Dollar Store Academy

There are days where it would be so, so, so much easier to let the kids come home from school, turn on the TV, and let it roll.  We try pretty hard at our house, though, to limit TV watching–or game playing or Netflix or movies or videos–to days that aren’t “school days.”  Which is an ancient way of saying we don’t watch TV on nights when there is school the next day.

How many studies have been done to date indicating that children AVERAGE something like 35 hours of TV watching per week?  That’s, like, four hours A DAY in front of the tube, IN ADDITION to laptops and tablets and iPhones and video games.  IN ADDITION???  For real??

I could go on and on about how “back in my day” we didn’t do that kind of thing, but you’ve heard it before.  If you have kids born after 2005, you’ve DONE it before.  You lived it, right along with me.  Back when there were no smart phones and no iPads and no cable, for crying out loud.  I don’t think it’s reasonable to pretend that we’re going to go back to that kind of lifestyle, because it’s never going to happen.

I know some parents have been very successful with the “tickets” method of controlling screen time: their kids earn a particular number of minutes of the privilege for each task or chore they accomplish.  On the surface, it seems like this really great idea, right?  They have to earn it, and when it’s used up, that’s that.  They’re being taught personal responsibility and limited resources and budgeting, all those things.

Here’s what I think: as much as that system appeals to me on the surface, it’s still presenting television and computers and the internet as a reward.  And I don’t want my kids to see it that way–I want my kids to think of technology as a tool, not a treat.  And allowing them to “earn” the privilege to engage with media in that way seems to perpetuate the idea that they ought to have that treat, want to have that treat, need to have that treat, that things are better with the treat.  It’s the same idea as when my college professor criticized the Pizza Hut plan to reward kids’ reading with free pizza: he claimed all you’d end up with was fat kids who hated to read.  And he was right.

Instead, we’re trying a new tactic at our house.  It’s HARD, let’s just say that outright.  It’s HARD ON ME.  But it’s simple and it doesn’t require any oversight, which puts it over a ticketing method that would put the onus on me to keep track of who had done what task for what “minutes” value and when their minutes were used up, and then policing their redemption of those minutes.  Gak.  Like I need one more administrative task in my day.

Here’s our new approach: I say no.  And then, like Isak Dinesen, just when I think I can’t go ONE MINUTE MORE, I take a breath, and I know that I can bear anything.

The children come home, and the house is a mess, and I have a deadline to meet, and dinner to cook, and everyone wants a snack and to watch a video or Netflix or play on the computer.  And we have a big TV that streams the internet and an iPad just for the kids and a laptop in the kitchen and my smart phone that they know all-too-well how to operate.  And it would be so EASY to just plug them in and go in the other room and take a breath and a break and let it slide.

So I don’t.

I say no.

And it’s HARD.  Did I mention how hard it is?  Like, SUPER hard.  They whine and they complain and they want explanations.  And while they’re used to the idea that we “don’t watch TV on school nights,” there have been exceptions.  There are always exceptions.  And so they’re hoping for another exception.

I don’t like to disappoint them.  And let’s be honest: a lot of days, there are three of them and one of me and it’s only 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m TIRED and I just don’t know if I want to fight it out.  I want to give in.  But every time I don’t give in, every time I say “no” and stick to it, I am overwhelmed with how grateful I am that I did.

Like yesterday:

dollar store coloring books for homeschooling

They did the spiel.  They whined and complained and two of them had to be sent to their rooms for pushing.  Even playing outside they couldn’t seem to get along, and there was constant bickering.  Nothing SO bad, not really miscreant behavior, just tired kids who are still recovering from those four days at Gramma’s, who need more sleep and some peaceful time at home.

