Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Crafted

I hope you had a merry, relaxing Christmas.  We did.  I had a hard time getting ready this year.  I didn't have much in the way of plans early on.  Once I had ideas, I also got distracted with a quite different project.  But I did craft a few gifts.
On the phone one day, my sister Vae said, out of the blue, "I need to get a door snake."  Once I oriented my mind to what she had said (Door?  Snake?), I thought I could do that.  So here's her snake, demonstrating its usefulness.
Thinking LaBeq's apartment could do with some draft prevention as well, I sewed her another snake.  They proved difficult to wrap, so I whipped up some bags with these Christmasy panels I'd found in Grandma O's stash.

I took breaks to crochet gifts for a baby shower (I used this pattern for the flower and this pattern for the booties) . . .
and a birthday party for a Pokemon fan.  I mostly used this pattern, but modified it for the chunky yarn I had on hand.
I machine-embroidered these towels for my mother,
and these washcloths to go to some friends with this jam.  I admit that I actually did think way ahead on the jam, but I did the cloths on the spur of the moment.
This, however, was my big project:  Knight Hoodies for all four boys.
Since I ordered the main fabric on a Black Friday sale, this endeavor included planning, waiting, and last-minute sewing.
This is the first time I've downloaded a PDF pattern.  Taping and tracing were just as tedious as I'd expected.  Of course, I would have traced a paper pattern, too, to make the different sizes. 
Other frustrations were more my fault.  I bought just enough fabric, and had to get creative to get all the pieces in.  The ancient laptop that displayed the instructions kept switching off, until I thought to remove the battery.  And there was too much time between measuring the boys and tracing and cutting--I started doubting that any of the jackets would fit.
But they all do.  And the boys love them!  So it doesn't matter that I didn't get the pajamas made, and hopefully no one minds that I didn't bake quite so many cookies this year.
My Christmas crafting was a success!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Wise Men Journey, by Joyce Tremethick

They journeyed far to seek the Light,
a star their compass through the night.
Their dearest hopes and dreams, could all
be brought to pass by one so small?
The majesty of earth and skies
were kindled in the baby's eyes;
the power that ruled the heavens, crammed
into a tiny infant hand.
Wise men bow to a humble King
whose love gives life to everything.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Musical Monday

They aren't wearing green sleeves, but the Harp Twins play a lovely arrangement of "What Child is This?"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Advice

The Caterpillar begins his busking career

Ever feel stressed about Christmas preparations?  D2 had a great idea the other day:
"Why don't we just let Santa take care of all the presents this year?" 
It would be easier, wouldn't it?  I told him that giving builds character, though.  He's not off the hook yet.

I don't feel stressed so much as occasionally paralyzed.  I love to make gifts, but the process usually includes some time for doubt.  Am I doing this right?  Will they want it, anyway?

I had a great idea, and started right off on it.  After a while, though, it wasn't going my way.  Scoot happened to come by.  I showed him the problems, and he had a helpful idea.  Then he said,
"Just do it, and you can fix it later."
Sometimes children's confidence can be a bit overwhelming.  Mine believe that Mom can fix (almost) anything.  I wasn't ready.  I set that project aside for a while. 

Today I decided to believe in Scoot's belief.  I fixed one problem, then two.  A big one remained, so I stepped away again, thought about something else.  And then I thought of the solution.  So I finished the project, and I think it will do.  

You can succeed, too!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas Musical Monday

Good wishes from some very merry gentlemen!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Musical Monday

For a silly start to the season:

The Caterpillar loves the Carol of the Bells.  He's read up on its Ukrainian spring-time origins, and loves it for Christmas, or any other time of the year.  Here is a version he discovered recently.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


It went by fast, didn't it?
This November, Scoot turned 14.  Here he is with his apple-pie-ice-cream pie.  Yum.
George Bernard Shaw said, "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing."  Not Scoot.  I was careful, when discussing the party with one friend's mother, to say the boys would "just be hanging out," since that's the accepted terminology for even younger kids.  But I knew, with Scoot in charge, they'd be playing.  They played badminton outside in the dark, they played board games inside, and whatever they called it, they had a good time.

