Over the rainbow, over the weather

I dunno, I neglect my blog and crafting for a while then suddenly you get loads of posts in one week, you lucky lot. The joys of a four day weekend!

I must admit I haven’t been feeling it on the ol’ creative front recently. A combination of too much work and studying, and the relentless drudgery of house work and child care. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle really, I don’t make stuff for a while, I start to feel really unmotivated and emotionally a bit flat, then I just can’t get back into it, and spend days looking at my supplies and sighing because I can’t thing of anything to make. So last week I just decided to pick up a needle and thread and start sewing, well, embroidering actually.

It’s not my forte but I do enjoy it and you don’t have to spend a lot of time to create something quite pretty. I wanted something cheering in this dreary weather and was inspired by a kids temporary tattoo that a friend’s daughter gave me a few weeks ago which was a little sparkly rainbow. A colleague at work spotted it and was surprised as she thought it was real and didn’t realise I had one! It did make me think that maybe I’d quite like to get an actual tattoo. But unless they are going to let me have gas and air in order to have it done it is highly unlikely to ever happen. I’ll stick with needles that don’t actually pierce your flesh (unless you aren’t paying attention).

So here is a happy little rainbow to brighten up a grim day. Expect more where this comes from.

20130401-205236.jpg

The Birds

I’m not usually one for making a fuss at Easter. The holiday usually passes me by. I’m grateful for the 2 days off, and for the chocolate eggs which I tend to buy cheaply after Easter when the supermarkets just want rid of them.

But having kids tends to make you see things in a new light, and Betty has cottoned onto all the supermarket crap and has embraced Easter as a holiday to be celebrated.

I must admit Easter brings a plethora of crafting opportunities, which this year I have actually taken advantage of. About time really, given this started out as a craft blog!

20130329-074854.jpg
First up is this Easter chick, scratching about on my bird table. I had visions of making these in all kinds of pretty pastel colours, but, well, it didn’t happen. This one’s pretty cute anyway, and if you want to make one the pattern is a simple free one from Lion Brand

20130329-075605.jpg
Next up are these chicken bean bags which I saw on Red Ted Art . They are so quick and easy to make, even by hand. One is destined for my mother in law (random, I know, but DH insisted she’d like one) and the other two are Easter gifts for Betty and Iris. Given that Iris is in a delightful throwing stage, hopefully this will be a pain free alternative to a plastic cup or the iPad.

20130329-080158.jpg
If you want more grown up craft, this lovely wreath was made for a pound by Mum of All Trades!

Happy Easter everyone!

Foxy laydee

Fox Cushion

You may remember a few months ago I made a wolf cushion based on a fox I saw on the Guardian craft blog. Well I had a request for a friend of my mum’s who has a bit of a thing about foxes and my mum wanted to give her a similar cushion as a birthday present.

I didn’t have time to scout out any fabric to recycle so I ordered some dotty orange fabric from Fabric Rehab, and came up with this foxy creation.

A mini Betty made from baby clothes

Handmade doll made with baby clothes

Recently, after a year long subscription I cancelled my delivery of Mollie Makes magazine. I adored it initially, but just found it got too samey after a while; oh look, more Japanese style embroidery. I also found it seemed to focus less on tutorials and more on showcasing other people’s work, less do it yourself and more buy it for yourself. And the craft projects it did have were rarely things I’d make myself, I mean, what am I going to do with a felt macaroon or needle felted animals. And if I see one more hipster wedding with comedy moustache photo booth and “thrifted” vintage table cloths I might vomit.

Every now and again there might be a project I’d give a go but it wasn’t enough to keep me. However, one of those projects in one of the last magazines I got was a little Mollie doll, which I had to admit was pretty cute, and I’ve had a plan for a while to make dolls for the girls. But then I came up with an even better way to improve the project.

A couple of weeks ago DH and I sorted through mountains of clothes that the girls have outgrown. Much of it is second or third hand anyway, but some of it we can sell at a local NCT sale. Some of it we gave away. There were a few outfits though that just reminded us so much of the girls as babies, and we couldn’t bear to part with them. But I wondered what to do with them. It seemed pretty pointless to just stick them in the attic and get them out every 10 years to look at.

