Feb 27, 2008

never in a million years ... part one

Closer view
Check out this bring-on-Spring Emmeline by Melissa! Freshcut fabrics make for such a sweet rendition of any apron. Make sure to head over to the Flickr group and see how others have (brilliantly) interpreted the Emmeline Apron pattern!

... would I have guessed that I would have sold out of my first printing of Emmeline Apron patterns in three week's time! Thanks to your overwhelmingly positive reception of Miss Em, she'll have to be on backorder for a little less than a week while we wait for the second printing to ship out. I know you'll understand if you order a pattern and it takes a little longer to arrive, but we are aiming to get out any orders for Emmelines around March 4th. Thank you so much for your patience and support!

In the meantime, if you're just itchin' to get a-stitchin', please consider supporting my wholesale retailers by purchasing the patterns from them. I know that Yuki at LA Chakra has about 25 Emmelines in stock. Also, be sure to check out some of the pattern/fabric kits available at Monkey Foot Designs! I'm so excited to see that Kris has unearthed some of that hard-to-find Gnome fabric for her Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag kit! She's also put together the Chocolate Lollipop fabric and some beautiful out of print Urban Chicks fabric that would make a stunning duo for the Emmeline Apron.




Stay tuned for "Never in a Million Years ... Part Deux" to find out the name of Little Miss Apron #2 - and boy do I have a lot of choices!


Feb 24, 2008

name that apron

the second apron pocket 1

the second apron ruffle

waist band gathers

The Next Apron Pattern

Number Two apron pattern is no longer just a drawing on paper! Here she is, in her first workup. Number Two features all the fifties' flair imaginable, with a ruffled hem, two pockets with cloth-covered button details, a gathered waistband, and some optional bodice bows. For a perfect fit, Number Two offers a curved seam bodice and skirt, which lend it its retro vibe. Fully lined, Number Two has no exposed seams and will last long enough for your great-granddaughter to put it to good use. The only thing Number Two doesn't have is a name!

That's where you come in! Help me give Number Two a name she can be proud of! Leave a comment, and in a week's time I will pick the name that most tickles my fancy. Keep in mind that I like the idea of old-fashioned women's names for my aprons (i.e. Emmeline) but I'm open to other possibilities as well. The winner will receive a copy of The Apron Book by EllynAnne Geisel!

After the naming, all that's left is writing the instructions, drafting the pattern pieces in Illustrator, laying out everything in InDesign, sending the draft out to testers, revising, re-sending, and printing. Nothing at all, really! But this naming contest should be so much fun. Maybe I'll even get some ideas for naming my future children, as well. :)

Happy naming!


Feb 23, 2008

rummage sale for the birds

collecting items for the birds

I can't tell you how much joy this little basket of bits and pieces brings to my heart. It is a harbinger of spring, the first sign that winter is in its last throes. In this diminutive basket near the art supplies, we are collecting items for the birds, who are busy making their nests in preparation for the boom of new life that will be happening in the next few months.

Yarn leftovers, embroidery floss, downy chicken feathers, a left-behind piece of the cloth mop, scraps of fabric, a bit from a torn sponge, a ball of hair after a thorough hair brush cleaning - all of these things would have been thrown away, but our trash is the bird's treasure. After this indoor basket is full, a child takes it outside and deposits the loot in a larger basket, where the birds are free to take what they please at their leisure.

We're hoping that we will see evidence of this gift to the birds in nearby nests. Our eyes are peeled for pieces of bright yarn.

Feb 20, 2008

my february ten

pink food

I've decided to follow in the footsteps of dear Amanda and squeeze out some of the sweet juice that February has offered thus far. It would be so easy to take my bow and head off right stage instead of facing the rest of formidable, frigid, ever-funky February, but I think it would be more effective simply to kill this month with compliments and kindness. February, you weasel of a month - you are no longer my foe!

1. Let's begin with another tribute to naturally pink food. This beet, apple, pineapple and walnut salad is the perfect marriage of root and fruit. Adding fresh cream makes it a thing from the fluffy clouds above. The children, who were drawn in by its deceptively unnatural bright color, dubbed it "delicious" and served themselves second helpings. Plus, to prolong the color appreciation, the beets give you pink pee. And there is, quite possibly, nothing cooler than pink pee when you are four years old.

2. The ray of morning sunshine that graced my kitchen windowsill with it's camera-loving warmth. Now I know that if I want to photograph anything inside my house in natural light, I have to take advantage of this fleeting moment between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. (Precisely when I'm not in the house, but rather at school. Why was I not in school this morning? That's a long story involving a sick cat and the busting of a window when someone broke into the house. But, eh ... let's stick to the good parts of February, shall we?)


