Making a house a home…

They say the heart of a home is the kitchen.  The Missus loves cooking and helping in our real kitchen and then spends much of the rest of her time pretending to be cooking or baking as well.   So it made sense that the hideout/playhouse needed a play kitchen.  It is a total hack which is either a really good thing proving that anyone can do this using materials that are cheap and easily attainable or it is a bad thing and totally proves Martha Stewart‘s point.  Either way, I wanted to share this with those who have generously donated materials for this build and perhaps it will serve as inspiration for those wanting to do the same for their children.  And so, without further ado:

I started with an upper cupboard I found for $10 at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore.  I chose it because it was fairly skinny in its profile and the doors were the old-fashioned kind.  On most modern cupboards the doors cover the entire front of the opening and that would have been problem in terms of opening and closing.  So I put the cupboard upside down on the floor (so that the pulls on the doors were at the top) and secured it in place with screws.
IMG_1880Then I got out the last piece of that seemingly endless board from the garage (that we’ve used for projects in the kitchen and living room already) to make a countertop.  I was so excited about doing this project that I didn’t care that I didn’t have the right tools for the job.  I happily got out what power tools I had on hand and started working.

IMG_1881Yeah,  you should always use the proper tools.  By the end I was a sweaty mess trying to wrestle the wood into place.  I made mistakes.  But don’t worry I fixed ’em and who cares it is a playhouse right? Right.  So not prefect but still “super cool” according to the Missus.

IMG_1883Do not dwell on the jagged edges of the hole that I created for the sink…like I said I fixed them.  I used the drill to drill circles big enough to fit the $5 taps I found at Value Village.  I also used the drill to poor effect in making the hole for the sink in the top of the cupboard and the reclaimed board for the countertop (and I used the skill saw and a hammer and I swore…a lot).  Oh and also don’t trouble yourself about the unfinished wall behind the cupboards…I’ll get to that later.

IMG_1891See?  The wall is (almost) finished now.  I used an old metal bowl for sink and a piece of 2×4 to fix the gap at the end of the counter.  I’ll be drawing on some stove top elements with permanent marker at some point and painting the fridge (an old store from the MOD shop a few years ago).  Oh and painting the wall…and finishing around the windows…was it me that said she didn’t want to see this project end?  Surely not.

kids kitchen in playhouseWe have plans for kitchen curtains and matching tea towels as well but I’m not sure how they will fare through the winter in such an unprotected playhouse.  So we may leave that project for the spring and summer.

So that is our most recent update.  What do you think so far?

************UPDATE**************

I found a use for one of the three medicine cabinets from our bathroom upstairs as a nice upper cabinet for the play kitchen.

playhouse kitchen

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Oh “deery” my! Woodland Felt Animal Masks and Tutorial

Oh deery my indeed!  This little woodland creature couldn’t get any cuter.  And this blog post couldn’t come any later.  We are in solid birthday mode around here and this post features what I created for LAST year’s birthday party.  I’m not ashamed.  Besides I think these adorable masks were worth the wait.deermask

The theme for the Missus’ birthday was “Woodland Animals” (this year she continues the animal theme only this year it is “party animals”…you can see the difference).  We had planned to take the kids to the park to play, drink apple cider and have cake.  The weather thought that was a bad idea and so we transformed our living room into…a living room that now allowed woodland animals to play in it.

foxesandowlsandbearsohmyInstead of sending our creature friends home with bags of candy, I embroidered and sewed these adorable felt masks to give to each guest.  The fox is my favourite.  When I finished the first fox mask I had the most incredible crafter high!  We kept the animals local and added some skunks, bears, owls, deer and a chipmunk to the mix.

bearmask

It all started with this prototype.  The bear.  I based it on this paper mask that I bought at Michael’s.

paper bear maskI simply traced the outline onto some freezer paper, ironed that onto some felt and away we went.  Oh, and I altered the shape of the eyes from oval to round.  Don’t do that.  The result is still cute (see below) but….

felt bear mask

But the kids…they can’t see that well when they are like that.

bear mask

Fun to wear but hard to attack.  So oval eye holes it was from then on…

So here is what you’re gonna need to make a cute creature yourself:

Supplies:

  • A template.  Get one like the one above or free hand your own.  There are also many template available for free online (google “felt masks”…you’ll see).
  • Heat n’ Bond.  I purchased mine at Fabricland:

heat n' bond

  • Freezer Paper.  I couldn’t find any in Canada at the time (although I’ve heard others have had luck).  This may be one item I am willing to cross boarder shop for and I buy a few rolls at a time when I’m in the states.

freezer paper

  • Sharp scissors
  • A marker for tracing the pattern onto the freezer paper and heat n’ bond
  • Some embroidery thread in a variety of colours (it is really up to you)
  • 1/2 inch elastic
  • Felt in various colours (grey, black and beige for the racoon)
  • A sewing machine with a needle that can handle layers of felt
  • Thread for sewing machine
  • An iron and an ironing board

Now, let’s get started!

howtomakeafeltanimalmask

1. First make a template.  I traced the bear mask onto a piece of paper with marker.  Then I modified it free-hand to make the different animals.  Below is the start of the racoon mask:IMG_9182

freezer paper2.  Now that you have your new mask design just the way you want it, it is time to get out your freezer paper.  Lay it over your paper animal and trace.  For a racoon you need to trace and cut out a few separate pieces:  (1. and 2.)  the outside shape of the mask (3.)  the racoon mask (4.)the snout (5. and 6.) two triangle shapes for inside the ears and (7.) the nose.

IMG_91873.  Lay the two mask outlines onto a piece of felt with the shiny side of the freezer paper down.  Use your iron to set them in place.IMG_91884.  With the freezer paper now “stuck” to the felt, cut out both pieces.  Peel the freezer paper off the felt and set aside (you can reuse this several times for other masks).  Set the felt aside as well.

IMG_91985.  Next lay the freezer paper cut outs for the racoon mask, the ear triangles and the nose on to the black felt, iron and cut them out.  Peel the freezer paper off and set pieces aside.

IMG_91926.  Repeat the process with the snout piece and a beige scrap of felt.

IMG_92417.  Next take out your Heat N’ Bond.  Lay it over your original paper design and trace out all of the same pieces that you did with the freezer paper.  The Heat N’ Bond is similar to freezer paper in that it has a shiny side.  Lay the shiny side down onto the corresponding piece of felt and iron.  IMG_9202When you peel the Heat N’ Bond off you will see the shiny bit has transferred to the felt (sorry only good pic of this is from the fox mask in the making):

IMG_92608.  Now you can start ironing your pieces into place on one of the grey pieces of felt.  I placed the racoon mask on first, shiny side down and ironed it in place.  Then the snout, the nose and the ears.  I placed the nose midway down the snout instead of up near the mask to give it a 3D effect.

IMG_9204

IMG_9205

IMG_92069.  Next I used my sewing machine to sew around the mask, the ears and the snout securing them in place.  This is probably not necessary if you want to keep it simple.  It will add to the longevity of the mask though.

IMG_9207

9.  I used black embroidery thread to outline and hold the nose in place (three layers would be too thick for most sewing machines).  Then, using a running stitch,  I embroidered a line from the nose to the chin.  I think it adds a touch of whimsy to the masks.

snoutandnose

10.  Now, remember how I told you I did this project last year?  Yes, well, that means I don’t have a picture of the next step.  Sorry!  It is pretty simple though…take your elastic and cut a length that is sized to fit your child’s head.  Pin one end to the back of the mask on each side and sew into place:

clearracoonmask

11.  Once you have the elastic in place, set the whole piece aside.  Iron Heat N’ Bond onto the second grey piece of felt.  Peel it off.  Lay this piece of felt shiny side up on the ironing board.  Lay the top piece of the mask with the elastic attached on top.  Take care to ensure the elastic is not between the layers at all.  Iron until the two pieces are fused together.IMG_9238

irononracoonmask12.  The last step is to sew around the entire outline of the mask and your done!  Or if you’re like me, you’ve only just begun!  It was super fun “inventing” each animal mask and adding details here and there.

felt woodland animal masks

Have fun!

