The Handmade Gifts

We had a wonderful holiday and a fun time ringing in the new year and I hope all of you did too. I suppose I'm a little late to the party on the handmade holiday gift reveals but, here goes,  via instagram.

Every year I drive myself a little crazy trying to make way too many gifts and usually spend most of Christmas eve and sometimes part of Christmas morning putting on the finishing touches. So, this year I gave myself a little gift. I promised myself to let go of any projects or shopping not done by Solstice.

Of course that didn't happen but, what did happen was that nothing new was started in the few days leading up to the cutoff day and all of those last minute, finishing touches were done bit by bit, and, for the most part, with time to spare. It made the whole process so much more enjoyable and I was able to let go and enjoy all of our celebrations.

So, just what did I get finished you ask? I did finish that little something I've been going on about.

Aprons for two of my nieces (pattern for sale soon) along with some glitter doh the kids helped me make and some fun patterned wood rolling pins.

My sister is a derby girl so for her little one I wanted to go a little punk with the apron and it turned out perfect. The other was made with some of the fabric I used on the ironing board cover but, the poor sweetie pie was sick so I couldn't get any pics of her wearing it. I'm so excited at how nice they turned out and, inspired by the apron I made using Meg's pattern, they're reversible!

I was also able to make the hat. He loves it. Pattern from Meg at Sew Liberated, I'm obviously a fan of her patterns. The fabric I used is from a ginormous stash I was given years ago by my cousin. she saved the samples of fabric that were discontinued when she was working as an interior designer for a furniture store then, passed them on to me. They were perfect for this sweet cap.

I didn't get all the handmades done that I'd hoped to and my own girls didn't get any from me but, there are always birthdays or rainy days or just for fun sewing days to work on the projects I had in mind for them. And I did help out with the projects that the kids made each other. I'll have a special post about those fun gifts soon, they all worked so very hard and thoughtfully on their gifts for each other. But, before that, there is one more handmade, or rather hand assembled gift I want to share.

Stay tuned for our Secret Spy Kit post, coming soon.

Secret agent man

Oh, For the Love of Handmade

I'm not sure why I do this to myself every year but, here I go again. Way too many ideas and not nearly enough time to finish everything. I even added things to my hubby's to do list. I'm beginning to think I may have to trim down my to be made gift list, which stinks because that means adding to the need to be purchased gift list.

It seems cruel that my best ideas come during this busy time of year. Adorable and sweet wish lists from nieces, that have me thinking about making mad scientist lab coats, fleece pj's, and duct tape accessories, may be partially to blame. Not to mention finally giving in to the Pinterest craze.

Anyway, I'm hoping to have the finishing touches on my pattern done soon and will be offering an early release/not yet tested, discount for those interested in downloading. It's really a quick sew. My slow progress has been because of "just right" fabrics being sent from Japan and the fact that every small adjustment I make to the actual garment needs to be made to the pattern too. I forgot just how much time it takes to make a working pattern. And offering it for others to use? For sale? Even tougher.

How are your handmade plans going so far? Do you need to cut back or are you adding to the finished pile with vigor?

Bad Mommy

Today I remembered before kids, living in the apartment, the walls were so thin, the way she yelled at her little boy. I'd thought she was so cruel and I knew I'd never yell like that.

Today I remembered, because I made mine cry and he yelled back at me. He told me I'd gone too far, been too cruel, yelled too loud.

Tonight I have a little more empathy for that mom, and I know I was wrong, today, and in the apartment.

Tonight I'm glad I said yes to that game of Payday and the extra chapter at story time. At least his memories of today won't all be bad.

And tomorrow, I'll breath deep, and I'll look in his eyes, and I'll remember, and I won't yell.

Totally in Love With. . .

. . . My niece's Christmas wish list, found in my inbox this morning.

Homebrew Love

His first attempt at a Belgian style brew. Look at the frothy, lacy head. I think lacy is my new favorite term for describing beer. I heard it for the first time last year at a beer class at Ann Arbor Brewing Company, a class about Belgian beers, and it describes the effect of the froth clinging to the side of the glass as you drink. So pretty and so yummy.

