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Make Baby Stuff Newsletter, Issue #012-- Felted Sweater Crafts
January 01, 2009

This monthly newsletter is brought to you from the Make Baby Stuff website. Each issue brings you up to date with new crafty happenings, contests, instructions, reader questions, more tips and our featured crafty artist of the month! It is your kick in the pants to get crafty!

A Fresh Start for the New Year & Felted Sweater Crafting

Happy New Year! I love this time of year, the promise of a fresh start and the calm after the holidays!

Time to dust off any unfinished craft projects that were pushed to the side from gift making and either finish them or let them go. January is the month when I take stock of all my supplies and unfinished projects that I have the best intentions for...and either finish them or let go of them without guilt.

Do you have an unfinished project that lurks in the corner of a room, not allowing you to work on other things you'd much rather make? ("I can't start a diaper bag, I haven't finished the baby quilt yet...") Now is the time to finish it or let it go. Pass it on to a friend who will finish it, donate it or take it apart and harvest the materials. Really, this is a freeing feeling and will allow you to start projects fresh for the new year.

felted quiltI've had a pile of thrifted wool sweaters sitting in the corner just waiting for me to felt and transform them for several months now. Therefore, I was thrilled when Shira of Papou shared her Felted Sweater Baby Quilt tutorial with us which reminded me of my unused pile. I'm making one from all the scraps I have left over from the below projects!

This new Wool Diaper Cover from Wool Sweaters tutorial used up the sleeves of several sweaters, and my son is set up with wool pajamas for the rest of the winter. This Felted Sweater Mouse Puppet project took care of a few more sweater sleeves.

finished teddy bearThe final project just added last night is a Felted Sweater Bear Pattern that includes a free printable teddy bear pattern to use for the front and back of the sweater!

PS - if you need info on felting wool sweaters in your washing machine here are Sweater Felting Instructions also shared with us by Shira.

Meet the Crafty Mama

toby show Who: Jonah Lisa Dyer of The Toby Show is a hilarious mom-blogger whom I recently stumbled upon. Where has she been all my parenting life? A screenwriter who was a professional actress and stand up comic in her prior big city New York life, she now lives in small-town Idaho.

No, she doesn't sell crafty baby stuff so she doesn't fit the mold of our past features, but she is a crafty mama. Her blog covers everything from Cheap & Easy craft projects to Postpartum Perineum Care to the Sheriff's Log of her rural community - which is laugh out loud funny. Actually, most of it is.

She has a 3 year old boy, Huck, and since doing this interview, she gave birth to a little girl! Although her son pushed for the name "Blue Car" apparently he didn't win. Welcome little Jemima Plum! Congratulations Jonah Lisa & family!

bean bagsWhat lead up to starting The Toby Show? 

I guess it was the convergance of being a mom, being a writer, and then feeling like I still needed a performance outlet.  Even when you're dispensing information, personalities and humor really come through on blogs.  I have been away from acting and doing stand up for a long time and needed a space to put myself out in the world again, but without fully diving back in to that world.  There aren't really performance venues for that sort of thing here in my neck of the woods and I'm not interested in moving back to one of the coasts or secondary markets right now.  But in my soul, I'll always be a performer.

What does the name mean?

Toby Shows were these tent shows that used to travel the country like the circus.  The shows had singing, dancing, magic, whatever, but the main set piece would be a short play staring a red-headed country bumpkin named Toby. Toby always used homespun humor and down-to-earth wit to save the day and win the girl.  I know, it's a little obscure.  One of the only benefits to a Bachelor's degree in theatre is that I know these kinds of things.  Anyway, the name fit because I'm a performer, I was raised in Texas and now live in rural Idaho and I have red hair.  Plus, I knew I wanted the blog to be about variety.

What is your main source of inspiration for what you write?

As dorky as it sounds, I guess my journey through motherhood.  I mean it does color everything doesn't it?  I do try to imagine what my readers will be interested in and am often inspired by things people say in comments or send me in emails.  I also read a lot of different blogs online from crafts to economics to humor to politics so there's always something to spark the little dry brush piles in my brain.  

felt food

What was your goal when you started your blog and have you reached it?

All the blah blah blah about wanting a creative outlet is certainly true.  I wanted a space to put my thoughts or to vent or be funny or to share some idea or bit of knowledge.   Not to mention, my husband and I are screenwriting partners and I no longer work outside the home so having something that is all me is nice as well.  On those fronts it's been a been totally successful venture for me.  But I'll be perfectly frank, I was also looking at blogging as a potential way to bring in a little extra scratch down the road.  I told myself I'd do it for one year with no financial intentions.  Just build up my readership and see if I liked doing it.  And then, if I did (and I do) I'd look around and think about how to monetize the blog.   I'm right at a year and I've got a great loyal following of readers, so I'm thinking in that direction now.  People use their blogs as platforms in so many interesting and appealing ways--selling goods, speaking engagements, advertisements, launching other blog ideas, reviewing products, magazine and webzine writing work, books.  I'm noodling all that stuff and really in the process of looking for a second year goal.

What is your least favorite part about blogging?

