Archive for the ‘Craftiness’ Category

The day before I left Utah, I had a video-chat with my girls. My sister Maiken (their Auntie Mimi) popped on-screen to say hello and to remind Sophie that her birthday was just 3 days of waiting away! My exact thoughts were, “Ah, crap.” (Okay, I didn’t say “crap” in my head but sometimes I feel the need to edit my brain when I know my mom reads this. Sorry, Mom.) I had done zero prep for Sophie’s birthday before I left. Not only were gifts not purchased yet, I had promised to make her a Rapunzel dress. I repeat – “Ah, crap.” I also had wanted to make her a set of Minnie Mouse ears since Minnie is right next to Rapunzel in favorites at the moment. I wasn’t too worried about that one but still…my house would be filled to the brim and I had regular stuff to get done as well, so….(you know the words by now – insert them here).

I did actually go to the Disney store with Tom at one point to pick out some toys and of course they had a Rapunzel dress AND Minnie ears. Tom encouraged me to just buy them. Instead of listening to reason that sometimes you just need to go with what is less-stressful, The Stubborn inside of me rose up and gave him a dirty look instead. I left without a dress or ears, but some extra determination to get-it-done.

Thank goodness for crafty boys who are more-than-okay with the idea of setting up a sweatshop in the dining room and keeping me company (and helping with the girls – a lot) while I plugged away with a thread, needle and scissors. The ears were finished that afternoon. Two stuffed circles, sewn onto a headband, with a small piece of Velcro on one side to allow for swapping of pink and red bows. I did discover quickly (after making Zach try them on for me) that one of the ears flops. Normally I would have spent a lot of time trying to fix that. Instead, I decided that a floppy Minnie ear was “adorable” instead of “shoddy workmanship.” A three year old mouse-fan thought they were pretty great and has worn them at least twice a week out on errands, much to the delight of Target employees and the senior-citizen crowd at Costco.

(Oh, Princess…always one step away from a pout)

(photo by Enoch)

The Rapunzel dress was started that same day and finished uhhh…the night before her birthday. At least I got to type “finished” and not “scrapped.” I was not super thrilled with it because it turned out so plain. For the sake of time limitations, I had bought a purple shirt and attached a skirt made of sparkly purple satin-y stuff (I’m guessing polyester probably?) with a layer of tulle – also sparkly- on top. For the bodice I simply sewed ribbon down the front to imitate a corset. I had really wanted to do the strips of ribbon on the sleeves that the store-bought dress has but I could only find a long-sleeved dress and I didn’t have time to shorten the sleeves or figure out an appropriate way to attach the ribbons. So it was done and half-heartedly shown off to Tom and the boys before I went to bed.

I knew that she would like it, even if I wasn’t thrilled, and she did. It has, just like the ears, been worn in public – sometimes with a tiara, sometimes not. She was very upset that I wouldn’t let her walk around Target in bare feet (Pa-ten-zel doesn’t have shoes, Momma!) but after a discussion of appropriate footwear for a true princess, we settled on the most likely option. Pink cowgirl boots. Hey…some people are just born with style, what can I say?


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Several years ago – in fact, coming in on 10, I think – my sister Kari and I decided to make my mom a set of ornaments to represent the 12 days of Christmas. I remember spending hours at her house, with thread and a pile of felt, hand-sewing our interpretations of each day. Some of them were fairly straight-forward, but we had to insert some personality here and there as well. So the french hen got a beret, the dancing lady wore a hula skirt and coconuts, the leaping lord was a USA pole vaulter (to celebrate the Olympics that were to be held in Utah at the time), and the drummer and piper got a Scottish twist to represent ourselves (Kari was the piper, I was the drummer). They were a big hit and I’ve always intended to make my own set. Yeah…never happened.

What did happen though was last year when my dad was posting information on Facebook about the 12 days of Christmas, Kari mentioned the ornaments and he loved the idea. That led to Kari and I deciding we should make him his own set. That was in January. In November I found that e-mail and forwarded it to her with the question of whether we should still try. Kari recruited my sister Maiken, set up a nifty spreadsheet for assignments (I love a good spreadsheet, let me tell you) and we got to sewing. I did the hen, the maid-a-milking, the dancer, and the drummer. Because Maiken and Kari are in Utah, and I sent mine to Kari for wrapping and mailing, I didn’t get to see them until my dad revealed each one, on the appropriate day, on Facebook.

