Category Archives: sewing

costumes for the girls

Life with Miss Mairi Rose is often an adventure.  For months and months she told everyone who would listen that she was going to be a mermaid for Halloween.  After a while I, seasoned parent though I may be, even believed her.  This went on for at least 6 months and I started making plans in the back of my head.  A month before Halloween she woke up one day and announced she was going to be….

a coyote.

So she could play a joke on the neighbors and scare them (in a playful way).

Okay.  I’m flexible.

That lasted for a week or so until she heard of a different, better joke.  One that she could play on a lot of people.  She decided that she was going to tie a rope around her waist with the ends kind of picked apart a bit.  When people guessed what she was she would say, “I’m afraid not!” (a- frayed-knot).  She greatly enjoyed using that line for about a week.

“Guess what I’m going to be for Halloween!”

“Abraham Lincoln?”

“I’m afraid not!” she would glibly reply with great enthusiasm and much emphasis.

Elijah was aghast.  A chance for a homemade costume and that was what she was going with?!?  Several of her siblings tried to talk her out of it, but she stood her ground.  She was being a frayed knot.

One afternoon shortly before Halloween, when no one else was around, she quietly cuddled up to me and in a very little voice said, “Mommy, is it too late to change my costume?”

And so we came full circle, back to a mermaid…

A modest mermaid costume is a tricky thing to pull off.  I made the dress from some cotton velour I had about.  You know how I love my double duty Halloween costumes (Galen got a new pair of winter pants this year) and she is in need of cool weather clothing.

I strung a seashell necklace, she strung a seashell bracelet.  The starfish was needle felted with the beads sewn on after it was formed.  The tulle skirt is supposed to be the ocean.  I’m not sure if that’s clear, especially in pictures since you can’t really see the layered colors and wavy texture too well.

The tail snaps on and off so that the skirt can be used separately.  She’s forever looking for new costumes for the little shows she puts on and I thought it might be useful.

Our littlest love, as you well know, was a lamb. I knitted roving to form the bonnet, needle felting the ears.  The tights (see this tutorial) turned out so adorable and fit so well that I think I’ll have to make several more pairs.  The shape of the body was based on the Sis Boom Carly Baby Bubble, greatly modified to suit our needs.  I made it out of batting.

    She was born right in the midst of lambing season here.  Two of the lambs up the road share her birthday, with the others mostly being a day or two to either side.  For the first few days after she was born she didn’t cry, but made these tiny little bleating noises that made her sound rather like a baby lamb herself.  It seemed fitting.

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costumes for the boys

We made wee pumpkins to package up treats in.  I traced a cake pan to get circles of orange tissue paper and twisted it all up with some green floral tape.  We made a couple of sizes to hold various things.  These are the tiny ones.

Legolas Greenleaf

He bought the wig and pin and sewed, gathered or constructed the rest.  We went to the fabric store and he picked out what he wanted, down to elastic (which he ended up not using) and thread without so much as consulting me.  Back at home and he started cutting and stitching.  I worried a bit about the many things that he might not take into consideration as a novice sewer, but bit my tongue and stayed out of the way and as you can see he clearly had it all well in hand.  The only thing he asked my advice on was the making of the gauntlets.  I talked him through drafting a simple pattern based on his measurements and he executed it perfectly.  I had absolutely no concerns about his ability to make his own accessories (a.k.a. weapons), which he carved and burned designs into.

The Jockey

Holy-moly.  This one almost put me in an early grave.  This boy and his ideas I tell ya!  Whenever I mentioned his costume plans to people, they always commented on how easy it would be, because surely he must have most of the gear already?  Nope.  You see, jockeys do not wear black britches, they wear white.  A plain riding helmet?  Completely unacceptable.  I was handed a sketch, which I then had to transform into a workable, wearable pattern…and then redesign when he opted for an entirely different fabric.  He did all of the sewing himself, down to the hand embroidered horse (amazing right?), with me talking him through each step.  It really was quite the undertaking.  But through it all I kept thinking, how often will I be able to help one of my boys with a dream sewing project?  I mean really now.

And our dear little Robin Hood.

