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The Softie Who Lived

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Let me confess right up front: I strongly dislike the word “softie.” Almost as much as I hate the words “selfie” and “hoodie.” Yet here I am, entering the Spectacular Softies Contest at Sew, Mama, Sew!

The timing was perfect, because I wanted to make something for my best friend’s daughter, who has a birthday at the end of this month. I’ve been on a bit of a Harry Potter kick with gifts for both her and her brother, so I decided to continue with a doll version of the boy wizard himself.

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Rather than reinvent the wheel, I turned to the Liam doll pattern by Abby Glassenberg. I considered making removable clothing but decided I liked the look of the “all in one” original, so I modified it slightly to incorporate the shirt, tie and sweater as part of the doll. (Similar to how the face piece is handled, I added some interfacing to give some stability to the shirt front piece, and then essentially appliqued the tie and sweater on top. The collar is made from triangle pieces of fabric, sort of like how you’d sew ears… triangles sewed on two sides then turned right-side-out and then sandwiched in between the head and body pieces).

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I took all the advice from the #sixweeksofsofties posts at Sew, Mama, Sew to heart and spent a long time carefully stuffing the finished doll. (I went a bit overboard and now one of the neck seams is popping a bit! Must fix that before I put this guy in the mail). And I went through about five different ideas for the glasses, ranging from embroidering them directly on the face to trying to make glasses out of stiffened yarn. What I ended up with: shaping thin wire into the correct shape and then wrapping it with gray yarn.

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The robe was a challenge. I started with this pattern, which I had used previously for an American Girl doll, then altered the width, neckline and arm openings to better fit the shape of my doll. But I really did not want to make a lined robe out of fleece because it would be too bulky, so I found this pattern  and resized to approximately the correct length. I ended up using the hood pattern from the second site, even though it doesn’t at all fit the doll’s head (Harry rarely puts his hood up anyway, right?)  and then drafting the red facing just by trial and error.

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I had planned to find a generic owl pattern for Hedwig, and then was thrilled that one of the Sew, Mama, Sew posts led me to the Owl Post pattern by Ric Rac. (When I asked my 10-year-old whether he liked the doll and owl, his first comment was: “Hedwig doesn’t carry a mail bag.” Such a stickler!

 

Postage Stamp Quilt

 

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I can’t believe I started this quilt two years ago! It originally was part of my “Use It or Lose It” challenge in early 2013, when I was determined to use up a lot of my scraps and other miscellaneous craft supplies. And then it made a comeback in 2014, when I challenged myself to finish  a bunch of works in progress. At some point in the last year, I did finish the quilt top but it sat untouched for many months. Finally, I pulled it out last week and finished it in a few days!

I used this tutorial at Red Pepper Quilts. In retrospect, I wish I had not included brown or black, or maybe stuck to a few bright colors. But I’m trying to remind myself that the ultimate goal was to just use up a lot of scraps.

I was tempted to bring this outside and lay it on one of the massive snowbanks in my driveway, but it is minus 19 degrees this morning. And I couldn’t disturb this cute kitty!

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Valentine’s Day 2015: The End of an Era

My son is now in 5th grade, and for the first time, he won’t be having a class Valentine’s Day party. That makes me a bit sad. On the other hand, I wasn’t coming up with any great ideas for cards …
But for those of you who are still looking for ideas, here are links to my past projects.

Click on the pictures to go to the posts:

Rubber Band Bracelet Valentines

Rubber Band Bracelet Valentines

 

Gold Medal Valentines

Gold Medal Valentines

 

 

Valentine Tissue Cozies

 

 

 

Embroidered Valentine

 

Valentine Pocket Warmers

 

Lego Star Wars Valentines

 

 

Light Saber Valentines

Light Saber Valentines

Scratch Ticket Valentines

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Valen-slime

 

Christmas gifts unwrapped

Until I sat down and actually went through my photos, it didn’t seem like I made many gifts this Christmas compared to years past. Part of it is that I find it harder to make handmade gifts for older children, and part of it is just having a lot of other stuff going on leading up to the holiday season. But I still pulled together a fair number of projects, which I can finally show off now that I delivered the last few last weekend.

My cousin has four daughters ages 7-14, and one five-year-old son. For the two oldest girls, I knitted them reversible boot toppers and made them a few no-slip headbands using THIS tutorial. I’m thinking of making a few more, using strips of wool felt instead of the velvet, because it was hard to find velvet ribbon in the appropriate width.

I also gave my cousin some headbands, and a knitted cowl.

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For the younger two girls, I made them a “Back to the 80s” craft kit like the one I made my niece last summer.

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I made a very quick and simple Snowman Kit for my cousin’s son. I considered trying to draft a pattern to make the hat, but I ended up using the bucket hat pattern I already own from the book Oliver + S: Little Things to Sew, which I have written about here. (The pattern is available free on the Oliver + S website.) I used two layers of felt to give the hat some structure, and fleece for the accessories. For the eyes and nose, I gathered and glued the pieces to pencils so they can be stuck into the snow.

