cousin pajamas

One of my favorite things we did for our reunion last year was make matching pajama bottoms for all the cousins. I always love seeing the cousins all together, but it's especially cute when they all match. We had each kid bring a white t-shirt they already had, just to keep things easy.


I decided to stick with a variety of red and white prints, with lots of dots and subtle stripes. Whatever we had leftover from one fabric became the contrasting trim on the next pair. I got all the fabric from Purl Soho, Joelle is a big fan of dots and stripes so I always know they will have a good assortment. I am lucky enough to live within driving distance of their warehouse in Southern California, which is open to the public several days a week. (You can call 1-800-597-PURL for hours.) They also have a great website, where you can search for things like dots and stripes.

I love the old ironing board we have up at the Midway house, why don't they make things like this anymore? My mom and I cut and sewed all ten pairs of pajamas the two days before the reunion, so I can make these pants in my sleep now. The pattern we used was the Bedtime Story pajamas from Oliver + S, which is now out of print (though you can still find copies if you hunt around online). Not to worry, Liesl just announced a new pajama pattern with a similar pant which is going to be released in early September (you can see it in these photos of their recent booth at Quilt Market).

Family reunions are great. Spending time with our extended family reminds my kids that there is a larger group of people that love them (aunts, uncles, cousins) beyond just their immediate family. I want them to know that we're going through life together, as a group. I think they really feel that at the reunions (and matching pajamas seem to help!).

Top photo by Francesco Lagnese, for Martha Stewart Living


my family

Have you seen the June issue of Martha Stewart Living yet? I'm so excited to share that my family is in this issue, featuring one of our (now famous!) Hellewell family reunions. You can meet my cute mom and dad, my siblings and their spouses, my nieces and nephews, my kids, and even my sweet grandma.

I have great memories of attending family reunions with my dad's extended family when I was a kid, up at the Baxter cabin with all my cousins and aunts and uncles. Now we get together with my parents, and my kids get to run around with their cousins and enjoy the same traditions: the Hellewell Family Olympics, the grandparents walk, dinners outside, games of croquet on the lawn, and late night story telling.

(How cute is my mom? Can you tell her grandchildren LOVE her?)

We shot the story last September, when baby M was just 8 weeks old (so some of this shoot is a bit of a blur to me!). My friend Marcie McGoldrick, who is now the Crafts Editor at Martha Stewart, came out to Utah to help produce the story, along with fellow crafter Shane Powers. Marcie, Shane and I all worked on Martha Stewart Living together years ago, so it was a fun reunion in more ways than one.

Photographer Francesco Lagnese took some beautiful pictures, and even got to try his first root beer float during the shoot. You can see more pictures on his website, just look under the Kids tab, and then go to "Family, Friends + Apples" for a slideshow which includes several photos that didn't make the final story.

You can read more about all our traditions on Martha's site (like these shirts for the kids that show their birth order) in this little guide about planning a family reunion. You can even download the t-shirt and award certificate designs. And my dad is pretty excited that they included his recipe for homemade applesauce.

We are in the midst of planning our next reunion, which will take place this summer in Southern California. Looking back at this story reminds me that it's the simple traditions that make reunions special, not the grand gestures. We're planning on days at the beach, late night card games, outdoor movie night, and cooking s'mores on the bonfire. I can't wait to see all my family together, even if it's just for a few days!


mothers day

It was my turn to teach our preschool co-op this week, and we wanted to do something special for Mother's day. I helped the kids make a portrait for their moms, and I love how they turned out. Here are a few tips if you'd like to do something similar.

1. Draw the initial circle for the head and lines for the neck yourself. (I know this seems kind of like cheating, but it helps the kids all start off on the same ground, and makes sure each portrait fill the frame.)

2. I had each kid draw first with a thin black pen, and color things in afterwards. Give the kids specific directions and have them draw the portrait step by step. For example, we started with the eyes. I drew a portrait too, so I could show them where to put each thing. If they were missing something like eyelashes or eyebrows, I would remind them. Then we moved on to the nose, mouth, hair, etc. I also printed a photo out of their moms, so they could see what her hair looks like and if she has earrings on, I think this helps kids remember little details.

3. Make a frame out of a cardboard box (an exacto knife is the best tool for the job). Then we taped our portraits to the back of the frames and added a little label where each kid wrote "Mom".

