A Pretty Kitty

Happy Birthday

A particular three year old had a birthday a few days back. Now, as she patiently explains to anyone willing to listen, we have a 7, 5, 4, and 1 year old in our family, not a 7, 5, 3, and 1 year old that her mother continually makes the mistake of blurting out when asked. I fear it will be far too soon before I’ll have to update my mental model yet again.

Four is such a magical time for my kids, one of my favorite developmental ages. They start playing together instead of side-by-side; their fine motor skills become more skilled and steady; their whole imaginative life takes off, in particular this little one who has always always been drawn to dramatic play. It has been and intense and joyful period of growth.

Birthdays in our family of six have taken on a slower, gentler pace through the years, as I suppose happens in any growing family. Not only are the daily demands different than when we only had one child, but we’ve discovered what works for our family and what doesn’t, and our needs have also decreased, since we’ve hit this age twice before and the gifts that have fit us best are still around and being loved and played with by all. So gift piles have become smaller and more thoughtful, with time spent on making and experiences over stuff.

For this year’s gift, I found this pattern for a stuffed mama cat on Craftsy that would be just about perfect for my little full-o-loving mini-mama who mothers all her toys with her big heart. Kindly remember that I am still quite a novice when it comes to sewing, so when I found the pattern a week before her birthday, I thought I would have plenty of time. And when I actually started it the day before her birthday, I thought it would only take three, maybe four hours.

Mama Kitty

I was so. very. wrong.

It took me until 4am. But… I got it done. Here she is, sitting pretty with her closed off skirt, which holds…

Mama and Babies

four little kitties; three littles and one baby, just like us. You’ll note that these little kitties are naked in this picture, because I simply ran out of steam and had to get to sleep.

Mama Bodice

She’s made out of linen, which was a little tricky for me to work with. It frayed in a few spots, but I think I figured out how to adjust the stitch size to prevent it. Also, I worked a few of the kitties on the bias, which helped significantly.

Mama Detail

The apron and dress were made with some japanese cotton linen blends; the matroyshka print is discontinued and I can’t find any more bits of it which makes me sad because I really found it so dear. There a bit of funkiness you’ll see going on with the bodice which is completely due to my inexperience and the time of morning when I tried to decipher the instructions. I knew I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out so I sewed together what I had and the next day (after three coffees and a few hours of rest) I wrote to Dorie, the creator of the pattern, and the writer of the equally fabulous tumblingblocks blog, hoping that she might be able to decipher what I did wrong. Not only did she respond within two hours, she took the time to walk me through making the bodice, step-by-step with kindness and incredible grace. Then, to top it off, she also updated her blog with an extra little bodice tutorial for us sad and confused newbies. Needless-to-say, after her lovely email I read through the instructions again, and everything was clear as day. It really was my inexperience getting the best of me.

Anyway, the bodice needs a bit of fixing. Luckily I have just enough fabric left to remake it (there was some rather unfortunate cutting which prevents me from reusing the pieces in the one I already sewed… eek!) and that’s on the list to finish up before the week is over.

Baby Kitties Dressed Up

After the older two went to school and the baby went down for her nap, my husband took the newly minted four year old out for a little Daddy-Daughter time, and I had just enough time to attempt to make the kitties some clothes. Being as tired as I was, I decided to forgo extra time in front of the machine, and grabbed some felt I had lying around to cut and tack together a few pieces. Worked like a charm! I wish I had used some decorative stitching or rick-rack, but there’s time for that after the holidays. For now these work perfectly. Plus, I don’t have any rick-rack lying around. I did, however, have 1/4″ bias tape that I believe I purchased in 2002. Let me say that the most difficult and nerve wracking part of sewing for me was attaching that 1/4″ bias tape. It was ripped out many, many times. Next time I’m using 1/2″.

Super Secret Skirt

She played with that cat (Hey look! A secret POCKET!) for a good ten minutes while I took pictures. She was so excited when I told her that I made it. I can’t imagine it will be too much longer before mama-mades no longer elicit such emotion, so I am reveling in it for as long as I can.

Baby Kitty With Pants

Of course, Mama Cat and her Three Little Kittens were forgotten (as well as every other gift provided by her loving grandparents and aunts and uncles) as soon as the playmobile set was unwrapped.