The hideout: an update

IMG_1838The hideout turned playhouse is coming along.  The walls boards are up and we’re starting on the finishing touches.  I admit the inherently slow pace of an upcycle project like this one has its downsides but we’ve enjoyed the challenge.

IMG_1841You know, the challenge of finding one more fence board that fits that wonky spot.  Or the challenge of almost finishing a wall and then running out of that kind of tongue in groove wood of that particular width and MacGyvering something that will do.  Finding enough similar looking shingles was interesting…

IMG_1852It turns out we didn’t know enough people with old fence panels and old wall sections to finish the back wall.  So we used the left over pieces of chipboard that went on the roof.  Definitely NOT as pretty as the other rustic looking sections.  So we decided to paint the interior.  It was amazingly easy to find old paint.  White was a no brainer given that we could mix our donations and paint can finds together to cover it all.   We found an almost full can of (OLD) white primer in our garage and we had a number of white tester samples to mix.  The rest came from neighbours and we’ve been told our local Restore carries paints as well.

IMG_1844The girls had a blast and worked hard to finish before sunset.  It is getting darker earlier and earlier though and we’ll have to finish another day.  This seems to be a theme with this space…each time we are working on it we think of some other amazing detail to add…another day.  It keeps us thinking.  It has us researching.  We’re thinking of this, and this and a slide like this.

IMG_1866And so we dream up big possibilities and have fun working together until we’re tired.  And then we have fun taking breaks and making more plans.

IMG_1860Ultimately we’re learning that if we really want to stick to our budget and committment to use used wood and materials then we must be patient.  So far our biggest gift is learning how generous and resourceful our friends and neighbours are. Heck we’ve met so many new people and we have on occasion come home to gifts of shelves, baskets, markers (for future art work of course) not to mention the lumber, roofing paper, shingles and nails we already received.  This is certainly a labour of love.  And I’m not sure I actually want it to ever be finished.

The Backyard Part 1: Natural Playscapes for kids

We have a lovely, large backyard.   The woman who lived here before us was a champion gardener and a member of the horticultural society and there are incredible flowerbeds…everywhere.  I am not complaining, afterall, that is quite a gift (even if I have my work more than cut out for me trying to keep them up).  But while flowers are pretty we needed some areas that the kids could play in and explore.  And we needed to do it on a budget.  Natural playscapes appealed to us and we were intrigued by living willow structures and had even found a Canadian source for willow cuttings.  But again, we had that budget…

So, we started last fall by transporting some tree stumps and cedar logs from J’s parents place in the forest to our urban backyard.  These were instant hits with the girls:

Hideoutbackyardstumps

Hideoutbalancebeam

Who knew jumping on stumps was such fun?  Or that cedar logs made such great balance beams?  Amazing, natural and cheap.  We loved it.

Next we starting making a “hut” like structure out of tall, skinny tree branches (again from J’s parents place):

Hideoutbackyardbefore

We used jute twine to tie the branches together forming a dome.  We added a door shape and a few windows on each side.  In the winter we cut up our evergreen tree (and a few of our friends) and wove the boughs through to give the structure form and privacy.

Hideoutbeforewith firepit

Here is what is looked like this summer.  We had placed the stumps in a semi-circle and moved out fire pit to the centre.  It has been a great spot for roasting marshmallows!  You can see the “finished” structure in the background after we had removed the old and dried out christmas branches and other yard waste the kids had woven in.  Next we removed the sod/grass in a circle around the play structure, added soil and planted beans with the idea being that they would grow over the branches and give cover that way.  Unfortunately, there was a heat wave while we were away for vacation this year and the beans didn’t really take.  We came home to a sad little wooden dome that was not much more than a bunch of dried out sticks.  Which is just as well since it was meant to be temporary (although we had hoped it would last through this season.  Since then the girls have hatched another plan anyways.  A bigger and more involved plan – a hideout!!

