Saturday, December 18, 2010

Handmade goodness

Shhh!  Don't tell.  But I've been hard at work making Christmas presents.  The snow and ice have kept us indoors for days, and I've already got this wee mouse finished and wrapped up under the tree.  There is going to be one happy little boy Christmas morning when he unwraps his very own Jeremy Mouse!

Kitty Bill has been smitten with the image of Jeremy Mouse fighting the dragon in Reg Down's book The Festival of Stones.  It's only a line drawing, but something about it really touched him deeply.  In the picture Jeremy is brandishing a straw sword and adorned with an oak leaf shield and an acorn cap helmet.  He's preparing to fight the dragon in a celebration of Michaelmas, where we slay our own inner dragons.

This was a very simple toy to make up, combining three easy and free patterns.  For Jeremy I used the Holiday Mouse pattern.  His shield is made from Natural Suburbia's wonderful Autumn Oak Leaf pattern, only I used fingering weight yarn and size US # 2 needles.  Then I embellished it with a bit of embroidery to give it some added color.  The acorn helmet is made from the pattern Wee Twee Tiny Acorn Tutorial, only I made it a little bit bigger than the pattern calls for, then I attached it with a bit of elastic beading string.  The sword is made from straw and string.

Now, those of you who have the newer edition of the Tiptoes series might be asking yourself, "Why on earth did she make Jeremy Mouse gray?  Everyone knows he's brown; he's right there on the cover!"  We don't have the newer books, and if you ask my children, 2 out of 3 would say he's gray.  After seeing the newer covers online, I took a poll.  Kitty Bill was adamant that Jeremy is a gray mouse just like the ones we've been catching in our garage this winter. (Don't worry, we have a catch and release program.)

Sunburst's present is a bit more complicated.  I saw her eying a knit horse in Jan Messent's Knit a Fantasy Story, so I thought I would give it a shot.  I mean, how hard could a horse be?

Really hard, apparently.  The knitting isn't so complex, but the fitting of the pattern just right onto the frame of the horse leaves a bit to be desired.  I've been working at it steadily every night this past week, and in the end I think she'll really like it.  I mean, it's a horse after all.  Sunburst lives and breathes them.

I still haven't figured out what I'm making for Moonshine yet.  I have too many ideas, and at the top of that list sits teeny tiny dolls and a hand-painted matryoshka. We'll see which one I can pull off in time.

Every year I find myself crafting down to the wee hours of Christmas morning.  I don't expect this year will be any different, and why should it be?  I truly enjoy it.  When we lived in the states Einstein and I made nearly every present for them, but once we moved to Europe and found ourselves surrounded by so many lovely natural toys, it became less necessary.  It's incredibly hard to resist an entire store packed full of Ostheimer figures, Käthe Kruse dolls, and Holzkram goodies.  But I'm very careful to remember that the toys they often love best are the ones I make for them.  It's almost as if they can feel the love that went into every stitch, every knit and purl, every hand-painted detail.

Yesterday we spent some time recalling the different ways we celebrated last Christmas, and they got around to remembering their presents.  Easily they remembered the handmade gifts, and then they went very quiet as they tried to remember what else they had unwrapped from under the Christmas tree.  It wasn't a bonanza of store-bought gifts, but surprisingly, it took them a very long time to remember.

The kids just headed out for an hour of sledding fun, so it's time for me to get back to finishing up all this handmade goodness before my time runs out.


  1. I've had many fails as homemade presents but I've found what they remember most are the homemade ones (when they aren't a flop) and the time spent together. I've taken this lesson to heart this year and have not really gotten much for them instead a handmade gift for each and some books. The rest of the family will, I'm sure, make up for it.

  2. My boys love Jeremy Mouse very much too. Your Jeremy is just perfect with lots of character and he is going to have a very special place in a little one's heart. We have the older book too. I see there are some new books out by Reg Down.
    I've made the dragon from Jan Messents's book and it certainly is a process fitting over a frame. Your horse is going to be fantastic. Happy making!

  3. Wonderful!! I don't know Jeremy Mouse, but I love the one you made! You make it sound so easy ;)

  4. I love, love, love your Jeremy!! That particular scene in the story was re-enacted over and over here at our house as you said, there is something about that image that gets inside these little ones! I hope you'll share a peek at the horse once you've finished looks like its going to be phenomenal!

  5. Oh Sara, you are so talented. Your children are truly blessed.

  6. Anonymous7:53 PM

    Not that I ever truly forget how amazing you are, but whenever I read your blog, I am still astounded by your matchless creativity and talents. I can't wait to see what you make for well as the finish horse (with the butt sewn up)!

  7. what a terrific jeremy mouse!! bravo, mama! can't wait to ask my children what color he is. :) i'd love to see how that horse comes along. that is way out of my skill range!!

  8. Hi Sara, I happened upon your blog and saw your picture of Jeremy Mouse. I didn't realize that his color was controversial! To me he is a field mouse (shades of brown) and not a house mouse (gray) ... but you cannot argue with a child's imagination! What they imagine is right for them. May I copy the photograph for the reader's album I started on Tiptoes' website? Plus link and credit, of course. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wish you the best New Year.

  9. Yes, of course! Please feel free to copy the photograph. We have since made a Jemima mouse at my son's request, perhaps I can send you that picture as well.

    As for field mice and house mice, we have primarily gray mice here in N. Switzerland... though whether they originate in the fields or the barns, I couldn't say.

  10. Hi Sara, I posted your handiwork on the album page. A picture of Jemima Mouse (the first ever!) would be great! Cheers - Reg


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