Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's Almost Father's Day--Felt Photo Frame Fridge Magnet Tutorial

Father's Day is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate the dad in your life than with this crafty photo frame? This project is super simple, an older child could probably make this will a little help. No fancy sewing--just a simple in-and-out running stitch.

The Ingredients: 

-1 felt frame piece. I used green felt to coordinate with the picture I wanted to use. Feel free to use what ever color works for you. The piece is 5.75 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide. The inside cut out is 1.25 inches up from the bottom, an inch in on both sides, and .75 inch from the top. 
-2 felt middle and back pieces. These are 5.75 by 4.5 inches like our top frame piece. 
- "I" "<3" "DAD" felt letters. These are freehand, about an inch tall. I cut my heart by folding a piece of felt and cutting half a heart shape. These pieces don't have to be perfect, in fact they are more "kid-like" if they aren't. 
- 1 cardboard insert, 5 inches by 4 inches, approximately
-1 super strong craft magnet and tape to adhere magnet to the cardboard insert
- embroidery floss to match felt pieces

The Recipe

First things first, working with just the top frame layer, sew on the "I" with a few stitches. 

Then, it's time for the heart. I wanted the heart to overlap on the photo a little bit so the bottom of the heart overhangs. The stitches don't go all the way down to the heart to leave that little bit free hanging. 

Next come the DAD letters. Again, there are just a few running stitches for each letter. I made the letters point slightly different directions so they seemed more "bouncy" than sewing them in a straight line. 

 Now that our embellishments are attached, it's time to construct the frame itself. Running stitch the top frame piece to the middle piece. Leave about a quarter inch allowance from the edge of the frame cut-out. That little allowance will be where the picture nestles in. When you do the top seam between the "I" and the heart, be sure to only sew through the top frame layer or else a photo won't slide in. 

After the frame piece is attached to the middle piece, prepare the cardboard insert by taping the magnet securely in place. Make sure the magnet is placed so that it will attract through the felt (one side of the magnet attracts other magnets, the other side repels). 

With the cardboard and magnet sandwiched between, sew the second layer to the bottom layer, as shown in the photo. Because we used running stitches, the edges of the frame are free. 

That's it! Our frame is done and ready for a photo of Dad. That's me and my dad on my wedding day.

Happy Father's Day Crafting!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Elimination Communication--How to Get Out of Changing Dirty Diapers and Save a Ton of Money

When I was pregnant with my son, I came across the term Elimination Communication (EC for short, AKA Infant Potty Learning) but didn't really understand the concept. Knowing when your baby, even a newborn, needed to go and "catching" a pee or poo before it hit the diaper (assuming baby was even wearing a diaper) seemed nothing short of a paranormal psychic ability. I wasn't even sure I wanted to use cloth diapers! I did have 4 younger brothers growing up, so it seemed like there was always a boy being potty trained at our house. I was intrigued by the idea that EC could ease toddler potty woes.  After Asher was born and I got to know him a bit, it was pretty clear that he actually did signal to let us know he was going. He would squirm, grunt and kick his legs before a poop and would pop on and off while nursing before he peed. 

3 weeks old in a disposable diaper

After I talked to a couple new mom friends who had been successful with part-time EC with their girls, I decided to revisit the idea. I spent some time on Tribal Baby reading about how to get started, I read posts in the EC forum, and I looked around Diaper Free Baby. Once I felt I understood why parents would do this (I mean, who wants to poop all over themselves, baby or no?), I watched some videos on YouTube to see how others positioned and cued their babies on the potty. Finally, when Asher was about 11 or 12 weeks old, I decided to just go for it and tried pottying him over a bathroom sink. Much to my surprise and delight, he went pee! The next day, I went out and got a high backed Bjorn potty chair.

3 months old

I mostly relied on timing to catch pees in those early days. I would sit Asher on his little potty first thing upon waking, after naps, a few minutes after nursing and before bed. I would also try if it had just been a while since he went last and I thought he might have to go. I became frustrated with disposable diapers quickly. I would miss a small amount of pee and catch the rest on the potty but have to toss the barely used, expensive diaper. I ordered some G-Diapers when they came on sale at and happily saved the $20 a week we had been wasting on disposables. I'm not sure I would have switched without EC as a catalyst, but the money saved from buying disposables plus not having to wash cloth diapers by catching in the potty has easily been hundreds of dollars.