As I said earlier, experience taught us what they love… and gives us the knowledge to have her open that gift last 😉


:: Linking to These Fabulous Sites ::
Under the Table and Dreaming



Another Birthday

March is a busy month for us. We have a birthday as we enter it, and another to celebrate as we prepare to leave it. In like a lion, out like a lamb, yes? Or maybe it’s more appropriately in like a one year old, out like a five year old.

Of course we started the day with the much anticipated birthday shirt. A sister-designed robot shirt, for the little guy who wants to grow up to be a robot. “But you can’t be a robot, Mama, so I’ll just have to be a robot builder.”

Birthday Shirt

Once again, the shirt was started and finished in the eleventh hour. This time, however, I had to admit a tiny bit of defeat. After sewing the felt number five crookedly for the sixth time, I gave up and used some iron-on fusing to get the job done. I will sew it on later today, but for now, a bit of rest while we enjoy the company of family who came in to visit for the day.

Another Angle

I still love how excited the kids gets to make and give and wear these shirts. It’s amazing what a bit of fabric markers, an old tshirt scrap, some creativity, a few stitches, and a whole lot of love can magic up!

Of course all that new shirt enthusiasm prompted the little ones still at home to get out theirs as well…
The Three Year Old Shirt

Baby Shirt

If you’d like to take a look at some other shirts, there’s the tutorial here, and the three year old’s here, and another three year old here, and our very first one here. Although I didn’t blog about them, pictures of the six and four year old shirts can be found with the tutorial.

And the day wouldn’t be complete without the special birthday cake request, although this time it was for S’mores Whoopie Pies, erm, I mean Gobs, which really were pretty tasty, although not so pretty. How could you possibly go wrong with Marshmallow Fluff  and Nutella filling? I’m pretty certain we’ll be making these again quite soon.

S'mores Whoopies

It was a lovely little family party to celebrate this little five year old guy. Just a perfect day.

“How does it feel to be five?” we asked him.

“It feels like I’m almost six.”

Happy Birthday, my almost six year old, but please don’t grow up so fast.


Linking to these fine and fun DIY sites ::

==freckled laundry

A First Birthday :: Hand Dyed Silk Scarves

A few years ago I used a tutorial I found on the web to dye a bunch of silk scarves for the kids using packets of kool-aid. They were very well loved. Blankets, bustles, head scarves, dresses, napkins (not my favorite), juggling tools, baskets, diapers, slings… those scarves were used and abused in ways I never could have imagined. Sadly, quite a few moves later, not all of the scarves are still with us.

The Old Scarves

So for this first birthday, it seemed appropriate that our little one would get her own set of scarves, that she would, of course, share with her brother and sisters. This time instead of using kool-aid, I used a set of dyes called Culinary Colors Dye Kit, which I bought at one of my old yarn shops in Pittsburgh. I had used it to dye a few of skeins of yarn two years back and was pretty excited about it, but with the moves and that new baby, hadn’t really given it much thought since. Perfect opportunity, this little birthday, for some fun mess making in the kitchen!

I ordered a few square habatoi silk scarves from the Dharma Trading Company, a fantastic site related to all things fiber and dye. Their customer service is superior—friendly and honest—their products are high quality and reasonably priced, and they ship fast! What’s not to love? After the scarves arrived, I soaked them for a few hours to prepare them for the dye.

Soaking Scarves

A note of caution :: Dyeing is a messy business. Wear clothes that you don’t care about getting permanently splotchy; protect ALL work surfaces; cover your hands. These are called Culinary Colors and are food-safe, but I find it best to approach all dyeing with the same amount of suspicion and not mix dyeing equipment with your everyday kitchen wares.

Here is a bunch of jars being prepared with the dye. My highly scientific method :: pour some water into a recycle glass jar – 1/8 to 1/4 cup, squeeze a few drops of dye into it, mix it, then drop the tip of a tissue in the dye to see its strength and test the color shade, then adjust as desired. Once I’m happy with the color, I add the white vinegar, mix, then push in the wrung out, wet scarves, and close the lid.

Testing the Dye

I wanted a tie-dyed effect, so I kept the water amount low and the space to fit the scarf relatively tight. Another note :: Hand dying doesn’t often give you the flat, even tone you may be used to seeing with commercially dyed scarves, but I find the variations and mottling part of the inherent charm. Once the dye seems to have soaked through the scarf—I turn the jars upside down on a paper towel then back a few times and open the lid and poke it a few times with a Chinese take-out disposable chopstick—it’s time to “cook” them and set your dye in the microwave.

