Tuesday, January 31, 2012

not quite up to the (chisel) challenge.

"We need a chisel-challenge, don't you think? (peer pressure is how I manage to get myself to pull off about 85% of everything I do). We each need to make something with chisels for next week. deal?"
           - Allyson, Chisel Challenge champion

Allyson, you have won this chisel challenge, fair and square. Despite having twice as many children as I and a camera on the fritz, you rose to the challenge and managed to document it as well. I salute you.

In all seriousness, I can't wait to see the finished attacking lion stamp. I was planning on trying my hand at a woodblock printing. Now I'm thinking I might be able to handle a button. I pulled this sweater out to prove that, once upon a time, I did use my chisels and carving knife. A green cable sweater knit from Irish wool - a perfect remembrance of my trip to the Emerald Isle. The buttons, unfortunately, proved to be made of plastic and began to break after a few times of tossing my sweater onto a table. So I carved some wooden replacements.
Shame-faced, I offer my erstwhile (eight years ago, to be exact) woodcarving. Ah, but will you win the next chisel challenge??? (Quite likely, but it doesn't hurt to put up a brave front, eh?)

Friday, January 27, 2012

an extra leisurely tutorial

This jumpsuit is, by far, my favorite thing to put on my baby these days. The sweater I started out with just happened to be perfect, making this quite a leisurely project indeed. Chances of finding a sweater exactly like this one for repurposing purposes is unlikely, yes, but the general method can be tweaked depending on the style of sweater you are using.
This is the sweater I began with.
I left the collar untouched. The length was also perfect for my baby's length, so bottom was finished as well. I laid a pair of my son's pajamas over the sweater (centered over the zipper and collar) to get an idea of the width, inseam, and armhole size. The white lines below show the places I cut into the sweater.
Next, I cut out a circle to add a bit more room for his big diaper bum.
I pinned it to the crotch of the back piece, right sides together, and stitched it about halfway around. (Note: on all seams, I sewed a straight stitch first, then used a zigzag stitch over top to keep edges from unraveling and to make the seams stronger.)
This is what the back looks like once the circle is sewn on.
Next, sew the side seams, right sides together, up to the armholes.
Measure the circumferences of the armholes. Cut two strips this length, and about 1 1/2 inches wide.
Fold the strip in half, right sides together, and stitch the short ends together. You will use this as a binding for the armholes. Pin this, right sides together, to the armhole.
Sew the binding to the armhole. Turn the jumpsuit inside out, turn under the edge of the binding, and pin it to the inside of the armhole.
Whip stitch the turned under edge to the inside of the armhole.
Finish the inseam as you like: snaps for diaper changing ease, simply sewn shut, or, as I opted for, a zipper! (I'm now wondering why all baby inseams don't have zippers - so much easier than fumbling with snaps as my baby frantically tries to crawl off to his next adventure.)

The embroidery on the back was such fun. And, in fact, quite leisurely. I just freehanded it (the little knits all throughout the garment were kind of like grid lines to keep my lines more or less straight). This was my inspiration.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

knives, [no] camera, action!

So I've been chiseling today. I pulled a trapezoid from the scrap box in the garage last night and traced an "attacking lion leaping on this lamb over here" from the seven year-old's sketch stash and, well, at that point I hit the end of any previous expertise. I've never chiseled anything but soap before (which, for the record, is slightly easier to shave off than poplar), and had to consult "the experts" (google) for the next steps.

Apparently the main issue in chiseling a picture is whether to chisel-within or chisel-around. Technical, yes, but an important distinction, say the experts. Since I plan to stamp this lion on anything I can get my hands on in the next few days, chiseling-around seemed like the better option. Time will tell, but so far so good.

Unfortunately, things are not so good so far when it comes to my camera. On the fritz, so to speak. I feel slightly unnerved and thoroughly naked without a camera on my arm. How did I get so attached?

In the meantime, a Photo Booth shot will have to do. Me, some chisel, and a very slowly emerging lion.

