Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oh no!

I missed wordless Friday... But I have a really good reason! I was on a train, and then a bus all day long travelling with my little one to Southern California in order for us to attend one of my best friend's wedding!
The wedding is tomorrow, and we have had a wonderful time so far reconnecting and talking flowers, shoes, and all the fun stuff that weddings entail.
After the wedding and the gift giving I will finally be able to post a bit of craft that I made for the wedding, it's a simple gift but one that I hope they will appreciate.
And until then I will leave you with the new skill that Victoria has learned, one that she is mighty excited and proud of:
Yup... nothing like a yummy toe in the morning!

Monday, August 22, 2011

My new sundial

Well since I'm at a stand still with crafting at the moment because of moving into a new house, I thought I'd post one of the treasures I found in France. I was so excited about this little sundial that I found the very last day of my trip to France. I cannot wait to put it out and watch the hours pass as I'm sitting quietly sipping lemonade...

Who am I kidding, I'll be running trying to catch up with my daughter by the time I put it in our garden. because you see, it was too heavy for me to bring back on this trip so I've kept it at my mother's house to pick up the next time I visit! Actually... there was a lot of other things I had to leave back there, mostly books. I cannot resist books, especially books that are only one euro but that are treasures to my eyes... and there was this book sale in the village before we left... and I came back with my arms full. So now I already have half of the weight allowance in my suitcase waiting for me at my mom's for my next visit! Ah the joy of not living in your country of origin anymore.

Without further ado (and rambling), the sundial:

Isn't that little frog just lovely? It made me smile and I thought of all the fun stories Victoria could tell with it when she's old enough.
So here you are, one of the lovely things I got while in France.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Not Quite Wordless Friday

Just wanted to add a quick note to the Friday ritual, that we made it back from France safe and sound. The trip went really well up till the very last leg, where we missed our connecting flight. Luckily we managed although we were both extremely tired. Today is a quiet day and we are mostly taking naps and trying to keep cool.

This Friday, I also have to share two pictures rather than just one because both made me tear up when I pulled them off my camera this morning. I am so very very thankful that I got to see my mom and grandma and that they had a chance to meet Victoria. Waiting until next year is going to be rough!

Monday, August 15, 2011

On my way back home!

Today is pretty much my last day at my mother's house. Tomorrow we will drive to Bordeaux my home town to spend the night at a friend's house and then early the next morning I'll start my journey back to America.
It's been a lovely trip, this morning we went and walked one last time around the village and found a "brocante" there, I finally found the perfect vintage puzzle block game that I'd been looking for, I cannot wait to share with you pictures of it. It truly is lovely.
I also found a sun dial although it will only come back with me next year as I already had too full a suitcase, but it was so cheap I couldn't pass getting it right now. It's in cast iron, and just adorable. I can already see it in our garden!

My bags are all packed and the moment is very bittersweet. I am going to miss my mom and grandma and seeing the joy in their eyes each time they see Victoria. It is always hard knowing that we won't be back for a whole other year. But life goes on and I will just strive to write more letters and send more pictures.

So with the trip in mind I am not quite sure when I will be able to update again. I might have a chance for one more update before I leave France, and then it will probably be a week or two before I get everything together enough to post. Please be patient, and although I know few people follow this blog so far, feel free to share it with others until I can write again. I promise to update with some fun things when I get back! I have a lot of creative projects lined up that I am itching to get my hands on once I'm home.

I also have to share an adorable thing about Victoria: this week we started clapping when she accomplished things and this startled her greatly, so I tried instead encouraging her with the ASL (American Sign Language) equivalent of hand clapping, and she LOVES it! She gets so excited and happy when we "clap" for her now, it is the sweetest thing.
I am absolutely in awe of how quickly she picks up new signs and how well ASL has worked for us in communicating with each other. I'm still not sure that she is making signs of her own but I do know that I only have to look at her expression when I speak to her in sign language in order to get the answer to any question I might have (granted there aren't many at this point, mostly asking her if she wants a food item or needs a diaper change, but still).

Have a beautiful week!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cherry Dress and Tips on Smocking

I have a new found passion for smocking. It all started of course with the birth of Victoria. I was thinking of things to make for her, and somehow I remembered a very pretty grey dress that I used to wear when I was about eight. I loved that dress very much, and the top of it was smocked with a very simple flower pattern.
So I set out to look up smocking on the internet and liked what I saw... it was cute, it was old-timey, and sweet, all qualities that I enjoy in kid's clothes. 
Don't get me wrong, I love the bright colors that kid's clothes come in nowadays, the great ruffles, the funky silhouettes... but there is something to be said for the style and shape of vintage kid fashion. 

