Month: April 2014

These Fish Were Made for…Throwing?

  I’ve had the pattern for these fish pinned for quite a while now.  I printed the pattern out back before Christmas, thinking they would be cute stocking stuffers, and just didn’t get around to it.  It sat on my desk, waiting for me to get to it, through the New Year…through the boys’ birthdays…through Easter even, until I finally decided to make it happen last week.

  The boys had been being especially rambunctious, and I hadn’t been successful in getting much done, and I was looking for an “easy win”.  These worked.

  Being my first attempt, the red fish took me longer to get done, but now that I’ve made a handful of these, each one only takes me about half an hour.  I made the mistake of doing quite a few of the details by hand on that first fish.  Doing all but the “gills” has given me a far better result ultimately, much more quickly.

  The instructions on the blog that the pattern came from are in a language I don’t speak/read…so it was a little bit trial and error figuring out the most efficient way to put them together.  One of the biggest time savers I found was this:

  Unlike, on most stuffed animals, there’s no need to leave a hole in your edge stitching for the filling to be pushed through.  There are holes left from the slits cut for the fins, that you will need to stitch up anyhow, and they work perfectly for filling the fish.  I machine stitch all the way around the edge, hand sew one of the fin slits shut, stuff the fish, and then sew the second fin closed.
  I also decided that while these fish were originally intended as kitchen/store play fish, I reaaaallly wanted them to throw well.  G and I have been driving each other up the wall lately, and I’ve been struggling to find a way to stop unacceptable behavior without things escalating all the way to a “YOU GO TO YOUR ROOM YOUNG MAN” time-out situation every time.  Putting beans in the nose of these and tossing them at him has been a pretty quick and easy solution.  They’re still nice and soft (believe me, I’ve taken several in the face myself), but the “beanbag” weight gives them enough heft that they fly straight and make a satisfyingly loud noise upon impact.
  I’m sure that come a few months from now, the novelty will have worn off, and I’ll have to find a new strategy, but for now, it’s a huge relief that, instead of every minor offense having to be a knock down, drag out battle to the death, I can lob a fish across the room and distract him enough to usually stop the bad behavior.  Plus, it usually results in an awesome game of “feed the zoo seal” that we both enjoy.

  If you have any questions about how I put these together, please let me know!

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Weekly Portraits- The Fourth Week of April

  Finally!  It’s warm/dry enough we were able to get outside and play this past week!

  The lighting on these was rough.  I picked high noon, in direct sunlight, because, well, that’s where the boys were.  Anybody who knows anything about photography can tell you that’s a terrible time/place to take pictures, especially when you’re working with munchkins who aren’t terribly cooperative about posing with the light hitting them in a nicer way…but uh, I did it anyhow.  So forgive the harsh, harsh shadows and squinched up eyes.
  This guy has decided in the last few days that crawling is pretty lame, and is walking all over the place.  He has also upped the climbing, and gotten so grabby that we had to put child locks on a half dozen cabinets and drawers that went through G’s babyhood without them.  Not because there was anything dangerous in them mind you, but because I was spending 90% of my day cleaning up Tupperware, pots and pans and casserole dishes after he yanked them out.  It’s cute the first 2 or 3 times.  By the tenth time that day, you want to cry.
  For G’s pictures we added the challenge of a helmet to the mix.  Glaringly bright sun, directly overhead + giant, shade throwing helmet sending his face into darkness?  Yeah okay, I’m game.

  G was super excited to get his trike out again.  We’ve already done a ride downtown with it and it seems like he’s angling to get out on it just about every morning.  Our neighbors were kind enough to bring over an old two wheel bike that their daughter had grown out of, so we’re starting to let him try his hand at balancing on two wheels instead of 3, but until we get some training wheels, that bike is only usable with Mom or Dad holding the seat behind him…a not very tenable situation when R is outside too.
  The flowers are blooming, the trees are budding out, the birds are everywhere and, despite the vicious swings back towards cold weather we keep getting, spring is finally here.  I’m so excited to get out and play in the dirt soon!

Weekly Portraits-The Third Week of April (Pt 2)

It’s a good thing this is going up as 2 separate posts this week, G was feeling photogenic.  I actually had a hard time paring it down this far!  Hey, seeing as I skipped last week, I don’t feel too bad about having a bunch of good ones this week.

Since my plan to get R up on the table didn’t work out and I took pictures of him with me up above, I thought I’d reverse it for G, and had him climb up on his bed while I was on the ground.

