Friday, June 29, 2012

Our shop is live and other exciting news

We have a couple of exciting announcements!

First, we have a winner for our drawing on to purchase a Good Fortune doll: Karli Zearley!  Good Fortune dolls are rare opportunities where YOU, the buyer, get to design the perfect doll right down to the color scheme of the outfits.  Karli is requesting a special little doll that resembles her soon to be 2 year old daughter Izzi.  She sent along pictures of her sweet little girl and let me tell you its going to be a challenge making a doll as gorgeous as little Izzi.  We will do our best though and we're confident that Izzi will love her Tansy doll.  :D

I have to say that planning for the Good Fortune doll's clothing is a lot of fun.  One of the things I love about sewing is picking out fabric, but I find myself drawn to the same color combinations repeatedly.  It is not on purpose; I just tend to gravitate to the same colors...true reds, deep blues, cheerful aquas, rustic browns, and spring greens.  

Karli has requested sherberty pinks, yellows, oranges, greens, and teal.  I am loving this opportunity to work with some colors that I might not normally try out.  I have some lovely cottons in my stash that will definitely work, but I think a trip to the store is in call so I can find that perfect fabric for Izzi's doll.  *Oh, darn!*  Ha!  I love any excuse to visit the fabric store.   

Stay tuned next Friday for updates on how the trip to the store went and for a sneak peek at the fabrics I am considering.  If you are interested in a custom doll, follow us on Twitter or Facebook (tabs at the top of the blog will take you to the right place) for updates on the next opportunity to enter a drawing to purchase one!

Our second bit of big news is that our store is finally live!  Woohoo!!!  Visit our Etsy shop at to see the first two dolls for sale.  We will also be selling a limited supply of doll clothing!

And speaking of doll clothing.  I seriously have to stop myself from designing new clothes, but its so much fun.  I had to start an inventory of doll clothing that I could reference to keep myself accountable.  Until I build up enough stock for the clothing designs I have already created I need to restrain myself from creating more.  ;)

Okay, I'm off to wake up my little one to start our day.  I'll leave you with a sneak peek of a shirt and pair of pants I made this past week.  


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Canning with Kids

Hello, folks!

Well, yesterday I took the day off doll making in order to do some canning. Max, my 4-year-old, helped so I thought today I'd give you guys my tips on canning with kids.

Now, Max loves to cook. The measuring, mixing, and resulting goodies are all right up his alley, though the waiting, being careful, and more waiting are less his thing. As a result, all of our most successful cooking ventures are like specially choreographed dances. I do a bunch of prep and setup, call him in for his favorite parts, then send him off to play (trains, usually) while I clean up the kitchen and set up for phase 2 (if there is one) or for tasting (if there's not).

Canning is no exception. He loves to be involved, taste, and take credit, but doesn't have quite enough interest to stand around for the whole thing. So below is my process for letting him feel the joy of cooking and canning within his current attention span. Note, I'm not going to give you a tutorial on making jam or canning, because there are tons of those all over the web. Instead, take your favorite recipe and use it with these tips. To start, I'd highly recommend buying the low-sugar pectin and following the recipe on the jar.

First, get your kiddo to help you with getting the raw materials. We like to go to a local U-pick farm and spend a good part of the day picking. This may actually be Max's favorite part of jam making! He runs up and down the rows, eats his weight in berries, and sometimes even gets some to stay in his bucket. On Monday when we went to the farm he also spotted a bird's nest, made friends with a caterpillar, and saw some beautiful spider webs. The farm we go to has a barn where you can visit the animals as well, which is always a hit. Here's some of our haul:

Next, Max helps get all the jars in the dishwasher for sterilizing. Then I get all of our supplies; the pot, measuring cups, potato masher, spoon, sugar, pectin, etc. We make low-sugar pectin-added jam ourselves. What's your favorite?

Then I wash and prep the fruit. I also have to keep a tasting bowl of berries available. : )  
Once I get the fruit and water in the pot, Max comes in, washes his hands, and gets to use the potato masher to squish up all the berries. Then he measures the pectin, the sugar, and helps get out and count the jars. Once we're to the stirring and waiting part he disappearing to check on his trains. Here's him mashing the strawberry jam:

Once I'm pouring it into the jars he shows back up to counts how many jars we made. That, and he knows it's almost tasting time! Once the full jars are in the water bath canner he gets to do the taste testing. This is his second favorite part. : D
Usually he sits around in the kitchen once the jars come out so he can hear them ping! as the seals set.
There you go! As far as Max is concerned he made all the jam and he had a great time; I have a dozen jars of delicious homemade jam, and the house is still in one piece. I love getting him involved in the kitchen, but my sanity requires that I do this prep work. 

