Cock-a-doodle-TWO!

We had a wonderful time celebrating Jax’s second birthday at Muscoot Farm. Over a dozen other kids along with their parents joined in the fun. Since my talented sister, Monica, was in town, as well as my mom, the baker extraordinaire, we went a little crazy with the crafts and decor. Some people go to the gym or watch movies. Us? we stay up until midnight gluing felt to make a farm scene and devising ways of creating frosting of varying shades of brown “dirt.” Poor Jax.

Here are the craftastic highlights!

The invitation (created in minutes on kodakgallery.com using a July 4th template):

First, we had a craft table set up where the kids glued fuzzy balls of various colors to sheep silhouettes cut out of cereal boxes. We also had paper glasses to embellish with feathers.

Then it was time for the pre-lunch hayride!

We kept lunch simple by ordering party heros from the local Italian deli. Twelve feet of sandwich, three feet each of four kinds. Even 40 people couldn’t get through half of the sandwich slices. Now we know.

{Sources: animal plates, recycled plastic plates, wooden silverware, recycled napkins}

The cake:

Yes, there is a huge problem of scale here. Where you see the little tractor was supposed to be a wooden “2” in place of a candle. I forgot the number and we had to improvise. Cake Wrecks here we come!

We tried to have many activity options for all the kids. In addition to the craft table, I made a farm scene out of felt, with removable animals the kids could rearrange.

Of course, we also had a mini farmer’s market. It turned out to be a hit with the kids to grab a market bag and “shop”:

I made the canvas market bags out of a drop-cloth I bought at the hardware store and some ribbon from the craft store. I made 16 in all, but with one drop cloth probably could have made another 16. They are really, really easy to make using these instructions. The most time-consuming part was attaching the handles, and I think that was because I went overboard reinforcing them. I would estimate they took about 8-10 minutes each.

Inside each favor bag was a little wooden tractor from Etsy seller TnTWoods, which is based in Wisconsin and wonderful to work with (we created a custom order of 16 toy tractors.)

Highlights from the festivities:

…and a very happy birthday boy!

Flower Hair Clip Giveaway Winners

We have our winners!

Commenter #12, Mary, who thought “Carnival” would look cute on her granddaughter.

Commenter #10, Sara, who had many favorites, but particularly liked the country-looking flower prints that would match her wardrobe.

Commenter #3, Lucia, whose daughter has strawberry-themed outfits to match “Petite Fraise.”

I know I said there’d be three winners, but taking the above clips out of the pile still left me with more than I can use at the moment, so I doubled the fun and picked three more:

Commenter #4, Stacy, whose daughter will wear “La Vie en Rose Encore” for the 4th of July

Commenter #7, Emily, who picked one of my personal favorites, “Deauville” inspired by the beaches and umbrellas of that French city.

Commenter #5, Alyson, whose vintage style will soon be accessorized by “Vintage Floral” and “Belle Epoque.”

I’ll e-mail you for your mailing addresses. If you don’t hear from me before seeing this post, feel free to e-mail me at rachel (at) craftyrachel.com.

But wait! There’s more! Winners, let me know if you like any of the following new styles instead and I’m happy to send your new choice instead of the original one.

#11 + #12: Just Beachy, Big and Small

#13 + #14: Fête d’été, Big and Small

#15: Golden Girls

#16: Georgia

Thanks to all who commented. I appreciate the feedback! Happy weekend.

DIY Yo-yo Flower Hair Clips

Sometimes I dream of making a whole blanket out of fabric yo-yos. The technique is so quick and easy and it can make even old scraps of cothing look cute and cheerful. The reality is that it would take hundreds of yo-yos to make such a thing, and knowing myself, I’d loseWeight Exercise steam after barely finishing a quarter of them.

These flower clips are a great way to use yo-yos with almost instant gratification. You can make them out of any fabric you can hand-sew a needle through, and it’s a great way to use up scraps and random buttons you have laying around.

The variations are endless: you can layer several yo-yos of varying sizes, or just keep it simple and use only one. Instead of a clip, they could be made into pins or attached to headbands or off-center on the neckline of a boring blouse. I think they would be great gifts for a young girl, especially in the summer.

