tutorials

sweet pea pilot cap pattern and tutorial

In honor of Celebrate the Boy month, Finn and I are so excited to present to you a little surprise ...

sew liberated sweet pea pilot cap

... the Sweet Pea Pilot Cap! A free sewing pattern and photo tutorial ...

sew liberated sweet pea pilot cap

... for the sweetest, most comfy cap around.

Click here to download the pattern!

sew liberated sweet pea pilot cap

It's easy! Don't fear the knit fabric - in the tutorial you'll find oodles of tips for working with knits on a regular sewing machine.

sew liberated sweet pea pilot cap

The pattern is sized for 0-24 months, but the large size will likely fit until the child is 3 - 4 years old.

sew liberated sweet pea pilot cap

Happy sewing!

sew liberated sweet pea pilot cap

If you're just popping over for the first time from Dana's lovely space, welcome! Pull up a chair and stay a while! You can subscribe to my ramblings about sewing and mamahood by clicking here

Much warmth,

Meg


infant massage

infant massage

I've recently started to give the little babe a massage after he wakes up from his afternoon nap. He seems smiley and pleased with it - but for me, it's cathartic.

I can be feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, tired ... and when I sit down to massage Finn and take a deep, cleansing breath, all those negative feelings begin to melt away with each giggle, each touch of that butter-soft skin, and each soft word spoken with a smile while looking into his eyes.

infant massage

I learned some basic massage techniques by watching these videos. There's a book, too, which I'd like to read one of these days. If you're interested in the developmental benefits of massage, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, is the landmark book on the subject. It's a fascinating read.

What you need to begin infant massage:

  • a comfortable surface. (We use his wool fleece pad underneath a flannel blanket topped with a pre-fold cloth diaper in case of any pees.)
  • some vegetable-based oil such as olive, jojoba, etc. since babies put their hands in their mouths so often. I use a local, organic, unscented massage oil, but you could just as easily use olive oil from your kitchen. 
  • a draft-free environment. I close off the air conditioning vent during our time on the floor.
  • a happy baby with a full belly.

I've found this to be a wonderful time for listening to some quiet piano music in the background. Putting on the same music every afternoon during massage time helps Finn become aware of and comforted by this gentle daily routine. We're big George Winston fans in this house - a vestige of my own childhood in my parents' music-filled home.

Massage doesn't need to be restricted to infants - it might be just the thing to help a four year-old who has given up napping settle into an afternoon "quiet time". It might be just the thing you need at the end of the day to help you connect with your partner and release the stress of the day. One thing I've noticed while giving and receiving massage - even with a pre-verbal baby - is that massage seems to open up a space for conversation. You get to really focus on the person who you are massaging, which is a real gift.

Oh, and I should say (on behalf of the purring cat on my lap) that animals appreciate a good massage, too. :)


finn's forest

finn's forest

Finn's Forest, by Melissa Crowe at Little Pink House ... perhaps my favorite bit of handmade in the baby's room. The hoop has yet to find a permanent home on a wall because I love putting it in front of Finn while he plays on his tummy. He will stare at it for quite a long time.

Notice the two cats? Those are wool felt versions of our Amelie and Timoun

Gotta love that Melissa. The other forest friends are equally endearing - and I can't get over that fawn, with her wagging ear ...

finn's forest

If you would like to give wool felt applique a go, check out Melissa's sachet tutorial.

Thank you, my dear, for making us a cherished heirloom.


finnian's montessori room

finn's room :: another view of the floor bed

His name is Finnian Patrick. He will be an Irish citizen just like his Daddy (who got his papers last week!) His Mama is a Montessori teacher and a maker-of-things. And this is his room. It is waiting patiently for his arrival.

finn's room :: care of self table, baby-size, where he can brush his hair and wipe his nose, etc.

Let the tour begin!

I kept several things in mind when creating Finn's space: I wanted it to be child-friendly and easily organized, I wanted it to be hand-made to the best of my time and abilities, and I wanted it to be high-quality yet very economical.

