Friday, 31 August 2007

A visit to Donna's beautiful house...

Yesterday we went over to visit my friend Donna and her two girls in their lovely house, where we found her up to her middle in laundry after returning from holiday the day before...although this barely seemed to impinge on our day, as unlike me, Donna is fantastic at compartmentalising and leaving jobs while there are people around. Donna's house is one of the most interesting I've ever been to - it mixes utter chaos and disorder with beautiful details sprinkled in amongst it all.

Above is a picture of the village that she has painted onto her fireplace surround...this is one of my favourite things ever to look at - I always spot new things in it each time I see it - this time it was a couple seen kissing through an open window and a pair of trousers hanging on a washing line that I recognise as belonging to her little girl (pictured left) also fulfils my childhood love of all things housey and spending time choosing where I'd like to live and who might live in the surrounding houses - looking at pictures of houseboats is another favourite for the same reason.

Nothing is ever too colourful for Donna....and we have spent hours looking over paint charts together, despite having very different tastes - she is solely responsible for me having any colour at all in my own home and we tease each other horribly about how my idea of being adventurous with colour is to paint my front door a soft muted acorn green, while hers would be to paint it with rainbow stripes in bright primary colours.

In the kitchen is a giant mural of a cockerel painted straight on to the wall and beneath it is this printer's drawer (below) which she has sprayed gold and filled with tiny things; drawings, dolls house foods, and seashells.

I also love these cups that she has on her kitchen window sill.

So I seem to have spent this entire post telling you about Donna's house...and there's so much more to tell, but as I'm about to take the children swimming I seem to have run out of time!

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Piggy in the mud

With the soporific qualities of the seaside air having now worn off, crafting has been resumed. Molly Chicken's fantastic Mousey in a bed pattern that I'd followed last week has set me off on a 'creature in a pouch' jag...and I found myself rather excited by the prospect of creating a Piggy in the here he is. The pattern only needed a tiny bit of tweaking to transform Mousey into a squealing little piglet; a curly tail, pinched in ears, and a shorter nose that was then given the 'snout treatment' and voila! What fun! The children love him and Zebra-Girl encouraged me to embroider the word MUD on to his pillow (was this her way of tactfully suggesting that his identity transformation wasn't obviously complete, I wonder?). Whatever, the possibilities are endless!

Last night I finally started on my fairground carousel that I seem to have been talking about forever's not going too badly, but I've decided that another trip to the fabric store is needed as I think I need to introduce some colours other than gold...and as my thread box hasn't previously been overflowing with metallic colours I can feel some necessary purchasing coming on! What's a girl to do?...

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Big black cloud

Sandy Girl So it's the last week of the holidays and I'm feeling a bit glum about's been so lovely having the children at home - late mornings, late evenings and altogether much more relaxation and fun. The weather had been so good over the bank holiday weekend (or is it just that it's been so bad for the rest of August that we now think 22 degrees is a scorcher?) that we thought we'd go off to the beach today...the forecast was good, it looked fine when we set off and yet the first hour on the sands was spent feeling very British with all our woollies on, huddling in the shield of two hired (extortionately priced) wind-breakers and looking up at the biggest, slowest-moving black cloud I've seen all year.

Black Cloud I've cropped most of the beach out of the photo to preserve the modesty of one particularly brave man who had put most of his naked body on display, save for a very small pair of trunks, but even without the sandy bit, you get the picture as to quite how mean-looking the cloud was. Weirdly though, absolutely no rain accompanied it....thank you!

No matter though...five hours later and the black cloud was a distant memory and we even had to apply a small amount of sunscreen. We spent much of the day, when not paddling, making these pebble pictures, digging holes and gobbling sandy picnic food. There will be no crafting tonight...seaside air always makes me incredibly sleepy; I have no idea how coastal dwellers get a thing done!

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Mmmm, now where's that baby!

Sitting in bed last night with Ian he asked me if I was happy with the baby booties that I'd just finished making that evening. Yes, I replied, but I want a baby to put them on, now! He looked slightly shocked at hearing that (having spent the last couple of months deciding that our car, house and us as people are too small (well, me that is, Ian is 6ft2, but I am ridiculously small at 5ft1) to accommodate any more children easily. I will have to choose my words more carefully to avoid sending him into some kind of shock, for what I actually meant was that it would delight me to see just any baby, a random baby, one with lovely chubby feet having it's little trotters squeezed into one of my new booties. Oh how I love babies' feet!

