Mice are nice

Large mouse by Fox and Owl

I'm here! Thank you for the emails (sorry if I haven't responded yet). Life is good. I've just been a big slacker on the blog front.

On the contrary, I've been busy stirring up a tangle of fabric, yarn, and wool felt in The Pink Room. I actually spent much of Saturday cleaning up and trying to contain a lot of my mess because I was completely taking over my littlest one's bedroom. I even folded down my cutting table to half its size. Now, at least she has her part of the room back and it looks orderly again.

I have to finish up a few projects over the next couple weeks and then it's on to some Christmas dolls. It wouldn't be Christmas without a new addition or two.

Otherwise, we've been preoccupied with mice. Little toy ones, not real - like this little adorable guy.

My oldest daughter and I are loving these little mice by this company called Maileg. A few of our favorites...
Source: Maileg
Source: Maileg

There is a cigar box that the mother and father mice sleep in and look at this house. So cute!

We ordered some plain DIY matchboxes off etsy and my daughter plans to make her own simpler variation of matchbox mice as Christmas gifts this year for her sisters and perhaps a few lucky cousins.

Of course, we had to buy the real deal as well. We found this mouse at one of our favorite toy stores in Berkeley. So sweet in person...

I understand why my daughter is so taken by these mice. I had an impressive collection of little fur mice when I was around her age. They were all in costume...a queen, a cowboy/cowgirl, a witch, a bride and groom, a baby, etc. Who knows what happened to them (Mom?!?). I remember lining them all up on a shelf in the bedroom that I shared with my younger sister. Occasionally, I come across a few for sale on etsy or ebay...but I'm actually very content with the one piece I have left from my childhood collection - I'll leave it to my girls to do the "collecting" these days.

This is the sole mouse that I have left. I found it a year or two ago in a box at my parents' house. It looks scared.

I have no idea what its costume once was; there is no sign of it left. It has one deformed ear and is missing almost all the fur on its tail and a bit from around its nose. Maybe I'll have my daughter make it some clothes.

Poor thing is in the care of the beautiful mouse my daughter and I bought at the Renegade Fair earlier this summer. We were there the first day as the doors opened and bee-lined to Fox and Owl's booth, chatted with Erika a bit (uh, she's awesome and super super super talented), and happily walked away with "Miss Mouse", as my daughters call her.

My daughter pleaded for one of these, too. How could I resist? So many people stopped to ask her where she got it from :).

When not being played with, Miss Mouse usually sits up on a shelf in The Pink Room with the little pig we bought last year at the Renegade Fair. The pig is from Oh Ma Felt and was a perfect birthday gift for my "Year of the Pig" baby. It's actually one of her favorites :).

Off to go pick-up the girls from their schools...



means Christmas is already on the brain! It's still a long ways off, but my plate is extremely full these days. I have to start thinking about it now and what I realistically have time to make. Matching pajamas are a must. What else can I fit in? My youngest really wants a doll...one like her sisters have.

In the meantime, there are a few back-to-school projects on the table...

Source: Superbuzzy

And thanks to Sew Mama Sew, I know what I'll be making out of the Ed Emberley fabric above.

These pencil cases! Maybe with some matching travel art folios for car trips.

I love this Ed Emberley fabric. I am confident that I've drawn every animal featured on that fabric at least a dozen times during my childhood (easily more!). I remember that book so well and have tried my best to introduce Ed Emberley books to my girls; they just aren't as drawn to his books as I was as a kid (no pun intended :) ).

Superbuzzy has a few other Ed Emberley items I'm eyeing, including a few fabrics, some trims and a couple bento bags. I like this fabric, too.

My middle daughter is the kid in our family who draws a lot these days. A LOT. She's been into this book lately. I'll have to snap some photos of her artwork. Drawings are scattered all over the house this summer.

Besides drawing, the girls have been enjoying lots of down-time this summer. Very few scheduled activities. Lots of time to lounge around the house, swim, play soccer, and make messes/"be creative" :). And time with family, of course. One last trip next week to see more cousins and spend time at the beach and then it's back to school!