As an added bonus, we taped a Mother's Day Questionairre on the back, which you can download here (it prints two to a page). I think this is best suited for kids between the ages of 4 and 6, and I loved hearing the answers kids had for questions like "When my mom grows up, she wants to be ____________." or "I'm going to live with my mom until I ___________." Priceless!



the money jar

I love when traditions are passed down from one generation to the next. When my father was a boy, he had a wonderful grandmother who was always making life a little more exciting. She kept a money jar at her home, and when the grandkids would come over, they each got to reach one hand in and grab all the money they could. Whatever you could pull out of the jar in one handful, you got to keep.

My dad remembers how exciting it was to see all that money in your fist, and my mom remembers my oldest brother getting to put his little hand in the money jar when he was a boy. (Great Grandma Hellewell passed away before I got the chance.)

My parents are now carrying on the tradition with a money jar of their own. My mom says it's easy to keep the jar filled, she and my dad just dump their spare change in (and grandchildren have little hands). It sits on the window sill, and my kids like to stare at all that money that might soon be theirs. On the last day of our trip, I let them reach their hand in and they each take a big handful. We dump their haul into plastic bags which they carry around as if it was pure gold.

Until next time, money jar!


this week's library book

We've been finding some great library books lately, following our library routine. When I saw Mama, Is It Summer Yet? on the shelf a few weeks ago, I recognized Nikki McClure's papercut illustrations. She cuts each picture out of black paper with an exacto knife (can you imagine!). I first discovered her work because a good friend gave me her beautiful baby book The First 1000 Days which I've been trying to fill in for Baby M.

This sweet, repetitive book shows a mother and child getting ready for summer. The child asks "Mama, is it summer yet?".

"Not yet," she answers as they plant their seeds and wait for them to sprout and grow.

They move through the seasons, tending their garden through the springand reading books out on the lawn once it gets a little warmer.

"Is it summer now?"

"Yes! Oh yes, my little one! The honeybees are in the flowers. The sun is warm on your round belly. The berries are juicy and sweet." And now that spring has finally arrived, a nice warm summer is right around the corner.


larry the leprechaun

I'm not usually one to perpetuate my kids beliefs in imaginary creatures, but my children are fascinated by leprechauns. It started last year, which was C's first year in school.. apparently they talk about leprechauns a lot in kindergarten. He decided to build a trap to try and catch a leprechaun, but alas, no luck. All he got was a note from Larry the Leprechaun wishing him better luck next year. (We knew Larry had gone into the trap and looked around because we could see his green footsteps.)

The kids finished their new traps this afternoon, complete with welcome sign, and a nice note on the door that says "Come in!" and a little trail of gold. If only leprechauns were so easily fooled!

Part of the problem might be that we just finished reading The Borrowers by Mary Norton, about a family of tiny people living underfoot, borrowing things from the human beings they live with. I remember loving this book when I was a kid, but I think I jumped the gun a bit on this one.. though they loved the idea of tiny people running around, the language was a little tough for my kids. I think it's better suited for kids 8-11.

Tonight the kids asked if they could sleep downstairs and leave the front door open, just to make sure the leprechauns could get in okay... but I insisted they sleep up in their beds. I'm sure they will be awake before we are, checking their traps and collecting their goodies. Maybe Larry will leave another note.


more last-minute knitted gifts giveaway

If you're a fan of Purl Soho, or of it's owner, Joelle Hoverson, then you probably already know about Joelle's latest book: More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. I first met Joelle when she was working at Martha Stewart as a stylist. A few years later I heard she was opening a yarn shop, called Purl, down on Sullivan Street in SoHo and I popped in to say hello. The store was tiny, but filled to the brim with the most beautiful yarn I had ever seen... it was like a little jewelbox of a store, all styled perfectly. One evening I remember walking past the storefront after closing. Joelle had started teaching classes in the evening and the store was literally packed with knitting students. There was this buzz, this feeling of excitement in the air. A man on the street next to me asked "What's going on? What is THIS?". And I knew that Joelle had started something special.

A few years later I wandered down Sullivan Street again. Joelle was sitting out front on that cute blue bench outside Purl and as I walked up she said "I was just thinking about you!". She was writing a new book about quilting and patchwork, and opening a second store up the street (a fabric store this time) and she needed some design help. I quickly volunteered. Joelle lived just a few blocks from my home in Brooklyn, and we would meet at night in my little office and work out the details of the book (which was later titled Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts) and design things for the new store (which was called Purl Patchwork). Joelle would hold my daughter Bee, who was just a baby then, while we picked out colors and played around with fonts.

I've been designing for Purl Soho ever since. And it's been my pleasure. When I moved to California three years ago, I was worried that Joelle (and her partners Page and Jen) might want a designer close by in New York.. but lucky for me, they've let me continue to work for them remotely. They are such lovely clients, full of amazing ideas and I'm proud of the things they've let me design like knitting patterns, and twill tape, and calendars, and new logos.