A lady on Twitter makes lovely teddy bears from baby clothes as a momento for you or toy for your child. They are really gorgeous, and you can buy gift vouchers which make a fab new baby present. That was the sort of thing I wanted to do but I’m not really a fan of teddy bears so I thought I would make a doll, wearing clothes made out of baby clothes.

The intention is to do one representing each of the girls. Hopefully I will do a better job of the next one, having made several mistakes and discovering several holes in this one that I had to fix. I used the template from Mollie Makes, issue number 14.

Mollie Makes Magazine pattern

Mollie Makes Magazine pattern

Gap baby dress
Too cute!

I mostly used my sewing machine, but the jersey material was quite a challenge to machine sew as it over stretches as you feed it through. Unfortunately most baby clothes are made out of lovely soft jersey material. But the face, arms and legs were just made from undyed muslin.

;

Newborn baby dress
Betty’s debutante dress

;

The leggings are from the first newborn dress Betty wore when visiting nana for the first time. The dress Mini Betty wearing is from a gorgeous dress my dad bought from Gap, and I even did a sort of vest for the body using a Jojo Maman Bebe vest bought by my colleagues, just so I could use as many of the items as possible. All these outfits remind me of my newborn daughter, and now I have immortalised her in doll form. That sounds really creepy doesn’t it? At least I didn’t get one of those ghastly reborn dolls made in her image to cart around in a pram!

Handmade doll made with baby clothes

I can see all the mistakes I made in the doll, as I’m just not that great at sewing. But I really enjoyed making it, it felt really special, and I’m actually rather proud of it. It was a lot easier than producing the real thing.

This isn’t a toy for the girls though, oh no no no no no. This is to remind me of my beautiful little girl, because while she will probably always be beautiful, she won’t always be little, nor always mine. Plus this one is a lot quieter than the real thing.

I mustn’t leave it too long to make a mini Iris either. She’s not even two yet but she is already commenting on the distinct lack of photos of her around the house, typical neglect of the second child.

So, while its nice to keeps old baby clothes as momentos, it’s even nicer to do something with them. If you have enough, a quilt is a lovely idea. I’ve just realised though, that I need to make sure I keep a babygro intact, so I can still have those “I can’t believe they were ever that small” moments.

Baby vest
I can’t believe she was ever this small!

This post has been linked up on Handmade Monday and Ta Dah Tuesday!

A 10 minute pin board spruce up (and bit of free safety advice)

For some reason I decided to deep clean my kitchen today. Under ordinary circumstances this would be unusual behaviour for me, but today it was even more extra ordinary given that I had about four hour’s sleep, thanks to the inexplicable nocturnal behaviour of darling Iris. Plus, yesterday I ran 5 miles. Well, it was 4.8 but 5 sounds even more impressive. Anyway, it was under this duress that I set about cleaning my kitchen. Well, mainly it was rearranging.

A month or so back we had the fire brigade round for a home safety check. Basically they check out your house for fire safety and give you advice, in the hope that they can minimise any chance of having to return to your house under less desirable circumstances. It’s a free service that anyone can use, just check out your local station website for details on how to arrange one. Apart from the excellent safety advice, I can’t overstate the immense excitement from Betty over the firemen’s visit. She got to sit in the engine and talk the helmets of the firemen waiting outside with the rig.

Our house is brand spanking new and rented and as such is pretty safe in terms of windows, circuitry, smoke alarms and the like but one thing they did recommend is moving the toaster and kettle out from under the wall mounted cupboards where they were originally sat. They said that should either get stuck without us realising then the heat from them could ignite the cupboard above. This is actually quite relevant for us as our very cheap Asda kettle no longer switches itself off so we have to remember to not let it over boil. So finally I took the firemen’s advice and moved said items to a safer location. Much safer, and I advise you to do the same.