So, after a cursory search on the internet about stitches and how to gather my fabric I set out on my first smocking project. This was supposed to be simply a practice run, but I was so proud of how it turned out that I turned it into a dress.
However, seeing as I always throw myself into projects without finishing all my research and without patterns I did not realize a few things and my dress is less than perfect.
I'm going to share with you the problems I encountered and the solutions I found. If you are new at smocking or want to take it up, knowing these things ahead of time will make the first results a lot sweeter!

1. First and foremost, you want to have 3x the width of fabric that your pattern would usually need in the area that you are smocking. I think that on this dress I only gathered 2x the width of Victoria's chest and it definitely shows when it's on her. The stitches are pulled to the max, and it ends up leaving unsightly "bubbles" on the fabric. While smocking is used to gather fabric and give it stretch, you actually don't want the fabric with the smock to stretch much around the body, otherwise you lose the sharpness of the design you just spent a long time creating.

2. I might be really wrong here as I seems to read a lot of patterns that ask you to finish the clothes you've smocked after the embroidery is done, but I finished mine first, at least the neckline. Unless you are going to use bias tape to finish up your ends, you want to hem the cloth first so that you don't have to fight with your gathered fabric later on.
Now my designs so far have lain really close to the neckline, actually right against it, so it might be why I feel that this step is necessary. It might be that if the design was lower and not right against the neckline you can smock first and then sew your pattern together just like it should be if you hadn't added smocking to it.
Like I said, I do everything without patterns and on the go, so this is just what I discovered in my attempts.

3. It's ok to restart all over again! I think I started this dress three times. After pleating the fabric, I kept on messing up my stitches and being unhappy with how they were turning out. So I just cut everything and started again. I hate waste... and this was really hard for me, but I was so much happier with the result in the end run that I feel it's a tip worth sharing.

4. If you are just trying your hand at smocking, geometric smocking is much easier than picture smocking. I made this dress first, without a pattern, and figuring out the cherries was pretty hard for me and I'm still not very satisfied with them. Picture smocking which is exactly what it sounds like, making a picture with your thread (like cherries for instance, or a bear, or a whale) allows for more release of the pleats which can also be a disappointment in the end when you are expecting a nicely pleated dress. Unless you are a whiz and know exactly how far apart to space your images to keep pleats intact I would stick to geometric smocking on your first few projects.
I finished another dress (that I have to sew) in geometric smocking right after this one, and I was so much happier with the results!
Of course, every one of us is different and you might actually think that picture smocking is much easier and a lot more satisfying to boot, so give both a try by all means, but I would start with really small samples to see what you think and go from there.

5. If you hand pleat, which is what I did, go to the store and splurge for your first few tries on a fabric that has prints where you need it... let me explain: for smocking you need pleats that are 1/4" apart and the rows themselves need to be 3/8" apart. Grab a ruler and head to your favorite fabric store. Find a print that you like, and see if you can find a pattern in it that would help you stick to those measurements. Patterns with small dots, or gingham works the best.
Most people who smock add iron on dots to their fabric or run their fabric through a pleating machine, I did not have those options, however I was lucky enough to have this white fabric with a grid of elongated diamonds on it, that were spaced exactly to those measurements of 1/4" and 3/8". This was white on white, so not a fabric I would have initially grabbed, but when I saw the raised pattern I thought to check for distances. So take the time to explore, I am sure there are lots of different kinds of fabric that would give you the visual cues needed to space your pleats.

And that's about it... most importantly have fun! Smocking is not nearly as intimidating as it looks. After the initial boredom of hand pleating you fabric (find a good movie to watch/listen to while you are doing that part) the embroidery itself is a lot of fun and so satisfying!

Here are some more pictures of the project:

I never thought taking pictures of baby clothes could be this hard! She won't ever stay still and need her props to keep her distracted, hence the toys hiding her face.

Cute cherries

It's a bit easier in the carseat, if not really glamorous
The back is cute too if not really old fashioned, but I wanted something light for summer.

A better view of the back

Mom, are you done already?!
PS: I am very new to blogging and writing tips and tutorials, so if you have any questions or something is not clear please let me know! 

A F-R-I-E-N-D-S Swap!

I've joined the 2011 FRIENDS Swap at Sew Prim Khris. It is still open for those of you who might be interested in a fun little swap. I liked the idea of having to find fun items that start with each letter of the word FRIENDS, and this ties in nicely with my new goal of writing and giving randomly.
(And to be perfectly honest, that adorable little drawing up there is what sealed the deal for me. It was simply too darling to resist).

