Spring Break: Mrs. Grossman’s Stickers

I grew up going somewhere every school break. My parents loved to travel and I was always thrilled to join them(even into adulthood). The logistics of traveling long distances with 4 children are complex, but that doesn’t mean we stay home! One of the great things about California is how many diverse destinations there are within mini van distance. This year we’re visiting Sonoma, without going to a single vineyard. Our first stop? Mrs. Grossman’s sticker factory in Petaluma. Andrea Grossman was one of the pioneers of decorative stickers, and her company is the last one to continue manufacturing their stickers in the USA- basically your only shot at seeing how stickers are made firsthand without leaving the country. The tours are reservation only, and they hand out SO many free stickers as you go! 

 Here we are standing in front of 6 month supply rolls of stickers. My insane sticker-collecting 8 year old self would have probably fainted at this point. They gave out a little sticker project at the end 

 But we still had to visit the gift shop, right? The biggest hits with the kids were their sticker grab boxes and something I hadn’t seen before called Peel and Play– sturdy vinyl stickers and scenes. My middle daughter is the storyteller and had so much fun playing “story hour” with her Noah’s Ark set.

   She’s also a big organizer, and enjoyed laying alllll of her stickers out to put them in order.

 Of course we couldn’t keep all the sticker goodness to ourselves! Each child packed up little envelopes of fun to send to friends back home. 

 

What’s up next? The Jelly Belly jelly bean factory in Fairfield. Stay tuned…

Hard Working Bunny

The Easter bunny works hard at our house! Marking Easter eggs with everyone’s initials, filling them with treats, hiding them all over the garden. Not to mention putting together exciting Easter baskets for 4 children.  

    
 This year the, ahem, Easter bunny stayed up way past her bedtime to sew a stuffed patchwork bunny for the baby, because she can’t hunt for eggs and her Easter basket was so sad and bare without the candy and chokey toys the big kids got . 

   
The good news is, she really liked it, and the happy smiles of little children make the Easter bunny’s late nights worth it(as long as someone leaves the bunny some coffee in the kitchen) 

    
 

Hello, Dolly: Part 2

The baby obliged with another good nap in her crib when the others were at school, so I had a chunk of time to work on my rag doll. I stuffed her legs firmly  with small pieces of wool stuffing(I’ve learned my lesson before, rushing and ending up with a lumpy or floppy doll). Then I sewed the legs to the unstuffed body per the book’s instructions 

 Then I continued to patiently stuff the doll body with small tufts of stuffing, packing them into the corners with my chopstick until the doll felt nice and sturdy. I whip stitched up the stuffing hole in the back and marked the placement of eyes and mouth with pins, then stitched away! 

 I must say I’m pretty happy with her face. Those star stitches are just dreamy as eyes. I decided to give her soft pink hair cut from a cashmere maternity sweater that was hole-y and felted from the wash. The hair is one area where the book could give more guidance in the way of pictures of the back of the dolls’ heads. I went with vertical strips around the back of the doll’s head, and one horizontal one along the top to cover the overlapping strips. 

    
 The baby woke up at this point, so here I am 

 All ready to stitch down the rest of her hair and start working on clothes and accessories.

Hello, Dolly: Part 1

  
I love rag dolls. I’ve taken several workshops and made numerous Waldorf-style dolls since I had children. Of course none of my children has shown the slightest bit of interest in them, and I’m constantly rescuing them from the floor and lovingly re-dressing and tucking them into a basket or on a shelf. Here’s hoping my 5 month-old turns out to be a doll-lover. 

I became an admirer of Jess Brown’s whimsical handmade dolls in their gorgeous Liberty and Erica Tanov-print clothes, with their starry eyes and heart-shaped lips, the moment I first encountered one in my favorite San Francisco shop, Nest, at least 10 years ago. Over the years, I was always happy to run into one in other lovely, quirky shops in the Bay Area. If a Jess Brown doll held court in a store, chances are it was my kind of place. Imagine my delight to find that she has published a book with Chronicle, complete with a pattern for a pint-sized version of her iconic doll! I had the book in hand and got started as soon as I could. 

I traced the pieces for the doll from the pattern sheet included with the book

 Pinned them to pressed, undyed muslin

 
And started sewing  
It is a pattern without too many pieces or fiddly bits, but it does require paying attention to the directions and being “careful and patient” especially when turning those long, slim arms right side out!

I was able to get this far before the baby woke up from her nap: 

 I’ll pop in with another installment as soon as I sneak some time in the sewing room!