Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Teacher gifts: first time jitters

This is the first Christmas that we've had a child in full time school and the dilema of what to offer as a seasonal gift that was likely to be appreciated but also simple and appropriate hit us for the first time. Blog-land provided the answer though. There are so many amazing posts out there with ideas and suggestions, and suitably inspired we got to work.

One afternoon of baking with the kids resulted in a nice big batch of gingerbread stars and trees (and several unidentifiable shapes), some for us and some for gifts. Actually, the ones that I made we decided to use for gifts and the kids creations we thought might be better suited for our own consumption. We all had fun making them though.

After letting the kids ice theirs I decided that the ones to be given as gifts might need adult-only attention, so last night once the kids were asleep I got busy with a bit of white icing. Keeping it simple seemed to be the way forward, not least because Midi has two teachers and a teaching assistant so there were quite a few biscuits to get through.

The final question was one of presentation. One of the homewares shops in my local town came up trumps with some fantastic flp-lid jars which were not only reasonably price but had red lids too! How much more seasonal can you get?

Add a bit of ribbon and a gift tag and they're good to go! Midi was most excited going into school with her first two to give away this morning. Seasonal teacher gifts sorted! (And another new parental challenge completed.)

Monday, 10 December 2012

The sticky jewellery organiser - a tutorial

It's been a while, hasn't it? It's been a mad year, what with a sick father, a new toddler and a new business. I'm going to forgive myself for not being here more often. I'm also not going to commit myself to being here more often again, but I'm glad I kept this place, because today I finally got round to a craft project I've been wanting to take on for a while and I'd also like to share it.

Here is the twiggy necklace organiser, or the rustic jewellery display shelf, or, well, I don't really have a name for it but here it is:

We've needed something to help organise our jewellery for a while and I've seen things similar to this online so when we had to give our big hazel a trim last month I kept a branch or two aside with this in mind.

Here's the how to:

Collect your sticks! You need a larger piece for the base (mine was about 1.5" thick and 18" long) and a selection of smaller twigs that will become the hooks.

Take a good look at your smaller twigs. Ideally they will all be a similar width. You'll need to have access to a drill bit suitable for wood that is almost exactly the same size as them. If you can't find a precise match then go for one that is ever so slightly smaller. Too big and your twigs will just fall right out the holes (unless you use a ton of wood glue).

Drill holes at a slight angle at intervals all along your base stick. You need the same number of holes as you have twigs, surprisingly enough. Each hole should go about half an inch deep into your base stick.
At each end of your stick you need to drill the holes that you will use to secure your hanging rail to the wall when it's finished. These need to be drilled stright through the base stick, not at an angle, and they need to go all the way through. (I forgot to photograph them, but you basically need one hole at each end, about 1" in.)

Once all your holes have been drilled, push the twigs into all of them apart from the ones for hanging at each end. They should be quite a snug fit. If they are loose, you might need to use some wood glue to secure them. If any of your twigs are too large to fit in the holes then you can whittle a little off the end to make them fit.

Once all your holes are filled with twigs, and glued should you feel the need, you're all done!
To hang (again, I didn't photograph this part) simply screw a screw through each of the holes you left at the ends until they protrude slightly out the back of the stick. Press the completed hanger against the wall, hard enough that the screw tips leave slight indentations in the wall. Use these as guides to drill into the wall using whatever drill bit is appropriate for your wall type and insert the right kind of plugs before screwing the hanging screws into the wall. If you're hanging it directly onto wood you can just screw straight into it.
And there you have it. One jewellery hanger that looks great, is completely free and took less than an hour to create.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Yellow Angry Bird Crochet Pattern

As the first leaves start to turn I find the first thought that springs to mind is that it's my daughter's birthday soon. I always like to make her a gift and this year I happened to ask her what she wanted whilst she was playing on my phone. "I want the angry birds Mummy." I could have guessed my timing would result in a request like that but I was quite happy to be set this particular challenge. I've become quite a fan of the game myself.

