Sunday, December 31, 2006

Free pointer - keeping a toddler out of your yarn

Now that my daughter is old enough to be into everything, one of her favorite games is "let's turn Mama's yarn balls into a tangled mess." Since this can happen in approximately 1/25th of a second (how does she do that?) and it usually takes me at least an hour to untangle the yarn afterward, I've had to come up with some strategies to head her off before she gets into trouble.

Most recently, I took some leftover styrofoam craft balls - you know, the ones you paint to make into planets for a science fair display - and some of my smallest balls of leftover yarn. I used a gluegun to glue the yarn to the ball, wrapping and glueing liberally at the beginning. I wrapped until the whole foam ball was covered and it looked vaguely like one of my real yarn balls, then I left the last few feet of yarn unglued so my daughter would have something to play with.

Whenever she makes a beeline for my yarn drawer, I remind her that those are MY balls, and she has her own yarn in her sewing box. As long as I don't trot them out too frequently, these keep her busy for at least 10 minutes or so. That's long enough to crochet a few inches, at least!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Skirt: accomplished!

I finally finished the "Violet Beauregard" skirt from the Happy Hooker Stitch n Bitch crochet book ... you know, the one I was going to whip up over Thanksgiving?

It's in shades of blue, mainly because that's all they had at Michael's crafts when I stopped by, but I'm happy with how it turned out. I even have enough yarn left that I can make a (relatively skimpy) top to go with it. Next up? A granny square beanie for my baby :)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A merry Crafting to all ...

Things have been buzzing around here since my parents arrived to celebrate the holidays with us. Mom arrived with a pattern and bag of notions in hand, ready to work on a "dress up" doll for my daughter - you know, the ones with zippers and snaps and velcro and all that good stuff. It's supposed to be a Christmas present, but due to some unplanned sewing machine maintenance (and procrastination), it's what we've spent pretty much every free moment on since she got here.
So here's the view I've had of my mother this holiday:

And here's how far we had gotten as of my daughter's bedtime last night:

They're still mostly naked (except for the fiendishly difficult but really cute shoes), and in need of haircuts and hats, so we've got a ways to go.

And here's how we kept my daughter entertained for part of the time we've been sewing:

In case you were wondering, that's remnants of yarn, hot-glued to styrofoam craft balls so that it looks like a ball of yarn but will only unwind about two or three feet. Much preferable to her playing with real yarn balls (and getting them all tangled and forcing me to untangle them while cursing like a dockworker).

I'll be spending the next day and a half sewing clothes for the dolls ... yes, dollS, because my mother decided that making two was just as easy as one, so we might as well make an extra for the daughter of the infamous Sybil (who gave me the handprint tracing idea). We'll also be baking cookies, making a big Christmas Eve dinner, and delivering crocheted Christmas ornaments to the neighbors.

I wish all of you a very merry, and very crafty, Christmas (or winter holiday of your choice)!

- Lazy Mama

Monday, December 18, 2006

Not getting much done around here

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't posted a whole lot to the shop or this blog over the past few weeks. Between getting ready for my daughter's playgroup Christmas party, trying to get over an illness, and trying to finish holiday preparations, most of my free time has been spent on the couch, "resting my eyes," as my father would say.

Oh, I've been getting some crafts done for myself - I'm 3/4 of the way through the Violet Beauregard skirt from the Stitch 'n Bitch crochet book, and I've started and completely frogged at least two hats in the past two weeks. And, as I mentioned in a previous post, I've started working on some clothes for my daughter. The cursing hasn't gotten too bad on those yet, although I've yet to attempt the one that requires setting in gathered sleeves. I think I'll ask my husband to take my daughter out for the morning the day I try that step :)

But I thought I'd drop by and say hi, and post proof that apparently the crafty gene can be passed from mother to daughter:

That's my girl, playing with yarn scraps and wooden spools, after having attempted (unsuccessfully) to eat a handful of 3/8" jingle bells that I was trying to thread onto pipe cleaners to make jinglers for her. Nothing like a handful of 4" long pieces of yarn to keep this kid busy for, oh, 10 or 15 minutes.