I love how the paint on his wall makes this look like he’s jumping against a blue sky at first glance.  I wish we had blue skies instead of the snow we got today…

  Lately he barely cooperates when I want to take his pic (part of the reason there are usually more shots of R), but today he didn’t want me to put the camera down!
 (His socks say “celebrity in training”, in case his hamming it up for the camera didn’t make it clear)
  SUCH a ham.
  And one last shot…because I kind of love how it looks like a strange, toddler album cover.  Gotta love the neon glow the wall paint gave the whole picture.
  This is what typically happens when R wakes up from his nap.  Big brother has to help get him up.

Not So Perfect-Weekly Portraits-The Third Week of April (Pt 1)

Not so perfect in a couple of ways.  First off, I forgot to take pictures of the boys last week.  The Mr. and I went for a long weekend away together and in the hustle and bustle to get everything together for everyone, I entirely forgot to pull out my camera.

Secondly, I’m joining up with Jill of Baby Rabies in her Slice of Perfect/Messy Reality photo challenge.

Lord knows I’m not shy about admitting to you guys I’m not exactly perfect, (smeared goo and splattered dye anybody?  How about piling so much junk on shelves that they rip out of the walls?) but I definitely agree with Jill that sometimes photos paint an awfully deceiving picture.

So first off, here are my pictures of R for this week:

  He has been climbing up on everything lately, and so I thought I’d try and get a picture of him in the act.  He wasn’t interested in cooperating though, never getting further off the ground while my camera was out than he is in that first picture.  So, instead of a picture of him climbing on the table, I decided I’d climb on the table and take a picture of him below me.  Nothing like being a good example, right?
  Room looks nice and bright and clean in those pics, doesn’t it?  HA.  Cropping is tricky…this is what the room looked like, 30 seconds after I hopped down:

Also, as a note, this is the room I take 98% of my pictures in…and for nearly every single one of them, everything in the room gets piled on that table and then the table gets shoved to the side so I can use the wall as a blank backdrop.  Cuz I’m classy like that.

Pictures of G will have to wait for later tonight…he’s off at school, giving me and the lil’un some time to chill one on one.

So that’s my messy little photography secret…lets see yours!

Because They Have Gooey Fingers, I Have Fabric Dye (How to Mix Custom Colors)

Ok, that title is somewhat misleading.  It puts the blame for my not being able to have “nice things” far too much on my children, when in reality, my husband and I are nearly as bad as they are.  …in this instance, the boys are only half to blame.

The Mr. and I have a beautiful duvet cover that we were given for our wedding.  It was pale blue, high thread count cotton and I loved putting it on the bed every fall (we change our comforter in the spring to a lighter-weight one, so this one is only used half the year).  Unfortunately, some time last year, G wound up in our bedroom with chocolate all over his face, and decided to face plant into our bed.  …that’s the part of the blame I can place on “children”.  The rest of the issue came from me.  Thinking I was being clever, I immediately stain treated the cover, washed it and then, here’s the awful part, lay it out to air dry.  …that doesn’t seem so bad, until I tell you that I lay it out using my husbands weights to support portions of it.  …they left giant, dark orange rust stains all over the cover.  I cried.

I tried and tried to remove the rust stains to no avail.  Nothing was getting them out.  I gave up and tried to just ignore them.  A year later, with the stains still upsetting me, I turned to dye.

The picture above is what the comforter looked like before I started.  It’s also the background for these pictures.  Very, very pale blue.

And this is what it looks like now:

The photo doesn’t capture the color exactly…it’s more purple than this shows…sort of a grey lavender.  The little scrap of fabric is part of the process I used to mix the dye (which I’ll explain in a second).

I’m still trying to decide how I feel about the color.  It changes enormously depending on the lighting.  I love it when it’s more grey…not sure how I feel about it when it’s uber purple, especially with my not-intended-to-match-lavender linens…

Anyhow, if you hadn’t already guessed, this is a custom dye color.  Every once in a great while, RIT will have a dye in just the right color for what I want…but it’s not often.  I’m a color snob, what can I say.  Luckily, back in college, I took a costume design class that included a section on dyeing.

To make this particular color I used RIT’s Royal Blue and Black dye in my washing machine.  I wish I’d have had the foresight to have bought a little bit of green to add in, but, *sigh* such is life.  I filled my machine with the hottest water it could muster, dumped in my cup of salt (since I was working with cotton) and started putting in the dye.  The blue I bought was powder, while the black was liquid.  …I would suggest going the liquid route if you want to do this, as I found I had FAR more control with the black than I did the blue.  Basically, I added a small amount, allowed the machine to agitate for a second and then swished a scrap of cotton material around for a bit.  Once it was good and saturated, I rinsed it and dried it with a hair dryer.  Obviously, since my cover was light blue, it was going to turn out a touch differently than true white fabric, but, as you can see from the picture above, the difference was pretty negligible.  Make sure that if you don’t love the results from your first dye bath, you don’t just re-swish the same scrap fabric.  Start with another white piece.

