Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bunk Bed Curtains. How cool is that?

When Abigail got her big girl bed two Christmases ago, I went ahead and made up the top bunk.  Don't ask me why.  It's not like we were going to have any sleepovers anytime soon.  Or even that we let her see that anyone could even get up there.  But I did, and over the course of a few months the sheet slowly slid off the edge of the top bunk.  It gradually got lower and lower until she started requesting it be pulled down for nigh-night time.  I don't blame her!  How cool is that to have your own little fort?  So we went on like this for I don't know how long.  Every night and nap time pulling it down then flipping it back up when she awoke.  Occasionally a corner would fall off completely and we would have to fix it (the stuffed animals that live on the top bunk came in particularly handy for this).  Eventually Jeffrey got sick of how trashy it looked and asked me to make a curtain for it.  So we pondered and figured and bought fabric.  Then about a month later I finally got around to it (if for no other reason than to get Jeffrey off my back).  Abigail could move the curtain without any assistance from us, and it had cool ladybugs on one side and elephants on the other...she was in heaven.  It also helps keep her sleeping area a bit darker for nap and mornings.

Originally I made it one long curtain and imagined it being able to be pushed completely to one side.  I failed, however, to take into account that when Jeffrey put up the rod that there would be a support in the middle.  So after a few months of just pulling the curtains to the middle, I finally took them down and made them two separate pieces.  I also top-stitched around the edges to give it a bit more of a finished look and put more loopholes for hanging.  It is so much nicer to be able to part the curtains to either side and actually get to her bed.

If you are interested in having a custom set made for your youngster's bunk bed let me know!   I'm kind of itching to do a frilly pink one (but certainly not for Abby).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Paper Dolls

Toys, toys, toys... I was thinking the other day that our lives have revolved around kids and making sure that there were plenty of (quality) toys to play with for a long time. I think the house will seem just a little bit empty when the girls outgrow their toys. Of course, we have a few friends who are young enough that don't have kids yet, and a few friends with kids that are old enough, that a new batch of kids will be along to play before too long.

I try to make time regularly to sit and draw, cut paper, paint or glue stuff with Abby. Sometimes it goes really well, and sometimes...well, lets just say that a nearly two-year-old, and a nearly one-year-old don't always mix well with arts and crafts time. At any rate, these sessions often evolve into something more than I intended, depending on Abby's interest in what I'm doing, and she was very interested in the drawings that she named "mommy and daddy", so we cut them out and mounted them on sticks.

The imaginative play that comes out of simple things like this is incredible.
On a more recent trip into cut paper puppet land, I got a little more involved, and actually used scrap-booking paper to make some pretty rad clothes for him. This one was a little wider, so that makes him a little more unwieldy, but I actually had popsicle sticks this time, instead of bamboo skewers like I've used in the past. On another note, I think the last ones were a little more successful because the pose was a bit more neutral.
We have fun making stuff together, and it's always great to see her sitting in the sun at the table, working busily on whatever.

Finally, a little bonus picture...It's funny to me that the one picture I took that day where I wasn't trying to get her to look at me Abby decides to be herself, and photo-bomb her sister.
Until next time...Take care and be good!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

...Homemade Family?

I've been having these tiny heart-attacks the last week every time I type or post a url for Handmade Family. I think to myself, "have I been posting it as Homemade Family?". It might not seem like a big deal...I mean, who doesn't like to eat homemade cookies, or to receive a card that was made by their grandchildren? These things are wonderful and I don't want to refute that, but there IS an important distinction that has to be made between "Homemade" and "Handmade", and that is what I would like to talk a little bit about today.

"Homemade" means that something was made in the home, and not by some giant, faceless, multinational company. Usually it's personal and made with love, but that does not mean that there is necessarily any quality control. Valentines day is coming up soon, so this morning Abby (our nearly three-year-old daughter) and I made cards for her grandparents and godparents. I am sure that they will love them. That being said, it's hard to write straight letters or cut straight lines when there is a little girl working around and underneath you. On top of that, her design choices are often...suspect.

On the other hand is the word "Handmade". This also implies that something was not made by some giant, faceless, multinational company. Often it is made in the home and is personal and made with love. But to say that something is handmade is also to imply a level of quality and care in the craftsmanship that machines and factories can not afford to us. One other quality that handmade items have to offer is individuality. There are always differences that reflect the individual crafts-persons mood and temperament as well as what they feel is right for a particular piece. It's this individuality that some would call the "soul" of an object.

So, here's the question: How can we tell if something could or should be called "handmade" or merely "homemade". My take on it is that we all need to be honest with ourselves as artisans and craftspeople. We'll nearly always be proud of the things that we spend the time to make, and the folks we show it to may even feed into that by letting us know how much they like it too. It's important to note that there is a difference between liking something that your friend made, and being willing to pay money for it. So, that's my rule of thumb. If I honestly wouldn't pay money for it, it shouldn't go in the shop.

Pictured here is the prototype version of my handmade play town and people. When you're considering making a new product, it's always important to design and make a couple first as homemade gifts so that you can see what sorts of stumbling blocks you may meet, how long it takes to make, and whether people actually like it. We still have a little bit of testing to do on this one, but I think it is a good idea, and possible to make it and still be able to feed the kids, so I'm very excited about the play village.

Our mission is about play and comfort, family and imagination, but it is also about quality. The kind of quality and attention to detail that you can only get from handmade.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Abby's new "dress"

Due to the snow I had three and a half days off of school last week.  It was a wonderful impromptu vacation with the family.  Both Jeffrey and I got some work done, and we all got lots of playing and cuddle time!  It was pretty much awesome.

I also took a break from making things for other people to make something for Abigail.  Jeffrey fell in love with the idea of a pinafore.  This is basically an apron that looks like a dress; it really is pretty cute.  So Wednesday night I went to work on it.  I haven't made too many pieces of clothing, so every one is a new adventure.  This pattern was fairly easy to follow, and I got to make my first attempt at gathering.  I think it turned out pretty well.  The only problem is that now Jeffrey wants five more for her.

Abigail loves her "beautiful dress."  Apparently it is a perfect compliment to her clompy shoes coming down the hallway.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Handmade Family

Accessories and Gifts to Grow With

Handmade Family is a collaborative effort between husband and wife team Amy and Jeffrey Johnson. In addition to graphic design (Jeffrey) and teaching (Amy), they've been creating their own family since they met in college in 1997. They now have two young girls and would like to share their imagination with all types of families, whether they're old, young, or yet to be.

Jeffrey's talents include illustration, watercolor painting, printmaking, and woodcrafts, just to name a few. With a Bachelor in Fine Art, he left the 9 to 5 world of graphic design to answer a higher calling...that of stay-at-home-dad and creative freelancer. Through his studio, Red Herring Illustration and Graphics, he produces everything from business logos to assets for the gaming industry.

Amy's sewing and embroidery machines are constantly humming. Whether it's crafting superhero capes, bean bag games, or extra large and snuggly receiving blankets, she loves to create things that bring joy and comfort.

Whether you're looking for a blanket to welcome a little one into the world with, a picture to add a splash of color to the play room, or a game to play on a rainy day, we may have just the thing you're looking for...or didn't know you were looking for.

Check out our shop on etsy: handmadefamily.etsy.com
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