Still catching up

When I saw the tutorial for a kidlet at JCHandmade, I immediately put it on my to-do list. It did languish there for, um, several months. I'm guessing that by now you might have noticed that I am a procrastinator.
I'm not sure that the kids will suddenly be inspired to pick up after themselves, but it will be useful. After bedtime, when I step on a random toy that has been left out, I will no longer have to put it in a wee pile outside their bedroom door, but can now pop it into the kidlet hanging on the handle. This has the potential to save my marriage (a typical evening around here: I go for a swim. Husband ignores the kids. Kids trash the house. I return. Husband complains that I don't keep the house tidy enough...).
While on the subject of procrastination, I was given this award by 3 lovely bloggers: smoothpebble, the sometimes crafter and infinity more monkeys. Thank you so much ladies. Now I'm supposed to nominate 7 other blogs, but I haven't been keeping track of who has already received it. I haven't had much time to spend on the pc this summer, so I'm usually rushing and playing catch-up. In addition, I'm trying to sort the blogs I read onto a feedreader, but things are a mess, especially as the feedreader keeps not wanting to open pages. So I thought I would link to 7 tutorials that have also been languishing on my to-do list instead:
..........Fabric basket by Orangeflower
..........Smocket by Mayfly
..........Little shopping bag by Oh Fransson
..........Eddie cap by Mushroom Villagers
..........Little boxy pouch by Three Bears
..........Booties by Saartje
..........Bagsket by Foofanagle
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You may remember that a few posts ago I mentioned my friend's son, a sweet 4 year old boy who had just finished his chemo. Unfortunately the recent tests show that he now has progressive disease (cancer) in his lungs. The phrase 'my heart sank' comes to mind, although I'm not sure that 'sank' fully describes the feeling of all my hopes and wishes for him being smashed to the floor. Several of you said that you would add him to your thoughts and prayers, so I wanted to keep you updated.
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No translation today - the only English words I can think of right now are swear words...
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Take care all,

Next time I'll try cookies

In case you were wondering whether I was just being modest when I said that my culinary skills weren't up to much:
That is the last time that I'm ever using a cake mix. Probably.
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I grew up making cakes from scratch and haven't had much luck with the packet mixes that I've tried since moving to the States. But, when there is no butter or eggs in the house (I remembered my lesson from last time: trans fat free spread is not a substitute. And a quick note to my dear husband: please mention when you finish off all the bloomin' eggs, so that I can add them to the shopping list...) a packet mix and some egg substitute stuff is the only option.
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Luckily the drops of cake burning away on the oven floor didn't set off our hyper-sensitive smoke alarms, for once, so my children remained asleep in their beds.
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Smear on some glacé icing (the lack of butter ruled out butter icing), and stuff them tightly in a container (so people will think they are grossly misshapen due to poor packing skills) and voilà:
Almost indistinguishable from the ones pictured here, right?:
It's no wonder that people leave my playgroup and move across the country if this is the type of thing I bring to play dates...
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I'm behind on my e-mails right now, so I'm sorry if I owe you a reply. It's been a little busy around here - that, and my husband plays computer games and hogs the pc...
As for this bag, this is the first thing that I ever attempted to crochet. I had knitted a scarf with the thick fisherman's yarn, but it was too bulky, so I frogged it and crocheted this messenger bag (no pattern, just random experimentation). I want to line it with fabric, but first I'd like to dye it to a more practical colour. Has anyone had any experience in dyeing crocheted things? Is it likely to dye evenly?
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Ok, I had better get ready for playgroup. If you don't hear from me again, I would put the egg substitute at the head of the suspect list.
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Translation of the day:
UK English: fairy cake = cupcake in US English
Probably self-evident, but I wouldn't blame you for not knowing what I was talking about with the way they look in those photos...

More ideas

Ever have one of those conversations that starts with 'a light bulb has broken off in the socket', which leads to 'we ought to replace half the light fixtures in the house and add a couple of ceiling fans', which leads to 'we need to call a plumber to fix the kitchen sink, too', which somehow led to 'let's replace the sink, rip out the cupboard and re-do the floor in the old bathroom, while we have the electrician and plumber in the house'. That's the conversation I've been having while my in-box was filling with all your lovely comments about my fabric dollhouse tutorial. Thank you so much.
I am so glad that you like it. It really is simple to make. I haven't been sewing long and am not very good at sewing terminology, so please let me know if you see any glaring errors / improvements that could be made to the tutorial. I now wish I had put a great big disclaimer on the bottom saying 'I'm self-taught, just making things up as I go along and take no responsibility for any confusion caused by these instructions'. Don't hesitate to ask me if you do have any questions.
One of the comments suggested making a version that looks like a garage, another suggested a Noah's Ark. That set me off to thinking of all the different types of building that you could make: fire station, police station, jail, shop, school, doctor's office, vet office, bank, dog kennel (switch the opening to an end panel) etc. etc. If you do make one from my tutorial, please post it to my flickr group as I'd love to see what you come up with!
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Well, I had better get going and tidy up a bit before the workmen arrive to give us an estimate. I don't want them to see the disaster that is my house and get all excited thinking they have a whole house remodel to do...
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Translation of the day:
UK English: Chuffed = happy, really pleased, gratified, delighted in US English
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As in: I am chuffed to bits that you liked my tutorial. Thank you.

