Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Birdy Branch for the Boys Room

After seeing the beautiful bird-and-branch wall hanging that Meg made for her little son-to-be, I had to try making my own version for the boys room. Their walls are rather bare, since their room in this house is so much bigger than their former bedroom was and since they both seem to delight in yanking and pullling things off walls. I sewed up five stuffed birdies yesterday afternoon, made from bits from the scrap bin, and David went out in the dusky twilight to find me a branch. He chose one that fell in an ice storm a few months ago, that he had dragged on the garden. I trimmed it down and it was just right.
I had to hang it with stout quilting thread for the time being. David isn't sure where his clear fishing line is, so for now, you can tell it hangs from the ceiling. Hopefully we'll find the clear fishing line soon since I think that will make it look much better. I'm pretty happy with how mine came out, although its a bit more primitive looking than Meg's cheerful and whimsical one. Ack, that's just my personality I suppose. Dismal plaids and dark calicoes rather than bright prints and perky polka-dots! I hope the boys aren't too freaked out by the eyeless birds that gaze solemnly over their sleeping quarters.

I also finished up the boys curtains, at last, over the weekend. I started them shortly after Christmas but postponed finishing them since I ran out of black thread. (I usually sew with either white or black thread, depending on the project). But, at last they are done and up. I was very worried about the boys strangling in the cords from the mini blinds so wanted to make curtains to take the place of the blinds, so we could remove them altogether. The curtains are extremely simple, just a panel of blue fabric hemmed on all exposed edges. I decided to add a little ruffle at the top since the plain blue was so very plain. The ruffle was made from a worn out crib sheet. It has the same red color as the walls in the print, so it helps bring the room together. To hang them, I sewed a tube of tan and white stripe cotton at the top.

In the day they can be pushed to the side to let the light in:
And at night I can draw them across the window and they work effectively to keep people from seeing inside. Which is handy, since little David has become quite fond of Stripping and that is not something I want people to see if he happens to climb in his window before I find him out!
The boys room is not really a real bedroom. It is a closetless room off the kitchen. I think at one time it was a side porch since it sits a little lower than the kitchen and you have to step down into it from the kitchen. It doesn't have a door in the doorway and there is no closet. But it is large and roomy and has four windows and a door leading to the outside. We put a shelf in front of the door for the time being, to keep the toys up and to prevent people from wanting to use it as a door. The boys use the closet in my sewing room for their clothes so they have plenty of space to play on their floor.
As aforementioned, the boys like to yank pictures off of their walls. The things I *do* have up they thankfully haven't disturbed (yet). For a little decoration, David made each of them their names from some old wooden blocks. They sit on the top of each window. Since their are four windows, we have one apiece for David, Judah and Malachi. The last window has the word "Love". Here is a plaster mold I did of little David and Judah's feet last year. How much they have grown since then!And a beautiful cross stitch that my friend Sarah sent to me last year. I thought the colors in it were so cheerful and bright, and the boys just love to look at it!
From the ceiling, David suspended a planetary system with the central light fixture representing the sun. Here is my oh-so-naughty baby boy, climbing in his window to try to pull Uranus from orbit. Since the blinds are out of the windows, he finds the ledges very desirable and convenient to climb upon.
Judah knows when Little David is doing wrong. He is especially good at those times and especially attentive to me, as if to instill in my mind the superiority of his behaviour over that of his elder brother. "Look, Mama. I'M being good!"
Hopefully the birdy branch will add some more visual interest and stimulation to this room where my little boys laugh and cry, sleep and play and will grow in and learn in. Unless they pull it down.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lincoln's Birthday Celebration in Springfield

How young our country is. That struck me so very deeply this past week as we celebrated the 200th birthday of one of America's greatest presidents, and most certainly the man of whom Illinois is the proudest, Abraham Lincoln.

David and I and the baby traveled to Springfield on Thursday to participate in the festivities going on in this city where Lincoln once lived. The older boys we left home. It was cold, they would have been dreadfully bored and we were worried about them getting lost or stolen with the myriads of people Springfield expected. I felt bad leaving my little ones behind but was glad that we did so, once we got there. There were so many people and it would have been difficult to keep track of the two of them since they both are prone to wandering and have a rather disspiriting habit of disappearing and it seems they both suffer from Selective Hearing and do not always come when called. (Which we are working on. Spare the rod, spoil the child.)

Our initial plan was to attend the open house the governor was hosting in the executive mansion and go to the period dress ball at the presidential musuem later in the evening. I was in a nervous flutter all the way down. It was exactly like the feeling I got when I had a "crush" on a Certain Person, who shall remain Nameless, when I was young and prone to emotional feelings. I don't have a crush on the governor, certainly, but was in a state of dreadful excitement at the thought of possibly seeing or even speaking to him. David could not understand my nerves. "He is a Democrat from Chicago." I didn't care. It was enough to think of him as Governor Quinn. It was enough to remember he has promised to reopen the historical sites and parks that were closed last fall. It was enough to remember he had promised to live in Springfield, in the executive mansion in which our former governor never had stayed. It was enough to think of his kindly, handsome face, which has an honorable look that never glanced over the face of our former governor. I felt in worshipful awe of him, and shuddered at the thought of actually being in his presence. Would I see him?

