Category Archives: Kids

Mairi Rose’s 8th Birthday Sweater

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I bought the pattern from Scandinavian Knitting Design.  They stock many patterns that are difficult to find in the US.  The yarns all came from Knitpicks: Stroll Tweed Sock Yarn in “Oyster Heather”, “Thirst Heather”, and “Rabbit Heather”,  Stroll Sock Yarn in “Wonderland”, and Comfy Fingering Yarn in “Flamingo”.  The pink shows up better in person than it does in these pictures.  I really like the stroll yarns.  Everything that I’ve made from them has held up well; it doesn’t shrink, it doesn’t pill, it’s soft, light but warm, reasonably priced.  It just really works well for me.  I’m also finding that it holds up so well that hand-me-downs are almost guaranteed, which can’t be said about a lot of yarns and only adds to the over-all value.  Elijah wears his vest daily and not just for quiet, gentle indoor activities either!  It still looks brand new, which is really satisfying after all of that work!

I altered the pattern for Mairi’s sweater a bit by doing contrast cuffs and button bands as well as adding little flecks of a second color between the yoke and hem.

I’m extremely happy to see this sweater finished and in use!

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Modeling Mondays

My darling Mairi Rose is many things, but easy to shop for is not one of them!  I confess to being entirely stumped as to a gift for her this Christmas.  No one else could think of anything either.  Believe me, I asked!  I finally settled on creating a kind of hand pottery set.  Perhaps not the flashiest of gifts, but it’s frankly been a beautiful experience that has added much to our homeschooling week.

To put together the kit I started with ordering 25 lbs of white air dry clay.  I can’t find the clay I bought, but I’ve heard good things about this one.  Lots and lots and lots for sharing and long-term use.  I re-purposed a caddy that we already owned.  I keep most of the clay in a closet in the original packaging and bring out five pounds at a time.  Even with at least three young people playing, this lasts a long time.  We’ve found that the best way to store it is in a ziplock bag with a damp paper towel and with as much air as possible removed.  We’ve had no problems with dry out when stored this way.  In addition to the clay I purchased a set of wooden sculpting tools.  These are great and just right for kid sized hands.  As well as some acrylic paint for finishing the dried clay pieces.  To these I started adding bits and pieces from around the house: doilies to roll prints onto the clay, a giant silicon baking mat that didn’t fit any of my pans to use as a work surface, toothpicks for poking holes and supporting larger and more detailed sculptures, a piece of sponge for smoothing the clay.  I found a flower mold ice cube tray at a library sale for 25 cents to use as a paint pallet.  Mairi discovered that empty thread spools make a pretty little flower print.  Rubber stamps, both with and without ink, are fun to play with and the kids really enjoyed embedding beads into their projects for Valentine’s Day.  We’ve also made a lot of prints of flowers and leaves (taken from our house plants at this time of year!), with beautiful results.

Every Monday afternoon we take everything out and create.  Right now just the clay is entirely satisfying, but now that this family rhythm is established I’ll be mixing it up at times to keep things fresh, swapping out clay one day for say modeling beeswax, home-made play dough, or kinetic sand working with different themes and projects in mind.

Since people are likely to ask, the candle above was made using this candle making kit which Mairi received for her birthday.  As you can probably tell, art supplies are our major expenditure when it comes to gifts for the children.  We spend very little on toys, preferring to make most of what they own, but we do try to ensure that they have quality supplies to work with.

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Flight of fancy…

Or perhaps fancy of flight?

Measuring in at just over 6 feet tall, this is a replica of the 1783 hot air balloon built by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier that was the first to ever carry a human aloft.  We all played some part in its construction and subsequent launch, but really it was Elijah who did the lion’s share.

Each panel took at least a couple hours of constant hand cramping work in order to trace and fill in the design.  And as there are eight gores that was quite the investment of time and energy.  I suggested we just do a few…leave the other ones blank or embellish them with some simple stripes or polka dots or something.  But no, this perfectionist boy of mine had to have everything just so.  Not sure where he could possibly get that from (insert not so discreet throat clearing noise here).