I love them and it I’m even more determined to get my own set. I do have the pear and a ring cut out so maybe I can get it done before the next decade passes us by.

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For Juniper

My brother-in-law’s sister had a baby this summer. They named her Juniper. This kid – I’ve only met her once, but she has a special place in my heart. Maybe because I’ve connected with her momma on Facebook, maybe because she is Keeley’s niece, maybe because she’s just special. I don’t know. I do know that even though I made her a blanket, I wanted to do something else. I thought about knitting a hat, but then I thought about how I’ve always wanted to knit a sweater and a baby-sized sweater seemed like a good first-attempt. I figured something small would be easier and less likely to get hidden in the bottom of a project-bin, due to boredom or frustration.

I feel a little like a broken record here, but – this sweater was enough to convince me that I will never knit an adult sized one. When I finished the first sleeve, it was big enough to fit MY arm. Not exactly 6-9 month appropriate circumference there. And it was wide. REALLY wide. So I shortened the sleeves, blocked it, and put it away, not knowing if I would ever give it to her. After showing it to Beth, my mom, and Keeley – who all said I should definitely give it to her – I finally agreed. But I couldn’t just send something that MIGHT fit her some day. So I made a pair of legwarmers that would most definitely fit her now. And that would have been it, but I had so much fabric left over from the bear hats that I thought she needed one of those too.

By this time it was a week before Christmas, so instead of the intended summer gift of a sweater, Juniper got an entire package of presents. Her mom sent me a picture of her wearing all three at once and I about died over the cuteness. Seriously.

That’s the kind of thing that makes any swearing over knitting patterns worth it.

(Detailed pictures on flickr)

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When my mom bought me the Oliver + S Little Things to Sew book for my birthday I wanted to make everything in it. Narrowing down the project I would commit to for Christmas was fairly easy though. A hat with bear ears, lined in velveteen? Perfect. And perhaps it would solve the problem I’ve been having with Birdie, who thinks every knitted hat (no matter how soft the yarn) is itchy. The book indicated it was an easy project as well so that seemed to finalize the choice.

The search for fabric became interesting when, faced with not finding any wool I liked through my usual fabric suppliers, I turned to Etsy in hopes of finding something vintage. And there it was – a large piece of vintage tweed. And there was something else – vintage velvet ribbon from France. Add in some patterned (plain seemed too boring once I spied the Anna Maria Horner collection) velveteen for lining and I was getting excited.

The worst part about making this hat was tracing all the patterns. The book comes with full size patterns – yes, but they are printed over-lapping each other, so there was no way to not trace them. Thank goodness for giant rolls of art-easel paper from Ikea – and I now have 3 sizes done for future use. It was a giant pain though, as far as time consumption goes. The hats themselves were indeed, very easy, and they turned out crazy cute. We get compliments everywhere we go and Birdie declares hers to be itch-free.

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I think it was about September that I decided to make pillowcases for my nieces and nephews. Easy, but personal homemade gift. I spent some time online trying to find the perfect fabric for each kid. Some were easier than others (they do NOT make Angry Birds fabric, FYI – and Mario Brothers only comes from Japan and is crazy expensive) but I finally ended up with a pile of freshly washed cotton, ready to be whipped in to presents.

I got out my cutting board, the iron, and my pins – looked at the calendar and realized November had disappeared and I now had less than a week to knock these babies out and get them shipped. Lucky for me, pillowcases really are easy to make and I only had to un-pick one of them after a mistake that couldn’t be ignored. Once all the fabric was ironed and cut, it took about 20 minutes to put each one together. Not too shabby at all. I really love the way they turned out – each in tune with the different kid’s personality. Hedgehogs, camouflage, horses, dogs, peace signs and Pac Man (my youngest niece got a Pillow Pet since I wasn’t sure she was using a full-size pillow yet) – these are the things that remind me of each of them, and I hope they know how much their family in PA loves them every time they are used.


