Archive for ‘crafty’

November 28, 2018

Necessity is the mother of invention

by Decemberbaby

Hannukah Chanukah Hanukkah is almost here.

Some of you may remember that I have a box for each holiday. That way I can procrastinate like crazy, and pull out the box on the eve of the holiday and have everything I need. But the last two years kind of got away from me, such that some books and toys came out of the boxes and never went back in, and other things got mis-filed, and all in all I can’t rely on the boxes right now.

Knowing all this, I opened up the chanukah box four whole days early. It contained the following:

  • two wooden chanukah-themed puzzles
  • half a box of beautiful hand-dipped candles
  • two dreidels
  • another dreidel – a fancy silver one that really needs polishing – and its lucite display stand
  • a paper garland with dreidel shapes strung on a metallic ribbon
  • a plush shofar and two plush round challahs (Rosh Hashana)
  • a stuffed toy torah (Simchat Torah)
  • some felt animal hats (Purim)
  • and a partridge in a pear tree (lame seasonal joke.)

Know what wasn’t in my chanukah box?

A menorah.

We do own several chanukiyot (menorahs). I have no idea whether they’re mislaid in a different holiday box or whether they’re in one of the many boxes we’ve yet to unpack after the big move. Whichever it is, my chance of finding one of ours before the holiday starts on Sunday night is slim to none.

So I did what I always do when I need something right away. I made it myself.

Okay, the kids made some too. We spent ninety minutes in the Makery (it’s what we call our basement craft room: “Welcome to the Makery! Don’t just stand there… make something!) and ended up with more menorahs than our family can light at once.


Hard at work in the Makery


Ready to bake. The pieces on the right will be glued to a nice piece of wood.


Fresh from the oven


My favourite. (The menorah, not the kid. I mean, I love her, but they’re all my favourites.)

Crisis averted! Now, to buy some more candles so there’s no menorah left behind. Happy Chanukah!


October 28, 2014

Show Off

by Decemberbaby

It’s been a while since I showed you any of my creative work. I did some sewing last year, while I was off the blog, and have finally gotten around to uploading the photos from my camera. So, without further ado, I give you:

Gumdrops Quilt for K

K moved to a big-kid bed last year, and she needed a quilt or blanket for it. Setting a precedent for the rest of my children, I went ahead and made her a quilt to keep her warm and to mark this big step for her. She requested pink and purple, and so I gleefully dug into my scraps (I have WAY too much fabric) and found enough of them to make this:


It’s a design called Gumdrops from the book Sunday Morning Quilts. The background is Kona White, the colours are scraps from previous projects, and the backing is…


Well, it’s not anything quilters would recognize. You see, when we were vacationing on our island in the sun last winter, I discovered that a decent number of people on the island still sew their own clothes, sheets, and everything else. The fabric store I happened to walk into (a chain store with a presence in the nearby mall) had tons of fabrics at very low prices. They even had zippers for $1.25 U.S. each, which any seamstress up here will tell you is crazy cheap. I actually came back with a suitcase full of fabric. But I digress.

The backing is 100% cotton sheeting, which in practical terms means that it’s wide enough to make sheets for a double bed without having to make seams. K fell in love with the colours and the design and although her quilt was not on my design board yet, I agreed it would make a great quilt backing. As you can see from the photo above, both K and her stuffed cheetah agree.


As you can see from the binding, once I got started using scraps I couldn’t stop. There are about 10 different fabrics that make up the binding, and I’m very pleased with how it looks.

As for quilting, I had some fun with my sewing machine’s embroidery foot and free-motion quilted the whole thing. At this point I realized that this quilt is a great design to “quilt as you go.” I’ll remember that for next time. Anyhow, I did a stippling pattern on the white background and quilted just inside the edge of each gumdrop shape for a raw-edge applique look. After repeated washings, I can tell you that the quilting has held up beautifully and the gumdrops’ edges are very attractively frayed. But I digress. Here’s the quilting from the back, which gives you a much better view:


CIMG3433 CIMG3434

Of course, no quilt would be complete without a label. It’s the last thing I sew on every quilt.









