Saturday, March 06, 2010

Mini Parrot-Ox

Seven in the morning, until eight o'clock at night... she kept going, and going and going. She is the energized, spirited, little sister-big fan of FIRST, and Robotics, and FUN!

And yes, a three day robotics competition is fun. Hey, like Mark says "Do the math, save the world." The way I see it, Maria was making every moment count!

Meeting teams from around the world, learning to shaka with aloha.

Groovin' with her teammates. Cheerin' in the stands, dancing in the arena.

Team San Diego has big stars and Maria was thrilled to meet all of them.

And when you've got Spirit, like this team does, you are bound to have a good time.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Playing With Hearts

My creative mojo skipped town, and left no forwarding address. And even though I have the urge, the compulsion, not much has come out of my crafty corner. No quilting. No dresses. No felted thingies, or new scarves. No seashell clocks or macrame mug holders.

Remember Valentine's Day? Some of you never forgot it, I am sure, but I have not dabbled in the Romantic Era in a long time.

Disclaimer: This is not a pity party.

I remember the antsy anticipation, gathering paper, scissors and glue, and a long list of classmates to make Valentine greetings for... hearts, stickers, glitter. I loved seeing the teacher's bulletin board, favoring red and pink, the calendar day marked with a heart. And there were class parties. Punch. Cookies. Candy hearts. And the mail boxes or bags, filling up with treats and greetings and innocent visions of sweet romance.

I don't know how or why, but it seems like there was a lot riding on those tiny cards, the candy hearts with messages. It was fun. Thrilling even.

Makes me smile.

Maybe that is why I answered Bitter Betty's call for an old fashion Valentine exchange. And ever since I asked to play along, I have had hearts on the brain. I look for hearts and scope out the seasonal holiday aisles in the stores. I have been trying to find that feeling, that grade school age giddiness that came with the countdown to Valentine's Day. And I have been trying to zero in on what kind of Valentine I can make and send.

Folding laundry, I found hearts. Then I wondered what other hearts happen to be in and around our home. So, I went looking.

Some hearts are actual "hearts" and some hearts are a feeling, an act that speaks of love, a picture of romance. The times Geoff has filled my car with fuel... I put a big heart around that. When the children are together in the tent, reading aloud, laughing... I put a big heart around that too.

This is the very first time I put a heart on a door. Maria saw the wreath at the craft store, and recalling my own thrill for the holiday, I let her add it to our cart. The bow from our Christmas wreath is getting a second life. Wouldn't the wreath look amazing completely covered in red roses?

Here is another heart that could hold roses, or sweet peas. Sweet peas are my idea of a romantic bloom.

What I need is an idea for a Valentine card... homemade, well made. Not "show-off" well made... just thoughtfully, sweetly well made. I've got "thoughtful" covered. I am thinking about this all the time. But the time for action is upon me.

I even bought heart doilies. I remember when I first saw paper doilies, I felt as though a Queen might enter the room, as though the hostess had magical powers... how else could she conjure such an elegant piece of fancy decor? Nowadays I could probably find a "How It's Made" episode to explain how millions of red paper heart doilies are cut and shipped, but I will never do that, because I like the magic, the mystery.

Inspired by love and by talented women, like Grandma Nancy, I want to make a special Valentine. Several special Valentines. Maybe with fabric, maybe with paper, maybe with photographs... I do not know.

I was kind of amused, sort of surprised, to find as many hearts as I did. Even blossoms in the garden suggested hearts, and Maria running around the house playing... she's like a heart in motion, pink and bursting with a love of life that is quite inspiring.

Nine ringing, tingling hearts. Chiming in the garden.

Betty, I suppose this is my first WIP, my progress report for the Valentines Trade. I am on the verge of making something. Nearly, nearly. I am putting my heart in to this.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Must Glue-Cut-Glitter-Stitch Something

It's almost overwhelming how crafty I feel. Not sinisterly coiling a handlebar mustache-kind of craftiness. I need to make something.

Maybe I should sinisterly coil my own mustache. Bitter Betty is crafty that way.

