a stitch in lime

stumbling into creativity


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Squishy sensory bags for the mess-phobic

So the entire Pinterest-parenting complex (new name I just made up: “Parenterest”; that’s a winner, people) is awash with ways to get your child into ‘sensory play.’ Working with children with disabilities and sensory needs means I work closely with Occupational Therapists (OTs) and see a lot of sensory play going on with my clients. And at work it’s all good. Things get messy, things get cleaned up, and the circle of life is complete. Om.

At home, it’s different. Because my husband and I are the cleaner uppers (and the everything elsers), and we do a lot of that cleaning up shit already and it’s all a bit much. Especially for him. I think he has a sub-clinical fear of mess. Some neurons in his brain fire in overdrive when he sees a dirty or messy child/situation that was entirely preventible. (Children who willfully throw food on the ground are his kryptonite, except they don’t weaken him so much as exasperate him on a whole new frequency.) So messy sensory play has to be my doing if it gets done at all, and to be honest I would much prefer minimal/no cleanup, myself. Enter sensory materials encased in a bag! Sensory bags!

You fill them with liquid or goop of some sort, you put some dazzling things inside, you seal that business up tight, and you give it to your kid to mush. No mess but most of the squishy experience. While little hands won’t get wet and goopy exploring in this way, they will still feel the weight, some of the texture/viscosity/malleability, and get to delight (yes, DELIGHT, I said it) in the colours, sparkles, lumps, or what-have-you inside.

Here are some I made yesterday.

A sparkly ocean-esque one. This one is filled with blue hair gel (get that at the dollar store so as to not waste any money on quality — it ain’t for your hair), some extra blue food colouring to jazz up the colour, a packet of blue sequins, a small packet of tiny pearl beads, and some blue/silver glitter.

This one is filled with yellowish body wash (again extra yellow food colouring for pizazz factor), some gold glitter, and some foam beads from the dollar store. They’re fairly thick beads which makes for good lumpy bits for little hands to move around.

And this one is red hair gel (amped up the colour here, too), silver glitter, and a packet of assorted googly eyes. All from the dollar store. Easy.

For each of the bags, I followed these steps:

  1. Insert materials (goop + fascinating things) into large freezer Ziplock bag
  2. Press all the air out and seal zipper tight
  3. Fold over zipper and tape down with clear packing tape & tape all four edges as well to reinforce
  4. Remove white Ziplock label with nail polish remover
  5. Insert into 2nd Ziplock bag, and again press out air, seal, and fold/tape down the zipped edge with packing tape
  6. Tape all four edges with duct tape (decorative is nice if you have access to it — I didn’t)
  7. Again remove label with nail polish remover
  8. Give it to your child who will delight in the sensory experience for under 10 minutes and then ignore it forever

Here are some ideas of things to fill your sensory bags with:

  • water
  • hair gel
  • aloe vera gel
  • body wash or shampoo
  • baby oil, food colouring, and water (the oil and coloured water don’t mix)
  • shaving foam
  • paint (for fun with colour mixing)
  • sand and water

More ideas can be found over at Mama OT’s comprehensive list. They’re pretty quick and satisfying little crafty projects, I have to say. Dump things in a bag and seal it up; can’t get much easier than that.


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Things I’ve knit lately

Hey! I’m alive. Lots has happened in the last few months. I forget if I even blogged that I was pregnant again, but I was, and then we found out we were having twins (!) and then we had the twins, and now the twins are 15 weeks old and heyo, who’s got time for anything anymore? Not this gal.

But somewhere in there I knit some things. Yes, I did. I managed to figure out how to tandem nurse (using a giant supportive twin-sized nursing pillow) which left me hands-free to finish off a few things I had started ages back.

So for posterity’s sake, here are the projects I’ve finished within the last 6 months or whatever ungodly amount of time has passed since my last post.

First is a beautiful jade-green scarf using my beautiful friend Jane Richmond‘s pattern, Rae. I ended up gifting this to my dear friend, S, whose mother recently passed away. I hope it is keeping her cozy and bringing her comfort right now. I can’t think of a better recipient. (Love to you, S!)

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Next is a pair of split-crotch baby pants for one of our babies (remember, I thought there was just one in there for a while!) — these were the second pair I’ve knit from this pattern and they were fairly quick again. I intended to use these to practice elimination communication with our little ones — something we have been doing but only in a part-time sense since we have two babies to potty and communicate with. It’s quite an undertaking with just one kid so we’re being easy on ourselves about it this time around.

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Then one of my knitting friends (the lovely Mandy from Sugar and Candy) was expecting a baby and I knit this square up to contribute to a baby blanket that a bunch of us collaborated on. I kind of improvised this design but it was based on the Herringbone Stitch Pillow pattern from Lion Brand Yarn.

