Needles Gone Wild

Sunday morning I woke from a dream in which I was rescuing swimmers from sharp-toothed alligators.  No murky waters can stop ME!  Beware, dangerous creatures of the deep.

My life isn’t really THAT exciting.  I’ve only skinny dipped once.  Squirting Ready Whip directly into my mouth feels sinful and awesome.  And I’ve never rescued anyone from any dangerous animal, that I can remember.  Does squashing ants count?

I remember once, long ago, thinking, “Knitting is for wimps and little old ladies.”

I also remember thinking, “I’ll never like cooking.  And gardening’s right up there too.”

Ah, well…  I had some growing up to do.  I still do.  But now I at least give things a try before poo-pooing them.  Usually.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to be Crocodile Dundee…but I am a knitter.

Funny.  I keep discovering things I once poo-pooed that are ENORMOUSLY fun!  There is a wide window for creativity with knitting, as I’m finding with a star pattern right now.

I made a Knit Star for my son Quinn to chew.  It’s a little more like a pillow than the Christmas ornament it was meant to be originally.  Heh heh.  Darn yarn weight…

I enjoyed working the pattern so much, I’m doing it again and making it into a wall hanging.  Each picture in this post is part of the process.  When I have a few free minutes, I sit with two double point needles, a pair of scissors and a crochet hook, and work a very light, thin yarn. 

One by one, star points come off my needles.  I’ve made so many now that I can start stitching them together into a radial design – sort of an expanding, exploding star.  I’ll update you as I go. 

My goal is to fill our home with beautiful handmade things that show my love for our family, and my absolute ADDICTION to creativity.

Just for the record, if I had to, I’d wrestle an alligator for anyone in my family.  I bet you would for yours, too.  And we’d give ’em a good poke in the eye with a needle, too.

Mick Dundee and the Pin Cushion.  Check your local movie theater listings.

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A Snowflake Says “I Love You”

This past Sunday, our little family of four spent the day at my parents’ farm.  It was quiet except for the constant chatter of our clan – the three sisters and our families.  Boy, can we chatter.  The weather was perfect for chopping down Christmas trees, eating cookies, and drinking hot chocolate.

Right in the middle of the festivities, my Mother passed out small, white paper-wrapped gifts.  Riley and Quinn each received one.  To my intense delight, she’d crocheted a snowflake ornament for each boy with yarn left over from their baby blankets.

Isn’t that sweet?  They’ll have their baby blankets on their Christmas trees for the rest of their lives!

I cannot claim to crochet.  But I’ll pass along the pattern in case you do.  Please click on this link to read the pattern and visit a beautiful blog:

http://attic24.typepad.com/weblog/crochet-snowflake.html

Mom tells me it’s extremely easy (I may ask her to teach me how to crochet using this very pattern).  The one thing to note is that the pattern author lives in England, where “double crochet” is actually our “single crochet” here in the States.  If you live in the U.S., make sure you do single crochet wherever it says double.

Leave it to my awesome Mom to make me all weepy inside. 

A snowflake really can say “I Love You.”  Thanks, Mom!

A Scarf Cowl, Not a Scowl

It was an easy decision: long flowy scarf to wind around and around my son’s neck this winter, driving him (and me) mad?  or…  knit a simple, form-hugging scarf that goes around the neck once, staying in place?

Remember this scene from A Christmas Vacation?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgeyexOAOIg

Tough choice.

Hence, the scarf cowl. 

I tried combining the words for some nifty title today, but a s-cowl didn’t seem quite the thing.  That’s what I’m trying to avoid.  If I could have gotten a shot of Riley smiling, it would have helped to prove my point…

If you knit, here’s a very simple, one-day pattern for you.  If you don’t knit, pass this along to someone who does.  It makes a quick and lost-cost Christmas gift for the bare-necked child in your life.  Also makes good use of some left-over yarn you may have lurking in the bottom of your craft bag.

The Scarf Cowl

By the way, I’m calling it that because a true “cowl” is usually bulky, and sort of flowy and floppy.  My toddler won’t be happy with a giant sheep wrapped around his neck.  This cowl is only as wide as a typical scarf.  Enjoy!

Materials

Small ball of yarn

Size 7 needles

Crochet hook or tapestry needle for weaving in ends

Small-ish buttons – able to be pushed through the purled ribbing

Needle and thread for attaching buttons

Method

Cast on 72 stitches for a cowl with a tail (ie. room to grow!).  Feel free to adjust this measurement smaller if you want a more form-fitting piece.

Row 1: Knit 5, Purl 1.  Repeat to the end of the row, ending on a purl stitch.

