Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Preparing for The Bump: Puddle Pads

One of the best investments that Mr. S. and I ever made was in our bed. After a lifetime of foam and springs, our hand-made 100% wool bed by Shepherd's Dream really was a dream. It's warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We don't use air conditioning, and the wool bed keeps us so cool and dry during hot muggy summer nights.

To protect it I use big thrifted wool blankets, which I just put down on top of the mattress under the fitted sheet, but considering how many accidents, leaks, and general wetness that accompanies newborns, I wanted something easily changed but still effective. We have two wool puddle pads that we got way back when we got the bed, when Safiya was still a babe, but they're now a little out of our price range (they were well worth the initial cost, though - over the years they've washed beautifully, stayed thick, cozy, and soft, and absorbed wetness and odour very well).

So I thought I'd just make a little stack of puddle pads for on top of the sheets, planning to whisk away the top ones as they get wet. Thrifted wool blankets run about ten dollars around these parts, and after felting them I can get four puddle pads from one (I just cut them and zig-zagged the edges). They're not as thick and luxurious as the ones from Shepherd's Dream, and the weave is a bit looser, but at about $2.50 each, I can afford to double them up....actually, I can afford to sixteen-uple them up, which would be the equivalent cost :-)

Cozy, cozy! One more thing ready for The Bump...

Monday, 26 April 2010

What to Do With All Those Scraps?

When I was little my Mom always had a little plastic bag taped to the side of her sewing machine table for the inevitable snippets and scraps that come with sewing so that she could easily collect them for the garbage.

As with any next generation, I went bigger and badder :-)

That big swing-top can sits snug against my sewing machine table and ever since I've started to seriously sew, it's been patiently engulfing all the little scraps and threads that are too small for my other scrap bins (yep - there are two more totes, one for wovens and one for knits/felt - those scraps are saved for projects like beanbags and blankets).

I choose to use mostly natural fabrics, which really wouldn't be a problem in the garbage since they would decompose pretty easily, but I use thrifted polyester-cotton thread and fabric some, and the idea of my craft resulting in bits of plastic sitting around forever and making their way into the food chain makes me shudder too much to sew a straight seam, so I've been collecting it (while trying to get away from the whole polyester thing in the first place). But what to do with all those scraps?

My pregnant self tried to take a nap outside the other day, and was quickly and uncomfortably made aware of the dearth of outside cushions in this house.

So, Safiya and I sewed up a giant cushion from cotton canvas that I had, and stuffed away!

Oh, if you decide to do something like this, make sure you check your scraps thoroughly. Some things we found that would be unpleasant to sit on:

And hey - there's my bag of yellow embroidery thread that I thought I lost last year!

There will be grommets on each corner so that I can hang it up for storage, and some kind of colourful cover is in the works, but it's pretty functional as it is. A couple of years' worth of scraps handily dealt with in one afternoon. It's a bit lumpy, but certainly comfortable enough:

And yes, I'm really only delaying the inevitable, because that cushion someday will meet it's demise, but let's hope it has a long and nap-filled life...

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Story Dice for Ursa

Once upon a time there was a friend of Safiya's named Ursa who liked to make up stories and who was having a seventh birthday.

Fortunately, Safiya's Mama was blessed with a solitary morning. This was because Safiya and Mr. S. had gone to proctor an exam at the university (it was Safiya's job to hand out the exams and remind everyone not to cheat). Safiya's Mama enjoyed her blissful morning by gathering up some supplies and leisurely crafting a birthday present for Ursa, having been inspired by some ideas for story dice that she saw posted on The Crafty Crow, by The Small Object, and by fo`ne`tic`lee speaking. It involved using her rather rusty drawing skills, but she approached the task with courage.

A house, ant, hot air balloon, orange shoes, green cat, blue elephant, clothesline, hopscotch, tree, paintbrush, bicycle, wings, wheelbarrow, mountain, rainclouds, stars, red purse, and birthday cake (with seven candles!) later, Safiya's Mama was quite pleased. She added some beeswax polish, a little sewn book (made from lined paper and a wallpaper sample from Farrow and Ball), a draw-string bag and ta-da!

A little bag of endless story possibilities, just waiting to come out!

Friday, 23 April 2010

It's the Little Things...

