Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Making beds for troublesome cats

This large shiny new compass was one of my Christmas presents from Ian. So many times had he walked into the room to find me surrounded by upturned pots, pans and laundry baskets trying to locate just the right size circle to draw around for my latest sewing project that he sourced a special compass that has extension poles to turn its circle-drawing capacity from large to super large. It helps that it is so lovely to gaze at and that it looks like an architectural sculpture in its own right...it makes me think it will create a superior type of circle, one which I will go on to do great things with...but for now it assisted me in making some cat beds.

Looking at the cat beds in the pet shop was a whole new world. Two weeks ago I didn't want black fleece materials with paw prints over them around my house...so why would cat ownership change this, I wondered? I could almost feel myself being pulled into the vacuum of cuteness, but at the last moment I put down the fur-lined pyramid-bed that my children had been encouraging me to buy (it was a single bed, so two would have cost a whopping £70!) and told them that I thought we might just make some instead. Pet sewing was a whole uncharted water for me and I thought there might be fun to have there. The word fun doesn't quite do it justice though...it was utterly thrilling to sew thinking of their happy little faces resting on my creations and now I have worked some puffily padded Amy Butler loveliness into my utility room in the process. They have padded sides with a plump removable cushion on the inside... SO cosy. One of the cushions is even stuffed with duck-down as I thought that may make it especially luxurious...I was feeling less generous by the time it came to making cat bed number two though as there is no tidy way to stuff anything with down and the room had ended up looking like I'd had a pillow fight. So there is Bed No 1 on the landing...what could a cat do to endear itself more to it's new and a little stressy seamstress owner (for Bella especially is some kind of fur machine and so our bedroom/sewing room door can never be left open again, as lovely Pipany said, the idea of selling anything with cat hairs on is just too traumatic to risk it), than use the bed that she has just stitched for it...well, they sniffed it, and then they left it for a day...and then finally in the middle of the night I went downstairs and saw that Bella had secretly curled herself up in it and was willing to be photographed.

However, it must be said that her behaviour has been far from impeccable. Last night after tea we were alerted to the fact that all may not be well by the sound of frantic banging and mewling coming from inside the chimney breast in the living room. It didn't take me long to ascertain that not only was she stuck up the chimney, but that on her entry she had knocked the hatch in the fireplace down and, with her weight on top of the the hatch, she had effectively locked herself in there. Calm in a crisis, I screamed very loudly, making both the children cry before managing to recompose myself. Our task was to implore her to climb higher so that we might open it up again...what eventually emerged was a shockingly black cat that streaked straight across my treasured living room rug, splatted its paws at the sofa, before hurtling out into the hallway and up the stairs (and yes, the bedroom door really is always closed, so at least I knew my fabrics were safe, if nothing else). Frantic and hyperventilating (her, not us) we had no option but to try and bath her, which was only partially successful, as this is how she looked after the bath:

After looking anxiously at her grey matted fur all day today, and her depressed little face I finally decided that I may not be big enough to tackle this alone and took her to the vets where they offered to bath her with special shampoo. Two hours later I went and picked up my newly happy cat, who's previously snowy coat now has a slightly yellowish tinge to it, but is no longer grey and starry at least. Ian cheerfully tells me that I must look upon the challenges of her hair loss, terrifying mishaps and potential half-dead 'gifts' caught fresh from the garden as a great adventure...I am thinking that cat ownership may well be like an extreme sport with all the adrenalin rushes that might equally be gained through skydiving. I have not been previously known for my love of such things, but there seems to be nothing left to do other than to jump out of the plane joyfully shrieking: let the adventure begin!

So for now, Bella is back safely snuggled up in her bed probably dreaming up new misadventures (Honey has proved far less troublesome AND is enjoying her bed, what a perfect example she is attempting to set - if I had to pick a house prefect it would certainly be her...although Bella's mishaps are strangely endearing). Anyway, aside from the cat beds I really do have the most enormous stock-pile of sewing-related goodness to share now (for I fear it could seem as though this is turning into a feline-themed blog...which is just not the case at all). The time to blog seems fleeting at the moment, but I'm sure it's just around the corner and that I will be reunited with it soon. In the meantime thank you so much for all your lovely comments on my rather sporadic blog posts. x
p.s. If you want tips on hair control for cats then do go and look in the comments on my last post - Gigibird has left mention of promising products and I already have a Zoom Groom on order on her recommendation.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Honey & Bella