The have drawn designs, discussed various fort “must-haves” such as a lookout and a trap door.  The area behind the temporary dome seemed like a great space and so we went straight to work.  I can’t wait to show you the progress we are making on the much larger and more involved play structure in Part 2 of this series.  But for now you can ask friends and relatives for stumps and branches to get you started on building a natural playground for your kids…

Things are coming together…

Have you ever had a feeling of uncontrollable giddiness as you came to the end of making something?  I had that feeling a little bit when I was making my French Press Slippers this summer.  The feeling was overwhelming when I was making a fox mask for Mrs.Iverson’s birthday (it was borderline euphoric!).  And last night, as I finished another gift for the Mrs., I felt my heart pick up the pace a little, a satisfied grin spread across my face…I had to tell myself to slow it down so I didn’t make any mistakes but really wanted to see how it had turned out now!!!

I think this project had been in my head for so many years that that alone contributed my buoyant mood, to that feeling of anticipation.  I had saved this plain grey, wool sweater for almost 8 eight years with this project in mind.  It felt so good to finally make the first cut.  I loosely followed the Cozy Winter Hat pattern in this gem of a book, Little Things to Sew:

Oliver+S

It was a really easy pattern and sewing with an old wool sweater didn’t cause any issues thank goodness.

Sweaterhat

Sleeve

Sweaterpieces

Once I had cut out the wool pieces, I ironed some of this on the “wrong” side near the sides of the cheeks to add some stability while I did some embroidery work.

hat embroidery

I used a tiny bit of the embroidery pattern meant for these mitts from Scandinavian Needlecraft:

mitts

Once that was done,  I cut out the lining pieces.  I sewed the wool pieces together and added the ribbon.  Then I sewed the lining pieces together.  Next was sewing both the wool and the lining together.  I was incredibly nervous at this point and I was sure I would make a mistake so I read and reread the pattern…but then I did end up making a mistake and so I made my own “stamp” on the piece and it didn’t turn out too badly.

lining

In this picture you get an idea of what the lining fabric looks like.

finished hat

And here is the finished product!  It is too bad I couldn’t put it on a child so you could see what it looks like on.  After Solstice I’ll post one of the Mrs. wearing it I promise.  I keep going to sneak a peek at this one.  I’m so excited to have made it and I can’t wait to see her face when she opens it!

When Handmade is not your thing…

I get it.  Handmade may not be you “thing”.  Maybe you lack the space, the time, the talent (although I doubt it)…my goal is certainly not to make everything I give and so sometimes it feels right to give something someone else has made.  This city I live in has no shortage of fantastic artisans and craft fairs.  With the rise of Etsy, there is a whole world of handmade at your fingertips!  Here are some of my favourite handmade things that I didn’t have to find time to make myself:

1.   Handcrafted knitting needles:

knittingneedles I picked these gorgeous needles up at the Squam Art Fair in NH this summer and they are destined for a very special knitter in my life.  You can find more treasures made by the maker Cynthis Ellis at Wood By C.

2.  A whimsical print by Fig Design:

fig designThis one caught my eye as the perfect gift for my new nephew.  It captures a dreamy sort of boyhood adventure one might have especially if you’re a boy growing up in Newfoundland.

3.  These endearing and quirky lockets from the Black Apple:

bear dance locket

maskedgirllocket

I bought these last year for my girls (if anyone remembers Lil’S and her “bat/mask” phase, you’ll know which one was hers).

4. Hammered Feather Cuff Bangle:

featherbracelet

These beauties are handmade with love – it says so right on the website!  I was lucky enough to receive the brass bangle as a gift and I do love wearing it.  Check out Salvage Jewelry Co. to find more gems made from deconstructed vintage jewelry that have been reinvented by designer Brandy Olley, to create inspired, modern pieces.

5.  A vintage inspired headband or hair piece:

jasminandolive

Mrs. Iverson was the lucky one to receive a headband by Jasmin and Olive for her birthday.  These hair adornments and headbands look fantastic on people of any age.  Simple and gorgeous.

Where are you favourite places to shop for handmade gifts?

My favourite handmades

I love handmade things, I do.  And so I thought I’d share some of my favourite gifts to make in case someone out there needed some inspiration.