That wooden sewing box has all of her "safe" toys for in my sewing room ... we're trying to teach her that she can play with her sewing toys, but anything on my table is off limits. Now that she's got arms like an orangutan, that's more important than ever. I am convinced we're still going to make an emergency room visit to fish swallowed pins out of her gullet, no matter how well I hide them. Oh, well - by the time I was her age, I had already broken my leg twice, so I guess a few swallowed sewing notions probably aren't any worse.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Free pointer - copying patterns the easy way

I decided the other day that my daughter is finally old enough that I can make her some clothes and finish them before she outgrows them. So I bought way too many kid-clothes patterns ... and she's in the smallest size of each of them. If it turns out that I like the way the clothes turn out, it would be nice to be able to make them in larger sizes as my daughter gets older. But as you probably know, if you cut out the tissue paper pattern for a small size, it's hard to readjust it for a larger size.

So before I started to make any of the patterns, I roughly cut out the pieces, then put them on top of a piece of kraft paper that was laying on the dense-pile carpet in my sewing room. While holding down the tissue paper, I used a transfer wheel (is that the right word? It's that little wheel on a handle that has pointy spikes, which you use with transfer paper to mark things on fabric when you're cutting out patterns) to trace around the size I wanted to make. Because the kraft paper was on a slightly yielding surface, the transfer wheel perforated through the tissue paper and kraft paper, but it didn't tear either one.

After I transfered all of the cutting lines and tailor's marks to the kraft paper, I was able to carefully punch out the pattern pieces, leaving the tissue paper intact for future projects. I made sure to write the pattern number, piece number, and any cutting instructions on each piece, just in case they get separated in the future and I have to sort them out again.

There are actually several benefits to using kraft paper for the pattern pieces. For example, the kraft paper patterns are much sturdier than tissue paper, so when my daughter grabs them off the cutting table, I don't freak out. And when the cat lays on them, they aren't ruined. And when I'm done cutting out the fabric pieces, I can roll the patterns up in a tube, put a rubber band around it, and slide it into the pattern envelope. Sure, it sticks out the top, but at least it's all together and ready to use if I decide to make the clothes in that size again.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

As promised, a project to use those handprints you made

Here's the long-awaited project I mentioned that will give new life to all those handprints you traced based on my post a few days ago ...
Christmas Handprint Ornaments

What you'll need:

  • one 8 1/2"x11" piece of red felt for the pillow
  • one 8 1/2"x11" piece of purple felt for the handprint
  • about 6" of 1/4" (or narrower) red ribbon for the hanger
  • red embroidery floss
  • green embroidery floss
  • A good-sized handful of polyester stuffing

What to do:

  1. Cut out the pillow pieces - two squares the same size, each at least 3/8" wider than your handprint all the way around. For reference, last year's pillow was 4" square; this year's is about 4 1/2" square.

  2. Cut out the handprint - I usually just pin the handprint to the felt and cut around the outside of it.

  3. Use the red thread to sew the handprint to the front of one of the pillow pieces. Keep in mind that there is a "front" side to most felt - the back side often has noticeable pockmarks in it from the manufacturing process. Make sure you put the handprint right-side out on the right side of the pillow. I used a fairly large whip stitch to sew the hand on because I like the look of it; you could also use a blanket stitch, or very small stitches in a purple thread so it would be invisible on the finished pillow.

  4. Use the red thread to embroider an inscription on the hand. In our case, we only have one kid, so I've just been putting on the year. If you're making these for several kids, you might want to add initials or the child's first name. I generally do this freehand because I haven't found a way to mark this finely on dark felt. That's why my years always look lopsided, er, "primative."

  5. Use the red thread to attach the ribbon to the "wrong" side of the back of the pillow (you'll be sewing the ribbon on the ugly side so that the nice side will show in the finished pillow). To sew the ribbon on, cross the ends at a 90-degree angle, overlapping the ends a little on either side of the crossover. Lay the crossed ribbon so that the overlapped ends are parallel to two sides of one corner of the pillow back, and about 1/4" or more in from the edges. Sew in place using a fine running stitch, going from one raw edge up to the crossover and back down to the other raw edge (in sort of a V shape). Or, you could just use a hot glue gun ... just make sure that it's attached MORE than 1/4" inside the edge of the pillow, so the ends will be covered up when we sew the pillow together.