Mr. S. walked into the kitchen last weekend only to discover my nine-months-pregnant-almost-due self perched on top of a stool, cleaning the top of the fridge.

"Uh-oh.....how many days have we got, then?" he said. You see, the last time 'round I did perfectly reasonably things like scrub the inside of the washing machine and the dishwasher right before Safiya was born. So Mr. S. is, understandably, a little freaked out :-)

Of course, impending baby is a great motivator, so there have been lots of little things accomplished lately, which is awesome. Like handles on the kitchen cabinets:

Like me finally sewing curtains for the bedroom (thanks to my friend Sandra who passed the raw goods on for me to work with!):

Like, having given up on being able to tie running shoes and degenerated into Euro-not-cool-in-any-way style 'cause I just didn't care anymore:

to redeeming myself with a $5.99-Value-Village bit of slip-on relief and cuteness:

Now, if I could just figure out how to get nailpolish onto those far-away toes......

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Safiya's Doll

This is not some horrible doll-torture picture. It is the loving process of adding the final touches to a very special addition to Safiya's world.

A while ago Safiya came to me with a request. She wanted a doll, nay longed for a doll. A proper doll that she could practise on for when The Bump arrives. She has a fair amount of stuffed animals (ahem, thank you, extended family...), but we'd not ventured into doll territory yet. Fortunately my friend Katharine had recently made Waldorf dolls for her kids using kits from Weir Dolls and Crafts, and had reported very favourably on the whole process.

Safiya and I chose the components together, and in this case, considering the imminent arrival of The Bump (we're now at about a week-ish to go....) and my propensity for procrastination and the whole I've-never-done-this-before thing, I chose a pre-stuffed head, pre-sewn fabric body parts, and partially assembled hair.

Safiya's growing excitement was infectious, and it was satisfying, trying this new thing. We stuffed and talked and planned and sewed. And I came to appreciate the instructions that were stated with regards to attaching the head to the body: "This will be difficult..."

Right, I thought smugly, that's for people who don't sew. Ha! It was hard! Which is good :-)

And when she was done, Safiya took her in her arms tenderly and named her Charlotte.

She looks happy to be here, and is well-loved, like any new addition to our family.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Dark Days Past and a Light for Uncle Larry

Right now, I can hear the trickling of a neighbour's backyard pond, the quiet weightless exhale of a beautiful spring evening, the occasional twitter of a bird prolonging the day in trees just starting to green and the photo above of Safiya and Mr. S. seems from another age altogether.

However, it was only a little over six weeks ago that that picture was taken at my Aunt and Uncle's house. Six weeks ago when my Uncle Larry, a beloved fixture in our family, suddenly died of a heart attack at the workplace that he and my Aunt Ruth have shared for many many years. He was 52.

A year ago I posted a little bit about my aunt and uncle and how much the example of their lives had influenced me. They were a real couple - they lived for eachother and because they lived fairly far from family, they had had to work life out together, and writing all this in past tense hurts so much. But distance and time looses the tongue, about which I'm glad because my Uncle Larry deserves much more than a few words even though that's all I've got right now.

He was funny. He was a prankster and delightfully, unabashedly crazy, which probably made him the sanest, most evenly keeled person in our family. He was generous. He was tender and attentive to kids, which, given his coarse joking and bossing around revealed more about our preconceptions than it did about his personality. He would call. Very often it's only the women that maintain ties in a family, but not just my Aunt Ruth called - Larry called. He called when I had cancer. He called when Safiya was born. He called my grandparents, his in-laws, daily. Just to see how they were doing.

He could be a pain in the ass and we loved him for it. ("Oh, Larry..." with a smile and a roll of the eyes was a favourite refrain of my Aunt's.) Unafraid, approachable, and a great salesman, he and Ruth would have yard sales where most stuff on the yard was priced at a few pennies; Larry wasn't interested in the money, he was more interested in having a gab with whoever came by. Every single person who paid their respects in my Aunt and Uncle's small town (and there were so so many - you could tell when shift change was at the factory where he and my Aunt worked because there would be a hundred-person line-up at the funeral home) didn't offer a generic condolence; each one had a specific story, a particular anecdote that made us laugh through our tears. How could a person in dying make it such a rich experience for the rest of us left behind?

He did it easily, just by living.

We love you Uncle Larry, and you are greatly missed...