Reorganised kitchen

During my kitchen reorg I decided our notice board needed a bit of sprucing up. I had a bit of fabric I bought from eBay with the intention of making dining chair pads, but those can just be added to the long list of planned projects. Instead I used some of it to cover my pin board. I’m afraid I don’t have a before picture but it is just an Ikea cork notice board with a wooden frame. I was hoping I could pop the cord out of the frame and cover that and wedge it back in, but the frame wasn’t constructed in a way which made that possible. So I simply covered the whole thing in fabric.Fabric covered pin board

To secure it I simply sewed the corners really tightly with very little skill as you can see below. No need for neatness, just longish stitches pulled tight in each corner, and that’s it.

Fabric covered pin board

Here it is with significantly less crap put back on it than it started with.

20120817-164542.jpg

So there you have it as promised, a 10 minute project to spruce up your notice board, and some home safety advice thrown in for free!

Happy Father’s Day

In our house, to my friends’ amusement, Mother’s and Father’s Day involves absolving yourself of all parental responsibility. After all, every day in reality is Mother’s Day or Father’s Day; the continual drudgery of bottom wiping, cooking and cleaning is never ending. It’s nice to have a day off for a change. And a nice present too. Yes, I know I should be helping the girls to make something nice or taking them out to pick something, but really, life is busy enough. In fact, DH got his present last week when I took the kids away for the weekend to Grandma’s. He had two whole nights of child free bliss. I won’t embarrass him by publically revealing what he watched all weekend Gilmore Girls.

I still wanted to get him a present. I originally wanted to make him this lens cap case. I love the camera print fabric, but it is about £16 a metre and I only wanted one square. I don’t love DH that much so I had to come up with an alternative solution.

I’d been admiring this polaroid cross stitch by NerdJerk for a while, but when I looked into it I realised she is selling it as a kit, and it is in the US so too expensive to send to the UK and not enough time for it to arrive. So I tried to construct my own one. Now using someone else’s idea is Not Cool, and really, if you want to do a similar one yourself and you are in the States you really should buy her kit because it is ace. I hope she forgives me for copying her by directing you all to her cool etsy shop.

I got my fancy gridded paper out and a picture of a Polaroid camera in order to devise my own pattern. Here, I’m a regular Da Vinci, right?

20120617-085858.jpg

I used the tutorial linked above to finish off the pouch. Now I’m an intelligent person, I’ve got a Mater’s degree. I’ve passed visio-spatial reasoning tests, I can ride a bike, I can drive. But for some reason it took me three goes to put the pouches together in the right right way. Ok, four goes. That’s after sewing them together. For reference I also took three goes to pass my driving test. Ok, four. Anyway, eventually I managed to put the inner and outer pieces together in the right inside-out/right way combination. I managed to procure an unused lanyard from work from which I recycled the clip. The idea is that DH can clip the case to his camera or his camera bag instead of invariably misplacing his lens cap. The linked tutorial recommend either a magnetic clap fastening or elastic. The magnetic clasp looked a bit too difficult, and I wasn’t sure the elastic would work with the aida, so it currently doesn’t have a closure, but I’m not sure how much of an issue it will be. If it is I might try Velcro. And here is the finished product:

20120617-091629.jpg

I’m pretty pleased with it. Hope DH is.

Also this week I managed to remember that I didn’t only have DH to think about, but my own dad too. I don’t see him very often so I find buying him a present really difficult. I struggle to find the balance between cool, pointless and childish. I know for a fact he has the same problem with buying presents for me but he gets around it buy giving me money, which is great for me, but you can do that when you are a dad. As a daughter it’s just weird. So I settled for a homemade card instead. I already know he likes it despite drafting this post on Saturday night because he is incapable of delayed gratification and already opened it!

20120617-090647.jpg

He is an excellent juggler and can juggle with lit clubs you know [proud smiley]!

So, after a lie-in and breakfast my wifely Father’s Day duties will be disposed off and I can settle down for the long wait till my own day off next March!