I wanted to turn on the TV.  It would have been easy to turn on the TV.  And instead, I got out some coloring books.

dollar store fill in the blanks activity book

Yep.  Coloring books.  From the dollar store.  The DOLLAR STORE.  I bought them on a whim when I was picking up paper goods for the spring parties in their classes.  One for each of them, chosen for their interests.  I placed them on the table–like a treat, like a reward.  And they gasped with excitement.

dollar store dinosaurs

Y’all, they GASPED.

selfdirected learning with dollar store coloring activity books

And for the next NINETY MINUTES, they worked and shared and read and colored and played with one another.  Heck, they were so great that I brought in my hand-sewing and sat next to them, answering questions and exclaiming over how great their work was.  The little one wasn’t feeling the coloring, but the mood in the room was so peaceful and cooperative and loving that she brought out her Inchimals and started playing with those, all on her own, doing MATH PROBLEMS.

learning math with inchimals

I know.  It sounds like a fairy tale.

My point is this: I want our parenting choices to reflect not what we’re FEELING but what we’re HOPING.  My husband and I aim to make decisions based on the kind of people we hope our children will grow to be–how they will view the world and the degree to which they can interact with it open-heartedly in the far-off future when they are grown adults and we are just a bi-weekly phone call.  And they won’t grow into loving, caring, patient, kind, generous, joyful, faithful people with self-control and the ability to delay gratification if WE can’t do that, will they?  No, they won’t.

And so we say no.  BECAUSE it’s hard.  Because by saying no to them–about something small, like television, or something large, like television–we are asking them to do and be MORE.  More than what’s easy, more than what someone else has chosen to show to them through a screen, more than an unfiltered look through the glass.  They are being asked to be small a little longer, and to dream big a little longer, and to use that box to make a spaceship a little longer.  They are falling in love with connect-the-dots and with spot-the-differences and with using all the colors in the box, just a little longer.  And maybe, if we’re right about our beliefs in our own influence, when they are grown and no longer under our roof, they will not look at the internet or the television as a treat and a reward, but instead see it as a tool–a tool that can lead them to explore bigger worlds and love in small doses, the kind of love that keeps each of us going day to day, when it feels like we just can’t bear any more.

My Rag Doll + GIVEAWAY

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I have been, since two Christmases ago, somewhat obsessed with doll clothing.  I spent an entire holiday season bringing together an awesome collection of hand-made vintage Barbie clothing via eBay for our seven-year-old as her Christmas gift, and the following year (this past Christmas), she received an American Girl doll.  Between the two, I spend more time than I’m likely to admit thinking about doll clothing–how to make it, how to make it so SMALL, and what wardrobe staples the various dolls might require for their busy schedules.

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So when I was asked to be part of the My Rag Doll blog hop, I was pretty excited.  I generally avoid doing too many giveaways here on the blog, and I legitimately want to ensure that every book or product that I review is something I really like and think is well-made and worth investing in; since I had already agreed to do two other book reviews this spring, you KNOW this book has to be pretty great for me to have added it to the list.  And it so totally is.

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The author, Corinne Crasbercu, is an accomplished fashion and costume designer who also works as a stylist for Marie Claire magazine.  She has a keen eye and a very clean style, which I love.  The whole book feels very European–sweet and innocent, but also sophisticated and chic.  These are the type of dolls I remember growing up with–I was born in Germany and lived there until my fourth birthday, and my earliest memories (like my Kindergarten doll) are of beautifully crafted toys, handmade with care and love.  These dolls are those toys, all dressed up for our own children.

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The book includes patterns for the doll, with instructions for making a blonde, brunette or a red-head (I think we can all guess which one is my favorite–ginger FTW!), along with all the sweet outfits to dress them in.  And oh!  Are they dear!

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Gah!!  Can you STAND it???  Totally precious–without being too twee, you know?  These are cutesy-gooey dolls, these are sweet and classic dolls, and their outfits are perfect for re-telling old tales or making up fresh new ones.  I suspect they would even be awesome for puppet theater.  My kids would be ALL OVER that.

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As the owner of quite a large selection of sewing books, I can honestly say that I can see this one becoming a title I’d take off the shelf over and over, and use again and again: my girls are of the perfect age for making a zillion variations on these sweet patterns, and my oldest is likely to have children of her own before our littles truly outgrow their doll years (the oldest and youngest are 15 years apart, after all–though the thought of having children at home and being a granny at the same time makes me want to think about something else super badly).  I could easily riff on these designs for another 15 years, and never exhaust the possibilities.