My nerves were all in vain. When we arrived at the mansion there was an infinite line of people, like ants, stretched around the block, creeping ever-so-slowly towards the gate and door. It was impossible to think of joining that line, especially with the baby and the chilly air and wind.

We went to the Lincoln home instead.
The Lincoln home is part of a group of period houses in a 4-block area that the national park service has bought and restored to 1860's period. It is a beautiful area and David and I enjoyed walking down the streets as we waited for our tour of the Lincoln home. It was cozy to be near each other and to pretend we lived in one of those houses and that we were out for an evening stroll with our baby. We studied each one to see which we liked the best.
We decided on this one, a stately yellow and green home with a large yard where the boys could run and play, just a few houses down from the Lincolns. As twilight grew near, our tour was called and many dozens of people had gathered in the street in front of the house, be-garbed and be-costumed and be-lighted with flashlights and lanterns, forming a vast parade in honor of Mr. Lincoln's birthday that snaked its way down the street and to the Old State Capital. While the well-wishers trekked off, our little tour group climbed the steps of the Lincoln home and entered.

It was still and quiet inside. I do not believe in ghosts or flitting spirits or white-draped moaning things that spook people but I do know that whenever I have been in a place Mr. Lincoln was intimate with, I have felt a solemn presence. I felt it for the first time as a young girl of eleven, when I first went to Lincoln's Tomb, and I felt it again on Thursday evening as we walked through the rooms Lincoln lived in - loved in - grieved in. It seemed almost like tresspassing to go throughout the home and gaze on scenes that must have been very familiar to the Lincoln family. The room where their little boy died ~ the room where Lincoln received news of his presidential nomination ~ the dining room, arranged as if for supper.
One interesting thing I did learn on the tour (I have been on it before) was that the wallpaper in the Lincoln's bedroom was a copy of the actual wallpaper that really was in their bedroom. The brightly colored carpet on the floor clashed oddly with it, almost gaudy. But, out tour guide explained, that was a popular notion of the day. Harmony through contrast. I thought how well that explained the sometimes wild color combinations on original 1860's period clothing and accessories, even the colors in the print of a fabric from then.
As we exited the house, darkness had fallen. The street lights were on, illuminating the neighborhood in a dream-like glow. A little boy approached David and asked him, "are you really from the Civil War? Shouldn't you be really, really old?" We went then to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum for their period ball.

What can I say. It wasn't quite what I expected. There were ghastly numbers of people there and the dance floor was excessively crowded, with people bunched around the fringes in smothering numbers. David and I squeezed our way to the back of the dance area and somehow got entangled in the Grand March, which I did half-way with Malachi in my arms before Rose, a dear lady from our Medical Unit, took him as I was whisked by.

That was the only dance we particpated in. We walked around with the baby, which caused a great stir. It is a truth well established that having a new baby makes you an instant celebrity - I don't know how many pictures people took of us and the baby, or how many people came up to me to ask about the baby or comment on how he looked. It's was also astounding at how many people asked, "is that a REAL baby?" I heard one lady exclaim, as we passed by, "Why, it is a real baby! And it's wearing a real dress!" Poor little Malachi, slumbering peacefully, was not aware of his social success nor did he care. A full tummy and clean diaper and warm arms to nestle in was all he wanted.
The other enormously wonderful thing was the birthday cake they had in the cafe for Abraham Lincoln. A 42-inch cheesecake, topped with a gingerbread fascimile of the Lincoln home. That was definitely the best cheesecake I've ever had in my life. I took a photo of the recipe, which I plan on somehow shrinking so I can make one for us here at home. The man who made the cheesecake also made things for our current president and former President Clinton's inaguartion dinners. . .he is definitely very, very good at what he does. Before we left, we walked through the museum exhibits. The corriders were quite bare and it was very quiet and still. It was almost creepy to see the life-like silicone figures, which I wasn't able to take pictures of since photos aren't allowed in the exhibit areas! DO go to the museum if you are ever able to! It's an amazing experience!

Here are the dear ladies from our medical unit with little Malachi ~
And here is David and the gentlemen who compose the medical unit ~And here are we ~As we hurried out into the chilly night, we were stopped by one more person right before we reached the parking deck. A lady got out of her car and hurried over to us, asking to take our picture so she could show her children!

It was good to get home, though. Home is very nice to come back to, especially when you have two darling little boys to peek at before going to bed, with their hands tucked beneath their rosy little cheeks.

Maybe next time I will see Governor Quinn. There are still so many places to see in Springfield, so many historical spots to search out and explore. We will be back. It's nice to have such a hot-spot of history so very close.


