Tag Archives: Ithilien

WIP Wednesday

start date: 12 May 2017
time elapsed: 3 weeks 5 days
completeness: 100%

This is the me-too shirt for Númenor’s robot shirt.  Of course, it’s a different pattern.  Not just a different one, but a more complicated one as well.  No matter, I thought.  At this stage in my sewing, I reasoned, I can handle just about anything.

Thereby I disproved the existence of god.  Because if there were such an entity, everyone would have heard them laughing at me.

This pattern was okay in terms of difficulty.  It wasn’t too fiddly, and the instructions were pretty clear.  But I used a pattern from a designer I’ve had trouble with in the past without making a muslin first.  Their clothes are so freaking cute, but I already knew that they really struggled with armscyes and their facings sometimes just didn’t work.  And I should have relied more on that past experience.  But it was so cute, and the size promised in the pattern was perfect.

And most of the pattern was fine.

But the neckline.

The neckline.

I finished the bodice and called Ithilien over so I could double-check the sizing by popping it over his head.  But it wouldn’t fit over his head.  It wasn’t even close.

So I unpicked the bodice and tried again.  This time he could put it on, but it was tight across the chest and stranglingly tight in the neckline when zipped up.

I unpicked some more.  I re-worked the side seams to give him an extra half inch in the chest, and took the zipper out, and cut the back split down an extra inch, and cut the whole neckline an extra half-inch lower.  Now it fit fine.

But the neck facing from the pattern obviously wouldn’t work anymore.

So I made up some bias tape with my new, beautiful, antique sad irons, and finished it off with a button and a loop.

And now, well, it’s perfect.  Which could be seen as all this effort paying off.

But for me, the thing that makes it most worthwhile to have finally fixed this cute little top is that it reminded me– very painfully– to consider the source when I sew up a pattern.  Next time, I’ll be working from a designer I’ve had good experiences with.

Maybe I’m just cynical, but caveat emptor seems to apply even more when it comes to things offered for free.  Maybe the modern advice would be closer to caveat usor.

Or, you know, semper muslinus prius facere.


The pattern, which I can’t recommend, is Modern Baby Doll Top by Shwin & Shwin; in addition to the modifications to the neckline and closure discussed above, I also gave it a straight hem.  The fabric is the same as last week.  The buttons are from my collection.  The irons are Geneva 8s, purchased on Etsy.

WIP Wednesday


start date: today
time elapsed: none
completeness: 0%

Sometimes you spend money and effort and time incalculable on a project for a child, and they are unmoved by it.  Sometimes you throw together something quick and necessary, and it becomes the #1 Best Most Loved Favorite Thing That Accompanies Them Everywhere Until It Is Destroyed By The Sheer Force Of Their Adoration.

Meet Ithilien’s alligator pants.  Or what’s left of the seat of his alligator pants, after nearly 3 years of weekly or better wear for the rough-and-tumble kinds of activities which small children find most appealing.

Frankly, I think they held up really well considering they are just linen and muslin and a few errant patches of baby wale corduroy.  But now they are no more.

In fact, they met their demise about two months ago, when Ithilien slid down the boulder next to the chicken yard for the bazillionth time.  And he was completely distraught when I told him that they were too far gone for the mending basket– not only were they worn transparent in the seat and the cuffs, but they had a permanent crease where I’d let out an earlier hem, and they were size 4T on a child who is now wearing 6/7.

I promised that we could make new alligator pants.  And he said, tears still shining on his face, “I want them to be soft and fuzzy like my favorite gray pants.”  Which are, of course, some synthetic fleece sweatshop-produced crap that my parents bought at Target when Númenor unexpectedly needed back-up pants while staying with them.

I hemmed and hawed and tried to convince the child of the merits of wool flannel and the all-seasons practicality of midweight linen-hemp canvas and briefly considered buying $24/yard organic cotton sweatshirt fleece in a green he didn’t think was alligatory enough before finally caving in and buying a yard of bright green polyester fleece.

I hate it so much I think I might die.

But Ithilien loves it.

And I’m trying to see the bright side: at least it’s warm.  It was cheap.  It won’t fray.  It looks okay with the patches and accent pocket from the old pants.  I won’t lose it in the laundry.  My parents can machine wash and dry it if necessary.

Oh, the things we do for love.


I’m using Rae’s Parsley Pants pattern in size 6.  I know she designed it for woven fabric, but I’m a rebel (and the previous alligator pants were Parsley Pants).  I’m not linking to the cheap polyester fleece, and you can’t make me.

