Tag Archives: mamablog

A Second Dress (Better Than the First?)

Ladybug dress at amyhoodarts.com

The second dress is complete, y’all. And it’s better than the first, because it has inside, hidden pockets.

pockets! at amyhoodarts.com

G likes it better because she likes short sleeves–while I’m wearing a thermal shirt, sweater, and wool socks, she’s running around in short sleeves and no socks at all. I’m happy about the pockets but already know I can do better on the next dress, whenever that happens. (I’m out of jersey knit fabric at the moment.) I keep admiring these dresses, the way the sleeves are sewn into the opening so well, the pleating, the way I did much better hemming the sleeves on the ladybug dress and they don’t flare at all. Another headband was requested, so I whipped that up after these pictures were taken.

twirling at amyhoodarts.com

New play dresses need twirling pictures. Of course!

Leveling Up: Sewn Knit Dress

At the end of the summer, my daughter picked out some Charley Harper knit fabric so I could make her some dresses. I’d seen the Anna Maria Horner Lemon Drop pattern and for some reason, that was the pattern that made me decide to figure out sewing with knits. I ordered it and made the top for myself first (I’d rather mess up learn on my own clothes than my daughter’s) and the shoulders were huge. I mean, just, humongous. I looked at the pictures on the pattern again and Googled for some finished examples and compared the girls’ pattern pieces to some of my daughter’s clothing and realized that using the Charley Harper fabric to make this pattern for her would be throwing good money after bad.

I discussed with the Twitter brain trust and ended up ordering the Oliver + S family pack of t-shirt patterns, with the idea of adjusting it to make a dress. (The shoulders on this are actually designed to fit regular people, even!) I shortened the t-shirt and added a skirt, which is just two rectangles, each the width of the full circumference of the shirt. And we have a dress, just perfect for a six-year-old.

Charley Harper dress at amyhoodarts.com

The full skirt twirls nicely, too.

amyhoodarts.com

I made her a matching headband from scraps because why not? I added patch pockets to this one, using the pattern pieces from the AMH pattern, I think just to make myself feel better for having spent the money on a pattern that I can’t use. I’m not happy with the patch pockets; they’re going to droop. So on her next dress–ladybugs, short sleeves, but otherwise the same concept–I decided to try interior pockets. I consulted my sewing reference book and one of her Lands’ End knit dresses and got to work.

interior pockets in progress at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not done with that dress just yet–I want to reinforce the pocket openings (I already know how I’d do it a little different next time) and then I just need to sew the skirt to the tee and I’m done. I’m particularly happy with how the skirt is sewn in on the first one. I pleated all that extra fabric in. Careful pleating, pinning, and sewing. Here’s how it looks from the inside…

pleating from inside the dress at amyhoodarts.com

and a close-up of the outside.

pleating on sewn knit dress at amyhoodarts.com

It turns out sewing with knits was the least of the difficulties here–the pattern I originally chose was unworkable. I’m pretty chuffed that I put this together and I love the Oliver + S t-shirt pattern. I think I’ll get lots of use out of that. The second time, the shirt whipped up quickly. The only place I had difficulty with the knit fabric itself was hemming the sleeves. They ended up with a slight flare, which I decided to call a design element. And you know what? My daughter told me (without knowing I’d struggled with the sleeve hems) that her favorite part was the way the cuffs ruffled a bit. There you go. Best dress ever (until the ladybug dress is finished!).

Custom Printed Tea Towels

A while ago now, I was asked if I could print tea towels with the rock crab linocut. I poked around, got suggestions, and decided on Moda toweling, ordering some in white and natural. In the meantime I experimented with printing a linocut on fabric using different paints and inks, but I couldn’t get a result that I was happy with. I decided the best choice was to carve a new rock crab stamp; I have always gotten good results printing my hand-carved stamps on fabric. When the toweling arrived, I experimented some more. Finally, these are the results.

Custom printed tea towels at amyhoodarts.com

The towels are approximately 16″ wide by 24″ long, and the natural is even softer than the white. They wash up beautifully, and the images are printed with heat-set fabric ink with a crab at each end. I packaged them up with a tag that includes washing instructions and the inspiration behind the image.

tea towel ready to gift at amyhoodarts.com

I enjoy working with people for custom orders, especially when it’s an idea that hadn’t yet occurred to me, such as printing on tea towels. (I’ve printed on them before; it just hadn’t occurred to me to print them with my own hand-carved stamps and offer them for sale.) It’s really gratifying when somebody loves an image I’ve imagined and created, and envisioning it in another form is excellent. It makes the final result a collaboration, and that’s very cool.