  6. Use the green thread to sew the front of the pillow to the back, wrong sides together and edges lined up exactly. I used a fairly long running stitch, again because I like how it looks (and it's really quick). If you'd rather do a blanket stitch around the edge of the pillow, or an invisible stitch, go for it. Just make sure you leave enough of the seam unsewn so that you can get the stuffing in.

  7. Stuff the pillow, making sure you push the filling into the corners as best you can. Don't stuff it too full, though, or the stuffing will be visible in the gaps of your running stitch.

  8. Finish sewing the pillow shut with the green thread, continuing in whatever stitch you used in step 6.

I think this took me about 2 hours to complete, and that was working on it in bits and pieces while I had the stomach flu. Might take a little longer if you're not familiar with handsewing; might take less time if you use a glue gun for some of the parts.

Other ways you could use these:

  • Hang them on their own special tree or garland

  • String all of them together once the child is grown and use that as the garland for a tree or mantle (or give it to the child to decorate their own home)

  • Use them as placecards for Christmas dinner

  • Make them in less Christmassy colors and use them as sentimental decorations throughout the year

  • Help a child make one for mom, adding some potpouri or a spritz of perfume when putting in the stuffing

  • Pincushion

Monday, December 04, 2006

New items in the shop

I've been a crocheting machine the last few weeks, so there's a new scarf and two new hats up for sale in the shop. Check them out if you've got time (and about $10 to spend on handmade Christmas gifts!).

One thing you won't find in my shop (because it's loosely based on another seller's pattern, and I'm awaiting permission from her to sell them) is my fully clothed bunny amigurumi toys. They're croched from leftover yarn I took with me over Thanksgiving, and I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. I really like the overalls on the one bunny, and I like how the cotton yarn I used on the girl bunny worked up. Take a look:

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The cross stitch project from heck

I love to cross stitch, but somehow I always end up picking projects that are so intricately shaded that you go blind trying to differentiate between 14 different shades of peach for the skin tones. Every time this happens, I vow that I will examine all future projects for this problem and refuse to buy any that require more than two different shades of any one color.

Should have thought of that before I bought the advent calendar project four or five years ago. It's been sitting in the back of my craft closet for years, waiting until I was dumb enough ... er, motivated to start working on it. When my daughter was born last year, I finally decided it was time to start. Round about Halloween I finally had time to work on it.

By Thanksgiving 2005 I had determined that, if I didn't go insane first, I might be able to finish by Christmas 2006, if I put some effort into it and ditched all of my other stitching projects. That worked for a while, and then summer came and I was fed up with stitching trees and snow and fuzzy bunny slippers.

I had to put production into high gear this fall to finish in time, but by god, I made it. Sure, I was stitching the last four day markers last week at my in-laws' house ("Honey, isn't that the same thing you were working on last year?" "Um, yeah. I think I need more chocolate."), and they're in the box we shipped back that got waylaid by the postal service and won't be here in time for the start of Advent tomorrow. But at least I've got until the 21st before I need them, and the rest turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself:

Every one of those stupid rabbits is made of four colors of brown, and the mother's skirt? Something like six shades of pink. Gahhh.

Ahem. Anyway, I upgraded the original finishing instructions to stabilize the work on a piece of felted wool, and I used velcro instead of spray sticky stuff to adhere the markers to the days. That saggy part on the bottom is a pocket I made to hold the day markers, which are all inside and making it look a little funny right now.

So now we're ready for tomorrow morning, when my bright-eyed little girl will probably smear peanut butter all over the stitching. If so, she's totally getting a pasteboard one next year :)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tip - getting accurate hand tracings of squirmy kids

If you've ever tried to get a toddler to hold still long enough to trace around their hand for a craft project, you know it's like trying to herd cats. Here's a pointer from my friend Sybil, who has plenty of experience overcoming this problem - each year she makes Christmas ornaments in the shape of her (3) kids' hands.

Instead of trying to hold the hand still and trace around it (which gives you sort of a bloated-looking hand, anyway), get the child's hand slightly wet and then make a handprint on dark colored construction paper. The water will leave a mark on the paper, which you can trace around while the child goes off and squirms somewhere else.