Well, I had promised that my next post would be full of details of all the stitchery that I have been up to in my blog absence...but after so much useful input on the cat quandary that I mentioned that I was in during my last post, it seemed entirely wrong to not let you know that you are partially responsible for the new feline presence in our house and the delight of two small children who wake from sleep an hour earlier than usual and race straight down to the playroom to greet their already beloved cats. After trawling rescue centres for just the right ones, I eventually found these two beauties who are two and nearly three. After visiting them with my mother, I then needed to have our home inspected to see whether we would be suitable adopters...and how very nervous I was. I was cast back to the feelings that my friend and I had while pregnant when the Health Visitor was due to come for our home visits. Perhaps bizarrely, in retrospect, we both felt compelled to clean the inside of our ovens in case this was the type of thing that they would wish to inspect (for the pregnant amongst you, if home visits are still in existence, I think they're actually coming to check that you're not feeling too overwhelmed by everything and so that you have a friendly point of contact once your baby is actually here...it is now inconceivable to me that one would ever dream of requesting to look inside your oven). Anyway, seven years later, nervously awaiting my home visit to adopt a cat, my pregnancy friend of old, knowing exactly what fears might be running through my head, emailed me with an order to stop cleaning and to try and relax.

Home visit form signed (and yes, I did clean my oven, more as nerve-calming therapy than anything else), permission granted to be a few minutes late to school the next morning, I felt that I could now tell Zebra-girl and Dinosaur boy that we would be having some cats. What followed was utter excitement, an evening trip to the pet shop so that the children could buy gifts of toys and fishy treats, then the next day, a surreal headlamp-lit drive into the countryside in the darkness of the early morning so that the children could meet the cats before school, a race to get them back in time for 8.45am, and then another drive for Ian and I to fill in all the paperwork and finally bring our cats home. The beautiful little tabby was originally called Honey and actually once we got to know her personality it seemed to suit her so well that we kept it: she is nervous, gentle and has a sweet inquisitiveness that prevents her from spending her entire time hiding behind the sofa. Bella (originally Sheba) has been named after the elder sister in the Shirley Hughes book, Dogger - a big girl's name that, to me, tells of natural confidence. Our own Bella has such a vast coat of hair that she looks extraordinarily large, and wanders around demanding friendship and attention without a hint of timidity.

And me, I have been feeling a little wobbly. I am naturally tidy and have always been a little obsessive about things not getting ruined or spoilt in any way, which is why I had veered away from getting cats until now. But as Zebra-girl's longing for pets increased, so too did my unease at the idea of having to tell her when questioned in years to come that the reason she never had a pet was because I didn't want cat hairs everywhere, for the sofa to be plucked at, or for my fabric cupboard to be used as a bed. I knew that wasn't the kind of mummy that I wanted to be, even if that is very much what exists on the inside. And so we now have these two lovely cats who are bringing so much happiness to us and who desperately needed a home (having been in a pen at the rescue centre since August). But I do find that I am having to battle with the bit of myself that occasionally begins hyperventilating when I find that they have mistaken one of Zebra-girl's most beautiful hairbands as a cat toy. However, special cat-proof catches have been bought for my fabric cupboard, an amazing hairbrush which Joanne told me about has arrived (it promises to reduce shedding by 90% - Ian is on duty with it daily as I can be prone to being allergic to most things other than air and cold water) and a packet of herbal teas called 'Calm' which are meant to reduce anxiety are being drunk. I think it will all be fine.

I shall leave you with a picture of this little stack of jumpers that I have purchased. I ordered one, and found that it was such a perfect fit and so warm and cosy that when I saw that they were in the Boden sale for less than £20 (and they are a yummy cashmere blend, so that really does seem uncommonly reasonable), well I found myself popping one of each of my favourite colours into my basket (and oh dear, there's one more too, and that one is stripy, but I was wearing that when I took the photograph). And just in case you are thinking that, gosh, the black jumper looks so very useful, are you sure you shouldn't have bought two just in case?...well, fear not, I had that thought too and so took the wise precaution of doing just that. I was a little embarrassed to send a thank you letter to my parents-in-law explaining that I had spent all my Christmas money on one thing in several colourways, but I knew that my mother-in-law would probably understand, as she can be partial to a little bit of Boden herself.

Now my next post really will be full of crafty goodness, I promise. x

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Hibernating with the small ones

Well, happy new year lovelies! It is exactly a month since my last blog post: Christmas has been and gone, following such a flurry of last minute December custom orders that I found myself barely able to do anything other than plan, cut, sew and rush to the post office at regular intervals. With Dinosaur-boy still at school for only half a day it was a bitter-sweet time of happiness - I was delighted to have the work, but very aware of how unfortunate the timing was, knowing that once he was full-time in January the likelihood was that my busyness would die down to something more resembling the pace of a snail. So when I posted my last order off on the 20th December I crashed somewhat and seized some much needed hibernation time with Zebra-girl and Dinosaur-boy. I made these tissue-paper and pipe-cleaner flowers at school as a child and Zebra-girl was just as delighted by the process as I remember being myself (so much opportunity for colour-matching!). Dinosaur-boy joined us when he saw the bouquet that was rapidly forming on the bedroom floor and they each filled a small glass vase with them to give as a gift for Mr Teacakes' birthday shortly after Christmas.

