels to have your little arms cling to my neck.



I can never keep up with your attitude shifts -- just as a storm might sweep in and out, so does your temper.  You can be the funniest person around, and suddenly loose all sense of humor with no notice.  Life is never boring around you.


 Wearing a birthday outfit that I created from a thrifted bedsheet (project details in the next post)

It is so precious to see you naturally mothering your dolls and stuffed animals, playing pretend and going on amazing adventures in your playroom, or creating fantastical stories through your paintings and drawings.


I love the way you try to include everyone around you in your play, and in sharing the things that you have.  You always want to serve your brothers and make sure that they have part of whatever you feel is special -- food, toys, or otherwise. Unless you don't, and then you heap terror and grief upon the heads of those who might try to thwart you.


Watching you with Jonah has been a great source of amusement -- and frustration -- for me.  Through the day, you alternately include him and try to make him do whatever it is that you're doing (which he is sometimes okay with), or try to shut him out and end up being sat on, smacked, or otherwise physically hampered by by him.  It's difficult to believe that you can get beaten up by a 1-year-old, but Uncle Caleb did the same to me, so I suppose it's possible.


Even though it often slows things down, I love finding ways to include you in my work around the house as well as teaching you the beauty of the domestic arts. 



You are so precious to our family, little girl.  You add dimension, beauty, excitement and fun.  Even though I sometimes don't know what in the heck to do with you in darker moments, I know with certainty that I would never want to do without you.  Our lives are richer with you in it.


We love you, Lavella.


All my love,

P.S. The next post will be a recap of the birthday party, but if you would like, you can click through to the Flickr photoset to see the party for yourself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rainbows and Buttons dress

Ever since I was little, I've been fascinated by craft and fabric stores, and the idea of Making Something From Scratch.  My mom used to sew dresses for us girls occasionally, and I remember one summer she went on a shorts-making-jag;  not only did she make 3 or 4 pairs of soccer and baseball-print shorts for each of my brothers, but then she went on to make shorts for any friends who would have birthdays in the near future.


I remember distinctly one particular trip to the fabric store: I was 11 and my two sisters and I (my two other sisters had not been born yet), and my mom all needed dresses for a wedding we would be attending. We went to the fabric store and carefully chose a polished cotton in a floral pattern -- pink and green flowers against a navy or black background, and then spent a while pouring over dress patterns until we found just the perfect ones to suit us.  I chose a puffed-sleeved design with a sweetheart neckline, a waist that dipped down into a "V", with a full gathered skirt.


My mom involved me in every part of the dress-making, from laying out and cutting the pattern ("this is how you modify the layout to save fabric"), to pinning the pieces together, to using the sewing machine ("always start your seams with a backstitch" and "the faster you make the machine go, the less wiggly your seam will be").

When we were done we not only had the most beautiful dresses ever (which I wore with full gravity-defying puffy bangs like any early-90's girl might), but we also had all sorts of special memories sewn right into them.  You see, while my mom was teaching me everything I would need to know to sew a garment, she was also spending time with me; visiting, talking about things that were important to me, giving me her time.


As I have been sewing this series of dresses for Lavella's spring wardrobe, Lavella has often been right beside me, playing make-believe with her dolls, working on her own freeform embroidery, singing with me and telling me stories.  I hope that, as she grows, I am able to continue to include her in the things that I do and create -- not only to teach her valuable life-skills, but also to give her the gift of my time, love, and attention.


Dress details: this started out as a plain blue sheet (the color is actually more of a French Blue, but the sun was so bright that it kind of bleached the color out in these pics).  I used the top edge of it for this dress, sewing it up the side to turn it into a "pillowcase".  I cut the armhole using this template (just like for that first floral one from last week), covering the raw armhole edge with a length of matching bias tape.


I sewed a casing for the elastic at the top, and attached rainbow ribbons to as straps.  I attached the straps with a "square" of stitches to really secure them, but this ended up looking so messy from the front that I had to add buttons to cover up the disaster.  I discovered a strand of vintage golden yellow buttons that I'd purchased in Florence two years ago, and was so happy to be able to use a few of them at last!


The top edge of the sheet that I was using (as the bottom hem of the dress) already had a wide hem and a matching blue satin bit of some sort of piping.  I covered it over with more of the grosgrain rainbow ribbon, and the dress was done!

Time start to finish: about 2 hours at most (to include fitting it to Lavella a few times and multiple rounds of "ABC").

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The dress with the (extra) pleats

I've finished another dress for Lavella!


This one was created using the tutorial in The Creative Home by Amanda Blake Soule (of Soule Mama).

The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections

I started working on this last week, but when the dress didn't fit Lavella properly, I lost steam and let it sit for a few days.  In the meantime, she's wanted to wear the other dress I just made for her almost exclusively, so I knew I'd better get back on it!

The problem was that the neckline was too wide and low, and the arms holes were too deep and kind of stuck out.  When I put it on her, she ran through the house letting the dress blow about like a sailboat and loved it.  It looked strange though, so that was a no-go.  Sadly, I'd already applied the 1/4" bias tape edging, so I knew that I was looking at at least an hour of backwards work.  I HATE RIPPING THINGS OUT.  Although I hate wasting materials more.