10 Things I Need to Make this Fall

Now that we’re mired in the part of summer that’s too hot for much of anything– certainly unseasonable for having a big pile of flannel in my lap– but about to leave the last heat wave of the season, I’ve been looking forward to some cool-weather crafting and giving some thought to what needs to happen.

Here’s my list, necessities and fripperies in no particular order, of the top 10 things I need to make in the coming season:

  1. Tea towels.  The flour sack towels that wrapped a few of our favorite kitchen gadget wedding gifts are finally sprouting holes and wearing out.  I’m thinking the new ones are going to be mid-weight natural linen, but the same dimensions as the old ones.
  2. Coat for Númenor.  Another year, another coat.  This one is definitely going to be lined with some of that gorgeous Portland bridges fabric I picked up a few years ago, but I’m not sure what the outer fabric will be like or what pattern I’m going to use.  I might draft my own pattern.
  3. Hoodie for Númenor.  Something fun and slightly funky, as usual.
  4. Twin-size comforter for Ithilien.  In the depths of winter, the nursery gets pretty cold in the middle of the night.  At the moment, we have only one twin-size comforter, and that can cause strife.  I’m planning to whipstitch together a couple of old flannel top sheets, fill with some fluffy recycled fiberfill, and tie it down to quilt it.  The only trouble will be that the sheets I have are green and green-red plaid, and Ithilien is a red-loving kid who might object to the forest tones.  But it’ll be warm regardless.
  5. “What Lives Here?” picture book.  This is one I’ve been puzzling over for some time.  The smalls are always asking what kinds of animals live in our area, especially when we go on drives.  I’m currently working on a collage-style picture book showing different ecosystems and settings and filled with the different animals that might live there.  It’s a huge undertaking, even limiting myself to a 20-mile radius around our house, since we live in a transitional zone between at least three climates.
  6. Toy ankylosaurus for Ithilien.  I made a stegosaurus for Númenor a while back, and Ithilien demanded an ankylosaurus.  How one knits an ankylosaurus I am not sure (possibly with lots of bobbles?), but I’ll figure it out.
  7. Autumn leaf babies.  If you’ve been around a while, you might remember my spring raindrop babies.  I’ve been trying to work up to a whole four-seasons set: snowflakes, raindrops, fruit (or maybe sunshine?), and autumn leaves.  I love dollmaking, and these little felt-and-wood sweeties are downright addictive in their simplicity and appeal.
  8. Altoid tin boredom busters.  We recently inherited a big box of mint tins.  They are the perfect size to tuck in a pocket or purse and you can fill them with anything.  So I’ve been trying to develop a set of toys and activity kits inside Altoid tins for when we travel or waiting at restaurants.
  9. More petticoats for myself.  Hopefully at least two more cotton ones (black, I think) and if I can find room for it in the budget, I would love a woolen flannel one for winter wear.
  10. Halloween costumes.  This year the smalls have both decided on light-themed costumes, which means getting creative with LEDs and possibly wearable circuitry.  Númenor’s might yet be merged with his hoodie, but we have yet to have our first formal design meeting, so it’s very much still TBD.

 

 


 

What about you?  What are you looking forward to making as the weather changes?

Growing Up

The past year has seen a dramatic shift in Númenor and Ithilien.

Sure, they’re bigger.  And they speak more conventional English now.  But all that is trifling.  I’m talking about a big, fundamental change.

As unschooled kids, they pretty much run wild through their lives.  They do whatever they want to do, and as their parents, teachers, and facilitators, we try to stay out of their way and provide them with resources and opportunities.  And last spring, that was all that was happening.

But as the mornings turned cooler and the scent of woodsmoke began to permeate our early autumn landscape, something changed.

It’s difficult to put into words exactly what’s different, but it’s almost like they have become more focused.

I used to offer to help them look things up.  Now they demand to be shown information.

The endless rattling of questions has started to follow a particular path instead of zigzagging madly between topics.

They listen longer, and closer.  They make more guesses and inferences for themselves instead of asking me to give them each piece of the puzzle.

They have plans.  Real, concrete plans for things that might actually happen– lots of fantasy still thrown in there, but more akin to daydreams than to the acid binges of imagination we were used to.

Before, learning was something that happened to them– they were naturally curious, of course, like all primates, but they didn’t trouble themselves overmuch with knowing anything particular.  Now, they almost seem to vibrate with the intense, conscious desire to learn.