We tried this tonight while Liza was taking her bath, and I have a few extra pointers. First, less is more when it comes to the water. If the hand is too wet, it leaves a huge soggy handprint that is hard to trace around and is probably larger than the actual hand, anyway. And have several pieces of paper handy, especially if you're doing it as part of bathtime, because it takes a little practice to get the fingers positioned right before you press the hand down (and you're liable to rip the paper the first time you try to trace around the wet print).

If I have time, later this week I'll post a free pattern for making my version of the handprint Christmas ornaments, which takes considerably less time (and cursing) than Sybil's version. But I'm sure you can come up with your own variation, too. If so, why not post a link so all of us can see it?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Proof of the superiority of crochet

Working only during nights, weekends, and the occasional naptimes:
Number of weeks it took to knit a size 2T sweater for my daughter in a ridiculously easy design: 8

Number of days it took to crochet a size large sweater for myself: 4
Go, Happy Hooker book! Next up, the Violet Beauregard skirt from the same book. No good shots of that that I can find online - here's the best I can do. If a somewhat novice crocheter can make this in 10 days, I can totally whip it out over Thanksgiving, right?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sometimes procrastination pays off

I've been slacking off on my pattern development and etsy posting recently. I have good reasons why the two quilts I've developed are sitting unpatterned on a chair by my desk, gathering dust. There are some non-craft writing projects I've been developing, for one thing, and for another, I've been farting around with designing a new logo and banner for the redesigned etsy shop.

You can see some of those results here in the new color scheme, etc. I'm still trying to tweak it to display exactly the way I want, but at least it's not brown anymore.

One of the things I did this week was to make stationery with the logo on it - address labels, letterhead, business cards. In theory this should be a 10-minute project, but of course I managed to drag it out over the course of several naps and one really late night. I finished them up on Wednesday afternoon ... and Thursday I got my first sale on etsy.

Coincidence? I think not.

So when I shipped out the packages on Thursday afternoon, they sported Lazy Mama stickers, included Lazy Mama business cards, and I even managed to grab some of the slightly-less-than-full-0n-Christmasy tissue paper we have to wrap one of the items. I think I need to make keychains, or come up with some sort of small "thank you" to include with shipments, since some of the other etsy folks seem to do that. Maybe a tiny Lazy Mama quilt keychain? I guess I'd need to find a supplier for those split-ring keyrings, but that shouldn't be too difficult.

Oh, and in case you missed it, I'll write it again ... I got my first sale on etsy this week!!!!!!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Even my friends have mad skillz

Part of my birthday present from our good friends and former next-door neighbors up in Cleveland. I believe this is the batch that was made using apples stolen (yes, Matt, it's called stealing when you don't ask permission, even if you tried and the person wasn't home) from the tree in what used to be our backyard. I'm halfway afraid to try it ... but not as afraid as I am of the plum wine he's making using fruit from the ornamental plum trees on the treelawns in their development.

Sweater: accomplished!

Since I've started working on my writing and craft business, I've been pretty good about setting aside my time in the evenings to work on projects that aren't for sale. Sometimes it's hard to walk away from a quilt that needs an hour of work to be finished, but I don't want to turn into one of those people who only makes things to sell, never for her own family.
I, Lazy Mama, have knit an entire sweater! Okay, it's a size 2T, but STILL. This is the one I started when we got home from our vacation in September, so I managed to complete it in about a month and a half of not-quite-every-evening work. Bet you want to see it, huh?
Next up on the While Watching Netflix Movies lineup? Finish a Christmas present I need to have done by Tuesday, and work on some projects out of the Happy Hooker book. And crochet another sweater for Liza. And a few for myself (one of those skull and crossbones sweaters from the Happy Hooker is TOTALLY on my list).

Online children's story time

I haven't checked out the parts for older kids, but the toddler section is neat. It's got stories, games and crafts for about two dozen different themes, all simple enough that a toddler could do them with adult help. Check it out!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tagline development

In case anyone out there is actually reading this, I need your opinion on designing my logo and store banner.

I'm considering two possible slogans . The safe one is "Keeping crafty moms sane, one project at a time." The somewhat edgy one is, "Put down that baby and sew something!"

I'm guessing that since my logo is kind of benign (thanks to the free clipart from Word), I should stick with the safe slogan. If anyone has any better ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Maybe I can make up some mailing labels that have the snarky slogan on them.