Row 2: Purl 5, Knit 1.  Repeat to the end of the row, ending on a knit stitch.

You are creating a very wide-ribbed piece:

(Hi, Quinn!)

Continue alternating rows 1 and 2 until the scarf cowl is as wide as you’d like it to be.  Don’t forget to take into account the natural rolling in of the edges.  It will do so significantly, making it skinnier.

Cast off loosely and weave in the ends.

Use your child or someone else’s (preferably someone you know :-)) as a model, and try the scarf cowl on for size.  Figure out how tight or loose the child will need it.

Finishing this project is very open-ended.  Choose the way that seems best to you.  I sewed on two buttons at one end of the piece…

…and you can just ignore the little loops of yarn that show in that photo.  That was one failed attempt at finishing.  No loops. 

For me, the best method was to fold over the extra length, and push the buttons through the purled section of ribbing.  It’s more open and flexible than the knit sections.

This is such a fast knit, and so cute in the end…  Hope you enjoy making it and watching it get a ride around a snowy backyard this year.

A Dreamy Space

When we lived in our first home together, a small apartment, Jon and I were squished.  Delightfully squished.  Some people said we just had way too much stuff, but we knew that our hobbies were simply the type that require some space.

(And I was also majorly pack-ratting at the time.  Every single item that came through the door, even garbage, was a potential art tool. 

I was into assemblage, collage, and bookmaking.  Since then I’ve given my involvement in those art forms a temporary mental funeral.  There’s just no room here; and quite frankly, I have no mental room left either. 

Shel Silverstein would draw mountainous piles of ideas, spilling ratty papers out the sides, if he could see how many painting, drawing, sewing, and music projects are on the back burners right now.  Of several stoves.

So no assemblage.)

(random picture of our very small kitchen and my very full belly back then)

Anyhoo, we were surrounded in that first home with movies galore, history books, acrylic and oil paints, canvases, notebooks, musical instruments, and the like.  And so was each person who ventured within for a squishy meal in our studio/library/dining room over the noisy one-way street.

Here in our “for real” house, we have quite a bit more room.  Plus, having fired the pack rat, there is some sort of organizational sense to the place.  I think.

Thus, I actually have room, blessedly, wonderfully, to set up a dreamy sewing space in our basement.

Jon practically begged me not to do so in “the dungeon.”  I think he felt bad, like I would be suffering down there.

But I’m a little bit like Jo from Little Women.  I like a good cobwebbed space, a few exposed beams, a little sawdust on the floor, and room to dream things up.  If I get paint on the floor, it’s no big deal.  And the washer, dryer, and ironing board, all integral parts of the sewing process, are RIGHT THERE.

Best of all, I can leave sewing and painting projects lying around and no chubby little fingers will get pricked or painted by accident.  🙂

So this is where I work (when I’m not working), where I invest time in future projects, in Christmas gifts, in mending, ironing, extending, and saving wads of cash (I hope) for the good and glory of my family.

(dreaming things up) (I have man hands in this photo)

I’m so thankful to have the space for this now, as I know many women don’t.  If that’s you, hang in there.  You never know what little nook will turn up, or what idea might pop into your head unannounced – a dream of a dreamy space, perhaps.

Big Ol’ Feety Pajamas – FINISHED!

Two weeks ago I posted a project called Big Ol’ Feety Pajamas.  This is the conclusion: It is possible to extend the life of a pair of pj’s without cutting off the feet!  Hooray!  They look pretty darn cool, too.

Of course, by the time I finished making the adjustments, Riley had grown so fast again that he’s exceeding the length all. over. again.  Oh well!  It was fun.  🙂

Here’s how the project wrapped up:

So that’s where these big ol’ feety pajamas are right now – hanging out the side of the machine in our basement, in my little studio space.”

I serged the edge of the pj’s to the blue extension.  There were 4 edges to serge – 2 on each foot.

Next I turned them right-side-out to see if the lengths matched.  A snip here and there made them quite close enough.

Here I decided how long I wanted the toes, turned the feet inside-out again, and used a simple stitch to make the new line, joining the front and back (or top and bottom) together.

Just a double-check:

Since I liked what I saw, I trimmed off the excess and serged the new toe edges. 

Not perfect, but functional.

Not too shabby!

I really like the new look.  But he’s already outgrown them again!!!  See?

Oh well.  It was a fun project and now I know how to do it.  🙂

Hope you have a creative and productive day.

Big Ol’ Feety Pajamas

Today I thought I’d show you what’s on my sewing table: feety pajamas that are getting a “lift and tuck.”  I’m making them longer to suit my long and strong little boy.  There’s no sense in packing away perfectly good pj’s just because he’s growing fast and has to curl his little toes up to fit in his clothes.

