Knitting a Tree House

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I have finally finished knitting the tree house to go along with the story blanket I have made for my children. I began knitting the story blanket at the end of May. When I started, I imagined I would make all kinds of fantastical accessories to go along with their playscape. So far I have only made a few but have had much fun in the making, and I look forward to crafting more add-ons over the following years.

My family again spent our summer in Vancouver, whose forests very much ground me and inspire the type of play I imagine for my kids (these same imaginings make me wish I still had a young mind to engage in child’s play with fervor). I also enjoy all the walking I do in this city and while out on one of the last days of our extended visit, I happened upon Book Warehouse. It wasn’t on my summer to-do list, but when the opportunity presented itself I took advantage because I love this chain of bookstores. The shops are full of obscure titles that are “bargain priced”. The craft and sewing sections are fantastic. My kids and I were in just long enough to discover two books I Had to Have. I am not much of a consumer and possess tremendous self discipline when it comes to stifling an urge to impulse buy. Until, that is, I am presented with fabric, wool, or anything related. Then all good sense evades me. (Just yesterday I came across a large quantity of European wool yarn at an amazing price. I am still trying to process what happened). As I am someone who is prone to guilt, I am forced from within to put much effort into finding a variety justifications: “Well, I rarely drink. I could have easily spent that much on alcohol during the last year”, “I could be washing my hair every day. The cost of shampoo can really add up”. Ridiculous.

One of the books I picked up that beautiful August day is titled Mini Knitted Woodland by Sachiyo Ishii. It is full of knit and crochet patterns for all sorts of forest creatures, gnomes included, and also mushrooms, tree stumps, etc. On our road trip back down to Southern California, in between passing out snacks, activities, comforting young tears and answering “why” questions from the back seat, I followed the lovely tree pattern as directed (except for needle and wool sizes). Then I had more fun and used this same pattern to start a tree house.

Using thick hand spun wool from Colombia (my MIL brought this back from one of her trips), I knit another big tree, this time creating an opening I hoped could be filled with resident rabbits.  Over the next several months I kept working on this project. Finally this January, back in Canada again, I started to finish up. I began by sewing up the roots which I weighed down by filling them with rice. If I had have thought it through better, I would have started the doorway higher than the root line to make room for more  weighted filling and thus stability. I also would have had large glass beads on hand to use instead of rice. Once the roots were done I had to think about how the opening could support the heavy, wool-stuffed tree above. I decided to stitch in channels for extra wide popsicle sticks. Again, if I had have been more organized I would have used more than five sticks I was fortunate my MIL had on hand. I made loopy leaves for the branches and I attached a wooden tree swing for the dolls.

It brings me true delight that my son has been so excited about this project, frequently asking to see and play with the knitted tree house through all its progressions. I am sure my daughter will grow into this play, too. Certainly we will be spending countless hours swinging dolls back and forth on the knitted tree house, moving tiny animals about and making woodland creatures speak.

A Day on the Couch Being Together

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I never imagined that they would want even more time with me than they already have. We made a decision at the end of our day that into our rhythm we will add one day a month where we sit on the couch all day, just being together, doing what we love,deepening our connections with each other.

Today I spent the day sick on the couch. It is rare that anyone in my family gets sick, but this is the worst cold I have had since I was pregnant with my daughter. There were a lot of days spent on the couch then, and my son who was almost three didn’t care much for any of them. I did not have great hopes that today would be different. My husband offered to stay home but he spends a tremendous amount of time alone in his studio painting and he had already promised to take some visiting European artists around LA to visit galleries. I didn’t want any of them to miss out on a fun day. Somebody should be having a good time! The one known entity was that no matter what it wouldn’t be me. I downplayed how sick I was to my husband and silently promised myself that other than mealtimes, basic hygiene, and diaper changes I would tune out everything that needed to get done, I would explain to the kids how much more sick I would get if I did more than the minimum for them. There were already pots of soup and rice in the fridge so I didn’t have to worry about dinner. I would spend the day on the couch. I convinced myself I could do this.