Retro print cushion

Last year I bought a couple of funky pillow cases for 20p each, with the intention of doing something fabulous with them. Today, while DH took the kids to his mum’s, I had a bit of time to do whatever I pleased, so I finally managed to do something with one of them. I made a cushion cover for a cushion I got at a charity shop last week. The pillow case was the exact width for the cushion so I was hoping I could just do something with the top but in the end it seemed easier the unpick the whole thing. The cover is just a simple envelope type cover, no need for messing around with buttons or zips. Though even with this simple pattern I had to unpick one side where I hadn’t pinned the seams properly. I’m afraid I’m too fast and slap-dash for any decent and complicated sewing!

Psychocraft. Or something.

Recently I have been having somewhat of a career crisis. My job is fairly respectable, but I just don’t love it. I like the idea of it more than I like doing it. It is actually the job I wanted to do before I left university, but the reality wasn’t quite all it is cracked up to be. I was always very career oriented and felt like I was destined for big things. Having children tempered that somewhat, but the biggest factor has been a loss of confidence in my abilities. I did really well at school and university. I’ve got a Masters degree you know, and I got a distinction. I don’t get to say that very often, much though I often want to when at work I am having to grapple with a task like trying to get 10 people in a meeting together.

 

I studied psychology at university, but by the end decided I didn’t want to be a psychologist. After 5 years I didn’t to want to spend any longer at university or in training, I wanted to be getting on with my career. Hmmm. That worked well didn’t it? It turns out actually maybe I do want to be a psychologist. Or a writer. Or a professional crafter. Therein lies my problem. I want to do so many things, I’m afraid to commit.

A few years ago I found a fantastic book in a charity shop. It was pure fate that I found this book, someone had obviously given it away because they didn’t rate it but for me it was like a window into my soul. One man’s trash and all that. The book was What Do I Do When I Want to Do Everything? The basic premise of the book is that some people just flit from one activity to another, never sticking long enough to go deep; never really feeling like they have achieved anything. The author, Barbara Sher, calls these people ‘scanners’, and lists several different reasons why these people behave like this such as fear of commitment, looking for their niche, or simply just a need for novelty. Scanners are sometimes derided as dilettantes (hello, have you seen the name of my blog?) but often they are their own harshest critics, feeling like they are failing or not achieving anything. To read this was amazing, the book described me to a tee and Barbara goes to great lengths to reassure scanners that they way they are is perfectly normal, and can be harnessed. One of the suggestions is to try and combine your passions which is what I have attempted to do.

 

I mentioned that I might actually want to be a psychologist. Well I am considering doing another MSc, this time in Occupational Psychology. I could do it part time and through distance learning, but even so, with two young children and a job I couldn’t do it for at least another year. I also want to give myself time to figure out whether it is what I really want to do.

 

In the meantime I am spending my time crafting (God, that is such a wanky word, I cringe every time I use it!). But much as I love making stuff, I don’t find it intellectually stimulating. Now before all you other crafters lynch me, I’m not saying its not difficult, there are some amazingly talented people out there. Crafting can be technically and physically challenging, but trying to understand a pattern isn’t the same as trying to understand why someone behaves in a certain way. So I’ve tried to put some psychology into my crafting, I’m combining my passions to create Psychraftology. Craftology. Psychcraftisvism. Psychocraft. I can work on the name.

 

I have three items to showcase for you as part of my new genre. The first is based on the Myers-Briggs Trait Inventory, or the MBTI. You may have heard or it and even taken it. The results come in the format of 4 letters, E or I, N or S, T or F, and J or P. If want more info about what these letters mean check out this website. The MBTI is a licensed test which can only be administered by licensed practitioners, but this website has an example if you want to find out you personality type. For the even keener reader I recommend the book Please Understand Me II, which is slightly different from the MBTI but maps directly onto it. For the record I am an ENFP, which incidentally is quite commons for scanners.

What's your type?

These are going to be badges, but for now they are just buttons. They are cross stitched MBTI types so you can wear your type with pride! The are cross stitched on 22 count aida which is used to cover self-cover buttons. You can remove the button bit, which I have done, and super glue a badge backing onto the button, which I haven’t done yet.