By 5 months, Asher regularly peed and pooped in his potty. As he grew bigger, we upgraded  to a larger potty with more leg room. 

6 months old

By 8 months, Asher started regularly staying dry all night, as long as he went potty before bed. He would go if either my husband or I took him. We even EC'ed out and about at places like restaurants and parks. It really wasn't any more difficult than diapering. EC just requires paying attention to your baby and being proactive, rather than reactive, to their toileting needs.  

10 months old

By ten months, a cushy potty ring on the regular potty was Asher's favorite place to go. We entertained him with toys, books, and songs, making potty time fun and engaging, far more interactive than a regular diaper change. It also felt good knowing that Asher could communicate his needs to us and knowledge of EC has helped me decode what would otherwise be baffling baby behavior.

 First Birthday, first day in underwear

By the time Asher's first birthday rolled around, he was very potty proficient. He spent the whole of his birthday in little underwear and only had one pee accident. We rotated between diapers and underwear, though I tried to do underwear as much as possible when we were home and save diapers for when we were out and about. 

13 months

As toddlerhood approached, things got a little trickier. Asher could stand, then walk, then run. It was harder to get him sit for the potty long enough to go. This period often referred to as a potty strike and tends to be very common. I relied on timing, lots of potty time distractions, and patience. If we had a missed, I tried to react calmly. The goal of EC is not early potty training, but rather responding to your child's needs. Rolling with the punches and adapting to Asher's changing stages was the best I could do.

18 months old

Now, as Asher's second birthday is coming up in a couple months, we are back to a mix of cloth diapers and underwear. Some days are better than others with catching, usually dependent upon how much I'm paying attention. We're still not potty independent yet , but I know the effort has been worth it. Every caught elimination has saved a diaper. We never had poop explosions up my son's back. And I've caught more in the potty than I ever had to change in diapers. If I were to have another baby, I would start ECing even sooner, likely from birth. I may have started as a skeptic, but I now truly believe babies make all their needs known, we just have to listen to what they are trying to tell us. 

For more information about EC, please check out these resources: 

UPDATE: December 2011

As my son is now almost 2.5 years old, I thought I would update on our EC journey. Asher is now in under wear full time and has been for several months. And while we still have occasional pee accidents (the reclined nature of the car seat must trigger potty urges) I still consider Asher to be potty independent. We even went to visit family over Christmas and he stayed dry in undies the whole time despite long car rides, unfamiliar hotel rooms and potties not his own.  The transition from diapers to undies was really rather uneventful and every time he goes in his frog potty, I am thankful to no longer be wiping out smooshed poop from all his cracks and crevices!

In related news, we brought our new kitten with us on our Christmas trip. Miles J. Cat is still too young to leave home alone and we couldn't find a kitten sitter over the holiday. Elimination Communication skills can come in handy when dealing with pets, too! He would start getting feisty if he had to go and his litter box wasn't available. He went the whole trip without an accident too!

~ Brittany

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wordless Wednesday-Koda and Panda Meet The Ferret

Much to my family's dismay, we are dog-less. When my son is a little older, I think we'll be ready for a pup.  Until then, I needed some test dogs for my felt ferret dog toy. Yvonne at Cartolina Bella was kind enough to record the results of her two adorable Keeshonds trying out the ferret. I was very pleased the toy survived their play. You can see more of Yvonne's lovely items, including the custom hang tags she made me, here.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy International Midwives Day--Asher's Homebirth Story

May 5th is International Midwives Day. As my son's second birthday is looming large two months away, I thought I would share my homebirth experience and celebrate the midwives who helped me. My son is a second generation homebirthed babe--my mother had all 5 of her children at home, too. She became a midwife herself and provided wonderful support to me in labor. A huge thank you to her, my midwife Diane Schaub, and my husband for helping me through the most amazing thing I've ever done. 


Asher was due on my brother Logan’s 21st birthday, July 11th. My mom, who is a licensed midwife in California, came up the day before, and we prepared a family BBQ . My dad and two youngest brothers arrived that Saturday, as did my Grandpa Bob and Grandma Kris and Logan and his girlfriend Brooke. My dad made his famous “Induction Burgers,” which he had made the night before my mom went into labor with both my brothers Shane and Blake. Everyone was hoping the burger would work its magic and get that baby out!

