Who do you think you are?

30-something mother, wife, lawyer, writer, design junkie, craftaholic, cook

likes: clever tools, snazzy colors, working for justice, kid wrangling, Meyer lemons

dislikes: inefficiency, civil discovery, most shades of purple, Tori Amos

What? You want my life story?

My Shop


The Twitter


 In Your Reader

 In Your Email

Entries in halloween (3)


Fire Drill

Photo © 2009 David Mandel // Ampersand IndustriesSo my brilliant plan last year to craft a Halloween costume that would get two years of wear was dashed this year when it became clear that the kiddo was determined to be a fireman for halloween. Grr.

My new job, coupled with a startling and uncharacteristic flash of clarity on the subject, meant there was no way I would be sewing a fireman costume from scratch this year. But. (There is always a "but.")

First, I caught a lucky break back in September when Target had fireman rain boots on sale for $10. This was a total score because he needed rain boots anyway. Or so I rationalized.

Then while my husband and I were on our first vacation in, like, EVER, the kiddo's grandparents took him to the local fire museum (who knew?) where they GAVE him a fire hat. Come. On.

So now I had to do something about the jacket, right? But, I will admit, I just wasn't inspired. I perused some web sites with handmade costumes, though, and got some ideas. And then I looked up and it was Friday. October 30th. And I had done nothing. Well, not nothing. I had shopped for a black sweatshirt and for yellow duct tape. I couldn't find the duct tape so I bought yellow vinyl used for walls (Wall Pops, I think they're called). But they'd lain totally ignored for days, and now the big day was nearly upon us.

Once again, I caught a lucky break, and got off a little early from work on Friday. I cut off the cuffs and hem of the sweatshirt and up the center of it. I added a yellow felt collar, and then I cut out strips of the vinyl to seal the edges and make stripes around the arms and jacket. It was a little dodgy to do because the vinyl is repositionable (nifty!), and so I was a little concerned about the jacket holding up through a full day of Halloween, but I thought it looked pretty good. When my son got home, he thought it looked pretty good. He was TOTALLY satisfied. And yet.

Yesterday morning we went out for coffee with my mom and a friend, and I let him wear his fireman jacket and hat, even though Halloween (which I am pretty sure he was convinced was a mythical place I was cruelly preventing him from visiting until dark) was hours away for all practical purposes.* Everyone said it was cute, and it held up surprisingly well during my son's constant squirming and wiggling at the coffee shop. It even survived his blueberry muffin. And yet.

It just needed something. While the kiddo napped, I ran out to the fabric store. Which is to say, I drove half-an-hour, because I live in the boonies. I wanted to pick up some cool fasteners and a patch or two. For which I was willing to spend an hour in the car (I drove the hybrid, I swear!). Now, my distaste for the Hancock Fabrics in Charleston, SC, is legendary (legendary distate? Believe it), but I gotta say that on this day, the Hancock was treating me right. I found these super-nifty metal fasteners for $2, and they had a very nice American flag patch. And then there, in the back of a poorly lit aisle, at the very bottom of the rack, nestled between the replacement bra hooks and the snap tape, I found the Halloween Fireman jackpot: yellow and black reflective ribbon, iron-on variety. You know, the kind that runners and bikers use to make their clothing reflective for when they run and ride at night? Yeah, me either. I have been known to run, but in the dark? Oh no no no. This stuff was a revelation to me.

Anyhoo, at this point, if you are a reasonable, rational being, you are thinking, "well, but you already have cool stripes for the jacket. Why spend another $6 for additional stripes?" Lucky for me, I am not encumbered by reason, though I am powerfully in command of the skill of rationalization. Did I mention that it is now 3PM? And I have a half-hour drive home? Yes. Well. I rationalized that I needed to get the reflective tape to ensure the kiddo's safety. Plus, I'd have thirty minutes in the car to figure out how to make it work.

