‘Fun of the Fair’ Pattern Review and Giveaway!

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Hi! I have been asked by the lovely folks over at Stitch Craft Create to be part of the blog hop for Melanie McNiece’s new pattern book. Melanie is the lady behind Melly and Me – where she creates patterns and books for soft toys, quilts, and other sewn goodies. You can see instantly what a fun, colorful, happy brand she has created – and I sure do like all of those things…

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The first thing I noticed about the book was that it contains only five patterns, which might not seem like that many – but in those patterns are the basic shapes for so many animals. If you have even a bit of imagination, the pony could become a zebra or donkey, the lion becomes a cat, the seal (with a bit of thought) becomes a whale or fish. Or heck, you could keep it simple and just make the patterns. For anyone who wants to get into toy making there are a lot of good skills to learn here, like attaching legs through outside buttons on the pony, making them moveable. For the beginner, I would suggest trying these patterns in a fabric with a bit of stretch, like fleece. It is a little more forgiving and stuffs up in a lovely way. You don’t get the same impact that the patterned fabric gives here (and the choice for the book makes total sense, since Melanie also designs quilting cottons), but you might just like it! Also, from the photos I thought the animals were quite small, but don’t worry, they are a good, huggable size.

My first choice was to make the pattern for the seal, since I knew I had the perfect fabric for it. To make it my own, I used safety eyes, embroidered the nose (I always prefer an embroidered nose, I find it gives me so much more control over the final look), and left out the whiskers. I kept with the circus-y theme and gave wee seal a hat (because you know how I love to give animals hats!)…but a rainbow pom pom toque, cuz why not. The pattern was simple, explained well, and came together very easily. Here she is!

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The biggest compliment was from my daughter who said, ‘how did you get it to look so cute?’ Aw. Thanks. Well, she might have been fishing to see if she could keep it…

I am happy to say that once again I am able to give away a copy of this book to someone very lucky! This giveaway is open internationally and will close on October 13. Please leave a comment if you would like to be entered, Thanks!

Thanks again to Stitch Craft Create – You can see all of their lovely books here. Fun of the Fair is available in print or as an ebook.  Follow the blog hop to see what everyone else has created and loved about the book. Enjoy!

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This giveaway is now closed – the Fun of the Fair book winner is Buntyw. Thanks everyone for playing along!

work-life, and little moments

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In a corner edge of our yard is this amazing, natural little fort – made from layers of caragana and years of leaves. Though it doesn’t look like it, this is all contained by a large stone wall that separates our yard from a busy street – so in past summers I have asked the kids not to play here for fear that they would tumble over the wall. But they are bigger now and that place is so inviting for a kid, and I can’t really stop them. I used to carve out places like that from the bushes when I was little, so I get it.

Every once in a while I get to work, for real. My husband has a more flexible job, so when it’s not the height of a busy summer for him, we can do a bit more sharing of childcare. And because I am, for better or worse, used to being a mom at home with my kids, going out of the house and working for the day feels completely indulgent. And amazing. What I do at the studio does not feel like work – I love it a lot and feel very lucky for that. But being a mom this summer definitely felt like work, because kids are full time, in the craziest kinds of ways, and I felt like I rarely got to leave, or take a break from my ‘mom job.’

I always get a little upset reading advice to moms about savoring the moments with little kids. Because when being a mom is all I feel like I’m doing, I cannot see those little moments – I am just dying for a break from the hugeness of the responsibility. But in these times that I get to work, get to surround myself with something else, with quiet, accomplishing my own creative tasks, well then I can come home and we are happy to see each other, willing to listen to news from school or really see his face in the bathtub. And I get to have those moments. Briefly. Finally.

So this morning, just after the bigger one was sent off on the school bus, and just before we got out of our pajamas, I went into this magical little tree fort with him. Just for a minute I sat down and watched, because I knew that soon we would each be having our own Tuesday mornings.

Balance, oh sweet balance, I’m always working on it.

A Creative Assignment From Elsie Marley

For years I have occasionally popped in on Meg’s blog Elsie Marley – there is a lot of great, real stuff happening over there. I think Meg is one of the most honest bloggers I have come across, posting the hits and the misses, and the not so glamorous truth about making (especially with kids around).