Labor didn’t start, but I woke up at 4:30am the next morning to my first “real” contraction. It was a new sensation, low in my abdomen, and felt like a squeeze from the inside. The contractions came fairly steadily, about 7 minutes apart, until I laid down in bed again and they stopped around 10 that morning.
The next night, I was awoken at about 12:30 am with more contractions. These lasted all through the night, though never got any closer than about 10 minutes apart. I tried to sleep though most of them, not sure if they would lead somewhere or not. I got up at about 5 am and ate watermelon in the kitchen in the dark, ravenous from being awake most of the night. The contractions stopped in the morning, and I was almost thankful after being so tired.

On the 14th, my mom and I spent most of the day running errands around town to prepare for last minute baby stuff. We got a nursing gown and material for a belly cast. I was tired by late afternoon, and we went home. I had a few sporadic contractions through out the day, but nothing to make me feel anything was close. I planned on attending a La Leche League meeting the next day, and wanted to see the new Harry Potter movie as a distraction. We went to the Grand Sierra and had the buffet for dinner. I had been wanting their prime rib my whole pregnancy, and finally got to eat it.

We went to bed at about 11pm that night and I was again awoken at about 12:30am with a contraction. I tried to sleep though them, and was in and out of sleep until about 2:30, when I could no longer lay down comfortably. It was very hard to lie still during a contraction. I wanted to be in motion, moving my hips and trying to sway through the sensation. I got up and went to the loft and turned on the computer. I tried to time contractions, but they still seemed a little erratic. I really wanted this to be it, but didn’t want to get my hopes up too soon. My mom woke up and came out to see what I was doing. She told me to try and go back to bed, just in case this was it, and I needed the rest. I reluctantly agreed. When I went back to bed, Eric got up to use the bathroom and I told him I had been having contractions for the last few hours. I started to feel nauseous, and asked that Eric bring me something in case I threw up. I went to the bathroom to sit on the toilet through contractions, and vomited a few minutes later. I knew for as sick as I had been in the beginning of my pregnancy, I wasn’t going to escape laboring without barfing. I had a bit of bloody show for the first time and was excited to think that this was really labor. Eric was timing my contractions on his Iphone and they were about 4 minutes apart and about 30 seconds long. At about 3:30am, I told Eric to go wake my mom. 

My mom got up and sat with me in the bathroom for a while. She watched me through some contractions, which hadn’t stopped. I asked her if she thought this was really it, and she said she thought it was. I was wondering how long labor was going to last, though things were still feeling pretty manageable. I wanted to be excited, but I didn’t want to expend all my energy and end up feeling drained. I labored on the toilet for a while, and then my mom suggested I lay over my birth ball. I stayed on my ball on my bedroom floor for quite a while. I took off my glasses, closed my eyes and tried to relax as much as possible. But my knees hurt from crouching on the floor, and my mom suggested I take a shower. I asked her when I could get into the bath tub, and she said at 5 centimeters. That became my new motivation and I settled for the shower.

The shower felt really nice, and the hot water was comforting. I labored on my ball with my head leaning on my arms on the side of the shower. The water on my back helped relieve some pain. My contractions stayed about the same pace they had. I moaned through them as I needed, trying to keep my voice low and steady. I stayed in the shower until I felt like I needed to be on the toilet again and got out.

Shortly after that, I really wanted to be checked to see how much progress I had made. I was last checked at 38 weeks and had been closed and 50% effaced. Much to my surprise and delight, my mom checked me at about 5:30 am and said that I was 5 centimeters and about 80% effaced. I was excited to know I was about half way there. It had seemed to come so easily, I had expected it to be much more difficult than it was. I had been worried that she was going to check and I was only going to be 2 or 3, though that seems like it would have matched the pace for as hard as I felt I was working. 

Resting between contractrions

Since 5 had been the goal to get into the bathtub, I labored on the toilet a little longer, then wanted to get in. My mom was going to wait until 7am to call Diane, my midwife. She suggested I wait until then to get into the tub. I thought I could wait and continued laboring on the toilet. Once 7 rolled around, we found out Diane had been at another birth and was about 30-45 minutes away. I wasn’t too concerned, thinking I still had a while to go, and got into the bath.