If you’re interested in any custom work, I’d love to hear from you!

Just Knitting

It’s November in New England and all I want to do is knit.

pile of knitting

To that end, I have added three pairs of Evangeline mitts (modified to my liking) and a Saroyan scarf to the gift closet stash. I keep thinking I should be drawing or painting or coming up with another stamp or linocut design…. but all I really want to do is knit, so I’m going with it. (I also want to sew, a little bit. I have fabric for dresses for my 6yo, but the first pattern I bought was awful so now I’m modifying something else and, oh, it’s a long story. I haven’t gotten up the courage to cut the material yet.) I’m just going to trust the process, indulge what I feel pulled to do, and let my brain work on stuff in the background. Usually a period of relative restfulness (knitting is very restful, especially when it’s old familiar patterns) ends with a creative burst.

But, speaking of those old familiar patterns….I’ve modified those Evangeline mitts so much that almost all that’s left is the cable pattern. So, I thought, why not fool around a bit with a basic mitten pattern and a stitch dictionary and see if I can come up with something completely unique? Occasionally I get asked if I sell the mitts and I always say no, because strictly speaking, it’s not my pattern. It would be nice to have the option, I suppose.

cabled mitt in progress

So I guess I’m not being totally dormant on the creative front.

In other news, I’m vacuuming every other day, we’ve only had one showing so far, and I’ll be burying St. Joseph upside down any day now. I have thought about Christmas exactly Not At All. Our six-year-old is sounding out words and beginning to read and losing teeth. Our oldest will be thirteen in less than two weeks and that’s going well some days. And on Saturday I’ll be getting on a train to New Haven to meet someone in person that I’ve only spoken to online. (Aside to my kids: Don’t do that.) So in general, you know, despite the real estate uncertainty, things are pretty good here.

Working That Serenity

My youngest child turns six today. So of course I made her a new number shirt (using a freezer-paper stencil).

freezer paper birthday shirt at amyhoodarts.com

I used a different textile paint, a matte liquid paint that I suspect is just liquid acrylic, re-bottled and up-priced. She wanted purple, and it’s hard to mix a good pure purple with the textile inks I usually use. I think it came out really well (although I haven’t washed it yet).

I love these shirts.

As for the serenity I’m working? I chose that word as a reminder for 2014, in a nod to the work I’ve done being okay with uncertainty. And oh, 2014 has presented so much uncertainty! For a good chunk of the year, we weren’t sure if my husband would accept a job offer that had come his way, unsought. It was a process, and the decision-making needed the time it needed, and during that time, it was a possibility, but not a given. And now, of course, we’ll be moving. When? Who knows. Where? Not exactly sure. In the remaining days of October, my husband has two business trips, we’re hosting our daughter’s school friends for a birthday party, and we’re putting our house on the market. (That third thing takes place only four days after the party, and my husband won’t even be in town when the sign goes up on the front lawn.) We have all the regular things–school, karate, appointments. Halloween and costume planning and trick-or-treating. It seems like a lot for less than two weeks. I’m just working that serenity.

And the party! She wanted a Frozen theme, and we have some fun things up our sparkly ice-princess sleeves. That’s my main focus this week, along with photographing the various rooms in the house so the photos are ready for the listing date. I have my lists. I have Gilmore Girls to re-watch while my husband is away. I don’t have to conduct frantic pre-party cleaning/hiding stuff because I’ve been cleaning and decluttering for almost two months now. It seems to work best if I just focus on the day I’m in, and maybe a little bit of the next day or two. Things tend to fall into place. What it’s taken me all my life up until this year to really understand is that that’s true whether I twist myself into a nervous wreck about things, or not. So. I figure we’ll sell our house and find a house and maybe it will go seamlessly or maybe we’ll have to rent or stay in a hotel or who knows? I have a party to plan first. Hopefully I’ll post about our treats and trimmings later this week–but maybe it’ll take me until next week. We’ll just have to wait and see!

