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July 2010

June 2010

homemade fun book giveaway

Homemade fun

UPDATE: Comments are closed. Congratulations to Brooke, who said:

Thanks for sharing... we can always use this sort of book at our house -- and what a beautiful one!

Thanks to the lovely author Rae Grant and her publisher, St. Martin's Press, for the giveaway!


Forgive my use of the publisher's photo - my copy of Homemade Fun is happily in my hands, but it's too cloudy and wonderfully cool here to take any decent sort of picture of it. Finally, a respite from the blistering heat!

Homemade Fun is Rae Grant's third vintage-feel crafts and cooking book written with school-aged kids in mind (although, I'm well past school-aged and I still love all her books and find myself perusing them for some easy, old-fashioned recipes and craft ideas!) Homemade Fun combines the best of crafting and baking, and offers 101 projects organized in the following chapters: Hand Sewing and Embroidery, Papercrafts, Baking, Building Things, and Toys, Games, and Pastimes. Those last two chapters really make the book stand out, in my opinion - it's really the perfect antidote to an "I'm bored" rainy afternoon. I'm sure our copy will get lots of use as Finn gets older.

Make sure to stop by Rae's inspirational blog, My Little Hen, for more fun activities to do with kids.

The nice folks at St. Martin's Press sent me this charming book to giveaway to one of my readers. Leave a comment on this post and I'll draw a winner on Saturday morning, July 3.

the elusive knits :: where to find them

yoga skirts

This weekend, I sewed up a few girly yoga skirts for my sweet nieces, who just turned four and six. While I'm characteristically late in getting their presents to them, I figured I'd make up for it by going all-out with the pink and purple. This is a challenge for me. While I do like purple, pink makes me wince. I should get over that. One day I'll probably have a little girl who only wants to wear pink. Sigh. Perhaps I'll be able to persuade her to stick with mauve. 

yoga skirt close up

But I digress. This post is about all kinds of knits, and where to find them, regardless of your color preferences.

pile of knit fabric

You can't generally find knits (or a whole host of other fashion fabrics) at stores that specialize in quilting cottons. (An exception to this is Sew, Mama, Sew, where you can now pre-order Michael Miller's new line of knit fabrics.) You'll need to extend your reach a little bit. Without further ado, I'd like to share with you my preferred stores for buying knits.

NearSea Naturals NearSea Naturals carries a fantastic selection of organic basics. This is a great place to go for stash-building.

Banberry Place has an incredible selection of knits from Europe, which tend to be colorful and high-quality. They have the best selection of printed knit fabric that I know of. Banberry also carries a fantastic collection of Hilco Campan striped knits, which are great for kids clothing.

Joann Fabrics - I've had good days and bad days at my local Joann's; stick with the 100% cotton knits and you should be fine.

Spoonflower Spoonflower is incredible - you can print any design on your chosen fabric - an organic, knit interlock is one of the options. I have some knits from Wonderfluff that I love - so cheery and unique. (That's them on top of that pile of fabric.)

Weir Dolls & Crafts The only place that I know of where you can find organic cotton velour. Oh so yummy - great for baby clothes, blankets, and doll making.

Fashion Fabrics Club has over 1000 knits at very good prices. That said, they take for-ev-er to ship your order. I know because I've twiddled my thumbs for weeks on end waiting for stuff to show up at my door.

Please chime in in the comments if you have a great knit fabric source to share!

ottobre projects

I've wanted to get my hands on an Ottobre magazine for a while now, but Anna Maria's suggestion that I might find some cute boy patterns in there finally made me take action. My copy recently arrived all the way from Finland, and I didn't waste any time before delving in.

first ottobre magazine sewing project

Please pardon the lack of Finnian's face in these shots. I made this in a size up, anticipating Fall/Winter wear. Being a little on the big side wouldn't have deterred me, though. The truth is, there's no way I could have dressed him in this when the heat index is in triple digits. Ugh. It's diaper-only weather here (still). I seem to have decided to sew winter clothing to keep my mind looking forward to cool breezes.

first ottobre magazine sewing project

The hooded vest is fully lined in a soft knit, and the outer fabric is a cotton velour. The tee shirt is made from pure cotton knit. It's oh so soft and touchable - perfect for comfy toddler wear.