I guess editing.  I tend to call something done maybe one step too early so I end up with stupid mistakes and typos, which then make me furious when I notice them later.  I need to just cowboy up and take the time to proof read better.  I also hate social media.  I know all the reasons why it works and I know that better participation would enhance my traffic but I just really suck at tweeting and digging and stumbling and all that jazz.  It just feels like a step more than I can handle along with mothering and writing and everything else.  

crayons homemade When do you find the time to create and then write?

Sometimes I do stuff during Huck's naptime, but that's slowing going away .  Or on certain mornings when we don't have anything planned and he's getting to watch a DVD, I'll sit and work on a craft project.  My craft room is actually the unfinished bathroom that's in our basement playroom.  So I'm right there with the door open while he's playing and we're both back and forth between the spaces.  I mainly blog at night after he's asleep.  I write things up and then set them to post the following morning.  And every once in a while I have a late night or just a burst of creativity and I write up a bunch of posts in advance and then take some days off.  I just take the time as it comes and use a mix of writing posts about where I am right then and writing more informative posts (how to's, recipes, etc) ahead of time to dole out over the week.  That's the interesting thing about blogs, it can all seem so unscripted and like that person is constantly doing and making and thinking.  Like good stand up comedy, it can feel very "in the moment."  The truth is often quite different.  Or at least it is for me.

What are your tips on balancing your online life and family?

My tips?  I was hoping that if I did this interview, you be willing to tell me yours.  Honestly, I haven't figured it out yet and it's only going to get harder when this new baby arrives.  I guess one tip is not to have television.  We watch movies on DVD occasionally but don't have TV hook up.  I'm not sure I'd get anything done if I had television AND internet.  But I think another important tip is that true balance between family and anything else may be an illusion.  It's more like a see saw.  The balance shifts back and forth.  You go too far one way so you just kick off the ground, have that brief moment of equanimity as you pass center, and then it's a little too far in the other direction for a while.  Then back again.  The thing that's really hard to remember is that see saws are supposed to be fun.  You know?  Not just a constant struggle to stay perfectly balanced in the center.  That said, I do have certain days and certain times of day when I just don't mess with the computer.  We've also recently instigated a media free Sunday at our house where there are no movies or computer use and it feels really right for us.


What do you do to ensure that you don't burn out?

My blog tends to be all over the place.  When I do get bored with some aspect I just shift my focus.  I might do a week of recipes because I'm into cooking right then.  And then I'll be sick of that and I'll do a week of cheap and easy toys because that's where my interests are right then.  Or I'll read some article and want to step up my environmentalism so I'll have a little spate of posts about that.  I hope that style will keep me from having the big burn out, but I kind of think little burn outs are to be expected with anything and may in fact be healthy.  Like a forest fire.  They can be restorative.   Stand up comedy?  See Saws?  Forest Fires?  Sheesh.  Am I overdoing it with the vaguely philosophical metaphors?  Clearly, giving interviews makes me get all grandiose.

crayons homemadeYou share all sorts of different things on your blog, what are your favorite crafty things to make?

I really love working with felt.  It's so textural and just easy to deal with.  I'm merely crafty, not a real seamstress so I kinda make things up as I go along.  Felt is forgiving and I need that.  Like you, I also love making toys.  It's just fun and rewarding.  The pride I have when my child loves and plays endlessly with a toy I made for him is just beyond belief.  And anything tiny.  I am good at and enjoy the kind small fine work that makes you hunch over and squint.  In fact, all of my craft failures have been on large projects like the time I tried to turn and armoire into a fold out office space.  It was a complete disaster.  The thing weighed about 700 pounds and we abandoned it when we moved out of our apartment in New Jersey.  It's probably still living there.  So I guess my dream craft is some itsy bitsy felt toy.  I loved sitting in bed at night making felt strawberries and teabags for Huck's little kitchen last year.  Which does seem a tad eccentric when you see it in writing.

Any future business plans?  What is next for the Toby Show?

I keep threatening to open an etsy shop to sell my toys and houseware type stuff.  I've said I'm doing it so often now that my readers probably just yawn and roll their eyes.  In the meantime, if you ever see anything you want, just email me and we'll work something out.  I also have a few other blog ideas that I'm noodling.  Again, just searching for the second year goal for my blog.  

What is the one non-kid's product  "must have" item for you as a parent and why?

Well you're catching me in the final weeks of pregnancy so my kneejerk reaction is to say Hostess Donettes or TUMS, but I know that's not what you mean.  I think I have to go with my Zojirushi Bread Maker.  I love it and have stopped buying store bought bread all together.  I'm a kind of a half scratch girl all the way around.  I like things that are sort of homemade but are also really easy and not that time consuming.  I love the idea of homemade bread but I don't quite have the stamina for it so the bread machine is the perfect mommy's helper.  I get the great feeling of doing it from scratch and knowing exactly what I'm feeding my family but without the dough ball that ate Cleveland on the kitchen counter from forgetting about it midway through the process.

Thanks Jonah Lisa! Visit her blog at The Toby Show for tips, crafts and laughs!

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As our site and community grows, I hope that you drop me a line and tell me what crafty baby stuff you are up to! Did you make something that was inspired by something on our site? Pretty please play "show and tell" with the rest of us! Often, having an audience for your crafting is just a kick in the pants that you need to get working.

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