Category Archives: sewing

baby love

These two little darlings are the best of friends.  I’ve never known a baby of her age to be so attached to a doll.   She gets so excited when she spots her little dolly, I sometimes worry she might hyperventilate!  And if you do not realize right away what it is she’s wanting or if for some reason she must be separated from her beloved, say while putting arms into shirt sleeves, the crying is most pitiful.  I’ve taken to hiding her at meal times.  Waldorf dolls and yam covered hands do not mix!  When they are reunited she says, “ahh-ah beh-beh! (baby)” and kisses and cuddles her up.  Every once in a while she will thrust baby into someone else’s arms while making kissing sounds on the understanding that the recipient is to kiss and cuddle baby before promptly returning her to her wee mistress.  If she wakes from a nap and baby is not there, she cries.  It baby is there, she sits, with baby in her lap, babbling her little secrets and patiently waiting for someone to come and fetch them both.

Baby has a little bonnet and dress set, but as you can see, they are often discarded.  Seraphina likes to take them off, but try as she might, she has yet to manage getting them back on, at least in any manner which they are likely to stay on.

Juliette, as most of us call her, we have something of a tradition of middle names being taken as dolly names, was a first Christmas gift and her making has a funny story behind it.  I thought I would do something terribly clever and fancy.  I got to looking at all of these techniques that I had never tried before.  I started experimenting with different methods of sculpting the face.  The first head I did was horrifying!  I’m laughing now as I picture it.  I would share a photo, but I’m afraid of frightening you.  I wanted a very sweet, baby-ish little doll and what I created looked like an ugly and disgruntled old man.  Ah, but I forged ahead, telling myself that once I added pretty blue eyes, rosy cheeks and rose petal pink lips it would be totally transformed and all would be well.  And what a transformation it was!  Into what looked like an ugly and disgruntled old man in drag!  After which I started over, sticking to the basics.  Whenever will I learn that simple is better?



(my sweater)

(his sweater)

A sweet and thrifty gift from Mairi Rose.  Ever since his jade died he’s been wanting a new plant for his room.  We asked Iain and Elijah if we could take cuttings from each of their Christmas cacti to try to propagate them and she decorated a little pot to plant them in.

The makings of a very happy Galen birthday….a new mama-made outfit*, a flint and steel fire, dear friends visiting throughout the day, a bit of sledding, creating works of art, a new ukelele, gingerbread (always!), and a right of passage movie night.

It’s been over a year since I did a “Week in the Life” series.  I’ve been working on photo albums for the children as gifts, they each received one for their birthday this year, and I can honestly say that some of my very favorite photos come from that project.  I would really love to do it again this year.  But at the moment I’m struggling to post more then twice a week (sometimes even once is a strain!).  Case in point: it’s taken me over a week and a half to post these birthday pictures for the grandparents to see.  I can’t even fathom how I would manage to post seven whole days in a row.

*all fabrics and notions from my stash, so a “free” gift, yay!



Galen crafted matching headbands for all the girls, Mairi Rose rolled candles, together they created a mess of glitter that extended the entire first floor and beyond.

A couple of years ago I started the tradition of taking photos of Steve and I together on Valentine’s Day, not because I’m ridiculously sentimental about the holiday or anything like that, because I’m really not at all (though we also have a tradition of making cinnamon rolls and that I am attached to).  It’s just that having a specific day means it’s more likely to happen and this is as good a day as any other to serve as a friendly reminder.

It’s such a simple idea, but looking back I’m amazed at how revealing it is; the photos captured are so very specific to each point in time.  Two years ago we were planning our vow renewal.  Our youngest child was reaching a more independent age, leaving us with a bit of time for the first time in 13 years (!), to be frivolous, silly, flirty.  I had just gotten over being really ill and we were both just so ready to focus on enjoying each other and life again.  Last year was moving slow, big bellied, full of excitement, but more of a quiet and comfortable expectancy.  She was essentially our honeymoon baby.  In many ways it felt like starting all over again, only this time we were able to enjoy it in a way that we weren’t capable of with our first child, while we were so busy trying to learn how to live together and be a family.

