Sunday, February 27, 2011

a little knitting

We had a big (surprise) snowfall last night, and it might not last (there's rain in tomorrow's forecast), so my husband and littlest one are building a snowman while they can.

Meanwhile, I took the opportunity to get some pic's of recent knitting: mittens big and small, photographed in their natural habitat:

Both pairs are from one of my most well-worn knitting books -- not one of my vintage books (although I do have a nice collection!), but a reprint of an older book.  Interestingly, there is absolutely no bibliographic info provided, so exactly when this classic little book of nordic mittens, hats and ski socks was first published, I do not know.

I would gladly make new mitts for my older kids, but apparently teenagers generate enough warmth to go mitt-less, hat-less, and scarf-less all winter long.  Hmmmm....

Anyway, this apparently is the fate of the mitts when they have been outgrown:

I'm glad someone is using them!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

sometimes the simplest sewing projects bring the most joy

For me, any depiction of the red-hatted, blue-trousered gnome invokes  The Gnome Book, which was all the rage when I was about 12.  I recently made this pillow, stuffed with wool, for my littlest one:

It features a little surprise on the reverse:

and I would say that it has been very well received!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

sewing for potty training

I wonder if that title has ever been attached to a blog post....

Anyway, I have not been one to overlook the creative possibilities attached to each of my littlest one's developmental stages -- so in the past few months I took on the challenge of making things that could facilitate potty training.  Maybe some of my experiences can help another sewing-mama-of-a-toddler....

Miss F has been in a wonderful toddler Montessori program since September, where they ask that the kids wear straight-legged, elastic-waist pants (no dresses).  While I was sad to know that the little dresses I had made could not be worn to school, I happily started to sew loads of elastic-waist pants.  These make it really easy for Miss F to dress herself, and to (quickly! time is of the essence!) get stripped down for a trip to the potty or toilet.

I started with lightweight pants made of home dec and quilting cottons, like this pair:

As the weather turned colder, I made some pants from cotton interlock and polar fleece, and learned that a little contrast tab (sewn on the OUTSIDE...inside is too scratchy) can help a toddler to tell back from front:

Now that we're in deep winter, F is wearing flannel-lined pants -- and to make these lined pants toddler-friendly, you definitely want to treat the outer and inner fabrics as one unit, wrong sides together, sewing the pants as if these two layers are a single piece of fabric. This is easier than more conventional lining methods (in which you essentially make two versions of the pants and place one inside the other), and ensures that the lining doesn't "catch" on little toes and knees during un/dressing.  It makes a huge difference -- I take a little pride in knowing that my lined pants inspired a revision of the school policy against lined pants! -- and these pants are *really warm*!

A couple of examples: some aqua cords with an Anna Maria Horner Gold Folks flannel lining, and some little patch pockets:

and some jeans (from a $3 denim remnant at Fabricland) lined with polka-dot flannel and sporting Echino print pockets (my favourite pair!):

When it came time to do potty training in earnest -- during the cold month of January -- F's teacher asked that she wear leg warmers and "potty pants" during the day (to make trips to the potty even easier).  I won't bore anyone with pic's of the many pairs of legwarmers I whipped up (there are plenty of tutorials on easy kids' legwarmers made from women's knee socks...try them!  They're much more comfy on a 2-year-old than those super-tight BabyLegs).  But I did manage to sew some potty pants, using my stash of knit fabrics and a couple of hemp prefold diapers I had (and had hardly used).

These are made by following the Alva training pants pattern ( -- but it did take a lot of trial-and-error to get these right.  Ultimately, I found that a nice, light, stretchy waffle knit fabric worked best -- two layers, with a peanut-shaped "soaker" cut from the old prefold sandwiched inbetween.  As I refined my design, I added a contrast waistband (Miss F was confusing the waist and the leg openings!) and a little flower to mark the front.

I am very happy to report that Miss F is fully potty trained (and she just turned 2 at the end of last month!).  This process was MUCH less cumbersome than the ones I endured with my older two kids (who both potty-trained around age 3).  I'd say that it's definitely worth trying to potty train during that 18 mos - 2 year may be easier than you think....

Anyway, I am convinced that you can put basic sewing skills to use in helping a toddler to potty train.  Maybe all of this will prove helpful to someone else...I hope so!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

reading week

My university doesn't even call it "reading week" any more -- now it's "winter break" -- but for faculty this "break" really does involve a lot of reading!  I am working my way through a stack of papers...but I have managed to work in a little sewing too.

First up were the six blocks for the 3 x 6 mini sampler bee.  This is the 3rd quarter in which I have participated.  Unlike many VQBs (virtual quilting bees), this one lasts just three months, and in that time you make six versions of a block design, all from stash fabrics, in the colour choices of your fellow hivemates -- that is, one for each member of your "beehive."  Here are the ones I made this time around, using the "dandy" star (

The first two were a red, aqua and white block for Adrienne (l) and a red and white block for Lisa.  My hive happens to like red....

But next up was the block for January, who wanted to be surprised.  Surprise!  No red here!  But some fun with "Tufted Tweets" and a little zebra striping:

Meg requested gray, green and white, so I cut into a pretty 1/2 yard of "Monaco":

Anita wants blocks for a future Christmas quilt, so I had fun with some remnants from last year's holiday buntings:

Solidia shares Adrienne's enthusiasm for red, aqua and white; I used some Denyse Schmidt dots from my dwindling supply of reds -- and was all done!

But I have also managed to whip up blocks for two other VQBs: freecut blocks for Kerry, using the great assortment of kitchen and sewing-themed fabrics she sent out, in Bee (A Little Bit) Japanese:

And a block following a Lecien tutorial, for dresdenquilter in the all-Canadian Sew Modern Bee:

Phew!  Back to grading....

here I am

I read so many blogs, and spend so much time on my flickr account...why not start a blog myself?

I have talked myself out of it many times -- I am busybusybusy, and my work (I'm an English professor) involves heaps of reading and writing...why take on additional, new, non-professional writing tasks? I love to make things: knitting kept me balanced during undergrad and grad school (each major paper was paired with a knitting project), and sewing and quilting keeps me sane now.  I am a member of a great little quilting guild (the Toronto Modern Quilt Guild), but there's no denying that some of the most exciting work I've seen is online, and I find tremendous inspiration in the blogs of others.

So here I am!

I think my own bobbins may be enchanted: somehow piles of sewing has been done (note passive construction) in the past year, even as my little-and-not-so-little children have grown without neglect and my work-work has been progressing really well.  So maybe some of the fairy magic that I talk and write and read about every day has worked its charm on my sewing machine.  It sews and sews and sews and shows no sign of abating....