Anyway, my dear friend, Charlotte, is having her baby soon (well, in December) and I am currently making a pink option and a blue option and will be posting a pair over to Canada as soon as I hear what sort of baby it is that arrives!

The pattern for the booties is Heather Bailey's, found here - so many options for varying the design, colours and embellishments...they are very much fun to make! I chose a spotty cotton sole for mine, instead of felt, as it picks out the red and pink from the hearts, flowers and stitching - and also requires only the tiniest scrap of material; some fabrics I have difficulty bringing myself to use because I love them so, so much, and this is one of them. It was a really cheap fabric bought from Ikea nearly five years ago, but it is one of the fabrics that I used to make Zebra-Girl's curtains - for me it represents her entire bedroom, the smell of it, the 'feel' of it and just her as a little girl (she's had them since she was two and I've altered them each time we've moved to accommodate a new window size) - so nostalgic that I can't bear to use too much of it at a time and so I eek it out on small, special projects. I dislike the idea that her curtains will be fading in the sun too (it's a bay window so when they're open in the day the sun shines straight onto them)....oh I must try not to think too much...particularly as all my thoughts seems to be so very maudlin tonight!!! (picture of much loved curtains below).

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Mousling siblings...

Yesterday I'd talked about the little 'mousey in a bed' pattern that Molly Chicken had posted on her blog here (second post down) - I had become quite besotted with them and so decided to put everything else on one side tonight and make some immediately. I am now even more besotted for now having seen them in the the flesh (or should that be in the mousey felt?) and I have put them next to Zebra-Girl & Dinosaur-Boy's cereal bowls ready for them to find in the morning.

Each one seems to come out with a slightly different facial expression and as there are endless possibilities for embellishments on the duvets , or even the addition of some whiskers, I can't see myself tiring of making them and so may end up making a whole extended family if they are well-received at breakfast time.

I haven't really attempted any children's toys before, but after reading about a book called Sock & Glove by Miyako Kanamori on Fred's World I went to Waterstones and had a quick look through...and gosh you can do some amazing things with a sock! The fun I've had with the mice has made me think that it may not be an entirely ridiculous addition to my bookshelf.

My husband once made Zebra-Girl a sock dog from an old black sock with the addition of paper eyes, nose and mouth stuck on with some glue - it amused us for hours (it's face was strangely soulful and so whenever Ian made him converse with us he did seem very real and full of canine personality), but the creations in Sock & Glove make poor old sock dog look like the sock that he was...
Anyway, a huge thank you to Molly Chicken for the fantastic pattern.

Ooh! I seem to have been on a fabric spree!

Yesterday found me in the local fabric shop about to pass out with excitement....I had rather thought that if they stocked Amy Butler fabrics they would have large signs announcing this fact (and possibly even a brass band?)...but no, as I was ferreting through the rather chaotically stacked piles of fabrics I found the very beautiful Belle French Wallpaper fabric (far left in picture) all alone and mixed in with all the nasty old-lady's-dress prints...which somehow made it all the more delightful to happen upon it! I treated myself to a fat quarter...although I will be back for more, and can see myself buying the whole roll piecemeal...sort of like the Saturday Sweet Day of old, I may introduce a Belle French Wallpaper Wednesday.

But the excitement didn't end there, for the fabric shop has obviously been on a buying spree of it's own and had some new lovelies in store (these less well hidden than the Amy Butler) - yummy brown polkas on pink and apple green backgrounds and then the felts....I found this lovely multi-coloured polka dot which I think will make a fantastic bed cover for the the Mousy in a Bed that Molly Chicken has posted the pattern for here (I have fallen in love with these). I want to make one of these for Zebra-Girl & Dinosaur-Boy as I know they will love them too. Weirdly though, I found myself buying mousy-coloured felt for the actual mouse (I imagine most mice to be a sort of tawny brown colour)...I think for the same reason that I don't read sci-fi books....I'm simply not very good at having my animals any other colour than they are in 'real life'....I must relax and force myself to do psychedelically-coloured mice in an attempt to try and break this rather dull trait.

And there's the gold thread I bought for my carousel....which I am still having a think could be some time.