Here’s the plan so far:

One pair of perfectly cute pj’s that just aren’t long enough.

Removed the toe seams with a seam ripper.

Selected a particularly non-useful running tank top to cut up.  Ask me how often I run.

Traced the tops and bottoms of the separated toe sections onto the now-useful tank top:

Used regular chalk.  I’m all fancy over here.

Reminded myself which was the bottom (“B”) and which was the top (“T”) since one is slightly longer than the other.  I drew a second, longer curve above the traced lines.  This is because I want to extend, not copy, the toe line.  He needs room to grow.

Cut out the new toe shapes along the extended lines:

There’s now a set of top-and-bottom shapes for each foot. 

Next I held up the new shapes to the old feety pj’s and compared, to see if what I had cut out would fit once it was sewn on.

Lookin’ good.

I love hands.

The next step was to pin the pieces together.  The blue needed to be tucked in along the sides and held still with a pin in the middle so that it wouldn’t rotate during the sewing process.

The whole project could really be done by hand easily, but I love the serging I can do with my machine.  So that’s where these big ol’ feety pajamas are right now – hanging out the side of the machine in our basement, in my little studio space. 

Next Tuesday, I’ll show you the serged edges and hopefully the finished product.  And maybe a picture or two of the sewing table.  It used to be storage space for bulk flour, sugar, and oats.  I much prefer it now!

(And yes, I’m nuts.  Someone reminded me that all I really needed to do was to cut off the toes or feet of the pj’s and have the child wear socks.  Oh well.  Where’s the fun in that?!  I needed a project.)

Finally! An Adequate Nursing Shawl

Many breastfeeding Moms will tell you: nursing shawls can be less than modest, especially if you have a feisty, flailing little one.  I found an easy pattern online for a BIG nursing shawl, and whipped it up in no time.  Keep in mind – I’m a beginner.  You can do it!

I can hardly wait to use this one!  Come wind or waving arms, I’ll be covered.  🙂  The best part is, it saves us money.  Most things you make yourself will do that.  Have you seen some of the exorbitant prices companies charge online for a simple square piece of fabric?  As we say in my family, “Good NIGHT!”

The pattern comes from Lindsay, the Mom who writes Passionate Homemaking, one of my favorite blogs.  I’ll add the link to her sewing instructions at the bottom of this post.  My version will show a general glimpse of the process plus my alterations.  Lindsay’s pattern will be more thorough, if you’re looking to sew this.  Give her whole site a browse while you’re at it.  She does a great job!

The project begins with measuring and cutting your favorite lightweight cloth into an almost-square.  It will look huge.  That’s the point.  I chose a feminine pattern that works for nursing a boy but helps me still feel girly.

Yep, that’s my high-tech straight-edge system.  Pot holders.

I have this nice remnant from the fabric now.  Any ideas what to do with it?  It MIGHT be long enough for a cloth belt if I shrink a LOT after the baby’s born…

Lindsay’s instructions include cutting off a long, narrow strip to be used later for the neck strap.  Using a zigzag stitch, the large remaining piece is finished on both sides and the bottom, leaving the top edge unfinished for now.

You’ll have cut off an 8-inch piece of the neck strap for the small loop, where you can attach D-rings.  I say can because I didn’t like them and ended up doing something different.  The neck strap itself is simply sewn together inside out, turned right-side-out, and pressed flat.

Easy so far!

Lindsay’s pattern calls for a piece of boning, so that while you’re nursing your little bambino, you can peek in at his or her sweet face (or flailing arms as the case may be – and if that’s you, don’t give up!  It is absolutely possible to nurse a feisty baby when your own body is not cooperating either.  Maybe I should write a post about that.)

There’s the boning, with a pin to mark the exact middle.  The same is done on the top edge of the shawl, and both are pinned together:

The whole thing fit together wonderfully – better than I imagined.  After pinning the top edge over the boning, the neck strap is pinned to one end of the boning, and the 8-inch loop to the other end of it.  Both pieces are tucked underneath the boning for added security.  I’m sorry I forgot to take a picture of that.

Now you’re free to finish the whole top edge, all the way across, adding an extra line of stitching to the neck strap and adjustable loop to help keep them in place.