Goodness he’s adorable!  But, eek, don’t tell him I said so!  I would be in an awful lot of trouble you know.  While making his costume, I took the opportunity to start teaching him a bit about using my machine.  While I did the majority of it, he did sew a couple of the straight seams himself.  He was mightily pleased with himself and is pushing for a new project that he can do all on his own.

Iain made the bow, quiver and arrows for him.  Actually he sold them to him for a very reasonable price.  There was a catalog and order form and everything, even a three cent shipping charge for carrying them downstairs.

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wee autumn wardrobe, part 4

I picked up Sherlock Holmes again, and am back to knitting Iain’s sweater along with other bits and pieces throughout the day.

The final dress!  This one is clearly a picnic dress.  It even has sleeves like a gingham tablecloth and cherries for tea.  I did a plain hem for the sleeves on it and I’m glad I did because all of the long-sleeved dresses are already getting too small and unlike the other ones there is no elastic to get tight higher up on her arm.

The sweater is MOMO in a green tea colored cotton yarn from Knitpicks. Both hats are older projects.  Details for the Apple Green Pilot Cap can be found here and the Newborn Blackberry Beret here.  The beret fit her as a newborn, but looked completely ridiculous on her wee little head!  Thankfully it still fits.  Now that it’s more proportionate, I think it’s quite charming.
Frontier Dreams KCCO

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wee autumn wardrobe, part 3

Last year

and this year….

More into the leaf play this year for sure, though not quite up to the crazy antics of her siblings!  She does enjoying sitting and watching them.  They make her giggle like mad!

If the first dress was the simple one and the second one the whimsical one, this one, with it’s reproduction kitten fabric and vintage notions, must surely be the retro one.

This newborn bonnet I made was too small from day one.  I thought I would alter the pattern to make one that actually fit.  I can’t decide if it’s goofy or cute or both!  This is a strange pattern, giant needles for a tiny hat!  I couldn’t find the recommended size 19 needles anywhere.  Finally the boys made me a set out of dowels.

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Wee Autumn Wardrobe (part 2)

The first dress I made on its own, just as a trial to make sure it fit and all of that.  The next 3 I made in rapid succession, assembly line style.  As I was sewing the ruffle on this one (the ruffle is my favorite part!) I was thinking that it’s rather whimsical and romantic, like if it were a decorating style it might be classed as French Country.  The bow came last and I questioned it up until the very end and after.  I couldn’t decide if it was too silly or too over the top, but I have to confess, more then any other dress, this is the one that makes me smile as I’m putting away laundry.

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dream come true…

Remember?  Before we left for our trip, I determined that our Sweet Wild Violet was in need of some clothing, and quick!  I’ve been wanting to detail the making of her wee fall wardrobe, but it’s quite beyond my abilities at the moment to sit here for long enough to do so.  A little here and a little there will have to do.  This bitty dress is the first in a set of four.  As I needed something quick and easy, all of them were based off of the Anna Maria Horner Peice-a-Bake Baby Dress, size 12 months.  I tried to do something a little different for each so that they all had a personality of their own.  This one is simple and sweet.  The most basic of basics. 

And yes, there is a bit of a color theme going on.  I’m like a scratched record with colors, I often get stuck.

Pattern: Baby Scarf by Liesl Gibson

I believe one of the yarns is some O-Wool in ‘Oatmeal’, the other is the yarn leftover from Mairi’s mittens.

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in the beginning…

Some scenes from our first week of school, that have taken me a full month to post!  Every year has a different feel, with different priorities.  I can’t quite explain why, but this year it seemed really important to start the school year off working all together before we broke off into separate age-appropriate groups.  This is tricky with kids kindergarten up through high school!  I knew we would be visiting the art museum, so I basically made that our focus for the first couple of weeks.  There are actually some really nice lesson plans in the teachers resources section of their site.  I utilized a couple of them and everyone worked at their own level.  There was one on geometry and quilts.  I made it easier for some and harder for others and adapted the whole thing to our life style…meaning we didn’t stop at paper quilts, but broke out fabric and needles as well.  I’ve been re-working our homeschooling room and decided that I’m sick of the poster of hatchling turtles.  It’s feeling old and tired.  What better way to kick off the new year then with a project that instructs while beautifying our space?

