Thursday, October 31, 2013

The First Halloween: Timmy the Lamb and Mama Sheep

For years before I became a mom, I'd dream about having a child to share Halloween with. It's my favorite holiday (if you couldn't tell by my past crafting and spooky baby shower), and I'd started to hit that age where raging parties were hard on the body and the schedule. At that point, Halloween becomes a stay-at-home holiday, and I became relegated to the giving end of the trick 'r' treat ritual. Nothing wrong with that...unless the only one that comes to your door is your downstairs neighbor looking to bum a smoke.

So, when I had Vinnie, I began planning his costume waaaay in advance. Maybe too far in advance. Like, when he was a few weeks old. In January.

OK, to be fair, I was hit with a bolt of inspiration thanks to my Netflix queue. I watched quite a lot of TV in the early days of Vinnie's life, and the one show that never failed to cheer me up on the most difficult, sleep-deprived days was Shaun the Sheep. If you're not familiar with Shaun, it's a British claymation show featuring a cast of  mischievous barnyard animals. The lack of dialogue lends a universal quality to the show, making it enjoyable by all ages.

There were two characters in particular that struck a chord with me: the little lamb, Timmy, and his roller-sporting mother:

They were too flippin' cute, and spoke to the core of my new mama-hood. I knew what I wanted us to be for Vinnie's first Halloween.

Easier said than done. Timmy is a very specific lamb, and no generic sheep costume would do. This would involve garment sewing and possibly pattern making, two things I have little to no experience in. So, I called in the big guns: my mother, who is an extremely talented quilter and seamstress. She'd made plenty of Halloween costumes for me and my brother growing up. A couple of sheep costumes would be a piece of cake, no?

Since she lives across the state, we perused patterns online and I'd call her from fabric shops for her input. We decided on a McCall's toddler pattern for the body (which she'd scale up for mine), with leggings and long sleeve shirts underneath. We debated about the hats for a bit, until my mother commissioned a crafty friend to crochet a pair of black beanies. During a week-long visit to her house, we (and by "we" I mean "she") whipped up the two soft, fluffy sheep shells.

Costume fitting!
My job was the hats, and I had to create the ears and face from scratch. It was trickier than I initially imagined. The ears had to stick out, but I couldn't use wires or anything that could hurt the baby's soft little head. I ended up using fleece stiffened with interfacing, then adding a layer of batting. I also did some top stitching to make the ears stiff. I then split them in half a few inches, inserted the ends in the holes left by the crochet, and stitched them closed inside.

I then cut out the eyes on black and white felt, and the nostrils using black felt, and appliqued them to the hats. The Mama Sheep had her rollers to deal with, too, which I attached by winding strips of leftover fluffy fabric around the rollers then poking them through the crochet holes to tie inside, much like the ears.

It's the little details that kept me the most busy. Every time I thought I had it done, there was one more elements to the costumes that needed attention (such as finding the perfect yellow pacifier for the Timmy costume). Finally, after numerous visits to the fabric store, a cross-state trip, things being mailed last-minute, and sewing against the clock, the costumes were done.

Ta da! It's Timmy! All that hard work and...wait...


...well, crap.

We got him to wear the hat for maybe a total of two minutes. Maybe.

It was hard not to be disappointed, but as my husband pointed out, there's a good chance we'll be able to use these costumes again next year. Even if Vinnie doesn't appreciate it now, someday, when he's older, he'll look back at the pictures of his first Halloween and see just how much his mama (and grandmama) love him...

...or how crazy we were.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bibs, Bibs, Bibs (Warning: gratuitous baby pic spam)

If there's one thing my little man has mastered, it's drooling. The kid is like a leaking faucet, and has been since he was about three months old. Luckily, I was ready, with a stack of bibs that I'd stitched up before he was born. Unluckily, it wasn't nearly enough, and I've had to buy and stitch more bibs since. More stitching. Oh darn.

So, in honor of Vinnie's 8 month anniversary, here's some of my favorite bibs (or, um, the ones I actually took pictures of before they got horribly slimed):

At one month old, he was a little young to be thinking of eating with utensils. Despite that, this has been one of my favorites. Pattern by Urban Threads.

Still one month old, Vinnie got in touch with his Latino heritage (yes, my blond-haired, blue-eyed boy is a quarter Mexican) with this sweet lucha libre design from Sublime Stitching.

At three months, Vinnie's 100th percentile head was already too big for his fun Easter hat. Good thing the paranoid bunny bib doesn't have a size restriction. Also from Urban Threads.

Feeling international at five months, the little man sports his French toast bib from UT.

My seven-month-old little monster sporting a little monster from UT.

For a while, these were the only crafty projects I could muster the energy and time for. Now that my little guy is older, I've been able to find a bit more time for more complex embroidery (and blogging, even if I'm typing this with one hand while holding him with the other). I still have a stack of bibs (colored, this time) waiting to be stitched on, or perhaps I'll try applique. I always say that, don't I? Someday, I'll actually do it.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Handmade Princess Bride Westley Doll

"As you wish."
I've been meaning to share this for a while now. I mean, it's not every day I make a doll. In fact, I'd never made a real doll before last autumn, nonetheless a doll of the Dread Pirate Roberts (a.k.a. Westley) from the Princess Bride.

