Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Crafts

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, spent with nice people, relaxing. Or if that was just some mythical nirvana you dreamt of, I hope the New Year will bring some opportunity instead!

I thought I'd show you what I managed to rustle up for a few Christmas presents this year. Not being at work and having a baby that naps has been quite good for having crafty time! Having a temperamental sewing machine has not though!
So first up is Alfie dog

This came in a kit by Dandelion Designs which I got from the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC in Birmingham last February. For £10 it contained all the bits you needed, plus patterns for a large or small dog. Alfie the large dog is supposed to be a tree decoration with a ribbon hanger and a secret pocket in his back for a gold coin. As this was for my Mum, who only has a small Christmas tree, I decided to omit these details and instead tried to stuff his legs more and make him stand up as an ornament. This was my first time doing blanket stitch (I know! I don't know why I've never tried it before) so I think I need more practice at keeping it uniform and neat but I think it came together nicely.

Now for the last couple of years I've tried to do knitted toys for the girls (monkeys last year, mice before that). Last year thankfully my Mum did one & so again this year we chose fairly large animals to tackle, thinking we had time!

Let me start by saying that if you choose to use a novelty yarn for the first time, buy ONE ball first and have a knit with it BEFORE you commit to buying lots of balls and the patterns!
(NB. purchased from Deramores which was really speedy and better value than my LYS) 

You already know this?! Ah just me with a rookie mistake then!
The yarn in question is Sirdar Snowflake and pattern details can be found on my Ravelry page.

These were NOT fun to knit!
The way the fur looks when it's finished is lovely though and my girls love the soft feel BUT boy is it a pain to knit with! You can't see the stitches well, so keeping count is eye straining, increasing into it when a) you can't see the actual stitch properly and b) there is no ease in the yarn is tortuous! We gave up doing stocking stitch and just did all rows as knit as it was easier.
Getting the desire to knit this was very hard, if it hadn't have been Christmas I don't think I would have persevered!
Neither of our animals looks anything like pattern pictures either!
The plan had been to knit an animal for each child, sorry Rowan but being the smallest we knew you wouldn't mind (!) but neither my Mum nor I could face another one!

To rediscover my knitting mojo I did my first cabling attempt, which I really enjoyed and wasn't difficult. I made a mug hug (see Ravelry) for one of my daughters teachers, which I know is one of those 'novelty' gifts which are not in the least bit practical but it was really fun & quick to make.

I also ran up a few fabric bookmarks (it was during these that I fell out of love with my sewing machine! Not being able to sew the thinnest Liberty tana lawn is just stupid frankly!) using a 'tiny' amount of the lovely Hello Kitty Liberty fabric that my best friend bought for me as a New Baby gift! It felt wrong to cut into it but it was perfect for the job.

Now on the other side of this I tried this year to shop crafty as well.
I read a lot of blogs/Twitter feeds from some very talented people so thought I should actually support these by trying to buy handmade presents that I've seen and loved over the past year. And a new baby is a great way to buy gifts that mean something, being the third we've received/bought a lot of noisy plastic toys over the years but this time I really wanted to buy better, to have less gifts but of a better quality, gifts to treasure and keep.

Being only three months I knew I wasn't going to get Rowan many toys, as she's quite happy just 'looking', especially at her sisters (lots of big smiles for both of them!).

I did want to get her an activity arch as she spends a bit of time on the floor and thought she might like some practice at reaching/hitting things!
LEKA Baby gym, birch, multicolour
I found this wooden one from Ikea to be just what I wanted, beautifully made, good baby colours, lovely sounds when hit and a good price £19.99
Not an annoying light or sound in sight!

Now I've seen Sophie on lots of parenting websites, she's supposed to be good for teething as she's made from natural rubber and dyes, she also has a squeaker inside, so this time round I've finally bought one to try, I got it from a seller on Amazon.

On the teething subject I also wanted a wooden teether toy, something natural, tactile and long lasting.

Looking on Etsy (they have an app now!) I found this lovely giraffe by Little Alouette and it is beautiful, buttery soft, easy to grab this will be kept forever, I love stroking it myself!
It came speedily all the way from the US at only $19.50

I follow Sara's blog and twitter feed and know how hard she works at creating lots of lovely machine embroidered items all year, so when I saw her Baby's First hangers on her Facebook page I knew I had to have one! I got to choose the fabric and personalise it with a name and when it arrived I was so pleased. It was better than I hoped for, the quality is superb, this will be one of those Christmas decorations that come out every year and are treasured. I want a different one that I can hang up all year round now!

