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swim skirt

The kids are taking two weeks of swim lessons and they needed goggles and a swim cap for the girl. Goggles I can see getting a good bit of use out of and they seemed like a good incentive for the boy who was a little cautious about swimming in a pool. We generally have our summer water fun at the beach.

Frantically looking around the house for a bit of swimsuit material to make a cap from lead me to the little skirt that matches the girl’s swimsuit. I found an adult size swim cap pattern on the internet and sized it down to fit her head. I made myself sew a rough draft from part of an old tee shirt. There was so little fabric in the skirt that I had only one chance to get it right. I even had to undo the seams in order to have enough fabric rather than simply cutting the seams off as I would usually do when repurposing. I managed to eek out the pieces, sewing up the cap using the elastic and lycra waist trim to finish the bottom edge of the cap. The sewing itself turned out to be quite easy and I’m glad I decided to be frugal because I think the matching cap turned out much cuter than anything we could have bought.

Voila, my bathing beauty!

toddler, little girl swim cap

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fashion dolls shirred top hand sewn dress

The girl chose this fabric out of my scrap bin for a new dress for her Liv fashion doll, Alexia. I decided to try shirring the top since I’ve never done shirring before. I couldn’t find the elastic thread anywhere so I ended up couching a line of zigzag over cord elastic. That worked out okay but it’s a little heavy at doll size. I also used the black elastic cord for the doubled shoulder straps which makes it easy to put the dress on the doll.

Next to Alexia is Roger (named by the boy), who is sadly still wearing the polyester duds he came with. The manufacturer didn’t even give him shoes, poor guy. I think sandals are in order for both dolls.

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This project is on the list, unlike some other things I’ve been doing lately, but I admit it is pretty far down the list. Why are those projects farther down the list so much more enticing?

Anyway, we have a lot to do this weekend and I decided I could accomplish one thing by doing the dump/recycle run this morning. Since it was sunny out (yay!) I drove up to the junk wood piles and the girl and I scouted for usable pieces. I was mainly looking for 1x4s so I can construct a roof frame for the top of the slide tower which the kids refer to as the treehouse.

wooden swingset slide tower treehouse fort

Since the swingset is nicely weathered, it seems silly to buy new wood, especially when there is perfectly good salvaged wood available for the hunting. I did find some suitable 1x4s, the girl found quite a few pieces for building a “castle”, and we also found a few other interesting pieces.

salvaged wood pieces


One of the pieces I found was just the right size to make a counter to attach to the posts under the fort. We also found a turned post long enough to cut in half to make legs. It’s not exactly level but it is sturdy. The girl found some large painted fruit cutouts and we brought those along. After arriving home we had just enough time before lunch to cut and install some support pieces and get the counter into place.


I’m sure it will serve nicely as an ice cream counter/farm stand/whatever-the-kids-dream-up. The roof frame will have to wait, the threat of gray skies and the need to do some math have driven me indoors for now.

salvaged wood counter and painted wood fruit on swingset slide fort treehouse

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We’ve had rather a lot of rainy days this spring. Yesterday it was dry enough that the kids got outside and went crazy for a few hours. I think there were 6-7 kids running between our house and the next door neighbor’s. Today back to rain.

Liv doll Barbie Blythe hand sewn handmade dress

I made this sunny dress and matching hair scrunchie out of some scraps for the girl’s Liv doll, Alexia. I didn’t have a pattern and I didn’t make one either. I just sort of cut and pinned as I went along. Which is great in that it went together fast and relatively painlessly for such small work but not so great in that I would have to do the same amount of work to duplicate it. But I rarely do the same thing twice so it probably doesn’t matter much.

I used the ultra thin clear velcro that I found at the hardware store. It says that it is not recommended for fabrics but I ignored that of course. It did stick to the fabric enough to make it easy to work with and it was quite easy to sew through. I just cleaned a bit of adhesive off the needle when I was done. The closure is neat, easy to open and close and barely noticeable. Now she just needs some sandals and a sunny day!

micro thin clear velcro closure on handmade doll dress

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I know this is not the only thing I’ve crafted in the last few weeks but I’m really at a loss as to what else I’ve been doing! I suppose we’ve been outside more. We are really full swing into spring now and it’s lovely to hear all the little birds and see all sorts of shoots coming up out of the ground. Sometimes I can’t remember what I planted where!

cast-on with handspun handdyed wool yarn

This project began with some yarn leftover from a hat I made for the girl, along with some other remnants that I used as dye sops. A simple but interesting construction, the pattern of paired decreases produces the soft scalloped edge. The finished knit looked like a crumpled mess.

knitted flower bowl ready to be felted

With faith and several runs through the washer and dryer it shaped up nicely into this sweet little felted flower bowl (link to Ravelry).

felted fulled knit wool flower bowl

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I don’t know where the boy got this idea but he came to me with this sketch and a promotional toy ball and requested that we cover the ball in yarn and “knit” the body. My kids often come up with ideas they really can’t accomplish on their own and I generally fall for “helping” them make their creations. They do make plenty of their own creations with very little help.