The Caterpillar likes to play with fire (in a responsible way).  He has always been fascinated by Guy Fawkes Day.  This year he finally made his own Guy,
and burned it.  The night was too wet for much of a bonfire, but the paper Guy briefly lit up a jack o'lantern that was still on the porch.  I hope the Caterpillar is satisfied.
Inspired by more current events, Rollo and D2 held an election for the president of the stuffed animals.  They all came to the convention.  After a primary, Dandelionslayer facilitated a nearly-secret general vote.  The old guard, in the form of Scoot's venerable dog, Kafunga, won by a narrow margin.  He was inaugurated a couple of days later, and gave an inspiring speech with all four paws on the Bible.  The president believes in minimal government, and has avoided any scandals thus far.
The Cub Scouts had their marble tournament this month, but for various reasons, D2 didn't receive any instruction at den meetings.  The night before, his brothers tried to teach him to play.  We all agreed that shooting is pretty hard, but they showed him the best they could.  "Why don't you do it this way?" D2 asked, trying something quite different.  It fit the letter of the rules, so he did it the next day, and won. 
D2 also took charge of Thanksgiving decorations.  Besides these two turkeys, roosting in their tree (did you know they do that?), he also constructed a paper roasted turkey.  We decided the feathery crew didn't need to meet that one.

We are grateful for creativity!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Halloween, 2014

Halloween is not just a day anymore.  It is a season.  And I don't even decorate.  But there seem to be more opportunities for dressing up every year.  And dressing up is the good part, so I don't mind.
First there was the Trunk-or-Treat at the church.  This is D2 as Bilbo Baggins.  He's been planning this outfit for a long time, at least the green shirt and red vest.  When it was time to go, he couldn't find his ring or clear Arkenstone.  If you saw the room he shares with Rollo, you would not be surprised that even such astounding treasures can disappear.  But he made do with a green jewel, and his trusty sword, Sting.  It was blue all night--there must be too many orcs around at Halloween time. 

Rollo wanted to be a Mistborn, a magical warrior from the books by Brandon Sanderson.  Most of them are noble, so he wore a dress shirt and frock coat with his misty gray cloak.  And even though everyone who knew anything said, "But Mistborn don't use swords," he insisted on carrying the sword D2 received for his birthday.  He did put it to use in a prearranged epic duel with a friend out in the parking lot, so it was not a waste.
Meanwhile, Scoot and the Caterpillar were on duty at a football game.  The fans were supposed to wear black that night, so the band, in its usual contrary fashion, went neon.  The Caterpillar designed his shirt, using an embroidery file from EmbroideryShristi (lots of fun patterns there!), and I barely finished it in time.  Scoot borrowed some of the Caterpillar's things.  I don't think it works to be a neon ninja, especially when playing the bari sax--he was sure easy to spot.

Next was the Halloween piano recital.  Every year our piano teacher arranges a little performance at a local Alzheimer's care home.  The kids dress up and play spooky music and the residents pay more or less attention.  This time the spooky music worked, I guess.  One old lady kept saying she was afraid, but stayed in her seat with one of the staff keeping her company.  One man sang along to some of the more popular music (the older kids tended to play show tunes and movie themes), and did pretty well.  Another man offered the teacher some music he had written and asked her to play it.  It was arranged for concert band, though, so it would be hard to sight-read on a piano.  Anyway, Rollo and D2 wore their same costumes.  Scoot wore a lab coat, bowler hat, and stick-on curly moustache.  I thought he'd wear it again later, and I failed to take a picture, but he reminded me of art by Magritte.

There was another football game that evening.  Each section of the band chose a costume theme.  So the Caterpillar was the red part of the rainbow of mellophones. The saxophone section decided to be superheroes, and Scoot was the coolest hero of all--Frozone.  We thought it would be a chilly night, but the cold didn't bother him at all.
When Halloween itself rolled around, I wondered if the boys had had enough.  "It's not raining right now," I said as twilight closed in.  "Do you want to go trick-or-treating?"  Five minutes later, it was pouring.  But by the time they were actually ready to go, the rain had stopped.  We had quite a nice walk around the usual neighborhood.  There weren't many kids out.  Maybe we were a bit late, maybe the threat of rain was too much?  But the boys had a good time and collected a good haul.  Maybe I should go reduce their inventory a bit . . .