One other note: there are a lot of canning gadgets out there, many of which I think are silly and unnecessary. There are two, however, that I highly recommend. First, jar tongs; nothing else holds the jars securely and there's no bigger bummer than dropping a jar of fresh jam for want of a pair of tongs. Second, a canning funnel; I was amazed at how big a difference this made. My counter is pretty jam-free and there was very little rim cleaning needed. For a total of about $10 these make the whole process much nicer. 

But most important: the fished product! Store-bought jam just doesn't hold a candle to homemade. And I love that we took it from farm to shelf ourselves; it makes every slice of toast and PB&J just a little better. :)

Do you have any cooking or canning with kids tips to share? I'm always happy to hear new ideas!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Only a few days left to go? Only a few days left to go!!!

Man, these last few months have really flown by for me. It's been such a labor of love figuring out all that goes into making truly quality products (nope that pattern didn't work...okay re-do, those heads look wonky...okay, these new ones rock, wait, I'm supposed to do what with the embroidery thread?) and then turning around and sharing them with the world. Soon. Sharing them soooooooooon.

Whew, its been a challenge, but oh so much fun. Cady, Robin, and I like to get together once a week to catch up over coffee, let the kids play, and show & tell the progress that we've made. These days include a lot of squealing (from me) over the high cuteness-factor.

I look forward to those days. And now, that Launch Day is approaching (this Thursday! Gah!) I can already feel my days filling up with hard work, details, and most importantly - good intentions. These little beauties that we're making have really come to life and I'm just so darn proud of us.

So far, Tansy Dolls has been such a strong collaborative effort. When something doesn't go as planned (like my labor-intensive photoshoot last night *sigh*) we really have relied on each other to see things in a different light and figure out those pesky tidbits that would absolutely drive me insane if I didn't have some help.

So, I guess what I'm saying is - thx Robin and Cady, you gals are awesome & I'll shout it from the rooftops! I'm so honored to begin this adventure with you ladies. Now, hold on tight, the ride's about to begin. :)


Friday, June 22, 2012

The crafty parent dilemma

I've been busy designing and making doll clothing for the past month.  Most of the time, I craft at night when Aria is asleep.  But she is well aware that I can "make stuff" because miraculously in the morning she awakes to find doll clothing or whatever else I've been working on.  This awareness that momma is crafty has led Aria to concoct a growing list of costumes and toys she would like me to make.  And generally, the items selected for the wish list come about in the following way...

A few days ago, Aria watched Totoro for the first time.

I'm a big fan of Ghibli films.  First, they are just brilliant pieces of animated cinema.  Second, most of them feature a strong female protagonist which is so important to me. I want Aria to see girls who are more than secondary characters; girls with big personalities who are living full lives that go beyond worrying about princes and looking pretty.  Now, there isn't anything wrong with dreaming about princes or wanting to look your best, but considering she is only four years old I would rather if neither of those things were high on her to do list.  I love the Ghibli films because most of the main characters are kids and despite the sometimes amazing situations they find themselves in they still behave like children.  The folks at Studio Ghibli have a talent for capturing the wisdom, the courage, and the spirit of children in such a beautiful way.

Her first Ghibli film was Ponyo and she loved it.  In fact, she insisted on being Ponyo for Halloween, which of course involved me making her a Ponyo dress, complete with big white bloomers and ham.  I don't believe anyone knew who she was supposed to be, but Aria knew and that is all that mattered.

Anyhow, I digress.
A few days ago, Aria watch Totoro for the first time.

She actually watched it twice in one day.  The first time with daddy and the second with me.  My child is a total plot spoiler by the way.  As the movie credits were running, Aria was silent for a moment before speaking up.

Aria: Momma, can you make a Totoro?
Me: Uhm...probably.
Aria: Okay.  I want one Totoro!
Me: Wait...what?!
Aria: No!  I want two, no THREE Totoros.  I want a little white one, a blue one, and a GINORMOUS one.

Oi.  Sometimes being crafty gets you in all kinds of fixes.  

Although...she'd make an awfully cute Mei.  Perhaps I could make her a Mei outfit to go with the three Totoros she has requested. 


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Portable crafting

First off, we have our first giveaway winner! Congratulations, Laurel Miller! She is the lucky winner of matching doll and child tutus, to be sent out next week. If we're very lucky she'll send us some awesome pictures to share with you. : )  

There will be lots more giveaways in the future, so be sure to check here and like us on Facebook so you don't miss any! Ok, on to today's post...

You may have noticed by now that we ladies of Tansy Dolls all have very different specialties. Robin makes our beautiful sewn doll clothing, Lesley gives all the lovelies life with adorable faces and glorious hair, and I do the yarn goodies. We all sew dolls, and consult heavily with each other, but certainly have our specialties.