I was a bit disappointed once I got in. I expected it to bring more relief than it did, and I think I would get a real birth tub if I were laboring again. I spent a lot of time on my hands and knees in the tub, and laying on my side. Eric and my mom took turns pouring warm water on my back. That felt really comforting, like a warm blanket enveloped around me. I remember looking into my mother’s green eyes during a contraction, not wanting to break eye contact until the squeezing wave had subsided. I didn’t want to be alone, and began questioning if anyone was out of my view for more than a few minutes. I needed to have the support of the family that was around me, even if that just meant knowing they were in the room and focused solely on me.

After about a half hour in the tub, I got a sudden, involuntary pushy feeling and I think that is when my water broke. My bag had been bulging when my mom had checked me before and would have made quite a mess if it had ruptured at any other point, which it never did. My mom checked me real quick again and reported that I was complete with just a small cervical lip. I couldn’t believe it. I had been waiting for that “wall” of transition, and it never came. My contractions had remained pretty much the same as they had been, maybe a bit more intense, but far enough apart for me to still get a break. During the contractions, I repeated a few mantras over and over in my head, trying to remember what I had learned in Hypnobirthing class. “I can do this, I can do this,” I thought as the contraction rose up. “This one will pass, this one will pass,” I reminded myself as the contraction crested. As a special reminder, I repeated “Birth is where women find the strength to become mothers”. That last one seemed to be the most important of all of them to keep in the forefront of my mind.

Diane finally arrived about a quarter to eight. I was still in the tub and she checked me after she was all set up. She said I was complete, the baby was at +2 station and she didn’t feel any lip at all. I was still in disbelief that I had made it all the way open and even commented out loud that it hadn’t been that hard to get to that point. By then my contractions were feeling more pushy and I grunted through them in the tub for a while longer. I stared at the glimmer from my wedding ring in the water, trying to get into a zone. I was starting to get cold and couldn’t find a good position so I wanted to get out. Sitting on the toilet seemed like a better place and I moved so quickly getting out of the tub, I almost slipped!

I pushed on the toilet and that seemed much more effective than being in the bath. Pushing was much harder work than I had anticipated and the motion didn’t come as naturally as I thought that it would have. I clasped my hands together and pushed my palms into one another while I tried to bear down. My contractions were still pretty short, so I didn’t have a whole lot of “urge” to work with. But I did the best that I could.

Some one, either Diane or my mom suggested I move to the bed, and try another position and I agreed. Pillows were positioned for me to be on my hands and knees, but I just wanted to bury my head down in the pillows. That was not effective for pushing, going against gravity like that. I ended up in a side lay, and pushed with one leg up. Diane brought ice chips and fed them to me, and they were so refreshing, my mouth was so parched. I pushed and pushed, moving his head down a little bit each time.

Finally, his head was starting to stay out a little, even after I stopped pushing and waited for the next contraction. I reached down and felt his wet wrinkly head. It was exuberating knowing that he was so close. I wanted a mirror so I could see and Eric grabbed my make-up mirror from the bathroom. I rolled to my back, and seeing his head became my motivation. When I could see his head emerge a little more with each push, I knew we were getting closer. Diane’s apprentice Liz took the mirror, and I directed where she needed to hold it with each push.

My mom was in position to catch the baby, with Diane on my left and Eric on my right. I kept thinking that the next contraction would be it and I would deliver his head. I figured I would get a little rest after his head was out, and even asked aloud if I would get to rest before delivering his shoulders. Diane assured me I would. I wanted so badly for my baby to be out and to get to meet him. I knew I was getting so close, and though I was tired, the finish line within reach.

Then finally, in one last big push, out came his head, shoulders and most of his chest all at once! One more little push and the rest of him was out, at 10:32 am, just ten hours since I woke with the first contraction. His cord was wrapped loosely around his neck once, which my mom removed, and then she set the baby on my chest. I was in total disbelief. I didn’t think that push was really going to do it, and couldn’t believe how quickly he came out once his head was out. I couldn’t see his face with the way his head was turned, but I just kept repeating, “my baby, my baby!” I felt exhilarated and relieved, exalted and exhausted. I had dreamed about the moment when I would get to feel his soft, wet body against mine, though the actual feeling was more overwhelming than I could have imagined. I knew at that moment the love of a mother for her child, unyielding and indelible, marked by the incredible journey we had just made together. 

