The one where I get free stuff and admit I don’t really like sewing that much

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I was really excited to be contacted a few weeks ago by Dotcomgiftshop to tell me they had included my blog in an article on upcycled furniture. I was pleased to see I was in good company, along with some of my other favourite bloggers such as Mum Of All Trades and Meme Rose. They described my blog as “Honest, funny and real, this is a craft blog with a difference.” and with that I was sold!

They have asked me to be part of their blog network, and offered to send me things to review. This just gets better and better! In reality though, I’m not very good at that sort of thing, and dithered over asking to review something. Only when they sent me a prompting email basically saying “no really, pick something” did I finally bite the bullet.

For a long time now I have been planning to make a Happy Birthday banner. I’d really like to crochet one, but haven’t got round to it so far, and realistically never am. Ordinary bunting is actually really easy to make too, but again, it’s something I’ll never get round to doing, especially with the dawning realisation that <whispers> I like the idea of sewing more that I actually enjoy doing it. So, I picked out a Happy Birthday bunting banner, which arrived pretty speedily.

We didn’t have to wait long for a birthday to try it out. It was my birthday on Thursday, and with a gentle reminder, DH put the banner up for me ready for when I got up.

It looked fab (we’ve only just taken it down – I like to celebrate my birth-week!) and I am really pleased with it. It’ll be dragged out for every birthday for years to come. The only thing is it’s huge! Despite the dimensions being clearly stated on the website, I didn’t realise it would be so long! Still, I think it looks pretty cool, and far preferable to balloons as decorations .

With it’s immense length, at £12.95 it’s pretty reasonable. Yeah you could knock one up for cheaper with scraps of material, but really, are you going to?

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!

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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

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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.

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

Happy Easter everyone!

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.

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Newborn baby dress
Betty’s debutante dress

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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.

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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?

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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:

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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!

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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!

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:)

 

Insta-tangram

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Inspired by Sew Homegrown I decided to make Betty a fabric tangram. A tangram is an ancient Chinese dissection puzzle, and is a great activity for kids. Betty is leaning about shapes at school, so this will be ideal for her. Except that the shapes aren’t quite the Euclidean master pieces that they should be (Euclidean, I learnt that tonight you know – don’t say I don’t teach you nuffin’). Anyway, my sewing isn’t quite what it should be, mainly due to my lack of meticulousness. I’d love to be one of those people who can put “attention to detail ” on their CV – except even as I typed that I typed “detial”, and as I tried to type “typed” I actually typed “typds”. You catch my gist…

 

Sewing is not really my thing, although I do try. The pleasure for me is in having made the thing, not in the making. Still, have to live up to my tag line! Apologies for the crappy photo, I’m too impatient to wait for daytime light. They are a bit slap-dash, I wish I had straight stitched them instead of zig zag, not sure why I did that. If you can make them nicer than I did they are a good make!

A critical appraisal of my major works to date

So the good thing about the start of this blog is that I can show case things that I have made up till now which makes me look really productive, but in fact have taken me years to complete!

I was taught to crochet by a lovely woman called Kristina who runs the knitting group that I go to. She doesn’t have a blog as she is too busy actually making and selling things to fanny around writing about them, but I can assure you that if she had one you’d love it! Anyway, I started going to her knitting group, in her lovely farm house, Betty in tow, who was about 18 months then, having attempted to knit a scarf for my dad. Well, this scarf was meant to be a long, fashionable type thing, but somehow ended up being twice as wide at the bottom then at the top. Of course I couldn’t deliberately increase a knitted stitch if I tried! So Kristina taught me to crochet and I fell in love. I’m a real believer in just getting stuck in to something. If I try and learn something by first practising individual parts I’ll get board pretty quickly. So the first thing I made was a corsage which I gave to a friend. I’m not sure she was that impressed as I’ve never seen her wear it!

So the second thing was this crib tie:

Teddy crib tie
The second thing I ever crocheted!

This was for my friend’s new baby. I’m rather proud of it. Both projects came from First Crochet by Lesley Stanfield, a great book which offers projects which incorporate each new stitch you learn. Obviously I was too impatient to start at the beginning of the book!

I have a sewing machine that I inherited from my mum. When I say inherited that sounds all lovely and traditional doesn’t it? A well worn machine, the fibres of a generation homemade children’s clothing still embedded in the cogs? Nope, she was bought it a couple of years ago along with a few metres of Liberty fabric to start a new hobby. I’m not sure she ever used it. I am my mother’s daughter. However I acquired the machine and using the power of internet tutorials I figured out how to make it go. And instead of spending valuable time practising my craft by making drawstring bags, I cut my sewing teeth making this tepee for Betty’s 2nd birthday:

Betty's teepee
It's a teepee not a wigwam!

And it is definitely a tepee, not a wigwam, I checked! The fabric was upholstery fabric on sale for £5 a metre. The pattern was from Cool Spaces for Kids, a lovely book with ideas for den type things for children. The pattern isn’t perfect; one of the panels comes out upside down, though it is fairly obvious if you pay attention as you are cutting it out. The elastic loops for the canes are too big, and I can’t figure out how to stop the canvass sliding down the canes. However, it was the first thing I made with a sewing machine and as long as you don’t look too closely as the seams I think it is pretty impressive, if you don’t mind me blowing my own peace pipe.

The next thing I hauled my sewing machine out for was a baby sling. Loath to fork out upwards of £50 for one I did my usual “I could make one of those” – and I actually did. Here it is:

Mei Tai

It’s a Mei Tai style sling. There are loads of tutorials online and I basically picked the bits I wanted from different ones. Jan Andrea has links to a great selection. The basic frame is two layers of black canvas, with a panel of fabric from a pretty fat quater sewn on top, just for decoration. The shoulder straps are padded for about the first 30cm with some cheap fleece. The layers of canvas and fleece together were a challenge for my machine. There were blood, sweat and tears over this creation. But it was well worth it. I started putting Iris in it from about 4 months. She loves it, it’s comfy for both of us, and I am just getting the hang of a back carry with it.

Final exhibit in my showcase owes its craftsmanship mainly to my husband. We got the idea from this website http://blachindle.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/play-kitchen/, pulling apart an old butcher’s block from Argos and adding some Ikea accessories. We started our version around October 2009 with the aim of giving it to Betty for Christmas. 10 months later it was languishing two thirds finished under a sheet, rather unconvincingly hidden from our two year old. Last summer I announced to DH that I was not having our second baby until the damn thing was finished, which is why at 8 and a half months pregnant I was in the garden sanding and painting our labour of love. Don’t you just want bake little wooden cupcakes in it?

Play kitchen

The mini utensils and pans are also from Ikea. This is the neatest it’s ever looked. It is now mostly filled with Peppa Pig toys and finger puppets made from Cebeebies magazine…

Play Kitchen