Next onto The Linen Cat
Beth has a lovely blog and also tweets and makes amongst other things the most wonderful soft toys, which are quite sophisticated, toys that beg to be played with and kept forever
I'd admired Beth's cashmere bears in the summer, so the bright bear went on my list too.
Another wow when it arrived, I can't describe how soft she is, I was severely tempted to keep this for me, she is adorable and perfect for babies, a good size, simple and tactile with a lovely face. I must mention how beautifully packaged she was too!

For the girls I got two art folders from Funky Diva Designs as they're really enjoying colouring at the moment, inside the folder is space for pens and paper. Anna has a great website (with lots of handmade items) where you can choose your fabric and will also add a name.

I enjoyed the Christmas shopping this year, not being at work I was able to start early and got 60% of the girls toys from eBay, even buying the handmade gifts I tried to get long lasting useful toys.
I did feel slightly guilty that they didn't get the toys they'd asked for, (mostly taken from the TV adverts) Dancing Danni/Toffee the pony etc but I hope I'm not alone in not wanting to waste money on toys that can only be played with a handful of times?
The 'plastic' toys I did get (I love Ponies/Barbie/Polly Pocket - mostly all secondhand) can join the ones we have already to make bigger playtimes.
I'm not looking forward to the teenage years when they may want expensive electronic toys, although at least they'll know then that it's not Father Christmas supplying them - 'who can get anything' apparently!

Did you get/give any handcrafted items for Christmas? If you've blogged about them do leave a link in the comments as I'd love to see what you've been up to too.

This long post was made possible by a bout of insomnia and trying to avoid the 'out-laws'!!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas to you all, I hope you all have a peaceful Christmas with lots of fun and laughter and that you get to spend it with people who love you.

I look forward to being able to share with you the pictures of the gifts I've made this year soon.  Sadly not many as my sewing machine has been playing up again (fingers crossed that the New Year will bring some development on that!), hopefully they will be liked!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Vintage Goodies

Golly I'm afraid it's been ages since the Vintage & Handmade Christmas Fair and I haven't shown you what I bought!

I have finally found a panda!  I've been looking for the right one for a while and  Bert is perfect!  He was from the lovely Cowboys & Custard stall and is now very happy on my shelf.
I hope to use the buttons in some corsages and I finally got some Christmas twine, 5m for £1.50 at Shabby Chick.

 I bought this for my eldest who like me before her is mad about Enid Blyton. This was from 'This 'n That'

 Wish I'd bought more of these from Penny Choo, she does have an online shop though!

 This is my sort of cooking book, good solid British home cooking recipes, I shall try one out soon!
This was from 'Textile Treasure Seeker's' stall.

Postcards of some of my favourite Ladybird books, I shall be framing these in the New Year, again from 'This n' That'.
I also got a fabulous fleecy poncho but I can't find details of who it was from. Its' something a bit different for me but a steal at £6 and the dark teal colour is my favourite, I'll get a photo when I find a denim skirt to go with it.

I haven't managed to catch up on people's blogs about the fair, but I thought it was much quieter than usual?  I must say that I didn't buy any fabric this time like I usually do, I can't buy anything now unless I have a project in mind to try and curb my spending!
So it would be interesting to hear if the seller's had a good day. I wondered whether people didn't travel from far because of petrol cost, whether the people who did come spent less or is the Vintage 'boom' dying down?

Either way, me & my Mum had a good time! Especially the tea room and the gingerbread house cake, so much so that my Mum's ordered the tin with recipe!
Will have to post a photo when we try it out, which hopefully will be before Christmas!

Friday, 2 December 2011

It's Beginning to look a lot like....

One day to go!!
If you've never been, it's worth the drive!
Hopefully I'll be childless for the day so I can browse without being interrupted, see you there!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

10 Weeks...Where DOES the time go?!

My wonderful amazing third daughter is ten weeks old this week and like a cliche the time really has whizzed by, I can't remember her not being here.  The fact that the calendar keeps reminding me of the changing dates is a little scary, it's going to be Christmas before we know it and then it'll be another year.  I can vividly remember last Christmas and then finding out I was pregnant in January means that 2011 has been all about this baby.  I wonder what 2012 will be remembered for?!

