So, what can you make with a big bag of buttons?

The last time I was out shopping, a bag of blue and green buttons caught my eye (most normal people would be excited about buying new shoes or bags—for me, it’s a bag of buttons for $1.25).
I bought it, thinking right away that the buttons would be perfect for embellishing a t-shirt in some capacity. The mix of blues and greens made me think of the sea, which made me think next of sea life. When I got home, I dug a plain white t-shirt out of my stash, peered at for a few moments until a picture of a button mosaic in the form of a big fish popped into my mind. Little did I know that this would be the only easy part of this project.

As I usually do, I made up the process as I went along, so bear with me.

(Note: I am a very impatient person, which makes it quite astounding that someone with my personality would even remotely enjoy doing artsy craftsy things. If anything takes too long or is too fiddly, I get super annoyed and start trying to take shortcuts and, I’ll tell you, I was almost constantly annoyed with this project. But I’m glad I stuck it out because (a) it was a great learning experience, and (b) the end result is really pretty cool!

1. Using a pencil, I lightly drew a rough outline of a fish on the front of the t-shirt.

2. Dumping my bag of buttons on my desk, I laid out the buttons on the t-shirt within the pencil sketch so that the different button sizes and colours were fairly evenly distributed, then I took a photo of my layout.

3. Next, I cleared all the buttons off the t-shirt and grabbed my can of temporary spray fabric adhesive. I sprayed the adhesive carefully within the fish pencil sketch. At this point, I had to move quickly before it dried, so looking at the photo I’d taken, I attempted to lay the buttons out on top of the fabric adhesive in approximately the same pattern as the photo. It worked. Everything stuck nicely into place. But then, the next part was more frantic—I had to sew each button down into place, since the fabric adhesive was only temporary. Why do I do these things to myself?

4. Grabbing some blue thread and a sewing needle, I laid the t-shirt out on my lap, rolled the bottom up so I could more easily get my hand in between the front and back layers, and began to sew down each and every button. What a helluva job!!! There was a lot of cursing going on!!! (…and bloodstains on the inside of the t-shirt where I kept sticking my fingers with the damn needle.)

5. Once the buttons were all sewn into place, I looked at it and thought, “Ok. I’ve got a big blue and green fish on my white t-shirt. What can I do to make it a little more exciting?” Sequins would work. I dug some green and blue sequins out of my sewing cupboard and began to sew them here and there, in between the buttons, along with using them to embellish the tail fin. So far, so good. So, what next?

6. I’m always up for a bit of whimsy in my crafts, so I thought a saying of some kind embroidered around the fish would add some interest. So I looked online and discovered a cute saying that reminded me of certain politicians and celebrities: “If the fish hadn’t opened its mouth… it wouldn’t have been caught.”
Loved it.

7. Using some lettering stencils, I wrote the saying out onto tissue paper in the size of lettering that I wanted. Next, I laid the tissue paper out in a way where the words would fall into the right spacing around the fish. Next, I thought to myself, “Ok. How do I transfer the lettering from the tissue paper onto the t-shirt?” When I craft, I have a habit of leaping into things feet first without doing any advance planning. I kind of let things flow as I go along, which we all know isn’t the smartest way to work on a project. But guess what? It always seems to pan out for me in the end. And I’m a firm believer in learning from your mistakes, which is a probably a good thing since I’m continuously learning from mistakes. J

8. Anyway, I had the idea to poke a fineliner pen through the tissue paper around each letter so that dots would outline the letters onto the t-shirt. It worked, and that’s how I transferred the lettering onto the t-shirt. I only did it that way because I knew I’d be embroidering over the dots, so they’d eventually be hidden.

9. Next, I dug out some blue and green embroidery floss and just did straight stitching from dot to dot around each letter. After finishing the outlining, I made lots of little straight stitches inside each letter to fill them in more solidly. Of course, as will happen to someone who neglects to plan ahead, I realized I wasn’t happy with where I’d placed the words “opened its mouth” (originally under the tail fin). Remember what I said earlier about learning from my mistakes?? It just didn’t look right.
I absolutely did not have any desire to pick out all of that stitching and after fuming for a day or so, I decided to try just covering it up with a piece of fabric. I found a nice piece of fabric in my stash with sparkly speckles on it that looked like it could have been bubbles in water. By the seat of my pants, I cut it out and stitched it down on top of the wording that I wanted to cover up. Then I found a silver fish charm to sew on top of it so it would look like there was another little fish swimming through the bubbly water. It ended up working out ok, as you can see in the picture.

