Paper Village

October 27, 2011

I found this printable Halloween Village via the Tangarang blog.  The blog shares both a colour and black-and-white printable.  We used the black-and-white one and this was a lot of fun to decorate.  I thought I'd share because it was a big hit at my house.  Once you've printed the pages, I suggest cutting them out and folding before colouring as the lines are quite faint and it was tricky to see them once they were coloured over.  To finish our village, we taped it to a piece of cardboard and decorated that too.
First we made a Halloween themed village.

It was so much fun that we decided to make one for fairies. 

I'll be bookmarking that page because I think the paper village printable is a fun project for any time of year.

Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew...

October 25, 2011

One of the really awesome things about living out east, is picking trash. People here leave unwanted items on their curb for semi-annual large trash pick-up from the city, but also with the idea that someone will take it home before the garbage does. Some of the stuff that gets left by the curb is truly junk, but sometimes you can find some really awesome stuff. I have friends that have scored nice couches, bookshelves, desks, dressers, etc. this way. You all know how much I love thrift shopping, but picking up free stuff is much, much more exciting.

A few weeks ago I found something awesome by the curb while driving on a street I don't normally go down.

It must have been fate, because I have actually been on the hunt for a nice little wooden cradle for years. I have never found something I love at the right price, and I think this little cradle is so cute. And free is definitely the right price.

Since it was someone's garbage, I knew it was going to take a little work to turn it into something that I will actually put my baby into. The first thing I did when I brought it home was to throw the mattress into my garbage can, and clean it down with some disinfectant. Even though I was planning on stripping and repainting it, I wanted it to be clean until I had time to really work on it.

Today was the day that I started to strip off all the old paint. I did a little research to find a stripper that had good reviews and was as non-toxic as possible (since I'm 7 months pregnant and I have two little kids running around), and I went with Citristrip from Home Depot.

Things went along well for the first bit, and I managed to get the whole thing covered with the paint stripper. Based on the way the paint was blistering, I innocently thought I might just get the whole thing finished in just a few hours.

And initally, it started coming off just fine too. Then I started working on the spindles, and I realized this was going to take longer than I thought.

After working on it all morning, I spent a few more hours out there this afternoon. And it didn't look much better than when I started. At one point my neighbour walked by and said "Are you getting close now" (refering to my baby's due date), and I told her I still have two more months to go.

Translation: I have two more months to finish scrapping off all these layers of paint, sand the whole thing down, repaint it, cut a new foam mattress and cover it, and make some cute little sheets. Suddenly two months doesn't seem that long anymore...

What have I got myself into? Any tips on removing old paint? I think I'm in the market for something magical to help me out of this mess...

A Few of my Favourites

October 20, 2011

This coming weekend, I am moving.  (Again.  Yes, I just moved in June, and am moving yet again.)  This means my sewing machine is packed up, and all other projects are on the back burner until I am settled in my new house.
So, instead of showing you what I've been up to (because I'm pretty sure pictures of me packing boxes is not that interesting), I'll share with you some of my favourite places that I look to for inspiration in the crafty and sewing world.  For me, I want to be inspired, but also feel like I see something that I could do at home.

Who doesn't love this blog?  (She has over 11,000 followers!)  I have made her circle skirt, and am planning on a happy day garland for my new space.  I feel like Made has projects at a range of levels and has a great aesthetic. 

My version of the circle skirt.
Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Let me tell you this blog is consistently good.  Always good.  Every single recipe.  The other day we had her Cowboy Dinner, and it was super tasty.  I also love her BLT Pasta. 
Simple Sewing for Baby

This is a book by Lotta Jansdotter that I checked out from the library over and over and over again.  The sewing projects are really simple, but also quite cute.  My favourites are the giraffe rattle, and book mates.

I love these book mates as a fun addition to my kid's bedroom.

The Artful Parent

This blog really jiives with my philosophy that art for kids is about the process not the product.  She also does a great job of bringing the natural world into art projects.  Some of my favourite Artful Parent posts are fabric postcards and the pocket dress

My Artful Parent-esque Apple Prints.


So, what about you?  Please share a few of your favourite sources of inspiration.

Hobby Horse Tutorial and Pattern

October 18, 2011

Last year when I made a hobby horse for my son's Halloween costume, I did an extensive search for a good tutorial.  I found some that were helpful, but ultimately I really wanted someone to draw out all the pieces for me, and make it adorable while they were at it.  It didn't happen, so I had to do the leg work myself.  Lucky for all of you, Jennifer convinced me to share my pattern.  And so, without any further rambling, here is my pattern for a fabric hobby horse.