In the advertising world, the production artist is the person who makes the creative or art director’s sketch into reality. Although they are usually at the bottom of the org chart, a good production artist is worth their weight in gold. I am not a good production artist. But I suppose this was good practice. The art director seemed pleased with the results and was even persuaded to help with some of the production.

orange skeleton mohawk dude kid drawing

We have recently acquired a rather large collection of worsted weight acrylic yarn balls in all colors from a neighbor and I have found these quite useful for occasions such as these. He quickly picked out the desired colors and I went to work on crocheting a cover for the toy ball. Yes, I could knit this but I’m better at winging it with crochet and I find it easier to get a firmer fabric with crochet, so better for dolls and animals.


Boring part over we moved on to the body. I started each foot and then had him sit in front of me and helped him through single crocheting the stripes. It’s just a matter of sticking the hook through the right hole and pulling out a loop of yarn. We joined the legs into a body with more stripes, I did the decreases toward the neck and crocheted the arms and the blue eye rounds. He helped me sew on the arms and the details on the face. I did about one row of hair and he did the rest, styling as he went.

amigurumi mohawk skeleton striped dude

He took it to class for share day with a cardboard guitar he made. Rock on, mohawk dude.

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Rosalina is a character from Super Mario Galaxy, a game for the Wii, which builds on the story of the long running Nintendo video game characters—plumber brothers, Mario and Luigi. She is the benevolent caretaker of baby stars called lumas. I previously made a few lumas out of felt for the kids.

The girl recently requested a Rosalina dress for her Groovy Girl doll, Sarah. Since she plays with Sarah quite a lot, I decided it was worth doing. I had several fabric choices in my stash and could have gone with a dressier velvet that wasn’t quite the right shade of blue or a satin that would have looked good but would have been very difficult to work with on such a small scale. I decided to use an outgrown tee shirt in the right color for ease of sewing and dressing the doll. Since I’ve made a few other dresses for this doll, it wasn’t too hard to draft a pattern that suggests the general look of Rosalina’s dress. I used a thinner white cotton knit for the trim, using the inherent trait of knit fabric to roll over in my favor. It’s a bit rough but I spent about as much time as I’m willing to spend on a doll dress. Done is better than perfect.

Groovy girl soft fabric doll dressed as Rosalina from Super Mario Galaxy hand sewn handmade Rosalina dress Super Mario Galaxy

The star brooch and the crown are made from Sculpey molded over a paper skeleton, baked and brushed with silver paint and decorated with plastic jewels. I had intended to make those accessories out of fabric as well but I couldn’t find anything remotely suitable. Hopefully the paper skeleton inside the polymer clay accessories will give them some chance of survival.

hand made Sculpey polymer clay crown and brooch for Rosalina Super Mario Galaxy

Not that I’m particularly a fan myself, but I suppose this could be considered fan art. Or fan craft. Or something like that.

And yes, Sarah has big feet. Maybe I should have made the dress a little longer.

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No, not that kind.

This is for wearing when you are taking care of bunnies. My parents now have three angora rabbits and my mother was wanting some sort of apron/smock to protect her clothes. I’m pretty sure she wanted it to be long sleeved somehow and long enough to cover her lap but not too hot to wear in the summer and easy to go on over a jacket in the winter. The space where the bunnies live is only somewhat climate-controlled.