Bonus project - Cards by kids

With Christmas card making season almost upon us, I thought I'd share my idea for making quick and easy cards with kids, even ones who are too young to give a darn about crafts. The instructions here are for a pretty low-budget, basic card, but you'll see how it's possible to really glam this up if you have older, craftier kids.

Materials for each card: one sheet of construction paper, two or three pieces of clear Contact paper (each about 6" wide and no more than 8" long), and things to stick to the Contact paper (sequins, glitter, leaves, photos, stickers, pieces of colored paper, petals - pretty much anything that's pretty flat will work)
  1. Take a sheet of construction paper or printer paper (or fancy cardstock, whatever you have) and fold it in half so that you have a 8 1/2" x 5 1/2" rectangle.
  2. Cut a window in the front of the card. You don't want it to be too large, or there won't be any room left to write inside the card, because the inside of the card is going to show through the window.

  3. Cut two pieces of contact paper so that each is at least 1" wider and 1" taller than the window you just cut in the card.

  4. Open the card up and lay it on your work surface so that the outside of the card is facing up.

  5. Now arrange your decorations in the window of the card. You may want to save a few decorations to stick to the inside of the card later on to give it a 3-D effect. Some of the decorations may be attracted to the Contact paper via static electricity as you're putting it on, so be try not to make the design too finicky, or you'll end up repositioning a lot of the decorations.

  6. With the decorations arranged in the window, peel the backing off of one piece of Contact paper and stick it to the front of the card so that it overlaps the window by about 1/2" on all sides. Press down on the decorations to stick them firmly to the Contact paper.

  7. Pull the card away from the table - hopefully the decorations should stick, while the table doesn't. Reposition any decorations that fell off.

  8. Now open the card to the inside and stick a second piece of Contact paper over the first, again overlapping the sides of the window.

  9. If you saved a few decorations, scatter them on the inside of the card and cover them with an additional piece of Contact paper.

  10. Write your message, and you're done!

This size of card is great for giving to people in person, but you may want to start with a smaller card size if you're planning to mail it. Otherwise, you can do what I did with this one - fold it in thirds and stick it in a business envelope :)

Monday, November 06, 2006

New in the shop

Just listed today:

Lazy Mama's Unusually Useful Receiving Blanket

Hand quilted wholecloth miniature wallhanging quilt:

Hydrangea and vintage handkerchief wallhanging quilt:

And one from a few weeks ago, Lazy Mama's Jack Pack:

Stop on by the shop, buy many things!

Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to Lazy Mama Speaks, your place to find out what's going on at Lazy Mama Designs. I've been posting a lot of new stuff at my etsy shop, and I thought it would be fun to share some information on my recent projects, as well as some sneak peaks at upcoming items for sale on my site.

This site is still under construction, and I'm trying out the new beta version of blogger, so bear with me while I get things under control. Until then, here's a brief refresher on who I am, what I'm doing, and why someone so busy calls herself "Lazy Mama."

Who is Lazy Mama?
I got suckered into quilting by the wily folks at a fabric store in Cleveland, Ohio, who could spot an easy mark when they saw one. A decade later, I still spend way too much money at fabric stores and way too much time in my sewing studio.

When my daughter was born a year and a half ago, I was afraid I was going to have to cut back on my projects. Instead I’ve developed ways to enjoy crafting on a scale and a schedule that fits my new-mommy status – I call it the Lazy Mama way!

I design projects that are practical but cute, that look impressive but go together quickly, that look professional but involve the bare minimum of fuss. These projects go together so quickly, you may find yourself making extras to give as gifts! I try to design projects that I can finish in the span of one or two of my daughter’s naps, or that I can finish in the tiny pieces of time I carve out for myself in the evenings before I collapse into bed.

By using these tidbits of time to do something I enjoy, I’ve found a way to keep up a hobby I love and maintain some sanity during my daughter’s childhood. And I'm finding inspiration in the products I can make for my daughter to wear and play with ... so look for more toys, patterns and baby items in the coming months.

I enjoy taking traditional craft designs and adding a modern twist with bold colors and non-traditional techniques. My goal is to make beautiful, functional art that makes the owner feel happy when they look at it. I hope it's working!