I wish I had more pictures to share but, beer brewing, and drinking, tend to happen in the later parts of the day when the light is just not that great.

There has been quite a bit of brewing happening lately. Friends and family (really the same thing around here) interested in learning to brew and my hub's interest in trying some new recipes means anyone visiting us is sure to be offered a pint upon arrival. I'm anxious to try the pumpkin spice myself, or maybe some of that cider he's got cooking. But, really, my favorite part is the way the house smells while making the wort, that sweet tea aroma filling the kitchen, and the time spent together while it does.

Red and Green

Even our strawberry plants are playing along. Oh yeah, the snow. Gone. Hope there's more for Christmas.

Before the Holiday Making

There were a few things I needed to finish before I started on the Holiday gifts this year. One was this pretty apron for my sister-in-law. Pattern from the very talented Meg at Sew Liberated. My s.i.l. requested one for her birthday. In June.

Oops, let that project slide a little too long. It's just tough to sit inside sewing when there is so much gardening and swimming and barbecuing to be done. So, I told myself that I could not sew one holiday gift before finishing this birthday gift.

Her favorite color is orange, and I happen to know she likes purple too but, I hadn't expected to find a cute fabric with both. This fabric in the top photo and the striped trim are both from Sugarsnap collection by Melissa Averinos. The orange butterfly is Monarch by Valori Wells designs.

And finishing this pretty apron has inspired me to finish a pattern of my own, in the works for some time now, that will also be the first of my home made holiday gifts this year. I hope to have my gifts made and the pattern available for sale soon.

Craft Gift Reveal Part 2

My oldest and my baby girl each had an aunt and decided to work together, which was wonderful for me since they were able to do these crafts together without much help. We searched the internet and my 10 year old decided to try these sugar scrubs from Christine at Great Oak Circle. They chose to make the Vanilla Almond and Peppermint scrubs and, it was easier than baking cookies.

We decided to add some red sugar sprinkles to the peppermint scrub to give it a more pepperminty look. And, I did send a question to Christine about the amounts in the Vanilla Almond scrub. She got back to us right away with a great tip. She advised combining the dry ingredients, then adding the olive oil a little at a time to ensure it doesn't get too oily. I was lucky enough to be asked to test the scrubs, they both smell wonderful and my hands haven't been this soft and smooth in a long time.

Then, they made some lip balm using Renee's tutorial on Fimby. We'll be making more of this as soon as we can find some little tins. I'm pretty sure this will be going into every gift we give this year and we'll need plenty for ourselves too. We all loved it.

The boy had a favorite cousin for the exchange and he had no trouble at all deciding to create a series of  4 books for her. They were titled, Knights and Dragons, Ogres and Dungeons, Knights and Castles and Princesses and Princes, and they read like guides, "These are two knights fighting. They are training for battle school. They will be very, very tough knights and this castle has very, very sharp swords so they might always win the battle." Too cute.

He started writing books this way after watching How to Train Your Dragon and reading the book. I love that he wrote about one of his favorite subjects, but that he put a lot of thought into including things he thought his cousin (a teenage girl) would like too, it wasn't all swords and battles. At one point I heard him exclaim, "I need more glitter for my princess!" and couldn't help but smile. (That's her pet bird dragon that breathes fire and protects her, on her shoulder)

I'm pretty sure everyone enjoyed the gifts we made, I know we had fun making them and we all loved the craft gifts we received. What an fun start to the crafting season, there is still so much more to be made in the next few weeks. So, what's on your holiday crafting to-do list?

Totally in Love With. . .

. . .Snow!!!!

And, the fantastic feature on 686 brand snow jackets that extends the sleeves, meaning we don't have to buy a new jacket this year, too bad they can't do that with boots.

And big sisters who help littles get ready to go outside, and then, ride with them down the "big" hills.

And the way the sunshine makes it all look so sparkly.

And that we're able to be here, at home, together, to enjoy it all.