As for that loop…  Lindsay’s pattern, like most, requires D-rings to secure the neck strap.  I did put these on at first.  For some reason, mine did NOT want to hold the cloth in place.  I think I bought the wrong size.  My super-strong hunking husband bent the D-rings for me and took them off so that I didn’t have to do any seam ripping and re-sewing.  Thanks, sweetie.  🙂

I already know how I like a nursing shawl to fit, so I just tied a fashionable knot in the loop and neck strap.  Ta-da!  Done!  Thank you Lindsay for posting such a useful project.  I’m looking forward to nursing baby #2 in complete peace and privacy. 

To follow more exact and detailed instructions, please click on this link for Lindsay’s version:

http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2011/05/make-your-own-nursing-cover.html

Happy sewing and thank you for reading The Full Vine!

Quick Swaddling Blanket

Babies are wrapped up so tight and warm in the womb, it’s no wonder they’re a little mad when we stretch them out flat in a crib and expect them to sleep on their backs.  Some just refuse.  Some respond well to swaddling, which is why I LOVE this blanket project.

I found the pattern at www.passionatehomemaking.com – a very worthwhile site.  I am not a fast sewer, and this only took me two short Riley-naps to make.  If you’re a mom-to-be or want to make a quick, easy, and cute gift for someone who is, check out the details at Passionate Homemaking!  This is not a tutorial, but the PH site has a great one if you’re interested.

Here’s a few snapshots of the process:

Pinned two pieces of cloth together, outsides facing in.  One was cotton, one was flannel.

Needed to trim the edges to make a nice square.

Sewed the two pieces together, leaving a 6″ hole.  Used the hole to turn the thing right-side-out. 

Ironed the edges in my dungeon ironing spot (which I actually really like – the basement is nice and quiet and cool). 

Tested out a few decorative stitches with a great contrasting thread.

Went to town sewing a cute border around the whole thing.  Easy, right?

I mean, how cute is that?

It was so much fun picking out fabric (with Mom!) that was boyish, babyish, and stylish all at the same time.

It is a very BIG blanket.  Have you ever tried to swaddle a baby (particularly a thrashing, strong one) in one of those inflexible, tiny “swaddling blankets”?  So frustrating!  This blanket is large and luxurious. 

I couldn’t wait to try it out.  But since I happen to have one of those thrashing, strong ones, who is now almost 14 months old, I chose a more willing subject for my experiment:

He seemed pretty happy about it.  Hopefully the baby will be too. 

Happy sewing and baby holding, especially if you’re around here in about 6 weeks!

A Lavender Boy’s Room???

Yes, a lavender boy’s room.  The previous owner of our house painted the new baby’s bedroom beautifully (for a girl).  We really didn’t want to paint over the lavender and deep purple.  What if we have a girl some day?  Then we’d have to paint it all back again. 

Many parents find themselves scratching their heads: how do we make this room work the way it is?  Our idea was to use colors and theme in a way that would distract viewers from the purple-ness, and make it seem boyish.  How did we do?

Step 1: Hung a boy’s hat and jacket on the closet door.  That instantly said, “Hello, I’m a boy’s room!”

Step 2: Set up the bassinet (same one my mother used for me, and her mother for her…).  My talented Mommy sewed a thick fleece lining with beautiful bright yellow fabric when Riley was born.  That yellow plays off the lavender very well, as a complementary color.  And since it’s the brighter hue, it gets the attention.

Step 3: Used a jungle theme!  This was not the plan, but God blessed us with a free crib set in great condition.  The colors went perfectly in a lavender room, since the neutrals and earth tones are muted and soft.  The focus is now on what’s inside those pictures – cute, active animals, rather than on the color behind them.

 

Step 4: Hung up a light-blocking blanket.  This quilt came with the set, but we don’t need it as a blanket (Jon’s talented Mommy is making a quilt for Baby #2!).  So I used extra fabric from the diaper-holder I knew I wouldn’t use to sew hanging loops.  Up it went, and it makes the room nice and dark for nap time.

Step 5: Set up the crib with the jungle bumper, and tied it all together with a gorilla.  What says BOY better than an animal that makes lots of wild noise?

Step 6: On top of the jungle rug, added a rocking chair with a deep blue cushion.  Yet another color that draws from the crib set and gets more attention than the wall behind it.

Step 7: Finally, took a pair of slippers that were worn through, cut out leaf shapes from them, wove jungle colors along the edges of the shapes to keep them from unraveling, and hung them up as vines.

That part was so much fun.  I love recycling and repurposing things around the house!

The room is still lavender and deep purple…  But boy, is it cute!

Our son may one day complain, “Why am I sleeping in a girly room?” at which point we’ll look into boyish colors.

But for now, the jungle animals, the mix of deep, muted, and bright colors, and the little boy touches here and there make it man-ish enough for me (and Daddy).