Monday, 30 May 2011

A bit of brightness for the long weekend

It's been a strange weekend here - one of those with several stresses but lots of highs to lighten the load. The biggest high was my Dad making it back into the UK in one piece. He's still got lots of recovering to do and there's a high likelihood there'll be some surgery in his near future, but he's here so I can do my bit in keeping an eye on him again. And sit on him when he tries to do too much.

Another big high for me was an email that was waiting for me this morning from Sascha at Piccoli Piselli. I won the amazing Pea Pod carrier she was giving away for the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway day! Lookie Look:

Isn't it just gorgeous? I'm so thrilled. I became a follower of her blog when I found it through the SMS event and some of the stuff she makes is really wonderful. I'm over the moon to have won this. It looks like a great design and is worn on the left hip which will make a wonderful partner in crime to the front/back worn ergo that we currently use most. I'll be able to make myself a cup of tea without having to reach around a slung Mini. And helicopters! We get them flying over here almost daily so even that is perfect.

Thank you Sascha. You've made my day. :)

And a big thank you to Ana over at Stash Avalanche too. I didn't win any of her official giveaway prizes - she's so generous she gave away four - but she liked the really bad joke of Midi's so much that she's sending us a special prize. We are so lucky! Two prizes! I knew I liked the idea of that giveaway day...

We've been having colourful fun here too. Midi has discovered the joys of nail varnish:

We've had some great fun making magic potions (thanks to Toni over at Unconventional Us for the idea):

And I got a few minutes at the sewing machine to knock out some funky tartan trousers for Mini. They're a touch big but at the rate he's growing that's no bad thing. I love them!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Bags and badges

It's been a crazy week really. Lots of family stuff has dominated so the crafting has had to take a bit of a back seat. Things will hopefully be more settled from this point onwards though I may be down on childcare so although I hope to be able to get back onto the crafty wagon with more gusto soon I may be a bit more limited for a while.

Still, I've managed to get a few things done. It's a time of birthdays round here so present making has been a priority. Midi was invited to the 4th birthday party of a friend this week and I wanted to make sure she gave a gift that was unique and personal. I spotted this great tutorial by Zaaberry recently and thought it would make a great basis for a present. I was lacking in vinyl so I decided to use some coated fabric that I've had lying round for a while - at least it's wipe-down-able. I also decided to custom decorate the fabric for the top panels so the wax crayons came out again (spot the addict) and I made one for Midi as well. She chose the colours for her friend's fabric as well as a selection of toy cars and marbles to go into the bag before it was wrapped and presented at the party. All in, I think we created a pretty nice gift.

I probably shouldn't post details of this next gift given that the birthday in question hasn't happened yet and the recipient may spot these photos before he receives it - it needs to be posted to the other side of the planet yet. But I'm really pleased with it, I'm rubbish at keeping things like this secret and I'm sure he won't mind too much if the surprise is spoiled. My cousin's son in Australia is about to turn 18. I've no idea where the handsome young man he now is has sprung from - I was taking him to kindergarten just five minutes ago - but these things just seem to happen. Hopefully he'll appreciate the collaborative creative efforts that Midi and I put into making his gift.

It's winter in Australia right now so I decided long sleeved tops might be more useful. For the first top, Midi was set loose on some fabric scraps with fabric pens and I attacked another with wax crayons (definitely an addict). We then roughly stitched them onto one of the tops in random places specified by Midi. 

The K (his initial) is on the end of one sleeve and the white patch does actually have yellow spots on it but they don't come out very clearly in this pic:

These two beautiful figures are Shrek (on the right) and Fiona:

And this is a portrait of the birthday boy himself:

The second shirt is a monster shirt with features placed by Midi and stitched on by me:

What self-respecting eighteen year old wouldn't want to wear clothing designed by a three year old? A perfect gift if you ask me - within this family at least.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

And the winner is...

Wow! I have so enjoyed taking part in the May Giveaway event. I've had such lovely comments and I've entered several fantastic giveaways too. If I'm lucky I might win something but even if I don't I still get to give someone else that lovely warm feeling of winning something, and that feels great.

So without further ado I'm pleased to announce that the winner, selected at random by the number generator over at is... Amy from Salamander Dreams! I'll drop you an email shortly Amy so I can get this little bag winging it's way off to you. And a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to comment and take part. I've really enjoyed checking in intermittently to see who has commented, and from where. That's the other really cool thing about this event. I've found so many other great blogs and my follow list has grown considerably. I may not have much time for crafting now as I'm going to be reading what all these other fascinating people are up to! :)

And thanks so much for all the good wishes for my Dad. I've really appreciated them and I'm sure some mystical way he has felt them too. It's been a worrying few days but as of yesterday he seems to be responding to treatment and beginning the long, slow road to recovery. With luck we'll have him back in the country next week. Thank you.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

May Giveaway Day!