Every once in a while there is a creative assignment on Elsie Marley – the most recent was a Twofer, in which participants each gave a word and everyone was matched randomly with two of those words. I got Alligator + Sea, and with the short time line to make something out of those two words, yesterday I came up with this guy…

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Let’s call him Crispy. Just workin’ his vintage-nautical inspired maillot de bain…

I could have made anything with this assignment, but honestly, I am in crazy doll making mode right now preparing for upcoming fall sales. When things are busy for me, this is where all my creative energy goes. I briefly thought about making pickles, because pickles to me kind of look like alligator tails, but I don’t even like pickles…

I’ve been working on a few smaller dolls to give myself something new, and I have only made one other crocodile/alligator creature years ago – so even though the words seemed somewhat related, this was a good challenge after all. I had to really think about how I wanted the head shaped and that bumpy tail. I wanted him to be a jaunty sailor, but the hat turned out a little more like a strange tam, which was just big enough to tip over his one freaky eye! (these reptile eyes are new to me, super freaky) It’s always good to get out of a production head space, and back into a creative one.

Thanks for the challenge Meg!

Simple Homemade Yogurt

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Now, this isn’t a food blog. Obviously. But I love yogurt, like almost as much as I love tiny plush animals. I wanted to share this recipe/tutorial that was given to me by my sister in law this summer – I had forgotten all about making yogurt until we stayed with them on our holidays. I used to make a more complicated recipe and after it failed a few times in a row I gave up. But we eat a lot of yogurt and just the amount of plastic containers accumulating was getting to me. The recipe is from Kitchen Stewardship (tutorial in the link), though it is likely a well known method for making yogurt that you could find other places. Here is the condensed version, to make it seem as easy as it is:

:: choose jars to use and sterilize them (I use jars from Adams Peanut Butter because they are big!)

:: put milk in the jars and set them into a large pot of water, bring it to boiling. Sterilize a candy thermometer and put it in one of the jars. The temperature should reach 185 degrees

:: take the jars out and leave them cool on the counter for about 1.5 hours. The temperature should drop until it is between 100-110 degrees. When it gets there, gently stir in your starter yogurt, 2-3 Tbsp per jar

:: put lids on the jars and set them in an insulated cooler. I fill it partway with warm water instead of the towel method. Wait about 6-8 hours, then take out and put in the fridge. The end. Once it’s cool, stir it up and eat!

I love doing this when I have other things in the kitchen on the go. Like making bread, it actually involves very little effort, but it’s over the better part of a day. Also, I know that it is good to use fresh starter yogurt every once in a while, but I have had continued success using the last bit of yogurt from my previous batch. Try it!

A Week (or two) In Photos

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From top to bottom, it’s been a wonderful two weeks…

Our friends got married in the most beautiful way, with the most cakes I’ve ever seen, and the best best dancing of all :: I’ve had the pleasure of photographing several beautiful ladies recently – I truly believe that everyone should have lovely photos of themselves (that are not selfies…) :: our grapes slowly turn from sour to sweet, so many are hiding in that vine :: last of the summer yard and evenings spent playing chase :: and finally, our biggest went to school. All day every day. And even our littlest went to school, just not so often. It’s a good change :: I just love love fall

Inspiring People: Mandarinas de Tela

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I am loving these art dolls (called Mandarinas) made by Isabel Margarita, a painter and textile artist living in Chile. It’s always so nice to see dolls as works in progress (she shows many on her facebook page), and she describes her process in a way that makes it seem so simple when the result is anything but. Once again, it’s all about the little details at the end – the painting of the faces, the little sequins (Bowie!), the laced shoes. Isabel creates a lot of likeness dolls of celebrity artists, musicians, and characters from film, but just as many are from her imagination – it’s such a good mix and a beautiful aesthetic. Thank you Isabel, for letting me share these. Check out her blog, shop, and instagram (what a gorgeous feed!) too!

A Custom Greyhound

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Dogs make up a large percent of the custom work I do – it would seem that people really love their dogs. But we all know this already. This one ended up somehow being quite special – the parents of this dog no longer own her, but they did want to remember her, and had this doll made as a gift to their little boy. With no pets of my own (I know, kind of shocking), I love reading the descriptions of their animals that people send me – the littlest things can help me get an idea of what they were like. In this case, this sweet former racing dog got a racing bib with her name embroidered, her old collar made to fit, and a little outfit, which in the end kind of reminded me of a track warm up suit. Kind of fitting. I hope this doll gets to hang around for a long time as a happy reminder.