Category Archives: Free Patterns

The passage of time

For Lydia, the past tense is encompassed by one broad category: “last year.”

Sometimes, this is a legitimate distinction: for example, “I turned two last year!” Sometimes, it isn’t: she might say, “We went to breakfast last year,” when we all know that she means we went to breakfast this morning.

Certain things that must be learned I take for granted, because I feel now as though I have always known them, and it isn’t until my pint-sized shadow announces that “a bird flew by the window last year” that it hits me: Lydia doesn’t know the shape of the calendar.

She’s only beginning to understand – much to her disappointment – that she’ll never be a baby again, and that she will always be older than Sarah. When I tell her that her birthday is on May 11th, that’s a simple fact, unattached to the understanding that those words function like an address. They tell us where her birthday fits into the year.

As lovely as it must be to have little concept of time, I came up with this idea for teaching her about the flow of months and years and seasons.

The idea is simple: every morning, we put a button into the jar. At the end of the month, we empty it out, count the buttons and put next month’s name on the front of the jar. We begin again.

The construction is simple as well, and you can tune it to your family’s needs. I wrote the month names out in letters large enough for Lydia to read and, as an afterthought, numbered each month, but you could use different colored paper for each season if you want to (by the time I thought to do that, it was too late.)

Jar of Days

You will need:

  • blank mailing labels
  • card stock
  • one ribbon
  • hole punch
  • a pen
  • a Mason jar (I used a quart-sized jar)
  • 31 small objects. We’re using buttons for this month, but dried pasta or beans would work, too, as would large beads, rocks, or origami boxes (if you happened to go on a memorable origami binge a few years ago, and still find yourself with a surplus of boxes). You could also number some squares of cardstock and reuse those each month. Lastly, I know I don’t need to say this, but I will: don’t let your child play with these unsupervised if you use something small enough to be a choking hazard.

Now, this next part is really easy. Ready? Write “May” and/or the number 5 on a mailing label. Stick it to the card stock and trim card stock to your desired size.

Punch holes on either size of the mailing label and thread ribbon through the holes. Tie label to a jar and drop some stuff in it!

Repeat for remaining months, and stash those in an envelope for later.

[This post is a part of Works for Me Wednesday]


Cherry Branch Hat (Free Knitting Pattern)

Note: My blog moved, and this pattern traveled with it! All updates to this pattern will be available at my new blog, Two Blue Buttons. Please take a minute to update your links and enjoy the new site. Thank you!

Remember the knitting pattern I’ve been writing? The one for the beautiful blanket that I’ve been diligently working on for months? Well, the blanket is done, the pattern needs proof-reading and photographs are forthcoming, so in the meantime, I decided to try my hand at a simpler pattern. (Because heaven forbid I should start with a simple pattern in the first place.)

This pattern is so simple, in fact, that even if you’ve never knit a hat before, you could try your hand at this one – not least because you know exactly where to bring your questions. (If you do try it, please let me know how it goes! I would love to see photos.)

Cherry Branch Hat

This is one of the most basic hats you will ever knit, but because it’s so simple, the pattern is incredibly versatile. I love to embellish these hats with all manner of embroidery, buttons, and felt details (I’ve already knit half a dozen), but I’m sure you’ll find your own way to fancy these up.

Another big advantage to this hat is the rolled brim: you’ll notice that the sizes are pretty broad, and that’s because the rolled brim allows the hat to grow with your child. The toddler size is a little loose on my 7 month old and a little snug on my (almost) 3 year old, so rest assured that you’ll get a lot of mileage out of a single hat.

One final note: this hat is not machine washable. The yarn specified is wool, and if you use wool felt for the details, you will definitely not want to put it in the washing machine. If that’s a problem for you, there are several superwash wool and wool/cotton blends available that would work just as well for this pattern (try Cascade or Mission Falls for some great superwash options).

Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe (55% Bamboo/45% Wool), 1 skein Sprout
US 8 circular needles (16” length), or size needed to obtain gauge
US 8 double-pointed needles (set of 4), or size needed to obtain gauge
Scrap yarn, embroidery thread and a small amount of wool felt, in desired colors
Tapestry needle
Embroidery needle
Stitch marker

16 sts and 21 rows = 4”

Instructions are written for Baby (Toddler).
Circumference: 16 (17½)”
Height: 7 ½ (8 ½)”

CO = cast on
k2tog = knit two stitches together

CO 60 (70) stitches. Taking care not to twist the stitches, join into a round and place marker at the beginning of the round.

Knit in the round until hat measures 4.5″ (5.5″ for large).

Begin decreasing as follows, switching to double-pointed needles when the stitches are too tight to knit comfortably.