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In other knitting, I made my mom a scarf and wide headband to go with a down coat I bought her, but I forgot to take pictures! I also made a few fleece “scarflets” for my friend’s daughters, and I hope to post a full tutorial and pattern here soon.

Back in October, my best friend and I took our sons to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. For Christmas, I made her a photo book using all the pictures we took, and made some Harry Potter-themed gifts for both her son and younger daughter.

For him, I made more beanbags, like the Japenese Otedama  I made in December. But since I wanted these to fit into a Harry Potter Quidditch theme (Golden snitch, quaffle and three bludgers)  I made the beanbags round instead of using the more complicated Japenese shape/pattern. I used a four-panel beanbag pattern I found here, shrinking it a bit, and packaged them in a book-shaped box I made using a cutting file from the Silhouette online store. My scanner wasn’t working, so I took pictures of the Harry Potter books and altered them to fit on the boxes.

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For my friend’s daughter, I made a time-turner necklace like the one Hermione gets in the third book. I was inspired by this tutorial, but I wanted to find a way to made the part around the hourglass look more like the version from the book/movie, so I rolled out some polymer clay and inserted it into one of the rings. All the rings and other jewelry findings I used were silver, so I had to spray paint everything gold. And I don’t have much experience with wire wrapping, so this was a lot more difficult than I thought and the finished product was not as nice as I had hoped.

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I must confess, I started this next project with intentions of making ornaments to give to others as gifts, but I ended up keeping most of them myself!  Inspired by this adorable advent calendar at A Bubbly Life, my friend Annmarie and I made more than a dozen of these animals. For some, I used a bit of Sugru to attach hooks to their backs to turn them into ornaments, like I mentioned in a previous post. For others, I left them as figurines, and grouped them with my old Fisher Price barn I had when I was a kid.

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For Annmarie, I combined crafting supplies with a little handmade gift: I bought her the first three “Twelve Days of Christmas” ornament patterns by Larissa Holland at mmmcrafts , a bunch of wool-blend felt and some embroidery floss so she can make them, plus I made the partridge and the pear tree. (You’ll note that I copied the pattern’s color choices almost exactly). I LOVE the way these patterns use a printable, wash-away stabilizer so there is no transferring of designs, you just stitch right on the stabilizer. The patterns call for Sulky Printable Sticky Fabri-Solvy, but I found a similar product, Pellon Stick-N-Wash Away, at Jo-Ann’s.

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Turning Toys into Ornaments

For my latest AP craft story, I wrote about several methods of turning small toys into Christmas tree ornaments. You can read the story HERE (as usual, if the link expires, just Google my name and a keyword or two, in this case, toys and ornaments).

For the Harry Potter ornaments, I followed a great tutorial at the Craftberry Bush blog. The others were made using a new product called Sugru, that feels like Play Doh but cures overnight into flexible rubber.

 

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(Full disclosure: I approached my son about using one of his Lego Star Wars clone troopers for this  project and he flatly refused. Apparently each of the dozen or so minifigs he has is ESSENTIAL and would be immediately missed. Sigh.)

I also experimented a bit with the Sugru to make a few bud vases out of some glass ornaments I had leftover from some other craft projects.

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I just rolled bits of Sugru into balls and stuck it on the bottom of the ornaments. It was tricky to get the placement just right, and even after curing, the single-ball vases seem slightly unstable, at least when they’re empty. When they have water in them, they’re a bit more stable. It was also quite tricky to stick the three ornaments together (by then, I had mixed a bunch of Sugru together, and such a tiny bit comes in each package, that all I had was this rather unattractive brown. If I was doing this again, I’d use white, or maybe green, that would blend in with flower stems).

 

 

 

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Winner!

Thank to everyone who entered my giveaway, and for all the great food and drink suggestions! The winner is Steph, who said: “I can’t wait to play these with my son. Thanks for the chance to win them. I like hot apple cider and kringla cookies.”

 

 

Giveaway

Welcome to my giveaway! For first-time visitors, I am a reporter for The Associated Press by day, crafter by night. This blog has been a bit neglected in recent months, but I hope to get some momentum back in the new year!

I’m giving away a set of Japanese-style beanbags called Otedama that I made using a tutorial found HERE at The Things That Make Us Happy and Wise blog. Instructions on how to play the game can be found HERE, but it appears to be similar to playing jacks: You throw one beanbag in the air and pick up another before catching the thrown bag in the same hand and so on. My 10-year-old son gave this set a test run this morning and found it fun but more challenging than we expected!

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They were rather tricky to sew because they are so small!

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I will leave this open until Friday at 9 p.m. EST and will announce the winner on Saturday. I will ship internationally.