And this year- a day late*, rather frazzled, somewhat haggard, kid made accessories, clingy-cranky baby way over-due for a nap, but still crazy in love (perhaps with extra emphasis on the crazy…see below).  I had thought I would take some time to really make an effort and do my hair nicely and put on make-up.  I must have been completely delusional.  I think I managed to scrape together five minutes, total, including dressing.  I was mostly just happy that I managed to brush my teeth.

I started making my dress, oh, about a year ago now.  And then I had a baby… and it sat and sat and… sat….  It’s the Sis Boom “Jamie Dress”, with modifications to make it a nursing dress (tutorial here.  I substituted ribbon for old bra straps).  Since we are trying to save money I thought I could finish this up and it would be a little something to make things special.  Instead of an act of love, I think it may have come across more as making myself crazy while trying to sew a dress on Valentine’s morning, because my earlier attempts were thwarted time and time again, while subjecting everyone else to my crazy self.  Which wasn’t quite what I intended.  Sometimes the big picture is a little lost on me.  At that point I just wanted it to be finished and wearable for the future.**

* It’s possible that on Valentine’s Day proper I was a bit on edge and that by the time dinner was on the table I was ready to be completely done with everything in the world and everyone within a certain age bracket.  As an undeniable signal of my total and absolute defeat I had already changed into my pajama pants.  Throughout the day as I was metaphorically ripping out my hair, usually while the baby was literally ripping it out, my husband would occasionally look at me with maniacal gleam in his eye and exclaim, ” Day of L-O-ove!”.

** There is a rumor circulating that in these pictures the nursing opening is being held up with safety pins.  I refuse to confirm or deny said rumor.


now we are 6….and also 15!

Iain’s birthday sweater; Mairi’s birthday sweater; tutu pattern; Rosebud’s hat

She grew 2 1/2″ in the last year, he grew 3.  No one warned me how strange it would be to be looking at my child and speaking to my child and to have him all of the sudden answer me back in an entirely new voice.

She made the candles for her cake.  The cake itself was a surprise.  This lovely confection was the inspiration, like a Beatrix Potter tea party.  When we go for walks she likes to leap and skip ahead.  I call her my little prancing deer.  “Look at me Mama!  What am I?”  You are my darling, my sweetheart, my love, my little prancing deer.

The day itself was mostly about her.  We went skating, which made them both happy.  He had a father/son movie double date a few days before and a sledding party coming up this week, more elaborate celebrations that somehow feel more private.

Her hat was actually a Christmas gift.  I made it on a whim a while back.  We accidentally got a newer edition of Milly-Molly-Mandy from the library, which I had never seen before.  In it Milly-Molly-Mandy wore a pale pink beret, just like the one I had made.  Only hers had a pom-pom.  Mairi said it was the pom-pom that made it cute.  And that is how her simple hat got a last minute, pre-gifting make over.


holly jolly

My dad read T’was the Night Before Christmas via Skype this year.  Very exciting.  Iain bought Seraphina her own little sled and Elijah carved her a set of wooden spoons.  She’s not sure what all this fuss is about, but she sure enjoyed herself.  The big boys have been putting on a little show the last couple of years, helping the littler ones to get all of the dolls in the house dressed in festive clothing and such.  It’s really very sweet.  This year they turned the attic into Christmas town and the four of them slept up there on Christmas Eve.  They were so pleased with this arrangement that they went up quite early to do holiday Mad Libs, play games and read books.  It worked out beautifully for us.  We had a leisurely time setting everything up and then my love and I got watch a movie while eating Christmas cookies!  On Christmas Eve!  Amazing.