Craft Gift Reveal Part 1

I started writing this craft reveal post and realized it was very long so, I've broken it into two separate posts. Today, the planter box and caramels and coming soon, the kid made books, sugar scrubs and lip balm.

My husband and I each drew one of his parents names so, we decided we'd make them a bigger, joint gift together, instead of our own smaller ones. Both of them had admired the beautiful garden boxes he built this summer so, we decided to use the scrap wood he had from those to make a smaller, deck box version. Then, I made a finish mixing mineral oil and beeswax, following the directions at this site. I love how it turned out, it deepened the natural color and really brought out the character in the wood. I'll be adding the finish to our own boxes.

My middle girl was determined to make some sort of sugary treat for her uncle, so it's a good thing he likes sugary treats almost as much as she does. We usually make chocolates at Christmas, some for gifts, some the kids sell to friends and family to earn a few dollars for recital costumes and other sports fees.

They do a lot of the work themselves, under my very close supervision to ensure clean hands and no spoon licking, well, not until the end at least. The candies I've made with the kids in the past basically consist of melting and pouring or mixing chocolate, nothing too complicated, so when my girl decided she wanted to attempt caramel I was a bit nervous.

I knew it would involve a thermometer and that timing would be important. I also knew there were lots of opportunities to mess it up. But, thanks to AmberLee's failproof Homemade Caramel recipe  it was simple and stress free and so very delicious. It's fabulous, melt in your mouth yummy. This recipe is being added to the yearly candy making for sure.

Totally in Love With . . .

. . . the way he wears his daddy's hat

All. day. long.

And the gift it has inspired me to make.

Pumpkin Fairy

My sweet baby girl wanted in on the tutorial fun her brother and sisters were having. She found a dress her big sisters had worn in a wedding when they were her age and decided she wanted to be a pumpkin fairy. This is what she had to say about her costume.

"My dress is orange. I got the dress from (my big sister) for Halloween. I love it so much. My wings are BIG, they are parent size. And I put sparkles on me. It's Halloween! BOO!"

Photo taken by my niece

Thanks for playing along with our very late and now out of season posts. We hope you find some inspiration for make believe fun. Or maybe even plans for next year's costumes?  I know we've already started planning :)

Iris the Goddess of the Rainbow Costume Tutorial

After spending some time with Rick Riordan's books about Greek gods, demigods and mythical beasts, the 10 year old decided she wanted to go as Iris. This is her tutorial.

 You'll need:

  •  rainbow colored piece of fabric or shawl
  • some sort of headdress or crown
  • white fabric long enough to fit a round you (with extra)
  • string
  • sparkly ribbon
  • sewing Machine
  • sewing scissors
  • sewing needles
  • thread

Under Dress
The under dress is pretty simply what you need from the lists above are:
  • white fabric
  • string
  • sewing Machine
  • sewing scissors
 (Mom note, the purpose of the under dress is simply to make sure nothing peeks out under the wrap dress, it's not really necessary for dress up play at home) Take the white fabric and measure it to fit a round you, make sure you have enough room to walk and it is about from your ankle to your armpits (I used about 1 yard ).

Cut the measurements straight up so when you sew it, it looks like a tube, like the shirt of The Pirate Girl costume, except it is a lot longer.
Sew the two ends together to make a tube.

Cut out arm holes and make a casing at the top like a pillowcase dress.
Cut the string in two pieces that can tie above your shoulders.
Thread the string in the casings.


 The Rainbow Wrap
    Take the rainbow fabric and hold your arms straight out with the fabric behind you.
    Then, take your left arm and wrap the fabric around you to your right sholder. Have somebody hold it.
    Then take your right arm and wrap the fabric around you to your left hip.
    Take the piece on your right sholder across your back to your left hip and tie together.

    Take the sparkly ribbon and cut to fit around your wrists and neck.
    Add any jems or buttons.
    Use velcro, hook and eye fasteners or just sew the ends together.

    Finish it off
    Add a pair of gold or silver wings, a pretty headress or crown and now your the Goddess of the Rainbow, Iris.