I'm looking forward to making the full set, and a few pigs, and can just picture the fun that will be had recreating the game with these soft squishy toys and a large collection of building blocks.

So, here is bird number one, the triangular yellow one. I wrote out the pattern as I went so here it is for anyone else who fancies creating one. I'm not the most experienced pattern writer so please let me know if you try it and it needs tweaking at all, or if anything doesn't make sense. Despite being British I learnt my crochet from the internet so speak American so this pattern uses American stitch names.


Yellow Angry Bird Crochet Pattern

Body Top

Make 1

Using yellow DK yarn and D/3.25mm hook:

Ch 2
Row 1: 6sc in 2nd ch from hook. (6 stitches)
Work in a spiral from this point, You may wish to use a stitch marker to show where each row starts and finishes.
Row 2: *1sc in first stitch, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (9 stitches)
Row 3: *1sc in next 2 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (12 stitches)
Row 4: *1sc in next 3 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (15 stitches)
Row 5: *1sc in next 4 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (18 stitches)
Row 6: *1sc in next 5 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (21 stitches)
Row 7: *1sc in next 6 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (24 stitches)
Row 8: *1sc in next 7 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (27 stitches)
Row 9: *1sc in next 8 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (30 stitches)
Row 10: *1sc in next 9 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (33 stitches)
Row 11: *1sc in next 10 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (36 stitches)
Row 12: *1sc in next 11 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (39 stitches)
Row 13: *1sc in next 12 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (42 stitches)
Row 14: *1sc in next 13 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (45 stitches)
Row 15: *1sc in next 14 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (48 stitches)
Row 16: *1sc in next 15 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (51 stitches)
Row 17: *1sc in next 16 stitches, 2sc in next stitch* repeat twice (54 stitches)

Body Base

Make 1

Using white DK yarn and D/3.25mm hook:

Ch 2
Row 1: 6sc in 2nd ch from hook. (6 stitches)
Work in a spiral from this point, You may wish to use a stitch marker to show where each row starts and finishes.
Row 2: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next st* repeat twice (12 stitches)
Row 3: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next 3 st* repeat twice (18 stitches)
Row 4: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next 5 st* repeat twice (24 stitches)
Row 5: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next 7 st* repeat twice (30 stitches)
Row 6: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next 9 st* repeat twice (36 stitches)
Row 7: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next 11 st* repeat twice (42 stitches)
Row 8: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next 13 st* repeat twice (48 stitches)
Row 9: *3sc in first st, 1sc in next 15 st* repeat twice (54 stitches)


Make 2.

Using white DK yarn and D/3.25mm hook:

Ch 2
Row 1: 6sc in 2nd ch from hook. (6 stitches)
Work in a spiral from this point, You may wish to use a stitch marker to show where each row starts and finishes.
Row 2: 2sc in each stitch round (12 stitches)
Change to black DK yarn
Row 3: *slip stitch in first stitch, 2 slip stitches in next stitch* repeat 5 times.
Tie off leaving a 10” tail.


Make 2

Using brown DK yarn and D/3.25mm hook:

Ch 9, turn
Row 1: Sc into 2nd chain from hook and in each ch in row.
Tie off leaving a 10” tail

Tail/Head ruff

Make 2

Using black DK yarn and D/3.25mm hook:

Ch 8, turn
Dc, hdc, sc in 3rd ch from hook. Slip st in next 2 ch.
*Ch 4, dc, hdc, sc in 3rd ch from hook. Slip st in next stitch. Slip st in in next stitch on original chain.*
Repeat 2 more times.
Tie off leaving a 10” tail.