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And you, sweet people, have the opportunity to win a copy!  Simply leave a comment here before midnight on April 23, 2014 and you could win a copy of My Rag Doll.  The patterns are clean and clear and easy to use, and the designs are so classic and lovely.  I know you’ll tab and mark and wear out the pages sewing with it.  Winner will be chosen at random from all the comments left by the time the giveaway closes.

Follow More of the Blog Hop!

For other stops on the blog tour, along with more details from the book and more chances to win a copy, check out these lovely blogs:
Sun 13th– Kestrel Makes
Mon 14th – Dolls and Daydreams
Tue 15th – Follow the White Bunny
Wed 16th – Whipstitch
Thu 17th – A Spoonful of Sugar
Fri 18th – Feeling Stitchy
Sat 19th – House of Pinheiro
Sun 20th – A Stitching Odyssey
Mon 21st – iCandy Handmade
Tue 22nd – Shimelle
Wed 23rd – Heather Bailey
Thu 24th – Emma Lamb

Yo-Yos Got My Temperature Rising

The weather is warming up nicely (at last), and I’m hand sewing like a madwoman these days.

pile of yoyos in RJR cotton supreme solids

These little beauties are all samples for my workshop as part of Camp Aloha Friends this summer.

multipcolored yoyos

Little rounds of fabric, all gathered up and pretty, waiting to be shown off.  They’re the perfect sewing project for car trips or sitting on the sofa under a quilt, having a nice long talk.  Easy to pick up and put down, and a lovely accompaniment to a cup of tea.

hot pink yoyo

The finished project will be showcased in a shadow box frame, but I’ve got some pretty fun variations that I can’t wait to share.  And plenty more swimming around my imagination: yo-yos on clothing, yo-yo quilts for the beds, yo-yo applique.  Sigh.

yoyos all in a row

Camp starts June 15, and there are still spots left if you want to come play!  If you choose the suitcase option, you’ll get a pack of lovely pre-cut fabrics sent to you just for this project, and then step-by-step video walking you through sewing these and constructing the project.

yoyos two tone

Meanwhile, I’ll be working on my yo-yo scrap project, and if all goes well, there’s even a chance the full-sized quilt will be completed to share with you when camp begins!  I’ve got yo-yo fever, yo.  Heh.  Heh.

Oilcloth Make-up Tray + A GIVEAWAY!

For the two+ years since we moved into this house, I have kept my make-up on the bathroom counter in the travel bag that I got at TJMaxx the week I first moved to Atlanta from college, almost (coughcough) sixteen years ago.

sew a makeup tray from laminated cotton

The bathroom–and this is the master bath, now, I don’t want to mislead you and make you think this is some fancy extra bath that we don’t use very often–is a horror.  Just: a horror.  And this is after we took down the poofy valance on the window and the fluffy curtain on the bathtub that turned it into some kind of Jackie Collins boudoir action.

ancient bath in need of makeover

I can’t even talk about how hard it was to brighten these photos enough to make them not look all yellowy.  And that wallpaper!  It looks like a….very specific something that once you see it, you cannot un-see.  Point being: having a make-up bag sitting on the counter didn’t exactly damage the overall effect of the decor, y’know?

laminated cotton make up tray 80s bathroom

But that doesn’t mean we give up altogether–as I learned in my studio, you never know what tiny change might inspire you to make a lot MORE changes, and lead to a complete overhaul.

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Enter: At Home With Modern June.  This is Kelly McCants’ new book, the follow up to her Sewing with Oilcloth, and it has some really sweet home sewing projects.  The one that made me think, “You know, I should just get on that already!” was the make-up tray, which took a whopping 35 minutes to sew up.  Truly: it took longer to take the photos of this thing than it did to actually make it.