When I got home, le kid was, amazingly, still quiet. I grabbed his fireman jacket and boldly started ripping off the vinyl hems and stripes. I had bought a package of black tape and another of yellow. I had not paid ANY attention to, you know, the critical detail of just how long this piece of ribbon was. As it turns out, each color came in one-yard lengths in three widths. And as it turns out, I am one lucky girl, because the circumference of a Hanes Youth Medium sweatshirt is almost exactly 36 inches. There was much quickening of breath before I realized that I had not just destroyed my son's costume with less than 2 hours till the parade we'd promised him he could attend. Oy. At any rate, this reflective tape is wonderful--it feels pretty stiff when you take it out of the package, but once you hit it with the iron, it softens right up, while still adding some body and heft to the sweatshirt. By the time I'd gotten all the hems re-sealed and stripes re-applied, it was time to head out to the parade. For once, the fact that we live 40 minutes from my mother's neighborhood (where the parade was being held) turned out to be a good thing: my husband drove while I sewed on the nifty fasteners. I finished up with about 5 minutes to spare, and the boy was on the job with no time to spare. The best part is that thanks to the iron-on tape he now has a nice, sturdy jacket to play in. I think it was worth the extra $6.

*Can I just say? I think that Saturday Halloween is a cruel joke on parents. I mean, your kid wakes up at 7:00 ready for Halloween. Because you told him that Halloween is today: so let's get this Halloween party started, mommy! Far better that real child professionals be on hand to deal with overcharged three-year-olds; Halloween was clearly meant to be on a school day, no?


A favor

Favor Box © 2009 Cottage Industrialist // Cameron BlazerSo here's the deal. I have made you a favor box for your Halloween treats. In return you owe me nothing. BUT. If you like my little box and the other things like it that I share on this wee blog, I have a favor to ask of you in return. We'll get to that in a minute.

So. Teeny take-out boxes. They are cute, non? Well. I am going to level with you. They are kind of a pain to cut out and make. But if you have a free evening, say, while you watch the best two hours on television,* you could whip out a bunch of these. They are the perfect size for just a couple pieces of candy. Or a tiny toy. Or a monocle. Because...monocles? Awesome.

© 2009 Cottage Industrialist // Cameron BlazerAnyhoo, if you set out to make these, don't say I didn't warn you about the drudgery factor. Still, I think the end result is cute enough to warrant the effort if you're having a small party or want to limit the nutso candy consumption of your small-but-mighty child at Halloween time. Or maybe that's just me.

If, in spite of my entreaties to the contrary, you want to make these little guys, download the free, printable PDF here. All the instructions are in the printable file.


Now. The favor. If you're not really the you-scratch-my-back-i'll-scratch-your-back type, just skip this and go about your freebie business. Seriously, I don't mind. But. If you read this site with any regularity and are of a mind to help a sister out, I would love your advice. See, I have changed jobs recently, and though the work is generally the same, I have had to up my game in every way for this new playing field. It means that I don't have as much time to doodle and fidget and take pretty pictures. But I want—no, I need—to keep this blog going strong. And, truthfully, it's not that I am at a loss for content--I have OODLES of printables just waiting to be packaged up and shared, recipes that have been road tested and kid-approved, and nifty projects that are ready for prime time.

If, at this point, you are thinking, "So, then, what's the big problemo, señora?" you are probably one of those reasonable people who adjusts sans drama to the changing of the seasons and does not have a crisis of confidence in the face of complimentary valet parking. You are one of the lucky ones.

The point is that I sweat this stuff. I fret over photos and pixels and color schemes. And even more? I fret over the words. A lot of times I think people don't really read my blog but just pop in the way I pop into Whole Foods for the free cheese. But the words really matter to me. I don't just want to post braggy pictures of whatever goofball thing I've just made. I like to share the story behind the pictures and projects. But sometimes that impulse keeps me from posting because I don't have time to explain why I just came up with a printable baby announcement (i.e., no, I am not having another baby, mom). And, on the flip side, sometimes I have things I'd like to talk about that aren't connected to a cool project and that don't fit into the 140 characters I regularly exploit on twitter.