I didn't take any pictures as I made it, but it's actually really simple to construct.

1. Cut everything out.  
In addition to the pattern pieces, you are also going to need to cut out some hair.  You could use yarn, or I went with using strips of fleece.  I cut my fleece scraps into strips 5" wide (and then cut it into fringe after it was sewn on about every inch).  You will need enough strips to run the entire back side of the head about 3" into the gusset.  I also added a 3" piece in the center of the gusset.  I thought that it looked best to have each section of hair have three layers of fleece to make it nice and full, but adjust as you need to.

2. Sew the hair on.
Attach all three layers of fleece hair to one head piece three inches or so past the dot mark on the top (using 1/4" seam allowance).  On the other head piece, you need to attach a 3" section of hair from the dot towards the nose.  On the gusset piece, sew another 3" section to the center about 1.5" from the top point (the fatter end).  

3. Attach the gusset.
Once you have all your pieces cut out, start by attaching the gusset to one side of the head.  Start the gusset top (the fatter end) at the dot marked on the head piece (top).  Sew it all the way down around the top part of the head (I always sew with 1cm seam allowances).  Do the same thing to the other head piece.

4. Stuff the horse head.
Add stuffing ( I used a combination of cut-up fleece scraps and poly-fill) until you are happy with how your horse looks and feels.  Leave the bottom 1.5" or so unstuffed.

5. Assemble your facial features.
Sew the pupils onto the white eyes (use black thread - it will be worth the hassle).  Sew the ears together by matching one pink piece up with a brown piece and sewing the right sides together (1cm seam allowance).  Be sure and leave the bottom edge open, and turn the right way.  Trim the point if you need to.

4. Add the eyes and ears.
I hand sewed all of these pieces on at the end, because I wanted to see how it looked stuffed before I decided on the final location of his facial features.  When you sew on the ears, sew around both edges (the pink and the brown side) to make sure it's secure.  Don't forget that the pink side goes down.

I also tacked the top of the ear to the main head piece about 1" up, to make the ear stand up a little bit.


5. Finish the bottom and attach the stick.  
Take your wooden dowel, and make a mark about 11" from one end.  Carefully drill a small hole through your dowel with an electric drill.  Fold the bottom of your head under about 1", and cinch the opening closed using heavy duty thread by sewing around the opening with a running stitch.  Secure the horse head to your dowel, by sewing through the hole several times.  Make sure your hobby horse is the right length for your child.  For my 4 year old, the entire length of the dowel is 36" (this is the size it came from the hardware store).  Sand the end down if necessary.

6. Make a bridle and rein (optional).  

I know I'm calling this optional, but I think it really makes the whole thing look finished.  If you are like me and have tons of leather scraps sitting around, this is a good time to use some up.  Otherwise, a nice thick ribbon will do the trick.  You will need to cut your strap into three pieces.  The first piece should fit snugly around the horse's nose (mine measured 18").  Sew into a loop.

The second piece will go attach to the first loop at two points and go across the head behind the ears.  On my horse, this measured 20.5" (including the extra at both ends to create a little casing so it will slide on the first loop).

And the third piece is for your rein (mine was 30.5").  Attach your rein to both sides of the bridle in the same way as you did the other piece (so that it can slide freely). 

I'd love to see pictures if any of you make this.  Obviously this is a great addition to any little cowboy or cowgirl Halloween costume, but we use ours all the time as part of our dress-up play.  So even if it seems like a major undertaking for just one day, I promise your kids will love this and use it often enough to make it worth your while.

Fall Leaf Art

October 13, 2011

I think that Fall is my favourite season.  Today, when I was outside raking leaves with my girls, my four year old stopped me mid-rake and said "Mom!  Look right now!  It's so beautiful.  All of the leaves are dancing around."  She was right - it was beautiful.  In addition to admiring dancing leaves, my daughter also loves to collect leaves.  After collecting tons of "really special leaves," I usually wonder what to do with them all.  The answer of course, is to make leaft art!

I think sometimes simple is best. 

Here's what you need to do to make your own leaf art:

1. Collect a lot of leaves. 

 2. Use white glue to stick the leaves onto construction paper.

3. You're done! 

I think that was the simplest art project ever.  Does anyone have any other brilliant ideas for using up a leaf collection?