The Gift Knitting Has Begun

My brain needs some soothing knitting, the kind of thing I barely have to focus on but have to focus on enough to hopefully quiet the hamster that’s running around on his wheel in there. Every time I cross something off my to-do list I think of something to add. Our youngest is turning six this month and since it’s her first year in school, we invited all the girls in her class over for a Frozen-themed birthday party, and then we’ll list the house a few days later. That sounds reasonable, right? Plus there’s Halloween this month and the things We Always Do (corn maze, carving Jack o’Lanterns, costume design). My husband is traveling quite a bit. The boys have a big-deal belt test this weekend. Something’s going to have to give, and hopefully it’s not my sanity.

So, knitting. I like to have a supply of gifts for the village–you know, the ancillary people in our kids’ lives. Our 10yo has a couple of those people working with him right now, and I’m not sure if these will be holiday gifts or good-bye-and-thank-you-so-much gifts, but either way, I want to make sure they’re ready and waiting. First up, Evangeline, a fingerless mitt pattern that I adjusted to suit my own tastes. I can practically knit it in my sleep, I’ve made it so often.

Evangeline knit mitt at amyhoodarts.com

I modeled on my own hand, of course, because it looks so much better on.

One of the recipients seems like a scarf person to me, so I began another Saroyan. This is also a pattern I’ve made more than once, so even though I’m following line by line, it’s not terribly taxing.

Saroyan in progress at amyhoodarts.com

Here, I’ve done one repeat on the straight section.

I’ll probably make more mitts to have on hand, although my youngest’s teacher already has a pair from when my middle child was in her class…but my oldest’s teachers don’t have any of my knitting yet. We’ll see how it goes. There is much left to do in the half of October which remains.

October. October!

Issue Five Cover at amyhoodarts.com

Coming soon–next week, in fact!

I didn’t intend to be quiet here for so long. But since I last posted, my days have consisted of driving, homeschooling, all the other mama things, and cleaning and decluttering. Most of that doesn’t lend itself to terribly interesting blogging, and even when I thought about sharing something (like that workshop I went to on executive functioning), it stayed a thought, because I’ve really been using all the spare time to clean. Let’s just say that while I am very good at keeping up with the daily necessities–cooking, dishes, bathrooms, laundry, snow shoveling, and so on–that the condition of the house is proof that I’d rather create something or get outside than deal with clutter and deep cleaning. And so it is that I’ve not drawn or painted or sewn or created or even written much more than grocery lists for much of the past month, while I deal with the fall-out of all that time spent at the beach or reading on the deck or carving a stamp. And while I don’t regret those past choices, I’m feeling a little prickly at the lack of creative time right now!

However, I am on track to publish the fifth issue of Art Together next week. A printed-out hard copy is coming with me tomorrow because I have some wait time and I like to proofread and copy edit on paper, not a screen. Making use of that time! It’ll be good to have this one out in the world.

And More Transitions

I’m still getting used to the new schedule. Between drop-off and pick-up, N and I are busy all day with his work, and then the next shift begins, with after-school activities and dinner. (Sometimes the former conflicts with preparing the latter.) I haven’t yet identified where I could squeeze in some pockets of time for me in this schedule, so I’m tired, but I know from experience it will shake out eventually.

Meanwhile, I can finally share (because it’s now definite) that we’ll be relocating from Rhode Island to the DC area, Maryland side, once we sell our house. So somehow, we need to deal with everything that’s cluttered up since we moved into this house almost 11 years ago and get it ready to go on the market. My husband and I both grew up here so this is a big change–but a very exciting one. I’ll miss this:

transitions 2-beach

Morning coffee at the salt pond behind the barrier beach–one of our favorite places, just 15 minutes from home.

But I won’t miss this:

Sometimes the snow builds up, and sometimes we get almost 2 feet all at once.

Sometimes the snow builds up storm by storm, and sometimes we get almost 2 feet all at once.

We’ve told the kids, and we’re helping them process the news and soliciting their ideas on what sort of house and community we’d like to live in. As the decision-making process was going on, my one request was that we remain together as a family. I didn’t want to end up in a situation where my husband was already in Maryland at his new position while the kids and I were up here, trying to sell the house so we could join him. We have a generous amount of time to relocate, but still, we need to get the house in order and start the process. So this space may be a bit quiet as I try to spend the pockets of time I do carve out to clean and declutter.