first ottobre magazine sewing project

The velour vest is, quite possibly, one of my favorite sewn items to date. I just love how it turned out, and it really seems to prove that there are cute boy clothes out there, and that they can be sewn. FYI, you don't need a serger to make either of these pieces. Just follow some of my basic tips for sewing with knits here.

first ottobre magazine sewing project

Ottobre has such a wealth of patterns in each issue, ranging from infant wear to teens. And, they offer just as many boy patterns as girl pattern. Sweet. Where else is that the case?

first ottobre magazine sewing project

Here's the combo I made, found in the Spring 2010 issue.

first ottobre magazine sewing project

You can order the magazine in English, and you get a lot of bang for your buck - this issue contains 39 patterns.

first ottobre magazine sewing project

It comes with several pattern sheets, so you'll obviously have to have some Swedish tracing paper on hand to trace your pattern pieces. A word about the instructions - you have to know what you're doing in order to successfully sew from an Ottobre magazine. It might be tough going for visual learners or beginners, because none of the steps offer diagrams. You need to be advanced enough to "see" how to put a garment together without relying on diagrams.

first ottobre magazine sewing project

I'll be sewing many more designs from Ottobre. I feel like I've hit a goldmine!

Have a great weekend - I'll be back on Monday with a list of my go-to retailers for buying quality knit fabrics.

a toddler-friendly house

It's no surprise that our house has undergone some changes since Finn started walking. Given my personal penchant for rearranging furniture and constantly tweaking our home to make it more livable, I really embrace the opportunity to create interesting and safe spaces for Finn to explore and enjoy. I hope you enjoy the tour!

playing the drums in the music room

Our music room/dining room is set up for Mama and Daddy, as well as Finn. The set of drums, which I found at our local fair trade store, are from India. Each drum rotates on a donut cushion, which makes it easy to angle them to better accommodate Finn's small stature. On the other side of Finn, which you can't see in this picture, is a basket containing a handful of interesting percussion instruments which I switch out periodically: bells, a triangle, a maraca, and a wooden egg shaker.

living room with reading nook

The dining room features a child-sized rocker and a handmade book sling for larger picture books.

book sling close up

You can find the tutorial for making a book sling at Penny Carnival.

living room with potty and book basket

Another view of our living room reveals the little potty station, well equipped with a basket containing wipes and a few books. (A note about how EC is going ... we're currently experiencing a lack of interest in the potty. Ever since Finn started walking, he's been less concerned with signaling to use the potty, and that's cool (and also quite normal for EC-ers!) He still sits down a few times a day to read books with us, and we still catch most number 2's because that happens somewhat predictably upon waking, but for now, potty time is on the back burner!)

finn's bookshelf

Here's yet another nook for Finn - a tiny bookshelf that holds a few books (including the talented Melissa Crowe's felt baby book featured in my book!), as well as his baby doll, a music box that was mine when I was little, and a basket containing two sandpaper letters which are from fellow Montessorian Polliwog 77. Finn loves carrying them around. I figure that I'll just casually introduce some letter sounds to him as a game. Just this morning, Finn walked over, picked up the "f", rubbed his finger over it, and said "ffffffffffff."

nature cabinet

Here's the nature cabinet - a bit sparse at the moment, but we do have a few duck and geese feathers on display, as well as some interesting seed pods and a summery drawing. The chair is from the Michael Olaf 0-3 catalog, The Joyful Child.

kitchen play

And here's the heart of the home - the place we spend the most time - the kitchen. It's certainly where we put most of our resources - both money and sweat (notice the new blue walls? Much brighter than the former dark orange look.) Thanks to a generous refund check from the IRS, we were able to purchase the most gorgeous cherry play kitchen by Camden Rose. It matches the Camden Rose shelf/play stand that we've had for a while. Finn loves it in here - whether it's opening and closing his kitchen doors and putting things in or taking them out or playing with bubbles in the little sink, he always finds something of interest - which is important for the big people in the house, because we like cooking and baking, and it's pretty difficult to get anything done with a baby hanging on your leg. The toddler-sized table and chair are also from Michael Olaf.