The first thing you might notice, on walking into the room, is the crib-sized floor bed. In the Montessori educational philosophy, the child sleeps on a mattress directly on the floor in a child-safe room so that once he can crawl, he is free to get up and explore the room. Finn will use this bed for naps (if he so desires), but will be co-sleeping with us in our bed during the night. Although I would have loved to have provided Finn with an organic mattress, we opted for a cheap mattress with an organic puddle pad and organic sheets. We figure he'll be spending most of his sleeping time in a sling or on our bed at first, anyway.

I made the quilt using the "Little Bits" pattern in Joelle Hoverson's Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts. The mural is awesome. It's the woodland collection by Wee Gallery. I've long been a fan of their graphic images for infants - I believe I first came across their art cards in the Michael Olaf catalog several years back. I also have several sets of art cards for him which I will use in various capacities - as black and white mobiles, as cards set up on his movement mat for him to study, and as visual stimulation during car trips.

finn's room :: 15" - high table, infant chair from www.michaelolaf.com

This little table and chair will be used once he's a little older. It's part of the "Care of Self" area - I will put a hairbrush and tissues on these two trays. He can see himself in the mirror and wipe his nose, etc. He can also use this table as a work table once he can walk and carry his "activities" over from the shelf to the table. The table itself is 15" high - we purchased a basic child's table for $25 from a local unfinished furniture shop, had them lop off the legs to the desired height, and stained it ourselves. The chair is the Michael Olaf Slatted Chair - ergonomically designed for the tiniest of sitters and light enough to be carried by the child. I found the recycled door frame mirror at Rowan's Room on Etsy.

finn's room :: area for elimination communication


Here's the Elimination Communication area. Now, neither EC nor Montessori require that you set up a special potty area for the baby. My bathroom does, however. It's so small that I can barely fit in between the sink and the shower at nine months pregnant, and it would be pretty uncomfortable to hold Finn over the toilet in such tight quarters. This was what I came up with instead. (We also have a potty bowl for use while nursing and during the nighttime.) Most likely, I'll hold him over this little potty until he's developmentally ready to sit up on it himself. We'll use the big-people's toilet, too - just not all the time in order to spare our backs.

Eventually, I'll put some t.p. and a toy or book on the little shelf for his reading enjoyment. :) (The owl and hedgehog are both from Wee Gallery).

finn's room :: iron-on vinyl fabric mat to protect floor under baby potty

(Please! Ignore the cat hair! The cats are so very grateful for all of the new cat nap surfaces that are popping up all over the place.)

I whipped up a little pee pad for the potty area. I used Therm-o-web iron-on vinyl to coat both sides of some Japanese fabric from my stash. The mat is easily finished with a store bought double-fold bias tape. It's sturdy, wipes clean, and doesn't shift on the wood floor.

finn's room :: care of self area

We took the door off of the cedar-lined closet to create a special dressing nook for Finn. This won't be in use for a good while (until he can walk and expresses interest in dressing/undressing), but you can get a sense for how the space will eventually be used.

finn's room :: dressing area


The galvanized steel tub is one of those staples that we brought back with us from Mexico, but I think that you can find a (much more expensive!) version at Montessori Services. The tub is for dirty clothes (and the cute "laundry day" print is from The Black Apple). The little stool, where he can sit down to dress/undress was a cheap find at the local unfinished furniture store. On the other side of the closet I will eventually install a suspension rod where I will hang two or three outfits a day from which he can choose. The rest of his clothing will be stored in plastic tubs according to size on the shelf above the cedar lining.

finn's room :: crate shelves and letters from Michael's, mama-made butterfly and snail from wee wonderfuls patterns

These little crate shelves that you see were a couple of bucks a piece at Michael's Crafts. The letters are from there, too - all were lovingly stained by the non-pregnant soon-to-be parent.