About a week ago I stumbled across the Sew, Mama, Sew May Giveaway Day concept and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I haven't done a giveaway before but after doing a bit more wax crayon batik experimentation last week I ended up with a cute little bag, just right for a creative kid to use to carry pens and paper around (Midi has several bags like this for moments artistic inspiration when on the move). It seemed a perfect item to choose.

So here it is, a gift from me to a reader selected at random from those that comment here before I first log on on Wednesday May 25th. I'll ship internationally if needs be.

The image was created by using melted wax crayons as a resist and then using acrylic paint as a colour wash - this bag is probably therefore wipe clean only. Sorry about that! If you're interested, you can see the steps I went through to create it in this post from last week.

The bag itself is fully lined and is made out of a recycled pair of jeans so it's good and hard-wearing. It looks almost black in this picture but it's actually a dark blue denim.

I'm posting this a day early because I can't be sure I'll get much computer time over the next few days. It seems my Dad has managed to get himself admitted to hospital whilst on holiday in Menorca so I expect to be mistress of the international telephone lines for a few days until I get a better idea of what's going on and what assistance might be needed. I've been assured it's 'nothing to worry about' by my Mum who is with him, and I was reassured when after a few texts back and forth about Dad's health I was tasked with reporting the football scores to them. But still, I'm a little out of sorts and expect to be somewhat distracted and extra busy for a few days. I still hope to get a few moments to visit a few of the other giveaways though...

************* This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for taking part! *************

Friday, 20 May 2011

Faces and flappy bits

Mini has just reached the stage where he's found his hands and when they're not in his mouth (teething alert) he's studying them with interest. You can almost see the cogs turning as he figures out that he can make them Do Stuff. It's fabulous to watch and we're now at the point where anything within reach could quite easily find its way into his mouth.

Ages ago I started working on a plushie taggie for him. I never quite got round to finishing it but finally tonight was the night. I wanted to give it a face because, well, faces are good and engaging and Mini seems to feel the urge to grin whenever he sees one regardless of whether it belongs to a human being or not. I spotted some funky shoe laces a little while back that I knew would make great tags. Put them together and this is what we got:

Once it was almost done I decided not to stuff it after all. I liked its floppy flappiness and it seems someone else does too:

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Lunch to go

Just over six months ago I realised one evening that because Midi was going to be attending her first full day at play group the next day she was going to need a packed lunch. One rushed trip to the supermarket later and she was the proud owner of their budget make of lunch bag, with her name written across the top in marker pen. Very classy. She was quite happy with it though. It meant she was going to have a packed lunch and that was extremely exciting in and of itself.

I've been meaning to make her a better bag ever since but just haven't got round to it. I had managed to get in a few things, such as a pound shop raincoat to use as the lining and I'd already decided to use the existing bag as a template given Midi was familiar with it and I knew it was the right size.

Today I noticed that the lining had started to tear in her budget bag so the issue was forced and tonight both kids were in bed asleep by 7:30pm so the opportunity was there. Midi requested a bag with a fairy, butterflies and hearts on it, so I had another play with the wax crayon batik technique on the hob. I'm not so excited about this one - I have to admit the subject matter didn't really get my creative juices flowing, but hopefully Midi will like it.

It's a packed lunch day tomorrow so we'll soon find out!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Hot plate crayon batik

Well, after a weekend away with family it seems only right to jump back in with a bit of a splash. We've had a very busy day! After a morning of meetings and a visit to my folks, with both kids, we landed home for lunch and got busy. I'm still so excited about the wax crayon batik technique I tried recently and have been wanting to explore it a bit more. After making cakes and sock puppets with Midi I managed to grab a few minutes to try something new.

The first time I tried it I put wax crayons into a cake tin and popped them in and out of the oven to keep them melted enough to paint with. It was fun but a little fiddly. I couldn't help but wonder if it would be possible to use the same technique employed to get the wax out of the fabric to put it in, or something like it anyway. I think it worked:

With both kids about I didn't really have the option of going back and forth to a hot oven and having melted wax sitting about ready to be prodded/spilt/eaten. So drew out a basic design on a small scrap of white cotton and placed it on a foil covered baking tray directly over a hot plate on the hob:

 I then coloured in the image with wax crayons, holding the tray still with an oven-mit with my other hand. The heat from the hot plate melted the wax on contact. This allowed a much finer layer of wax to be applied than with the painted on technique, but it was a little awkward. It was hard to get neat edges because the crayon was constantly changing shape as it melted into the fabric. Apart from that it seemed to work quite well and I'm sure it could be refined with practice. Neatness is not one of my virtues anyway.