I started every morning by arranging large sheets of paper on the floor, with art supplies in the center.  I had them all lay on their stomachs.  Each day I would choose a different piece of classical music to play and they were to draw how it made them feel or anything that they thought of as they listened, the idea being less to create a perfect picture and more to get used to conveying emotion.  I have no idea where this idea came from, it is not my own, I believe I read about it many years ago.  Afterwards we would go around and anyone who wanted to share would talk about what they drew and why.  Elijah, who thinks in horses the way that I think in yarn, complained about the mood changing.  Of Rhapsody in Blue he said, “At first it was like a lipizzaner doing dressage, but then it suddenly became a herd of mustangs racing full speed in a cloud of dust.”  I would then pull the big boys aside for a bit to talk about the composer, the time period and significance of each piece.

The butterflies!  We listened to a free Sparkle Story where the children surprised their homeschooling parents by decorating with butterflies as a teacher gift to start the new year.  Mairi was inspired to start making butterflies out of coffee filters that she found in the craft drawer.  Iain and Elijah picked up on her idea and started making intricate paper cut ones while referencing a field guide with actual pictures of butterflies to copy.

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days of goldenrod

You know you knit too much when…

You find yourself stalking a man in the grocery store, not because he’s really good looking, but because he is wearing an Aran sweater with a cable you are trying to work out.” 

~At Knit’s End: Meditations for Women who Knit Too Much by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I’m reading that book right now.  I think I will forever associate Stephanie’s writing with Seraphina’s early baby days when I read book after book of hers all in rapid succession.  I love her so much, if for no other reason then she assures me that it’s perfectly normal to have a freezer full of wool.

The quote above reminds me of a funny story.  Several years ago we were walking out of a co-op as a man was crossing the parking lot to walk in.  I think he was somewhat attractive and of the general right age range.  Maybe.  I didn’t really note that.  What I did notice was his fabulous, luscious, cream colored sweater full of some of the most meticulous and complicated cabling I’ve ever seen.  I stood there, frozen in my tracks, staring after him, with snowflakes gathering on my eyelashes, trying to mentally deconstruct the main cable.  I’m not sure how long I stood there, spellbound, before it suddenly dawned on me that to the casual observer it looked just as if I was very intently checking out this gentleman’s backside. heh-hem  Luckily my husband knows me well enough to know that I only have eyes for him….and yarn.

The goldenrod!  It sneaks up on me.  Every year I’m surprised to find myself in this season.  Even this year when I prepared in advance.  I always want to be knitting something golden as they come into bloom, but never have the right yarn on hand.  When I was ordering yarn a few months back, I made sure to include some with this season in mind.  From the Knit Picks site- “Wheat is a dark mustard yellow color that is slightly darker than Turmeric. With stronger green undertones, Wheat is has subtle cooler undertones and is reminiscent of a dark goldenrod.“  I’m on a somewhat embarrassing mustard yellow kick.  Actually I wasn’t embarrassed by it, until my sister informed me that I really ought to be.  So since it’s my duty and all…  It’s not really the color of freshly bloomed goldenrod.  Nor it is truly what I would consider “mustard”.  For what I have in mind I think I prefer it more subtle anyway.  And it is almost exactly the color of the faded blooms and these days I’m already finding more faded then fresh.  Autumn is almost upon us.

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Welcoming Seraphina

Our littlest one was officially welcomed into the world and into our community with a shower of blessings and rose petals.  As with our vow renewal, it rained and the ceremony had to be moved indoors at the last minute.  I planned everything in pastels.  A friend showed up unexpectedly bearing huge bouquets of flowers in the brightest and boldest of hues; a complete riot, so entirely different from everything I had imagined and completely perfect.

Our Sweet Wild Violet wore the gown and bonnet I made for her sister 5 years earlier.  It was a bit too warm to add in the stockings as well.  I love that they both were able to wear it.  Still I wanted to make her something special of her own.  The party was to be an all day event.  Since it didn’t seem practical to keep her in the gown all day, a party dress was in order!  I decided to give the Lizzy Dress another go using the chart this time.  The yarn is Knit Picks Diadem in ‘Azurite’, blue, blue…deep blue…like the ocean and the sky, her eyes when she was tiny, her beautifully formed umbilical cord, our birth tub!