These last few pictures are for the Grandparents, specifically those on the East Coast (though, I'm sure both sets will enjoy them).

My sweet new niece with a tasty flip-flop.

Another adorable nephew.



And, of course, a few of the "matching" shots.

Cousin love.


Thanks for the past couple weeks!

Happy Cousins, Cape Cod, 2011.


More Summer Sewing

My oldest and I were at Michael's the other day, stocking up on art and craft supplies for summertime. While I was picking up a few skeins of embroidery floss, she spotted these felt doll kits in a new area of the store that also had sheets of wool felt, felted wool, wool roving, and other felting supplies (and cute felt and embroidery kits!). Go Michaels!

Source Amazon

I had some coupons handy and had been eyeing similar kits online**, so it was hard to say no. She picked out the doll kit above for my middle daughter and the one below for herself.

Source Borders

I couldn't find the actual pictures on Michael's site, but as you can see, these kits are available elsewhere (Borders, even?!?). The felt already has holes punched making it easy for kids to sew themselves. Everything is included: needle, thread, beads, stuffing, etc. The girls both started them during their Sunday Sister Sewing Session last night.

**A few months ago, I had spotted these doll kits at one of my favorite online stores, Lark.

I'm glad I found them locally! I may go back with this week's coupon and pick up one more for my youngest. She obviously can't make it yet, but her sisters can.

The only drawback to these kits is that the felt they use is craft felt/acrylic (blah!). The girls noticed the difference right away. But then again, for $5 (with a coupon), I can't complain really. And they have something to work on for at least one more Sunday!

Keep your eye out for these kits if you have a daughter who likes to sew!


Fiber Treasures

I love to buy fabric and yarn in person. While I do my best to support local stores, I also can't resist purchasing fiber souvenirs whenever I'm on "vacation"... this includes seasonal pilgrimages to Hart's Fabrics in Santa Cruz and semi-frequent road trips down the coast to visit family in Southern California.

Unfortunately, one of the stores I often stop at on my trips to SoCal is about to close. So sad! Stopping there has been sort of a ritual over the years...I look forward to fabric and yarn and the girls look forward to walking over to Coffee, Bean and Tea Leaf for an ice-blended drink or hot chocolate, depending on the time of year.

My husband pointed out all the fabric and yarn stores that I buy from online (and how it's easier and sometimes cheaper to do so), but I tried my best to convey to him the importance of seeing and touching fabric in person. Everytime I venture into a store, I find fabric that I otherwise would have passed on if I had only seen it online. Likewise, there are sometimes prints that I'm happy I passed on (the scale or color or feel may not be as appealing in person).

Luckily, on our most recent trip down the coast a few weekends ago, I discovered a new-to-me (brick and mortar) fabric store, but one that I've bought plenty of fabric from online...

Um, anyone heard of FABRIC WORM?!?!

I guess I never paid much attention to the "Visit Our Store" part of their website.. Paso Robles is directly on our route down the 101! And it's actually a better 1/2 way point for us to stop, stretch, eat...and buy fabric! Awesome.

On my inaugural visit to Birch Fabrics/Fabric Worm, I purchased some of this lovely Japanese fabric that is destined to become a sewing machine cover for the sweet Bernina my mother just passed down to me (she bought herself a new, even fancier embroidery-does-everything machine). See, as I explained to my husband, now when I look at my machine with it's cover on, I'll remember the trip we took to celebrate my Grandmother's 90th birthday. My purchases are sentimental like that :).

Two road trips ago, on my last visit to the aforementioned store that's about to close, I bought a bunch of this Brown Sheep Burly Spun Yarn; it was on sale and I thought I'd use it for doll hair. But when I tested it out on a doll that I'm making, I not so sure it will work - the doll looks very washed out. Hmm. Maybe once I've finished embroidering her eyes/face, things will look better.

But...but, see if it does work, I'll think of that fabric store whenever I look at this new doll and her lovely hair. :-P

For now, the yarn is entertaining my youngest. We've never had a ball of yarn around here that comes close to the size of this one. And that's saying something!