Anyone else playing with wood this week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

If you're stopping over from Prudent Baby, welcome! We hope you'll stay and look around. And make sure to check out our one of a kind giveaway.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

extra leisurely suit

Ah, leisure suits. Or, even better, leisure jumpsuits!
image source
For my baby, who is just about as leisurely (and dashing) as any of those classy people from the 70s, here is the epitome of comfort and style. Whether contemplating what to order for lunch,
or composing a little music,
 he'll be doing it all in a cozy wool jumpsuit, repurposed from a Goodwill sweater.
With some city row houses embroidered on the back for good measure.

Tutorial forthcoming...

Monday, January 23, 2012

wear it out! (a giveaway)

Allyson and I have been tossing around the idea of a giveaway. But this isn't your typical giveaway.
Giveaways seem to be all the rage these days. Ten years ago, I would have jumped at the chance to win a giveaway - any giveaway. Pre kids (and pre the ensuing clutter and cramped apartment), if something was free, I was on board. Was it something I really had a use for? Perhaps not. But it was free! Career fairs at my university with all the accompanying free pens and stress reliever balls? Count me in! A free t-shirt I would probably never wear for applying for a credit card? Sign me up!

But now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. I feel almost panicky when someone offers me something free. Where would I put it? What if I ended up not using it? Then I'd have to find someone to give it to or else feel incredibly guilty just disposing of it. I'd certainly hate to provoke a similar state of anxiety in someone else by offering them something they might not want.

But here is what we would like to give away: the opportunity to make use of something that might otherwise end up in the trash.

Some of my own favorite art (in clothing form) has come about because I was trying to make the fullest use possible out of something. Some of my favorite results have been:
 My husband's pants, destroyed during a biking accident, now a tribute to his uncomplaining recovery and a favorite of my daughter.
A great Christmas gift from my husband: alas too small for me, but, with a few modifications, perfect for the 5-year-old.
Second-hand leggings, in good condition when acquired by my daughter, but soon stained and with a few holes in the knees - now just as comfortable, but also a one of a kind canvas for reminiscences of our sojourn in Santa Cruz.
 Unflattering second-hand overalls from a good friend, now the coolest maternity overalls ever.
A nondescript shirt my mom picked up on clearance and passed on to me, now bearing a flock of geese for my bird-obsessed daughter.
Kind of ugly corduroys, now an ode to spring and gardening.

It's a bit of a New Year's resolution for me to not buy new clothes until I'm sure I've used up what I already have to its full extent. I'm even trying to curb my trips to Goodwill and the resulting purchases of things that go into my "to be repurposed" pile. More clutter, you see. Even though I'm potentially saving something from the landfill, I'm still adding to my own pile of STUFF. So instead I'm trying to look at my own things and find some way to make them useable for a bit longer. In light of my inattentiveness to past New Year's resolutions, I'm going the extra mile with this one and helping others fully wear out their things as well.

This isn't a random giveaway. To enter, leave a comment describing the item you'd like to extend the life of, as well as why it may have some sort of special significance to you. We'll then choose the one that sounds like the project with the most potential. The winner will send the item to us, Allyson or I will work our magic on it and then send it back.

Is this giveaway even viable? Will anyone be interested? Am I the only one obsessed with the old-fashioned idea of "use it up, wear it out"? I guess we'll see.

This giveaway will close on Monday, January 30th. We'd like to make this a continuing project and so plan to do a similar giveaway once a month during 2012. Here's to wearing it out!

Friday, January 20, 2012

new in the shop

 I can't decide which this dress ended up reminding me of more: a 70s house dress or one of those traditional chinese dresses with the high collars.
I'm a big fan of pleats and this was a great print to incorporate them into - it highlights the symmetry of the dress while at the same time breaking up the busyness of the fabric design. I was really happy with the way the two fabrics came together - a perfect contrast.

An original design and one of a kind, this dress is available in the Etsy Shop.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

visual obsessions: sepia

Way back in 2003, we received our first digital camera. Our photo library from that year is pretty sparse (ever the slow-to-change girl, I was wary of filmless photography) and our computer space even sparser. I only have a few dozen pictures archived from 2003, and of those, fully half seem to be saved in sepia. I don't know if it was the novelty of photo-adjustment software (ahhh, no more red eyes), or if I was feeling extra nostalgic for the faded prints of my childhood, but I seem to have gone a little overboard. Eventually my husband, who had actually learned the non-sepia aspects of the software, suggested I duplicate the photos before playing with them -- ingeniously simple, if slightly more space consuming.

