Baby Leggings

This week I made some leggings for Miss M. I used a stripey fabric I found at a local store, and some leftover jersey knit from the Ice Cream Dress.

I followed this baby tights tutorial, and it really was as easy as it looks. Only difference is that I cut off the feet of one pair to make leggings.

I’ve learned a few things about working with knits recently. First, they make special needles for stretchy fabrics! Who knew? And second, there is a special stitch for working with them – looks kind of like a zigzag, but a little slopier. I hadn’t clued in to what it was for.

FYI: Leggings are good for jumping.

I’ve also been working on my quilt, so hopefully I’ll have some in progress photos of that soon too.

Pimp My Sewing Machine

“Pimp my sewing machine” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as pimp my ride, does it? I decided to grab a few accessories today since my machine has been getting a lot of use. First I bought a walking foot – necessary for quilting. I tried previously to buy a cheap one on eBay but when it arrived, didn’t resemble the photo, and didn’t work well at all. Luckily the seller did refund me, but I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. So I went back to the dealer. The saleslady sold me a cheaper non-branded one made by the same manufacturer, so in the end it did not end up being much more than the the eBay one. I also got a gathering foot, since I have come to abhor gathering, which seems called for on almost every garment or doll garment I make, and it was only $6. I am pretty excited to use it!

Dinner Guests

We have guests for dinner tonight. Small wooden guests. Thomas, James, Percy and Toby… or as P likes to call him, “Tovy.” Four little wooden trains in a perfect line, surveying my son as he eats his dinner.

We’ve actually had these trains for years, except Tovy, who is a new acquisition. In fact, and don’t tell P this, we had five Thomases up until about six weeks ago, when I donated two of them to the Salvation Army in a toy purge. At the time he didn’t notice, but now he has them all catalogued.

What’s changed? Why have these humble little trains suddenly become such favourites that my son cannot sleep, eat or bathe without at least one of them by his side? Well, I’ll be honest: I let him watch the Thomas videos. And he was hooked. And suddenly he was rooting through that basket of trains, naming them, and listing which one he wants next.

Before Thomas, we had other dinner guests. First it was Lightning McQueen and pals. He saw the Cars movie at a friend’s house when he was being babysat. I had never paid much attention to Lightning McQueen before then, but suddenly he was everywhere: on sippy cups, bouncy balls, toy houses, fake computers, restaurant advertising. I’d walked through Toys’R’Us many times before, but after seeing Cars, it was no longer just a toy store. It was a toy store chockfull of Lightning McQueen merchandising. And my son has eagle eyes. No matter how high on a shelf, or how small the logo, he will see it. Once we were walking through a craft store and on a shelf about nineteen feet high there was a teeny-tiny Lightning birthday candle. “I want to see it! I just want to look at it!!” he yelled.

After Lightning, there was Buzz and Woody. I take full blame for this one – I (er, Santa) bought Woody and Buzz on sale at Canadian Tire and voluntarily showed my son the movie. It was nominated for an Oscar after all! Buzz and Woody didn’t just come to dinner, they even vacationed with us. On our trip to Mexico, Woody was everywhere – at the beach, at the ruins, in the hammock, cuddled under the hotel room. And his hat. P can be a little OCD about Woody’s hat, which unfortunately does not stay on particularly well. So I spent at least half our trip carefully tracking the movements of Woody’s hat – P fell asleep in my husband’s arms on our way back from dinner and my eyes were on that hat. Good thing too, because it fell off Woody’s head and landed under some brush on a tree, but I got it!

And so now, it’s Thomas. If I had known how expensive those trains were, I might not have showed him that video. One tiny piece of wood and plastic retails for $16 at your neighbourhood Chapters – which has an enormous display of them (along with several Cars characters and tie-in books). And no, they are not handmade in Switzerland by people making a living wage.

Part of me is grateful to Thomas and Lightning and Woody, and even Woody’s hat. They have given me many hours of free time as my son happily re-enacted scenes from the movies, or made up his own. And of course the shows buy me a half hour here and there too. But another part of me feels sad about it. I’ve made P three handmade toys. But there’s no show about those toys. There’s no multimillion dollar advertising campaign, no birthday candles, no outdoor baseball set or push-toys that tie in with them. They get played with for an hour, and then set aside.