Sunday Sister Sewing Sessions

Sunday Sister Sewing Sessions are a tradition we started at the beginning of the new year. I had been noticing that whenever I tried to sneak a few minutes away in the Pink Room (aka "Pinkies"), my girls were just a step or two behind me. And while I love that they're so eager to sew, it's hard to accomplish much if I'm also working with them. So I decided to establish a set time every Sunday afternoon for mother-daughter sewing time. Just me and my two older girls. So far, it's been a remarkable success.

We made up rules during our first official session. 1) You have to be at least 5 1/2 to participate (my middle daughter's rule); 2) try your best (my oldest's rule); and 3) if there is any squabbling, the session is canceled (my rule). To my surprise, they've been incredibly cooperative and kind and my oldest is even helping my middle daughter with her stitches (!!!). They are extra-nice during this special hour on Sundays. Perhaps I should extend the duration of our weekly sessions - a whole afternoon of cooperation and sweetness? Hmmm...

The only music we ever play in Pinkies is this awesome radio station - music from the 1930s and 40s. The songs remind me of being in my Grandma's house as a kid and helps set the mood for sewing - with my girls or by myself. Plus, the station also plays old radio shows/mysteries from that era, which the girls love to listen to.

Each Sunday Sister Sewing Session includes tea and a special treat of some kind. We've been using coffee mugs that the girls designed (I'll have to take a real picture of these) and little tea plates and spoons that were passed down from my Grandmother.

For the past few months, the girls have been working on rabbits from the Kata Golda book. For my middle daughter, I used a small 1/16" hole-punch and made holes for her to then blanket-stitch. My oldest daughter already knew what to do here, so I let her do her thing.

On a few Sundays, the girls have worked on other sewing projects (the projects here for my oldest and my middle daughter worked with me a few times on repairing a Pillow Pet and some other store-bought toys that had sprouted holes).

We're now midway through May and we've only missed one Sunday that we've been in town! The girls honestly seem to look forward to this weekly event. And it has kept them from asking "can I help? can I sew?" whenever they see me in the Pink Room. I try and update the chalkboard (pictured up top) with what step/project they'll be working on each Sunday so they have something to look forward to.

Using buttons to "mark" where she wants the eyes to go.

They finally finished their rabbits this past weekend. Both designed their rabbit's face themselves (I assisted a bit with embroidering features- mostly playing "clean up" :) ).

My oldest daughter and I are now going to start back on her Mary Frances sewing. My middle daughter wants to work on a tooth fairy pillow.

So that's a little of what's been going on here every Sunday afternoon :).

(Sorry for all the poor quality photos. Better photos next time :) ).


The Unfinished Sisters Sewing Sketch

Every so often when tiding up my sewing space I come across this unfinished rough sketch of mine from more than 2 years ago. Whenever I look at this sketch, I laugh a bit because the girls in the drawing are supposed to be my daughters - and they are...but they aren't. For one...their hair is brushed and styled so nicely. That doesn't happen very often around here. Also, my middle daughter is actually wearing what looks like matching socks (she likes to "layer" in real life...mismatching socks on top of leggings on top of tights, under a dress, of course, etc.). And the two older ones are sewing...on their own...cooperatively. Pure fantasy?

I never finished the sketch because I wasn't sure where I was going with it. Did I eventually want to frame it and put it up in my sewing space? Did I want to convert it to a line drawing and embroider it? I never decided so I never finished it.

To be honest and fair, I should add that the sketch is not original. It was inspired (that doesn't feel like a strong enough word here!) by this vintage needlebook that I am still on the hunt for (if anyone comes across it, let me know). I thought this needlebook picture was incredibly charming and decided to draw my own version of my girls for purely personal reasons. Look at how adorable the needlebook is. I want it! I need it!

Source: Unknown! Downloaded it a few years back!

Side note: I did eventually use the sketch of my youngest on a Christmas stocking I made later that year. I changed the doll to one I knit for her and had placed in the stocking.

(The reindeer is from Badbird.)