The quilt now resides on K’s big-girl bed. She takes great pride in spreading it flat in the mornings, and snuggles under it every night. A few nights ago at bedtime she hugged me and said, “‘Night, Eema. Thank you for my snuggly quilt.”

September 3, 2014

Is this thing on?

by Decemberbaby

*tap**tap* *feedback noise*

So… it’s been a while. How’s it going?

The past year has just been so full of everything, good and bad, that it’s hard to know where to begin. I offer no excuses for my absence, and I would like to thank both of my loyal readers for sticking around.

Anyway, for those of you who are here because you like hearing about my life, here’s the update (in no particular order):

  • The children are now ages 6.5, 4, and almost 3. K (girl, 6.5) has lost four teeth and is currently sporting the adorable gap-toothed look. N is as sweet as ever. R just started potty training and has now gone 26 hours with no accidents.
  • Mr. December is pretty much the same, although this past year he started a very demanding volunteer position, which I’m tempted to blame for at least some of my blogging hiatus. For the record, I’m very proud of the work he’s done (even though I won’t be blogging about it.)
  • We still live in our little house, although we’re slowly putting together plans for a second-storey addition. I’m getting to the point where I’d really like to have my own bathroom (separate from the kids, anyhow,) not to mention the fact that we’re going to run out of room sooner or later because:
  • I’m pregnant. Once again, I’ve lost all my infertility cred. Come January, God willing, we’ll have four children.
  • Depression still looms large in my life, though I’ve finally gotten the hang of treating it like any other chronic illness.
  • I still sew, but I’ve found that I have less and less time for it. You’d think that evenings (after kids’ bedtime) would be a good time, but I’m usually too tired to contemplate going downstairs and starting to sew. Instead I stay up way too late on Facebook, arguing for common sense in the face of hysterical helicopter parenting.
  • I still bike, although I haven’t done any really serious biking in almost a year, and it looks like I won’t be biking any significant distances until maybe March or April, or whenever the ice melts around here.

In short, life is good. I am well. And I plan to pick up blogging again, even though at times I am, as Elizabeth Bennet says in P&P, “unwilling to speak, unless [I] expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.”

And on that note, I’m off to bed. ‘Night!

January 30, 2013

Finally, an HST we can all get behind.

by Decemberbaby

The decluttering and purging continues unabated. Today somebody bought our old 27″ TV for $50, enabling me to clear some space in the basement and brag that “my house just lost 100 pounds!”  I’m also keeping up with my “five minutses”, and after three weeks of one small task a day, the difference in our home is striking. I love my new system.

I haven’t been doing much sewing lately (aside from N’s pants,) but I do have a backlog of photos to share with you. So, without further ado, may I present…

My very first HST* quilt!

*HST=Half Square Triangle. NOT Harmonized Sales Tax. FYI.

This quilt began as a promise. For her birthday last July, I told my old nanny (as in, she came to live with us when I was 2 years old, and she’s still with my parents) that I’d make her a quilt as a birthday/Xmas gift. I googled some quilt patterns and showed her the pictures, and she chose a fairly traditional HST pattern.

I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be easy. I started with pre-cut squares, for heaven’s sake. How hard could it be?

Apparently, very. HST triangles need to be sewn, then cut, pressed, and then trimmed to a uniform size, making sure that the diagonal seam is precisely in the middle of the square. It’s exhausting.

But it was worth it. Behold!

Maureen's christmas quilt

Relevant details: the HST’s are made from Cuzco and Ticklish by Moda, along with Kona white. I used more batting than usual, and in addition to the thin cotton batting, there’s a layer of fluffy polyester batting. I really wanted that puffy look and feel. Adding to the puffiness, I tried to keep the quilting pretty minimal.


The backing is a cuddly pink minky. I love how defined the quilting is on this back.