We ended the day with a bike ride in the rain...Zebra-Girl's bike had arrived back from being mended so we ploughed up and down the road for a while to test it out before we decided that it was getting too wet and dark to continue (how can it be almost dark at 7pm in August??? was so depressingly gloomy!).

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Some horsey inspiration....

As you can see above, today's activities only served to feed my thoughts as to appliquéing some sort of carousel! It was very much accidentally happened-upon inspiration though, for we had gone up to town with the purpose of visiting the London Aquarium with dear Grandmama in tow, so the equestrian activities were an added bonus. Zebra-Girl's homing device to all things gaudily coloured, musical and over-priced was well-tuned and she seemed to be aware of the prancing horses' presence from almost the moment we had exited Waterloo's concourse. £8 later and all four of us felt very happy, despite the fact that Zebra-Girl & I had chosen to ride a horse with a most unhorsey name; Linda, while my mother's sensibilities had been equally upset by the misspelling of her & Dinosaur-Boy's horse's name as Jeffason, rather than Jefferson. But despite all these niggles it only reconfirmed to me how utterly deliciously magical carousels can be...the music, the lights, their lovely colours...

But lovely as all those things are, the idea of all those colours on my wall (if I ever get around to making this picture) is seeming like it has the potential to induce migraines....which is why I'm thinking at the moment that I may want to sew my carousel purely in gold coloured thread and make it more of a 'line drawing' on a creamy coloured background....possibly wimping out, but I don't want to end up having to put it in one of the children's rooms because it's so garish; I'd quite like this for the living room mounted in an old gilt frame....oh how hideous I'm making it sound...if only I could take a picture of what is in my head it would all be simple. I must be quiet before I put even myself off the whole idea!

Anyway, we had a super time despite the rain and general gloom, but I have come home feeling like I may need to have an early night tucked up in bed with a good book. I'm currently reading Bonjour Tristesse, which my sister, Laura, gave to me as a gift last weekend - it is wonderful and, this week in particular when I don't feel I have the brain capacity to retain too many thoughts in my head for too many days, all the better for being such a slim volume!

Monday, 20 August 2007

A better day than yesterday...

A sigh of relief after yesterday's plastic nightmare. I was going to have a night off from making anything tonight, but felt so disgruntled that I just had to rustle something up to try and dispel the bad feeling! I'd seen something on etsy - an absolutely beautiful little purse made by bloomdesign co - a couple of weeks ago and had been desperate to have a go at recreating was quite a nice project to do and the design is so simple that I was able to draw the pattern myself....somehow though, mine hasn't ended up resembling the Bloom one at all - which is both good & bad (good in that there's not too much satisfaction in recreating something exactly, bad in that I am still very much wanting one of the original purses and if I can't make something that resembles it more closely I will actually have to buy one!).

I can't quite decide whether it errs on the side of looking slightly childish though -maybe it's the fabric...Zebra-Girl may well wake up with an unexpected present beside her bed in the morning.

We had a very relaxing day today - a rare day during the holidays when we had no one to see and nowhere that we needed to we stayed in our pyjamas until 1.30pm...and didn't even feel guilty! Zebra-Girl did some of the scrap book that my friend Clare bought for her earlier in the summer, although it is not actually very scrappy at all, as it is the most beautifully made book. It has lovely pom-poms dangling off the sides and sheets of stickers that you can use as photo frames. Zebra-Girl chose to use these to frame the items on her birthday wish list (in no particular order of either desperate wanting of the item on her part - it's all equally desperate - or likelihood of us actually buying the item in question on our part): a computer, an Ariel Mermaid AND Ariel dressing up costume (!), a cat that purrs (!!), a gemstone bracelet and a cuddly toy unicorn....I love the way small children covet the oddest of things that bear no relation to one another.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

I don't think I like working with plastic very much....

So here is the wallety photo holder thing I'd been talking about yesterday.

I had been so excited about this project...everything about it seemed so perfect:
a) it uses hardly any material,
b) allows for the use of nice contrasting lining (a most appealing prospect in a project),
c) is vaguely useful (unlike so many of my ideas) and
d) seemed just all-round lovely.