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Embroidered Baby Quilt

 I found this quilt top in Grandma O's sewing room, all hand-embroidered, pieced, and prairie-pointed.  I thought it deserved to be finished.
So I added some batting and navy flannel backing, and quilted it three ways.  First, I used the walking foot to stitch straight lines along the edges of the blue blocks.  Then I used the embroidery function to apply quilting motifs.  Finally, I used that odd little clear echo quilting foot to outline the embroidered animals.  This was my first free-motion project, and I thought it went rather well.
Speaking of the animals, weeping bears are not my style.  It seems to me that babies learn from day one that there is plenty to cry about in this life.  Why remind them on a blanket?  I do like this lamb, though.  It even looks sort of  familiar.  Does anyone recognize these patterns?

I've sent this collaboration off to Project Linus.  Hopefully a distressed child will find comfort and warmth with these little animals.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Musical Monday

When everyone gets ready to go back to school and work after the weekend, they often have a hard time finding some important things.  For some, it becomes a manic Monday; others get the blues.

Here's the one and only B.B. King, with Sandra Boynton's "One Shoe Blues."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Great to be Eight

D2 had a birthday.  His eighth birthday.  He says, "It was fun, I had a Lord of the Rings party."  See the ring on the table?  It is precious to him.
He shared precious rings with his friends, too, during a game he made up and I didn't understand.  I'm not sure it was such a good idea.  Look at the gleam in their eyes.
Lest you worry about the adequacy of the above candle-studded cookie to feed that many boys, know that the main dessert was mini-banana splits.  All D2's idea, and very tasty.  It was a good day for D2.
The next day was even more important.  So important that D2's grandparents came for the occasion.  That day, D2 was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We are so pleased that D2 chose to make this commitment.
We're also pleased that the Caterpillar was worthy and able to baptize his little brother, and that D2 asked him to do so.  And Dandelionslayer provided an inspired confirmation.
So there we are.  The whole family has been baptized.  Wow.  I guess we're doing pretty well so far.
It seems like not so long ago that Rollo turned eight and was baptized.
And Scoot.
And the Caterpillar himself.  They're all growing into such wonderful young men.  But they'll always be my little boys, too.  Forever.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Dictionary Moment: Rhopalic

Words beginning with "rh" occupy six pages in the SOED.  There are more than I expected, and some of them are rather fascinating.  They mostly come from Greek words, of course.  The Greek rhopalos was a club or tapered cudgel.  This primitive weapon has lent its name to the "marginal sensory structures in various jellyfish," and an Indian aphid.  Not to mention a literary device.

Literarily, rhophalic describes a passage "in which each word contains one syllable more than the word immediately preceding it." 

I recently attempted a poem based on the Fibonacci sequence, where the number of syllables per line increase quickly.  (Interestingly, the number sequence itself has poetic origins.)  Five-syllable lines are easy for me, but eight and thirteen were tough.  Increasing syllables in each word, though, that's pretty challenging. 

  • I'm writing sentences multiplying syllabically.
  • Walk softly, carrying knuckle-dusters empoweringly.
  • Peach apple banana chirimoya marionberry macadamia-nut
Three or four syllables are plenty for most words in English, even the interesting ones.  Sure, " supercalifragilisticexpialidocious*" would be a wonderful climax, but what thirteen-syllable word could precede it?  I find myself relying on hyphenated terms and tenuous adverbs.  (Good thing I'm not a member of Writers Against Adding Any Adverbs.)  Perhaps rhophalicism is easier in agglutinative tongues like German.  And prosody does not always require complete sentences.

Can you wax rhophalic?  Give me your best shot.

*In the OED since 1986!  Look here for origin and meaning.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Stash to Treasure: Pillowcases

I'm not sure when Saturday became a sewing day for me.  You'd think we'd have other things to do on Saturdays.  And we did, today.  But, in between events, I had an itch to create.  So I whipped up some pillowcases. 

One of our church service projects this year is to give pillowcases to a children's hospital.  A couple of Grandma O's fabrics seemed perfect for the job. Here we have some dinosaurs, along with a bright yellow, and a piece of binding left over from the Creamsicle Baby Quilts.  It was just the right color and length.
I used the popular Burrito Method to sew these up quickly.  I'd observed the method before, but not tried it.  In case I'm not the last seamstress on the planet to learn, here are links to the printout and tutorial I used.  The rest of the dinosaur material was just right for the cuff of another pillowcase. 
This fabric should be fun for a child to explore.  It's a jungle full of African savannah animals, with some nice eastern North American birds thrown in.  Maybe it was modeled on the National Zoo.  I like it.