We invited friends and neighbors over for the launch and afterwards toasted the Montgolfier brothers with sparkling cider.  Those of us who worked on it weren’t as impressed with it’s flight as we were hoping, but we’ve been talking through some potential modifications, both to the structure and our inflating methods.

The kit was put out by the Smithsonian Institution in 1998, so I don’t know how readily available it is at this point.  I found that Ben Franklin’s Balloons was the perfect documentary to go along with it.

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Hinterland Hat

A new winter hat for Elijah.  He selected both yarn and pattern.  Hinterland Hat in Knitpicks Preciosa ‘Stormy’.  I kind of wish I had made the brim longer to fold up for added warmth.

I am trying to post here more often, but I am also now on Instagram if anyone is interested in keeping up with us there.  I do not now, nor have I ever owned a cell phone, but I needed an account for a project a while back and so it was set up in a way that lets me use my laptop.  Sometimes when I’m too busy for a full out post here I can still manage quick pop in there.

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Nature Walks and Birthday Wishes….

One of the rhythms we are trying to get back to is that of a daily nature walk.  Quite apart from all of the benefits for the children, I’m a better person when I go for a walk every day and that is good for us all!

I have a birthday coming up at the end of the month.  A couple of people have asked what I would like.  I always seem to have lists, both mental and literal, of what the kids need or want, but for me?  There are a great many things that I want in this life, but don’t put me on the spot by asking what they actually are!

I’ve given it some thought and this is what I came up with…. I would like subscriptions to Taproot and Making magazines.    A new lens for my camera, you know, one where the auto focus function actually works.  And this book, which our library system persists in not having, no matter how many times I check.  And enough warm and soft wool yarn to knit a hood  and maybe some matching cabled mittens for those long, cold, winter walks.  And perhaps even more yarn for a cabled pullover?  Too may of those to link to…  And a bag with a zipper that reliably closes and stays closed, with pockets inside so that everything doesn’t get tangled up in a big jumbled mess and a pile of 2×4′s to build a bench in the mudroom which seems like it would solve any number of problems and charcoal grey wool fabric to make myself a skirt (perhaps something as simple as this?  Scratch that, I think I want this one) and something that blooms and smells sweetly for the dark days of winter.  I would love a pair of shoes that I actually like the style of, which also fit my orthotics and don’t pinch my toes and make them ache, but I think that’s probably too much to ask of any day, much less a mere birthday.  Mostly I think I’d be content with just a peaceful day, preferably one where I don’t have to make dinner.  And maybe a really good cup of tea.  Yeah, I want the tea too.

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January 5th, Our Official Day of Familial Excitement….

Really it all started when one of them decided to be born on the other one’s birthday.  Ever since that year, statistically speaking, 1/5 has been a mostly crazy sort of day for us.

While birthday sweaters were wrapped up with needles still in them and many warnings to be careful in the opening of them so as not to inadvertently drop stitches, I did manage a last minute dress for her.  The pattern is Simplicity 5997 from 1973.  It’s actually meant to be a nightgown (their meaning, not mine), but whatever. The rose covered fabric was thrifted by my mother-in-law.  It’s much paler in person.  I’ve been itching for an excuse to buy some of the prints in Rifle’s new fabric collection, and thought this might just be my chance, but $11 per yard plus shipping versus free and already here?  Guess which fabric won out…  She was quite pleased.  I should have gotten a close up of the vintage floral buttons and hand sewn button holes- sewn with real silk button and button hole twist from a tiny wooden spool- also from my mother-in-law.  Yes, the button hole function on my machine is still not working.

This is the second year in a row where we’ve had to call 911 on their birthday.  Lest you think we just go about calling emergency services for every little thing, these have been the only two times we have ever called.  Ok, well Galen once dialed them by accident when he was 2, but I don’t think that counts (they don’t really care for that kind of thing, by the way).