1.  A fishing basket:

fishing basket 2

This one is as easy as drawing a fish template and tracing it onto some scraps of felt.  I embroidered some details on these ones and then decided to also make them “counting fish”.  Notice the orange one has one bead, the purple has two, the green has three etc.  Next, find a stick, tie some garden twine to it and secure a round magnet to the other end.  Each fish has a metal washer in its “mouth”.  Super easy and fun.  Then find a basket and some blue fabric for the water and pack them up!

fishing basket

2.  Wee Wonderful Dolls:

Lumina

This one I made for Lil’S a few Solstices ago.  We called her Lumina and still can’t get over her hair!  I love it!

joy

This one I named Joy and she was destined for my my niece on the east coast.  I actually made her outfit and shoes whereas with Lumina I stole the clothing off of another doll’s back (there wasn’t enough time!).  Making these dolls was so simple.  I really barely knew what to do with my sewing machine at the time.  I ordered and then downloaded a PDF from Wee Wonderfuls which included instructions for three darling dolls and their clothes for only $15.

3. French Press Slippers

french press slippers

Now these little lovelies I must confess I did not gift…they were for me!  Oh and how I adore them!  Actually I still can’t believe that I made these.  You can download the PDF pattern here.  And for $7.50 it is a steal.  I’ve been knitting up a number of these in some pretty funky colours for Christmas presents.  Now all I need is a trip to the laundromat to felt them in a top loader…

4.  A Scandinavian Inspired Felt bag:

Scandinavian Felt Bag

This will probably be the hardest gift for me to wrap up and give.  I have wanted one for myself ever since I saw it on the cover of Scandinavian Needlecraft.  It took me forever to source the thicker felt.  In the end I bought the synthetic felt from Fabricland but I would have loved real wool felt.  One day I’ll find a source (and if you have one that ships to Canada please let me know!).  The bag was super easy to make but it did put a sizable dent into my embroidery thread stash.

5. A Knitted Snake:

snake

The snake you see on the right is one I made for Solstice a few years back. “Snakey” as he is known has been well loved as you can see.  The skinny unfinished guy on the left will be gifted away this season.  The pattern can be found in the book, Knitted Toys.  I love this book and have made a number of their knitted dolls and animals.

6.  Even more slippers:

embroidered slippers

I love these slippers and they turned out even better than I expected.  They are another project from the Scandinavian Needlecraft book I mentioned the other day.  I used Sulky Solvy to trace the embroidery design on, laid it over the felt and pinned it in place.  Once you’re done embroidering you simply run it under water and the Sulky Solvy dissolves!

baby slippers

These baby slippers are from the same book.  The fleece on the inside is sooo soft.  I love them but I admit, they were not as easy to make due to their size.  They are en route right now to my new nephew in NFDL!

7. A Headband:

headband

I based this headband on this tutorial at Heidi and Finn.  I covered my elastic in fabric and made the band itself a little wider.  I’m still tweeking this as I’d like the band to be longer but the standard sheets of felt are too short.  I also had a hard time sourcing the pre-cut felt flowers.  Instead I used felt embellishments that were intended for use in scrapbooking from Michael’s.  I simply took off the sticker on the back, did a little hand sewing to reinforce them and sewed them onto the felt.  I’m using up my scraps from past projects for the fabric backing.  Lil’S has had many compliments on hers already.

8.  Felt Animal Masks:

felt animal masks

I made these for Mrs. Iverson’s birthday party this year.  Instead of loot bags the guest were able to bring home a mask.  I keep meaning to post a tutorial…one day…

9.  Alphabet Magnets

IMG_5658

Lil’S made these for Mrs. Iverson a few years ago and they are still a huge hit.  Click on the link to find out how to make your own.

10. Homemade Playdough

homemade playdough

This is always a favourite and it is super simple to make as well.  I’ve used this as an add on to many gifts over the years.  Click on the link and you’ll find my favourite recipe.

When Handmade goes wrong

I quite like making things to give as gifts.  It is always a delicate art.  First you must be sure you want to invest the time and that the final product will turn out well.  Second you must think carefully about who you are giving it to.  There is nothing more awkward than getting the feeling that the recipient doesn’t actually like the gift because a solid drawback to handmade is that you can’t return it.