3. The incredible reception of the new patterns. Wow. I most certainly was not expecting this! After two weeks, the aprons are already into their second printing! Emmeline Aprons and Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bags are popping up all over the planet, like the one above, photo courtesy of Monokultur in Austria. And you love them! I'm couldn't be happier, and I certainly hope that you will start sharing your creations over at the flickr group.

4. These guitar lessons, found through the inspirational parenting blog, Blue Yonder. For years (we're talking since college) I've been wanting to refine my guitar skills beyond the standard chord realm. Perhaps this will be the push that gets me a finger-pickin'! Patrick's been working on his jazz improv on the piano, and with a few minutes of technical practice every day, we might just be able to start that band. (To my future children - I'm so sorry that your parents are the Duke and Duchess of Dorkdom. Perhaps you should consider picking up the banjo, harmonica and fiddle so that we can be the nouveau generation of the Trapp Family singers?)

5. The glad tidings in the mail, from the incredibly sweet and thoughtful Dee, who sent me the most scrumptious package full of chocolate! I would have taken a photo, Dee, but the a chocoholic got to it before I had a chance to recharge the camera battery. Ahem. Dee also included some lovely vintage trims and incredible cuts of fabric. Thank you so much!

6. Five months and counting until we're back state-side. Five months until we're much closer to family ... five months until I can buy all the spices that my little heart desires ... five months until my windows are properly sealed and my roof is properly insulated ... five months until we can go out to eat at an Italian/Chinese/Thai/Indian restaurant ... etc. I think I need to commit to chanting the "enjoy the present moment mantra" with more frequency.

7. Discovering this site for affordable, quality linen. I could never stomach buying linen before, but you can't turn your back on their prices. Thanks to Amber for passing on the info! (And if you haven't yet, check out the lovely linen items in Amber's Etsy shop.)

February shadow

8. The lanky shadow produced by the low-angled February sun.

stubby bather

9. The comic "stubby bather" effect in the warm waters of the hot springs.

dia de campo 12-07

10. The joy with which children embrace the outdoors, no matter the season, no matter the month.

Feb 14, 2008

the color of love

Valentine's Day feast

Valentine's Day feast - she's my watermelon expert

What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with a feast of wholesome red and pink foods? Watermelon, strawberries, hibiscus tea, and perhaps a mango or two, if they are handy.

Valentines Day is just a subtle whisper on the north wind down here in Mexico. With no Hallmark, no florists, and no candy hearts, Valentines Day is a chill deal. I must say, I don't envy all of you who were "required" to make 20+ valentines for classroom events. Although, I sure wouldn't mind some of these cupcakes - please and thank you! I can even eat them in style on my plate.

May you celebrate love and friendship wherever you are.

Feb 11, 2008

to the one I love

An early Valentine.

Dear Patrick,

Seven years ago today, you invited me out to dinner. During that dinner, we had a flawless, invigorating conversation. At some point in that conversation, I told you very firmly that the last thing I was interested in was dating anyone. Thanks for being persistent in your wooing, and doing it all with your wry sense of humor and keen intellect. Your persistence was well placed. I think it only took me two more weeks to fall head-over-heels in love with you and get that tingle that shot up my spine when you walked into the room.

We've gallivanted across Europe together, learned two foreign languages together, lived on a negative income together, lived without a dishwasher and washing machine together, cooked together, lived in Mexico together, gotten lost while hiking (without water) together, been sick together, been to funerals of loved ones together, but most of all, we've laughed A LOT together.
Perhaps that's why you married me in the first place. You probably thought to yourself, "Hey, this girl laughs at every joke I make. That's pretty nice. I think I'll marry her." But really, even as we get old and saggy, I'll know that I picked a winner. A guy who can make me laugh at every turn of the road. Your wit is unmatched, my love.

How did you do that with your hair? 5
For more of the "How did you do that with your hair?" series - A study of Patrick's hair and its interaction with water, click here.

Let me try to be serious for a while, which is hard to do around you. Here's what I think of you - you are a genius - a clear-thinking, logic-loving, mathematical wiz. You have a head full of facts that makes you a conversational gem. You are respectful and calm. Wise and thoughtful. You care about justice, and feel obligated to do something to draw attention to the plight of the have-nots - those who form the forgotten backbone of this capitalist system that benefits not them, but the few for whom they clean house.

You have a love for history, and are passionate about learning from it in order to make informed decisions about present day economic and political situations. You work to produce amazing videos such as this one, to get the word out to our unfortunately myopic society:

You are leading us on to our next adventure, having been accepted to study for your PhD in Latin American History at your top choices, Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. You're an incredible and patient teacher. I know this because you've tried to teach me theoretical calculus. I say "tried" because I simply didn't want to do any homework. You, on the other hand, were fascinating to listen to.

You play the piano while I sing along, you cuddle up to me as we watch our physics course, you bake incredible whole wheat bread from scratch. You are my best friend, and I love you.

These past seven years have been incredible, and I can't wait for more.