 

Exhibit number two my cross stitched interpretation of a Rorschach ink blot. “Why?” you might ask. Well, why the hell not.

Tell me what you see...

The Rorschach ink blot is traditional projection test used to assess personality characteristics and emotional function. Tell me what you see in mine and I will tell you if you are crazy or not.

 

The piece de resistance in my show and tell today is an embroidered diagram of the brain, showing labelled lobes and some well known areas of the brain. Broca’s area is involved in the production of speech, and Wenicke’s area in the understanding of it. The visual cortex is where we start to process the images that come from our retinas. They travel along the optic nerves to the back of our brain, the parietal lobe. The brain is a marvellous thing, and we should nurture it, look after it, and not take it for granted. There is an excellent documentary on BBC iPlayer about the brain. It’s available for about another week so watch it while you can.

My brain is pretty and full of flowers and lace.

For me, this embroidery is about using a craft that is more often used to depict twee little birds and flowers and fluffy things, and creating something with a little more depth. If you like this you might also like a brain colouring book. It certainly helped while away those hours studying neuropsychology at university.

 

So, these are the projects that I have been working on for the past couple of months. I’d really appreciate any comments you have. You are probably going to see more and more psychology related stuff, not just crafting, on here. Does that put you off? The main thrust of this blog has been crafting, and it is certainly easier to market a niche blog. I’m debating whether I should branch out into a new blog, but as someone pointed out, the USP for my blog has always been about doing lots of different things. Any comments will be welcomed.

Home is where the heart cushion is

This old thing? We just call it home.
Erm, other people call it Middleton Lodge, home of Lady G's Cookery school.

We live in a rented house. Yes we are mature married adults with two children and we don’t own a house. This mostly doesn’t bother me. In the current climate I am glad we didn’t listen to the family members who insisted that we get one of those 100+% mortgages a quite frankly we’d be screwed right now.

 

It bothers me sometimes. I can’t think of any of our friends who don’t own their own house. Every now and then I have a bit of a freak out thinking “OMG we’ve got no mortgage we are going to be working until we’re 105 or else we are going to be destitute on the street “. But my issues have only ever been financial ones. The last two flats we lived in were fab. The first one was a raised ground floor Victorian flat. It had an avocado bathroom suite, which let me tell you, I loved. As I went blinking and bleary eyed into the bathroom to do my morning ablutions I was soothed by the calming green and wood panelled bath, rather than a glaring white thing. The flat was in a fashionable area of town, with leafy avenues and poncey shops. The alcoves either side on the marble fireplace were bowed with the weight of our books. I loved it. Our last flat was On the first floor of a beautiful Regency villa. The living room was over 30 long and had 4 original 9ft sash windows. The flat was lovely and bright and big, and we had furniture and wicker baskets slung casually around the rooms, and our furniture was just the right side of shabby chic. We bought a massive 4 seater sofa, which conveniently hid all of Betty’s toys behind it. Both these flats were minutes walk from the fashionable town we lived in. In both these places I felt completely at home.

 

Both flats were sold from under us. The first when Betty was 3 months old. The second when I was 6 months pregnant and had a toddler. We were devastated. We now live in a boxy new build, nearer to the not-so-fashionable city, in walking distance of a Co-op and the school. One the upside we have central heating and double glazing. Our energy bills are next to nothing. We have a garden for the kids to play in. We have two floors; no snotty cow above us stomping around in her stilettos; no slacker below us, filling our flat with the fumes of stale marijuana. But this house feels a small and boxy, we are crammed into a suburban development in the middle of more suburbia. Our 9ft sofa that was dwarfed by our old flat now looks monstrous, and the shabby chic furniture looks shabby shit against the magnolia walls and plasticky doors. But mostly, it has no soul. It’s definitely what you would call a ‘first-world problem’ to feel depressed by a house, especially a brand new one, but I can help but feel a little down about it sometimes. DH feels the same. The house almost sucks the soul out of us. What an awfully trite complaint, hey?