    (All photos except the first and last were taken by my daughter, I'm still not sure how she managed since she's the one in those photos and I don't think she can work the timer?)

    Pirate Girl Costume

    The 9 year old saw a fancy pirate girl costume in a magazine, it cost around $50. I gave her a $10 limit on costume materials and access to my scrap fabric bin. This is her tutorial:

    You'll need:

    • 1 yard of knit skirt fabric (The black velour we had from previous costumes)
    • 1yard of pirate skirt fabric (the scull and crossbows tulle we found at Jo-Ann's)
    • 1/2 yard pirate shirt fabric (found once again at Jo-Ann's on sale)
    • scraps for the hat
    • Optional: eye patch (not pictured), fake dagger, (both found in target party supplies) scrap of fabric for sash, red hair dye
    The Skirt
    Pick out any color of stretchy knit fabric you would like. About one yard.
    Then, cut it into 2 pieces. Smaller at the top, but bigger than your waist. (see photo)

    Sew the sides together. Make sure not to sew the top or bottom.
    Make a casing at the top for elastic or a belt. (here's easy waistband casing instructions from
    Then, take a piratey net fabric, cut the same as the knit skirt and sew up the sides.
    Sew the nety fabric to the knit skirt at the waist.
    Put elastic or belt in.

    The shirt
    First pick out stretchy fabric
    Wrap it around you and measure how big you need it.
    Then you sew it together like a tube.
    We took a tank top and used it to measure, then cut out the arms and the neck. Then, we cut the front to a point. (a V-neck)
    Sew the shoulder straps together.
    Keep trying it on to make sure it's right. (If you use a knit, like t-shirt fabric, it wont fray, so the edges don't need to be finished, which looks just perfect for a pirate)

    Do rag/bandana hat
    Take a piece of skirt fabric and tie it around your head.

    The Knight Costume Tutorial

    "This would make a perfect tunic Mom! Can we make this into a tunic? Now!?" He says to me. I look up from the story I'm reading his little sister. He's holding a brand new pillow case from my new sheet set up to his chin as if it's a shirt he's considering wearing.

    Wow, I think, he's right. "OK," I say, "but, not that pillowcase."

    I'm always surprised at the things this boy comes up with, I never would have thought of turning an old pillowcase into a knight's tunic. This is his tutorial.
    You will need:
    • A Pillowcase
    • Cardboard box
    • Fabric scraps
    • (Mommy note, you may also need some tin foil, heavy duty scissors or utility knife with parental supervision and a shield pattern to trace)
    Pillowcase Tunic
    Find a pillowcase and ask your mom if you can cut it up. Cut a hole for your head. Fold the pillowcase in half and then snip (gesturing with fingers snip snip snip)

    Cut the arms. Fold again and snip just like the head. Cut the leg flaps
    (Mommy note: If this will be used for dress up play after Halloween you may want to zigzag or serge around the raw edges so they won't fray or rip further.)

    Shield Decoration
    Take 2 pieces of fabric and cut them in the shape of a shield.
    Then you take a sewing machine and sew the shield together. (Mommy note: right sides together, like a pillow, leave an opening or use some fusible webbing to create an iron on shield that wont fray).

    Flip it right side out and then push your fingers so you have nice sharp edges. Well, they won't be that sharp, but they'll still be sharp.
    Then, you put a dragon on it. You can color one with fabric markers if you want. If you don't, sew the dragon on with fabric (applique).

    The original dragon sketch
    And then sew the shield on (to the tunic). Be careful not to sew the back and front together.

    The Helmet

    Take a cardboard box and make sure it is not too fat.
    Make the eye holes. Put the helmet on and mark the spot for the eyes, take scissors and cut eye holes and it might be a little hard. If it's too hard use sharper scissors. (Mommy note: ask for mom or dad's help)
    Put tin foil on it and then you poke the eye holes through the tin foil.

    Finish it off
    Add a belt.
    Yell out loud. AAAHHHH!