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Now perhaps a square is not the most exciting project on its own, but here, I will up the awesome factor by showing you the finished blanket (bonus: adorable newborn!). Can you spot my square?

Moving along. Next is another great pattern by Jane Richmond, the Renfrew hat. This pattern comes from her beautiful book, ISLAND, which contains patterns inspired by the geography of Vancouver Island, where we live. It’s stunningly photographed by her brother, Nicholas Kupiak. Get a copy. Just do it. (And while you’re at it, get her latest book, co-authored by Shannon Cook, JOURNEY.)

Back to my little hat though? I knit it with a multi-coloured colourway of Red Heart and I was pleasantly surprised with the result! It’s super wearable because it basically goes with anything, and while it’s not super soft, it’s not the least bit scratchy on my head, which I so appreciate. (Sidebar: wool and I wish we were better friends.)

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Then I remembered that I have pretty much an entire large Rubbermaid tub full of yarn and no time to knit. So I tried to think up a quick project that would get rid of scraps. My friend Rebecca Gunderson of Nook recently (read: in December) released a pattern for a vintage baby bonnet that would fit a newborn. Having two newborns around and plenty of scraps of Wool-Ease Thick and Quick in my bin, I set to work on using up some of that noise. Unfortunately my girls’ heads were slightly too robust for the tiny bonnet so I don’t have any live-model photos to share. But the stash-busting (scrap-busting?) was so perfect. Such a quick little project as well. I may make another and pass them on to someone expecting a girl.

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And it being winter time, the weather was cold and I noticed my toddler loved leaving the house with far too little warm clothing on. I asked him if he’d wear a scarf if I made him one, and he said yes (lies!) so I set about yet another project to use up scraps. This scarf was totally improvised and was a perfect way to use up little bits and bobs of Patons Decor yarn I had left over from previous projects. And then of course he put it on once and immediately wanted it off and has never agreed to wear it since. Toddlers.

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Which brings me to the most exciting part of my post, which is the project I am most proud to have completed in recent months: my Classic Raglan Pullover! Again, this one is designed by the very talented Jane Richmond. It took me, oh… a year and a half to finish this. I originally cast on to be a part of Shannon‘s Summer Sweater KAL back in the summer of 2012. Then I got severely distracted. Probably by my son. But it lasted a long time and I lost my knitting mojo. Then I had to extend both the sleeves and the body to fit my very tall self and that required a bit of unripping and doing bits over. I don’t love doing bits over, I have to say. So for a while I was in a fight with this sweater and we were not on speaking terms. But after my girls were born in December, and I mastered the aforementioned knitting-while-nursing, I finished up the last inch or two of this baby and I’m so pleased with how it turned out! I had to add 2 full inches to the body and it’s still juuuust long enough.

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So there you have it! A cheater’s review-style post full of all my recent (and I am using that term very loosely) finished projects. Phew! Now I’ve earned another six month blogging break, right? My life is so hard.


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Quick-and-dirty visual schedule for tiny YouTube addicts

Three videos on the docket. Brief peace and quiet in 3… 2… 1…

A couple of months ago, we made the joyous mistake of showing our two-year-old YouTube videos of… well, pretty much whatever he was interested in that day. Mostly trucks, animals, and a few short clips of kids’ shows that we found at least 50% tolerable. We know screen time should be very limited, but a tiny bit each day buys us a bit of sanity while we prepare meals, make an important phone call, whatever.

I work with kids with special needs and many of the kids at work have visual schedules. They are essentially little icons, usually mounted on a velcro strip, that help them understand the transitions in their day and what to expect next. Now, my son doesn’t need this type of thing to avoid epic meltdowns on a daily basis, but when it came to YouTube videos, he really was having a hard time hearing that they were all done, or that we felt he’d watched enough and it was time to play with toys or read a book or do any other logical toddler activity. (YouTube makes this especially challenging with their menu of related video thumbnails that pops up the moment a video ends. Thanks, YouTube.)

So I went ahead and hacked (and I mean hacked) together a little ‘schedule’ for videos that would help my son see (1) how many videos were okay to watch before being done (we agreed on this ahead of time), (2) how many were already watched vs. still upcoming, and (3) what “all done” looked like. I was hoping this would ease his whining when we attempted to get him moving on to something else, as my verbal heads-ups and explanations about keeping our eyes and brains healthy by taking breaks were just not cutting it in this case.

One down, two to go.

To make this, I hacked up an old cereal box that was in our recycling. I attached an adhesive Velcro strip to the cardboard and a small square of complementary Velcro to each of the video ‘tokens’. I drew crappy pictures on them to represent various videos he likes to watch. Then I taped whatever needed to be taped using clear packing tape, like the done ‘envelope’ and the fronts of the tokens, which I thought might get a bit too well-loved without some extra reinforcement.