I’ve photographed the process and tried to create an easy explanation of how to make these. Let me know if you need any further clarification, and do share if you’ve tried it yourself!

DIY Yo-yo Flower Hair Clips

Step 1: Cut out your circles. You’ll need two different sizes for this version. I used a CD and the lid of a food container. I cut out a bunch of each size and play around with the fabric combinations once I have several.

Step 2: Make your yo-yos. Heather Bailey has an excellent tutorial for this.

Psst: you don’t even need to iron the fabric first!

Pull….

Tie a knot to secure shut.

Step 3: Repeat to create a smaller yo-yo. When you pull the smaller one tight, make a knot but do not cut the thread. Using the thread, attach a button to the center of the yo-yo. I used this little strawberry one, which makes it look more sweet and child-like. A much larger button has a more funky effect. After attaching the button, make a knot in the back of the yo-yo, but still do not cut the thread.

Step 4: Attach the smaller yo-yo to the larger one by sewing into the middle of the larger yo-yo.

You now have two needles and to threads coming out of the back of the larger yo-yo.

Step 5: Tie the two threads together several times to secure. Cut one of the threads now (I did this a little out of order in the photos, which is why the second thread still appears in the 2 following photos.)

Step 6: Take a clip and lay it on top of the back of the yo-yo.

Step 6: Attach the clip to the yo-yo in three places on the clip, beginning in the middle. Cut the thread after securing each spot and re-knot it to begin the next. Technique:

First stick the needle into the yo-yo, under the bottom of the clip. Stick it back out just below the top part of the clip (photo above). Pull tight.

Now stick the needle into the top of the top part of the clip and stick it out on the top border of the bottom part of the clip (photo above).

Repeat until you’ve secured both the top and the bottom about three times.

Voila! Wear in a variety of ways, to accent a messy bun (like the photo at the beginning of this post), or just clip to one side to keep whispy hair out of your eyes. You can’t go wrong and you’ll feel instantly accessorized.

New Bedroom Hideout: Kura Bed Into Fort

Jax got a new bed last weekend and after a quick sewing project, it is now also a secret hide-out!


Ingredients:


Bed: IKEA Kura
We weren’t fans of the blue, so we built it with the white side of the boards showing.

Fabric: IKEA Vitaminer Rand, 100% cotton

Curtains are attached to the bed with Velcro Décor Tape

Basic Construction:

1. First I hemmed the bottom of the entire piece of fabric I used. This helps insure that the stripes will line up, since the bottom seam will be identical on all curtains made from the fabric piece. Next, I held the fabric up to the bed and decided where I’d like it to hang, and marked what would be the top of the fort curtains. Adding 2 inches for the top seam allowance, I cut the whole strip of the fabric so it was even in height.

2. I measured the length of the bed (75 inches), divided by 2 (37.5 inches) and added a 1/2-inch seam allowance for each side, which meant I needed two panels 38.5 inches wide. I measured and cut two such panels from my hemmed piece and sewed the side seams. Ironing before pinning and sewing makes this process go smoothly.

3. I sewed a 1-inch seam into the top of the piece (the red band in the photo below) and then pinned a strip of velcro (the soft side) along the entire top seam on the right side of the curtain. I sewed the Velcro to the fabric along each edge of the Velcro, including vertically at the ends (picture one big, long, rectangular seam on top of the Velcro).

4. After wiping down the wood, I attached the self-adhesive side of the Velcro in a strip onto the inside of the bed frame.

5. Voilà, the two curtains attached to the bed using the Velcro strips. I somehow ended up a couple inches short (I say 1/2-inch seam allowances and then don’t actually measure) but I find it doesn’t matter at all. You can play around with the curtain placement and keep them open by stuffing the corners into a space you make with a finger in the Velcro (my method) or by wrapping it around the top frame a few times (which looks more like a valance).

In action!

6. Finally, I feel compelled to note that the top of the bed is completely open and we remove the curtains entirely at bedtime. Jax is a pretty calm sleeper, but you never know if there could be some sort of entanglement risk at just 19 months…

The beauty of this project is that it is inexpensive, easy, quick, and open to interpretation. You could add appliqué elements to make it look like a castle or a fruit stand, change striped curtains for starry blue ones, or get the child involved in making it into any kind of structure he imagines. My sister even had the idea of suspending several yards of fabric from the ceiling and around a hoola hoop, to make it into a circus tent. As time goes on, we are sure to play around with some other ideas for Jax’s bed. In the mean time, we’ll be playing in our new striped fort.