Friday, February 13, 2009

White Cotton Baby Gown

After an all-day sewing spree on Wednesday, I finished up Malachi's outfit to wear to Springfield for the festivities for Mr. Lincoln's 200th birthday. I should have properly measured him but he still curls up in such a tight fetal position that it is hard to do so. Consequently, his gown is a little snug on him. What great lengths his arms can stretch out to!

This dress is not based on any one dress in particular. The bodice has a jewel neckline, slightly raised waistline and long gathered sleeves. I originally made the sleeves a bit differently and piped the armscyes but found those sleeves to be way too short so I had to redo them quickly Thursday morning before we left and I left the piping off. I feel bad about that but I really did not have time to add the piping. Plus, it is very hard to sew piping in such a small area on such a small garment! I didn't really want to redo it, to be honest. :)
I made the dress from some thrifted semi-sheer white cotton I got for .40 a week or so before Malachi was born. (David's aunt is the manager of the most delightful little thrift store imaginable and it's always fun to look when we go up to visit!) I cannibalized a thrifted curtain for the lace. It is machined, but it's cotton, and it's not as clunky and sleazy as the eyelet at Jo-Anns. I joined a long piece to the bottom of the skirt, making a tuck to hide the join, and pieced out the rest to finish the sleeve cuffs. From the remaining few inches I cut out the medallion-shaped thingies and appliqued them to the front of the bodice so it all looks like it goes together. It was a fun little gown to make, but it was even more fun to put it on the baby and take him out to his first event!

Underneath, Malachi wore a white cotton petti-chemise, red flannel drawers (not pictured, since he wet through them on the way home last night and they are currently in the wash) and these darling little knitted booties that Tilly sent him when he was born.
To top it all off, he uncomplainingly wore a wee cap, made from leftover cotton organdy from my corded bonnet I made last summer. I had just enough left to make the cap with enough left for perhaps one more, in a larger size, for our next event in April. I just love baby caps. . .it's a pity most babies soon learn to pull them off and won't wear them!We had such a wonderful time yesterday in Springfield. I can't wait to post about it! Hopefully I'll get a chance to later tonight or perhaps tomorrow. Blog time is limited now with three little ones! David just informed me that Little David has just helped himself to a loaf of bannana bread I baked earlier this afternoon while the wee ones were napping. He is a self-sufficient child, and is prone to trying to do things on his own. It is only when his attempts fail that he enlists the help of David or I. But now I must go rescue what bannana bread may perhaps be left unmutilated!
Love to all,

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Baby Regency Gown, Part 1

I am not prone to being practical and logical, at least at times. For I have spent the past few days researching and working on a regency gown for Malachi, instead of working on his white gown which I am making him to wear to the governors mansion and the ball on Thursday. Shall I ever overcome my procrastination and my ill-time illogic? For I have decided to go 1860's on Thursday and the only use Malachi will have for a regency gown is to wear it while sitting on my lap while I, (be-costumed, of course!) watch regency movies.

Thankfully a sewing machine can be used for the white gown and that should go very quickly! I'm in for a sewing marathon all day tomorrow.

This little gown is based on one from Vintage Textile:
I originally wanted to copy it as closely as possible but while I was sewing on the waistband yesterday, I decided to not put drawstrings through at the waist and to close it with two hooks instead. The bodice is made of a rectangular panel in the front and two in the back, with curved areas cut for armscyes. The shoulder straps are seperate and were sewn on after the drawstring casings were sewn. I think I should have made the shoulder straps narrower to get closer to the look of the original, and perhaps should have shaped them rather than making them rectangles. Something to remember for next time. The dress closes at the back with the drawstring at the neck. I'm not sure if I am totally comfortable with the thought of using drawstrings for fastenings on baby gowns, but it seems like it sure was a common type of closure to use for gowns of this period - even adult ones! I took the dress with me today in the car since we went to town to go grocery shopping. While I sat in the car nursing the baby at our last stop, I tried the gown on him so he can model how it looks. The sleeves aren't on yet but so far I'm pretty happy with how it is turning out! The waistline could bit a little higher, but oh well. . .it should fit him for a while, since the breadth is quite adjustable via the drawstring neck and the waistband is loose on him. Here is a good picture of the bodice: And, just 'cause he's so darn cute: :)
I plan on finishing it up tonight as we watch a documentary about Lincoln on PBS. What nicer way is there to spend a winter evening? I'm trying to figure out how to do the Vandyked trim that is on the original gown. If I can't figure it out, I have some lovely lace that would look well inserted in the skirt and at the sleeve cuffs, but I'm not sure if a printed gown would have had lace insertion, since all the baby gowns I've seen with insertion are white. Hmm. . .

A darling, but hungry husband is waiting for me to start supper and the older two of my wee sons are spinning circles around the smallest. Oh dear!