The fabric needed to be something tough but slick, something that could stand up to the occasional clawed foot but slick enough to shed or at least not attract stray fur. I also thought it would be easiest if there was no hardware—no buttons or snaps, etc. So I used some leftover nylon or acetate lining material that is extremely lightweight but tightly woven and not likely to attract fur. I cut the collar and cuffs off an old knit shirt to re-use. I cut the long sleeves loose and gathered them into the knit cuff. I made the neckhole in a similar fashion. The threaded elastic through the cutaway back allows for arm movement but helps to keep the long front from flying away. Or at least that was the intent. That part still needs work. It could probably use some pockets as well. I have some alternate ideas but I was at a point where I needed to make a full-size draft to see how it actually worked. Here’s my mother trying out the bunny suit . . . bunny smock?

angora rabbit

high no back smock

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The boy is a bit picky about jeans—he prefers them soft and on the thinner side. He usually wears every other pants in his closet before jeans but this pair he didn’t seem to mind. Unfortunately he tore through the knees and they were getting short but still fit amply in the waist as is usually the case with storebought pants for him. I grabbed the leftover pieces cut off a pair of khaki pants that had already been turned into shorts. I used the already hemmed bottoms to lengthen the jeans and then used a double layer of the khakis to cut patches for the knees of the jeans. A fast fix and it turned out rather cute. The mom of one of his friends thought I had bought them that way. I’ll take that as a complement.

jeans patched and lengthened with contrast fabric

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I have to say that the men in the house pulled off the best handmade presents this year. I helped a little but the ideas and much of the execution was theirs. The boy made his sister a monogrammed purse which she adores.

hand sewn felt and leather purse for little girl flowers monogram

We traced and cut an oval from some stiff pink felt left over from another project. The boy used a fabric marker to draw a curly “S” in the middle of the oval and then arranged and sewed on felt flowers all around. I cut a very simple pattern out for a curvy purse with a large front flap, reminiscent of styles from the ’70s. I cut the pieces from some scrap leather I had. (I’m pretty sure it’s bi-cast or laminated but it looks surprisingly nice and I think it will hold up fine to loving use by a little girl.) The boy helped me machine sew the oval onto the front flap. He then used a fabric marker to stencil a sweet message on the inside to his sister. Later I hand-sewed the pieces of the purse together and attached the strap to rings at the sides. It looks great, the boy was quite proud of himself and his sister was over the moon! See the photos below for the play-by-play action.

Oo! Pretty!

Oo! Pretty!



Oh, man, she kissed me!

Oh, man, she kissed me!

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wool felt ball eyeball toy

I admit that I shamelessly copied this oogly eyeball from a picture on the internet. Unfortunately I cannot find the original source now to give credit but I see it’s not as unique as I first thought. I did make my own pattern and chose my own colors and my version is likely smaller than the picture that I looked at but it’s pretty much identical. I rarely if ever do that. Mostly because I’m not good at copying when I want to and moreso because I always have my own ideas on what and how I want to do things. The boy had wanted to make some monster stuffies and knowing how popular those are I thought we’d look around on the internet for images that we liked and then combine our favorite features into our own monster stuffie pattern. Along the way we saw these fabric eye balls that were just perfect the way they were. So we made wool felt eyeballs. This was the first and unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the second which the boy did most of the sewing on because he wrapped it up and gave it away about as fast we got it finished. Made with wool and rayon felt and a little embroidery, and filled with wool stuffing and poly pellets. I still want to make the monsters but these were more fun than I would have guessed. Sewing a sphere is never an easy proposition but felt makes it fairly painless.

pouch style baby carrier for doll

Here’s the girl carrying a baby doll in a pouch style baby carrier that I made for her cousin. Don’t worry, I made the girl one too. Now I’ve made so many baby pouches I could practically cut one out without a pattern and that’s exactly what I did here. But the style that came to mind as particularly appropriate for a doll carrier, was inspired by a real pouch style baby carrier idea from my friend Jen. I traced the finished pouch so that I’d have the pattern for keeps. I may post the pattern here after I try it out on a few more kids and different sized baby dolls/stuffies. I’m also going to “stick a pin” here to remind myself to tell you a little trick I thought up regarding handmade presents.

groovy girl doll and handknit doll sweater

Just last week my neighbor shared with me several bags of yarn she’d received from someone else. The girl had seized on a small ball of pink and white novelty yarn which I decided to turn into a sweater for her favorite doll. (Don’t ask about the “dress” she has on.) My first top-down raglan sweater, ha ha. Maybe I’ll feel better about starting on a person-sized sweater now. I accidentally left the little sweater out and the girl saw it. I thought the surprise was ruined because of course she asked who it was for. But I answered with the name of her doll. The girl replied very seriously that she would wrap it up so that said doll would not see it before Christmas!

