Category Archives: toy making

The Enchanted Toy Shop Grand Opening!

As part of their school work this year, Iain and Elijah have been charged with the task of starting their own business.  What better way to learn business math and a multitude of other things as well?  I guess it shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone that children from this house would decide that the best way to go about this would be by making things.

  The two of them have teamed up and their new Etsy shop, The Enchanted Toy Shop, is now open!

They have many (many) more things to go out there, but I am slow at getting the listings together.

Currently available are: wooden swords- some painted and some finished with beeswax polish, a selection of beans for kitchen play, mini-gnomes and some very cute Santa/St. Nicolas ornaments.

They have decided that 20% of their profits will go to charity (proud, proud mama here).  The charity of choice for the month of December is our local food pantry which boasts the amazing statistic of having 97% of every dollar donated going directly towards food for people in need.

Check back often as more listings will be added soon.  And feel free to contact me here or them there with custom requests.


9th birthday gifts for a friend

Yet another Mini-Gnomey from me.  And with this only the Papa in this family remains without a hand knitted gift from me.  Mama has a scarf, big brother a Mini-Gnomey of his own and lil’ sis has a headband.  I guess I know who needs to be on my list for the next knittable occasion.

The big boys made him this sword.  They’ve been making a lot of these lately.  There is talk of opening up their own Etsy shop, but we’re still working out the details.



I’ve had some requests in the last couple of days for that beard pattern I mention in this post.  At this point it’s rather belated for Halloween crafting, but I thought that perhaps it might fit into some people’s Christmas plans.

And at least this way it’s out there for next year.

Disclaimer: This is a very loose, very rough tutorial, not a full scale knitting pattern, for a gnome/Santa/old man/wizard/what-have-you beard of all trades.  Obviously it has not been test knit or anything of that sort.

For both of these projects we used Sensations Cello eyelash yarn in ‘white’.  Snotty yarn snob that I am, normally I wouldn’t be caught dead knitting with novelty yarn and synthetic fibers at that, but it’s strange the things that crazy requests from cute kids will do to you.  It’s considered a bulky yarn, I guess because of the eyelashes, but it doesn’t seem the least bit bulky to me.  One ball is sufficient for this pattern (more may be needed for some of the variations).

You’ll also need a set of size 7 (4.5mm) needles, a length of 1″ elastic, matching thread and either a hand sewing needle or a sewing machine.

gauge is approximately 17 stitches and 22 rows per 4″ of unblocked garter stitch

Beard knitting notes, more or less as written in my notebook:

we start by making a little mustache…

row 1: co 5

row 2: k across

row 3: co 1, k to end, co 1

row 4: K1, bind off 5, k1

row 5: co 2, k1, co 8, k1, co2

**note: we’ve found this mouth shaping to fit and work for everyone in our family, that doesn’t mean it will be perfect for you, but consider it a one-size-fits-most.  I really just can’t-stop-typing-like-that-today.**

increase section: work 6 rows, casting on 1 stitch at the beginning and 1 stitch at the end of each row

K5 rows (7 for a larger beard)

repeat increase section

k 10 (33) rows

decrease row: k1, ssk, k to last 3 stitches, k2tog, k1

K 5 rows

repeat decrease row

K 5 rows

repeat decrease row

K 3 rows

repeat decrease row

K 3 rows

repeat decrease row

K 2 rows

repeat decrease row

K 2 rows

repeat decrease row

K 1 row

repeat decrease row

K 3 rows

repeat decrease row

K 3 rows

repeat decrease row

K 2 rows

repeat decrease row

K 5 rows

k1, k2tog, k1

K 3 rows


break yarn

Picking up stitches for chin strap:

You should now have this kind of funny shaped thing that looks like a trapezoid with a hole in it on top of a big inverted triangle.  Starting at the very top corner of one of the sides of the trapezoid, pick up 5 stitches, working your way down towards the triangle part.  I know this needs a visual aid.  I’m sorry I don’t have one to offer at the moment!  This should take you about half-way down the side of the trapezoid.  If you would like a wider chin strap, feel free to pick up more stitches.  Knit approximately 8 rows.  This will depend on how far up the cheek and into the hair line you want the beard to go.  Repeat what you did on the first side for the second side.

This is the exact way I knitted up the gnome beard, pictured on a 5 year old above.

Attaching the elastic band:

This design includes an elastic band that goes up and around the back of the head creating a very secure beard that conforms to the contours of the face in a more realistic way.  Most people seem to like wearing it with the band just above their ears.  This band can either be covered with a hat (as shown) or it could be camouflaged with additional yarn.

Sew one end of the elastic to the under side of one of the chin straps.  Try on the beard, stretching the elastic across the back the head to get a good fit.  Trim the extra elastic, sew the other side in place and you are done!

After working in the ends we opted to trim back some of the eyelashes around the mouth area, mostly because no one thought they tasted very good.

 For a longer beard:

As shown on Santa above and Dumbledore below, simply increase the number of rows in between the shaping.  Suggested row counts for the beginning sections are in parenthesis.  Elijah and I were both working on that beard and I guess I stopped taking notes after that.  Be sure to mix up the number of rows you use to give it a more natural look.  A straight edged triangle with shaping at regular intervals will not look right.