And I did. My kids had a fabulous day!

I would have been more surprised if it hadn’t have been so obvious why my children loved their day so much. They didn’t get to go outside and play in the newly formed puddles in our yard (a big deal since we are having a drought in California), I didn’t cater to their every need and, well, request, I frequently had to tell my son that I couldn’t talk to him because that drained my energy, other than a new board game I didn’t play with my son at all – none of the imaginary games he adores to play and typically begs for multiple times every day. The kids didn’t whine. They got along wonderfully. They smiled tons. All because they had me stationary on the couch. I was close to them. All day long. After our game of Zoologic became too taxing for me in my sick state, I did stitching handwork while my son put together lego. My young daughter toddled around, playing with little toys, climbing up on me for snuggles -thumb in her mouth, hand down my shirt- and then again to the floor for more independent play. Neither of my kids nap, but during one of her trips to  cuddle, my littlest one nursed to sleep on my lap, her head cradled in my arm. Such sweetness. A warm sleeping child is perfect medicine for a sick mama.

What I discovered today is how much my children value their connection and close time with me. I know this extends to their father, as well. My kids and I are together all day every day. Once a week my son goes to the studio for the day with his Papa and that is the only break apart I have from either of my little ones. I never imagined that they would want even more time with me than they already have. We have a weekly rhythm and usually our days spent at home involve playing together and lots of conversation but they are also very full of housework, laundry, preparing meals, important phone calls (usually with the insurance company or Covered California. Although we pay our premiums every month, we seem to never have active health insurance…that of course is another story). Our days are Full. Too Full.There is just too much to get done and I never catch up. I know this is a struggle for many of us. I am with my children all the time and still I don’t feel like I give them enough. They are happy and secure kids but I can tell they still want more from me, more of me. Today I think they felt like I gave them enough. Our day on the  couch together was a beautiful discovery to make. Obviously, I can’t do this all the time. But I can do it sometimes. We made a decision at the end of our day that into our rhythm we will add one day a month where we sit on the couch all day, just being together, doing what we love, deepening our connections with each other. I am so grateful for this cold.

I never imagined that they would want even more time with me than they already have. We made a decision at the end of our day that into our rhythm we will add one day a month where we sit on the couch all day, just being together, doing what we love,deepening our connections with each other.

Felted Wool Cuffs

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Felted Wool Cuffs


Wool cuffs I noticed on Etsy looked like the right gifts for my 4-year-old and I to felt together for his Québecoise grandmothers. I have only a small amount of experience with wet felting and I had absolutely no knowledge of nuno felting until minutes before we embarked on our project. Still, I was convinced that my son would be able to do most of the work so that these gifts really would be his to give. Right after we watched videos on how to nuno felt, my son referred to our new craft as a science experiment. His choice of words felt great. “Experiment” meant he wouldn’t be crushed if our cuffs were a complete failure. “Experiment” meant that this might actually be his expectation. As I really had no idea what I was doing I was happy that he had given us the room to fail completely and end up with nothing but a mess. At the same time I felt the essential confidence that I could be both patient and stubborn enough that we would like what we ended up with and that his grandmothers might wear their cuffs not only out of love but also because they actually liked the wool bracelets.


The project did in fact work out! I also learned a lot. In spite of doing it differently next time, any experienced felter would surely shake her head at even our revised process. I still don’t know what I am doing!


My son enjoyed laying out all the wool roving, wrapping the wool up in bubble wrap and then rolling it over and over. He lasted much longer with the rolling pin than I had expected. He actually did 8 minutes straight before asking me to take a turn! I was impressed. My youngest child also delighted in splashing her little hands in the pyrex dish of water after we introduced a second “technique”. The extra step brought everything together and also provided me with a wave of motherly relief to know that even my one-year-old was having a great time. Success!