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I am so proud of the girl. She has been making a list of all her favorite people and making gifts for them. Some of her choices have been interesting but I’ve done my best to help her carry out her plans. This faux leather wallet is for one of her boy friend/heroes. Though he is nearly 6 years older, he has always been kind to her and she looks up to him like another brother.

pleather faux leather wallet with contrast stitching hand made

I was a bit dismayed when she said that she wanted to make him a wallet but after a bit of thought I pulled out this remnant of black vinyl. She sat on my lap at the sewing machine and chose one of his favorite colors, red, for the thread. We then turned the dials of my simple machine through the different stitch patterns and sewed parallel lines of red stitching against the black. I folded the rectangle wrong side out and sewed; her eyes danced as we turned it right side back out revealing the simple pouch shape. She chose a matching red resin snap to close the wallet.

hand sewn pleather vinyl snap wallet pouch

It didn’t photograph so well, and it’s a bit on the bold side, but I think he will actually like it. She seemed matter-of-factly pleased with the finished project and immediately wrapped it and wrote the label. I had to retrieve it after she went to bed and carefully unwrap it to photograph it!

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I haven’t been posting so much lately. I’m not really sure why. I thought I would have more time to myself with the girl in afternoon kindergarten. It doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. But I suppose I have been able to volunteer at both of the schools.

Various photos:

socks handknit from self-striping yarn

This is the second pair out of the same ball of self-striping yarn. Matching socks for the boy and his sister.

dyed wool blanket remnants scraps

These are scraps of an old wool blend blanket that the boy and I dyed various colors. It was originally a light green and the boy had a great time seeing what would happen when we overdyed with various colors. It took the dye fairly well but unfortunately it did not felt well. That may change the intended use.

swatch of eyelet lace border

Swatch of eyelet lace border that I originally improvised for the strangling vine lace scarf. Someone on Ravelry saw my project photos and asked about the border. I had already gifted the scarf so I had to look at the photos to try and figure out what I had done. I hope I got it right. Although the pattern is quite simple, I have a hard time remembering to stop and write down what I am doing. Probably why I didn’t write it down in the first place. So my Ravelry notes for this are now out there and I really hope there aren’t any mistakes for the sake of anyone who may try to knit from them.

homemade chili in iron pot

This one because you need a food photo don’t you? Recently I have made chili with pulled chicken instead of beef in it and I like it very much. I use poached chicken thighs and pull the meat apart with two forks. And I always put the diced green pepper in just before serving so they stay nicely crunchy.

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My friend Lynn tweeted about verrines the other day and I had no idea what the word meant but I used to make them fairly often—B.C. that is (before children). So since the boy who does not eat fresh fruit was off at his grandparents’ house I decided this would be a good dessert for the girl and I to make together.

Sliced strawberries, made-from-scratch vanilla pudding, wild Maine blueberries, whipped cream and a few blackberries from our yard. Layered in a tall glass. Divine. Devoured.

fruit and pudding verrine parfait dessert


We like to watch the squirrels—playing outside, in a favorite movie UP, in a funny book, Scaredy Squirrel. The boy asked me to knit a squirrel for him. I was already aware of this cute pattern, Ultimate Squirrel, by Bri of RomanSock who designs the most adorable crocheted animals. They are realistic in a cute way. Since I have enjoyed reading her blog I thought it only fitting to buy her pattern. (Plug: Bri has a new book out, available on Amazon, called Super-Super Cute Crochet, filled with unusual animals.)

I used handspun brown wool approved of by the boy, two round black buttons dug out of the button jar by the boy, and one of my secret make-stuff supplies—those plastic covered wire twisties that keep all plastic toys in a stranglehold inside their plastic-windowed boxes. I’m not usually a fan of plastic but in this case, I like these weird things. (My mother covets them too.) They are far sturdier than craft pipe cleaners or the ordinary bread bag wire twisties. I did have a few problems with the pattern, probably mostly due to the fact that I am apparently incapable of counting higher than 4. There could have been more direction on the stuffing and sewing but I would probably have done it my own way anyway so not a problem for me. The hardest part was the brushing technique since all I had to use was the giant wool carders! I’m sure a dog brush would work much better.

brushed crochet squirrel amigurumi and knit and crocheted acorns

The boy checked on my progress daily and was delighted with the final outcome. Here is his very own crocheted squirrel with some acorns I made months ago, fittingly inspired by another RomanSock pattern, a much larger acorn bag. My acorns are a combination of knit and crochet using some very early hand dyed and spun yarns. And yes, I will be making this pattern again, little sister is not pleased that she did not get a squirrel too. I may make her a chipmunk just for variety.

brushed crochet squirrel using RomanSock's pattern for Ultimate Squirrel

Nom, nom, nom, nom.

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