Make 1

Using orange DK yarn and D/3.25mm hook:

Ch 2
Row 1: 6sc in 2nd ch from hook. (6 st)
Work in a spiral from this point, You may wish to use a stitch marker to show where each row starts and finishes.
Row 2: 2sc in first stitch, 1 sc in each of the next 5 stitches (7 st)
Row 3: 1sc in each st (7 st)
Row 4: 1sc in first 3 st, 2sc in next st, 3sc in next 3 st (8 st)
Row 5: 1sc in each st (8 st)
Row 6: 2sc in first st, 1sc in next 3 st*, repeat (10 st)
Row 7: 2sc in first st, 1sc in next 4 st*, repeat (12 st)
Row 8: 2sc in first st, 1sc in next 5 st*, repeat (14 st)
Tie off leaving a 10” tail


I attached the features to the body top before stuffing because I find it easier and because I was using plastic eyes as pupils but this isn't essential and black stitching would also work for the pupils.  I used started toy stuffing but again, anything would work. Whatever you use, stuff your bird quite firmly - it helps it to keep its shape.

Attach the eyes first, securing in the centre with a pupil of your choice and then stitching round the outside, trimming all other loose threads and stuffing them under the eye to keep them out the way. Then stuff the beak and stitch on, and sew the eyebrows into position. The head ruff and tail can then be positioned. 

Line up the triangular shaped base and stitch 2/3 the way round before stuffing firmly and sewing up the opening. And then, if these instructions have been in any way usable, you should hopefully have your very own yellow angry bird!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Balls. (Alternatively: What I Did on My Holidays)

Well, it's been a good while since I last posted. I clearly wasn't quite as blog addicted as I thought given it only took a week in a caravan in Wales to get me out of the habit. I've still been thinking of it though, crafting away and photographing as I went for future posting.

So without further waffling, here is the latest creation:

In my last (now two month old) post I announced my intention to participate in Stashtacular. It was a marvellous idea and I did indeed manage not to buy any fabric for a month, and I received some lovely fabric back in return for the bundle I sent off. I didn't actually make anything from the tutorials that the event organisers created for it. Several tickled my fancy, but it was a very busy month and I just didn't have time. One thing that stuck with me though was Jenna's fabulous hexy mug rug tutorial using the paper piecing quilting technique. I've never quilted before, not properly anyway, so even the idea of a mug rug is a little daunting. I figured you could modify the technique using pentagons to make a ball - or more accurately a dodecahedron - which satisfied both my desire to give the technique a try and my inner maths geek.

I used African print fabric that I picked up at the World Textile Day event back in March and as this is intended to be a gift for a friend's baby, I added some dangly bits. The toys that a younger Mini most enjoyed were those with cords or loops that were easy to grab and thanks to knots or bumpy bits, also harder to lose grip of. I hunted around my supplies and managed to make one that jingles, one that rattles, one that squeaks and two that crinkle. Hopefully the baby it is intended for will get some pleasure out of them!

One of the things I surprised myself by really enjoying was the fine detailed work. The whole thing is hand sewn and there's a lot of satisfaction in that for me.

There's more, but I have a baby stirring so will have to return later. The joys of my adventures with red corduroy are still to come.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Stashtacular - oh yes please!

I've been following Jenna's blog, Sew Happy Geek for a little while now and when she posted earlier today about Stashtacular, a month long event she and some fellow bloggers are hosting I was immediately sucked in. The idea of not buying new fabric for a month is appealing in itself - I've got plenty to work my way through without resorting to buying more - a whole chest full in fact. But the chance to send off a bundle of fabric from my stash to be given out to other crafters and to receive a random collection of new fabric back in return really gets me excited.

I've already gone through some of my stash to build a collection to send off. I have several piles still to sort through though, so it's likely to get bigger. I am very much looking forward to this!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Bandana Bib Tutorial

I've been getting quite behind with posting this last week. Firstly it was half term so there was no play group for Midi and my folks who would normally take her for a day or two are dealing with a lot themselves right now, so I had her all to myself all week - as well as Mini. We had a lot of fun, but other things like my crafting and blogging had to take a back seat. Then there was also the minor issue of my Dad's exhibition (he's a glass sculptor). It had been planned for some time but due to his ill-health he's not able to do it all himself right now so my sister and I took on some of the setting up. That was fun too, but had the same effect on my 'me' time.

