Wednesday, November 13, 2019


This last winter our beloved Madrone tree suffered a catastrophic loss when we got slammed with a giant winter storm. The branch that broke was roughly a quarter of the tree's mass and unfortunately, our car happened to be directly under it when it came down.

The limb didn't break cleanly, instead it ripped down to the trunk and hung vertically. Bad for the tree, but it probably saved our car from massive damage. Poor little Pepe the Prius has a few more scratches but came away from the encounter generally intact. 

A few weeks later my dad came over with his chainsaw and went to work. Madrones are native to Washington State yet have had a rough time lately, so we were especially worried about disease susceptibility. 

The cut pieces sat out in our parking strip for a few weeks. One day I got a note on our door from a neighbor asking if she could have a few of the logs as she was trying her had at wood carving. Of course! Off they trundled to a new home. 

And today this sweet spoon showed up on our doorstep. An excellent use of our fallen branch. 

 The tree is flourishing, by the way. As I sit in my office typing, it's currently hosting 50 robins that are gorging themselves on berries before continuing their journey south.  

Saturday, November 02, 2019

DIY Rainbow Halloween Costume

You guys know how much I love making costumes and this year's projects were no different. Emma is in love with this crazy getup. Let's dive right in to her rainbow costume. 

Here was our mock-up: a  white cloud skirt topped by a separate rainbow tunic and a sun crown. Pink tights and a white leotard complete the costume. 

She fell off the stool directly after this photo was taken. No harm done though - this kid is tough!

You'll notice that she has two crowns: her fancy, formal glittery burning sun crown and the soft, yet comfortable everyday crown. The formal one is a bit to unreliable for trick or treating so we made a second version that will likely stay attached to her noggin. 

 Ahem. Problem illustrated.


Rainbow Tunic & Cloud Skirt
Felt: 1 yard for tunic (red, in this case), 
Felt:1/2 yard each of rainbow colors (Sometime fabric stores sell individual sheets, which can be pieced together)
Felt:1/2 yard white for clouds
Velcro (for closing sides)
Tissue paper (optional) for tracing the rainbow pattern
Hot Glue Gun
Elastic for Skirt
White Tulle (3+ yards)
Sewing machine

Crown Materials
Fire Crown: Stiff glitter cardstock, plastic headband, hot glue, wire or wood supports
Comfy Crown*: Thick gold fabric, hot glue, wire

*Find the firmest, thickest material you can. Mine was from the clearance section and was similar to a vinyl tablecloth material with a felt backing. Even so, it required wire (glued between two layers) to keep the prongs upright. 

Using an existing shirt, trace a pattern onto the felt tunic. Because felt doesn't stretch, make it a generous measurement. Fold felt in two and cut out, leaving you with front and back tunics. Use a strip of extra felt as a side and glue together, leaving one side open (to be velcroed at a later stage). Sew tops of shoulders together. 

Trace your pattern onto the tissue paper. After laying the paper down on the felt, trace only the outside of the pattern, so that each color is a solid half circle, instead of a thin curved band. 

Assemble your felt in the correct order to make sure you have enough. Cut out the pattern and glue each layer together. Trim excess. 

Note: You'll see that my light pink is too short. Fortunately, plan on big fluffy white clouds to cover any gaps in your felt. I ended up trimming the whole bottom by a few inches because Emma thought the rainbow was too tall. 

Draw a cloud onto the white felt. For added stability, glue two layers together to stiffen. I only had extra red felt so our clouds have a red backing. Sew velcro onto the tunic to secure the sides. 

Measure your child's waist and buy a generous amount of elastic. Joann's fabric sells a Dritz metallic elastic that I used on this project. Any extra can be used to make wrist cuffs. 

Pleats are tricky and I don't have a great way to go about explaining them - I'd recommend heading over to this site for a quick tutorial. Additionally, you could skip the elastic and sewing altogether and go with this tutu version

Because she'll always wear this skirt over a leotard, I didn't bother to line the waistband. You'd definitely want to do this if your child was going to wear it against his/her skin. Additionally, I used two thicknesses of tulle/netting, but no liner. Again, you'd want to do this if your child was going to wear it without tights/leggings/leotard. 

Here is the template for the first crown: I made it out of stiff glittery cardstock with a heavy dose of hot glue and chopsticks(!) on the back to give it structure. It's glued to a plastic headband. I blew up the template and printed it across two sheets of paper. From there trace onto the glitter cardstock and cut out with scissors or an xacto knife. 