Maureen's christmas quilt back

The binding was problematic. Well actually, it’s my procrastination that was problematic. I was racing against the clock on December 24, and I absentmindedly started sewing the binding on the front, instead of the back. After experimenting with a bunch of things (all of which looked terrible) I decided to embrace the flaw and machine-finish the binding with a zigzag stitch. It actually looks kind of cool. Not cool enough to make that mistake again, though.



maureen's christmas quilt binding


Finish it off with one of my labels…


maureen's christmas quilt label

And Voila! A finished HST quilt, ready in time for Christmas.

maureen's christmas quilt 2

The entire time I was cursing the HST’s and swearing I’d never do this again, but I already have plans for a quilted duvet cover for my bed…

January 24, 2013

We want for nothing

by Decemberbaby

For a complicated variety of reasons, my sewing room is overflowing with fabric. It’s not exactly clutter, but there’s just too much of it. In the spirit of drastically reducing clutter, and having adopted the old rhyme “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” I decided to sew a few pairs of pants that N desperately needed. He’s a tall, skinny boy – any pants that are long enough in the leg have to be cinched in all the way in the waist, and the resulting ballooning looks kind of silly – so I figured making his pants also carried the advantage of giving him pants that fit nicely for a change.

It was while sewing his third pair of pants that I started thinking that I should have just ordered a few pairs from Old Navy online. I reminded myself that in order to avoid shipping charges I’d have to order at least $50 worth of merchandise, most of it stuff we don’t actually need. What N needed was three pairs of pants, and now he has them. The temptation to buy a little more, or to buy something cute on impulse, is completely absent when I make my children clothing. It just takes too long to make something if we don’t have a need for it.

It occurred to me the other day that I haven’t spent time in a mall in a very long time. I don’t like malls these days: I always leave with a severe case of what I call the “wanties”: I want some new pretty t-shirts, I want new throw cushions for the couch, I want that awesome floor lamp, I want another travel mug, some costume jewellery, a more coordinated wardrobe. None of these things are things I need. None of these things are things I wanted before I went to the mall. It’s just impossible to spend time in a place dedicated to consumption and to novelty without succumbing to the shopping bug.

Grocery stores offer similar pitfalls, though not on such a grand scale. I was just saying yesterday at a Weight Watchers meeting that planning my meals and shopping only once a week reduces the number of times I have to be tempted by food that I want but don’t need (and, arguably, shouldn’t have.) Last time I went shopping I handed over a bag of pecans, a bag of Craisins, and a chocolate bar to the cashier. “I changed my mind,” I told her, “I don’t really need this stuff.” I saved myself thousands of calories (yes, thousands. No joke.) I saved myself about $15. I also saved myself from a bit more kitchen clutter. I don’t know if I’d have the strength of will to do it three times a week, though. Stores have a way of convincing us that we need things.

When K was younger she liked to tell me that she needed things: “Mummy, I need a balloon. Mummy, I need a twirly dress. Mummy, I need chocolate!” I made a point of telling her – each and every time – that there was a difference between “need” and “want.” She doesn’t confuse the two very much anymore, but I don’t know that we can say the same for most adults in our society.

Most of us have what we need: shelter, some functional clothing, food, heat, family, friends. I’d hazard a guess that we also have most of what we want: stylish clothing, gourmet food, tastefully appointed homes, cars, iPods. We should be able to say that we want for nothing. But don’t we keep on wanting and wanting?

Thankfully, with no TV and no trips to the mall, I manage to keep my list of wants to a bare minimum, and I have no trouble saying “no” to myself if necessary. The kids are fine too: their wants aren’t many, and so we’ve avoided accumulating a lot of stuff. I wouldn’t say that we want for nothing, but we definitely don’t want for very much. I can say that we need for nothing. And if we did need something, there’s a very good chance I’d make it myself. It’s the best way I know to make sure that we have as much as we need, but no more. And besides, I want to make room for some pretty new fabrics…

November 24, 2012

Open for Business!

by Decemberbaby

It’s been quiet around here because I’ve been completely immersed in setting up my Etsy shop… and then I was completely immersed in Shabbat.