Just Born

Diane turned the baby around so I could see his face. He was so beautiful. I had expected him to have a head full of dark hair, but instead he had super fine caramel colored strands. His eyes, alert from the start, looked at me as though he had known me always and I started to sob. Any of the pain from childbirth was gone, instantly replaced with the greatest sense of euphoria I have ever known.

I delivered the placenta easily about ten or fifteen minutes later. Eric cut the baby’s cord like a pro. Diane stitched up my tear (I guess that is what happens when you push out head to chest at once!) and Liz did the baby exam. Asher weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces and was 20 inches long. After the exam, Eric dressed his son for the first time. My heart poured as I watched my husband embrace his son, knowing now we were truly a family.

Eric dressing Asher

Even as I write this now, 9 days postpartum, I am still in awe of the whole experience. I am admittedly proud for having delivered Asher naturally, and elated that he was born in our bed. After having give birth at home, I would never want to do it any other way. It was an incredible feeling settling down with my new family, in the home Eric and I have made together, and welcoming our son into the world.

Homebirth Baby- Born and Bred in my Parents' Bed

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pronto The Bronto-A Felt Dino Tutorial

My friend Helen has a little girl who loves dinosaurs. When she requested a dino making tutorial, the long necked, long tailed brontosaurs came to mind as an easy dinosaur to translate into felt. I also wanted a dino who could stand on his own four feet. Enter Pronto the Bronto. 

The Ingredients: 

First I needed a brontosaurs image to use as a pattern. This guy worked perfectly. I found him on a free clip art site

I copied the image, opened it in MS Paint and resized it to 200%. Make sure to print two copies (they can be black and white) and print with the paper oriented horizontally.

With the first copy, cut all around the dinosaur's body, leaving the feet. With the second copy, cut out the long and short feet in the foreground of the image.

Now, we'll use those as patterns for our bronto. 

- 2 body pieces in dark green felt
-8 leg pieces, two short back legs and two long front legs in dark green felt
-4 Foot bottoms. Since we want the bronto to stand, he needs flat feet. Using the foot on the pattern piece to gauge  the length, cut ovals about a half inch wide for each foot.
-2 small white felt circles for eyes
-Dark green and black embroidery floss

The Recipe: 

I'm going to apologize now for how terrible some of these tutorial photos are. I didn't realized there were all so blurry until after Pronto was finished. Any way, what is hard to see going on is that we're sewing the feet first. Leaving the top of the leg open, sew down just until you round the heel on the back of the foot. 

Then, sew down the front of the leg just until you round the toes. 

Next, nestle the foot bottom into the open spot at the bottom of the foot. 

Whip stitch around the oval to attach it to the bottom of the foot. 

Now, stuff the foot. Be careful not to over stuff as you want the bottom to still be flat so the dino stands. 

Repeat this process for the other three feet. 

Now on to the body. Starting at the end of the tail, sew the two body pieces together working along the belly side, stopping as you start to get up the neck. We want to attach the feet to the body before we close it up. 

Add stuffing and pin the neck and back of the bronto closed. We want to have an idea of how it will sit when it is done when we position the legs. 

About a half inch from the base of the tail, sew around the top of the leg to attach it to the body of the bronto.

Keeping the legs even, attach the second leg on the other side of the body seam. 

About 3/4 of an inch away from the back leg, attach the first front leg.

Again, making sure that your legs are even with each other, attach the last leg.

Now that all four of the legs are sewn on to Pronto, go back to his tail and start sewing up the top towards his back. Be sure to stuff as you go and pack the stuffing in pretty tight so that the dino holds his shape. 

Sew up  the neck until you get to the top of the bronto's head. Now we sew on the eye before we close the head up. 

Position the white iris and secure with a black French Knot for the pupil. 

Next, sew a few black back stitches to make the mouth. 

Repeat the eyes and mouth placement on the other side of Pronto's face, checking to be sure they are even. 

Then, finish sewing the rest of the bronto's head shut. 

Viola! A standing brontosaurs cute enough to make any dino enthusiast swoon!

Happy Felting!



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