A few notes: The back of my crown looks rough. I used wooden skewers to give it strength and it looks messy. In the end, I got tired of fiddling with it, sprayed the entire thing silver with spray paint, and called it good enough. A thicker paper (or multiple sheets) might solve the tendency of the prongs to curl. 

The comfy crown template can be found here. I traced mine onto gold fabric, adding a few extra crown prongs. I found that it worked to cut out two of the exact same crown shape and then glue together to provide a version that was able to stay upright. 

Once the templates are cut, add wire for strength and then glue the whole thing together in a gold fabric sandwich. My backing wasn't a perfect match - it's smaller than the front so that you can't really see the backing when the crown is on the head. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

DIY Thor Halloween Costume

We couldn't get the entire family to agree on a theme this year so on one side we have Rainbow Emma & Stormcloud Mama and perched on the other side we have God of Thunder Ben and The Hulk Chris. Seems about right.

Ben was very involved with the making of his Thor Costume. He begged us to be able to watch Thor:
Ragnarok and we reluctantly agreed, provided it was in broad daylight and we stopped several times to check in with our mini Thor. He loved it. Of course. Sigh. 

Anyway, his costume was a hoot. We have a no-weapons policy in our house but bend the rules for Halloween. He challenged everyone to a duel. Come next week the sword is going to 'mysteriously disappear'. 

Ben liked this particular version of Thor because his hair was already the right color and length. 

Here is the outfit we were trying to replicate, minus the loin cloth and red symbols. 

Purists will note that Thor actually didn't have a hammer in the fight scene with Hulk, thanks to Hela's devious shenanigans but we chose to give him both because Hulk without his hammer is a very sad specimen indeed. 


Vest and Sword Belt
1-2 yards grey felt (depends on your child's size)

1-2 yard faux leather
1/2 yard red fabric for cape
1/2 yard gold vinyl for decoration
Cotton batting
Scissors, hot glue, velcro, 
2 yards webbing for sword holster

4+ Foam sheets
Spray paint (silver)
Acrylic paint (gold)
Hot glue

3 Florist blocks
Wooden dowel
Hot glue
Spray paint (silver)

The base of the vest is a simple grey felt. I used one of his shirts to trace a pattern on paper and then transferred it to the fabric. The outer breastplate layer is a faux leather with a thick fabric backing that I found at Joann's fabric. 

Fabric tunic and side wings attached with hot glue. I did a velcro enclosure on one side for easy donning of outfit. 

I used my original tracing paper pattern to trace it again onto the faux leather fabric (left picture). Drawing (and cutting) the front pattern took a few mistakes (which is why some of my lines aren't perfect) (right picture). 

After cutting out the fabric strips in the faux leather, I set them over the felt vest and glued them down with hot glue. 

I added a small amount of stuffing under each fabric strip to give it some detail - makes it looks a bit more muscle-y. :)

The gold detailing is made from a thick vinyl matte fabric that I got on clearance from Pacific Fabrics. Again, I just glued it down to the vest, anchoring a strip of red fabric for the cape. The red fabric is polyester, but you could probably use almost anything, including standard cotton or felt. 

Extra faux leather was used to make his wrist guards along with leather cords.  Punch holes with scissors and then just mimic tying shoe laces. The proper Thor didn't wear black long underwear under his getup but then again he wasn't in frigid Seattle, either. 

The helmet is made of foam sheets, held with hot glue, and is the exact template that we used for his knight costume. It's an adult size: when Ben was age 5 I reduced the size to 87%; I was a little too optimistic that his head at grown substantially by age 8: 93% was still too big for his little pea-sized noggin. :) 

I spray painted the entire thing silver and added the gold detailing by hand. An extra band was required inside to keep it from falling off. You could probably make this look a bit more polished by using a different type of glue but this version suited our purposes just fine. 

Thor's hammer is made from three foam florist blocks held together with tape, painted silver, and with an attached wooden dowel for a handle (glued in). It's very lightweight; no concussion if you accidentally get bashed in the head with this version. :)

The bag is made of felt and the gold vinyl. Ben has requested a larger size as he has grand candy aspirations for next year. 

The cross-chest sword belt is his favorite accessory. It buckles in the back to accommodate for growing Thors and is constructed of faux leather fabric and straps. 

Hulk refused to paint his body or rip his shirt but gleefully got into mock battle mode. :)