This is a story about a handmade gift that the recipient, my father-in-law, liked just fine.  The problem was, I had made a really big mistake when putting this gift together.  Let’s see if you can spot it:

log carrier

What is it you ask?  Why it is a log carrier of course!  An absolutely chic log carrier if I do say so myself.

the embroideryThis embroidery took FOREVER!  In the end I just couldn’t do it on my machine and off I went to my friend Rebecca’s for help.  Man did it turn out great or what?  I was ever so pleased.

cute tag

Then there are the little details like this cute tag.  I was in love with this present and I couldn’t wait to give it.  Have you spotted my error yet?  Keep looking.

recycledjeans

And just why did I love this thing so much?  Well I thought it looked pretty great and it was made out of recycled materials.  In the picture above you can see that it is lined with denim from an old pair of jeans.  The cream coloured fabric on the front was left over from a couch slipcover I had made.  The thread was leftover from my bridesmaids dresses (13 years ago!!).  And finally the twill tape for the handles was from a grab bag at Value Village.  I was in recycled gift heaven.

folded

Can you tell now what is wrong?  Yep.  As beautiful as it turned out, it was utterly useless for carrying wood.  I had made it long and skinny.  It would likely only fit one or two logs (super long ones at that).  Sigh.  It was supposed to be folded the other way so that it was deeper and shorter.  I was entirely horrified and with no time left before the family gift exchange to fix it, I did what I had to do…I gave it to him and then took it right back offering promises to “fix it soon”.

oh dear

This is the way it was supposed to go.  Which means the embroidery is going the wrong way and so are the straps.  Not such as easy fix after all.   And do you know what is worse?  I still haven’t fixed it.  I’m going to do it tonight and give it to him again before Christmas so at least I don’t have to say it took me a year to fix it.  Wish me luck!

book

Oh and by the way, I found this project in this book.  I’ve now made a number of the projects in here and all of them have turned out so wonderfully!  I’ll share a few in the coming days.

What are some of your DYI disasters?

A Solstice surprise

I know that many of you were left wondering after my “This Moment” post earlier.  I must say the story of this doll house is one that really touched me.

I was approached by an acquaintance at KUF who asked if I might be interested in the doll house.  An older gentleman and his wife were looking to find it a good home.  It belonged to their daughter and as she is now 40 years old and has only boys it wasn’t something that would be passed down.  As it happens, I have been looking for exactly this kind of doll house for years!

And so I went to go see it.  It is just so precious.  The gentleman told me about how a friend with carpentry skills made it for his daughter for Christmas many years ago.   He was still painting it that Christmas Eve!  You can clearly see how thoughtful the person making it was.  The staircases, the railings…the perfectly chosen faux wood floors in the living room and bedroom, faux tile in the kitchen and bathroom and the velour “carpet” in the attic.  Even the wallpaper is on a scale that is perfect for this tiny house!

I was gushing with gratitude saying how I promised that my girls would take such good care of it when away he went again to find the accessories.  Accessories?  Oh my goodness, wait ’til you see…

Are you kidding me?  There was a side board for the kitchen, a letter writing desk (which actually works!), a grandfather clock and a cuckoo clock, a market basket, a canopy bed and a lamp that is actually wired for electricity!!

I mean for Pete’s sake!  Look at this phone!

This fireplace!  Have you ever seen anything like it?!  The bucket with the faux wood, the fireplace tools, not to mention the tiny silver tea set and those books!  Those are honest to goodness real books….with pages you can flip!

Clearly I couldn’t wait to set it all up when I got home and look at each and every precious piece.  Dust and all, I put the whole thing together taking notes on what needed repair and what needed doing (a new cover for the bed mattress is in order I do believe).

I would have died to have a doll bed like this as a kid.  Amazing.

So cozy!

Do I even need to tell you how much I love this cradle?  And this stroller?

Yep.  This is the bathroom.  It has a soaker tub.  Goodness.

The bedroom!  Doesn’t it look like it is out of a magazine or something?

Another adorable fireplace and this lamp…clearly, I need to look into wiring and electrical for miniature houses!

And that completes our house tour.  What do you think?  Will the girls love it or what?  I was really and truly touched by this generosity.  The exchange was finished with a handshake and a heartfelt Merry Christmas.  Merry Christmas indeed.  I’ve been thinking of ways to pay it forward ever since.