Nuke 'Em All

Once they had cooked and cooled, I took them up to rinse in my utility sink—remember :: It’s dye and will stain whatever it can—and rinsed until the water ran clear. I had trouble getting the red to set, so I soaked it in water with some more vinegar over night, with another few minutes in the microwave before another rinse.

Pre Rinse

Then it’s time to unfold them and see what you got, you know, the most exciting part!

Blue Tie Dyed Scarf

I ironed them all dry, folded them up, and offered them to the birthday girl wrapped in tissue paper… but not before I snuck in a few beauty shots!

Beauty Shot

Another Beauty Shot

The birthday shirt might be the cutest, and the mama-knit sweater an item steeped in meaning, but the scarves, well, the scarves are the favorite. And not just by the little one, but by them all.

Dress Up

I think I can live with that.

A First Birthday :: The Birthday Shirt

It wouldn’t quite be an official birthday ’round here without the siblings’-made special birthday shirt, now would it? And we might have made it in the last possible second, but it did get done!

Birthday Shirt All Done!


Another Shot of the Shirt

As a matter of fact, everyone joined in the fun and wore their own very special birthday shirts!

Everybody's Birthday Shirts

One of them you’ve seen before, and here’s the four year old’s shirt’s debut ::

Birthday Shirt for a 4 Year Old

And the six year old’s shirt’s picture ::

Birthday Shirt for a 6 Year Old

You can see in the 6 year old’s shirt why I stopped using Sharpies; after one wash the orange bled all over the place, front and back of the shirt. After so much effort from us all, it was pretty heartbreaking to see the mess that came out of the laundry, but I was the only one who seemed to mind so instead of making a new one as I planned, I grit my teeth and let it go. The bleed has faded a good deal after several more washings, but it still looks sloppy.

I gathered the kids up the night before the littlest one’s birthday and we stayed up a little past everyone’s bed time to get the drawing completed… I did the sewing and made a total mess of it not once but twice which caused me to go to bed right around 2.30, way past my bed time too. Metallic embroidery floss is not my favorite; although it’s shiny and sparkly it kept tangling, breaking, and it was rather kinky. I think I’m going to throw the rest of it out so I’m never tempted again.

How to BeginThe First ArtistThe Second ArtistCompleted PatternBig Number 1Cutting Out the 1The Cut Out 1Pinning the 1All Sewn On

It took a few steps, but it’s really not that hard. First I cut out a nice sized square, trimmed so the final number wouldn’t be larger than the area on the shirt front it was going to be sewn to. Then I taped it down with clear packing tape to stabilize it for the kids to draw on. You could also do this by ironing freezer paper with the plastic side to the back of the square and then taping it down, but I was running short on time. Next I taped off two areas for the older kids to draw on, and let the three year old do her drawing first. We used Marvy Opaque Fabric Pens in silver and gold glitter, and pink. The four year old worked above her after I removed the protective tape from his section, and the six year old above him after the same. Once the drawing was done, I quickly sketched out a big fat “1” on a blank piece of paper and cut it out so I could trace it using the silver glitter pen directly on top of the patterned drawing the kids made. You could also do this by printing out a big, bold, blown up number “1” in your favorite font, but I didn’t want anything fancy (and again with the whole running out of time thing!) this time around. Once the tracing was complete, I cut out the “1” and then placed it on the shirt. I would like to tell you that I then pinned it in place and began sewing it to the shirt using a simple running stitch, but that wouldn’t be honest. I started sewing, realized it had gotten completely wonky while doing that, then went back and ripped out all my work, and then repeating it all again before I was smart enough to go grab some pins. I’m sure there are people who would also recommend using some sort of stabilizer on the back of the shirt and securing it all with an embroidery hoop, but honestly, I couldn’t be bothered. The fact that it took me three attempts and way too many episodes of Iron Chef might mean that you want to ask someone who is much better at this than I am for better advice. Sometimes winging it works out just fine for me, but I wouldn’t want to lead you along my faulty path… without proper warning anyway.

So, let’s see how that all comes together in the end?

How It Comes Together

Let’s face it; the shirt is cute, but it’s nothing compared to those cheeks!