Now, of course I would say this, but I'm the lucky one! In this case, I say that because my crafts are the easiest to travel with. It's tough to lug a sewing machine everywhere and the sheer amount of fabric, hair yarn, thread, etc. my partners need make their parts somewhat less portable. I, however, can grab a skein of yarn and a hook or needles and I'm good to go. (Yes, that would be gloating.)

Last weekend, my husband decided that what he wanted most for Father's Day was a camping trip so off we went! This time we headed to the beach. It was foggy, but I actually like that (being from Northern CA we like our beaches cool and foggy) and it wasn't too hot.

It was tons of fun. How does this tie into me being lucky? My husband was kind enough to do the driving, so I got to sip iced coffee and make doll clothes the whole drive there! I also got to knit a bit at the beach. However, I went to finish the crochet skirt I was working on for the drive back, only to find my crochet hook had snapped. I tried to just be a passenger, but I'm really bad at that.

Instead, I stubbornly finished the skirt with the stub of the hook. Yuck! If you were every wondering: yes, they make them that long on purpose. But I still got to finish! And I just learned that even portable crafts need some consideration. Next time, I'll pack metal hooks. : D


Monday, June 18, 2012

Raising Daddies

I hope everyone had a wonderful Father's Day this weekend! Ours was spent visiting grandpas and celebrating with cousins in sunny Nevada & Utah (sorry Robin and Cady - I heard it was rainy in Portland) :D Okay, I'll stop gloating now. ;)

This isn't my first Father's Day honoring my wonderful hubby, but it is my first with another sweet boy in my life - our new son, Ever. I've been thinking lately about the healing power of dolls and how children really need a sweet snuggly companion in their life. Robin, Cady, and I have been putting our heads together about how we can serve some children who may find it hard to find dollies that they can identify with (some exciting donations are coming up...stay tuned).

In that vein: boys and dolls. Oh, how my heart smiles when I see a boy with a little lovlie. Caring for, cooking food, tucking in, changing diapers, nursing their babies - the work of children that is so very important. Playing, exploring, and we all know...really practicing and preparing, moving forward,  and growing into themselves. When I see a little boy nurturing his doll, what I think is, "Now, this little guy is going to be a great Dad someday."

And now I have a little boy to love.  A little boy whose first birthday is approaching! A little boy whose mama needs to make a special little one for him to squeeze and snuggle and kiss goodnight.

And one day, if he chooses to have children of his own, I hope that he'll request that this Grandma provide some comfort and warmth to his little dudes in the form of dollie-love.
(this pic is not of my cutie-patoots, but of a boy I sure do love)

Happy Fathers Day, guys!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Payment in Rainbow

The morning of the first official Tansy Doll photo shoot, I woke up Aria and let her know what the day was going to hold for her. She eyed me suspiciously and said sleepily, "Hmm...I think I will frown for all the pictures."

Well.  What can you say to that?  I attempted to convince her that it would be fun, that she'd be with her two best pals, that there would be yummy things to eat, and that she'd get to try on all her fun clothes. 

She didn't seem particularly convinced. 

"Momma, I know!  I will make an ANGRY face for every picture."  

Okay.  Great.  She went from frowning to angry faces.  Not exactly what I was hoping for.

It dawned on me that I had made a couple of super sweet doll tutus the night before.  One of them was in rainbow, which just so happens to be a favorite in this household.  Congratulating myself on my genius, I offered to make her a rainbow tutu that her dollies and stuffed animals could wear.  

She peered at me; the signs of a smile at the corner of her mouth.  

"For me to keep?"

"Yes, Aria, for you to keep."

"Just like MY rainbow tutu?"

"Yes, Aria, just like your rainbow tutu."

She nodded her head in agreement and we shook on it.  We actually did shake hands.

She upheld her end of the deal.

See?  No frowns or angry faces!

And here is my absolute favorite from the day.  Aria with her friend Stella.

She managed to convince me that it would make far more sense to let her have the one I already made and make another for Tansy Dolls.  She is a smart one.  ;)  Here is Piggy looking awfully grand in the rainbow tutu. I'm off to whip together some tutus for Tansy Dolls!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A is for Alpaca!

We went to the Fair this weekend! It was just the county fair, and pretty small, but there was a train ride involved so Max was happy. He won a stuffed red puppy by throwing beanbags and got to shoot in one of those squirtgun races too, so it was lovely all around.

He also had a really good time feeding all the animals in the petting zoo. They must specially train those rascals to not nibble fingers because he stuck several digits all the way in their mouths and still managed to come out with all ten.