10. Then, I used my pencil to just haphazardly write “opened its mouth” in the open space above the tail fin. I was getting sick of this project by now, and couldn’t be bothered to use the stencil and do it properly. That’s me in a nutshell. Impatient as all hell.

11. Last, I wanted to add one more bit of whimsy to my embellishment, so I invaded my husband’s workshop when he was out somewhere, digging through his old tackle box until I discovered an appropriate fishing lure that I could incorporate into my design. I used one of his pliers to break off the barbed end, then stitched it on in the area of the fish’s mouth, using my glue gun to affix the curved end to one of the “mouth” buttons.

12. Phew. I was finally done with this project. But I was also really happy with it! This summer, I will wear it with pride! (Now, how I’m going to wash it is another story. I supposed I’ll be stuck hand-washing it. Ugh.)

P.S. Later, I found a green googly eye in my other button stash and decided to glue-gun it to the collage, as you’ll see in the last photo.

And finally…

The moral of this story: Next time you see a bag of buttons in the store, keep walking! 🙂

It’s the cat’s house… we just pay the mortgage!

I saw this saying somewhere (it’s not far from the truth—most days, our ragdoll cat, Otis, likes to think that he owns our house and us too!:) and knew I had to incorporate it into a craft project.

I decided to make a wall sign for our front porch from a flat piece of log shaving that I had picked up at the logging display at last year’s Markham Fall Fair. I left the wood plain and untreated.

Next, I used sticks collected from a walk in the York Region forest to make an outline of a house—then glue-gunned them into place on the wood.

Once that was finished, I dug into my bag of wooden letters that I’d purchased at the Dollar Store, and used my glue gun to set them into place in a whimsically crooked style.

Last but not least—I wanted to make a replica of Otis. I had bought a coconut a while back and squirreled away some of the broken shell pieces for a future project. It just turned out that one piece was well-shaped for the cat’s face, and the brown tone worked perfectly for part of his colouring. I had two more small pieces that made perfect ears. I painted the face and eyes to match Otis’s colouring, and glued down plastic thread for whiskers. Then I glue-gunned my “coconut” cat into place inside the house frame.

Everything just seemed to fall into place, as often happens when I get an idea for a project.

I’m always collecting interesting objects and storing them away in my craft cupboard until I get an idea that will put them to good use. When you’re addicted to craftiness, you never know when a pinecone or stone or an unusual bit of wood will come in handy!

 

My Zoo Days

In April of 2019, I made the decision to retire after over 40 years of being rudely awakened by an alarm clock, five mornings a week for the better part of my life. It’s January 2020 now, and I’m still basking in the freedom of never again having to be anywhere that I don’t choose to be. 

Once I’d made my this first decision, my second decision was easy. I would treat myself to a special retirement gift: a one-year pass to the Metro Toronto Zoo. With the Toronto Zoo only a 12-minute drive from my house, I knew it would be a fun and safe place to visit whenever I had the urge to take a scenic walk on a nice day. Not to mention that I would get to spend time with lots of very cool animals any time I pleased.

It has turned out to be one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Since April, I’ve visited the zoo countless times—sometimes for just an hour or so, sometimes for an entire afternoon. I’ve discovered that no matter how often I go there, I see something different every time. No wonder—animals are so delightfully unpredictable. 

I will most definitely renew my annual pass to the Toronto Zoo this year and every year forward! Hands down, it’s money well spent.

Here are some of the sights I’ve had the pleasure of seeing so far…

Meet Octavia’s friend, Ophelia

I haven’t been blogging as regularly because I tend to get lazy during the summer weather. But never too lazy to keep crafting!

I had so much fun crocheting Octavia the octopus a few weeks ago, I ended up making a BFF for her to hang out with: meet Ophelia.