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Halloween is definitely my favorite holiday of the year. It makes me sad though that I only get to dress up twice – once for trick-or-treat, and once for our now annual dinner with Beth and her family. This year ended up being about perfect costume-usage-wise – Ella got to wear hers 4 times, and Sophie and I donned ours for 3 occasions.  We had a birthday party and Ella’s school party adding to the standard fun, so even though getting ghoul-ed up that many times was a little stressful at points, it was worth it.

As for the costumes – the plans went fairly similar to last year – we had a theme: Alice in Wonderland. Ella was going to be Alice, Sophie would be the Cheshire Cat, and I would be the Queen of Hearts. At least this year when minds were changed it was before I had purchased fabric, and to be perfectly honest, the changes were my fault. The obsession with Ella’s creation, Zombie Dorothy, this past year seemed to be a perfect Halloween fit, but she was having none of it when I first brought costumes to the table for discussion. She didn’t want to BE a zombie, she just likes to DRAW zombies! Said emphatically, of course. After such declarations I did feel the need to explain the origins of Halloween. When ghosts and goblins come out on All Hallow’s Eve, dressing up like a Disney princess ain’t gonna cut it if you want to blend in. My oldest daughter is fairly logical, so this seemed to resonate with her. She sat quietly for a few minutes, thinking, and then looked up at me and said, “okay Mommy – I will be Zombie Dorothy – I just hope people will still give me candy even if I’m scary.” I made sure to let the idea sit over the weekend, and questioned her thoroughly before we made any fabric purchases, but she was resolute – Zombie Dorothy would be the perfect disguise to trick the goblins into leaving her alone.

That left a bit of a dilemma as to what Sophie and I would be. I guess we could have gone as our previous Wizard of Oz ensemble, just zombie-fied, but Sophie was pretty stuck on the idea of a cat, so we switched it to a black kitty – a witch’s best friend. I figured I would just bring out my old Medusa costume and we would be set. Except of course we weren’t – the day before I needed a costume, I finally went looking for all the parts and discovered my snake crown missing. Five stores later and no snakes to be found, I ended up at a temporary Halloween store in desperation for something – and it had to be a kid-friendly costume, which meant 95% of them were out. I don’t think the other moms in Ella’s class would have been cool with a Naughty Nurse helper for the party. I had walked through the entire store and was staring at the Native American costume, wondering if Native Americans dressed up like Pilgrims on Halloween, when I noticed a Sally costume from the Nightmare Before Christmas. Bingo! It was definitely the “sassy” version of the character but I tried it on and decided it would work – I love the movie and have toyed with that costume idea for a few years so off to the cash register we went. (As a side note – can I say how much it killed me to pay for a costume? Next year I’ll plan better and at least have it be semi-homemade – those things are expensive!)

Sophie as a black kitty was by far the easiest costume I’ve ever put together. Target had ears in their dollar section and the tail was a giant pipe-cleaner, found at JoAnn’s. So none of it was homemade, but all of it was adorable.

Zombie Dorothy’s dress was much easier to make than Non-Zombie Dorothy’s – no finished edges needed – I just attached a skirt to a shirt we bought at Salvation Army, and fused a faux-bib to the front and back. Add some “dirt” and “blood,” make a few rips, and you’re good to go. Bonus of this costume? Every time she got dirty, it got better.

I made her tone down the gore for the birthday party and for school, but when it came time for our dinner and trick-or-treating, I let her go as gross as she wanted. Thank you $1 store for having awesome zombie-ish tattoos – they really added to the look – she wanted the worms to be coming out of her neck and a gash for the cheek. So. Awesome.

(Zombie Dorothy doll by Aunt Kari – they were quite a pair.)

I really liked my Sally costume but the wig was a pain-in-the-butt and was hard to make look decent. I have no intention of posting most of the pictures taken of me in it – this one Tom took post-trick-or-treating – you can’t really see the full costume, but you get the idea. The dress and wig were purchased at the costume store. I added a cheap turtleneck and socks, cut them to the shapes I needed, and drew on the stitches with a permanent marker. For our dinner, I wore heels and slouchy socks to be truer to Sally, but last year’s trick-or-treating in heels was not pleasant so I stuck with boots for walking around.