Our last stop was a booth set up by a local alpaca farm. There were a couple of friendly alpacas and lots of fiber, from raw fleece and batts, to yarn, clothes, and blankets. We wandered up to meet the alpacas and Max immediately went over to pick me some fiber.

The lady tending the booth tried to politely shoo him off by saying "Oh, honey; those aren't for you. There are some cute hats over here, though. That stuff isn't for playing with."

"I know, it's for spinning. Mommy, this one is sooooo soft!"

You can always spot the crafter's kid.

The lady recovered admirably and instead tried to get him to talk me into buying way more. He proceeded to lecture her about spinning while she listened solemnly.

We also got to "ooh" and "aah" over a very nice Ashford spinning wheel in the craft pavilion, which let me drop many unsubtle hints to my hubby.

It was a great day, but I was very ready to come home and spin, which I did promptly (even before feeding the family). He's right; that one is soooooo soft!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Picking a 'fave'

I know things are going right with creative endeavors when I just can't stop smiling. I'm zee face & hair artiste here at Tansy Dolls and with each sweet little shimmer I stitch into their eyes I inevitably think, "ooooh, this one is officially my favorite!" But, oh, how can I choose just one, anyway?

They are all so unique in their own way and my concept of them change as all the details of assembling them come together. I've found myself convinced that one or two have only hit the "pretty great" mark and then I pile on that gorgeous hair and am shocked at how lovely they look! Can you tell I'm having fun? hah.

This little beauty here has absolutely vibrant red hair (can someone please find a dye that will make my hair look like that?) mixed with thick purple locks hand-spun by Cady.

*sigh* Some lucky person gets to snuggle with this dollie soon, but for now, she's mine to admire.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Crafty Adventures

Crafting is in my blood.  For as long as I can remember, I have loved creating things with my own hands.  My earliest memory is sorting through my grandmother Betty’s button box.  I loved pulling out the shiny metal and sparkly glass buttons and stashing them in my makeshift treasure box.  She always had the best stash of craft supplies...fabric scraps, buttons, lace, and trim. Such things appealed to the 6 year old little girl that I once was (actually...wait, those things still appeal to me).

So here I am getting ready to embark on a glorious and new craft adventure with my good friends, Cady and Lesley.  I hope you will join us on this exciting journey.  Tansy Dolls is about so much more than making and selling beautiful handmade dolls.  It’s about the start of a new family, one that is founded on friendship, parenting, crafting, and loads of coffee.  We want you to be a part of this family too!  So please stick around and join the conversation.

Here's a sneak peak at one of the tutus that will be available in our shop soon.  It is my favorite color combination.  I never thought I had a favorite color until I actually took a look at my bead box and fabric stash.  Everything is in shades of blue and green. What colors are you rather partial to?


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's paint a sheep

"Mom, can we get a sheep today?"

"A sheep? Like a real one?"


"Why do you want a sheep?"

"'Cause then I could paint it all sorts of colors and you could make the wool into yarn and then make me a toy and it would be all the best pretty colors 'cause I painted it."

"Well, yes, but we could just buy some wool. We can even dye it together if you like, so you can pick the colors."

*he looks at me like I'm dense*
"But Mom, it would be lots more fun to paint a sheep!"

Well, he's got me there.

Yes, this is a near-verbatim conversation I had recently with my four-year-old. He's getting quite the education on the sheep-to-sweater process thanks to all my hobbies. He gets downright annoyed if I wash and dry fleece without him. He even has his own salad spinner for drying wool which he took to school for sharing day. I suppose I should have expected it was only a matter of time before he asked for a sheep, but the logic behind it was both surprising and adorable. I still said no to the sheep.

Instead, we went to a local fiber store and he got to pick some roving for me to spin. The owner sat back and watched, rather bemused, as he looked through the roving, trying to pick. He touched and pet, and put it against his face. He picked a handful he liked the best, all of which were merino or alpaca blends that had been handpainted. That kid's got wicked-expensive taste already. I may have to start raising animals and hand-dying just to save money. ;D


Monday, June 4, 2012

New Beginnings

The long awaited Springtime in Portland is finally here! Everyone's gardens are waking up and those gray rain cloud start to vanish (erm...I said start to...hah).

It seems like my creative impulse sort of flies off the handle as soon as that first sunny day arrives.

This spring is especially full of new creative life around these parts. The birth of Tansy Dolls is upon us, ladies! Are you feeling that nesting instinct yet? I sure am. Oh, all the vibrant colors of yarn! Oh, those cute little faces! Oh, those sweet outfits! Oh, the happy children! Squeeeeee!!

So, without further adieu, enjoy some pix of this lovely gal. She's one of our first 'babies' born on this fun journey of doll making we're about to take part in. I already have this sense that I'll look back on these early blog posts and think warmly, "this is when it all began." :)