If you want to make an octopus of your own, just scroll down until you see my post about Octavia, and you’ll find the pattern there. Use any colours you like. I found that I’d rather use a solid colour for the head than a variegated yarn, since the facial details show up a lot clearer on the solid.

I finished working on Ophelia while we were out floating around on the pontoon boat for the afternoon, so here she is posing with a glimpse of Lake Scugog behind her. Looks to me like she’s enjoying her day out on the water! 🙂

Ain’t Youth Grand?

It’s a humid evening in June of 2001, when I, and my friend, Jayne, join the throngs of parents taking their children to the big NSync concert at Skydome in downtown Toronto. Our teen daughters, best friends, generate enough electricity between them to power ten city blocks of concert halls.

My own enthusiasm pales in comparison since, elected to be the evening’s chauffeur, I dread the thought of battling freeway congestion after an already long day fighting deadlines at work. I also feel rather petulant at the thought of having to fork over a sinful amount of cash for a parking spot that will no doubt still be a long hike away from our final destination.

Since the plan is to deliver the girls to their gate at Skydome and then meet up with them after the concert at a pre-selected spot outside the gate, I also wonder how Jayne and I are going to kill the next four hours without having to spend a week’s pay on designer coffees (or something stronger) in exchange for an air-conditioned place to rest our laurels.

Imagine our relief when we discover that Skydome’s Windows Restaurant has been converted into a “Parents’ Lounge” for the evening, complete with loads of couches and club chairs, a large-screen television playing music videos at one end, and overhead monitors at the other end broadcasting a variety of sporting events. It’s spacious yet cozy enough to allow tired moms and dads to deflate for the next couple of hours.

The relieved facial expressions around the room tell me that I’m not the only one here who is über-grateful. To boot, there is a refreshment station set up with an unlimited flow of complimentary coffee! Suddenly, life is just one big ol’ box of chocolates (Hershey’s rather than Lindt, mind you—but plenty good enough).

The boom-boom-booming bass vibrations that pound from the stage area beside us, and the eardrum-shattering screams of thousands of teenaged girls (proof that our kids are at least getting our money’s worth) is a small price to pay for the luxury of having a relatively comfortable place of our own to inhabit.

Of course, the stage itself is obscured from our view with a number of strategically placed tarpaulins. I suppose this is only fair, since the ninety-buck admission we were forced to pay for our kids did not extend to the ones who actually toiled for it, so I suppose it’s understandable that we should be banned from goggling at the mighty NSync through a wall of warped Plexiglas.

Securing a spot at a table that overlooks the equipment area behind the stage, Jayne and I pass the time watching a parade of roadies scuttling back and forth, back and forth. I’m aware that roadies travel and work with the band, but I’m still not sure what it is that they do exactly. For four hours, we entertain ourselves watching them pace from one corner to another. And here I thought that politicians were the only ones who’d mastered the art of appearing to do something while doing a whole lot of nothing.

I am also now convinced that roadies are mass-produced from one original roadie-mould. No matter what era we’re in, roadies never, ever change. And I mean that literally.

I think that the roadies working for NSync were somehow teleported into the present day straight from a 1970s Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin/whatever concert. They all look identical: long hair, either big and bushy or straight and stringy; stubbled chins or unkempt beards; scruffy denim jeans tight enough to emphasize the roach-clips in their pockets; sweat-stained tee shirts emblazoned with either obscenities or dumb platitudes; and frozen grins that say, “We’re cool ‘cause we’re with the band…and you’re not.”

The high point of Jayne’s and my evening arrives not a moment too soon. The tarpaulins block the front of the stage, but not the back. Our eyebrows rise at the sight of three members of NSync racing offstage and down a backstage ramp between sets! As they bound into view, roadies scatter like bowling pins and hover around the sidelines like seagulls circling a pack of French fries. The boys in the band huddle behind a stack of equipment, attempting to perform a lightning-quick costume change. I know it’s “them”— the flash and glimmer of their elaborate costumes draws our attention like lips to chocolate.

Later, Jayne and I brag to our daughters about the fact that we got to see NSync “take it all off” backstage (nah nah nah nah nah). The girls respond with “you-are-soooooo-pathetic” eye rolls, until I offer up a detailed description of the costumes we saw. There is a wide-eyed moment of silence, followed by screams. Lots of screams.