The softies currently on display are Mama-made using the hand-sewing patterns from Wee Wonderfuls. (I also plan on making him his very own wool kitty one of these days.)

finn's room :: photo of his grandfather (my dad) in 1945-ish

...a black and white photo of my dad circa 1945.

finn's room :: infant "work" shelf with rotating toys on trays, rotating pictures in frames

Moving on to another corner you can see the 14" high "work" shelf, the nursing area, and the reading area. Notice that most everything is child-height, including the artwork on the walls, so that Finn can see and enjoy it. The room is designed to be aesthetically pleasing to a young child, not to an adult (although it's a soothing place to be no matter your height!)

finn's room :: the work shelf

The shelf is nothing but a cube shelf turned on its side (and found, once again, at the local unfinished furniture store). It's so inexpensive compared to the shelving offered in the Michael Olaf catalog, and I like that it helps keep activities organized by providing three distinct areas for trays/baskets.

Finn will have limited, developmentally appropriate toys and activities available for his use on this shelf. Any toys that are not in use will be stored in a closet in the hallway and rotated in and out to maintain his interest and to make putting away toys a much easier task.

finn's room :: infant "work" shelf with montessori toys


I did decide to invest in a set of three Michael Olaf frames which have a space behind them for storing up to 10 illustrations/photos. The art on display will be rotated both according to Finn's interests and to pique his interest in other things. I have a collection of old calendars, National Geographic magazines, and other picture/illustration sets that I will use for this purpose. The set that you see here was a surprise find at Michael's Crafts - Martha Stewart's Animal Alphabet Cards. The little chipmunk is from Imagine Childhood.

finn's room :: nursing supplies, library books, and vegetarian-friendly lambswool fleece mat

The mama rocking chair we found in our attic - a discard from the landlord - who knew? I'm also very pleased with our lamb's fleece blanket, found here. I plan on using this a lot - as padding for my arms/rear while nursing and as a mobile movement mat so that Finn can hang out and play on the floor in other rooms, etc. I've heard such wonderful things about lambskins for babies, but I'm a vegetarian and I would feel sad whenever I saw that cute little lamby, so I opted for this animal-friendly, organic cotton-backed version instead. Plus, it's cheaper!

The burlap bags are from MayaMade (love them!) Right now they contain essential nursing supplies (flannel wipes, wash cloths, baby nail clippers, the little potty I mentioned before, etc. I'll also keep a stash of snacks and a glass for water for myself in there as well. I figure that, by keeping all of nursing essentials in these bags, I can easily move them from this location to my bedside, to the living room couch, the screened-in porch ... the list goes on. Portable, prepared nursing!

I found the adorable mini-rocker for $27 from Etsy shop RMD Creations. It's just perfect for a toddler. Once he's into books, I'll keep a limited, rotated selection for him on the bottom shelf. The books? Most of them are from my last trip to the local library - little black and white board books, some Eric Carle, and some more advanced reading if he's into listening to us read to him. The one essential? Favorite Poems Old and New.

finn's room :: movement mat

Here's a look at the movement mat. The mirrors are thrifted and securely bolted to the wall. We ended up buying the Sultan Snarka thin mattress from Ikea on the recommendation of Janice, fellow Montessorian and owner of Etsy store Pink House Handworks, where you can get a wonderful set of Montessori infant toys, including some of the ones you see currently on Finn's work shelf.

So - the movement mat. For the first few months, this is where Finn will hang out for tummy time and the important work of strengthening his muscles in preparation for sitting and crawling. He will also hang out on his back and be given the opportunity to concentrate on different mobiles hung from above with a super-duper, nearly invisible acrylic mobile hanger that I found in the Michael Olaf catalog. I liked its unobstrusiveness so much that I ordered another so that we can hang a mobile above our bed, too. 

I've mentioned before that Montessorians have a different view on mobiles than the typical nursery-decor designer. We like the idea of changing mobiles based on the developmental stages of babies - first hanging a variety of black and white, high contrast mobiles that are visual only (the one I have up now is the whale mobile from Michael Olaf, but I will be making several over the next few days and sharing that process with you). Then, once the baby can move the mobile with his feet, eventually realizing that he can grab onto the object, the mobiles will provide incentive for such grasping and various levels of grasping challenges. These "grasping" mobiles are hung from a hook in the ceiling and attached with a combination of fishing wire and elastic.