Home life is slowly settling down, the older girls have been fantastic, so understanding and helpful, I look at them and remember how much they've grown and how proud I am of them.  They're a constant reminder of how quickly the baby years pass and to make the most of them!  I think that's why all the disturbed sleep, all the crying hasn't really bothered me as much this time (it's not been nice though!) I know it's all part and parcel and that everyday Rowan is changing and growing.

It's also nice to be reminded how each baby is their own person, with their own personality and what worked for one may not for the next.  You need to learn about this new person, trial and error, just like it's your first!  She does amaze me though, every smile melts my heart and unlike her sisters she's amazed me by learning to suck her thumb (I'm sure I won't be so happy about this when she's 6!)

Here's to the next 10 weeks!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Autumn came

While I've been busy with a new baby, it appears that Autumn arrived and also may have left now. It's been a strange season of showers and sunshine, warm and cold and I feel like I've missed it.
Being detached from 'normal' life at the moment I seem to experience time in a different way, having a different sleep pattern, being on a different 24hr clock means I feel a little out of step with the earths timing.
Although, being awake regularly at 2am, means I get to hear our neighbourhood owl again and being woken up at dawn means I hear the birds waking up too!
There's definitely a sense of time with the third child.  It brings patience and understanding, because you know that nothing stays the same for long, I won't always be awake at 2am, everyday brings change, you may not see it while looking, but like the seasons, when you stop you realise how much time has passed already.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Witney Feast 2011

I now know it's autumn, as the Fair is in town, this means back to school, conkers and darkening evenings, but actually I quite like this, it makes me think of casseroles and bread baking, being cosy in the evenings and knitting.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Nursing Cover

I wanted to quickly share a new make from this week in case it's of use for anyone else.  I found this link to a DIY nursing cover last week and it was so timely it was spooky as I had a bid in on eBay for a Bebe au Lait nursing cover - these retail for about £25 on Amazon and even on eBay they go for at least £12-£18.
When I saw the tutorial on DIY Maternity I was amazed I hadn't thought to make one as it is really just a rectangle of fabric with a neck strap!

I used some Ikea fabric I had in my stash, which is nice and light, you don't want the baby to get too hot under there!
Now you can use proper plastic boning but that would have meant spending money so as the tutorial author tries I went for the budget DIY version, I took a plastic tub (M&S chocolate crispy treats!) and I tried using the lid lip but it wouldn't bend enough, so I just cut a length from the main body of the tub instead.  It's a bit more flimsy but holds the arc shape, so we'll see how it holds up.

I had to fit making it into the baby's nap times, so it took me a day (!) but in real life it's a real simple 1-2hr job and I would definitely recommend making one in pregnancy just in case you need it.

Now it should give me the confidence to breastfeed wherever I need to, as it's only been with this baby that I've got to week 2 and felt ok about breastfeeding. With the other two I never enjoyed it and got on much better with bottle-feeding, so the whole having to breastfeed in public is never something I've had to do before, so I am a little apprehensive but with my new cover I should have no problems, apart from finding a place/seat to actually do it in town now!

Monday, 3 October 2011

We survived the 1st Week!

Well we have survived the first week!
Its been long, it's been short, it's been quiet and it's been busy. The 'babymoon' period is like being in a parallel universe where time goes at a different speed or it's like being on a completely different planet!
Normal everyday things don't bother you, like paying bills, it's the life basics of eating & sleeping that concern you. With baby number three it does mean that you know that life goes on, you get more perspective, so what that you've only had 4 broken hours of sleep, the other siblings still want their school packed lunches!

I must say that both my girls have been absolutely fantastic, taken everything in their stride and already have an unconditional love for their new sister.

Summary of the first week:

Sleep deprivation is an effective torture tactic!


Things I have learnt this week....
Essential Items:

Mothercare pk 48 maternity towels - good big pack size, equals 14p per towel, am going to have to buy another pack as typically you always need more! The pack does say that 48 will roughly last you the first week, wish I'd read that while in the shop!