Classic Pin Tuck Dress

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Classic Pin Tuck Dress


IMG_2998 - Copy

The Pin Tuck Dress is my favourite child’s pattern to work with. While there are lots of other kids patterns I regularly sew from, this one by Heidi & Finn is the design I find most versatile. Before I became a mother I used to design patterns and sew a lot for myself. My pattern drafting tools are all in storage, though, and anyways I no longer have enough time to work on anything too complicated or that actually has to fit.


Playing around with the Pin Tuck pattern provides me with the creative moments that feel so essential to me, that keep me well oiled. These moments of pattern manipulations are brief and this is exactly what makes them doable at this stage in my life. I share almost every moment of waking life with my two young children! These kids have a lot of needs that are more essential than my creative time!



Even without any changes, the Pin Tuck Dress is a beautiful pattern. Here it is in a  simple gray knit fabric trimmed with black bias tape. I usually make my own bias tape but in this case I used store bought. This is a dress that might be too sophisticated for a one-year-old! I keep thinking that I would like to trade in my own wardrobe for my daughter’s. This dress would probably be a good place to start.


Simple Christmas Traditions

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Simple Christmas Traditions


It is winter time again. Recently in a homeschooling group that I am part of, a mother asked about the favourite winter holiday and Christmas traditions in our families. I felt lucky for these glimpses. It was heart warming to have a window into the intimate and beloved celebrations of other families.

After reading about others, it was simple to identify what have become the favourite traditions of my own small family.

What I love best about our own Christmases are the handmade tree ornaments that we make each year. I also love the handmade ornaments that are given to us by others. Just last night a 6-year-old friend brought my son a wooden decoration she made for him. This sweet tree ornament has now joined our collection of memories that we will share together each year.


Baking gingerbread cookies is also a moment together that my son looks forward to and begins asking about months before the Christmas season. “When are we going to make gingerbread cookies?”, “Can we bake the gingerbread cookies today?!” I think he was happy to return the gesture of gift giving by handing his young friend and her family a box of our gingerbread cookies. My daughter is not really at the age to help, but she loved smelling all the spices and picking scraps of dough off the floor while her brother and I worked away.


I also love our Christmas stockings that I have made for each of us as our family has grown from just my husband and I into a family of four.

The most relaxing moment of Christmas, though, is also probably the most relaxing moment of my year. I treasure this time dearly. I should probably make this my happy place whenever I need a vision in a chaotic day to bring me peace. After the gifts are opened and the kids can be occupied with the novelty of new play things, the time arrives to sit on the floor, slowly sip coffee, and nibble on warm, toasted panettone with butter on top. A few days ago, my young son asked about the box of panettone that has been on our shelf for two weeks. I told him that we eat Italian cake for breakfast on Christmas morning. His eyes grew wide: “We eat cake for breakfast?” He had to repeat the question twice, he was so incredulous with my simple answer of “Yes”. It is the simplicity of our Christmas traditions that I savour the most.


Felt Gingerbread Men Tree Ornaments

One of my favourite ornaments to make have been the felt Gingerbread People. This was before I had learned to felt, so I used the technique of fulling: on an extended cycle, I washed old 100% wool sweaters in hot water (make sure you add laundry detergent) and then dried them on the hottest setting of our dryer. This successfully felted the wool . Using cookie cutters, I trced paper patterns to use to cut out the gingerbread men. With embroidery thread and a few different embroidery stitches, I doubled up the felt pieces and stitched them together around the edges. I added buttons for eyes and the traditional buttons. I love these ornaments! Since my son was too young to sew, I cut out a bunch of trim pieces from lace, the felted sweaters, ribbons and even stamps from Christmas cards. My son would pick the trim and let me know where he wanted me to apply the fabric glue for him. I love his ornaments even more!




The bell was a surprise for my son on Christmas morning. I am really happy that he has an appreciation for the handmade and that he actually loves his bell.



