Dolls for Christmas

dolls sittingThis is my very first finished project of 2013. Never mind that I started it way back last year. I really wanted to make some dolls for my girls for Christmas. Last Christmas they got a some dolls from their abuela that they loved to pieces, literally. Like, the legs fell off of one, and the head fell off of the other. I wish I was kidding. And after watching my poor baby walking around cuddling, cooing, and shooshing a headless doll for a couple months, I decided I needed to take some action. So I made these (hopefully) sturdier dolls.

girls smiling

Now, this could have been a simple project. There are tons and tons and tons of thorough tutorials, books, and patterns for beautiful dolls out there. I even took advantage of the the wonderful public library system to check out some books on doll making techniques. But when it came down to it, I decided that I wanted to make my own pattern for my doll. And I wanted to stuff it with wool. And I wanted to do some of that cool, Waldorf-doll style hair. Like I said, this could have been a simple project. isa playing with hair

doll  2

But as my husband often reminds me, if it isn’t difficult, I won’t do it. Sometimes I think he’s right. So, I used some of the very, very helpful information on one of my favorite blogs, While She Naps, to draft a basic doll pattern. And then another one. And then a third one. After three prototypes (thankfully done in muslin) I decided I’d had enough and would have to go with it. If I ever make more dolls, I’ll definitely want to refine it a bit. It was a great learning experience, though.

And, of course, I decided to purchase a raw wool fleece from ebay to stuff the dolls with. Hmm, I think I’ll just breeze through this whole phase of the doll preparation phase, but lets just say there was so much washing, and culling plant and fecal matter from the fleece, and then drying, and then more sorting, and then combing/fluffing. Bottom line, buying prepared wool is probably worth the extra cost.

After assembling the doll bodies, I had to decide on the faces. Several sketches were thrown out before I decided to kind of wing it as I stitched. I fairly well like how the faces came out. I did the pink lip face first, then the smile face. I had intended to go back and redo the pink lips as a smile, but my four-year-old saw the pink lip doll and wouldn’t let me change it.

all together

When it came to the clothes, I did a very simple dress, but I got a little fancy with the decorative stitching on the hem. First time, and it felt good.
close up dress

more close ups

For the hair, I used some lovely organic cotton yarn which is super soft, but a little fragile, so I had to tell my girls not to try combing the dolls hair. They were a little disappointed with that, but they like having me do braids and other hairstyles on their dolls (since they won’t let me do it on them).

faces

dolls by trees

underwear

Oh, and I stitched on a pair of underwear for both dolls, so there wouldn’t be any doll indecency should they choose to climb a tree or swing on the swings.

doll love

twoSo far the working names are Tully and Sally, but we’ll see if that changes.

If you have any questions about the process, I’d love to share my beginner’s perspective with you. Does anyone else have any first-time doll-making experiences to share? I’d love to hear.

Have a great day!

Christmas Cookies

Here’s something fun to do this weekend with your kids (or friends, someone special, etc.) to get you into the Christmas spirit. Decorate Christmas cookies. Oh yes, as cliché as it might sound, this really is a lovely way to bring some holiday fun into your home.

cookies 2

And it does not have to be complicated. Or fancy. Or perfect (remember this last one especially if you decide to do this with little kids). It is just meant to be fun.

Making sugar cookies with my little girls was a new experience for me. I’ve always loved doing sugar cookies, especially for Christmas, but I wasn’t ready to try letting the little ones help until just recently. As with practically any activity, letting little kids help with something usually doubles the amount of time it takes, but if you can just accept that and allow yourself to ignore the messes and little mistakes tiny fingers make, you’ll find real joy sharing a new activity with your kids. And why not start with sugar cookies? A very good place to begin, if you ask me.

isa looking at cookies

Here’s the recipe I used for the cookies. I have never settled into a really great sugar cookie recipe. In fact, I think I try a new one every time I make sugar cookies, but I have to say, this is a pretty good standard one. Nothing fancy like cream cheese or sour cream, but nice and flavorful.

isabella mixing

The instructions a fairly straightforward, and I decided to let my almost 4-year-old help with the dough.

mixing 2

mixingIt went pretty well, except that part of the way through I went to get something and came back to find my little sweetie spooning unknown quantities of flour into the bowl that I had already carefully measured my flour into. I had to start over there, but it wasn’t a big deal, and she is so eager to learn, which makes it fun for me, too.

dough

Now, I have to be completely honest and say rolling and cutting out the cookies was the hardest part. Probably because I was not quite ready to give up control in this area. My two-year old was especially hard to control during that step in the process, but I should have known. She is two after all. The girls did not want to wait until the dough reached the right thickness, and the didn’t want to hear anything about trying to place the cut outs as close to each other as possible to keep the dough from having to be rolled out multiple times. No siree. I’d go to put a nicely cut cookie on the pan only to find several false starts from some anxious cookie cutters in the center of the rolled out dough, marring the whole project. It got a little tense. But after the cookies were made and the little bakers got to sample their fine work, the rest was just, well, icing on the cookies.