This year’s calamity involved a chimney fire with flames shooting several feet into the air.  Bless our metal roof and single digit temperatures with frosty snow all around.  And the chimney being run almost entirely outside the house instead of in the walls.  These things and these things alone meant a night of excitement instead of full out disaster.

Seraphina thought that the firefighters were coming to fight us and that we were basically under siege and bravely told Mairi that she would save her.

Iain spent the entire day pretty much too sick to move, poor kid. He did open gifts, but that was about it.  You know your kids are feeling pretty miserable when the whole house is illuminated by flashing lights and surrounded by emergency vehicles with people coming in and out and around every which way and me piling snow boots and sweaters around them in case we are forced to evacuate and two out of the five of them barely bothered to lift their heads or open their eyes or even seem to register what is happening at all.

Also, it would be the case that what felt like half the town would turn out and need entrance to the house immediately after I tore apart the pantry, scattering it’s contents all over ever flat surface in the house.  Along the lines of this…

Only everywhere else as well.  Seriously, that wasn’t embarrassing at all.

Iain is much better now and we did have a belated celebration for him a few days later.

On their birthday, as the fire fighters, first responders, et al left, I resisted the temptation to say that we’d see them next year.  Here’s hoping we don’t!

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Advent Blur

Another old post that has been sitting around, waiting to be finished, for ages now…

“My heart always needs beautiful Christmas.” ~Seraphina Violet Juliette, age 2

Everywhere we go it’s like Christmas cards come to life; snow covered, candle lit, evergreen trimmed New England countryside.

I listen to podcasts on minimalism while working on absurdly intensive projects and smirk to myself over the perversity.

My children are obsessed with holiday diffraction glasses.  They have come to expect gingerbread men everywhere.

Butter Tarts.  My word!  THE official holiday treat of the 2016 season.

She calls our advent wreath a nest, a belief that is probably reinforced by our forever tucking feathers into it.

I keep making her the same booties, over and over again, because I love them so much.  Each time I just alter the pattern to be larger and now call them slippers instead- this time in a festive bright red.

When the Papa Bear was too ill to take us for our Christmas tree, our newly licensed man cub stepped up.  It’s a brave new world and him a star in it.  He did brilliantly on his exam, plus bonus style points.  The examiner said that in 13 years, he’s never before had a kid show up with actual driving gloves on.  ahem.

In the children’s room at the library one day, the only other person present is watching me out of the corner of her eye with awe, or perhaps like I’m crazy- I’m really too preoccupied to discern which, as I scan the shelves looking for just the right books while simultaneously reciting Goodnight Moon from memory to Seraphina as she turns the pages.  Clearly not a mother of many.  A head pops around the stack, “Mommy, who wrote the Pippi books?” “Astrid Lindgren dear….and a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering ‘hush’…”.  Galen returns, arms stretched straight down with a stack of books balanced up to his chin.  “Ten, ten, ten, you may get ten books and no more.”  He plots and schemes with Mairi and between them they agree to get several books that they both want to read to make the most of their limit.  A woman by the door asks if we’re getting them by the pound.  I explain that there are only this many because I put a limit on them.  She thinks I mean that I used some kind of reverse psychology to convince them to get books.  I don’t really know what to say to that.  The librarian behind the counter quietly giggles a bit and overrides the system restriction, which we’ve now managed to go over again.  She knows us and she understands.  She was a child like this once.  I don’t get kids who don’t read.  I don’t get people who don’t read.

Every time he comes on stage she jumps up and screams, “Iain!  It’s Iain!  There’s Iain!”  And no amount of begging, pleading, cajoling or popping dried fruit in her mouth at just the right time can stop her.  On the way home I wonder, is this our last year of being the family with the disruptive young child?  Maybe it will be so for one year more?  Either way we are growing away from certain phases in life and while certain things will surely be easier, it’s a strange feeling to know these days a numbered.  Days that are too busy and too loud and too stressful and too beautiful to comprehend.