Our First Wet Felted Easter Eggs

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Wet Felted Easter Eggs Mama is Inspired


I belong to some Waldorf crafting groups on facebook and for the past month I’ve been seeing a whole lot of photos of  homemade felt Easter eggs. I have been finding them delightful but with no experience with wet felting I didn’t think I would be making any myself. But then last week at my son’s small homeschool preschool meet-up, my friend who was leading us all for the day taught us how to wet felt flowers. We used plastic Easter eggs for the base! I was so excited to do this project with the kids and thought that now perhaps I could make a bunch of Easter eggs using this method…but of course not this year. I’m far too too busy. I should have known myself better! At the beginning of the week I found myself wondering if my husband and I were going to end up doing anything at all for the kids for Easter. By the end of the week my four-year-old  and I had made twenty-one wet felted Easter eggs for slipping Easter treats into!


Playing with Felted Egg Mama is Inspired


Playing with Wet Felted Easter Egg Mama is Inspired


To wet felt the eggs, we wrapped lengths of wool roving around plastic eggs that I borrowed from my mother. Then we dipped these into hot, sudsy water and began to quickly pat the wool down onto and around the plastic egg. I learned from my friend that you want the wool that is next to the plastic egg -the inner wool- to felt first. We kept on patting the eggs, dipping them in the hot water repeatedly and adding squirts of soap onto the eggs. After the felt seemed snug on the inside layer of our eggs, we alternated dipping then in cold and hot water, continuing to pat and squeeze the eggs until they seemed quite firm.


Wet Felting Egg mama is Inspired


Wet Felting Easter Egg in Sink Mama is Inspired


When we made flowers with our preschool group it became apparent that wet felting is a very long process. For some it might seem tedious. I wanted to speed it up at home so that we could make lots of eggs in time for Easter. We worked on each egg until the inside layer seemed felted, then put a little more soap on each, and placed all the eggs into a pillow case which I secured shut with an elastic band. I threw the case of eggs into the washing machine on the hot cycle for a moderate amount of time and this is where we let the rest of the magic happen. (Some of the plastic eggs opened up in the washing machine producing smaller eggs but these are still beautiful and useable). When the cycle was finished we let the felt eggs air dry.


Wet Felted Egg with Button Closure Mama is Inspired



Wet Felted Easter Eggs Mama is Inspired


Once the eggs were all dry I began cutting them open with my small thread snipping scissors. I embroidered the edges and added a button to each so that they can be closed once the Easter treats are place inside. I am looking forward to hiding these handmade eggs in our garden this weekend!



Hoppy Easter! Mama is Inspired

Happy Easter!



Bunny Mobile for Baby

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Baby Bunny Mobile by Mama is Inspired


At around the eighth month of my pregnancy with my daughter I was overtaken by a strong nesting urge. The power of this urge was a surprise to me as it had much more in common with desperation than with simple desire. Although I successfully kept the feelings to myself, I was entirely fixated on creating the nursery for my baby. I was desperate to get started on her room. Only there was not going to be a bedroom for my baby! No nursery to plan and no nursery to complete! I felt a bit sad about this fact but at the same time I was able to remind myself that these feelings were only temporary and would subside as soon as my baby was born.

Even though I had no nursery to decorate I found myself going back time and again to look at this nursery. I adore almost everything about this room: the colours, the ottoman, the calm. And especially the mobile. I fell in love with the felt elephant mobile. It’s so sweet.

My daughter would not have her nursery but she would have one tiny space of her own. Cuddled up next to my bed she would have her little co-sleeper and that co-sleeper would give her just enough space to have her own handmade mobile.

I wanted to make a yellow and white mobile but the only one hundred percent wool sweaters that I came across in thrift stores were blue. Blue had to do and it did nicely. I fulled the sweaters in the washing machine by washing them twice in hot water along with with a large towel and a bit of detergent. Then I put them through the dryer on high. Essentially, the fulling process turns a knitted or crocheted garment into felt.