I’m a perfect Waldorf or Montessori parent who avoids all plastic and mass-produced things. But once you open the floodgates to Woody or Lightning or Thomas, your child is inundated. He will find the Thomas ball at the thrift store, and the Lightning stickers at the dollar store, and the Toy Story book in the doctor’s waiting office. And then the doctor will see how much he loves that book and give it to him, so you’ll be forced to read it ad nauseum. And then he’ll cry at dinner because he desperately wants Annie and Clarabelle, who are “Thomas’s two very good friends!” And you’ll always have guests for dinner.

Rainy Days

You know, there’s something really yuck about this time of year. I’m finding the days go verrrrrrry slowly. Summer we spent long days outside, and same with fall, even well into November. Then of course there’s Christmas where we busied ourselves with Christmas concerts and events. We travelled in January. But now late winter just drags on, and on and on. It rains most days. M takes a long nap in the morning, so P and I stay home. Then I rush him off to preschool and M and I head home for nap #2. When I’m home the list of chores just seem endless – there’s always laundry to fold or food to prepare or 8000 pieces of Duplo to pick up.

Today I’m breaking the rules, and M is crashed out next to me on a banquette at a local cafe. P is in daycare and I’m sitting her typing to you and reading a book I got at the library.

Tag Along Dolls

A couple of months ago I stumbled upon Hillary Lang’s Wee Wonderfuls at a discount bookstore nearby. Flipping through it there were so many cute little projects inside. I think it was actually this book that got me ambitious about sewing again.  If you’re at all interested in making dolls or stuffed animals, I do recommend it, as there are lots of cute projects, and, better yet, you learn a variety of techniques which you can then use to make your own creations.

I made one “Tag-Along” doll for my niece’s 5th birthday, and then made an extra one for M, because P appropriates all her other toys. Although of course, P appropriated this one too… hm.  It’s called the Tag-Along doll because there’s also a pattern for an apron to hold the doll, however I didn’t bother with that, so I guess it’s just a Hangin’ Out doll.

This is the third project from the book I’ve tried, and by far the most successful, probably because I am really learning not to rush my sewing. It’s always kind of a thrill when the finished product looks like the photo – at least I think it does, doesn’t it?

These little girls did take me a LONG time though, considering how simple they are. Stuffing and working on all the little details is just time-consuming. It’s fun when it’s a labour of love – I am hoping my niece appreciates this doll, if not now, then someday. But it’s also why I will never open an Etsy doll shop… to pay myself a living wage I estimate I’d have to sell these dolls for approximately $427 each. Still, it’s not always about the destination – it’s also about the journey!

Fabric is from Moda’s It’s a Hoot collection.

Kale Chips

So kale chips seem to be the recipe du jour these days and since I accidentally bought too much kale (random, I know), I thought I’d try them. Basically, you just throw them on some parchment paper with some olive oil and salt and heat them for about 15-25 minutes (less if your kale is dry, more if your kale is soggy, like mine was.)

They were… fine. I mean, they’re not packed with flavour but it’s a pretty painless way to eat greens. P was not convinced however. I believe his exact words were “Those are not chips. They’re green.” But M liked ’em.

Germaine Greer on Q

I was listening to Germaine Greer on Q the other day. She was talking about a documentary called The F word about the state of feminism, which I haven’t yet had the chance to see. But there was a point she made during her interview that really has me thinking. She talked about how one of the problems facing women today is the sheer amount of work – we work outside the home and then we return home and there’s more work to do. Not exactly a revelation – but then she made the point that when walking around her neighbourhood she passes doors and knows that behind each one mothers are labouring on almost identical tasks for their 1.2 children. She said that there has to be a way to somehow join efforts, but that in many ways women are still competing against each other instead of working together.