Poisson d’avril!

I love that in France the fish is the symbol of April Fool’s day. Back in high school my French teacher went all out (as she did every day, for that matter), sneakily taping a paper fish to someone’s back and seeing if they caught it before class was over. During our time living in France, I noticed that a lot of the Easter/spring candies were in the shape of fish in addition to eggs and bells. I wonder if the symbols all became associated with Easter, or if the fish takes on new meaning for the Christian holiday (fish on Friday during Lent perhaps?). In any case, I have fully embraced the fish as our springtime emblem.

With fusible interfacing and an iron, it took me about 5 minutes to enbellish this shirt last night. I was going to zigzag stitch around the borders of each fish, but I’ve got job applications to write and a chapter to finish, so this will do for now!

Pause for quick photo…and…he’s off!

Because Jax loves fish and all things water, I thought I’d perfect my recycled crayons method using an ice cube mold we picked up at IKEA. Now, the tray said “for water only” but I thought it would still work well for crayon melting since the oven is only set to “warm” for this project. I had tried this with a heart mold for Valentine’s day but neglected to grease the mold first, so I thought that would solve my problems this time.

The greased mold with broken crayon bits

After 10 minutes, they started to melt, but I soon noticed the bowing of the tray was going to pose a problem…

Some spillage, but using the potholders to weigh down the sides, I straightened out the mold and let the crayons cool and harden this way.

And then the removal: disaster as I carefully popped the fish out. Only two fish survived with tails (out of twelve).

The mold didn’t fare any better with the greasing, either. Oh well. We can always remelt and try again with a different mold. In the mean time, we still have some fun multi-colored ovals to color with!

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Scrappy Flower Tag Toy

Here’s a new take on the tag toys I’ve been churning out: a sensory experience in the form of a patchwork flower.

I guarantee you have enough stuff laying around to make one of these: The petals are made out of scraps from other projects and old clothes. Even if you don’t have many scraps on hand, you could use a felted wool sweater, an outmoded pair of corduroy pants, a torn camisole, a stained tea towel, a pillowcase who’s lost his match… you get the idea.

You just cut out the petals free-form and sew as you would a pillow, with right sides together (I didn’t even pin anything). Turn inside out, sew once on the outside to close the hole, and attach to two circular pieces (made in the same way as the petals) with a big round of stitches on top. I made the circular pieces in the same way as a tag toy, attaching the ribbon pieces so that they come out of the seam in the circle.

The coolest innovation for this project was the idea of using not only different textures of fabric, but filling them with different materials as well. Two of the petals are filled with those clear window plastic things you get on envelopes from your telephone/cable/electric bills. Just cut out the middle of the “window” and stuff inside a petal or two. It gives the petal that crunchy sound many baby toys have. I also made a couple of them extra thick with fleece.

I made sure each side had a variety of colors, too. This is side one, with a red houndstooth fleece center, and that pink petal is satin.

Side two has a center cut from a pair of jeans I don’t wear anymore. I used a sewing machine to keep it all together, and didn’t mind the scrappy look of sewing on top. If you want to have a more neat finished product, embroider all the parts together with pretty thread and a more steady hand.

It’s a floppy toy, just like the tag blankets, but I could see doing a stuffed version as well, maybe with a stuffed center or a few stuffed petals, too. It was fun just experimenting with it all and not worrying too much about matching things perfectly or lining it all up symmetrically.

Yesterday I sent this off to my sister Monica, who is due with my nephew tomorrow. Hope he’ll come out soon to start exploring the many colors and textures of the world outside the womb!

Recent Projects

The biggest accomplishment of the past weeks has been finishing the draft of my third chapter (only one more to go!), but I also found some time for a couple of craft breaks.