The dried scrap fabric will show you what color you’ve created in your dye bath.  If you have a bedroom with lots of natural light (like mine), make sure you don’t just look at the fabric in your dark, poorly lit basement and be like “YUP, that’s good” like I did, or you may wind up with a bright purple surprise.  Also, obviously make sure that when you’re adding dye to your water, you use a light hand.  You can ALWAYS add more dye, but once it’s too dark, you’re pretty much screwed unless you want to empty the machine and start completely over (hoping you have enough dye left to get where you need to).

This was actually my first time using the washing machine method to dye something…and I’m pretty dang happy with it.  I did wind up with a few little dark splashes of dye on it (because apparently I’m not allowed to have a spot free comforter) but I fear that’s because I was in a rush, and being careless and got dye on the sides of my machine…that then got on the cover when I went to move it to the dryer.  THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS!!!  As a result I’m considering running it through another bath with just black dye to darken it up some.  We’ll see.

If you have any questions about mixing your own, custom dye colors, let me know!!

Weekly Portraits- The First Week of April

I just finished powering through putting the finishing touches on both fabric lines, so there’s not going to be much commentary on the pictures today.  I’m kind of in a place where it’d just be mindless gibbering if I tried.

R takes the lion’s share of the post…I tried out a new concept with him…him inside the house and me outside, looking in through the window.  It got some cool results, but was far more complicated than I expected.  I wound up having to use my body to block the light so that the camera would focus through the window on that sweet little baby face, and not just on the reflection of my front yard.  I’m not a particularly big lady.  The poses I had to be in while taking the shots really probably ought to have been recorded for posterity…

  For G I just did a quick mini-session in an antique chair my parents gave us.  He’s getting to be such a big guy…pictures like this one always kind of shock me.
…especially because there’s usually only one of them, in the midst of hundreds of shots like this:

Designing Fabrics- Harder Than It Looks

I’ve been promising you guys I’d write this post for a while now.  “When I get the collections to where I’m happy with them.”  …turns out that has been a far more arduous process than I expected.

Typically color is my thing.  I can look at your dress once and find you coordinating shoes without you taking the dress out of the bag again (though you probably will, because you won’t believe that the color I’m pointing at will be just right).  This is different.  For one thing, there’s the aspect of all of this being on a computer.  Every computer monitor displays things at least slightly differently, and then when you go to print things out, you’re liable to get yet another set of colors.  Freehand picking colors doesn’t tend to work out so hot as a result.

Another part of it is the quilting aspect.  I don’t really quilt, so learning about lights, mids, darks and how they all tend to be integrated is brand new to me.  Here I thought I was just going to be able to make a bunch of pretty fabrics that had complementary colors and call it good…

The Watch and See collection is to a place where I think I’m happy with calling it ready to go.

If you click through to my first post on these fabrics, you’ll see how many small alterations I’ve made.  The whole collection got broken into two, distinct colorways, most of the patterns got smaller to make them more suited to quilting, and some new prints got added.  …it only broke my heart slightly to admit that no matter what I did, that orange that looks so lovely with the purples, was never ever going to play nicely with the lime green.

So then we move on to my second collection.  Brace yourself, this version is ugly.

  I’m currently on the third color pallet for this line.  (The pic above is of the second)  The first was free-hand picking, and while I loved loved loved how some of the individual prints turned out, I just couldn’t get the colors to play nicely together like that.  The one above was my grabbing two pallets off of a color pallet generating site and deciding they could work together because they both contained the “neutral” teals (I should know better).  I kept building and building, adding more prints, hoping that I was just missing some piece to make things come together, but after banging my head against it long enough that I needed to take a break, I realized that it’s just muddy.  …there’s also way too much negative space in the daisy and snow cathedral prints.
  So now the line is coming together like this:

…I still have a lot of work to do.  I’m pleased with the cabbage rose prints, but the daisies aren’t quite right yet.  I’m also not sure the yellow cabbage rose print is exactly what I want.  I’d prefer a darker blue background I think, but the blue I really like for it drags it pretty quickly away from the “light” category into a mid and I’m left with no light cabbage rose…

So this is what I do in the moments between prying the children off the ceiling and trying to sneak a moment or two of sleep in.

I do have a handful of little sewing projects that I’m doing a seam or two on every once in a while, so I’ll get those up as soon as they’re completed.  Hope all of you are doing well!  I’d love to hear from you guys now that I’ve fallen off the edge of the world… leave me a comment!