Unless I clean my office/studio/nerve center first, I will be putting the cart before the horse, but it's almost overwhelming how crafty I feel and I cannot wait. Something whimsical is bursting to get out of my head. And inspiration is calling.

And if my crafting is justified and purposeful, something hyper organized for say... next Christmas, then I can have fun and relish that elusive sense of accomplishment.

I'm going to do something. Seriously. Must. craft. create. make. I'll download Lady Harvatine's "O, Holy Night" and start basting and snipping to her lovely voice and the ukuleles strumming...

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Monday, December 28, 2009

*Dancing on clouds with Ponies
and Sliding Down a Rainbow Into The Bathtub

*Not a song title.
Not our New Year's Eve plans.
Not remotely close to anything we have ever nurtured or ingrained or stimulated or suggested, and yet there it is... twirling and flitting from the active and highly colorful imagination of our daughter, Self Rescuing Princess-Ballerina-Cowgirl Maria.

She asked for two things for Christmas.
1. A fez, just like my Max and Alex.
2. A horse puppet and the horse has all the colors, like a rainbow.

Every time she described the horse puppet, sometimes pony puppet, and its rainbow colors, the boys and I would exchange glances. My expression was one of distress-amusement and the boys' expressions were of amusement-sympathy. No one had any idea where she got the notion that such a thing could be procured. No one had any idea what such a thing could even be. So, I kept my eyes open where ever I shopped, and the day I got to visit my favorite independent toy shop I began to narrow my search. I found a rainbow tattooed unicorn that definitely would have struck a chord with her love of all things fancy. But other than being garish, pricey, tacky and very commercial (gee, Natalie, why not tell them how you really felt about it?) I did not see any play appeal, any lasting value, and it wasn't even a puppet. Then I remembered all the times she admired and pined for a hobby horse. A head on a stick, I reasoned, could be a kind of puppet. As for the rainbow factor, she never was too specific about whether the horse was a rainbow, had a rainbow, or just adorned itself in rainbowiness.

I stitched rainbow ribbons to the bridle and let Santa himself make a special delivery on Christmas Eve. We have wonderful friends, and one in particular with a very jolly laugh. And now Maria has a rainbow horse puppet that she rides all over the yard, and through the house. She loves her horse. She loves her fez too. By the way, a fez is a much easier gift to procure.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Can We Talk About Something New?

It's not just you. Believe me, I have been wondering the same thing: Will I ever move on from the subject of packing-moving-unpacking?


And you can trust me on this too: I have been very conservative about not documenting every last detail. I have spared you the number of times I drove back and forth

You know what? Unpacking and settling in is where we are at. That's how it is, and not much else is going on. Well, almost not much... Insomnia hit me real hard last night and, beginning at one a.m., I began pinning, cutting and sewing a dress for my niece. It's all done. At face value that might sound like super ambitious productivity, but really it was just the darn insomnia and of course I was less than effective the rest of the day.

yawn Tonight I will sleep. Honest.

This was one of those prints that I could not resist and even though I found it in July, I knew it would make really folky-sweet Christmas dresses for Maria and her cousin Izzy. What was I thinking? As though I had (have) nothing else going on? It makes me laugh. I am nuts. It was such a luxury getting to sew, and finally seeing this vision completed makes me happy. Maybe I am a bit off-course in my priorities. Maybe not.

Under the arms and fitting around the shoulders is still my weak point with this pattern. Turns out I can make my own pattern, which is not the same as being good at it. Still, this is so much easier for me than following the store bought patterns, with their obtuse directions and aggravating tissue.

Can you see the pink rick-rack peeking from the bodice? I also added a contrasting border to the hem... for length and for fun. I did not account for how much fussy cutting this print would require. I fussy cut both the sleeves and the bodice, but now I am not sure I have enough to complete Maria's dress... uh-oh. Maria may get a holiday blouse to wear with her tulle skirt.

I bought the dots somewhere else, and at some other time, but they are both Michael Miller prints. And now I am rambling and scrambling, a kind of absent minded way of avoiding the pressing chores and responsibilities that are weighing upon me.