When Joelle told me she was starting a third book, I crossed my fingers she would let me design it.  More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts hit the stores in the fall, and here are a few behind-the-scenes shots from the shoot (which was way back in May of 2009!). The photographer for the shoot was the lovely Anna Williams, who also shot Joelle's other two books. Anna is an old friend, who photographs regularly for Martha Stewart Living, where Page, Joelle and I all used to work, so working on these shoots is a bit of a reunion.The projects in this book are beautiful, and most can be knit in a weekend.

Joelle has a lovely home a few hours outside the city and we shot the majority of the book there. She also rented the house next door so we would all have a bed to sleep in and some pretty locations to shoot. One morning I woke up early, the fog had rolled in and the house looked so beautiful.

When I flip through this book, I see my friends. I see Joelle's gorgeous color combinations and Jen's lightning fast knitting and Page's pretty styling and Anna's beautiful light. It reminds me how lucky I am to be a small part of the beautiful things these girls create.

The nice folks at STC: Craft | Melanie Falick Books (an imprint of Stewart, Tabori & Chang) sent me a few extra copies of More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts and I am happy to give one away. Leave a comment below and my little helpers and I will pick a winner Saturday morning, March 19th. Comments will close at 9 AM PST. (Sorry to my international readers, but U.S. residents only...)

And a note about giveaways: I try very hard to keep inchmark non-commercial (which is becoming a rarity these days in the blog world). Please note that inchmark does not offer giveaways for products, books, etc. except in specific cases where I was involved in the creation of the product (i.e. a book I have designed).


sick day

We've had our share of sick days this last week. Luckily it seems to be a pretty fast bug, over and done with in less than 24 hours. But in the meantime we've been cuddled up on the couch reading some of our favorite books, like this one we gave Bee for her birthday, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip and Erin Stead.

I adore this book. Maybe because I love cute little old men, or because the illustrations are so unique, or because the writer and illustrator are married. It's a beautiful book, with a really sweet and simple story, and I'm not the only one who loves it. This book just won the 2011 Caldecott Medal.. and it's the first book Erin Stead has illustrated! The Caldecott! On her FIRST book! Amazing.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee tells the story of a friendly zookeeper who spends his day taking care of various animals..

He plays chess with the elephant, and runs races with the tortoise.. but one morning he wakes with the sniffles and the chills and can't go into work.

So his friends come to check on him. They wait for the bus and ride over to Amos' home.

And take care of him for a change.

One thing we've just started doing when we give books is to trace our hands on the endpapers. (Our friends the Biggs taught us this little trick.. they traced the hands of their whole family into a book they gave us when they moved from NYC). Here is my hand and Bee's on her fifth birthday... she's gaining on me every day.

You can read about how the Steads heard the news of the Caldecott win over here.. I love this quote from Erin: “We work together all day long, every day. We’re each other’s first pass. It would be really different if we didn’t win this as a team.”


bee's tummy

My friend Heather Ross was on TV yesterday, chatting with Martha Stewart while they sewed baby bloomers from Heather's book Weekend Sewing. Good thing, since Heather's expecting a baby of her own this summer! You can watch a clip over at the Martha site.. and even download the template so you can make your own. I designed Heather's book and took my kids with me on several of the shoots, so I got excited because that little baby in the photo is none other than my Bee. Kind of fun to see your baby's cute tummy on TV when you least expect it...


advice from mary poppins

We watched Mary Poppins with the kids this weekend, a movie my five year old had requested. One minute I was tapping along to "Step in Time" and the next minute I was getting a little teary as Bert delivers this wise little rhyme to Mr. Banks:

"You're a man of high position, esteemed by all your peers.
And when your little tikes are crying, you haven't time to dry their tears.
And see their grateful little faces, smiling up at you.
Because their dad, he always knows just what to do.

You've got to grind, grind, grind at that grindstone.
Though childhood slips like sand through a sieve,
All too soon they've up and grown.. And then they've flown.
And it's too late for you to give."

I watched my 6 year old ride down a huge hill on his bike yesterday, flying down as fast as he can, weaving in and out of obstacles in his way. My firstborn, my little boy.. all grown up it seems. Marching off to first grade with his backpack slung over his shoulder, spending more waking hours at school than he does at home. And I keep thinking "When did this happen?". When I look at him I still see my baby boy, his bright eyes and tiny fingers. I get busy just being in the thick of it everyday, but every once in a while I stand back and think... this is all flying by way too fast.