On a different note, I need help with the design of my blog. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to have my header photo not "eaten" up by my first entry.
I realized this was an issue when my mom looked at my blog and said, "well it's nice... but is that a breast?". While I'm all for natural parenting and breast feeding, the top picture is indeed of my belly while I was pregnant, not of a breast... and I would love for people to be able to realize this rather than assume I'm being purposefully daring.
Any tips?

Thank you and if you sign up for the swap, I hope you have a great time building a fun package for your new friend!

Friday, August 12, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Last days in France... A look at what we did this week.

As my vacation comes to an end I've also come to the realization that I'm truly ready to create and work as an artist for a living. I was very close to giving up before this trip because of the stress of launching myself out in territories unknown was getting the best of me. But I think I've realized how much I love creating, how much I want to spend my days with my daughter, to build a beautiful home for our family; and I know that working from home is what is going to allow me to do this. I have written myself a plan for the next few months, and as soon as I get back from France I will get to work.
With that in mind I hope that the universe will also work with me towards accomplishing these goals of mine!

My last post was about doing simple things for the people around me in order to make them happy, with that in mind I set out to post all of these today: 
I always told people I would send them postcards on my trips to France, and always lost track of time and ended up not sending anything. Not this year!

My favorite thing to do while I'm in France is going to the Farmer's Markets... Here are a few snapshots from the one in town here.

I love the wide array of berries, and the bright colors! The Fraise des Bois on the far right there are the best strawberries ever!

This little girl was transfixed by the set-up, she was working so hard not to reach and grab a handful of fruit, it was adorable!
Les Herbes de Provence, our signature spices all wrapped up in colorful bags. So cute!

I wish I could add the smell of those roasted pralines to this page.

Candy in bulk... my inner kid is yelling in glee!

Pretty pretty fruits...

And of course... good bread!

A beautifully worked door that I wish I could have back home.

And last but not least... I love my daughter's hands... They are so tiny and perfect... The chub is just too much.

I hope you are all enjoying your summer!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Mail?

I have been reading the blog of AmberLee who blogs about bringing joy to others through handmade gifts and sweet thoughts. Her blog is truly inspiring and makes me want to share with others this gift of giving.
Yes... in part because I want to receive fun mail and I think that being part of something like her 13 ounces or less mail swaps would be really fun, but mostly because the sentiment behind her blog is just amazing.

Giving is something that I have always loved to do... I have a tendency to go overboard actually when it comes to Christmas and Birthdays. Lately however, I've felt completely unable to partake in gift giving because of our finances. Not only that but in the past few years, ever since I started really focusing on my studies and then my family, my penpal skills just went to the way side. I used to write 2-4 page letters very easily and kept all my friends appraised of what I was doing, however these days it's a wonder if I get to my facebook messages!
The only thing I've steadily kept up with are my Christmas letter, but I feel that that is lacking in real feeling as I often make it a mass mailing.

With all this in mind, I want to set myself a new goal of giving... I want to reassess what I see as important and realize that giving 10 minutes of my time and a dollar is better than purchasing an expensive gift (although I was always good at picking gifts)...
I now want to send mail to people that I love (and strangers) that will put a smile on their faces and be happy that someone thought of them on a random day of the year.
Too often I wait for gift giving until the right "time", most often Christmas, and end up being so overwhelmed with the quantity of gifts that I want to make or give, that I just give up in the middle and end up not giving anything to anyone.
So, no more of that, instead of huge projects, small gifts that I can gift throughout the year... notes, kindnesses, etc... That is my new goal.
When I was a kid, my biggest gift was letting someone pick first out of my bag of candy... let's get back to that feeling!

With that said, feel free to send me your address if you'd like something in your mail box!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Little Dresses

Do you want to know what I've been up to since being sick? Copying down recipes from French library books (shhhhhhhh, I actually plan on buying most of them when the funds come my way), and organizing my links and photos on the computer... Thrilling I know! However, I will have the most organized computer I've ever had by the time I get back from France... and with the multitude of projects that I want to accomplish it will make it a lot easier to find everything and remember what project I should get my hands on next.