Action shot!

Note: toddlers never let you photograph a damn thing in peace.

The way I use this with my son is like this: We talk about how many videos are okay to watch when we first sit down. Maybe it’s just one, maybe it’s two. No more than three, anyway, as I only made three tokens. But we agree and then load up the schedule with that many tokens. After the first video is done, I remind him he needs to rip off the first token and put it in the ‘done’ spot. Then he gets to start the next one (if there is a next one). After the last video is done, and its token is put in the ‘done’ spot, we talk about how all the videos are done and it’s time to choose something else to do.

Videos are all done. Tantrum hopefully avoided as you transition beautifully to the next activity.

You can see what a hack job this is by looking at the back of it. It seriously took me about 10 minutes, max. It’s really ugly. I measured nothing. I cut crookedly.

And the ugly truth: The LIFE cereal box that gave its life.

But guys? I’ve already used it twice and it worked. Like a hot damn. The second time I set little A up with this, when the last video ended he independently ripped off the token and put it in ‘done’ and said “all videos done”. Then I asked him what else he’d like to do and he said “play with toys” and went on his merry way without a hint of a whine. It was kind of magical. And I didn’t even need a laminator. BOOM.


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Felt play food

If only my real-life fried eggs turned out like that…

It started with eggs. My son is obsessed with scrambling the eggs we have each Sunday for breakfast. He likes to sit up on the counter right beside the stove and use the spatula to mix and scrape. I think he thinks Sunday breakfast is pretty awesome. And tasty. So I found a tutorial from Wee Folk Art for two sweet little felt fried eggs and it seemed like an achievable little project. And I was right! I even won the crafty inspiration lottery in that I already had all the things.

I didn’t print off the pattern, but instead just eyeballed something egg-ish shaped, which ended up fine.

My freehand blob shapes worked out alright. Rather eggy.

Then the eggs looked lonely. And the second half of that egg tutorial? Yup, a felt bacon tutorial. Had to go for it. I love how these ones use hidden pipe cleaners to achieve authentic bacon crinkles. Genius.

These bacon strips and “fat” strips were also more or less eyeballed. How hard can it be to cut bacon-sized rectangles and some squiggly bits? Not hard.

Bacon!

And then? Then I wanted to make a whole box of play/felt food. I am both blessed and cursed to work for a child development centre that is pretty well stocked with an amazing selection of toys, which means I have all this inspiration that turns into big dreams for what I could make or put together for home. Dress up boxes, kitchen/food boxes, music boxes, sensory boxes (okay, I did that one), craft boxes, nature boxes… my imagination has gotten a bit carried away, really. I do not have the space for several huge bins of toys on various themes. My 2-bedroom condo does not need to resemble a well-stocked child development centre to meet my one kid’s needs.

…But I could at least round out the play food collection with some fruit. Make it a proper breakfast and all.

Strawberries!

So I made some strawberries! For these I mooshed together two tutorials I found. One was from While She Naps, which helped me do the main red part, and the other was from While Wearing Heels, which gave me the idea for the subtle ‘seeds’ done with thread. Only difference is I used black thread and didn’t make them as sticky-outy. Then I freestyled the green leafy stems and tacked them on.

I told him to smile; this is what I got.

Anyway, this is as far as I got with my MAKE ALL THE THINGS endeavour. I love the look of hand-sewn felt food. I just need to pin down what else my son would like to play with next. And it has to be doable. Garlic? Delicious breakfast staple that it is…

He actually played with it. Win.

Toddler action shots are always blurry. Because of all the action. Action breakfast!

(Never again to be this lacking in cat hair. Treasure it.)

So there’s the little breakfast plate I’ve made so far. What else would you make next? Bonus points if it’s an easy one. I’m trying to go for foods that my son is familiar with and would eat. Lettuce looks easy but leafy greens aren’t exactly his favourite food (he will very carefully pick them off any other food they might be touching, hand them to me with a disgusted look on his face and simply say “THIS.” as in, get this filth off my food stat!), so I imagine he might not know what to do with lettuce.

What should I make, guys?


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Dryer ball makeover

So remember back when I made some awesome felted dryer balls from leftover yarn? They were quirky wound balls that I wet-felted inside some pantyhose. Here’s how they looked back when they were freshly made:

December 2010: So fresh and so clean, clean.

Aaaand, that was over two years ago. And that was before diaper laundry. Diapers that have velcro tabs that don’t stay attached to their little laundry tab attachers no matter how hard you smoosh them down or how clean you keep the velcro. At least, mine sure don’t. So, loose, grabby velcro tumbles around in my dryer on the regular. Which probably explains this state of affairs:

March 2013: Bits of that red one are stuck to all my clean clothes.