Anyway, I'm rambling. In the midst of all this Mini has entered into that wonderfully soggy, dribbly stage of pre-teething. We've got a huge stash of regular bibs left over from Midi's younger years but they seem huge and not at all flattering, and I was quickly getting tired of changing Mini's top multiple times a day. I've been seeing bandana style bibs around for a while and thought they'd be perfect, so had a bash at making a few. Here's how the latest one turned out:

I went through a few design tweaks to get to that particular one. It resulted in several perfectly useable bibs but the one above is the end product. There will be plenty more made to this pattern over the coming weeks I'm sure!

I used an old t-shirt, some thin flannel, a few pieces of velcro and a bit of fabric paint for the stencil robot on the final one. That is all. These aren't hard. Here's how I went about it:

I cut two squares, one out of an old t-shirt and the other out of flannel. This was to make two bibs. The sides of each square are approx 13" long and this was to fit a slightly large four month old baby. Probably 3-6 month size or thereabouts.

I placed the two squares on top of each other, neatly aligned, and folded them into quarters along the diagonal.

 I then cut a slightly curved line along the edge of the first fold. This cut resulted in four almost triangular piece, two out of each type of fabric:

I then placed two of the pieces together and stitched around the edge of them leaving a small gap for turning them right side out afterwards. There isn't really a right or wrong side with the fabrics I used but if you try this and there is with yours then make sure they're right sides together when you sew.

I turned them right side out and then top stitched all the way round 3/8" from the edge to close the hole. Sorry, I forgot to photograph this bit. Adding a bit of velcro to the top two corners (one on the inside, the other on the outside so that they neatly meet) finished them off:

And in use:

However, I wasn't entirely happy with them. The triangular tips made it a little fiddly to attach the velcro and the pieces had to be quite small so when the bib was worn there wasn't a great amount of contact between the two pieces. Although it wears fine I'm sure that Mini could easily yank it off if he was of a mind to which kind of defeats the object of wearing one in the first place. So I tried again, tweaking the design a bit.

This time I just cut one piece from each fabric. To give you an idea of size in case you wanted to give this a go the two straight edges are 13" then all I did was flatten off the corners before cutting the gentle curve to go round the neck. Before sewing I used the bin bag/freezer paper technique to stencil on a little robot design to add cuteness value, then followed the same steps as above. The big benefit of the new pattern was that I could use one of the velcro ends as the opening/turning hole which gave a neater finish. That'll be the way to do it then!

And before I sign off for now, a little teaser for what I'll be writing up shortly. Last week, while doing a mad dash round the shops to get wine and plastic beakers for Dad's exhibition opening I spotted this pack of three rather funky coordinating tea towels at the bank-breaking cost of £4:

I grabbed them not knowing exactly what I would do with them but certain that they had great potential. I very quickly decided a new summer dress for Midi was where they were headed, but then I wished I'd picked up two packs because I couldn't quite see how to make a dress to fit a 3-4 year old with matching front and back. It was then that I realised I'd just set myself a challenge. With no opportunity to go back to the shop but the chance to spend an evening sewing I had to figure out a solution. And here it is:

I'm rather proud of this one - my own design no less. A tutorial for this rather funky little 'three tea towel dress' is in the making so watch this space!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Taggie toy free pattern

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the taggie toy I'd made for Mini. It's received quite a bit of positive feedback both online and in real life - so much so I've had requests from friends to make them for their babies. In response, I've knocked out a quick pattern for it for my own reference and once I'd done that I realised it would only be a little bit more work on my part to add some instructions and make it into a little downloadable.

So if there's a baby in your life that you think might appreciate one of these little monkeys then you can download the pattern and basic instructions below. The instructions are very basic. There is no tutorial, just a quick write-up so basic sewing skills would be handy. I may add a tutorial in the future if I get enough requests but it really isn't that hard.

And of course the little fellow can be modified in any way you wish. Change the fabrics (I used fleece for the body and felt for the features but old t-shirts, muslin or cotton prints would all work), add or reduce the number of tags, or what they're made of (I used shoelaces but any kind of ribbon/tape would do), play about with the features... the possibilities are endless! If you do make your own taggie toy from this pattern, or even loosely based on it then I'd love to hear about it!

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