Once coloured, I popped it in the fridge for a couple of minutes so the wax could really harden. Given it was a much finer wax coating I wasn't sure how well the cracking aspect would work so I wanted to give it all the help I could. As it happened, it didn't crack well. There was no satisfying crunch when I scrunched it up so I wasn't filled with confidence but then, this was an experiment. Time would tell.

I then painted on some blue acrylic paint. This time I didn't fill in the whole image in wax so I needed to use a relevant background colour instead of just a high contrast colour. I probably could have gone darker but I got hijacked by small child before I could do another coat so decided to just see how it worked as was.

Once it dried I hit the iron. This was one big plus of doing it this way - the ironing took a fraction of the time and the wax was out. I'd decided to use the piece as a patch so when I ironed it I also ironed the edges in ready for sewing.

It wasn't looking too magical, but a quick once over with a black fabric pen and the wonder of the technique revealed itself:

So, the cracking was much more subtle and the contrast wasn't as extreme with the blue rather than a black bleed, but this approach still gives some lovely colour variation. I'm really quite pleased with how it turned out.

Midi was by now getting peckish so I made her some tea and once Mini had been fed and changed and was in his 'happy to watch, grin and gurgle' mode I jumped on to the sewing machine. I still had half a pair of old jeans left from when we made bean bags last week so cut it up and knocked out a quick bag to go with the patch. I thought the denim would be a good match for the blue image.

I'm quite pleased with it. I recently read about Sew, Mama, Sew's May Giveaway Day and thought it was an amazing idea. I liked the idea of taking part but couldn't think what to offer - until now. I think this may be it, so if you fancy it, pop back on Monday to sign up for a chance to get it winging its way to you.

So that was our busy day! I will now head to bed with happy memories of today's chocolate cakes:

Sock puppet shenanigans:

And the fun and frolicks that can be had with snatched moments and wax crayons. Night all!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

plastic, pens and a hot iron

Wow, we've managed to fit a lot into today!

Midi was at her play group this morning, so I made the most of the chance to pop to the shops and scored a set of 12 coloured sharpie pens (I've never owned any before) for a bargain price. I was so excited to spot them and I'm sure I'm going to use them in all kinds of fun projects. Having them meant that when Midi came home we were able to have a go at this great technique to turn kid drawings into sew-on badges courtesy of Lindsey over at Filth Wizardry. What a great idea!

We're going away tomorrow for a long weekend with Dr Poddle's family and Ember decided she wanted to make a patch for each of her two cousins. I did a few tiny pictures of an apple and pear and a slightly larger fish to play around with.

The fruit and the patches that Midi drew came out wonderfully. I ironed them onto felt as per the original tutorial and then tried a little experiment and ironed the fish onto a cotton burp cloth. Clearly, cotton distributes the heat very differently to felt and although I used the same heat setting on the iron and the same amount of time under it, the plastic bag has shrivelled quite a bit. I didn't worry about it too much - it's a fish after all and it looks all rippled as if under water, but it seems despite the apparent overheating it didn't adhere well to the cotton at all. A few minutes of being played with had it peeling off. Ah well, a lesson learned there.

After lunch, Midi started playing a counting game so I asked her if she'd like us to make some number bean bags. An hour or so later, and a floor covered in rice had us playing with these:

They are very rough and ready, but they do the job and they can come away with us so the cousins can play with them too. The numberless, uniquely shaped one was Midi's first attempt at using the sewing machine. She's got a way to go but I was over the moon that she wanted to have a go. I may have a fellow crafter in the making! Woo hoo!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Being super

A little while ago my good friend Zoe from Give an Earthly flattered me enormously by asking me to take part in her 'How to be a Super Woman' series of interviews.  I readily agreed - what an honour! I was then extremely un-super about actually answering her interview questions in anything like a timely manner. I was clearly too busy being super in other ways... ahem! Sorry Zoe!

Still, I got there in the end and if you would like to know more about me then it's a good place to start. You can find the interview here and please do stop by and say hello to the truly super Zoe too. :)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ladybird desk makeover

I haven't been posting much for the last few days because the latest project has taken quite a bit of time. It is now done, and I am extremely pleased with it.

Background: My sister picked up a well used old school desk at a market for Midi last year, but it needed a good makeover and with Mini on the way we just didn't get round to it. Then, on Sunday, I was browsing and stumbled across this fantastic desk makeover. I immediately knew just what to do with that old desk and Midi and I have spent the last few days liberally covered in paint in order to achieve our goal. (I have photographic evidence of her decision to paint wearing nothing but an apron in order to preserve her clothes.) I just moved it into her room and it looks wonderful.