First decrease round: *k8, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 2: Knit.
Round 3: *k7, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 4: Knit.
Round 5: *k6, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 6: Knit.
Round 7: *k5, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 8: Knit.
Round 9: *k4, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 10: Knit.
Round 11: *k3, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 12: *k2, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Round 13: *k1, k2tog* Repeat to end.
Final round: *ktog* Repeat to end. You now have 6 (7) stitches remaining on your needle. Cut yarn, leaving 6″ tail; pull it through remaining stitches and weave in ends.

Using a small amount of scrap yarn, embroider the branch in the outline stitch. Because you’re paying homage to nature here, I find it looks much more realistic to free hand the branch design (as opposed to drawing it on the hat beforehand).

Cut flowers out of felt (with these, I find it helpful to either draw a pattern onto scrap paper, then pin it into place on the felt and cut around it, or use a quilter’s pencil to draw a template directly onto the felt).With your embroidery thread, use the daisy stitch to attach flowers to the hat. Knot thread and weave ends into the underside of the embroidery.

Late in the Game: Advent Calendar

Two years ago, I woke up at 5 o’clock on a Sunday morning with a bright-as-a-lightbulb idea. By the time Mitch and Lydia woke up, I’d been up for two hours, working, and by the next night, my project was done.

The idea?

An Advent calendar made from stuff that I already had in my closet.

The picture frame with the broken glass, whose backing I kept around “just in case”? That box of origami boxes leftover from the year I used them to wrap chocolate truffles before giving them away as Christmas gifts? The library-style date stamp that I used our family wedding albums?

They all found a new home here:

It’s not the most durable thing (as you can see, DEC 3 had to be re-glued this year), but this calendar just finished its third season, and it’s still going strong. The boxes are just the right size for the origami ornaments leftover from that other Christmas, when I gave them away as gifts, and the whole thing looks bright and joyful.

I know it’s unlikely that you’ll have the same things lying around your closet that I do, but I thought I’d post a rough pattern just in case you wanted to take a stab at a found-object calendar of your own.

In addition to things that I assume you already have, like pencils and tape and so on, you will need:

  • some kind of base (see below)
  • 1 sheet of 18×24″ (more or less) paper, any kind, as long as it folds nicely (wrapping paper would work well)
  • 48 sheets of 6×6″ origami paper (you can make your own, if you’d rather)
  • additional scrap paper in a variety of colors and patterns
  • 24 small, self-adhesive mailing labels
  • 96 large and 48 small glue squares, like these
  • numbered stamps or a fancy pen

for the base:

As I said, I used the back of an old picture frame, but you could just as easily use a board of similar dimensions with a picture hanger fixed to the back.

Now, take out your sheet of paper. I painted a white sheet of drawing paper yellow, which made for a lively texture; if you want to paint your paper, I’d recommend that you do so before you fix it to the base. If there are any fringes from pulling it off of a sketch pad, go ahead and trim those off now.

When your paper is trimmed and dry, place it face down on the floor. Place board face down in the center of the paper. Cut the corners of the paper away so that the paper looks like a big plus sign with the board in the center, then fold the arms of the plus in over the board and glue or tape firmly in place.

When you flip the board over, it should be tightly covered with paper. At this point, feel free to decorate the paper further, if you like.

for the boxes:

This is the most time consuming part of the project, but don’t worry: it’s weirdly calming once you get going, and I find that a few seasons of Arrested Development really moves things along.

Fold 24 boxes, following this pattern. Next, pull out your 24 small mailing labels and start numbering them. I stamped mine with the date, but you could use simple numbered stamps or use a calligraphy pen to write in the dates, which, come to think of it, would look beautiful.

Now, stick your mailing labels to varying pieces of scrap paper and trim until you have a slender border around each one. Using the small glue squares, attach one date to the top of each box.

And now, assemble!

If you’re the sort to pull out a yardstick and level for this, please, do it. If not, do like I did:

Arrange the boxes on your base, fiddling with them until they look evenly spaced. If you want to make a very light pencil mark here and there, please do. I used a yard stick to keep my rows more or less even, but I didn’t fuss to much about everything being just right.

Once you’ve got your boxes where you want them, pick up the first one, remove the lid and set aside. Now, turn the bottom half of the box over and gently press a large glue square into each corner of the bottom (we’re talking about the outside of the box now, just so we’re clear).

Put the box down and make sure it’s where you want it before gently pressing it into place. Repeat with remaining 23 boxes.

Now, you can either call it a day, or you can keep on decorating. I stamped a border down either side with a stamp leftover from our wedding invitations, and I hand-lettered a verse from Isaiah on a scrap of white paper. And then I called it a day.

Over the years, I’ve filled these boxes with small chocolates, activities, little toys and the aforementioned ornaments, but next year I think I’ll keep it simple and fill each box with the day’s corresponding ornaments for our Jesse Tree. Doing an Advent calendar and a Jesse Tree was a bit much this year, so I’m hoping that that will be a neat way to tie them together.