Rosebud had a new frock of her own to coordinate.  I modified this pattern for the bodice.  Originally I pictured it with a floral skirt, featuring hints of that same blue.  I think there was a specific Liberty of London print that I kept seeing in my mind whenever I closed my eyes.  Then I remembered this amazing single yard of green Radiance, cotton silk blend, that I had tucked away for a special occasion.  I thought the combination a bit daring really.  The silhouette has kind of a regency feel with the empire waist, scooped neck, slightly puffed sleeves, but the striking colors make me think of some of the really bold fashions that started appearing in the 1920′s.  Kind of a The House of Eliott vibe.  Together they put me in mind of the skyline around our home…treetops reaching up into the deep blue of an early autumn sky.  She looked a tiny goddess in it.

I wanted to get some really nice photos of my girls in their dresses, but I didn’t take most of the candid shots that day.  The pictures of Seraphina in her gown and most of the decorative detail ones are mine, but most of the rest were taken by other people as my camera got passed around throughout the day.  I’ll have to try to get some better ones for posterity’s sake.

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by the ocean

Photos of our trip, more or less in chronological order…

Because this is the same trip that we take every year, with many other families, the amount of time that we saw our children was in direct proportion to their ages; Seraphina never left my side, whereas I barely recognized Iain by the end of the week, it had been so long.  He, and Elijah to a lesser degree, were absorbed into the pack of roving teens and tweens that I used to hold as babies and chase as toddlers, almost every one of them taller then me now, with these deep, booming voices.  Each June seems to bring up questions of independence and boundaries, a growing experience for us all.  I find myself watching all of these great big boys and girls and wondering if someday we’ll be making this same journey with our grandchildren underfoot and what that would look like as a truly multi-generational event?  Or will they have long lost interest by then, leaving us old folks alone telling stories of them around a campfire, if the tradition even survives at all?  All I know is that it seems like yesterday that I cradled baby Elijah in my arms while planning the first of these trips.

Màiri and I made a mermaid in the sand.  Her favorite book right now is Jane Ray’s Can You Catch a Mermaid?
I was extremely grumpy about going to the beach and not being able to at least bury my feet in the sand or dip my toes in the water. harrumph.  I’m in compression stockings every day now.  Maybe by next year I’ll be able to experiment a bit, but it was just too risky this year…too much at stake, too many people depending on me.  I’m still a bit…fragile?  Come autumn I think I’ll be able to cultivate a kind of cute look, pairing them with dresses.  At the moment though I’m just that nutter walking around in tights on the beach.  It’s astonishing how much of my wardrobe is medically mandated. (grump. grump. grump.)  So…what to wear?  I certainly wasn’t going to be trotting a swimsuit out there.  As it turns out I needn’t have worried.  Blankets and sweaters featured heavily in Seraphina’s first visit to the Atlantic and I seriously doubt that say, all of the dads huddled in pink children’s beach towels would have judged me whatever I wore!  But of course I didn’t know that in advance.  My very vague thoughts ran somewhere along the lines of the stockings and a nursing cami with some sort of easy-to-nurse-in, long-tunic-y, loose-cover-up-type-thingy over top.

The pattern is a slightly altered Color Twist Kimono Top.  Deciding to make something, spur of the moment in the middle of the night, doesn’t exactly leave you with a large selection of fabric possibilities.  This particular jersey, chosen almost exclusively because there happened to be the right amount of fabric, was originally intended for kid pants.  I will say that’s it’s very, very soft; comfy and nice for little people to cuddle up to.  Steve was thoroughly unimpressed with the whole thing.  When I asked him what he thought, he said, and I quote, “eh”.

So I mentioned the rain.  And the motel.  There was also some bowling at the height of a storm.  Read as: knitting, nursing, sipping tea and watching bowling for some of us.  Which had the advantage of hot tea, not to be underestimated, especially on a day when you woke up in a cold puddle, but on the whole I greatly preferred the days of knitting, nursing and watching kids playing in the sand, in the pond, in the ocean.

She built up quite the reputation among the children for her well honed biking skills.  I love watching this girl of mine, so strong and confident in her body and her abilities.  Who am I to tell her what she can’t do? Well, alright, sometimes…but mostly I just watch and am in awe of the grace and ease that she takes for granted.  Such a gift.

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