Tearing myself away from the warm glow of iMac... I am going to aim for genuine super ambitious productivity... wish me luck.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Special Delivery

M is for Most generous.
Most kind.
Most delightful.
Most unexpected.

This is the bed that Geoff and I saw in a resale shop. I think it was about 18 months ago, and we knew we were not going to find a better fit for our romantic and feminine daughter. With no place to put it, but the garage, we brought it home. You know how excited I was about putting this in a room for Maria... a room of her own? I waited her whole life to make a beautiful room just for her.

Waiting. In the middle of waiting there can be so much angst and frustration. And I think it is strange how suddenly it can seem that the waiting is over, and now we find ourselves where we were waiting to get. Home. What a journey. What an arduous and challenging journey, and yet we are done waiting and the things we stored in our hearts, and garage, can be unpacked and fulfilled, put in place and enjoyed.

The difference between preparing a baby's nursery and setting up a little girl's room, is that one is all about anticipation and personal choices, and the other is all about knowing who will live there and what she would choose and love. Maria loves pink. And for several months she has been acknowledging that her color preferences also include red, "which is like dark pink," and green and yellow and orange and blue. She delights in the realization that we do not have to restrict our color favorites to one shade. She swoons over lace and ribbons, tulle with sparkles are cause for dancing, flowers make her sigh, rainbows and hair bows make her exclaim her adoration.

There is no end to the manufactured glitter and glam in the decorating world, but I wanted to create a room with homemade touches and natural femininity, where her own imagination could build a fairy tale and rainbows. I imagined gathering the art and furniture from here and there, seeking vintage charm and meaningful images to surround her. I was busy packing and moving and keeping things, as best I could, in working order, so I was not sure when or how I was ever going to achieve this vision. Yet the vision of a homemade room, with personal touches and Maria-esque flavor was always on my mind, right down to the quilt I hoped to make for her bunny bed.

We were still learning how to find one room from the next, still opening closet doors and discovering the best corners of our Bird House, when we heard the first knock on our door. It brought the first package.

My heart my paused.
My thoughts paused.
I remembered a blog giveaway, a contest. I remembered something about vintage sheets cut in squares for quilt making. I remembered when I left a comment on the blog, thinking "I have no business coveting fabric in the middle of this moving madness."

Maria and Max didn't pause and they eagerly assisted, opening the big package in record time, while I tearfully began to comprehend what had happened. Tearfully, because I can never get over how kind "strangers" can be, because I was stunned by how delightful and perfect Tara's gift is. Tears because it was all so very unexpected. And thankfully, Max and Maria knew these were happy tears. They were stunned and delighted as well, as I explained where this beautiful gift came from.

Thoughtful, busy, talented and generous Tara did not send me cut squares for me to stash away until I could maybe some day make a quilt. She knew my situation and she sent us something she had already made herself. Pink and yellow and green and red and orange, feminine and charming, vintage and handmade, and complete with an M for Maria. The pink M monogram has a bunny print, a perfect match for the bunny bed.

Doily heart... so sweet.

No one knew about the bunny bed waiting in the garage, and it had been a long time since I wrote anything about wanting to decorate a room for my daughter. I wish I could really convey that sense of enchantment I feel about what Tara did, how she brought magic to our home. She rejuvenated my dreams and gave my hopes flight... And you really mustn't think I am over stating this, because sometimes when we least expect it, when we are struggling, we can be overcome with gratitude and wonder and it's good to try and find the words to express that joy and awe.

Thank you Tara. It's so beautifully made. I love the soft fabrics, the nostalgic look of those sweet prints. All combined, the old sheet squares make such a comforting and gentle quilt, sure to keep Maria smiling, even in her sleep. It is just what we needed, in so many ways.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

It's no use screaming at a time like this.

"It's no use screaming at a time like this.
Nobody will hear you.
Help! Help!"-The Scarecrow

Our own Dorothy has grown up since the last time she appeared, but she's as cute as ever and probably even more delighted to be wearing ruby slippers than when she was one year old. I may have even improved on my last attempt at making a pattern and sewing a Dorothy dress.