 

Anyway, there is a point to this soul bearing, and it is that in this house more than any, we have had to work at making it feel like home. We can afford to move. We’d be mad to. Our landlord isn’t going to sell anytime soon, we have a garden, and a garage, it’s near Betty’s school, and needs absolutely nothing doing to it. Flat no.1 that we lived in hadn’t been decorated or remodelled in 20 years. We just have to make the best of it. But making a place feel like home when you have a constant sense of impermanence is hard. Much of it depends on the flexibility of your landlord, but you have to find ways of making the house feel like it is your home, adding your stamp without the stamp duty.

 

The reason I’m writing this blog post now is because recently I was discussing the issue with another blogger Life of an Expat Parent and she decided to host a link up. We want to have a series of posts about how to make a house a home. Most home style books and blogs rarely take into account renters and the lack of permanence and control we have over our houses. A lot of the crafting I do is to this end. Some of this will be familiar to my die hard readers, but to those who haven’t been following my blog I hope I can offer some inspiration.

Cushions are a really easy way add a bit of your own style to a house. I prefer an eclectic assortment. I say assortment; I have two currently, but am working on more. Cushions are really easy to make yourself, and simple cushions in bright fabrics can be a quick crafting win. These two took a little longer, more details on the heart cushion here and the wolf one here.

 

Blankets are another way of adding a bit of colour to your living space. Unfortunately due to being whatever the opposite of a completer-finisher is, blankets are my nemesis. These crochet squares never quite reached their dream of becoming a beautiful blanket, but were destined instead to brighten up a cheap upligher.

This cute chalkboard is great for keeping track of your shopping list, writing messages to other members of your family, or just doing seasonal drawings. It’s easy to make and easy to put up and take down. For the record, toothpaste is meant to be good for filling holes left by nails (caveat: I’ve never tried this!).

20120401-195731.jpg

 

We’ve had this stool since we lived in flat number two, where we could afford to have random pieces of furniture strewn around. Now it just gets moved around the kitchen out of the way according to which cupboard I need to get to. Or else the baby takes it so that she can reach something she shouldn’t have. We originally bought it from an antique shop but I expect a forensic analysis of the paint samples would date it to circa 1990. Anyway, I thought it was time to tart it up.

20120401-202021.jpg

 

A lick of paint and some easy crochet circles and it looks fresh and bright to match our new, modern and often messy kitchen.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of the vintage/retro/nostalgia fashions that are popular now, nor am I a fan of ultra modern or contemporary fashions that will date. I am really inspired by the bright fresh colours and Scandi sleekness of By Frydd, and the eclectic mix of decor in Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers.

And this one is on my wish list:

 

And finally for cheap furniture and accessories that aren’t completely devoid of style you just can’t beat Ikea. So in essence, renting a house doesn’t mean you cant make it feel like home. There’ll be more from me on this. My home is still a work in progress.

Wonderwolf

Foxy!

As soon as I saw this fox on the Guardian website I fell in love and knew I’d have to make my own. I didn’t want to completely copy it, especially as I don’t have anything like that funky fabric. I ummed and ahhed over what sort of animal I could make that had the cuteness of a fox, while surrounded by my fabric stash. Owls are good, but a bit clichéd, everyone’s all about the owl. Penguins are unfailingly cute, but would look weird on my sofa in the way that a fox wouldn’t. I mean a fox could conceivably end up on my sofa, but a penguin not so much. Polar bear or baby seal, high on the cuteness scale, but all one colour so not much scope for pretty fabrics.

Swoon! From 'Yeah Baby Animals'

In the end I settled on a wolf. I know, not that cute, but neither is a fox when you really think about it, they’re a bit mangy aren’t they? So here is my wolf cushion:

He is made completely out of fabric and scraps from my stash. Stitch This may recognise the fabric for the body, as I bought it from her when she had a mega de-stashing session. What do you think I should call him?

And the post title, Wonder wolf? Well, while I was stuffing this little fella I was listening to a bit of Ryan Adams on Spotify. I think he’s been around for yonks, but I fell in love with his song ‘Desire’ which can be heard in a West Wing episode. Here he is singing the Oasis hit Wonderwall. Just thought I’d share:)