Christmas Gifting

I’m still as busy as ever, making gifts into the wee hours of the night! For Lynden, my knight in shining armour, I’ve made a wool-felt dragon using a pattern I purchased from Handwork Studios.

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The pattern instructs to hand-sew the seams with a blanket stitch, which looks quite lovely. I, however, have no time for hand-stitching seams, so I took the faster route and used my sewing machine instead. Some day I’ll make a dinosaur from the same pattern, when I’m not crunched for time, and I’ll take the time to do a lovely blanket stitch seam.

DSCN0471Here’s what happens when you attempt to operate a sewing machine with a nursing baby propped on a pillow across your lap – your lines come out all crooked and uneven. Thankfully, my child isn’t the type to notice or care!

DSCN0492Almost a dragon! Time for the wings!

DSCN0497I did opt to hand-stitch the wings, because I was tired of trying to balance the baby while using the sewing machine, and because I really do like the hand-stitched look. Now all he needs is a face!

This project took two hours or so, with multiple interruptions by the baby and several silly mistakes that needed to be ripped back. If I had uninterrupted time to give proper attention to my task, I could get it finished in under an hour with no ripping back. Such is life!

In other news, Lynden has been drawing monsters and sea creatures like there’s no tomorrow:

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Momma’s Workshop

Boy oh boy, have I been busy these past few weeks! Once again, I did not start my Christmas gift-making in August. No, rather than learning from previous years, I put off my gift-making, getting started only as December closed in.

Once a place for sleeping, my bed has been taken over by sheets of fabric, balls of yarn, scissors, needles, felt, and wool stuffing. Each night I push myself until I can’t stand to keep my eyes open anymore, then I gather everything and put it away so the kids suspect nothing when they wake up in the morning.

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While the late start means plenty of midnight dates with my sewing machine, things are coming along nicely and I think I will get all of my gifts finished in time.

Several months ago I purchased a great book of toy patterns called Wee Wonderfuls, by Hillary Lang. When it arrived in the mail one day in July, my children flipped through and enthusiastically pointed out which toys they would like me to make for them. I filed their requests away in the back of my mind, and have dredged them out of the recesses of my memory now that the holidays are upon us.

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My first project – a teddy bear for Robin. I crafted it from wool felt that was purchased from Bear Dance Crafts, and got the bulk of the teddy finished in one night.

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He’s still in need of a face and clothing, but Robin’s teddy is mostly finished. The teddy bear has been joined on the shelf by two wool-felt mermaids, one with a fuchsia-coloured tail and brown hair for Lynden, and one with a lavender-coloured tail and blonde hair for Raina.

There have been several knitted projects as well, but their recipients might be reading this blog… so you’ll have to wait until after Christmas to see what I’ve crafted!

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The kids each wrote a letter to Santa. I was pleasantly surprised by their very modest requests. I half-expected to hear them ramble off a long list of things they would like, but they only asked for two gifts apiece. Lynden politely requested a sword and a hamster (his beloved hamster died last week), and Raina wants a pink shirt and a skateboard. Robin wants a train. After the letters were written, we talked about how blessed we are to have such abundance in our lives – healthy food to eat, a strong roof over our heads, a warm house to sleep in, a loving network of family & friends – and the kids told me all of the things they are grateful for. They were pretty thrilled when we made the trip to the post office to drop of their Santa letters!

Dino Goes Down Under

As you may recall, I made a stuffed dinosaur toy for my oldest son as part of our handmade holiday. I got some pretty good feedback on it, and decided to offer it as a made-to-order item in my Etsy shop.

I made DinoRoar with 100% wool (all but the eyes, that is). I love the way washed wool stuffs compared to polyfil, and the way a woolen toy feels compared to polyester or other fake fibres. Wool makes for such a warm, cuddly, cozy toy – perfect for little hands.

After spending Wednesday and Thursday knitting some serious green, today I was happy to send a new little DinoRoar off to the land down under – all the way to Australia! I hope the sweet stuffie has an uneventful journey and arrives on the other side of the planet safe and sound.

Oh, and Lynden’s DinoRoar? She’s gotten some serious love since Christmas-time. Lynden has to ward off his younger siblings when DinoRoar is around, because they’re always trying to steal her away. A successful gift, I think.