This year’s pajama patterns:

all of the pants were self drafted

Iain’s shirt is Kwik Sew 2530, view A minus the collar

Elijah and Galen’s shirts are Kwik Sew 3366 (now out of print I believe?)

the girl’s nightgowns are the Sally Dress pattern

I modified this pattern for Seraphina’s bonnet


a two headed princess…

I used to own a wool babywearing poncho.  It wasn’t perfect and it made me look like a mix between a weeble and a garden gnome, but it more or less did the trick. We dug it out at the beginning of the season only to discover the moths had been at it, blast their powdery little hides!  I swear those destructive tiny devils are going to be the death of me!

With several outdoor events this holiday season, mostly in the woods and always in the snow, I needed a way to safely carry her while keeping us both warm or we were in for a very long winter of being stranded at home alone.  I had less then a week between the discovery of my Swiss cheese covering and the first such event.  I ran out of time.  I also threw the timing off on my machine sewing through those thick layers.  But I did manage something warm and wearable, if not quite presentable.  Now it is entirely complete, with all the bells and whistles.

I very heavily modified this “Princess Coat” pattern by Burda.  I feel like the sleeves were much too long and bulky.  I chopped off several inches and tapered them a bit more.  Even so they are still big and puffy on me.  Otherwise I think it’s a very nice pattern. We’re keeping busy and keeping warm!



I have a lot of fabric; odds and ends leftover from various projects, overly ambitious plans that never panned out, all manner of old cast offs that I’m convinced I’ll breathe life into and repurpose one fine day.  Sometimes my Mother-in-law sends along fabric she thinks I’ll like, sourced at garage sales.  Years ago when I was making almost all of the kids clothes, I used to buy fabric in bulk, 6 or 10 yards at a pop.  Some remnants of that time still remain.  For a little while I was into fabric co-ops, until I realized that my proclivity towards believing I can do more then is humanly possible and pretty, heavily discounted fabric constantly being dangled in front of me was a bad combination.  I’ve got some fabric.  It’s nothing compared to the sorts of mega “stashes” I hear about sometimes, but if a kid comes to me looking to make, say, a pouch or a doll quilt, he/she’s got options.  The options aren’t endless, but we’re likely to find something along the lines of what they’re looking for.

I am not a hoarder or a clutter-bug.  Craft supplies are the one possible exception to this.  I rationalize this as being the exchange for having a large, creative family.  My stores are constantly being raided and it works well for us to have a lot of variety at our finger tips.  Even so, at the moment I’m craving less storage space and more room for living.  Just a bit of paring down.  I’m parting with certain things that I probably shouldn’t have held on to to begin with.  Let’s face it, by the time I start that rag rug I could probably gather 40 or 50 more pairs of holey jeans and torn corduroy pants.  But I’m also making things.  At a time when I’m hesitant to spend money, it’s a win-win situation.  Any time I feel like I’m approaching life from a feeling of lack, I go whip up a little dress or some pants and hey-presto!  Instant cure.  And a problem solved, whoever needs a garment now has one.

I’ve done an enormous amount of sewing lately.  I don’t think I’ve posted more then a quarter of what I’ve made in the last 9 months or so, if that.  Perhaps at some point I’ll try to go back and fill in the gaps.  Some projects required new fabric, but many, such as all of the dresses I made Seraphina in early autumn, were made from what I had on hand.  Due to limited amounts of most fabrics the two littlest members of the household make the most obvious recipients.

Mairi is in love with cotton velour.  Just now it is the fabric of all her favorite clothes.  I made her a pair of these leggings in the burgundy, as shown, and a second pair in navy.  For a whole week after I made this pair she refused to wear them.  She said she liked them too much and was afraid to mess them up!  Once I made the navy pair she loosened up a bit, knowing she had a back up.  Here they are topped with a Sally Dress, made of a really nice stretch twill and lined with flannel.  I think it’s going to be another season of using the same pattern again and again and I think this, my friends, is that pattern!


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.


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.