Thursday, March 24, 2011

Superhero capes

River's birthday is coming up and we'll be having a party with a superhero theme per the little man's request.  What kind of overworked mom would I be if I didn't take this as a direct challenge to make 20 capes as party favors?

 Amazingly, I finished the project in three days and there should be enough superhero mojo for each little guest plus a few left over for the preschool dress up closet.  River got to model one of the finished products tonight before bed.

And of course Lila got in on the act, too!

Here's a little breakdown of how I made the capes (which is a SUPER easy - see what I did there? - project that would take about 30 minutes, if you're not crazy and making 20 of them).  Even with that many I found ways to streamline so, if you're proficient with a sewing machine multiple capes are totally manageable.

First, I found this great tutorial for a quick and dirty cape, and I calculated I'd need about 10 yards of bright fleece for 20 capes.  My math was totally off, so if you have any suggestions for what I can do with 3 yards of leftover fleece, by all means pass them along.  :)

 I followed Amy's instructions pretty closely with two exceptions. First, before cutting I layered four pieces of fleece so I could cut multiple capes at once.  Second, I used a rotary cutter instead of scissors.  I imagine this saved the project because I turned 3+ hours of work into 45 minutes. (If you do this method, do not forget to put a cutting mat under the fabric. Your floors will thank you.)

For detailed instructions, please see Amy's tutorial - it's very clear.  After I assembled the capes, I started on the superhero emblems for the back.

I didn't want to make replicas of existing heroes because I like the idea of the kids making up their own.  So I made card stock templates of four different symbols and traced them onto sheets of fusible web.  Basically fusible web sticks one fabric to another fabric (in this case, felt) when you iron it on.  Remember that any image you draw will be reversed when you're done.

 After I had 20 symbols traced, I cut around them, leaving about 1/4 inch outside the line.  I situated these onto different colored felt, covered them with scrap fabric (VERY IMPORTANT IF WORKING WITH FELT!) and ironed them on.

 Once they were secured to the felt, I cut them out on the line and I had my symbols.

 I removed the backing paper, placed them where I wanted on the back of the cape, and (again, using a piece of scrap fabric) ironed it in place.

 Voila!  Wings!

Considering I was making 20 of these things, I was going to cut myself some slack and stop there.  These capes are supposed to be quick and dirty after all, not lifetime keepsakes.  But I knew one trip through the wash and that decal would be shot.  So I decided to stitch the felt to the cape for extra durability, and I'm really glad I did.

 Doesn't this look better? Once I had an assembly line going, it was actually quick work and I'm glad these will stand up to lots of rough play.

Here they are - don't they look pretty?

Lila's cape is a bit smaller than the others (it was from some leftover purple fleece that was just a couple inches shy of Amy's measurements).  It worked out perfectly for toddler size.

River made goofy hero faces in the mirror for about 20 minutes before I ushered him to bath.

My handsome little hero and his friends are going to have such a blast at his party.  I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

River News: Month Forty-Seven

Dear River,

I think it's nearly a year since I've written an update on you.  In that time your sister has turned from an infant to a toddler, you started your first year of preschool, your cousin Kian arrived, and both he and Finn moved away.  I feel like our home has finally settled after the tsunami of changes your sister brought with her.  And you, my little boy, have made some Hulk-sized changes yourself.

Your introduction to school has been such an enormous source of inspiration and growth for you, and in a short time you have learned to navigate new friendships, new authority figures, physical and intellectual challenges, and your role as both leader and student.  Our greatest hope for you, as we walked out of preschool that first day, was for you to learn how work with kids your age, letting go of the "this is what I want to do!" mentality and into a space of negotiation.  And wow! have our expectations been exceeded.  Those first few weeks were hard for you and you spent a lot of time playing alone or trying to strong-arm others into carrying out your grand visions ("We have to make a sand tunnel this way!  No, the bulldozers dig here!") 

