May wrap up

flowers still life bottle branch blog

Happy June, my internet friends!

May is possibly the busiest month of the year. At least, for me it is, as motherhood demands blossom, and I find myself filling out camp forms, digging out summer clothing and trying to replace what no longer fits, and shuttling around to end-of-school-year presentations, recitals, parties. And all the while, my garden is also calling to me for attention.

ready for the garden bottle branch blog

In my May garden, I dream big, get ambitious, and have been known to go a little crazy at the garden center.

hot pink peonies bottle branch blog

Thankfully, as in motherhood, there are also rewards in the May garden. My tree peonies thrill me every year, and I silently thank whichever previous owner of my house planted them.

arranging flowers bottle branch blog

This year, thing were even busier, as I spruced up my etsy shop, adding a new logo, cover photo, and ‘about’ section. I even asked a talented friend to come over and take photos of me ‘working’ and added some of those. (It still makes me cringe a little to post photos of myself.)

card display bottle branch blog

And now, this week, I’ve been preparing for my first appearance at a local art fair. Taking my work live and in person is something I’ve been dreading, but also, somehow feels inevitable. Why I decided to take that plunge just now, I have no idea. (If you’re local, I would love, love, love to see you there!)

pretty tea time bottle branch blog

Thankfully, there have also been a few moments of calm, and more than a few cups of tea. Happy June!

How to organize your bed sheets, the crafty way

harry potter glasses embroidery

I’m not even close to being a super organized mother, as in, the kind of mother who maintains a color-coded family calendar, impeccably organized pantry, and foolproof system for managing the constant stream of children’s artwork coming home from school. But I do have my moments.

One thing I can’t stand is a jumble of bed sheets, mixed up sizes (twin? full?) in unmatched sets. (A pillow case from 2008 with a brand new top sheet?! the horror!) When my children where younger, I solved this problem by buying printed sheets: sheets with trucks, robots, airplanes. I would buy whatever it took to get them to love their beds, with the added bonus of easily organized sets.

white sheets, laundry basket

Now that they are older, my sons are ready for unadorned sheets. Even my 7 year old requested plain white sheets after having slept on hand-me down robots, trucks, airplanes for his entire life. With a sigh of resignation, I imagined lots and lots of undistinguishable white sheets heaped in a laundry basket and waiting to be folded and organized into sets for each bed.

Then, it dawned on me: this is a crafty opportunity! This is a chance to put my newfound craft of embroidery to practical use.

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To distinguish among identical sets of sheets, I embroidered a symbol in the corner of each sheet/pillowcase, one symbol per set. Since this was more funcational than decorative, I stuck with a single color motif in a tucked away location – just inside the pillowcase, at the upper hemmed edge of the topsheet and at a single corner of the flat sheet.

I started with a set of sheets for my 7 year old who is currently obsessed with Harry Potter. We dithered about how to reduce the whole Harry Potter saga to a single essential motif – a lightning bolt scar? wand? Hogwarts crest? In the end, we settled on the pair of spectacles you see here.

Transferring the motif was as satisfying as ever and stitching was a breeze. (I used back stitch this time.) In the end, this was a speedy and satisfying project, though I’m not sure if it qualifies as a craft project, or merely clever housekeeping.

P.S. I’m no Martha Stewart, but I do love this sheet organization idea from her website.  Even more clever housekeeping!

Amos and Boris and an Embroidery Project

happy whale and book

For me, one of the biggest pleasures of being a mother is reading bedtime stories. As I snuggle in each night with my youngest child, I often find myself re-reading old favorites – The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Gruffalo, Frog and Toad. And I often find myself inspired, transported, bewitched, not just by good stories, but by captivating illustrations.

amos and boris book

One such inspiring book is Amos and Boris by William Steig. It tells the story of a friendship between a whale and a mouse and the illustrations are loose and alive, emotive and humorous, absorbing and appealing. I know this story so well now, that I read the words aloud without comprehension, while my mind dwells on the images, roaming over the rooftops of a castle on the horizon, basking in light shining from a boat’s cabin, floating in the swells of the ocean.

waves

Inspired by the quirky and cheerful seascapes in this book,  I recently sketched a whale in the ocean, a design I decided to use in an embroidery project. I chose three shades of murky blue-green for the sea, an earthy whale grey, and a white cotton drawstring bag.  I stitched the lines of ocean swells, darkest blues toward the bottom, lightest towards the top for an ombré effect. (DMC #s 924, 926, 927, if you care for specifics.)

happy.whale.front

My whale, outlined in a split stitch, seems a bit washed out compared to William Steig’s beautiful illustrations. When I am a more experienced and more confident embroiderer, I’ll have to revisit this project and try filling and shading the whale with stitches.