Bunny for Mobile Mama is Inspired


The next stages of this project consumed many, many hours. I was lucky to have a little staycation near the end of my pregnancy while my husband and son went away without me for seven whole days. This time alone was a little peace of heaven. I might have spent it relaxing, writing, catching up with friends over tea, or just staring at the ceiling. But I didn’t. Instead I lived in a state of frenzied crafting, trying to get as much made as I could in my first alone time since my son had been born three years earlier. It was an amazing week!!!


Baby Bunny Mobile Stars and Clouds by Mama is Inspired


When my son was born I had been given a mobile that my friend’s mother-in-law picked up at a thrift store. It was a surprise to me that my son enjoyed watching the airplanes go around and around as much as he did. I took this apart and used the frame and music box for my daughter’s new mobile. For the new mobile I cut and sewed bunnies, clouds and stars from the fulled wool sweaters and then stuffed the bunnies and clouds with organic cotton batting. I attached all of these to ribbons and tied them to the frame which I then wrapped with some bamboo fabric I had on hand. As corny as it sounds, this project was truly driven by my heart.


Baby Mobile Bunny by Mama is Inspired


At one year of age my daughter is still captivated by the wool bunnies as they dance by above her head. Most of the time, though, now that my daughter can reach the mobile, she likes to yank on the bunnies as hard as she can and thrash them back and forth, back and forth. Obviously, she still loves her mobile :)


Baby with her Handmade Mobile by Mama is Inspired


A Lovely Way to Store the Toys – Crochet Sacs

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Crochet Toy Sacs and Nature Shelf by Mama is Inspired


I was craving something more calm and beautiful than the mish-mash of plastic baskets, transparent zippered-bags (like the type a set of sheets comes in), and the assorted cotton sacks we were using to store our kids’ toys in. I wanted something aesthetically pleasing that I wouldn’t mind finding strewn across my couch and living room floor. I just couldn’t find the time, though, to make this project come together. There were just too many other tasks to fill my time.

Then last summer my family was given the generous offer of staying in a guest house in Vancouver for the month of August. We decided to do it! I’m so glad we did: it was a magical summer. I introduced my son to all that I love about Vancouver. We reinserted ourselves back into this city I love and I was pretty happy to root my young son in the community and culture that are so dear to me.


Pacific Spirit Park by Mama is Inspired

Pacific Spirit Park, Vancouver

An element of the magic was also the guest house, itself. It is a gorgeous modern building that you only see in a magazine. It is constructed from concrete and glass and the ceilings are fantastically high. It is well designed and liveable both inside and out. It is also teensy weensy tiny. Together, my family of four lived in a 200 square foot home. And what a relief that was! How relaxing to have so little work to do in order to maintain our living space! Finally I had some time to do something creative again for the first time since the birth of my daughter in late winter. Exciting!!!


Guest House Mama is Inspired


With our living space being so small I also had to keep my project small. Living in a small space so well designed also brought back to mind my own desired project of finding a nicer way to house my children’s playthings. I took the bus (how fantastic to be back in a city with wonderful public transit!) to the closest wool store and the lovely woman working there helped me to find a pattern upon which to base my design. I picked out some pleasing and inexpensive burgundy and cream Peruvian wool and got started right away.


Skytrain Vancouver Mama is Inspired

community Garden Vancouver

Vancouver Skytrain and one of many, many community gardens across Vancouver


I am not an expert at crochet by any stretch so the pattern was essential. I love the way the original nesting baskets look but I quickly changed things up by doubling the wool, using a 10mm/N hook and substantially increasing the number of stitches around. I also experimented quite a bit with the stitches I used for each row. It was really fun!