Fabric dollhouse tutorial

I made my daughter a fabric barn for Christmas and several people asked me for a tutorial. So, um, 8 months later (yes, I'm hanging my head in shame) I'm finally getting around to it. This was the barn:
This time around I wanted a smaller, lighter version, that my kids could carry around. The barn was made of plywood, covered in batting and fabric. For this version I'm replacing the wood with plastic canvas (the plastic sheets sold at craft stores for doing cross-stitch on) .
What you will need:
..........:: Fabric for the interior: 9 inches by 21 inches and two pieces 6 inches by 9 inches (I'm being generous with the seam allowances here, as the actual size needed will depend on which batting you use)
..........:: Fabric for the exterior: (same as interior) 9" x 21" and two pieces 6" x 9"
..........:: 2 10.5"x 13.5" sheets of plastic canvas (I used #10 mesh)
..........:: Batting / wadding
..........:: Duct tape / insulation tape (optional)
..........:: Buttons and elastic cord (I used tiny hairbands) or velcro or 2 zips (if you do not have my fear of sewing zippers) or some ribbon
..........:: 2 Sewn fabric strips for handles (optional)
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How to:
(nb. sorry about the diagrams - my bloomin' husband has managed to unload my scanner software, most likely while messing around loading and unloading things for the computer game he is obsessed with... Anyway, I just did these quickly on the computer, so please use your imagination when trying to decipher them!)
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1. From the plastic canvas cut out
..........three 4" by 6" rectangles
..........two 2¾" by 6" rectangles
..........and 2 house-shaped pieces with 4" base, 4" sides and 2¾" roof (see diagram) The pieces should fit together like this:2. Wrap the plastic canvas with the batting (nb. When making the barn, I wrapped duct tape around the batting to keep it in place, so that the sharp points of the wood were safely padded. I found that the duct tape made the shaped pieces nice and easy to handle, so this time around, I wrapped the batting covered plastic canvas with insulation tape).
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3. Using the 6" x 9" pieces, place an interior fabric piece right sides facing an exterior fabric piece, with a house-shaped batting-covered end panel sandwiched between them. Pin the fabric snugly around the end panel, leaving the bottom end open. Slide out the batting-covered end panel. Sew along the lines you have pinned, marked by the red dotted line on the above diagram (The dimensions on the diagram show the dimensions I used, but yours may differ, depending on the thickness of the batting that you used, so I suggest using this pinning method to ensure a good fit). Turn right side out and slide the batting covered end panel back in. Repeat for the other end panel.
4. Using the 9" x 21" pieces, place the fabric right sides facing. The following should then be sandwiched between the fabrics, so that their edges / ends will be caught when you sew along the side edge of the fabrics:
..........one of the end panels
..........elastic loops (or flap for velcro or zip or ribbons for ties at both ends - whichever you chose)
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Again, I like to first sandwich the batting covered panels between the fabrics - in the order shown in the 2nd diagram above - and pin the fabrics around them, including a pin between each panel, to ensure that I will have a good fit and also to mark the correct placement of the end panel and the loops for the buttons. I place the button loops at the corners of the roof panel (the 2 3/4" x 6" panel). After I have marked the edges and the correct placement, I then remove the panels, leaving just the end panel and the button loops sandwiched, ready to be sewn on.
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I used contrasting fabric for the roof panels and the garden panel, but you can use just a solid piece of material. I sew them like patchwork strips onto the main interior or exterior panels, using the pinning method to ensure correct positioning.

Sew along line A to B, catching the bottom of the end panel and the edge of the button loops.
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5. Pin the handle between the fabrics, with ends facing outwards (optional). Sew along line C to D, catching the ends of the handle.
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6. Repeat step 4 for the other long side of the rectangle. Turn it right side out and slide in the batting covered panels in the order shown in the second diagram (roof panel - 2 3/4" x 6", then wall panel - 4" x 6", then floor panel - 4" x 6", then wall panel - 4" x 6", then roof panel - 2 3/4" x 6") . Pin between each panel to keep the panels in place.