Maybe the point about competition is a bit unfair, but it definitely has me thinking. Every night I make dinner for four (well to be fair, J makes it sometimes too). It would be no harder to make dinner for eight, bring one to my neighbour and have her bring us dinner the next night. But I don’t really know my neighbour, which is one problem, so I’d never ask. I’m sure I have friends across town who’d do it, but driving dinner across town becomes more of a chore than anything else. Division of labour is a lynch pin of our economy, but we rarely use it at home – or do we? Does anyone else have ideas on how to divide and share labour more effectively at home?

You can listen to the podcast of the episode on CBC’s site. Unfortunately they use some weird Flash thing so I can’t figure out how to link directly to the podcast, but all the episodes are here. Greer appeared on the March 3, 2011 show.

Car Mat/Play house

Remember how last week I talked about maybe doing some sewing for P, and pointed out this car house (which I discovered via Made By Rae)?

About five minutes after writing that post, I became obsessed. Or maybe I just made the mistake of mentioning it to P who then hounded me about it. For the next two days I was hard at work cutting out little felt pieces and making this adorable play house/play mat. P is a bit of a hoarder and loves to put all his toys in a bag or container and carry them around, so I knew this would be a hit. And as a carrying case it sure beats a garbage bag. We learned that the hard way when P was re-enacting the opening part of Toy Story 3 and put all his toys in a black garbage bag, which we then accidentally left at the park. The toys were recovered but not before a lot of angst (his) and tears (mine).

The house-bag serves a dual purpose as it then unfolds into this cute playmat. (Cars aficionados will recognise Cosy Cone #1 and #2 – placed there by special request. Yes, Pixar has taken over our life and I’m not even ashamed of it.)

I varied the pattern a little bit. I didn’t make it from felt – I made it from cotton with a piece of batting in between. So it’s definitely floppier than the original, but I like that look. I also didn’t add the extra pieces of fabric to make the mat square, as I had a feeling P would get frustrated trying to fold that all back together.

Can I just pause for a moment to say I am so proud of myself? It’s amazing how two months ago I struggled to make us Christmas stockings, and now just two months later I can pull this off! It was also my first attempt at machine applique-ing and though the results were a little uneven (I touched a few up by hand after this photo), by the end I was really getting the hang of it. That’s the great thing about sewing toys – your kid isn’t going to critique your stitches, and fit doesn’t matter so imperfections are not fatal to overall use. And P said “I LOVE it!” and insisted on taking it out with us, so I know it was a hit.

Small Plates Blocks

For your viewing pleasure, some blocks I am doing for the quilt I am making for P & M. It’s got kind of a rainbow theme, so I’m doing red, orange, yellow, green and blue blocks. I finished the red and the orange ones today so that’s what you see. I was planning to just have 10 different fabrics total, 1 print and 1 solid in each colour. However, as usual I didn’t read the instructions carefully so I got partway through and realised I didn’t have enough of my carefully selected fabrics. Luckily I’ve built up quite the fabric stash now and had enough other prints on hand. I actually think it’s going to work out better this way – the more the merrier – especially since I know see how L-A-R-G-E it will be. I really love those little cowboys.

Prints pictured are:
Castle Peeps by Lizzy House
L’il Cowpokes from Michael Miller
Teddy’s Garden from Benartex
Aldo to Zippy by Jenn Ski

Raspberry Chocolate Smoothie

This was going to be a photo of an amazing drink I recently discovered, but by the time I got around to taking a photo – it was gone.

So these days chocolate is practically health food, right? So why not have it for breakfast? I couldn’t believe adding cocoa to a smoothie hadn’t occurred to me before, but here’s how I made it.

1 c plain yoghurt (not French vanilla!)
1/2 c frozen or fresh raspberries
1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa
optional – add some coconut milk to water it down

Blend. (I used my Braun handheld). Sweeten if desired. The raspberries are probably sweet enough, but I threw in a bit of Agave nectar because, well, I have a huge container of it I’m trying to get through and I like the way it mixes into drinks. I know there is controversy about whether agave nectar is any better than refined sugar, but I like the consistency. A touch of maple syrup would work nicely too.