Finally last month with the help of my husband we got the hooks up in the kids’ room and the sacs all hung and the toys organized. I love the idea of the Waldorf nature table so we added a narrow shelf above the hooks. My son really loves his nature shelf. And I don’t mind so much anymore when he leaves his bag full of matchbox cars on the sofa.

Applique T-Shirt and Emergency Shorts

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Applique Emergency Light T-shirt by Mama is Inspired


As exhausted as taking care of two kids, a house, and a vegetable garden (it’s kind of growing itself these days!) leaves me at the end of the day, I’ve been managing to get some sewing done in the evenings. This is the best way for me to unwind and relax after my children are in bed. This time is essential to keeping me both calm and happy.

Once in a while I also find a way to work in a few minutes of sewing in while my son and daughter are awake. These are my charmed days.



Emergency Vehicle Print Cotton Fabric


I am really fortunate that my four year old actually loves to accompany me to the fabric store. A few months ago he picked out an emergency vehicle print. I have an easy pattern for kids shorts so I promised to make him a pair. After he tried them on he asked me to make another pair so that he will still has some when he grows out of these. I love it that he loves them! I am also happy that I always buy too much of any given fabric.



Tree Climbing in His Emergency Shorts

Oops! This is the pair that is supposed to be in storage.

After making the shorts I decided that I wanted to make a couple t-shirts to match. I keep on hand plain white t-shirts and also any stained white shirts that we receive (as hand-me-downs) so that I have something around to dye when I’m feeling inspired. I quickly had a red t-shirt and a blue t-shirt done. I use procion dyes and I could get a uniform effect if I dyed the garments in a pot but I like the mottled look so I use the same squeeze bottles that I use for tie-dyeing. I just squeeze the dye all over the white t-shirt this way and try to make it as uniform as possible. Inevitably the dye isn’t that even, giving me just what I want in the end.

Sewing on the Emergency Lights

I also wanted to put an applique on the blue shirt so my son and I sat down together and we traced emergency light patterns onto paper. We decided to copy a light from his shorts. We then chose the fabric from old t-shirts that I keep in my fabric stash and I cut out the parts for the applique. I finally got around to sewing it up last night. My son was really happy to wake up to his new t-shirt this morning! I think it looks adorable on him.

Emergency Light T-Shirt Applique

Handmade Doll

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handmade doll by mama is inspired

My baby is one! For her birthday I gave her a  handmade doll. I didn’t plan to make such a large doll but I was already committed to the project before I realized that this doll would be about the same size my daughter is. My local YMCA has shelves of free books and I picked up this booklet from the 1980s. Nowhere did the booklet reveal the measurements of the doll. A friend and I both ordered supplies to make the dolls for our kids and got to work immediately after the supplies arrived.

I love how my daughter’s doll turned out. I decided to make the doll look like her. Due to the size it’s more like a twin than a mini me!

I embroidered the doll’s eyes to look like my daughter’s bright, big eyes.

handmade doll embroidered eyes

 I ordered a pattern for the mohair doll’s hair but didn’t use this. I wanted something less dense so I used a half double crochet stitch instead of a single crochet. I did use the technique offered with the pattern of removing the mohair from the carrier thread to give the hair some fluff.

handmade doll mohair wig

My baby has an innie so I made the belly button accordingly

handmade doll belly button

The soft bodied doll is made of cotton interlock and is stuffed firmly with wool batting.

handmade doll body

I made discs cut out of hard, plastic gesso containers to insert into the limbs to make articulated joints for the arms and legs.

handmade doll leg

handmade doll articulated foint

My daughter was fascinated by the doll even before it was put together.

handmade doll with baby Mama is Inspired

The limbs were sewn into the doll using a 7 inch long needle. The arms and legs are amazing: they are moveable!

handmade doll wiht moveable arms and legs

When my daughter met her new doll on her birthday she quickly embraced the doll, cooed happily, and pulled at the doll’s nose and grabbed her hair. I was delighted and heartened by my baby girl’s reaction to the handmade doll that she just might have for all her life.