Here’s the recipe I used for the frosting. I halved the recipe and still had lots left over, so if you’re not a frosting0phile like me, you might want to take this approach, too.

So here’s the thing I wanted to tell you about especially. Decorating cookies does not require any special tools or skill sets. Now, I do not mean decorating cookies for Martha Stewart Magazine or some fancy cookie boutique in New York doesn’t require tools and skills. It does. Whole lists of them. But decorating cookies with your kids does not. You can even go a little fancy, if you want.

cookies close up 2

Here’s what I did to spell out a little message with just a plastic bag, some frosting, and some sprinkles.

First, fill a plastic sandwich bag with some frosting, about 1 cup to spell out Merry Christmas. Push it to one corner, then seal and twist the top so frosting won’t squeeze out that end. Snip the corner that has the frosting in it off  so you have about a 1/2 inch opening. Then take some sugar cookies in whatever shape you want (I recommend circles, squares, or shapes with at least one big area; save the snowflakes for the kids to decorate) and spell out your message one letter per cookie. After you have completed a letter, dump a generous helping of sprinkles over the whole frosted letter. You may want to gently press the sprinkles a bit to make sure they stick to the frosting. Wait 10 seconds. Then turn the cookie upside down and gently shake it to remove the excess sprinkles.

cookies

I recommend doing this over a piece of wax paper so you can gather up the falling sprinkles for use on another cookie. This went pretty well for me, especially for a first time go at it.

close up cookiesMy letters turned out a little shaggy since I had big sprinkles, but I would love to see how some sparkly sugar sprinkles or nonpareils would look.

frosting

While I did the cookies this way, I let my little girl decorate as many cookies as she wanted. I didn’t expect much (she’s not even four yet) but I was amazed at how carefully she frosted each one. She was sparing with the frosting and sprinkles, and she kept telling me how careful she was being with the knife (it was a butter knife, but she associates any knife with danger).

decorating It was definitely the best part of the whole process.

eating(Well, besides eating the cookies, of course.) And my two-year old? She was perfectly happy to let me help frost and sprinkle a cookie with her, and then she spent the rest of the time picking off each sprinkle, licking the cookie clean, and then devouring the plain cookie.

eating cookies 2 isa eating cookie merry christmas
Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy some time with the ones you love!

Tutorial: Lacing Softies

My little girl always asks to “sew” when she sees me doing my embroidery. If she finds my hoop, she will often make a few giant stitches of her own. She’s a little too young to handle a real hoop and needle, so I wanted to make something she could work on, too.

I’ve seen those sewing cards, but since I don’t have access to power tools, little wooden things are not an option. My solution: make it out of fabric.

Would you like to make your own lacing softies for your little ones? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward, but it does require some specific tools and some time. The results are totally worth it, though.

Supplies:

  • Hammer
  • Eyelets/grommets (if you check the definitions, the distinction is rather fuzzy, but in the store the box I got said “eyelets”). I used 5/32″ eyelets.
  • Fabric and whatever you need to put your design on it, (thread, ink, stamps, etc.)
  • Batting
  • Cardboard
  • Hole punch (the kind you hold with one hand and hammer with the other hand)
  • Sewing implement (yarn, blunt needle, shoelace, ribbon, etc.)
  1. Design your softie. You can use whatever means you want to get an image for your softie—a freezer-paper stencil, stamps, silk screening, large printed fabrics, etc; for this one I embroidered the image I wanted (a fox** in this case).
    You can do a front and back image, like I did, or just a front image if you like. If you do a front and back image, you’ll need to make them mirror images so that they’re not backwards.
  2. Turn your image over. If you can’t see it on the back (i.e., the back of the stitches), then place your fabric over a light table, window, and trace the outline with a fabric marker or pencil.
  3. Set some 1/4 in grommets around the outside of of your image where you intend to have them, about 3/4 in apart.
  4. Trace an outline around the grommets with a fabric marker or pencil  (I used a pen so you could see the line). This outline is the line you will sew on, so you do not need to include seam allowances. 
  5. Layer the two pieces of fabric with your design on them together, right sides facing. Use a light table or window to see that your front and back design match up. Pin these two layers together, with a layer of batting behind them.
  6. Sew all the way along the line (I used a free motion foot, but a regular foot might work fine, depending on the design), leaving an opening for turning out.
    (I wasn’t going to show you this, because my free-motion stitching is bad, but it worked okay, so don’t worry about it too much.)
  7. Cut your piece out, leaving 1/4 in seam allowance.
  8. Clip and curves/trim corners if your design has them, and then turn your piece right-side out.
  9. Tuck in the opening and slip stitch it closed. If you need help with slip-stitching, I’ve got some instructions on it in my fabric puzzle tutorial.
  10. Add the eyelets. (If you’ve used eyelets/grommets before, you can skip these instructions, but this was pretty much my first time, and I learned some things that might be good to know before you try it.)
  11. Use a punch to cut a small hole for each eyelet. You will want a cutting board, scrap piece of wood, or piece of thick cardboard underneath you fabric to make sure you don’t make holes in your work surface. (ahem.) I’m using a punch that was about half the diameter of my eyelet hole. Not ideal, but when I tried the punch that was the same size as the eyelet hole, I found that the fabric did not always get caught by the eyelet’s edge when it was pounded down, so it’s better to have to push and wiggle to get the eyelet to fit through a snug hole than to have too much room. I also tried punching a hole and then doing half another hole, overlapping the first one, to make the diameter a little bigger, and that seemed to work pretty well.
  12. I quickly learned that a tap tap tap tap approach worked much better than thud thud thud. I ended up with a few misshapen eyelets before I learned this lesson.
    Also, be sure to tap directly perpendicular to your eyelet setting tool, or it will go on at an angle and not catch all of your fabric (I also learned this lesson the hard way).
  13. Try to push your eyelet through the hole without fabric overlapping the edge of the eyelet, this will help the back stay neater.
  14. Keep setting eyelets all the way around until you’ve done them all.
  15. Choose your sewing implement. I went with yarn and a large, dull needle, but you could use a thin ribbon on a needle, a shoelace, etc.With the yarn, I started with a pretty long piece, and sewed it all the way around to make sure it would be long enough before I cut it off.

Once you have your sewing implement, you’re done. I couldn’t wait to share this with my little sewer (yes, it’s a word).

I don’t know about you, but there is something about those chubbly little fingers holding an oversized needle that is just too adorable (and yes, my daughter is sporting a snow hat at the end of July).

I’m not going to lie, putting in all 26 eyelets was kind of a pain because of the aforementioned problems that I had to work through. But I really liked the result, so I think I’ll definitely have to make a couple more of these.
**If you would like to embroider you’re own fox, leave a comment with your email address, and I will send you the embroidery template.

Have a great weekend!

ps. I’m linking this up on skip to my lou.

Tutorial: Tangram-esque Fabric Puzzle

This is one of those projects that’s been on my mental to do list for a while, like before I had my Pinterest boards, or I would be able to tell you exactly when and where I saw it. (Oh Pinterest, how did I ever get along without you?) I did pin a similar project as soon as I saw it, but this was months after the original inspiration struck me.

Curious yet? After tumbling the idea around in my head, I finally cracked down and did it, and rather than trying to work backwards to make a tutorial in the event that others might be interested in make their own fabric puzzle, I actually planned ahead on sharing the how-to with you (thoughtful, huh?). And now that it’s done, I’m so glad I took pictures because (a) it is way too cool not to share and (b) I’m not going to be making another set of these things for a while (yes, that means this is a tad labor intensive, but what do you expect when this, this, and this, are my typical project?).

I’m calling these tangram-esque because Merriam-Webster’s definition actually specifies the little Chinese puzzle with seven specifically shaped pieces in the definition of tangram, and this isn’t quite that. But it’s in the spirit of the tangram puzzle.

These are addictingly fun to play with, and I don’t just mean for the kids. My photo sessions got rather drawn-out because I was so into coming up with different designs.


It’s basically a open-ended puzzle that you make up as you go, and I love it. I’m not sure how age-appropriate it is for my toddler and 9-month old, but they pieces are soft, stackable, and colorful, so at the very least they make excellent teething toys and safe projectiles.


I think my older daughter was getting into them, but if not, I’m sure she’ll love them as much as I do in a few years.

Do you want to make your own set of tangram-esque puzzle pieces? Great. Let’s get to work.

The process is pretty simple. You’ll be making a bunch of half-square triangles, sewing a backing and batting to it, turning it right side out, and slip-stitching the opening closed. Here’s the details:

  1. First, choose your fabrics. You don’t need much of each color. I used seven different colors, and only used about 1/6th of a yard each color, and about a third of a yard of the white.
    Really, you can use whatever fabric you want, with as many different colors as you want, and make as many pieces as you want.
  2. Each color is paired with every other color once (7 colors, so the math is 6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 21; I think this works with whatever number of colors you have: take the number of colors, minus one, then add all the numbers to that number and on down), and by cutting the pieces in half (you’ll see later) you get a total of 42 tile pieces.