But it only took a few weeks for you to realized that collaborating with the other kids brought about much better results, and some of your strongest friendships formed in the sandbox as you plotted designs together with a new ally.  You quickly learned to trust your teachers - two wonderful women who listen to you and respect your ideas while deftly imparting the knowledge that you are not the only person in the universe.  You are now seen as a strong force in your school and your attention sought out by other classmates.  Of course you have idols, some of the bigger kids more adept physically and further along the road to reading.  I love to see you emulating their nobler habits (and yes, cringe when I see you emulating their annoying ones.)

One of your most memorable moments came a few weeks before Christmas break while your class was gearing up for the harvest festival.  You had been reading a book called Tiger Soup that inspired the class to create its own imaginary concoction.  Your teachers had written down and posted all the fantastic ingredient ideas your classmates came up with and at the bottom of the list I saw with a bit of surprise, "River: cumin."  To be honest I was so proud that you had such a sophisticated palate, that some of my cooking knowledge had rubbed off on you.  That night I asked you to tell your father what you added to the "Tiger Soup."  You replied with glee, "HUMAN!"

Oh.  Well that sounds more like you.

This year you have really learned how to be an excellent big brother, taking great care of Lila's safety and happiness.  You've come to the realization that Lila takes up some of our time as parents, and you are very patient (within reason) of her demands.  Of course you lucked out with an exceptionally undemanding sister, one who basically wanders around looking cute and entertaining herself, so it hasn't been that difficult a task for you.  Her adorableness is a huge source of pride for you and you love to show her off and pronounce her victor in imaginary battles having used only her "Cute Ray." 

Of course, your need for affection has not waned, and the constant bear hugs and physical displays aimed at Lila are met with joy (occasionally) or annoyance (frequently).  You've become accustomed to defending yourself after a squeal from Lila elicits the question, "River, what did you do?!"  I'm working very hard not to jump immediately to blame, but come on, you really are the source of most of her outbursts.   As for your affection for mommy… let just say I am The Woman in your life and you might just shrivel up without snuggles from me.

The great tragedy of this year has been the relocation of your beloved Finn to Las Vegas.  The devastation seemed to hit you in waves and weeks would go by before we would hear the requests to "go visit Finn tomorrow."  Your disappointment that it wasn't possible was heartbreaking and the few times you have seen him since have been occasions for great celebration.

As for your interests, in the past year you have gone from an obsession with garbage trucks to dinosaurs, and you have become quite the little paleontologist.  It is an ongoing joke between you and I to distinguish a Stygimoloch from a Pachycephalosaurus and you rattle out those names with authority and ease.  You know the characteristics of a carnivore vs. a herbivore and are familiar with dozens of dinosaurs and their traits.  Your love of knowledge and ever-searching mind is such a source of pride for your father and I.  We love that you are a learner, and we are so proud of your curiosity.

Of course, as I write this dinosaurs are being edged out by superheroes in your affection, and you are quickly becoming an expert in those as well.  You love the idea of a person with amazing powers, someone strong enough to beat evil and avert death.  I came to comic books late in life and usually my choices were off the mainstream superhero tales.  But I'm loving sharing this new obsession with you, and both your dad and I willingly read you endless comic adventures.

It has opened the door for robust physical play - great scenarios of good vs. evil you enact with anyone willing.  Your dad is your favorite punching bag, and he's often greeted with a tackle and an exclamation, "Let's roughhouse!"  When you aren't throwing yourself around an imaginary battleground you love to build with legos or create elaborate forts.  You have a designer's mind and you are always full of innovation and creation.

There is so much more I could say about how you've changed and grown this year, but I think I'll close with some of my favorite quotes:

During a sleepover, after ushering Finn out of your room with the same flimsy excuse for the third time in a row:  "I don't know why Finn has to go pee so many times."
Your favorite way to say yes for about three months: "Yes-a-tootie rumbo!"
Your warning every time Lila would crawl toward Edgar to tackle him with hugs: "Edgar, run for your life!"
The way you tell me you love me more than anything in the world: "I love you to the bellies of Hogar."

Well, my boy, I love you to the bellies of Hogar and I always will.