But after buying three awesome new dryer ‘ballz’ from my awesome friend Danica at Emballizm, I got the idea to cover the outside of my old ones with wool roving and re-felt them to make all the ugly mess go away. And it was so easy, dudes. I bought some colourful (and pretty cheap) roving at my local yarn store (or LYS, if you speak fibre-nerd-ese) and a felting needle. I’d never needle felted before, but I’d seen it done and it looked so painfully easy (jab-jab-jab, repeat) and since I already had a wool base to felt onto, I was all psssh let’s do this shiz.

Here are my colourful colours:

Fluff! (And clearly, photography was not taken into account when purchasing said fluff. Raggedy it is.)

I approached this task with freestyle zeal. Put a blob on, felt it on, wrap a blob around, felt it on… you get the idea. Stop when it looks done. And they turned out awesome! Here they are before their first maiden voyage.

A very satisfying makeover. They look like little Earths that got egged.

I had so much fun doing this. (Though I potentially developed some unfortunate shoulder strain from the repeated jabbing.) I have a bunch of the roving left over and am trying to figure out how best to use it. Make more for gifts, probably!


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Sensory bin: Why didn’t I do this sooner?

“DUMP DUT!”

I’ve read plenty online lately about creative parents who put stuff in bins for their kids to explore. Usually with themes. Nature, various holidays, you name it. I was intrigued. But I… I don’t do themes. I do whatever’s around. Bonus: my kid will still love whatever I gather up for him to mess with.

But yet, I hesitated. A bunch of tiny things in a bin at the hands of a toddler with various scooping options? That sounds messy. Toddlers don’t keep things in appropriate containers (Cheerios go on the floor!), on appropriate surfaces (Spaghetti on my highchair tray? How about on the wall?), or out of inappropriate places (Look! My train is floating in the toilet!). But I came to my senses when I realized that a bin like this would surely buy me several consecutive minutes of peace, so here I am being one of those creative parents who has resigned herself to repeatedly sweeping up tiny things from her floor. The Occupational Therapists at work would be so proud of me making my son a “sensory bin” to explore.

Scooping and dumping. A toddler’s dream.

Now, apparently you can put any old anything into a sensory bin (judging from Pinterest search results). Because of the nearness of our grocery store (across the street = win), I filled ours with dry, shelf-stable, cheap food: dry macaroni, popcorn kernels, and a few black beans. I threw in a few of A’s small trucks and cars and other tiny toys, gave him a cup and a scoop and a dump truck, and he was set.

Loving it.

He played with it for about 20 minutes. There were at least 5 dumps onto the floor in that time. It went something like this:

I sit down to relax.
Clattering spill noise “Mess!”
“Oh baby, this stuff stays in the bin.”
“Mama help.”
“Okay, I’ll help.”
We clean up together.
I sit down to relax.
Clattering spill noise…

It was still worth it. If nothing else, having this around will give us many, many opportunities to practice team work while cleaning up together.


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Digital download: Recipe template

I used to be masterful at MS Paint. In my eyes, MS Paint is the only thing Microsoft really ever did right. It was elegantly simple and yet surprisingly useful. I could draw a crappy picture of my friend Jason eating dirt and send it to him, and he could draw one of me eating dirt and send it to me. It was a beautiful thing.

I use Macs now and, to this day, I mourn the fact that the Mac OS lacks an MS Paint rip-off. I have searched for one and have come up wanting, people. It ain’t out there. Sob.

So if you’re like me and you have a Mac and want to draw a thing, you have to use something complicated to draw your thing (*snicker*). Like Photoshop. Except Photoshop is for people who have money to buy Photoshop, so I use Gimp. It’s painfully slow and laborious for a lazy learner like myself, and I often resort to a button-mashing type of effort, but lo and behold: I DREW A THING. Here it is:

recipe template

Download full size image here!

It’s a template for recipes.

My husband and I have a binder of recipes either hand-written or printed out from email/online and some of them are covered in spilly dribbles and/or tomato stains. Some of them are over 90% crumpled up. Some of them have been written all over with modifications and things circled and giant arrows and emphatic stars that were the result of a dramatic rage brought on by having forgotten to buy an ingredient from the store because of unfortunate formatting. Basically, it’s a hot mess, this book.

I’ve been meaning to copy & paste all our collected recipes into a pretty, consistent template for printing so that everything can be put under dorkgasmic page protectors and if any of our friends were to happen upon our beautiful homemade recipe book they would surely think I was one of those people who had my shit together, surely. I searched the internet for such a template and found monstrosities of clip art pizza slices and cartoonish blokes in chefs hats. NOPE.

Anyway, dear internets: I share this with you. Use it! I know I will.

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