For a beard with a rounded bottom edge:

Work as above until the first decrease row.  At this point you can either work straight or as above until the beard is approximately the desired length (presuming that you are wanting a shorter beard then the one above, otherwise you will run out of stitches).  Decrease at the beginning and end of each row for a couple of rows before binding off.  This will round off the corners.  How much rounding off you wish to do is entirely up to you.  Continue with the pattern as written starting at the “chin strap” section.


It does knit up quickly, so if Halloween has been delayed for you, due to the storm, you may just be able to get one made in time after all.



these, mostly sunny, days

There has been an epidemic of card house building.  Also games of rock, paper, scissors.

I’m gathering flowers to dry.  Early spring can be so fickle here and I might not have much to choose from for floral arrangements.  I tie a thread to each stem, then loop all the threads together and hang them from nails in the pantry.  Next week I’ll carefully wrap them all in tissue paper, then pack them away in a box until I’m ready to use them.

We harvest at least a bit from the garden everyday.  I wish it was more.

I’ve been making “pesto” from everything…all sorts of herbs, nasturtium leaves, kale, thinned carrot seedlings…


I finally transferred all the heights from boards from three different houses on to one master kid height board.

A pair of juncos decided to build their nest in a grassy patch by our kitchen garden.

We laid out a ring around them to remind everyone to tread carefully.

The herb garden is completely over run.  I’ve not gotten a chance to get out there and move things around.

Galen’s sailboat “Amazon” had her maiden voyage.

Elijah helped with her sail and made her flag.



Week in the Life, Saturday

~I know I’ve mentioned before that my Middlest Boy has a great love of horses.

~Well, while we are not in a position to get him that pony he has always wanted, we have decided that for his 10th birthday, he is getting riding lessons.  He found out today, when we took them all on a visit to the horse farm.  He can’t wait to start.

~Màiri Rose was gifted a pretty green araucana egg.  I made a snack of it for the two littles, along with odd and ends thinned from my seedling trays.

~The big boys are off at practice again tonight.  The last one before opening day.

~Have I mentioned that my children are the owner/builders of the worlds most elaborate cardboard box house?  Work on the third addition has stalled out due to running out of tape.  There is however, a fireplace (complete with chimney) and some shelves inside.

~I finally got around to unpacking our books.  It was like greeting as many old friends.


Of birthday sweaters and other things…

Last year first, since it occurs to me that I never managed to post about those projects.  You already saw his 2011 birthday sweater and the pumpkin.  His birthday table this year (shown here), was set up on one of the gorgeous play stands that Steve built for him last year.  I’ll be sure to get a picture to share of them all set up at the new house.  They are currently there and I am currently not.

This is the crayon roll that I made for him: 

And this is the shield that Steve helped Iain and Elijah to make for him:

It was Steve’s design, there are two leather strips on the back to slip your arm through.  Galen decorated it himself, after the fact.

He’s very fierce you know, even with what I believe to be a bit of blueberry juice on his forehead.  How it got there, I couldn’t possibly say.

There was also a cloth bag that I made to hold the little wooden animals that my parents got him.  It was just a simple drawstring thing, made out of a fabric printed with nursery rhymes and vintage looking illustrations.  It’s in a box right now, so no pictures of that either.

And now on to this year!  We made much less this year.  Considering everything that’s been going on, I let myself off the hook for the doll that I had been planning to make him.  I thought that was uncharacteristically reasonable of me.  It’s possible that I may even be learning a bit of self-preservation.

There was, of course, a birthday sweater…

The pattern is Hestapeysa, again.  The same as for Elijah’s most recent birthday sweater.  This time I didn’t modify it at all.  I just made the child’s size.  Well, I did add  in a bit of a fourth color on the on the yoke, but otherwise…

The other bit of home-made came from Iain and Elijah, in very typical (for them) style.  They went out into the woods and cut a branch, then came home and whittled an entire baseball bat out of it, just like that was a regular old, every day, type of thing to do.  Which I guess it is.  For them.

I think it was his favorite gift ever.  He just kept shaking his head, wide-eyed, saying, “I just don’t know how I can ever thank them enough!”


Màiri Rose’s 2012 Birthday Sweater

Pattern: Knitting Pure & Simple’s Children’s Poncho by Diane Soucy

Yarn: Manos del Uruguay Kettle Dyed, color 115

Size: 6-8 years (really)

The pattern was great; simple, straightforward.  I love the yarn.  The color is gorgeous.  It’s thick and soft and lovely all around.  It felt very, very strange to be making my three year old a size 6-8!  But I read that it runs small and I wanted her to get a lot of wear out of it.  So, I bit my lip and took the chance and I’m quite glad I did, because as you can see it worked out just fine and it fits Galen nicely too, so she will surely get a couple of years out of it.

Even with going up a size, I still added a whole lot of length to it.  I wanted it to be long enough to cover her hands.