I could look at their lovely colours all day...and at times they look oddly real.

Christmas was full of all things lovely: time with family, beautiful gifts, cosy films, scrumptious food and lots of crisp woodland walks. Ian was lucky enough to have nearly ten days off and on his one day in the office, we stayed at home and made bread, a previously unexplored avenue of fun for us. Make any shape you like, I said after we had pounded at our dough for over ten minutes; Zebra-girl was naturally bent on turning her dough ball into something feline.

Before Christmas I found a note in her book bag that was intended for Father Christmas. Dear Father Christmas, please could you bring me a cat because I really love them. Or some kittens. Or actually any animal at all because I would really like a pet. But especially a cat. Thank you. My little Zebra actually knows who the bearded man really is...I can only think that she must have been so desperate when she wrote this that she was willing to suspend all disbelief if the end result might have been a cat on the end of her bed. This has been her main request for the last two years and for the first time we're seriously considering it. It would be difficult for me because I don't have a work room where I can close the door. I think of the thread rack full of cottons on the wall and the cupboards full of fabrics in our bedroom and wonder at how I would keep something kittenish out those places, when the idea of living with closed doors on a long-term basis doesn't appeal. I have visions of the kimonos that hang from the picture rails in our room mid-creation being used as climbing apparatus and want to despair at the very idea. I would love to hear how you cope with the hair and curious paws that come with cat ownership when mixed with a beloved stash of craft materials. Can you train a cat not to come upstairs? But equally I know how much I loved having cats around as a child and how very good for the soul they can be. Oh dear. I am in a quandary. That aside, the bread-cat's ears were very crunchy, but apparently its body was quite the most tasty thing.

I had ordered this wonderful book, Green Crafts for Children, as a gift for a friend, but when it arrived I had a quick look through and was so impressed that I simply had to have a copy for for us too. The projects in it are wonderful, inspired, inventive and nostalgic all at the same time and we were tempted by every single one of them. Each project is beautifully photographed and the instructions are very clear. These papier mache bowls were meant to be made from newspaper and painted with poster paint...but these were our second attempt as we quickly realised that all our paints had dried up after a spell in the garage and our only way of injecting colour was to remake them with tissue papers instead. A deliciously gooey project, with no need for the days of delayed gratification that usually goes hand-in-hand with papier mache as we put them to cook in the oven for an hour instead.

We also made this felt necklace from the book too: a very simple idea, but actually quite difficult for a child to execute, as so much strength was needed to push the needle through the felt sausages to thread them onto the cotton.

Zebra-girl persevered as she was desperate to wear the finished article, but Dinosaur-boy lost patience and went to lie on the playroom floor where he sang the following song very loudly:

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
All in a shower of rain
He bumped his head
And stayed in Bed
So that he didn't have to do any arts and crafts ever again.

This made us laugh so much that we ended up stabbing our fingers and I have to admit that as we bent a needle for the third time trying to force it through the wodges of felt I would have happily joined Doctor Foster in his bed. But we did all love the end result.

I saw this book in the shops over Christmas too, the ethos of which I love - slightly less beautiful to look at for an adult, but I know that it would delight both my children who love junk modelling and the props for which can be more easily found on covert trips to raid the recycling cupboard when my back is turned, for less ordered, and less mummy-led fun. Zebra hums as she riffles and pillages in an attempt to muffle the rustling noises and then races through the kitchen at dangerous speeds with egg boxes crammed beneath her armpits as though this type of raiding is quite the naughtiest thing a child can do. I think this book would be perfect for her.

Anyway, I have so many grown-up craft-related things to share, but that's another post entirely. My little Dinosaur is now at school all day long, but I've yet to find out quite what that means for me as it has been an odd week, with visits from lovely friends from overseas, and Ian at home with me for a couple of days to celebrate his birthday - so far this has involved games of scrabble, a trip to the cake shop, and a lovely lunch out and some pottering round the shops. What will you do next week? he asked as we stood in a queue in the bank today. Well, I said, I have a friend I want to call in on and another who I might meet up with for lunch and I will finish the doorstop that I'm working on and maybe think about making some bags for spring and perhaps see if I can help in Dinosaur-boy's classroom for an afternoon. And suddenly it all sounded horribly slackerish. Well, you did work very hard in December, Mr Teacakes said indulgently, and I felt hugely grateful to him for being so generous-spirited, for although I am feeling a little glum about the idea of not having a small one at home during the day, I can see that life may not be entirely awful with all this time on my hands to be filled with my own plans and ideas. x