Basking in my newly acquired limelight, I proceed to boast that, although my view was somewhat obstructed, I had actually glimpsed the tighty whities of one of the four high-priced bottoms as it struggled into a very snug pair of jeans. The face hadn’t been visible, but I’d had the pleasure of observing some real-live NSync butt! This revelation elevates me to about as close as I’ll ever get to achieving celebrity status in the eyes of my daughter and her friend.

By ten-forty-five, you would be able to hear a pin drop in the lounge, if it weren’t for the continuous boom-boom-boom-screeeeeaaaaaam-boom-boom-boom-screeeeeaaaaaam. Parents from wall to wall are slumped in their chairs, limp as overcooked noodles, chins propped up on knuckles, eyes half shut. We are all beyond fatigued.

Suddenly, without warning, an explosion of sonic magnitude rocks the lounge. As my daughter later explained, “…they do the most awesome fireworks displays.” Awesome, indeed. It is quite a sight to see 300-odd exhausted men and women awaken instantly. Jayne and I come this close to experiencing the first of many teen-induced myocardial infarctions (I’ve learned a lot from watching Grey’s Anatomy). I wouldn’t have been surprised to see ambulance attendants flooding the place with gurneys.

With my heart still skipping double-double-dutch, I have quietly resumed praying for the show to “just end now, dammit,” when those nasty little NStinkers do it again. I swear my feet actually lift from the ground for a split second. The second blast is our cue to haul it out of there and begin the trek toward our designated meeting spot.

The number of parents waiting around for their children is impressive. There are hundreds. Such a sight, you would never have seen during my childhood years. Back then, if we weren’t old enough to drive to an event on our own, our “concert experience” consisted of staring at our idol in a teen magazine while listening to his latest 45.

Finally! At eleven-thirty, our rosy-cheeked, laryngitised, starry-eyed daughters race up, shrieking with excitement. Throughout the entire ride home, their ongoing description of the show comprises only those words you’ll find in a thesaurus under “awesome.” The girls thank us over and over again. Jayne and I grin at each other. For this one night, we are their heroes. We have successfully granted the wishes of two very grateful teenaged girls. And we have also received a rare and unexpected treat in return.

The evening’s adventures have taken both of us on an emotional trip of our own, back in years, back to a long-faded time when the bigger-than-life rock stars of our dreams left us overwhelmed and suffused with such giddy excitement that we, too, screamed until we could do no more than whisper.

When my weary body finally folds itself into the welcome embrace of my bed, well past the witching hour, I can’t contain my smile as I drift off.

Ain’t youth grand?

Meet Octavia the Octopus

What a huggable toy for little ones. I used rainbow yarn for the head/body and made each tentacle in a different colour, but you can also do the entire project in one solid colour. It’s so easy to make, you can complete the whole thing in an evening. The head/body is about 4″ tall (fits in the palm of my hand) and the tentacles are about 6″ long.

Materials:

  • 1 ball of any worsted weight yarn (I used Craftsmart’s Fiesta, for the head/body. Then I just used several different solid colours for the tentacles. It’s a great project for using up scrap yarn.)
  • 8 mm hook
  • Black embroidery floss
  • Fiberfill stuffing for the head/body
  • Yarn needle

Octavia’s head/body:
Ch 4, sl st to make a ring.

Round 1: 6 sc in ring; sl st in first sc to join. (6 sc)

Round 2: 2 sc in each st around; sl st in first sc to join. (12 sc)

Round 3: *sc in first st, 2 sc in next st, repeat from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 4: sc in each of first 2 sts, 2 sc in next st, *sc in each of next 2 sts, 2 sc in next st; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 5: sc in each of first 3 sts, 2 sc in next st, *sc in each of next 3 sts, 2 sc in next st; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 6: sc in each of first 4 sts, 2 sc in next st, *sc in each of next 4 sts, 2 sc in next st; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 7-12: sc in each st around; sl st to first sc to join.

Round 13: (decrease round starts here) *sc in each of next 4 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 14: sc in each st around; sl st to first sc to join.

Round 15: *sc in each of next 3 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 16: sc in each st around; sl st to first sc to join.