    If you want to end up with 42 finished squares like I did, you’ll need to cut six 4″ squares in each color, including the white (if you are using a different number of colors, the number of squares you’ll need to cut will be one less than the number of colors you have). For the backing, you’ll need forty-two 3 3/4″ squares in whatever combination of colors you want; I used 18 squares in white and 4 squares of every other color.
  3. Match up one of each color with one of every other color, red with orange, red with yellow, red with green, and so on. If you’re using fabric with a pattern, make sure to keep right sides together.
  4. Use a pencil or a disappearing fabric marker to draw a line from one corner to another.
  5. Sew from one corner of the square diagonally to the opposite corner, using the line you made as the guide for your presser foot.
  6. Turn the square around and sew down the opposite side of the line in the same manner. You will now have to parallel lines of stitching.
  7. Cut each square in half along the diagonal line you marked in step 4.
  8. Press the squares open with the seam pressed toward the darker fabric.
    (I’m sure there are lots great tutorials about how to do half-square triangles. Calli from Make It Do just did a very nice little tutorial about how to do half-square triangles, and it looks very similar to the way I did it, so if you need another tutorial on how to do half-square triangles, check it out.)
  9. Cut out 42 3 3/4″ squares of batting (I cut out twice that because the batting I had was very thin, and I wanted it to have a little more heft.
  10. Lay each pieced square on top of a 3 3/4″ square, right sides together.
  11. Lay your matched pieces on top of one piece of batting.
  12. Sew all the way around your square (1/4″ seam allowance), leaving a 1 1/2″ opening for turning out.
  13. Clip off the corners (sorry, I didn’t show this step, but basically you want to trim to as close to the corner as possible without cutting through the stitching).
  14. Using a turning tool of some sort (I used hemostats, which I read about here), turn out each piece, making sure to push the corners nicely.
  15. Tuck in the open seam, and slip stitch the opening closed. I don’t really know how to describe the slip stitch, I stitched through both sides of the fabric as closely as possible so the thread doesn’t show, then I pulled the thread back through half an inch, made a knot, and “popped” the knot through the fabric to bury it inside (that’s how it was described to me when I was first learning to sew as a teenager, so please forgive my lack of eloquence). Perhaps the pictures will help the description.Repeat 41 times, and you’re done. Now go enjoy your finished work.

They’re great for throwing,

stacking,

sucking on,

designing,

and undesigning.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do; I’m telling you, hand stitching 42 seams closed is worth it for this little toy. If you make your own, I’d love to see them!

Have a great Monday!

ps. I’m linking this up at skip to my loutatertots and jello, and here:

Visit thecsiproject.com.

Baby Bibs

Yes I am still here. I hope you didn’t give my blog up for dead, dear reader. I’ve just taken an untintentional blog vacation, but rest assured, I have been busy behind the scenes. Sometimes balancing everything is hard; I’m sure every mom on the planet, or just every person, period, could expound on that statement ad nauseam, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Anyways, here’s one of the little things I’ve been working on. Baby bibs.

These aren’t really messy-eating bibs. I intend their main function to be for absorbing the copious amounts of drool my little angel produces on a regular basis. Seriously, this girl can drool.

They were very simple. I just patched together a bunch of fabric scraps, layered them on top of a piece of backing fabric and some batting, sewed around the whole shape of the bib on there, leaving a little opening, and then I turned the thing inside out and top-stitched all the way around. The hardest part was attaching the snaps.

Did you notice that one bib doesn’t have snaps. That’s because I wrecked up a bunch before I got it right, so I ran out. They were difficult little beasts to handle, but they worked out okay in the end.

And I rather like the results.


By the way, all the fabric came from a bag of scraps that I picked up at a fabric store—they have a big bin where the quilting class dumps their scraps, and you can stuff a quart sized bag with them for $5. So that’s the humble origins of these bibs’ fabric. You see, this project comes with a wee confession: I don’t know anything about fabric. Okay, I take that back. I know what I like, but that’s all I know about fabric.

Designers, lines, collections, series, or whatever it is that fabrics are grouped in mean really nothing to me. At all. I guess I know some designer names, but I would not be able to pair the names with the fabrics; no, not if you gave me a million dollars to do it. And I don’t intend on changing that anytime soon, because I certainly don’t need any more arts/crafts supply addictions.

ps. I’m linking this up at skip to my lou.

Playdough

We made play dough today.

I used the recipe I found here, and I thought it was pretty easy, and the texture is nice and soft but not sticky.

Next time I might try a half recipe, because it made a lot, so I thought, oh, I’ll make three colors. Which very shortly turned into one multi colored lump.

Next time, just one color.

**UPDATE: Here’s the recipe I used for the play dough. It was nice and smooth, and not sticky at all.