The movement mat is also good for rolling soft balls a short way to encourage scooting and crawling. You can also attach a bar along the wall at the baby's "pulling up" height so he can practice standing and cruising. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Eventually, once Finn is walking, we'll take out the mirrors and movement mat and this wall will become the art area and will sport a nature table, a la Waldorf.

finn's room :: birds and matryoshkas

Now, here's a funny side note: this print by Belle and Boo is the first thing that I ever purchased on Etsy. I bought it for my future child's room, years back. This darling boy and his bird friend are actually the color/decor inspiration for the entire room. And I can't help but think that my little Finn will look an awful lot like him ...

finn's room :: mama-made bird branch, belle and boo print, russian nesting dolls, a glimpse at our sling collection

Once again, just so you have all of the info in one place, I made the bird branch using an online tutorial. I talk about the Russian nesting dolls here, and in the corner you can see our collection of slings - eco-silk ring slings from Baby Pockets, a pouch from Gorgeous Baby, and a Moby wrap, which you can't see because it's already packed in the "bring to the birthing center bag"!

We're ready whenever you are, Finny!


child's apron pattern and other free tutorials!

fastening the apron

This is something I've been meaning to do for a while - I get so many requests for this little apron pattern, which I sold briefly as a downloadable PDF pattern in order to put away enough money to bankrole the professional printing of my other patterns. Here it is, and it's free! Just click on the photo in the side bar. It's my little gift to all of you wonderful people.

I've also added links to other tutorials and free resources. There's more to come, but this means slowly working my way through the archives of my old blog and digging up pre-Flickr photos. So keep checking back.

P.S. The apron pattern is meant to fit a 3-6 year-old. If your child is younger or older, you will need to make the necessary alterations in the length of the apron.

kitty doll tutorial

kitty dolls 2

Some children are doll children. Some children are stuffed animal children. I was a stuffed animal child, and so are my nieces, the giddy recipients of these here kitty dolls.
kitty dolls 3

For those of you who have a stuffed animal child of your own, here's a quick tutorial along with the additional pattern pieces to make one (or two, or three) for yourself  your child. (Do make sure that you print it out at 100%, or else you will find yourself with a very large-featured cat.) You will also need to purchase the fabulous Wee Wonderfuls "Kit, Chloe and Louise" doll pattern to make the rest of the doll body and little outfits.

felt fish for each kitty doll

I used this tutorial to make the pillows and pillow cases, although my doll quilts are different. Each kitty received its very own wool felt goldfish, which was presented in typical goldfish style - a plastic bag filled with "water" (blue marbles sold by the bag in the floral/candle section of a local Ben Franklin.)

doll bunk beds 1

Again, just to have all of the info in one post, the doll bunk bed and double doll chair came from Meadow Weeds Farm, whose prices and workmanship are excellent. I made muslin mattresses to fit the beds' dimensions - a simple sew, stuff, and tie with embroidery thread operation.

The whole get up only cost me the price of the blue marbles and the furniture (which my parents actually paid for, so the gift was a joint venture.) All of the fabric requirements were small, and I simply dumped out my scrap bag and found everything I needed.

Let me know if you make your own!


for you!

ornament swap 2008 ready to mail

Okay - so the envelopes pictured here aren't technically for you ... unless you're in my ornament swap group. But no big deal, right? I promise to show you what's inside and put up a free ornament pattern once these start arriving in the hands of my swap partners.

Congratulations to Melissa, who won the magazine wallet giveaway!

And for the rest of you - here's a PDF tutorial with pattern templates so that you can make your own wallet! Make sure you print it off at 100% scale.

Enjoy!

Meg


recycled magazine wallet giveaway

magazine wallets 1

For those of us whose pocketbooks can't handle buying holiday gifts at Anthropologie ... why not MAKE your pocketbook out of Anthropologie? (Magazines, that is.)