Fortunately, Maria is easily pleased and did not seem too disappointed about our low key celebration. Alex slept feverishly all day. Geoff is almost as sick as Alex. Max is relapsing a bit. William and I are on the mend. But none of us were up for parties or even pumpkin carving. We missed the annual party at Holly and Rich's place. We missed trick or treating almost... Maria and I walked to 3 houses and came home with one dear piece of chocolate. We watched Disney's "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and kind of raided the candy we had for passing out. Only three children came to our door and they came at once... this might not be one of those big draw kind of neighborhoods. At least no once actually screamed, but we are definitely feeling the need of a Glinda intervention... a little deus ex machina if you will.

On second thought... we aren't ready to surrender. We have brains and courage and plenty of heart.

It's November. I cannot believe it's November. If I look back and lament all the time it took to get to this place, I can feel overcome with sadness and frustration, but looking ahead, I feel eager and hopeful... so forward!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Happiness In Every Stitch

After my last sewing episode, I admit it seamed unlikely that I would ever return to the cutting board and straight pins. But I cannot resist. I may not always get the results I am seeking, but when it comes to making children's clothing, quilts or yo-yo's, I cannot resist playing again and again. And even more surprisingly I find it really helps me cope with stress and anxiety. Figuring out "real" patterns adds to my stress and anxiety, which is why I am happy to discover that I can make simple things by making it up as I go!

All the sewing I did for Maria, her Chickens Abroad-Summer wardrobe, held up very well, so I thought I would play around with the dress and skirt and make clothes that she can wear in to Autumn. Plus... she grew! Her clothes still fit, but they are shorter than they were at the beginning of Summer.

On this new dress I used seam binding to finish the sleeves and the hem, and I even added a strip of it at the edge of the yoke, where it meets the skirt. It's a loose fit and will wear well with tights and an undershirt. I've almost got this homemade pattern fine tuned enough to call it a "real pattern!"

More Kaffe Fassett fabric from Starry Night Hollow! Another nice thing about sewing for a little girl... half a yard goes a long way!

She's doing a hula for us.

Maybe not the best image of this skirt, since she had been wearing it a lot already. Excuse the wrinkles. I think this was half a yard and I just stitched it from one end to the other and then gathered it with the elastic waist. The rick-rack hem was irresistible.

Cousin Izzy got one of these skirts too. A fun Summer print for sure! Maria wore it to preschool on "water days." She especially loves her mermaid pocket. I used my quilting skills to add a fun contrasting fabric around the waist. It's such a simple way to add interest, and I think I will play with this idea a bit more in the future.

But enough about Me and my sewing obsession, Maria wants to dance! She told me she wants to be a mermaid for Halloween! How's that for a sewing challenge?! Then again she also said she wants to be Dorothy... I don't think she remembers the first time she went down the Yellow Brick Road. We both saw Christmas fabric from Sew, Mama, Sew! I'm sure it cannot be too early to plan a holiday dress or two.

Obviously we both love to play... aren't we sew lucky?

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

It Must Be Teh Stress

1. I am overweight
2. I never ever want to admit that I am overweight
3. It's been hot and I want to wear semi-skimpy, yet modest, summer dresses that flutter in the breeze
4. I am aging
5. Everyone is aging
6. I am not aging gracefully
7. Everyone else is aging gracefully
8. feh
9. I thought I could make a dress pattern for an overweight, aging gracelessly woman that has no experience making dress patterns and almost as little experience sewing clothes for herself
10. I wanted a classic look, loose, pretty, practical, flattering, quick and easy
11. What I got was a look I call: Swiss Alps-Heidi Escapes The LDS Compound

(new subject)

A. I worry
B. I am insecure
C. I am one of the luckiest persons alive and all I can think about is how scared and overwhelmed I feel
D. Even wonderful events can bring stress
E. Buying a house is really really really stressful
F. We need packing tape
G. Seepage pits are very deep
H. What would Heidi do?