little bird on a branch

His other favorite kitchen activities include playing with the real "play" phone, exploring garlic bulbs and other fresh produce, and playing with the saucepans, lids, and serving spoons, which are available to him in one of the low cabinets. Oh - and I just thought I'd show you one of my favorite details of the space - the fabric bird on a branch curtain rod.

washing dishes with daddy

His absolute favorite kitchen activity, however, is hanging out in his Learning Tower and helping us wash dishes or fruits and veggies. His tower was a birthday gift from his grandparents, aunt, and great aunt and uncle. Although they're not shown in this picture, we like to keep the "gaps" in the side and back closed off with a few bungee cords until he's a bit bigger and more steady on his feet. Also, if he's working with a lot of water, we'll drape the "floor" of the tower with a towel to keep things from getting slippery. It's made kitchen work so much more fun, for all involved!

reading in finn's room

And here's the little fellow in his room ... which hasn't changed much. I just rotate out the activities on the shelf and he's happy as a clam - always something to do.

opening and closing basket

Right now, this opening and closing basket keeps his interest. (These little woven baskets are perfect for little hands and for holding interesting "toys" like shells, stones, and blocks. I found mine fair-trade at our local Whole Foods market. They are made in Ghana.)

potty station in bedroom

Here's the potty station in his room, outfitted with books, of course!

toddler in the studio

And here's novel toddler space - my sewing studio! Inspired by Anna Maria, I made some changes in order to welcome Finn into this space. No toys are necessary here - just some spools of thread, a basket of scraps, and some interesting notions in a small cabinet that opens and closes, along a few books.

toddler in the studio 2

Embroidery thread is fascinating.

toddler-proofing the studio

Here's an invaluable gadget that allows me to safely keep my sewing machine, serger, and computer plugged in - it's called a Lectralock.

toddler in the studio 3

I'm still not able to get much work done with Finn in here with me, as he's constantly asking to read books together. How can I say no to that request?

It's nice to have a home that all of us can enjoy, and that allows Finn to explore freely without me worrying about safety issues or off-limits, adult-only spaces. We're here together all day, every day, and we love it!

cooking in the inferno

orange sherbet from scratch

It's been hotter than a frying pan in the underworld here in North Carolina. Aside from being in the' mid-90's, it's sticky. Humidity and I do not get along. I'm from the mountains of Northern California, after all, where summers are pool-worthy but humane. Pleasant, even. Pleasant is not a synonym for summer in the South.

basket of yummy

Aside from making me cranky and forcing me to stay inside for most of the day, hot days make me want to fill my body with cold things. As if, by eating ice cream all day, I could bring the temperature down in a certain radius around my body, like a human ice pack.

But you know what? If this weather is what it takes to spur me into action and make orange sherbet from scratch, I can handle a few more days like this with at least a smidgen of grace. Because, man oh man, this is GOOD.

Two bowls today. Tomorrow will be a better day, because I will eat three bowls of this stuff.

Recipe here.

the real animal kingdom

giraffe's lollipop

Hey there! If I seemed to have dropped off the face of the planet for the past ten days, it's because of this little boy and his animals. We spent a nice vacation visiting Patrick's family in central Florida, and I left my computer untouched for the majority of the week. I meant to post before we left, but things got busy and we were packing down to the wire - how is it that it now takes 17 hours to prepare for a vacation? Oh yes ... we now have a baby. At any rate, we eventually arrived in Orlando and did our best to skirt the corporate cartoon animals in favor of the real deal.

feeding a giraffe

DSC_6243 (Modified in Phatch PHoto bATCH Processor).JPG

The only two child-oriented parks that we visited were Green Meadows Petting Farm and the Brevard Zoo. Both are small and hands-on - perfect for young children. Finn loved feeding the animals. We went to the zoo twice to feed the giraffes. Now Finn's all about feeding our cats in the morning, too.

feeding the sheep

All of this made me pine for some farm animals of our own. One of these days, once we have a yard that's bigger than a postage stamp.

riding a pony.JPG

pleased as pie

There's so much to get caught up on after eschewing work for over a week - some book editing, a new pattern to send to the printer, and some sewing, of course. Wishing you a relaxing (almost) summer weekend!