Remember that vintage sweater I framed last year? Since Jax has actually been wearing the thing, I thought it was time for a nursery decor overhaul. I have this lovely quilted doll blanket my Aunt Marge Ann made for me when I was little, and I’ve finally found the perfect use for it:

The new and improved reading corner: framed doll blanket hanging over the dog-bed-turned cozy corner. The alligator pillow is a TJ Maxx find (and Jax fell in love with the animal in Florida ?? “adiddle” he calls them), and the green velvet one is something I made and thought would add interesting texture. The big white pillow is a fuzzy quilted floor pillow.

I then took an idea from Purl Soho that I’ve been harboring for over two years and added some colorful interest to another blank wall:

Once I blogged about the DIY ribbon tag toys I was making, my friend Cecilia requested a couple – one for herself and one for a friend:

{That little donkey print gets around!}

Here are some in-progress pictures:

I also finished a knit bonnet ?? my first time trying this pattern and this yarn (big fan of both) ?? and sent it off to baby Tegan out in California.

Here’s a tip for gifting your yarn work: make a tag the same size as the yarn label and tie them together to the gift. That way, all the info about material content and washing instructions is all there.

Finally, for a totally random travel idea from the daughter of two scientists, you can make toddler snack packs with little test tubes. {Don’t worry, these were never used in any experiments!} My mom gave me a ton of these to organize craft supplies, but they worked wonders during our trip: not only are you only dealing with one serving of snacks at a time, but the twist-off cap can become an intriguing toy for the toddler.

O’s cereal, Cheddar crackers, and Dried Cranberries, ready for take-off

Similarly, if you need special laundry detergent on the go (if you are using cloth diapers or if your tot has sensitive skin), the tubes work well for that, too:

Just don’t try to get these guys through security…Who knows what they’ll think.

And voilà, my list of recent crafty randomness.

DIY Baby “Taggie” Blanket

I’ve been having fun using up scraps of material and ribbon pieces I’ve collected to make Taggie-like baby toys for friends’ babies. If you haven’t seen one before, check out the professional version here. If you have a sewing machine and can stitch a straight line with it, try making one yourself. I’ve made a couple of small versions as well as receiving-blanket-sized ones for twins born in November.

The tutorial is here.

My creations:

This donkey-covered mini blanket was for friends Meg and Steve’s baby. The fabric is from our old neighborhood haunt, Purl Soho. They’ll let you buy as little as 1/4 yard, which is enough to make three sides of a mini tag blanket {so go ahead and splurge on the fancy designer prints}. Check out the donkey one here.

I like to use at least one side of fleece to create an interesting textural experience, as well as give the blanket some Lose Weight Exercise. The back:

I made an almost identical one for Amanda and Jonathan’s baby, only I used a squirrel fabric for the front. I don’t think I have a picture, but here’s the fabric swatch:

Check it out here.

The baby blankets I made for the twins had fleece on both sides:

My biggest tip is to use a variety of widths, lengths, and textures for the ribbon “tags.” So many versions I’ve seen are matchy-matchy and use a lot of pastel colors. In my experience with babies and toddlers, the more contrast the better. Once you start saving ribbons from various places (handles from fancy shopping bags, packaging for household goods, gifts, trim from old clothes) you’ll be sure to have an interesting mix of colors and textures that will hold a baby’s interest. I use satin, velvet, lace, ridged, and sheer ribbons ?? whatever I have on hand!

Give it a try and let me know if you have one to show off!

Hand-made quilt from Arthur & Janene

I blogged about this a while ago, but I’ve finally got more pictures to share. Our wonderful friend Janene made this beautiful quilt by hand! It was such a wonderful surprise. She knows how much I love a hand-made gift, and I hope she knows how much we appreciate the time she took to create such a special heirloom. The colors are bold and fun and such a happy mix of oranges and reds that we love. Jax loves to play on it and tug at the stripes.

quilt2

quilt1

quilt4

Look at that edge! I love how the border is pieced together to match the big stripe.

quilt3

Janene even used organic cotton batting for this blanket. So thoughtful.

Action Shots:

jaxquilt

jaxquilt1
Grabbing for the stripes…He usually tries to pick them up.

jaxquilt2

jaxquilt3

Thank you so much, Arthur and Janene! I will finally get your thank-you card to you once this semester is over. My tardiness doesn’t at all reflect how much we’re enjoying the blanket!