As I was saying, the sketch used to make me laugh because the girls were sewing and all getting along so nicely...helping to mend a shoe and a dress for their baby sister's doll!?! How sweet of them. Every sewing mother's dream...

But actually, these days, it's not so much a fantasy anymore. We've started a new tradition this year...and it has caused me to reflect on this sketch and consider what I want it to become because of my girls and who they are becoming. I think the sketch has a place in our sewing space/The Pink Room/"Pinkies"...somehow.

I'm also intent on finding that needlebook!

I'll post more about this next week...


Are you looking at me?

One of the great things about keeping a flickr stream and, over the past year, a blog, is that it has provided me with the opportunity to watch my artistic style evolve. Over the years, there have been a few subtle changes (improvements!) in the way I make dolls. At the same time, there are a few things that I do/techniques that I use that have held fast - I do them for personal and peculiar reasons and it's not likely they'll change. I thought I'd provide some insight here:

1) Hair parts! Have you noticed how I consistently part my dolls' hair on the same side of the head? Every doll I've made (with the exception of the marionettes and Goldilocks back in 2008) has a hair part on the same side as the doll up in my blog's banner/avatar. Always. The reason why I always do it this way?



And her:
Notice that they all have hair parts on that side of their head. So the dolls I make do, too. Naturally! Even when the hair is felt :).

2) The Eyes! Not only do I always purposefully put three lashes on each side (we have a thing about doing things in three around this house), but I always put the highlight in the same exact spot, and if the doll is looking in any sort of direction, it's toward my left side. See?

The reason why is because I'm left-handed and oftentimes it's much easier for me to draw or embroider with the eyes of the doll looking at my hand. (Hence the blog post title). It's hard for me to explain, but it's as if my hand is an eye, too. Does anyone else feel this way? Often, when I'm sketching, I can actually draw better with the subject looking in that direction. Strange. I should scan some of my sketchbooks sometime.

Anyways, that's why you see the highlights in the same spot, three eyelashes per side, and sometimes the dolls glancing in that direction.

So, yes, that's part of my style ("signature" as one of you emailed me). The hair part, the eyes, the red mouth...that's how I do things.

I recently asked one of my favorite bloggers/dollmakers to test something out for me. At some point in the future, we can both show you what she did because the end result is beautiful...and it is "her" (the blogger/dollmaker). I love that I gave her the tools to make something "just like me/just like I do it", but she did it her way. It looks like one of her dolls (you'd all agree) and not like a copy of mine. She put her signature on it and I love it! Thank you, (you know who you are), and thanks to the rest of you who have emailed me over the past couple days! I appreciate your kind words!

I need to run and get a pedicure. It is hot today!


Little Stitches

Sewn by my oldest daughter for her friend. Spring 2011.

Over the weekend my oldest daughter attended a birthday party for one of her favorite friends. From the moment she received the invitation she started planning all the gifts she would make. She poured over Kata Golda's book as well as a new book I picked up at the Japanese book store a few weeks back (though you can buy this book many places), Felt Friends from Japan.

Her list was long and her ambitions were high. She picked out five toys that she planned on making (!?!?). And she wanted to cross-stitch something for her friend, too, and then make something from it. A pillow? A purse? A bookmark? All three!

I ended up taking her to the craft store and we found an inexpensive unfinished wood box (a jewelry box?). The lid has a 3 x 5 glass opening that would be perfect for a photo...or a little cross-stitch design? That works!

I made a few modifications to one of Wee Wonderful's X-Stitchette designs so that it would resemble her friend and be a bit more simple for my daughter to follow (including enlarging the pattern). My daughter pulled the rest off herself and even had time to make one of the five toys she had originally planned on making - the tiny wool felt bunny pictured up top. I cut that pattern out for her and she did all the sewing on her own. Hundreds of tiny stitches and several hours between the two presents!!!

She lined the box with wool felt and placed the bunny and a few other gifts inside the box.

And she is extremely proud, as you can see. I'm proud of her, too. Serious dedication!

On an unrelated note: If anyone knows of a toy/doll drive for Japan that's being organized here in the US, please let me know. I have a doll I made that I'd like to contribute. Thanks!