They want to cook, so they are helping to make the menu, and browsing in cookbooks, and being the chefs de cuisine one night per week.

They want to stargaze, so they are finding astronomy books and star guides at the library and making sure we check the weather forecast.

They want to knit, so they are watching my hands intently and making some tentative starts with fingers and spools.

They want to know about bugs, so they are running for the guidebook and carefully trapping interesting things under upside-down juice glasses for observation.

They want to write, so they are using the sound map and copying words from books.

So things look a bit different this spring than they have in previous years, when our children were just the vessels of our vision for this grand educational experiment.

In the fall, the change will likely be more complete, and Númenor and Ithilien will be taking even more leadership in their own lives, but for right now the shift is still underway, and we’re balanced between the two of them being our satellites– doing their own thing but always around what we adults are doing– and all four of us being off on our own individual journeys and making a rather messy pack as we go.

It’s strange to think that, not that long ago, they were each just a tiny tickling thing behind my bellybutton.

Strange, and wonderful.

WIP Wednesday from last week…

I just found this in my drafts folder.  Life must have gotten in the way as I was setting out to take pictures and finish up this post…but it’s a perfect snapshot of my life at the moment, perhaps especially because I’m posting it nearly a week late and still unfinished.

Here’s the picture of the finished project, though:

IMG_3547


 

start date: 1 March 2016
time elapsed: 1 day
completeness: 40%

At some point in the last couple of years, apparently while my back was turned, Ithilien developed a favorite color.

It’s red.

So the last time I was making new socks for the smalls, Ithilien was quite insistent that he wanted red socks.  Red socks with gray toes and gray cuffs.  Having just finished up a pair of red socks for my mother’s birthday, I was happy to use my leftover yarn to oblige him, and the red socks have been his go-to pair for the last year.

But as he put them on one morning last week, the heels no longer reached far enough to cover his heels.

“Oh no,” I said, “They’re too small.  You can wear them one last time today, and then they’ll have to go into storage.”

“Okay.” He said. “But you have to make new red socks with just gray on the toes and the cuffs.”

“So I can wear them.”  Said he.

“Because I very love the color red.”  He said.

“So I need more red socks.”  Said Ithilien.

“Oh.”  I said.  “Really?”

“Yeah.  And then when I am a grown-up I will need very big red socks, and you must knit them.”

And that is why I am knitting new red socks for Ithilien this week.


The yarn is lovely and smooth Limited Edition Chickadee from Quince and Co, which I dyed a semisolid red with equal parts strawberry and black cherry Kool-aid.  I’m holding it doubled for this project.  The pattern is Rye from The Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits, which is a great basic-but-attractive sock in a variety of sizes.  The pattern is definitely written for beginners, which feels slightly patronizing when you already know how to knit socks, but it’s very well-written.  I did an eye-of-partridge stitch heel flap instead of the prescribed stockinette and am knitting a 7.25″ foot, otherwise I’m following the pattern pretty closely.

 

Impossible Things

“There is no use trying,” said Alice; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen.  “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Through the Looking-Glass

My five-year-olds spent the weekend with their grandparents so that Robert and I could get in some quality couple time before the new baby comes and we descend into complete chaos and madness for a few sleepless, teary weeks.

To our credit, we did housework.  And nesting work.  We also ate sushi and watched foreign films, though, because that’s what grown-ups do.  But when our sweet babes were returned to us by grandparents who had unwisely taken them to the zoo even though animals defecate (which fact five-year-olds are THE BEST at remembering, pointing out, and discussing at length), I was met with a moment of total panic.

My mother handed me a sheet of notepaper with the explanation that it was “Númenor’s presents list”.  Apparently he’d demanded that she take dictation for this critical manifesto.

That’s right, folks.

My kid came home from grandma’s house with a Christmas wishlist.

Why is this a problem, you might ask?

Um, because it was December 5th when this happened, and I had already compiled the wishlists and distributed them through the family network weeks prior, not to mention that I had also long finished the shopping I was intending to do.  Because we plan ahead in this family, at least when lists are involved.  And in my defense, the wishlist I had was based on things I thought Númenor would like.  I pay attention to the smalls’ interests and research toys and games and books constantly, and moreover, I asked them explicitly what they wanted for Christmas and they were both totally uninterested in telling me.