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ms. Sew 'n' Sew

I can think of a lot of ways to waste time and/or procrastinate, but my all time favorite way to postpone the inevitable is with a needle and thread. Or a camera.

I got it in my head that our family trip, Chickens Abroad, calls for a particular kind of wardrobe... summer cool and light, for comfort, and also to dry easily when doing hotel room laundry. I envisioned something simple to manage when negotiating an airplane bathroom. So with a pencil and a ruler, some freezer paper and a willingness to try reverse engineering basic styles, I have been having a grand time sewing Maria a custom wardrobe for her first trip to Europe.

I think Maria had a grand time modeling today's project. She loves her red dress. She loves the ribbon rose and hopes it will never fall off. I love that I have successfully designed and made two pair of pants, a skirt and blouse and this sweet and easy, ready to go dress. The sewing muses have been so kind to me... this time.

Gee whiz... I really wish this look would work on me. No, not the dramatic pose... the dress.

Here is the skirt. Honestly this is totally inspired by me trying to make airplane bathroom trips as easy, sanitary and convenient as possible.

I wish I had more of this print. Can you see the bird silhouettes? It's so breezy and cheerful, like the best of summertime.


I'm sorry for carrying on, but I am so very amused-delighted-surprised-relieved about this blouse. I made it with my fingers crossed, and then made a longer version for the red dress. It worked. Stunning. Mom and I shopped together for the blue Provenšal print... now it gets to journey back to France.

I should have taken pictures of the pants, but since we are taking so little clothing on this trip there will be plenty of fashion sewing photo-ops later.

There are a few other things I am supposed to be taking care of (*ahem*,) but I hope I can do a little more sewing soon.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Flossing Every Day

Embroidery floss that is... I should remind myself to play with some every day. I love the seemingly limitless color options and all the possibilities of scenes and images waiting to be stitched to life. As far back as grade school I have liked to pull a needle with thread or yarn. And whenever I go to Alicia Paulson's blog or open her book, "Stitched In Time," I am reminded of lovely and creative pastimes I could be enjoying. "Posie Gets Cozy" has many posts dedicated to embroidery and look for her free embroidery patterns... whimsical images for dishtowels.

Usually I sketch my own images to embroider, but sometimes I find one that I cannot pass up. I could not resist printing the patterns offered at "Turkey Feathers..." you never know what you'll find when you click on the button "Sweet Surprises." This is another wonderful blog for endless inspiration, in the garden, in the kitchen, with needle and thread. This is another blogger that has published a book! Vicki Haninger's "Blanket Statement" is a personal narrative, as well as a guide for sewing with wool felt and making the most of a thrifted treasure.

I wish there were more opportunities to make all the things I am inspired to make. I think it's a matter of habits... trading bad habits for fun ones. Less time channel surfing = more time to sew. Of course sometimes I go to the other extreme, ignoring everything so I can finish stitching a cute bunny with an appliqued apron. I get obsessed! Vicki shared several animals in aprons to copy and embroider, and she gave instructions for using them to make a quilt. Maria chose the bunny when I asked her which I should make. When it was finished I knew I had to add it to something, but what?

Introducing Maria's Bunny Apron! I traced the front half of one of her dresses and made my own pattern for a two sided apron with pockets. It has a drawstring tie that slides from the waist, up around her neck and back down to the other side... does that make sense? Well, however badly I describe it, the method works.

Sometimes aprons get dirty and wash day does not always come around soon enough, so we have a solution for that: Flip!

A different pocket, just for fun. Room to collect things.

Maria likes her aprons. She wears them for doing art and eating yogurt. She wears them in the garden and to the farmer's market. I think this could be a fun one to bring on our trip... she can have two looks for one when we "pack lightly."

Don't worry... I wouldn't do it, but looking at this picture I cannot help but imagine Betty in a smart little apron. Grin.

My own design... inspired by what? I wonder. Grin.
It needs somewhere to go...

And do not miss this terrific chance to win your own apron from Missy of Spring Bean Things!

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