Round 17: *sc in each of next 2 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around; sl st in first sc to join.

Round 18: *sc in each of next 2 sts, sc2tog; rep from * around. Stuff with fiberfill.

Round 19: *sc in next st, sc2tog; rep from * around. Do not fasten off (unless you’re changing to a different colour). The head will not yet be completely closed because you need to first crochet the tentacles around the opening, then you will finish by stitching closed what’s left.

Octavia’s tentacles:
Loosely ch 30; sc in second ch from hook, 2 sc in each ch across. When you arrive back at the head, sl st in next st, then ch 30 and repeat for the second tentacle. Repeat the process around until you have 8 tentacles.

Next, use sc2tog to finish closing the open hole, or just use a yarn needle to sl st it together.

Finishing Octavia:
Use the black embroidery thread to embroider on two eyes (big French knots) and a big smiling mouth. I also threaded 6 pieces of yarn at the top of her head and used a ribbon to tie it up in a bow.

She’s ready for cuddling!

Otis’s social whirlwind of a day

As the song goes: “We’re here for a good time, not a long time…”

 

I am on watch at my sliding glass doors.
It’s dead out there today.
A leaf flutters by.
A dumb fly slams into the window,
then falls into a crack in the deck. Awesome!

All’s quiet, when, suddenly…

A recent acquaintance, Bunnykins, hops by, googling me with her big, round eyes. Mmm mmm!

Then, my long-time pal, Chippie, stops in briefly to show off his latest finds.
As if a couple of bird seeds are enough to impress me??

Last, but not least, Squirt the Squirrel pops up to say, “Whazzup?”
I don’t know what his deal is.
He’s gone before I even have time to bat the glass with my paw. So rude!

Enough socializing—time to move to the front porch and
kick off the weekend with some chillaxin’. TGIF!

Happy Friday! Meows & hisses,
Otis

Baby’s Christening Day Sweater & Cap

While reading a book this week, I stumbled upon a saying that really touched my heart, and I’d like to share it with you here:

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel of the one who has crushed it.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

I had some angora-like cream-colored yarn in my cupboard and thought it would look nice crocheted into a baby sweater. I just made up the pattern as I went along and didn’t write anything down—now I wish I had so that I could share specific instructions with you.
In case you want to wing it yourself, I used 2 balls of baby yarn and a 5 mm hook.

I used a basic 3-dc shell stitch, crocheted in rows, and created two 7” wide x 10” long rectangles for the front and one 14” wide x 10” long square for the back. I seamed them together (wrong side) at the shoulders. Then I crocheted two more squares (7” x 7”) for the sleeves; folded them in half and fastened them at the shoulders, then seamed the sleeve edges and sweater sides together.

Once the basic sweater was constructed, I used more shells to create a scalloped border around the bottom, front edges, neckline, and sleeve edges.
I then attached cream colored ribbon in two places to use as simple front fasteners.
Lastly, I made a matching beanie, starting with six rounds of dc with an increase on each round, then 5 rounds of 4-dc shells, then one border round of sc.
If you have intermediate to advanced crochet skills, you’ll have no problems making a similar-looking set.

Take me out to the ball game… with my new Toronto Blue Jays crocheted tote bag

Have I mentioned that I’m a Toronto Blue Jays fan? So why not make myself a tote bag that screams my allegiance whenever I’m at a game! I crocheted 16 squares in the team’s colours, used red fabric for lining, and stitched everything together. For the strap, I attached a plastic shower ring to either side of the bag, crocheted over them in team colours, then crocheted a wide shoulder strap.

For embellishment, I traced the Blue Jay logo onto white fabric (which I believe is ok, as long as it’s just for personal use and not being sold), as well as the Ontario logo and Canadian maple leaf. Then I coloured them with fabric markers and sewed them onto some of the squares.

No matter what MLB team you root for, you can make yourself a tote bag; just switch up the colours.

Here’s how…

Materials

  • Worsted weight yarn in white (colour A); royal blue (colour B); red (colour C)
  • 5.5 mm crochet hook
  • Yarn needle for weaving in ends
  • 2 round plastic shower hooks (purchased at Dollarama)
  • A large enough piece of matching fabric for lining + needle and thread or sewing machine

Optional: Coordinating thread and sewing needle; thin, white fabric for tracing logos onto; fabric markers

Bullseye Square (Make 16)

Using colour A, ch 4 and slip stitch to make a ring.