I've also been working on a new embroidery project and little by little it is taking shape, but man is this one taking a long time to finish! I took a pretty big circle hoop and just drew on it something cute that I'd seen, not realizing exactly how much work I was giving myself. The joy of starting a new craft for me is exactly those moments. The moment when you over-reach because you don't know enough to realize how daunting the task really is. Because of that ignorance I am now midway into a really cool embroidered hoop for Victoria's room and I am actually ecstatic about that.
Next on the list are some smaller hoops, and then a design for my mom I think... it was her birthday last month, and while I gave her a gift, I didn't make her anything, and now that I've seen how excited she is about the embroidery, I think making her one is definitely needed. Just have to come up with the design, but I think I've started seeing it in my head... now to draw it up before it's gone again.

Before my trip I had made two little sundresses for my daughter. I need to adjust the patterns still as I ended up making the arm holes a bit too small and a few other mistakes. I have a lot to learn about constructing garments, and sewing in the first place. I literally started making everything with no lessons whatsoever, and nary a look on the computer to learn how to work a machine or hand stitch. Everything I do, is learned by trial and error.
Well the first little dress I made was this:
A cute little thing, but I had made it as a slip on for my barely four month old daughter... by the time the rains stopped in France and she was able to wear it... well her head had grown too big to fit through the opening.
No all those buttons and snaps aren't a joke in kid's clothes. She could still wear it had I thought about not making it a slip on and rather added some buttons to the back of the dress. Lesson learned!

And this was the second dress I made her:
This still fits her, and now that I've adjusted it it really is quite cute, I had to add snaps to the very sides of the straps because the neckline kept on gaping... Why you ask? Well because I know nothing of sewing notions. In my head I decided that I was going to make those cute finished hems, that come from using bias tape.
*Note of importance here: I knew that the name of what I was looking to make was BIAS TAPE, which is a feat in and of itself!
However, not knowing exactly what bias tape was, I decided to make my own from the fabric I had on hand, not realizing that instead of making the shaping of the arms and neck more pliable, I was indeed making it hard and stiff to handle. Luckily the fabric I used was so thin that it still works, and Victoria can wear her little dress, but I would have had another unusable dress on my hands were this not the case.

So just in case there are other novice seamstresses out there trying their hand at making clothes with no notion of what they are doing, here is an amazing entry in MADE about bias tape:
Bias Tape Techniques
Indeed one of my next projects is going to be making a whole bunch of different color bias tape to use to finish up kid's clothes. I just love the look that it gives necklines and round skirts.

I'll leave you with this for today, but hope to be back very very soon!

Friday, August 5, 2011

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Breastfeeding snaffu

I have been terrified of having an emergency that would not let me breastfeed ever since my daughter's birth.
Well yesterday, that emergency did occur. I am in France visiting my mother, and it is now mushroom season. We decided against "going to the mushrooms" since every year there are lots of poisoning and even deaths from ingesting self picked mushrooms and we weren't sure enough of our ability to know the good ones from the bad ones.
However a friend of my mom's was nice enough to drop off some Cepes, one of the supposedly best mushrooms in France, and we were happy to fry them up for lunch thinking that someone from the country side would be well aware as to which mushrooms to pick.
Three hours after eating them I started throwing up and had to be rushed to the hospital writhing in pain. I was not only separated for the first time from my child for 5 hours but because of the medicine they had to give me intravenously I was told not to feed my baby for the next 12 hours.

We had tried on and off to get Victoria used to the bottle in case of such a problem, however she never took to it, and I was feeding her my own milk through the bottle so she never had any experience with baby formula before yesterday.
She spent the entire 14-16 hours without eating anything but a bit of apple sauce and 30ml of formula. Luckily she was so tired from all the emotions of the day that she slept most of the night. I had fully prepared myself to stay up all night consoling her... but the old French saying is right: "Qui dort, dine" or "He who sleeps forgets his hunger".

I cannot explain both of our relief when time came to finally breast feed again. She didn't leave my breast of the whole morning and I left her there wanting her to know that nothing was changed and she could still rely on me.
I truly believe she understood yesterday that I was sick and unable to feed her. I sent a lot of positive thoughts her way and explained both in words and in my thoughts what was going on, and she calmed down instantly and accepted what was going on. There were very few tears once I had a chance to talk to her, whereas before I could explain to her what was going on she had been inconsolable. Even with her little tummy grumbling and paining her, she stayed calm and simply waited for things to get better.
While I did not need any, this was one more proof of the ability that children have to understand us and to realize what is going on around them right from birth. I am so thankful to have a wonderful relationship and exchange with my child even in time of hardship.

With that horror scenario behind me I can only hope that it will not happen again and that I can keep on breast feeding my child until she is weaned. What a stressful situation for both of us!