We had so much fun this year, and the girls are already planning next year’s costumes. Welcome to Samhain everyone!

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Last year while on one of my many trips to JoAnn’s, I spied some corduroy fabric with some pretty adorable owls on it. The store had a pattern posted by the fabric that looked fairly simple, and since it happened to be on sale for $2 (patterns are crazy expensive if you don’t get them on sale, in case you aren’t a sewer – which is ridiculous when you can buy a finished garment at Target for the price of a pattern – but I digress…) I picked one up with enough yardage for a jumper – I thought it would make a great school outfit for Ella. Except last year I had decided to build up my stock of skirts for Etsy and the shop in Lancaster, so I didn’t have time to sew the jumper and that adorable fabric sat there until two weeks ago, when I decided it was high-time to utilize it.

Oh boy. I did NOT read the back of the pattern before I bought it. I would like to say that I generally do read the back (besides figuring out yardage) but I don’t. I almost always have to go back to the store for notions (buttons, trim, etc.). This jumper has a zipper, and for all the sewing I’ve done, I have never, once in my life, installed a zipper.

Flash forward through some cringes and muttering of various Words, and the jumper was finally put together, ready for an excited Birdie girl to wear it to school the next day. I do wish I had practiced the zipper on something else, because it’s a little wonky, as far as the stitching goes, but you have to look very closely and I’m guessing no one will do that, so I’m fine with it. I swear. I am.

You can’t really tell here, but there are pockets, and all three Schroeder ladies LOVE pockets! So handy. Her hair bow was a last minute addition, made out of an extra zipper.

And of course then I started feeling bad that the Princess didn’t have a jumper, after she asked so hopefully, “fit ME, Momma?!” I rummaged through my stash and found some fabric that she liked, but because I have a bad habit of buying fabric without a pattern in mind, I didn’t have enough. Lucky for me, Princess was just fine with a skirt she could twirl in. As long as it had pockets. Very important.

I think it’s terribly adorable when they love the things I make, and even more so that Sophie has now started asking me if I made everything. Including her socks. And if Momma didn’t make it, did Nona? Beth? Sorry baby, sometimes China makes things too. But I’ll keep working on having something Momma made in their closets at all times.

As far as the bee goes – remember that my sister Keeley had her birthday at the end of August? I had wanted to make her something besides the purse but really could not decide what, and she left it up to me, so it ended up being very belated. I finally decided to try something new with my clay – a necklace. I am obsessed with bees. Have been since I was a kid. Throw in that, with my nieces and nephew calling me Aunt B, and me always being lazy and signing every e-mail with just a “B” – it all evolved into my signature on my pottery being a sketched (with a needle tool) bee. Beth suggested it, and I latched on right away. Perfect. I do have to admit that it takes a few minutes and the bees are all a little crazy because I’m not that great of a free-sketcher, but that’s the charm, right? So that long explanation is just a lead to the fact that I know Kee loves bees too. So I made her this necklace – a bee, with its honeycomb.

I was paranoid it might break from clinking together all day, so I wore it for an afternoon to test it out. I loved it, and will be making my own very soon.


And now for something completely unrelated: Tom and I will be celebrating our 7th anniversary on Sunday, and we will be celebrating it by flying down to Jamaica, for a 6 day vacation with my cousin Maggie, and her husband, Colt. Holy Cripes! This year has been insane for travel, y’all, and I am definitely going to be living it up because it will probably never be repeated. So. I have not started to pack and I still need to clean 90% of the house before my mom gets here. Tomorrow. I know that we are supposed to get wi-fi at the hotel, but only in the lobby, so I may be absent for a week, or I may post some pictures – who knows. What I do know is, I’ll be drinking rum and dancing to reggae with the love of my life and two of my favorite people. I also know that I will NOT be coming home with crazy braided hair, whether or not they offer to do it for you on the beach. Tom – I’m not promising anything – he may or may not have been growing out his hair in anticipation.

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