Finally, those of you who don’t feel crafty enough to make their own toy torah can buy one online… just in time for Chanuka. Right?

Anyhow, come on over and have a look by clicking on the button below or at the top right of this page! I’d love feedback, if you have any to offer. From photography to descriptions to pricing, I’ll take whatever comments you have.

And then maybe I’ll be able to get back to real blogging. You know, about life and stuff.


November 18, 2012

Polaroid Pictures… a baby quilt

by Decemberbaby

I’ve finally finished this quilt that I’ve been working on for two months. I’m thrilled with how it turned out, but oy, what a headache it was to make. It just occurred to me that the baby whose quilt this is might not understand why the pictures are surrounded by a white border that’s just a tad thicker on the bottom… do kids even know what a Polaroid picture is these days?

Do you see why it gave me a headache? No? Well, with the exception of two pictures, all of the polaroids are sewn in as part of the quilt – not added on top. Have a closer look:

All the random angles made the whole thing impossible to plan – the placement of the seams was completely improvised. I’m mostly pleased with how it turned out, though.

I chose images that would appeal to both the baby and his parents (his dad is a longtime friend and former roommate of Mr. December.) For the child, vehicles and animals and storybook characters. For the parents, Yoda and Chewbacca, a tie fighter, and a dragon. Oh, and a tent – a nod to the extensive canoe trips we used to take together.

I personally love the dinosaurs, both of which are hamming it up for the camera. My favourite, though, is the hippo.

I’m especially in love with the quilt back. It’s one of those things born of necessity (I didn’t have quite enough blue minky) that turns out really, really cool. I’m thinking I should use this design as a quilt front next time.

See? It’s a giant Polaroid! Do you like it as much as I do?

The back view also gives you a good view of the free-motion quilting I did. I quilted with primary-coloured variegated thread to add some colour and pop to the solid grey. I also chose a bright primary-striped fabric for the binding:

Yup, there’s the binding, the free-motion quilting, Chewbacca, and – yes! – one of my snazzy new labels!

It won’t be hard to say goodbye to this quilt. As much as I love it, it gave me some real grief. It’s a very good thing it’s destined for a good friend of ours; it makes all the effort and frustration feel worthwhile.

ETA: I’m linking this up with Sew Modern Monday.

November 14, 2012

Another gift for another boy who has everything

by Decemberbaby

Doesn’t the title pretty much say it all?

The invitation was for a Lego-themed fourth birthday party. Ostensibly this is a gift for the child, but I also think it’s a neat gift for the mother: she’ll thank me at 2 in the morning when she doesn’t puncture the sole of her foot on a pointy Lego piece. These neat little drawstring bags, made from a tutorial over at Make it and Love it, are perfect for storing all of the tiny little treasures a Lego aficionado can collect. I made a set of four in graduated sizes and various colourful prints.

A birthday wish for the child mother: may your child actually use these bags for good (storing Lego pieces) and not for evil (trapping the pet hamster.)


November 12, 2012

Can’t blog… sewing…

by Decemberbaby

You know, I could keep talking about how I intend to open up an etsy store and sell things I sew (and patterns for people to sew things, like the Toy Torah) from now until eternity. I could plan, and buy fabrics, and think, and plan some more. And then I could never quite manage to get started.

So instead of the above process, I’ve decided to do the only thing that will force me to move ahead: I’ve made a public declaration of intent to sell stuff, and now I have a few customers asking me for fabric options and pricing. Eek!

I’m not abandoning NaBloPoMo; I just might not post too many serious and substantial posts in the next week or so. I have things to sew and patterns to digitize. But I promise I’ll keep you posted!

Enough about me. How about you? How do you help yourself to stop thinking and start doing?