Round 1: Ch 3; 11 dc into ring (12 dc)

Round 2: Ch 3; dc in same space; 2 dc in each st around (24 dc) Fasten off colour A and join colour B.

Round 3: With colour B, ch 3; dc in same sp; *2 dc in next sp; dc in next sp; repeat from * around (36 dc)

Round 4: Ch 3; dc in same sp; *2 dc in next sp; dc in each of next 2 sps; repeat from * around (48 dc)

Round 5: Ch 7 (counts as ch 4 + dc and makes the first corner); 2 dc in next sp; *dc in next sp; hdc in each of next 2 sps; sc in each of next 4 sps; hdc in each of next 2 sps; dc in next sp; 2 dc in next sp; ch 4 (next corner); 2 dc in next sp; repeat from * around. Sl st in third ch of ch-7 to close. Fasten off colour B and attach colour C.

Round 6: To make red border, sc in each dc around, with 3 sc in each corner space. Fasten off and weave in end.

Assembly Instructions
Fasten squares together, following layout and using red yarn to slip stitch squares together on wrong side.

Lining
Fold lining fabric to double, then lay tote on it, with tote bottom lined up to fabric fold. Cut lining about half-inch larger than tote, then seam (quarter-inch) both sides of lining together on sewing machine. I then stuffed the lining into the tote bag, and used a needle and thread to secure the lining to the tote bag, just inside, around the top of the lining. I’m not very patient with a needle and thread, so yours may look much neater.
Shoulder strap
Next, I attached a shower ring to each side of the tote bag, through the corner spaces. Once clipped on securely, I then did a round of sc around them until the rings were completely covered. I did one ring in the colour B, and the other in colour C.
I made the strap two-toned, one side in colour B, the other in colour C.

Using your 5 mm hook and starting with colour B, ch 9; sc in second ch from hook and in each across (8 sc)

Turn, sc in each across. Continue back and forth for an even 8 sc in every row until the blue part of the strap is approx. 22 inches. Fasten off and attach colour C. Then continue crocheting rows of 8 sc until you’ve finished another 22 inches in colour C. Fasten off, leaving a tail for sewing.
Next, attach the red end of the strap to the blue ring, and the blue end of the other end of the strap to the red ring.

To attach, simply fold the red strap end around the top of the blue circle, and using your yarn needle and the tail, sew the edge to fasten, just as it looks in the photo. Then cut a a piece of blue yarn long enough for sewing, and do the same with the blue end of the strap and the red ring.

Embellishing
I pulled up a Blue Jays logo on my laptop screen, used my magnifying glass tool to make it the right size to fit in the center of one of my squares, set the white fabric over the screen and held the sides in place with masking tape, then traced the design onto the fabric with a pencil, right from my screen. The computer screen is actually like having a light table—you can trace anything from it.
Once I’d traced 4 copies, I just coloured them in with fabric markers, then ironed over the fabric to set the colour. I did the same with an Ontario logo and a Canada logo.
Then I cut around the logos and used a needle and thread to just sew them onto alternating squares.
Go Jays Go!

Make a playhouse for your feline friend using cardboard boxes

I discovered the most adorable book at the public library for cat owners. Even owners of small dogs could work with these ideas. Hey—even little kids would love playing with these! The book is called Cat Castles by Carin Oliver.
The book provides step-by-step photo instructions for all kinds of easy projects that are totally inexpensive because you make them from cardboard boxes that you can pick up for free at the supermarket. And the finished results are as adorable as your little pal!
Make an airplane…
a castle…
a couch…
a food truck…
a club house…
a house…
a locomotive…
a pirate ship…
a rocket…
a submarine…
a stepped condo…

There are other projects too; all so easy to make if you have a pair of scissors, cardboard boxes and adhesive.

I plan to make Otis the stepped condo so he can look out the window when I’m in my office.

It’s a great book. I highly recommend it and guarantee that both you and your feline friend will be pleased with the creative ideas inside and the very clear and easy step-by-step instructions.

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