To be fair, that was in October.  And when you’re only a few years old, the subjective time-dilation is extreme.  Númenor probably genuinely couldn’t fathom wanting things for Christmas when I asked him about it with a jaw-dropping 11 weeks to spare.

And he has NEVER made a wishlist before.  We don’t do Santa, so we never write letters to Santa, which means my children had to be developmentally capable of picking up this idea from fiction, and even then, they hadn’t previously shown interest in the activity.

But the fact is, he came home with a Christmas list.

And three things on it were alive, one thing was impossible, and two things flew right in the face of our standards for toys.  Which left only one item.  Which, to be fair, I already knew he wanted and had plans to make.  One out of seven, I thought, would likely disappoint him.

Perhaps the worst part of this debacle was not the list itself, in fact, but that I found non-living, non-impossible work-arounds for things and Pinterest projects for cardboard versions of other things until I felt that I had satisfied his list, and only then did I realize that only ONE of my TWO five-year-olds came home with a list.

Which meant I had to ask the other one what he wanted.

Because fair.

And he wanted one impossible thing, one alive thing, one thing he already has (?!?), two things that don’t meet our guidelines, and that same item from the first child’s list that I was already making anyway.

Kids!

You love them, and you do your best to give them a well-balanced, fulfilling, and overall positive life experience, and they go around asking for impossible things and exotic pets all the time, like that’s any way to behave.

Of course, that’s what children do; it’s their simultaneously inconvenient and inspiring function in society to be the ones tilting at windmills and dreaming the impossible dreams and riding off to brave adventures with their parents as their loving but often flummoxed squires.

And someday, soon enough, they will come to the inevitable end of their quests. Laid low by a reality that did not go away when they stopped believing in it, they will grow up.  In twenty years, they may be making business plans instead of drawing a picture of the storage system for their happy rainbow dreams.  In ten years, they’ll almost certainly be more concerned with the opinions of friends and external authorities than with quoting imaginary advice from a well-worn teddy bear.

But today, Númenor wants a Star Destroyer and a rectangle tank of deep-sea jellyfish, and Ithilien wants a pet baby talking opossum and a self-driving car that transforms into a self-flying plane.  They never doubted for a second that these were things they could ask for and hope to receive.

There is a wild power in not knowing the bounds of reality or accepting the limits of possibility.

Honestly I’m a little jealous.

But mostly, I’m nervous about my ability to fulfill these requests.

Death, Germs, and Darkness

Ithilien is a worrier.

Oh, this child of mine, how he worries!  He always has.  I remember holding him at the counter of a fast food restaurant when he was a little baby of perhaps 5 months, and when the soda fountain made that grr-I’m-grinding-ice noise, he went rigid, hyperventilated, and burst into tears.

In those early days, it was easy to brush off that he was scared.  Babies are always scared when they’re alone, or when unexpected things happen, because it’s how they stay alive.  It wasn’t remarkable that he was afraid of loud noises or panicked and couldn’t catch his breath when the wind blew on his face or was so terrified of being separated from me that he reacted to strangers the way most movie characters react to their first zombie.

As he got older, the worries didn’t fade.  He’s still scared of thunder and cars back-firing.  He can’t stand the way deep pipe organ notes resonate in the floor.  He doesn’t like to meet new people, and he doesn’t like loud parties.  He’s afraid of big dogs, and nervous about going over bridges, and says he hates his brain for making up monsters in the dark.  He worries about Robert and whether he is safe during the workday and whether he will ever come home.  He worries that the baby will die.  He still ends up in my bed every night, terrified and shaking, begging for protection from things unnamed and imaginary.

Normal childhood stuff, right?  Lots of five-year-olds are afraid of the dark or a bit shy, and nighttime magnifies everyone‘s anxieties.

But this week was a departure from that.

This week, he has whined, cried, and begged for protection for hours of the day, every day.  He says he’s scared.  That he doesn’t want to die.  That he hates that germs exist.  That he doesn’t want germs to destroy his body.

Let me be clear: the kid isn’t even sick.  I have told him, countless times, that he will probably live another 70 or 80 years.  That his body is strong and his immune system works hard all the time to protect him– that’s one of the Big Lessons.  That if germs were destroying his body, we would get him help, because he is our baby and we love him.

No dice.  Still scared.

Today, when he had literally been whining and crying pathetically in my lap for four whole hours and I was just trying to get something done, I lost my temper and yelled.

“Please, just STOP WHINING!”