Just leave me a comment, any comment will do. If you’re feeling chatty, tell me something yummy you like to eat or drink for the holidays.

And please check out all the other great giveaways here:

 

Halloween Bunting

I finally crossed another item off my “Finish First” list, just in time for Halloween. This took all of five minutes to finish, so it’s really ridiculous that I took years to get around to it.

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Our newly renovated living room still is a bit of a work in progress. We still have some touch-up painting to do, and I still have to make a slipcover for one of our old chairs. And figure out what to put on the walls, and how to deal with the windows. Before this room was enlarged during our renovation, we didn’t use it much because it was so narrow there wasn’t room for much furniture. So it didn’t bother me that we have nothing on the windows. But now that we use it a lot more, it feels a bit exposed at night. The windows are huge, but they have glass shelves running across them, which means curtains won’t really work. I’m thinking that sheer shades that hang behind the shelves would work,  because there is a bit of room between the windows and the shelves, but they are expensive given the non-standard sizes of the windows. So for now, they’re only covered by this bunting! (You can find my tutorial on how to make one HERE)

It helps to have a black cat this time of year. He is like a living Halloween decoration!

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This blue chair is one of our old Ikea Ektorp chairs. The cats had shredded the original brown cover, so I cut it apart and used it as a pattern to make a new cover. I chose an indoor/outdoor fabric given how sunny this room is (Robert Allen’s Baja Linen, color is “Pool”) and hoping that it would stand up better to wear and tear. Unfortunately, the cats have already scratched the arms a few times, even though there is a scratching post nearby. I tried using some double-stick tape on the chair to deter them, but it peeled right off because the fabric is so smooth. Anyone have other suggestions?

We purchased a new couch from Pottery Barn because thanks to a mix-up on some lights we had ordered, we managed to get a 30 percent off discount. I also purchased two yards of matching fabric from Pottery Barn and used to re-cover our old ottoman. Pottery Barn sells an ottoman like this for more than $500, so that $40 worth of fabric was money well spent. (Now that I look at this picture, one ‘flap’ on the ottoman looks a bit too long. I’ll have to take that side in a bit) You can also see the corner of the blue chair: I somehow cut/measured wrong, and the slipcover wasn’t long enough, so I cut it off and used Velcro to wrap the fabric around the base of the chair, leaving the legs exposed. I still need to adjust the fabric a bit, but I think  it makes the chair look a bit more modern). The other chair will be covered in a gray and white print.

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Mini Mummies

CRAFTS-MINI MUMMIES

 

We are not an “Elf on the Shelf” household. Part of me knows that I would go way overboard planning creative adventures for it every night, and part of me thinks it’s just a little creepy. That said, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a slightly spooky creature keeping an eye on your kids around Halloween instead of Christmas?

Our annual “apple party” is coming up, and that means I need to come up with a craft for the kids. In the past, we’ve made pantyhose pumpkins, Halloween snow-globes, confetti poppers and leaf glitter paintings. (The leaf glitter trees were actually one of my favorites, but I just realized I never posted about it! That link goes to the tutorial I used.) This year, the kids are going to make miniature mummies!

You can read the full tutorial HERE. (As always, with my AP stories, news links tend to die out rather quickly. If the link is bad, just google “Holly Ramer” and “mummies” and it should pop up.)

CRAFTS-MINI MUMMIES

Apple Party Poppers

For as long as we’ve been married (15 years!), my husband and I have hosted what we call our “Apple Party.” It started out small, and as the name suggests, involved picking apples at a nearby orchard and then returning to our house for a dinner party. Over the years, it has grown exponentially in size, and along the way, we stopped going apple picking and just focused on the party part.

You can read all about it in the article my husband wrote for New Hampshire Magazine here. (I wasn’t quite expecting such a big spread. In the printed version, there is a full-page picture of me and Jason … good thing I knew the photographer — my mom — would do an excellent job!) But I also wanted to highlight the craft project we did last year:

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I got the idea from HERE. They are confetti “poppers.” I prepped all the tubes (This was a last-minute idea, so I actually ordered 70 empty toilet paper tubes from someone on eBay!) ahead of time with the balloons and tape, so the kids just had to decorate them with stickers if they wanted. The only downside was that I way underestimated how much confetti they would go through, and we ran out pretty quick. (I don’t have a shredder, and it took a long time to make that much confetti!)

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I also just realized I never wrote here about the photo booth I made for that party. You can read the tutorial I wrote for AP a few months ago here, but basically, I turned a refrigerator box into a photo booth (I got the box free years ago from an appliance store when I made Parker a castle for his 4th birthday), and set up my iPad with a photo booth app.

I had planned to let people print their pictures on the spot but my printer was not cooperating. It was just as well, since our guests took hundreds of pictures throughout the day and evening! I’ll definitely be pulling the booth out again for this year’s party. It has held up pretty well just being folded flat and stored in the garage. We’ve even lent it to other friends.

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