She loves it too, which is novel and exciting for me because she’s very fickle and finicky with clothes lately and it’s impossible to know what will please her!  The dress that she insists on wearing one day elicits screaming later in the week.  I was concerned that after splurging on the expensive yarn and all the time I put into knitting it, she would decide she didn’t like it and outright refuse to wear it.  As it turns out, she wears it pretty much daily.  Whenever she gets chilly, she goes and puts it on herself.  And the most darling of Little Red Riding Hoods is she.

Pattern: Hooded Cape for Doll or Teddy Bear by Linda Flack

Yarn: all different scraps of red yarn, oh the number of ends I had to work in!

Notes: I used thicker yarn and larger needles and added some length because the pattern is for a 12″ doll and Rose is a full 16″.

I couldn’t leave Rose entirely out in the cold.  Sure, she doesn’t have regular clothes yet (the pajama set is on loan), but I’ve got the hand-knit outerwear covered.


Meet Rose

Sweet Màiri Rose’s third birthday gift.  I hemmed and hawed about making her, but in the end I’m so glad that I did.  Along with a book, her birthday sweater and one little thing I’ll share later, these were her gifts from us this year.  When I set up her birthday table, I purposely kept Rose aside in a different room.  I don’t like the idea of wrapping dolls.  When I was a little girl my dolls were very real to me and it was upsetting to see them under packaging.  Though in our house it’s a bit different since all the gifts were wrapped in play silks.

After she had finished opening everything else; the little gifts from her brothers, a pretty pair of shoes purchased with the money Grandma sent, and so forth, we told her there was still one more special present.  It was then that I went into the other room, as I was walking back, I heard her exclaim in tiptoe bouncing anticipation, “Oh, I hope it’s a baby!”  And the fact that I actually got to place a baby in her arms, all wrapped up in a blanket that was hers as a newborn, made all of the late night sewing worthwhile.

I used the 16″ Starbright Baby pattern from Sarah’s Dolls.  My machine was still in the shop at the time, so little Rosie was sew entirely by hand.  I triple sewed all of the seams and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that she holds up well!

So, Rosebud got her new baby, but no clothes for said baby, as I wasn’t about to undertake that by hand as well.  Until I can get around to it, her brothers were kind enough to loan her some old doll clothes of their own.

This was my first button jointed dolly and the first I’ve made with a belly button and sculpted bottom as well.  The novelty was very well received in this house full of simple, mama-made dolls.

They are very happy together.


the Christmas making

I think this is the first year since I’ve had children that I didn’t gift a single hand-made item.  Not a one.  And I’m completely at peace with that, though I don’t expect it to turn into any kind of tradition.  And thankfully, with my amazing kids around, there was certainly no lack of hand-crafted gifts under the tree.  Iain and Elijah really out did themselves this year!

On the one night a week when Iain is at dance class, Elijah helps me to put the little ones to bed, then we get a pot of tea brewing and work on some little project together.  Well, sometimes we curl up together in a sleeping bag and read to each other!  But when the holidays/birthdays are coming up this is the best time for us to get some top-secret crafting done.  With the making of his Halloween costume, Elijah discovered a new love in machine sewing.  That’s how this shirt for Iain came about.  Elijah shopped through my stash for fabrics to make it.  And we lengthened my favorite boys top pattern (Kwik Sew 3366, which now appears to be out of print), because *gasp* the largest size is now to small for him!

I love these photos of him in the shirt he made his big brother.  These were taken right before he wrapped it.  He was so excited!

Other then their gifts for each other, they decided to team up for all of their gift making this year.  So everything else from the rest of the post, they worked on together.

For many months now they have been working on perfecting their bow and arrow designs.  There has been a lot of trial and error here.  Their current designs are pretty outstanding.  Taking many variables into consideration, they hand select, harvest, whittle, sand and notch each bow stick.  They were having trouble finding the right material for bowstring.  Nothing seemed to be up to their standards.  Finally, I managed to track down actual bow string material (here) that they now use to braid their own bow strings.  Their arrows are also hand-carved and adorned with feathers…sometimes authentic and sometimes boy-made.  They tape the tips for safety’s sake.  They made a set each for 6 of us this year; Steve, my father (pictured with his above), both of my sisters, my mother and myself.  You can see photos of our archery competition on Christmas day here.  Those arrows can travel an amazing distance!

Also pictured on the Christmas post is the scarf that they both worked on together for me.  I meant to get better pictures of it, but never got around to it.  You can see it in the second picture from the bottom.

Oh, and there was chocolate too.  Did I mention that they make chocolate every year and fill Steve and my stockings with it?  Yup, that too.

But perhaps the biggest investment of time and energy went into their gift for the little ones.  A whole selection of fruits and veggies for their kitchen set…




yellow, green and purple beans,


carrots and parsnips.

The general idea of how to make them came from here.  But after seeing the pictures, they mostly went their own way with them, rather then strictly following the directions.  All of the wood was gathered in the form of sticks from the forest around our home, with the exception of the strawberries, which they made from a bit of scrap wood.  They were accented with wool felt (where applicable), painted with watercolor paints and finished with beeswax polish.

I think they may have gone a bit overboard.  But they did such an outstanding job!  The little kids bypassed playing house and went straight for opening up a pretend restaurant.  Personally, I think they should set up a farm stand or maybe a CSA.