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feathers

We’ve been holed up at home with a flu for weeks now.  It’s a yucky and tricky sort of thing that gives the impression of fading, only to come back again in full force with new symptoms. I think, for me anyway, periods of illness have got to be the hardest part of raising a large family.

Though I don’t actually think of our family as large.  It doesn’t feel large from the inside, since there is not a single component that we could very well do without.  But the last time I tried to argue this point Steve put me on the spot by asking that I list families with more children.  This I gladly began by naming a few families that I’m acquainted with through the wonders of modern technology.  At which point he stipulated that I must know them in real life; decidedly harder.  And the answer is two.  I personally know of two contemporary families with more children than us.  Though going back a generation or more changes things radically; my mother is one of seven, his father is one of thirteen.  So it’s all a matter of perspective!

Still with seven people in one house, illness takes a tiresomely long time to work it’s way through.

The reasonable sorts of things that Steve does when I’m completely incapacitated with the flu: keep an eye on the kids, try to keep up with the dishes, maybe wash and put away a load or two of laundry…  The highly unreasonable sort of things that I do when Steve is entirely laid up with the flu: attempt to completely remodel the pantry, entirely covering every flat surface in the main living area with it’s contents, making it nearly impossible to cook or find a place to eat, or well, move, allow the toddler to spread every single canning jar lid and ring I own out on the floor to keep her busy and therefore out of my way…you know, that kind of thing.

For the record, not my fault.  And not my plan.  When I was too sick to move someone dropped something heavy on a bag of yams.  The yams were split open and then buried and well you can imagine the state they were in when I discovered them.  It was a symptom of a greater, long-standing pantry problem.  I will not bore you with the details, but let’s just say the situation snowballed and rapidly morphed from a cleaning project into a construction project.  So, add a number of tools to the mess you are picturing in your head right now.  And me using them between sneezes while taking frequent breaks so as not to pass out.  And Steve so sick that for like two days I’m not even sure he knew there was full out deconstruction happening right under his nose.

Galen put on a light show for those of us who were upright on New Year’s Eve, using his new Snap Circuits Light Effects kit (highly recommended for scientifically minded people in middle childhood).  In the mess on New Year’s day I cooked a fancy, but easy dinner.  This served with kale and applesauce and sparkling cider.  And we all found a corner somewhere to eat it, together more in spirit than physically.  I pulled Seraphina up our road in her little red sled; the first time we’d felt well enough to stray a bit from home.  Together the two of us greeted the moonrise on the first day of the year.

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops – at all - “~Emily Dickinson

  2015 was a very hard year for us and 2016 harder still. So much more so than I’ve ever let on here, or I think could even put into words.  Often in the last couple years I’ve wondered if that poem didn’t go the wrong way round.  Instead of an uplifting force it’s seemed to me that she should have implied that hope is a flighty thing, difficult to grasp and often painful to try to hold.  But I have hope for this new year, despite it’s rather inauspicious beginning.  I have no resolutions, but certain thoughts and ideas that I wish to take with me into the new year.

Welcome 2017.  I’m cautiously optimistic about what you might bring.

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Little Autumn Wardrobes

I’ve been sewing up a storm all season.  The girls were in need of cool weather clothing and I’ve been slowly filling out their wardrobes.  These are from early in the autumn.

Seraphina’s wee over-alls were sort of based on this pattern, with a whole lot of changes, except for the elastic flutter straps which I kept exactly the same.  Over-alls are wonderfully warm and practical for toddlers in so many ways, only not so much when it comes to independent potty use.  At those times they can be greatly frustrating.  Elastic straps are the perfect solution.

I made these using leftover fabric from my luna pants and she is the coziest and cuddliest of little sweet loves in them.

I bought this woodland print jersey to make Mairi Rose a dress for her birthday last year, but never got around to it.  There was enough of it that I managed to eek out both a simple tunic for her (at her request) and a little dress for the Violet Girl.  Both patterns were self-drafted.  Their leggings were made from an old velour maternity dress of mine.