It must have been the pregnancy hormones that made me commit to this madness. I was bandying about ideas for a regular craft swap I do with a friend, and I mentioned making a doll for her wee son in return for a black, crochet baby blanket. I'd been looking for something to hone my sewing skills, since I'd mastered the skill of sewing two squares together. A doll was the next logical step, right?

To be fair, I started with a pattern I found on an Etsy store, Dolls and Daydreams. There's an adorable superhero boy pattern that served as a base for the body and the mask. Rather than making the legs, arms, and body in different colors, I went with black fabric. The tricky parts were the boots (made from upcycled pleather from a couch I skinned), the chest (trying to get that sexy, open-collar look), and the hair (how do I give a doll a ponytail?).

Appliqueing the face turned out to be rather challenging, too, but fun. The mask was made from the same upcycled pleather, but I used wool felt for the hair and mustache, and craft felt for the eyes. It's hard to tell from the picture below, but I machine stitched wavy lines of hair to make it more interesting. Freestyle.

"No one would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley."
The chest issue was solved by cutting a slit in the chest fabric and sewing it open to make a "collar," and then sewing a triangle of flesh-colored fabric to fill in the space. I hand embroidered the criss-cross laces of the shirt with a simple back-stitch.

I figured out how to make the ponytail fairly easily: I stitched a little bit of felt to the back of the doll, so that when I sewed the head on it looked like a ponytail:

"Why won't my arms move?"

The boots. Oh lordy, those boots. Remind me, the next time I work with pleather, to make the legs BIGGER so I don't have to turn thick, stiff fabric in a one-inch-wide tube. It took me half an hour each to turn those legs!

I am exceedingly pleased with how my first doll came out, and most importantly, I learned a lot (#&@*ing pleather). It was hard for me to let him go, even though I knew he was going to a good, geeky home. It'll be a while before I have the time or space to make another doll, but fortunately, it'll be a while before my own wee son can play with dolls. If I start now, I can have it done by his 5th birthday.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Star Wars Easter Eggs on eHow

Look, Ma! My hand-painted Star Wars Easter eggs were selected to be part of an awesome slideshow on!

Give it a looksee. There's some really great ideas for unique Easter eggs, and there's still enough time to plan ahead to be creative.

Unfortunately, I won't have time this year to sit down and do some involved painting, or get more crafty than PAAS. 'Cause, y' But someday, perhaps, I'll be able to expand the collection. There's some Star Wars characters that would look pretty boss in egg form.

Also, welcome to those of you here from eHow! I hope you enjoy my other crafty creations if you stick around to take a peek.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted

I'm a big fan of the Assassin's Creed video game series. I used to find running along the digital rooftops of Italy as calming as stitching (y'know, back when I had time to play involved video games and work on big embroideries), so it was natural to combine the two into one geeky, crafty project.

I started this project back in early 2011. To give you an idea of the size of the emblem, it's hung in an 8" hoop. My original idea was to satin stitch the whole thing in white for a sleek, textured effect. After an inch or two of stitches, though, I realized the logo was too big, and there would be saggy bits. No good.

So, I scrapped that idea, but not the whole project. I'd been dabbling in acrylic paint around the time, so I got the idea to paint the logo onto the fabric, then embroider on top of it. I was inspired by Ezio's (the protagonist of the second series of AC games) color palette, and opted for burgundy paint and silver thread.

I couldn't just stop at outlining the emblem. Oh, no. I wanted this to be something truly special. So, for the first time, I experimented with freestyle embroidering.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of tiny, meticulous stitches went into this. It was both wonderfully meditative, letting the stitches take my fingers where they wanted to go, and pretty annoying, as metallic thread is damn finicky. It got so bad I put the project down with only about three inches on one leg to go, and didn't pick it up again for over a year.

I resuscitated the project in the ninth month of my pregnancy, as I was tying up loose ends on my crafting projects. It only took me a couple of evenings to complete, including mounting it in a silver-painted hoop.

After all that work, there was only one thing I could do with it: give it away. I gave it as a Christmas gift to my brother, the one person I knew would truly appreciate it, both as an Assassin's Creed fan and as an artist. The look on his face was priceless.

When I have time, I'm planning on experimenting again with freestyle-stitched, mixed-medium embroidery. I could probably do with a little meditative crafting these days!

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Best Reason for Not Blogging

My baby boy Vincent. Born December 13, 2012 in Oakland, CA. He's now over a month old.

Not much time for blogging--or crafting, or writing, or anything else--when you're trying to get the hang of an entirely new way of life: diaper changes, round-the-clock feedings, obliterated sleep schedules. 

I admit it, this has been the hardest month of my life. I wouldn't have made it if it weren't for an incredible network of family and friends that rallied around my husband and I to offer tons of love, support, and hot meals. I now understand that saying, "it takes a village to raise a child." It's really, really true.

It's all been so very worth it, though. I love my little man like I've never loved anyone before. It's amazing to watch him develop slowly from an eat-sleep-poop machine to a human being. Sure, it's only been a month, but in that time he's come so very far. All of us have. I've gone from feeling like a terrified newbie into feeling like, well, a Mom. 

Here's to the first month, and to many, many more, my boy.