I finally broke down and spent the time taking off the bias tape.  That done, I could focus on the overall shaping.  First I put an additional two pleats into the front and back neckline, then I took in the pillowcase by at least 3 inches on both sides (3" at the top, and 2" at the hem for a slight a-line), and finally -- a properly fitting dress!


It is an absolute perfect fit on her now, and because the straps are adjustable and the hem length is just a little long...dare I say it?  She might be able to wear this through to next season.  But let's not say that too loudly, lest a growth spurt should catch us off guard.


If I sew this dress again, I think I'll use the armhole pattern that I downloaded from here, and do a straight across neckline -- or just a very slight scoop -- with pleats across.  Oh, and also I'll measure the dress that I've already sewn and go with that width instead.  Or maybe just do much deeper pleats.  Because I like the extra work and extra math.  It's oh so fun.  I never can seem to leave well enough alone...

I'll have yet another dress for you tomorrow!  I am determined that Lavella will have all hand-made dresses this summer.  Let's see if I can do it!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Creative times with and for my children

This morning while Andrew and Elijah were with Greg at soccer practice, Lavella and Jonah had some happy playdough time.


When the children are so peaceful and happy together, I scarcely want to breathe, lest I disturb the charmed moments...


Once Jonah was bored he suddenly started roaring at Lavella and seemed to mistake her arm for a snack.  Ah well.  The teeth marks won't last as long as these photos will.

These are some paper dolls the children and I made this afternoon out of some brown bags:


Andrew made a little girl doll (not shown) for his Best Friend Girl at school with her eye and hair color and a pink dress ("her favorite color!")  It was very sweet.  I gave him a pretty note card to write a note on, and another paper craft to tuck in besides. 

Andrew was headed out to a birthday party for another school friend, and said he would bring the paper doll with him because he thought she might be there.  Then, thinking out loud, he said "Well maybe I'll wait to give it to her at school...and then maybe my teacher will give me a Good Worker Board."  Oh, dear Andrew, already learning to work the system.

A few weeks ago I was suddenly inspired to make some little box bags for my children -- they call them Treasure Bags, and they're perfect for carrying small things safely around in their backpacks (I've lost count of the number of times Andrew and Elijah have searched around frantically through their entire backpack for one precious small rock or tiny bead...)


Lavella's got one too, but I can't find it at the moment.  It's purple, of course.

The insides of the bags are in each of their favorite colors (OK, so I'm guessing at Jonah's preference here, but he can't seem to speak English yet.)


I made them following the box-bag tutorial at Drago(knit)fly.

I also made one for Rachel's 12th birthday, which was at the end of March (happy birthday, Rachel!!), along with carding her up two spinning batts -- she has a spinning wheel, and is becoming quite the accomplished spinner.


Speaking of spinning, there's been quite a bit of that going on around here lately:


...and speaking of carding batts of wool...well, call me crazy (and I know you all do), but...I opened a little shop online to sell my carded batts: Purldrop Studio.


OK, I know most of you don't spin, but aren't they pretty?  I sort of don't want to sell any of them, because I just want to arrange them in different ways and look at them.  Or decorate my house with them.


(And yes, I realize my color wheel is a little skewed here -- but whatever, I seriously need to stop playing with them.)

I opened it yesterday, and so far have sold three batts.  A solid little start, I think.

Last night though, instead of spinning, knitting, or carding wool, I started an embroidery project.


Because apparently, I don't have enough creative outlets.  Apparently.  (Redwork image printed out from PatternBee.)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Yet one more cook in my kitchen, and the Easter Bunny rides a bike!

I've got a new cook in the kitchen!

Jonah now believes himself to be one of the Big Guys, and insists on standing on a chair at the counter with everyone else.  I am never ready for this new stage, because I am convinced that my baby will fall straight off the chair and crack their head.  Thankfully this has never happened.

When children are very small, they tend to play next to other children, rather than playing with them, but lately I've been noticing a change in Jonah.  He seeks out men -- especially Greg -- to interact with, which means that he's recognizing that he is also a male.



Jonah has also been playing with Lavella -- they're little buddies, and go running around the house together, having adventures, playing pretend.  It's so cute, although I don't have any pictures yet, since it's usually best not to disturb the happy fun.

A funny moment from this afternoon:

Yesterday, Elijah learned to read!  He's been sounding things out here and there for the past few weeks (thanks to all of the alphabet lessons at school), and yesterday I finally sat down with him and some super easy learn-to-read books, and he read his first book!  He was so excited about it that then he went on to read several more in a row.  We're so proud of him!

Here he is, setting off on a bike ride as the Easter Bunny.


He looks put out in this picture, but it was actually his own idea.  Elijah's wardrobe choices never cease to amaze me.  (i.e. Once in the winter, he went to school with no jacket, two different colored gloves -- red and black -- and a bright green too-big ski-cap.  And not even to make a scene.  It was simply What He Was Wearing.  No Biggie.)



Lately I've been doing a lot of sewing in my wool/etc. studio, so I set up this little embroidery hoop to keep first Lavella, then Elijah happy.




Quiet, engrossed, creative focus.  I LOVE IT!  I seriously need to get on the lacing-cards I've been planning on making for them.  Maybe I can get a set done in time for Lavella's birthday...