Also shown: Seraphina’s Lil Shepherd and Mairi’s old Blackberry Beret (the original, very first prototype for that pattern!). The beret came out of storage with a small hole and since I’m all about the artistic mending these days, I needle felted violet flourish over it before passing the hat on to it’s new owner.

More details on Seraphina’s Gilipeysa sweater….I reinforced with the sewing machine before cutting the steeks instead of the crochet method which I used last time and found nerve-racking.  I like this way every-so-much better and no longer feel the need to avoid steeked projects. Yay!  I covered the steek ends with some sweet vintage trim.

And on the subject of Halloween costumes in later use, apparently Mairi’s work just as well for Seraphine….

Who knew?

p.s. I know that some of you have been patiently waiting for the release of my lace bonnet pattern.  It is ready to go out to test knitters and I actually have several ready made ones to go into my shop as well, but with the holidays I didn’t think people would want to focus on test knitting, and thought it would be best to put it out there in the New Year.  But it is coming.  I promise.  And hopefully the kitty bonnet will follow soon after.

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Hello

This post has been sitting, half-finished, on my desktop for over three weeks now.  Everything, everywhere just got to be too, too hard and so I stopped doing what I could in order to better manage what I couldn’t.

I’m way behind on Iain’s colorful, crazy, and wild birthday sweater.  The sizing on this pattern seems to be way off.  I already came to the sickening conclusion that it wasn’t going to fit, ripped it out and started again.  Now I’ve finished the back and after stretching it flat, I can see that I’m going to have to pull back all of the shaping from under the arms up, so that I can add in extra length.  Frustrating.  I still can’t decide if it’s going to be kind of cool or completely hideous. Mostly I think it’s just going to be really, really late.

We finally got our garlic in, 200 bulbs, which will not be enough, I can never plant enough.  It was a warm day of golden sunshine that tricked us into feeling like we were deep in the heart of the growing season and that just maybe it might never end.  The very next morning we awoke to heaps of snow, with more accumulating every few days ever since.

On one side of that “curtain” there are three young people working on a play involving a turkey with dish glove feet.  On the other Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared, with Little Miss Two flitting back and forth from one side to the other.

On Thanksgiving proper we did nothing.  We didn’t go for a walk or get down the nice dishes or make a new set of napkins or get dressed up or even go around the table saying what we were thankful for.  None of us had the strength or the heart for it.  We were just beat.  I swore I would do better with Christmas, but my holiday spirit is fickle at best this year.

We laid on the futon and I read my girls book after book; Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast, The Great Pumpkin Switch which I didn’t particularly care for, A Stawbeater’s Thanksgiving which made me sad, The Very First Thanksgiving Day which I like, An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott which made us laugh, and Home Sweet Home which isn’t exactly a Thanksgiving book, but probably should be.

I recently overheard a mother complaining about how she couldn’t take the stress of keeping track of even one library book in her house.  I had to laugh.  We currently have 66 books checked out, with another 5 sitting at the library waiting to be picked up.  To be sure this is excessive, even for us.  But there is something about this season, this year and we keep on coming home with more and more.

I’ve been reading Little Men aloud to Mairi Rose.  It’s one of my favorite books of all time and I always get a hankering to read it at this time of year, probably because it ends at Thanksgiving.  She is reading Gwinna aloud to me.  I just finished Mist on the Mountain, both written and illustrated by Jane Flory, which was a chance library find.  I picked it up thinking it might be a good family read and my goodness, I just loved it so much!  And as much as I loved the story, I think I might love the illustrations even more.  I read it all before discovering there is a book that comes before this one.  I’m so sad our library system doesn’t have it.

I both started and finished my Christmas shopping this week in an intensive and stressful last minute shopathon and am very glad that is over. I’ll happily settle in to some holiday crafting as a pleasant change of pace.

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