So, despite the heat of the sewing room, I had a good time this Saturday.  How about you?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Sewing

The Caterpillar wanted to sew some shorts.  But not just easy, elastic-waist beginner shorts.  He picked out Simplicity 5581, which features a fly and interesting pockets.  The envelope includes sizes for boys and men.  The Caterpillar seemed to be between those, so I carefully interpolated, and drew custom pattern pieces just for him.  He cut the pieces from bright red fabric, his favorite color.  Under my careful, anxious guidance, he sewed the fly, a buttonhole, and the front pockets.  Then he ran out of time and interest, and set the project aside.

That was four years ago.

At the same time, Dandelionslayer had decided to sew some easy, elastic-waist beginner shorts.  He picked out some material, but never got started.  A couple of weeks ago, he decided he needed some new shorts for soccer-coaching, so I found the bag with his black rip-stop nylon and the easy pattern, and the red half-shorts were there, too.  While Dandelionslayer cut his pieces, I decided to finish up the red shorts.  I was sure they would fit someone.

Before hemming, I had Rollo try on the shorts.  They were too big.  So I had Scoot try.  They were too long, but the circumference was all right.  Since Scoot and the Caterpillar have about the same circumference, I half-jokingly suggested the Caterpillar try them, too. 

And they were just right.

So the Caterpillar sewed the hems, and finally finished his summer sewing project.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Book Trek 2014

I'm hopping on the handcart a little late this year, but it's time again for the Summer Book Trek.  It's a fun time to read fiction by LDS authors, and win more fiction from LDS authors.  I picked out two such books at the library the other day:
I read the first one yesterday, and it was fun.  You can play, too.  Check out the challenge, pick out some books, and win!

Update:  Enna Burning was pretty good, too.  Now I'm on to Wednesdays in the Tower, by Jessica Day George.  It will probably go too quickly.  After that, I guess I could start on The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson, but I definitely wouldn't finish by the end of July.  Maybe it will be time for Josi Kilpack's Banana Split.  Mmmmm...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

First Tomatoes

Ripe tomatoes in June?  Hooray!  They're called Gold Nuggets, and they are tasty.  Some of my Golden Sweet peas are ready to eat, too.  And the squirrels haven't eaten all the cherries yet.  What are you picking?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Handkerchief Sampler, or Owen and the Paisley Skirt

One of our favorite storybooks is Owen, by Kevin Henkes.  Owen is a little mouse who is ready to go to school, but not quite ready to leave his favorite blanket behind.  His parents, egged on by a nosy neighbor, try increasingly desperate strategies to induce him to give it up, to no avail.  Finally, his mother has a brilliant idea--turn the blanket into handkerchiefs that Owen can carry with impunity.  I love stories with sewing solutions.
Of course, Owen didn't have a paisley skirt.  That was me.
It was already faded when someone gave it to me, years ago.  A button was missing.  A couple of pleats were coming unstitched.  Thinking back, I wonder, what was she thinking?  But I stitched it up a bit and wore it on many a Sunday afternoon.  It is softer and more faded now, but also more ripped, and I can't wear it anymore.  What to do?

I thought of Owen, and his mother, and the dwindling stack of handkerchiefs I share with Dandelionslayer.  We use them often, and gratefully.  And they disappear.  Usually they turn up again, in a pocket that hasn't been used for a while.  But the total has been diminishing. 

I also thought of the serger, and the cool presser feet that go with Grandma O's Duetta.  I decided that the edges of paisley handkerchiefs would be a perfect place to practice using them.  So I ripped up the skirt, and made four handkerchiefs.
First I tried the narrow hem foot.  The little curly part folds the edge so it can be neatly stitched down.  I learned some things.  For instance, the instructions in the foot package (which were the only way I identified the thing in the first place) are woefully inadequate.  I found some better advice online, but not until I'd blundered my way all around the perimeter.  Corners are tough.  And sometimes I let it fold too much over, so the hem is not as neat and narrow as it could be.  I'll do better next time.
I also used the 3-thread stitch on the serger, which turned out perfectly.  I tried a picot foot, which looks a lot like the narrow hem foot, but turns out a rolled hem.  And I turned a (not as) narrow hem under myself, and secured it with a decorative stitch.  The corners are not pretty on any of them, but I think they'll work.  My nose is certainly happy with my soft, new paisley handkerchiefs!