However, I hadn't really thought very hard about working with plastic....these are the downsides:
a) gone are the nice little neat stitches...these were achievable on the top side, but not on the underside (does anyone have any suggestions???)
b) even though the plastic was covered by material on both sides it felt like it was ice-skating beneath the presser-foot
c) it is just so....crinkly! eugggh!

So anyway, I am most displeased by it...I still love the idea of it, love the materials together, but it was so horrible to construct that no satisfaction can be had, particularly when looking at those vile sloppy stitches (below right)....such a disappointment to a girl!

However, all is not lost because these things are good:
a) While doing this devil's work I thought of something else that I wanted to make that doesn't involve plastic (horay!!!)...but more of that later.
b) I don't believe I will ever tire of ironing on interfacing - it seems to instantly transform the material into looking spookily like a 'finished' item without even having sewn a stitch or it resembling anything other than a square of fabric

So, does anyone have any great ideas for what can be made from fat quarters or preferably smaller scraps?

Making plans....and cupcakes

So, at the moment I'm thinking about two different projects - the first is a photo holder wallety type thing...I went on a supplies mission yesterday morning and am planning to start on that this evening, although am yet to find out how sewing machines cope with going through plastic - can't work out if I need a really sharp needle point or a really blunt one to avoid ending up with a continuous ripped line of perforated dots?

The other project is more of a long-term, time-consuming one - I've been thinking about appliquéing a fairground carousel, but am thinking it may be best to get the actual horses printed on to the material and appliqué everything else around my animals rarely resemble the intended beast, and also I like the idea of having lots of different mediums.

In the meantime we have been making fairy cakes with these gorgeous cupcake cases (below)...I didn't really want the actual cakes - as I knew I'd end up helping eat them - but was desperate to use these holders, so we had a baking session on Friday morning with Zebra-Girl, Dinosaur-Boy & my sister, Laura, and took some around to a friend's house in the afternoon. Somehow, between constant chatter, making little heart shapes out of foil to pour the hundreds and thousands into, much child-assisted mixing, followed by hungry scraping of the empty bowl, this simple activity took us over two hours!!!....

Thursday, 16 August 2007

The cupboard was bare!

Today found me lacking two cards that I needed to send and no time to get to a card shop as we were trying to get out quickly to go on a picnic before it rained again. So instead we Googled for a couple of images and made these: one a birthday card for a friend who has a passion for oxtail soup (!....we have had numerous conversations about what they do with the rest of the ox, as the tail seems to be the only part of it that is ever used for culinary purposes - if anyone knows then please do enlighten us). The other for a little boy, Ben, who Zebra-Girl & Dinosaur-Boy are friends with, who has an obsession with Star Wars - we came across this picture on Google of a stormtrooper hatching from a hen's egg in a birds nest! A delightfully surreal combination.

The picnic was nice and the rain stayed away until our walk home, at least. I've also photographed the delicious-looking strawberries that I was cutting up to take with us this morning...although I didn't get to taste any as the children gobbled them all up in about two minutes!

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Picking our ceramics up!

We have a really lovely ceramics studio near our house where you can go and spend a couple of hours painting any of the huge selection of 'bisque' (, I'd never heard that word before, but wondered whether I could use it without seeming like I was trialling out a new term...but I can't!). So anyway, I'd really wanted to take Zebra-Girl there for a long time as she loves painting and drawing, but had been too anxious to take Dinosaur-Boy as I couldn't imagine him settling to it. But last week Zebra-Girl & I had a rare morning to ourselves so decided to go and see if they had a spare table (the nearer we got the more frantically I began trying to make a mental list of consoling alternatives if they didn't). Luckily they did have a table. Zebra-Girl chose to paint a unicorn (her current obsession and thankfully one of the less expensive pieces on offer) and I chose a drinks coaster. After some brief instructions we got down to the painting. The paint pots looked lovely and were all beautiful pastelly shades, loaded onto a circular wheel in the middle of each table. I'd never painted any ceramics before and it was more difficult than I'd imagined trying to decide what colours to paint it, as once the piece is glazed the colours are far from pastel and become very vibrant, so it's very much a case of imagining how you might want it to look. I chose to do a flower pattern in red and pink....which was really awkward as in their pre-glazed state this equates to using pink...and pink, so it was really hard to tell where I'd been with what colour, particularly as you have to paint the whole design three times to get a really vivid colour result. The whole thing would have been a strangely meditative activity had it not been for Zebra-Girl's frequent panics that the paint was dribbling down the unicorns legs onto his patch of grass, and for the man that we were sharing a table with who paced around loudly taking mobile phone calls for the entirety of our visit. However, neither of these were a particularly bad thing as they were just enough to dissuade me from completely immersing myself and spending the entire day there painting piece after piece.