I've been having fun with beautiful magazines and my Xyron 900, sewing up a set of these recycled wallets for stocking stuffers. Honestly, it's more difficult photographing these darn wallets than actually making them! Laminated items don't do well in any light as far as a camera is concerned. Trust me - the finished product is much more charming than these photographs show.

magazine wallets 2

magazine wallets 3

The wallet has a change pocket, a place for credit cards and license, and a spot for bills.

magazine wallets 4

Edit: Comments are closed - the winner has already been selected!

And I'm giving one away! I couldn't resist giving a little something back after all of your kind words about my book deals and baby. Leave a comment and I'll mail you the Anthropologie embroidered pillow wallet! (Sorry, the purple shoe/cat wallet has already found its way into my purse somehow ...) Comments will remain open until Sunday evening, 9 p.m. Eastern. I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner, who will be announced right here on Monday morning.

Also on Monday, I'll put up an easy tutorial for making your own recycled magazine wallet, so that everyone can "win!"

Edit: Here's the PDF tutorial so you can make your own! Be sure to print it off at 100% scale. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful weekend,
Meg


how to make recycled paper

recycled paper journal 1

I've recently been bitten by the paper recycling bug. My symptoms? Ogling over multi-colored paper scraps and a strong desire to never buy construction paper ever again.
open recycled paper journal

Some of the mothers in my school make beautiful things with recycled paper, such as this journal which is hand-bound with string coated in beeswax. The edges of the cover are delicately burned for a real artisan touch. (You can find beeswax here, which you apply to a single strand of hemp string, working it in with the heat of your fingers. Bind the book by sewing the layers together with a large-eyed needle, then thread some beads on each end.)

let scrap paper soak

The process of making recycled paper varies from one source to the next, which can only mean one thing - the process is the kind that is open to experimentation and variation. I encourage you to do just that. Children will love experimenting with different kinds of paper and procedures.  This little tutorial illustrates what has worked for me thus far.

What you will need:
-Keep a bucket of water handy next to your recycling bins. Shred by hand any used paper (a perfect job for a toddler!) and throw it into the bucket to sit for at least a day.
-An old blender
-Used frames (minus the glass and backing) of various sizes. The size of the frame will determine the size of your finished sheet of paper.
-Very, very fine plastic screening which will be stretched over the frames and used as a sieve
-Thumb tacks for attaching the screening to the frames to make the sieve
-A tupperware bin large enough to so that you can easily submerge the frames in it
-Newspaper cut slightly larger than the dimensions of your frames for blotting
-Absorbent sponge
-Rolling pin

blend well-soaked paper into pulp

1.) With a ratio of about 1 portion of well-soaked paper scraps to 2 cups water, blend into a pulp in your old, trusty blender. Blend in short spurts so as not to burn out the motor. You will need about two half-blender-fulls (shown above) of pulp per tupperware bin batch. *If you would like to make your paper scented, add 6-10 drops of essential oils during the blending of the pulp.

pour pulp into tupperware tub filled with water

2.) Fill the tupperware bin with several inches of water and pour in the pulp. Swish the mixture around so that the pulp is evenly distributed in the water. *You can add dried flowers, leaves, etc. at this point in the process, or you can wait until you have lifted the sieve out of the water and press them neatly onto the paper.

slowly lift framed sieve out of water

3.) Submerge the frame-sieve into the bin and slowly lift out. Place a piece of blotting newspaper on top of the pulp/paper. Using a sponge on top of the newspaper, blot away all of the excess water. Flip over the sieve and carefully remove the paper. It should still be attached to the newspaper on one side. 4.) Place another piece of newspaper on top of the paper. The paper sheet is now sandwiched between two layers of newspaper. Roll out any excess water using a rolling pin. Remove the top piece of newspaper and let the paper dry completely in a sunny spot. Carefully peel the recycled sheet from the newspaper. Here's a video that demonstrates a slightly different way to go about it. Figure out what process works best for you. Before you know it, you'll be planning to write down all of your recipes on recycled paper, too!