Yarning

After the madness of trying to finish all of my Christmas crafting, I took a sort-of break from knitting & crocheting in January – instead of knitting every day, I only knit a few days a week. I still have several projects going, but they’re all coming along well enough.

Remember Lynden’s hoodie? It’s nearly complete! The other day I finished the sleeves (after having to rip them back a little and make them longer) and have started the hood. My fingers are crossed that it will be finished within a week. Lynden is eager to wear it!

A Sheep is Shorn

Thursday, July 21, 2011: a record-breaking hot day with temperatures of about 37 degrees Celcius.  Ridiculously hot.  Oh-my-goodness-I-can’t-breathe hot.  Dangerously hot.

While most of our animals found breezy, shady places in which to lay half-comatose, and drank plenty of water from the various pools and tubs we filled up, I worried about Lily the sheep under her incredibly thick coat of wool.  The poor girl was panting and bothered (though the smaller and less-wooly Sunflower seemed to fare better), and it was decided that we’d have to go ahead and shear her.  I had read about unshorn sheep dying of heat stroke in this kind of weather and felt a little panicked at the thought of anything bad happening to Lily, and I just really wanted the sweet lady to be a bit more comfortable.

Here begins the hilarity.  Catching Lily was a sport in itself.  Imagine, if you will, this farm mama and her husband in a hot barn, trying to corner a panicked sheep who is still getting used to the place.  The sheep runs nose-first into the corner in an attempt to escape, giving herself a nosebleed.  Finally she is caught, and we place a collar on her in order to bring her out into the yard.  (Have you ever tried leading a sheep on a collar?  Goodness me, what a farce! A head halter is the way to go with these lovely beasts.) Once in the yard, this farm mama and her husband wrangle with the sheep until she is sitting on her rump with all four feet in the air, looking perplexed.  Time to begin!

Do you think we have sheep shearing equipment?  Heck no, we do not!  We have pet clippers that we use to shave down the goats in the Spring.  It quickly became apparent that the pet clippers would not do the trick, and so we resorted to the next thing we could think of – fabric scissors.  Yes, that’s right, my brand new, very sharp fabric scissors.  The ones I have not even had a chance to use for cutting fabric, yet.

Now let me just say that going into this, I had never sheared a sheep before.  Ever.  I went up to Thistlecroft Farm for their shearing day (where I sat aside and watched in fascination), but beyond that my only experience has been watching YouTube how-to’s.  Even with proper equipment, the job would have been tough.  With fabric scissors, it was a joke.

Lily escaped twice and had to be caught and wrangled back into position, causing mayhem in the barnyard.  Miss Molly the Border Collie went crazy with herding lust (she’s not yet trained), while the goats and Sunflower the sheep came running to see what was going on.  The kids all woke up from their naps around this time, coming out into the yard to cry about the heat.  Jae and I were sweaty and covered in tufts of wool.  It was the stuff of movies, I tell ya.

In the end, after over an hour of clip, clip, clipping with my fabric scissors, I had most of Lily’s wool off.  It was not in one piece, it was not even, and it will not be usable for spinning.  It is headed for the manure pile.  I’m ok with this! Lily is much more comfortable now, and that was the goal.  I didn’t go in with the scissors today hoping for a fleece to spin.  I went in with the intention of saving my sheep from the heat.  I think I succeeded!

Yes, yes, go ahead and laugh – I still haven’t stopped, myself.  She has a mane, it’s true!  Jae was holding her head & neck and so we decided to just get the job done and forget about her head for now.  The rest of her is shorn and Lily is much cooler now, and that’s what really matters at this point. (See the ridiculous collar?  Oh, my!)

Sunflower was so happy to have her dear Lily return to graze beside her, though paused to sniff at her again and again, as though slightly confused about her lack of wool coat. I was happy to get the thick and sticky lanolin washed off my hands, the sweaty shirt off my back, and enjoy a cool shower.

I think I’ll need more practice before I really get serious about shearing my own sheep…(Though I must say that I’m pretty impressed with how even I was able to cut with those fabric scissors!)