Turn the edges of the opening over and pin closed - pinning the ends of the other handle and an additional button loop (optional). It should now look like this:
7. Sew the opening closed, catching the ends of the handle and button loop, if used.
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8. Add a couple of stitches between panels to keep the panels in place and remove the pins.
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9. Hand sew the edge of the end panel to the wall and roof panel on each side, so that it forms this shape:
10. If using the button loop closure, sew buttons onto end panels and roof panel to match the loops.
I appliqué the exterior decor on at this point (the window and door, in this example) as it is easier to position them correctly at this point.You're done. I know I'm not very good at explaining things clearly, so let me know if I've confused you. Really, they are very simple to make.

For personal use only. For any other use, please ask for my permission first.
Take care, all.
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PS. If you make one, please post a picture in the flickr group. I'd love to see how they turn out.
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PPS. Here's a post with a couple more fabric building type ideas.
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PPPS. Here's a post with pictures of dollhouses made from the tutorial and the anwers to a couple of the questions that I have been asked about the dollhouses.

Happy

It's been a good few days.
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:: My friend's 4 year old son finished his chemo. This little lad really is a little trooper. He had to have his arm amputated this time round, but he hasn't let that get him down at all. Please say a prayer for him, that the cancer will not return again. I've been subjecting his poor family to my cooking every now and then during his treatment (as if they weren't suffering enough...) which can only add to their relief that it's all done with now.
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:: I found a new fabric shop and it has a BIG selection of fabrics. Some known names, too. My knees even felt a little shaky as I was so happy. I had to exercise some restraint and remind myself that this store was not just a dream and it would still be there in a week's time.
No, really, restraint was exercised. Several of these pieces are only a quarter of a yard and some others were just $1 a yard. I've previously been limited to a quarter-sized Jo-Ann's and a nice, but very small selection in a shop 2 cities away, so pickings around here were pretty meagre. It's a wonder that I didn't buy up half the store on the spot. The only disadvantage is that the large selection of really cheap fabric is flat folded and would take weeks to search through.
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:: I found a new thrift store nearby. It's only a wee one, and doesn't have much in the way of housewares etc. I did find 2 pairs of brand new boots for $5 each, though, AND they fit my flipper shaped feet (by that I mean that I have narrow heels. I do not have webbed toes). One pair even had the original price tag of $60 still on them.
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:: We received a surprise parcel from Japan, from a friend of my mother-in-law's. She sent some cute kimono outfits for the kids and some food. I was a little puzzled to find a box saying 'cigare' in the parcel, as we don't smoke, but inside were these these delicious rolled butter cookies. I say 'were' as they are all gone now.
I plead guilty. In my defense, they are delicious and they just melt in your mouth - and, even better, the nutrition labelling is all in Japanese, so I have no idea how bad they are for me....
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:: I'm feeling much better. If anything, I feel extra healthy. I think it's just pure happiness from getting some sleep at last.
Take care all!

Cream crackered

It's been a funny week. I've been under the weather still and it's left me feeling absolutely cream crackered. Maybe that's why I've also been a complete klutz. I've got scrapes and bruises all over from knocking into things. I keep having dopey spells, too, such as forgetting that there's food in the oven (it turns out that it tasted better than usual with a crispy crust...), using the conditioner instead of body wash, getting dressed in the wrong order etc.
We had an 5.4 earthquake centred 27 miles from here and I didn't notice it. I've had earache and my balance has been a little off, but I'm chalking that one up to my rickety little car's suspension. While it's a big relief that there was little to no injuries or damage, I still feel a little disappointed to have been completely oblivious. It's also a little unnerving to take your kids into a public restroom, only to have a nutty looking woman run up to you exclaiming "Did you feel that??"
This is my practice version of a peasant top for my daughter. I figured it would be a forgiving project, as it doesn't have to be a close fit and there are no fasteners. Perfect for a week like this. The main problem with it, though, is that you have no clue if it is going to be ok until close to the end. It's not until you thread the elastic in that it stops looking ridiculously large and shapeless. It probably would have helped if I had one in my possession to copy, but I just quickly measured her and then guessed how many inches to add so it would gather.
I really like it, though. I wouldn't have usually used topstitching thread, but that was the only thread in a matching colour that I had enough of. I'll probably make the sleeves a little shorter and tighter next time. I plan on making this one again. I hope I didn't throw out my rough pattern in a dopey moment...
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Translation of the day:
UK English: cream crackered = rhyming slang for knackered
UK English: knackered = very tired or exhausted in US English. It can be used in everyday conversation, but "I'm knackered!" is probably not something you would exclaim at a job interview or while having tea with the Queen.
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Take care.