And he wept.  He hugged himself in his blanket and trembled, crying softly, while I rushed to apologize and reassure him that he was acceptable, and his feelings were acceptable, and I was wrong to yell at him, and he was safe with me.

He forgave me and let me pick him up, and we rocked and talked about his feelings, and then he fell asleep, worn out from a long day of emotional turmoil.

I kept rocking him, and I took up the mantle of worry for myself.

Is he okay?  Should we take him to a therapist?  What if he’s really sick?  What if he has a crippling anxiety disorder that can only be managed with medication?  Did I do this to him by yelling?  Is this what happens when children grow up with depressed and anxious parents?  Am I breaking him?  Am I bad?

Then I looked down into his face, all long lashes and beautiful pink mouth and enviably perfect skin, and saw total peace and trust.

I thought about a conversation Robert and I had about Ithilien a few weeks ago.  We had talked about how he was like one of the fairies from Peter Pan– so small that he can only feel one thing at a time, but whatever he feels, he feels it completely.

I remembered that this was the kid who was always afraid of ice makers and unable to cope with wind, but that he was also the baby who smiled so big and wide that it seemed the top of his head would fall right off.

He’s the one who needs light and company to feel safe enough to sleep, but also the one who totally loses himself in giggling.

He’s the one who can’t go upstairs alone without turning on every light, but also the one who seems completely fulfilled by art-as-process, who never worries about the product.

He’s the one who goes from apoplectic anger to complete delight in three syllables.

He’s the one who worries about things that may not happen for a century to come, but he’s also the one who has been making new Christmas decorations since March.

He’s the one who trembles with fear when I lose myself and yell, but he’s also the one who tells me “I just can not stop loving dyu because dyu is my mommy and dyu take care of me.”

He’s the one who has spent the past three days in the depths of a depression about the inevitability of his own death and the specter of disease, but he’s also the one who wants to build a workshop for teaching his unborn baby sibling to be an expert holiday decorator and trick-or-treater.

Maybe he’s not broken.  Maybe his feelings are just so big, so perfect, so beautifully whole that they overwhelm him.  Maybe he feels more, and deeper, than I could ever imagine.  Maybe it’s a kind of blessing, and not just a curse, to be wired the way he is.

Maybe he is just furiously happy, too.

Small Victories

This afternoon, my family took a moment to celebrate.  Full-voice whoops of excitement, high fives and tens all around, jumping and spontaneously dancing to no music at all, running around in circles at high speed.  We had just done a dry-run install of the baby‘s car seat, and found a way to get a safe and correct install of all three kids’ seats in the back of our entry-level sedan.

And yes, it absolutely is a red-letter day.

This is what my life has come to.

So, I made a list of similar occurrences.  Because lists are a major part of how I cope, obviously.

Major but Trivial-Sounding Victories of Our Early Parenting Years:

  • Númenor’s feet were finally long enough that storebought newborn socks didn’t have ridiculous-looking empty heels flopping around halfway up his calf.
  • I found a stain-fighting solution that took out Númenor’s iron supplement.
  • Ithilien slept through the garbage trucks coming down our street.
  • I modified a recipe for a breakfast cookie so that it met all my criteria for a young toddler’s diet and didn’t taste like crap to me, either.
  • Númenor and Ithilien sat through a whole Chekov play without being disruptive.
  • I said “Well, it’s up to you.” and I meant it.
  • Ithilien decided that yes, sitting on your butt and scooting down the stairs WAS something that he could survive.
  • Númenor went a whole week with the same sheets on his bed.
  • Ithilien didn’t mind that his orange shirt with the monster on it was now too small for him and wanted to make sure we would put it into storage until the baby was big enough to wear it.
  • Númenor “read” a book to Ithilien so I could take a quick shower, and they were still “reading” together when I got back.
  • Ithilien spent a whole car ride talking about the interesting things outside his window instead of screaming hysterically for unknown reasons.
  • We invented the high-pitch OR high-volume rule.
  • Númenor chose to go back to his own bed in the middle of the night instead of coming into our bed.
  • Ithilien let me brush his hair, even though he had some tangles that needed working out.
  • I found a way to fit both small beds into the nursery in yet another house.
  • Númenor turned off the nature documentary he was watching and went outside to play.
  • Ithilien put his dishes in the sink immediately after he finished eating.
  • Númenor sat still while I dug a deep and painful splinter out of his foot.
  • Ithililen asked for more salad.
  • Númenor said “Can it be bedtime now?  I am tired.”

It really is the little things that make life worth living, isn’t it?