The colour choices and ladybird theme are all Midi's ideas. The stool is an extra special addition. My parents bought a number of these stools from my old high school after I left and they were refurnishing the science labs so it's possible that I sat on one or more of them myself whilst learning about the periodic table. They're still going strong years later and when we undertook the desk transformation I made a cheeky request for one. It's a bit lopsided and was well marked before the paint job, but it's perfect. I think I may need to chop a couple of inches off each leg so that Midi can actually sit properly at the desk on it, but that's OK. She's out right now but I'll measure it up with her when she's home.

It works well with her butterfly mural:

And to keep it cheery, it's nice and bright inside too!

Just to show what a huge transformation this was, here's the desk before we started, covered in stickers and scratched varnish. Those stickers were a real pain to get off but with a fair amount of scrubbing and sanding we got there in the end. As you can see, the chalk box on the top is an addition - it was an old wooden baby jigsaw box that had lost its pieces, painted yellow and screwed in place. What a transformation!

Huge thanks to Marni and her Sassy sites blog for the inspiration.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Wax crayon batik

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across this post from the endlessly inspiring Suzy's Artsy Craftsy Sitcom and I knew I had to give it a go. It then took me a while to find the perfect item to create with the technique. This method calls for blocks of solid colour and I tend to lean towards linear images so even coming up with a design took some thought, but then it came to me. We have some very dear friends who have just moved home - they're the friends I painted the picture for in this post - and now they're there we want to send them a card. We've seen photos of the cottage they're moving into and it's painted pink. Yes, pink! Inspiration hits at last!

So now our friends have a custom made 'welcome to your new home' card and I've had a chance to dabble in the technique. It was fun, and I also did a quick butterfly image on another scrap of fabric for Midi (she likes her butterflies).

However, it didn't rock my boat as much as I thought it might. It's a nice little technique though, and I'm sure one day I'll have a light bulb moment and think of something I really have to do with it. Maybe just not this week.

One of the things I'm not sure about is using it for clothes. I had initially thought I could appliqué the butterfly on to a top for Midi but I doubt it would stand up to repeated washing and, despite lots of ironing to get the wax out, it is still quite stiff. Maybe I should try putting it through a wash cycle to see what would happen. I think I'm more likely to pop it into a little frame to go on her wall though.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Beltane Blessings

For once, this is not a craft-based post, though in a roundabout way, it is a creative one. Today is May Day, or Beltane and I am acknowledging that here. It is one of my two favourite Pagan/Celtic festivals (the other being Samhain, at the opposite side of the year's wheel) and this year more than any other I have reason to celebrate it.

It is a celebration of everything that is bursting forth in the Spring, a festival of the abundance that is beginning. It is a time in which I like to look at my life and decide what I wish to manifest in it in the year to come. Two years ago I was living in a rented house, feeling somewhat in limbo as we were still searching for our dream long-term family home. We'd recently seen a wonderful house that was our fantasy come true, but it was going to be sold through sealed bids and we really didn't think that we'd be able to raise enough funds to secure it. That Beltane was the first time I made a labyrinth. It was nothing fancy, just a spiral of pebbles in the garden, but I walked it with the hope that we would find our perfect home - whether it be the one we'd recently seen or not - and be able to settle at last. At the end of that month we heard that our bid had been selected and that the house was ours. We got the keys in July and moved in in August. It has turned out to be even more perfect than we'd thought at the time: the local community has been very welcoming and there are several other families in walking distance with small children for our children to play and grow up with - all of whom we get on well with. Not only that but we recently secured planning permission to build an eco-house at the bottom of the garden for my parents so we're even managing to recreate the extended family model of day-to-day living that is becoming more and more rare these days.

Last year, Midi and I built a slightly more substantial labyrinth in the garden of our beautiful new home out of small boulders. She then spent quite a while walking round and round it, predominantly naked but I did manage to get a few moments to walk it myself. At that time we'd decided we would open the door to the possibility of having another child, but that if it didn't happen within 9 months or so we'd stop and be happy with just the wonderful daughter we'd already been blessed with. It took us years to conceive her so I had little faith that we'd get pregnant in the time frame we'd set ourselves, so I walked that labyrinth seeking a sense of completion in my family. I opened my heart and my body to whatever form our family was meant to take.

Two weeks later I found out I was pregnant and our beautiful three month old son is sleeping beside me as I type.

This year, I celebrate all that we have manifested already, and desire nothing more than a year of happiness and contentment for my family - whether that be immediate, extended or family-by-choice - and friends. I haven't made a labyrinth this year, but have simply spent time outside in our garden and woods, enjoying the sun's warmth, the energetic antics of local wildlife and the fantastic blossom that dresses our many fruit trees. I feel so, so blessed, and today more than most I am reminded of that and am extremely thankful for it.
Beltane blessings to all who would appreciate them.
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