At Home With Modern June is designed to walk you through constructing basic home sewing projects–like curtains, cushions, stool covers, duvets, tablecloths and floor covers.  The photos are super bright and cheerful, and the book is laid out in a way that makes it easy and inspiring to tackle any of the projects with just foundational sewing skills.

laminated cotton makeup tray

The make-up tray is super practical, super cute, and something I didn’t know I desperately needed until I saw the photo in Kelly’s book.  The instructions were super clear and easy to follow, and the whole project went together like a snap.  Kelly really takes the time in the book to give you tips and insider techniques to make it quick and simple to sew with laminated cottons and oilcloth, and to get great-looking results that are really unique and professional.

top down | make up tray | oilcloth

Mine is not actually oilcloth, I have to admit–I used a scrap of laminated cotton I had left in my stash after making lunch bags for the kids a few years ago.  But you can totally get oilcloth direct from Kelly’s shop.  I also used a cotton duck for the interior, and rather than bias tape, I finished the edges with a twill tape I had in the drawer–I know, I’m as shocked as you are, because when have I ever given up the chance to sew with bias tape?  But the twill was such a nice texture and the color worked really well with the laminate.  And, coincidentally, with the seashell sinks, and since we won’t gut and destroy renovate this bath for a couple years yet, I suppose that’s a good thing.

Check out some of the other super cute projects she’s got packed in here:

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You can find signed copies of At Home With Modern June on Kelly’s site, Modern June:


Modern June just launched in its current format, in addition to Kelly’s two Etsy shops. Now you can shop for both finished goods and fabric at the same time! How cute is this oilcloth gardening apron??

You can follow Kelly’s blog at Oilcloth Addict, where she shares oilcloth projects and tips and techniques–like how to iron oilcloth and how to cover a summer settee.

seat cushion yellow

GIVEAWAY!!  Kelly has graciously agreed to offer up one copy of the book and a small bundle of chalk cloth to Whipstitch readers, enough to make two of the no-sew chalk cloth placemats that are featured in the book. To enter, just leave a comment here!  Giveaway is open until Thursday, April 17th at midnight Eastern time.

In the meantime, see the rest of the blog tour dates for At Home with Modern June!

Monday, April 7th: Stash Books

Tuesday, April 8th: Pretty Prudent

Wednesday, April 9th: Craft Gossip

Thursday, April 10th: Apronista

Friday, April 11th: Whipstitch

Saturday, April 12th: Craftypod

Sunday, April 13th: Sew Mama Sew

Monday, April 14th: Grow. Make. Eat.

Tuesday, April 15th: The Painted Home

Wednesday, April 16th: Finding Home 

Thursday, April 17th: Modern June, the Oilcloth Addict

Silk Charmeuse and a French Pattern

Waiting on my cutting table for me to dive in:

slik datura blouse

This is an incredible silk charmeuse that I bought from Emma One Sock back when I was working on the projects for Stitch Savvy.  I think I had this idea that I would make a version of the Enchantment Under the Sea Dress from this fabric, which is clearly too drapey and slinky for the structure of that dress, which I must have known at the time, since it was clearly labeled silk charmeuse, and what is that if not slinky and drapey?  All of which makes me think that I was grossly rationalizing the purchase of this fabric because I wanted it so badly, just to have it, and now I am so, so, so, so glad I did.  Because: look!  It’s AMAZING.

mod check silk charmeuse

I’m coupling it with–can you feel the tingles??–the Datura Blouse from Deer & Doe, a French pattern company who publishes their patterns in French and then mails them to you from France.  With “Madame” in front of your name, and tiny French stamps.  Did I mention they’re FRENCH?  You heard me.

deer and doe patterns

I’m pretty excited.  I don’t know if you can tell.

sewing silk charmeuse

I’ve been knee-deep in sewing shorts for my children, none of whom seem to have a single pair that fit and/or all of whom have grown so much that their knees literally shot through the fabric of their pants and now nothing is nice enough to wear to school/in public/to church/anywhere that people generally like for children to be mostly clothed.  Lots of shorts-making going on over here (for which I highly recommend the KIDshorts pattern from MADE or the Parsley Pants from Rae, both of which I’ve been using, supplemented by my own Perfect Pants pattern from the Sewing Clothes for Kids e-course), but once that’s done, this is totally going to rock my sewing machine.  Just in time for the Spring Top Sewalong, too!

What about you?  What projects do you have that you’re aching to make, and what projects have been suddenly and seasonally thrust upon you?