A Foot in Two Worlds

G first day of school

This child was very excited on her first day of kindergarten.

In the Venn Diagram of schooling options, the overlap between school and homeschool is probably the most difficult spot to be in. I’m technically part of both groups but not really fully part of either. I am a homeschooling mom, and I also have two kids in school. This is a difficult situation, to have a foot in both worlds. Some of the best benefits of homeschooling—freedom from the school calendar and daily routine—don’t apply here. We can’t take vacations whenever we want; we have to keep the school calendar in mind. We can’t sleep until our bodies say; I need to get all three kids in the car to drive two of them to school, and then N and I get back in the car in the afternoon to pick them up. The school decided everybody would get “depot” stops this year, so I’m either driving them to a bus stop because it’s too far to walk, or driving all the way to school. For now, I’m choosing to forego the new busing, which seems inefficient, with stops in unsafe areas as well.

I’ve seen two homeschool classes that N might enjoy and that would get him some time with other homeschoolers, but both run from 1 to 4 in the afternoon, over the state line in CT, and I can’t have him there and also get my other kids home from school. I’d thought, when our 5yo wanted to try kindergarten, that at least with her seventh-grade brother on the bus, if they beat us home by a few minutes, he was capable of escorting her off the bus and into the house, getting her snack and so on. But now I need to be there to pick them up or meet the bus with the car, so those homeschooling classes are beyond our reach.

Then, there’s school. My heart is in homeschooling. Much about school in general pains me. Yet I need to honor my children’s wishes to go, and so I do my best to provide what I feel school does not. I think they both have good teachers this year, and that helps. But there’s no hiding that I feel out of place at school. I never know how to respond when parents comment that they can’t wait for summer to be over, or what on earth will they do with their kids over school vacation week. I can’t wait for summer, to have all my kids together, to be free of adhering to an external schedule, for them to have the time to pursue interests not handed down by a teacher. I often feel like I don’t speak the right language when I’m at school. Over the years I’ve learned mostly to keep to myself, because I feel I’m always in danger of saying the exact wrong thing. And I obviously don’t think the school is wonderful for everybody, or we wouldn’t have withdrawn our middle child. I think the school is okay for many kids, and really good for some, and really bad for some, too. Writing that, I realize it describes a bell curve, which is probably about right for any school.

It’s hard to be very involved at school, too, because I homeschool. I’ve never regularly volunteered in classrooms. (Even when both boys were in school, I had a baby at home.) I try to attend at least one field trip, which involves my husband taking the day off to hang out with our homeschooled kid. Early on I did try to be more involved, but let’s say that decreased as my middle child’s difficulties there increased, and finally I mostly gave up.

It’s unproductive—but sometimes tempting—to think about what it would be like, all one way or the other. There’s no point in wishing it were different; this is the reality I have, trying to honor each individual child’s wants and needs. I’d probably identify myself as a homeschooling parent first, and I wonder if that’s even legitimate, given two of three children are in school this year. But it’s where my heart is, even as I go through the daily routine of packing school lunches, sitting in the pick-up line, checking folders for notes and following up on homework. It chafes, a constant friction between what feels most right to me versus what I’m actually doing. I know I’m not the only parent negotiating both homeschooling and school, but I don’t see it talked about much. And so I write about it, to perhaps begin a conversation.

Making + Listening::15/2014

A return to the making and listening link up hosted by Jen… this past week I printed a horseshoe crab linocut I recently carved.

horseshoe crab lino print at amyhoodarts.com

We found some horseshoe crab sheds on the beach earlier this summer so we took them home and I drew them and drew them again and painted it and finally carved one. A bit of testing and refining, and these are the final prints, drying. I’m using soy-based permanent ink, so when it finally cures and sets, I’m going to experiment with adding watercolor to a few of these. It’s incredibly satisfying to see how I’m getting better with lino carving.

Beyond that, this week my kids and I returned to some of our favorite places–rock tide pools and the salt pond beach–one last time before the oldest and youngest began school today. We’ve listened to gulls and lapping water, birds and katydids (they’re so loud at night!), shrieks of fun and splashing kids. I miss it already.