But in those early years my originals are the experimentals.

Looking back through them today, I find the sepia effect thoroughly appropriate. Those first years were my long ago and old fashioned, my novice experimentation, those simpler days with just three little kids and no lessons, no school, no long-term-financial-plan, no real sense of the passing of time.

And yet. I say all that fully aware that "back then" nothing seemed simple, that three little kids was a completely overwhelming dynamic, that I was tired, anxious, and uncertain just as often as I can be today.

But the sepia soothes the print, takes out the glaring colors and off-tune composition, and leaves for me a sense of the joy and confusion and wonder those years contained as well, of our continual forays into new beauty -- within nature and home and all of the people I so intensively loved.

Those pictures ignite a sensation that once upon a time things were somehow more open and clear, and that someday maybe they will be again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

wednesday's ode

To beautiful surroundings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

fingerless gloves and books

Having just returned from a wonderful visit to my mom and dad's house, I have a few observations. Observation number one: my parents have an impressive collection of books. Not only the quantity, but the beautiful vintage books, many of them from when my dad was a child. The books that my kids cart out during our visits bring me back to my childhood. And yet with all their nostalgic and probably actual value (for the extra vintage ones), my mom never places the books out of the children's reach. They reside on the bottom two shelves, awaiting the sticky, none-too-gentle fingers. More often than not, those little fingers eagerly bring them to Nana for lazy, lengthy story-time sessions.
Which brings me to observation number two: my mom is a reader. She loves reading on her own. She loves reading aloud to other people. Not only does she love to read, but she's excellent at it. Most of the Sunday afternoons I remember growing up were spent lounging in the living room while she read Tolkien's tales of hobbits and rings. How many times she must have read those books to us. If she ever picks up The Hobbit while we're visiting, I still thrill at her reading of the three trolls, who in her rendition have cockney accents.
Fingerless gloves for my mom, interwoven with fairytale vines, will hopefully keep those reading sessions going strong for years to come.

Monday, January 16, 2012

new toys

My husband got a set of new chisels post-Christmas for making frames, and spent the rest of the break playing (er, working) with them.

He is in process of adding hand-carved corner samples to the sets he is making for some local galleries. There is something about wood chips at the kitchen table (and all over the floor, and in the baby's mouth) that is absolutely bewitching. Freshly carved wood -- every kitchen should smell that way.

The lingering wood aroma has got me dreaming about playing with the chisels myself. Wood cut prints, toys for the kids, maybe even a dog shaped bobbin holder? The possibilities seemed boundless.

I mean, think about it. What can't you make with eleven different shapes of sharp knives and a block of wood?

What would you make?

Friday, January 13, 2012

vintage overalls

A visit with my parents always finds me with vintage treasures in my return trip suitcase. This time some clothes, too small for the other grandchildren, had recently made their way back to my parents' house. The ratio of overalls to non-overalls was surprisingly (and happily) high. My husband hasn't vetoed overalls on the kids, so I snatched up the ones that still fit my youngest.

These ones are extra vintage - my dad's when he was little. The five of us wore them as toddlers. The strap in the back makes me think of a little Austrian boy yodeling on the mountainside. Ah, lederhosen.
These ones are the same style, also my dad's. But they have the addition of a dog embroidered on each knee. The embroidery isn't just for decoration, though. It holds in place a knee patch - crawlers don't wear out the knees of the overalls and they have some extra padding as well. Made me think of Allyson's pants. With all our new innovations, we seem to have forgotten the brilliance of how some things used to be made. Speaking of which, it's not unheard of for my kids' brand new clothes to wear out before they outgrow them. These overalls are now in their 3rd generation of consistent use. Hm. Suspicious.
My mom made these, complete with an authentic vintage Youth Conservation Corps patch courtesy of my dad's active involvement as a teenager.
These are my all time favorite. Also made by my mom and with the cutest little handkerchief poking out of the back pocket. I've been in possession of these for awhile.
And lastly, I don't think I can adequately convey my excitement for when he's big enough to fit into these beauties.