So we went to pick them up today and were both really pleased with them. Above is the finished drinks coaster that I picked up today and here is a picture of Zebra-Girl at the this point she is convinced that the unicorn will be pink....on picking it up we could both see it is most very definitely bright red...which makes for a less docile looking unicorn than you might be traditionally used to seeing, but she is delighted with it anyway.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Making t-shirts

Dinosaur-Boy is now three and every year since he was born, at the start of summer, I've bought some plain white t-shirts and appliqued some pictures onto them. I love doing them, which is good because I'd been a bit disappointed by the lack of t-shirts for boys that didn't have writing or pictures of very 'boysy' things on them.

I've sewn all the t-shirt designs by hand using blanket stitch, as sometimes it's nice to be doing something creative that doesn't tie me to the sewing machine. On the right is a picture of my little boy Dinosaur-Boy wearing one last summer. Above, I've also included one that I made for one of his friends on their first birthday and for that one I chain-stitched his name onto the lorry, along with one of an ice cream cone and flake.

Hair slides

I'd wanted to make some hair accessories for a while and then came across the findings in our local craft shop. At first I'd thought about gluing gems, buttons and beads onto the metal frames (enough to cover them), but decided it would be nicer to sew them onto strips of velvet and then glue those on.

It took a while to work out how to stop the velvet from fraying (if you singe the end with a match for a couple of seconds it forms a plasticy end) and then also how to keep the beads from going out of line (you have to sew back through them all several times)...but ended up being really pleased with the result.

Making a chalkboard for Zebra-Girls's room

I loved doing this - although painty creations aren't normally my thing. I found some fantastic pink blackboard paint at our local diy store that you can paint straight onto the wall - it takes several coats, but the chalk actually seems to show up even more clearly than it would on a traditional black board and you can wipe it with a damp cloth the way you normally would. I bought some bits of wooden decorative....oh, have no idea what it's called (edging, cornicing, plinths???) and sprayed them gold. The only tricky bit was measuring out the angles so that the ends all met up really neatly. When I'd finally got that right I nailed them onto the wall and put some filler into any of the gaps and painted that with some of the gold spray. I put some fairies above it and a little rack to store the chalks in below it. It's big enough for three or four children to stand in front of and takes up the best part of a wall!

Lots of storage pockets!

So anyway, on to some of the projects that I've been amusing myself with: a couple of weeks ago I decided that, in the absence of a bedside table, Zebra Girl ought to have somewhere to store her books and drinks in reach of her set to work making a valance with some little pockets so that she could store her things in it. I only intended to do two pockets, but it was so much fun that it ended up being a far bigger project than I'd intended. I found some enormous patterned buttons in our local fabric shop and had fun working them into some of the pictures (the centre of the flower and the cherry on the fairy cake).

In retrospect some interfacing on the pockets may have been a good idea to help them stand up a bit more...but it's too late for that now, so am trying not to think about it and instead have sewn tiny velcro tabs on to the backs of the house and the cake to stop their tops from drooping down.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

My first post!

Still trying to get to grips with how this all works, so thought I'd start off by putting a photo up of the dress and handbag that Zebra-Girl (age five) made with me for her bear a couple of weeks ago. All made of felt to avoid having to do too many hems, but she did all the machining herself and became quite expert at controlling the speed. The only problem came whenever I was trying to re-thread the needle and she would absent-mindedly let her foot slip back onto the peddle!
She then decided to make a handbag for bear too and was adamant that it must be a red velvet strap. It kept her amused for hours and I was utterly delighted that she seemed to have caught the crafting bug like me....but strangely, since then she never wants bear to actually wear the dress and seemed to take far more pleasure in the creation of it than the displaying of it is now at the bottom of her toy box, but I will always remember making it with her, dressed in our pyjamas until lunchtime on a very rainy Sunday morning. I saw some new felts that had spots and patterns on them in the local fabric shop, so intend to buy some to see if I can tempt her into thinking of something else she might like to make.
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