At the edges, I extended the ocean waves (stem stitch) around the side seams of the bag and across the back too. This reverse side might just be my favorite part of the project. The open blue ocean, embroidered version.

happy.whale.back

DIY pirate shirts tutorial

DIY pirate shirt tutorial

We’re really into costumes at my house. I have two sons who love dressing up, with pirate costumes being among the most popular. For Christmas, they received a beautiful set of sea captain coat, knee breeches, boots, from H and M Unicef/All for Children.

While these clothes were a hit, the problem of what to wear beneath the coat became a nagging question in the mind of my seven year old. White button down? Wrong. Plain T shirt? Wrong. Striped shirt? Wrong. Like I said, we’re really into costumes. So, we sewed pirate-ish muslin shirts to go with these jaunty sea captain clothes.

I’ve already described my mixed feelings about this project, and since it was a little out of my comfort zone, I’ve just added it to the New to Me Linky at Celtic Thistle Stitches. Click over there to see all kinds of geat projects. If you want to hear more of  the details of how I sewed these shirts, please, read on! I’ll tell you what I did and what I learned.

Before starting I did a little google searching, and found this pirate shirt “unpattern” tutorial on Wee Folk Art to be helpful for thinking the project through, though I did some things differently, notably the cuffs and neckline.

Now, the details in slide show format. Please note that by clicking on the bottom center of a slide you can pause, go forward, or go backwards in the instructions.

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Craft Project, or a cry for help?

tulle.tutuI recently made tutus for two of my little nieces. Initially, I did not plan to post about this project because it’s been done so many times before and as a craft project, there’s pretty much nothing to it. One need only to look at this photo and this photo, and how to proceed becomes clear.

DIY.tutu

Proceed, I did, and in the end, I was almost shocked by the finished products. These tutus appear so ridiculously girly, so over the top in their puffy, frothy pink-and-purple-ness, that it occurred to me that these tutus might seem like a cry for help from the mother of four sons.

In truth, I‘ve made my peace with the awkward questions (Gonna keep trying ’til you get a girl?) and unanswerable comments. (Four boys!! How do you DO it?!!) I even try to have a sense of humor and enjoy connecting with other mothers of all boys. I love my children for the wonderful people they are and feel lucky for all I share with them.

Nevertheless, I won’t deny enjoying the novel experience of tutus, barrettes, bows, and extreme girliness I get by having nearby nieces. I guess I better enjoy it now, before the girls get old enough to reject it.

Three little birds embroidery

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My sister just had a baby, her third baby. I have been a bit giddy about it, possibly because my youngest child just turned 5, and I am feeling that the baby years are truly, solidly (finally?!) behind me. With no one at home in diapers, I really enjoy holding, rocking, cuddling my littlest niece.

I also have an excuse to make a few baby presents. I decided to start with embroidering something. Since this baby has two older siblings, I knew my sister to be well stocked in towels, burp cloths, onsies and more. So I settled on a generic white cotton zipper bag. Hopefully it will be useful for storing changes of clothing, extra diapers, who knows what else babies need these days.

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I drew a little sketch – three little birds in a nest, and traced it on vellum with heat transfer marker, as instructed on Sublime Stitching. Ironing the design onto the fabric could not have been more satisfying. I almost wanted to stop there and I am now hankering to buy myself some colored transfer markers.

birds4

Then came the stitching. I used stem stitch for the nest, chain stitch and lazy daisy stitch for the foliage, and then struggled with stitching the birds. I tried a couple of different stitches but none seemed right. In the end, I just left it with a long and short stitch also from Aimee Ray’s book, Doodle stitching.

There seems to be something a little off about yellow baby chicks in a nest in a tree, but those were the colors I wanted and sometimes you just have to throw in the towel. After all, it’s just a baby present and we all know how quickly they grow up.

Once a mom blogger, always a mom blogger

Some of you, dear readers, know that I started my blogging life at Manners for Modern Mothers, focusing on manners, motherhood, and the modern world. Here, at Bottle Branch, my goal is to celebrate the creative and handmade life, in a well rounded, slow blogger kind of way.

Yet, it seems, I still have something to say about motherhood. So, last week, I wrote this review ( on ivillage parenting) of the book Masterminds and Wingmen, by Rosalind Wiseman. Parenting is a moving target and sometimes, a good book can help a mother focus her parenting efforts so she can get back to the business of making things.

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* book cover image from the author Rosalind Wiseman’s website.