Witches Fingers

October 6, 2011

For me, there are two manditory food items when it comes to Halloween.  The first, is something with pumpkin, and the second is witches fingers.  These cookies are a Halloween party staple.  The recipe makes a lot, and is a bit labour intensive, but the result is perfect for Halloween - fun, tasty, and just a bit spooky.

Witches Fingers

1 Cup Butter, softened
1 Cup Icing Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp. Almond Flavour
2¾ Cups Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
3/4 Cup Whole Almonds (can be blanched or not)
1 Tube Red Gel icing

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together except the almonds and red gel.Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  2. Working with ¼ dough at a time, roll heaping teaspoons into finger shapes.
  3. Use a knife to cut knuckles and press in almonds for nails.
  4. Place on a greased baking sheet and cook at 325ยบ for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cool 3 minutes, then lift the almond, squeeze in gel and press almond back.

The Costumes of Halloweens Past

October 4, 2011

I'm not really the kind of lady that decorates for holidays.  I showed you the birthday banner I made this year, but I should admit that it hung up for a month (in between the three family birthdays that happened during that time).  I do decorate for Christmas, but it's still pretty low key.  Decorating for Halloween has never been something that I've done, and with everything else that keeps me busy, I think it will be a while before it happens around here.

But, as much as I'm not into decorating, I am all about Halloween costumes.  I remember it being such a big deal to choose what I wanted to be, and then the excitement of wearing my costume to school (schools here don't let kids - isn't that sad), and then later putting it on over top of my snow suit and braving the Canadian cold to do some trick-or-treating.  

I know I've mentioned this before, but I didn't really start sewing until my son was born.  One of the first things I made for my son was a Halloween costume.  He was the cutest little baby panda!

I used Simplicity 2506, and it was an easy enough pattern to follow.  I did find that I wanted to change some things, like have attached feet, and I had to make it all small enough to fit my little 2 month old son, and this was good practice making changes to a pattern.


The next year, I was a little smarter, and although I used some elements from the same pattern for this dino (or dragon), I used a fleece sleeper as my starting point.  For most baby and toddler costumes, I think this is the best base.  I always seem to have a nice fitting sleeper to trace for my pattern, and I like the easy on and off of the zipper up the front.  Most costumes that you can buy have a hood instead of a separate hat, and I also think this is the way to go.  Our costumes end up in the dress-up box for the rest of the year, and it's nice not to worry about losing an essential part of the outfit.  This is simple to do, since all you have to do is to trace the hood from a hoodie and sew it to the top of the sleeper part.

Tracing a sleeper is really my go-to Halloween move, and I did it again with round two of panda sewing.  I love to match the boys, and since I know they aren't going to like if for much longer, I take every chance I can get.

Even though I am shameless about this whole matching thing, I did not make the adult sized fleece costume (nor was it seen in public).  A visiting friend happened to have it, through a really strange coincidence that would take a lot of explanation, and I couldn't resist at least taking this picture.

Last year, the boys went as a cowboy and a cow.


I used the same trick with tracing a fleece sleeper, but this time I decided to do it sleeveless.  Both for simplicity's sake, but also because my kids get too hot at most of the indoor Halloween activities in a full fleece outfit.  This way I could add or take away layers as needed, depending on where the costume was being worn.


My older son's costume didn't involve much sewing, so I focused instead on making this fleece hobby horse.  My favourite details include the leather bridle and reign, and the matching pink knit fabric ears on both the horse and cow.   

This year my oldest wants to go as a fireman (we have pretty much everything already in the dress-up box) and I'm still trying to decide what to do for the little one.  He's really into dogs so I think I may just continue my matching theme and make him into a dalmatian dog.

Are people interested in a tutorial on how to make a costume using a sleeper and hoodie (since I think I'll be sewing a dog costume in the next few weeks using this technique)?  One thing I love about reviewing the past four years of costumes, is how easy it is to see improvement in my sewing skills.  I started by following a commercial pattern, and fighting with fun-fur, because that was the recommended fabric, to drafting my own patterns and having much better results.  I'm not a pro, but it's amazing what four years of sewing will do for your skills.

And as for me, I usually get lazy and either don't dress-up (how can I compete with my adorable children), or wear one of the several costumes I have stashed away from past years.  What are you, and your kids going as for Halloween this year?   

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