I really am getting to the favor part of this blather. Just stick with me for another minute. The favor is really simple—I'd just like to get your feedback. If I post more frequently without projects or freebies, will you tune out? If I post random freebies without the cute story behind them, will you still tune in? Do you think I should invite guest bloggers? Would you like to be one, or do you have one to suggest? Any suggestions, words of encouragement, rotten tomatoes, or golden eggs are welcome in the comments. Cheers, and happy Halloween!

*Wednesday nights: So You Think You Can Dance and Glee. Obviously.


So early it's scary!

Holidays have a way of sneaking up on me. I love them in theory, but in practice I am all too often caught unawares by the calendar. But last year I actually planned ahead for Halloween and began sewing my son's costume in September. Good thing--I finished appliqueing the stripes on his tiger costume at about 2 AM the morning before he needed to wear it.

Photo © 2008 David Mandel / Ampersand Industries
(He looks in this picture the way I felt at the end of that project.)

In a funny way, that costume was the catalyst for me starting this blog. I had spent so much time imagining and testing and crafting the costume that I wanted some way to document it for posterity. Of course, I didn't get around to starting the blog until November, so that impulse only got me so far, and I never posted about the costume. My excuse is that all the fuzz from that *&@#! fleece was clogging my brain. Plus I was still really tired from sewing all those things that weren't rectangles together.

But back to the present and this Halloween. I never really cared much about Halloween until I had a child, but now it's something I really look forward to--and actually have the presence of mind to see coming on the horizon...sort of. By coming on the horizon, I mean that when I sewed the costume last year, I made it 3 inches too long so he could wear it again this year. Brilliant, no?

A few weeks ago I was jolted into the holiday season by a custom design order for a CHRISTMAS card. People? It is still 80 degrees here! Christmas? And yet, this is apparently what normal people do. It is called planning ahead. Weird.

The order came from my new blog friend, Kate. She and her husband are spending a year in Paris while he apprentices in several restaurants. Dreamy, no? You really should check her blog out--if Paris isn't enough for you, she also has written this sentence: "I have of course found interesting ways to avoid the actual business of packing, not least among them a renewed love of the sartorial arts." Done. Anyhoo, Kate wanted to send a special Christmas card from Paris this year to all of her friends and family back home in the states. We came up with a twist on old-fashioned striped air mail envelopes, and a snappy little Eiffel Tower Christmas tree. Wanna See?

Fast-forward. I am lately having insomnia on a nightly basis, which is a good time to think about spooky things. One 3AM last week, I was rifling through the eleventy billion open Illustrator windows on my computer, and I landed back on Kate's Christmas postcard; I was inspired by the darkness all around to whip up a little Halloween printable postcard/invitation based on the air mail idea--scare mail! Get it? Air mail, scare mail? I kill me. Anyway, at this point I've probably maxed out my capacity for planning ahead, and I don't think I'm going to have the wherewithall to throw a Halloween party myself, so I did a plain postcard version, too. Both are linked below.

Illustration and design © 2009 Cameron Blazer / Cottage Industrialist

Download the card front here.
Download the invitation back here.
Download the plain back here.

A couple of printing notes: First, I know that's a lot of black ink, so I made it a dark grey, rather than a full black to try to conserve--just plan accordingly. Second, I broke with my usual practice of leaving .25 inch margins on everything, and instead I designed this to print to the edge of an 8.5x11" page. If your printer can't do borderless printing, you can reduce the size (for most printers 92% is the magic number), and you'll just have to trim the edges off. Be sure if you do it this way, that you tell your printer to center the image, or else your fronts might not line up with your backs!

As usual, these freebies are for personal use only, and if linking, please provide a link to the post, not just the downloads.

P.S. In the meantime, le kid has informed me that he is not going to be a tiger this year, but a fireman. Expect the sleepless nights to continue.