Feb 8, 2008


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"Dressing-up", an extension of her work with the dressing frames, done in front of a mirror.

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A puppet made at home, from an old sock. Love the holes for her fingers.

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Singing while doing the movements with the "Song Cards" work. Also, notice that one of my children has made me a cup of tea in the background.

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Drawing on a window in the outdoor environment.

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The Five Senses definition stages

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I don't know how he does this. I can barely do it.

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Que tengan un buen fin de semana!
(Have a good weekend!)


Feb 5, 2008

special announcement intermission

I do hope you don't mind a little intermission in your puppet show, but I have a special announcement to make ....

front of mischievous gnome messenger bag sewing pattern

front of emmeline apron sewing pattern

The new patterns are officially up for sale! Maybe you've already heard through the grapevine, or received special notice through my mailing list, but it's time to shout out, loud and clear ...
Here ye! Here ye!
Get your Emmeline Apron and Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag patterns
hot off the press!

I would like to give a big shout out to my wonderful/marvelous/incredible pattern testers. Karla, Amy, Patti, Ellen, Maren and Jill from the Secret Stitch Club, Kate, Susan & Tod, Monique, and Heather ... you've really made these patterns top-notch. I couldn't have done it without you! Monique has posted a great review of the Mischievous Gnome Messenger Bag - head back to her blog in a few days to read her upcoming review of the Emmeline Apron pattern. (And did you notice that her bag is also featured on the pattern front? Aren't her fabric choices to die for?!)
You can buy your patterns at my website, http://www.montessoribyhand.net/, or my esty store, http://www.montessoribyhand.etsy.com/. I'm also giddy to announce that Quilter's Resource Inc. and Eagle Pattern Depot have picked up my line for distribution to independent sewing stores nationwide! Eeek! Can you tell I'm excited? So hopefully you'll be able to support your local sewing stores and purchase the patterns there, too! If your local store doesn't know about the patterns, it would be wonderful if you could ask for them. For an ever- growing list of stores that carry the patterns, click here.
Thanks SO much for all of your support and kind words - this has been a wild adventure, and I never would have started off on this trek had it not been from your warm words of encouragement. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Feb 3, 2008

puppets on a stick

butterfly on a stick

The stick puppet is one of the most simple to make. Even the very young can make their own variations of stick puppets by decorating (with paint, markers, or collage) a card stock or cardboard shape that an adult has cut out. A slightly older child can cut out her own shape. As for the stick? My butterfly is sporting a Chinese take-out chopstick. Other options might include taping a drinking straw or pencil to the back of the puppet.

One of the (many) reasons I've become so enamored with puppets is that they are a high-quality educational toy that can be fashioned entirely from found objects, recycled material, and common household items. Here's how I made this papier mache butterfly puppet:

butterfly puppet cardboard base

Draw a shape onto a piece of cardboard and cut it out. Cover the cardboard entirely in aluminum foil (used foil works fine!) Attach a stick to one side with masking tape.

Prepare your papier mache paste. I use 1 part white flour to 2 parts warm water, which should form a consistency like thick glue. Add more water or flour if needed, and mix to remove the lumps.

Tear newspaper into small strips (the smaller the better for working with figures that have curved edges, such as this one.) Dip each strip into the paste, run it between your index and middle fingers to remove the excess, and place it on the figure. Cover the figure evenly, forming "x"s with the strips, which will give it more tensile strength. Add 4-6 more layers (being sure to let it dry a bit between each layer.)

butterfly on a stick receives a coat of white paint

Let the puppet dry completely for one or two days. Use some sandpaper to smooth out the rough edges, then cover it entirely in a coat of white paint (acrylics or temperas work fine.)

Once the base layer has dried, bring out the rest of the colors and let your imagination take flight! Once dry, cover with a coat of Mod Podge.

Happy puppeteering!

Feb 1, 2008

a month of puppets

Wooden marionettes, made in Prague

You never know what the January winds will bring. Here, in a mountainous, forgotten corner of Mexico, they blew in a puppeteer.

That's right - an Italian puppeteer, living the vie boheme, who dons a vest with an appliqu├ęd sun and a healthy looking stock of corn.

He performed for my students this week, and we were all quite smitten.

Such an unexpected visitor and his puppet-entourage that travels the world by his side in a pink backpack-on-wheels can mean only one thing - February is now A Month of Puppets!

I hope you will join me as I explore the world of puppetry. Expect everything from historical anecdotes and little-known facts to suggestions and tutorials on how to make different kinds of puppets and marionettes - there's a lot of messy work going on behind-the-scenes in my puppet studio!

And just to get you in the mood and to introduce the Month of Puppets theme song, have a look at this clip from The Sound of Music:

Did I mention that I want to model my own children after the von Trapps? Minus the whistle, I mean ... which wouldn't be very Montessori. ;)