Old pants - rather than those hideous uncomfortable disposable ones!

Breastfeeding pillow - I got mine from a car boot & with all three they've been invaluable, I think it's best to get one that's quite firm/well padded as it helps get baby up to your boobs without slouching over!

Things I didn't need:

Newborn outfits! I should have known that having larger than average babies this one wasn't going to be petite but we've gone straight into the 0-3 sizes, the newborn size didn't even fit on the first day!

Things I wished I'd ordered sooner:

A Nightlight for those pesky night feeds, my bedside light is too bright but you need a bit of illumination so you can get the latch on properly! I've just ordered one from Amazon (Babytec Autofade) so will let you know if it's any good!

Best gifts (ideas for gifts):

Nappies (size 1&2), wipes, soap, hooded towel. All practical presents and really appreciated when you're a bit cash strapped, if bottle feeding I'd suggest a box of (correct) formula as that stuff is expensive!

Failing that vouchers are very useful (Boots or Mothercare come to mind).

Toiletries for Mum- something sensitive but a bit luxurious, something they wouldn't normally splash out on)

Box of chocolates for Mum! No explanation needed!

Now there's flowers, they could appear in this heading or the next depending on what they are. The best style are some that come in a vase and need no intervention, no new mum wants to be flower arranging, faffing about trying to find a vase!

Worst gifts:

Clothing! You end up with way too many, usually all 0-3mths and usually in styles/colours you don't like! I hate pink and never dress my babies in much of it if I can help it so any pink clothes are I'm afraid relegated to the Yuck pile - usually destined for the car boot/eBay. Or alternatively enclose the receipt so the recipient can change it rather than being a wasted gift.

Thank you for all your kind comments/well-wishes, they have all been really appreciated.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Happy to announce the arrival of...

Rowan Jude

Baby girl arrived safely on Monday 19th September 2011 at 10.05am.
Born at home, delivered by Daddy, 9lb 1oz.
All healthy and happy!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Getting things done

Thanks to maternity leave I've been able to straighten out our home, I'm afraid I'm not naturally tidy and I usually let things build up until I'm overwhelmed by the mess!  Well, our house was at that stage again, so I've been having a blitz, not just a put things away and hoover type clean, but a real sort through things and chuck away.  A deep clean, a finding places for things type of clean!  I've started room by room, the kids first!  Trying to designate areas/boxes for different types of toys etc and *whisper* even thrown old/broken/rubbish toys away! They haven't noticed, which means they weren't loved and that we have too many anyway!
Storage is our real problem and at the moment we don't have money to invest in any, so I've been making do with what we have and clearing out what we don't need, which means lots of books gone, old clothes & shoes gone and even a sort out of my fabric stash!  I managed to only keep really lovely fabric, most of the sheets/duvets I've bought from charity shops thinking they'll be useful, have had to go back to the charity shop (where they'll at least generate more money for them) as I can't justify keeping everything when I'm trying to make room for a third baby in our two-bed shoebox of a house!
I've actually moved furniture to hoover rather than going round it!  Which hasn't done much for my painful pelvis though :(
I've had some fabulous help from my family with painting the hall and our feature wall in our lounge - which is now a more darker teal colour and looks fab. 
I've sorted out all the pictures I wanted to put up on our stair wall rather than waiting in a pile and mounted and hung them.

The Ercol shelf is finally up and looks fab, I got this from the charity warehouse months ago for about a fiver and it was quite a dark colour. I'm quite proud of it, after a good sanding and waxing it looks really lovely.

 I shall have to remember to rotate the display!

And I've been experimenting, more Annie Sloan!  I've got two of these chairs and I did start sanding them down to wax but haven't finished them, so I thought I might paint one for an instant make-over.  I did the legs to test but I'm not sure now, the red is so matt it's not very bright, not sure whether I can varnish over to get it glossy?  Or whether it would look cheap if it was shiny?  Any thoughts?

The other bonus of maternity leave and the kids finally being back at school is the time for knitting!

I've finally finished the Debbie Bliss cardigan - the seaming's not very professional but I doubt the baby will mind!

and I'm almost done on the bunny mobile..

All pattern info can be found on my Ravelry page, where you can find me as HoldMyHand.
I've already got the yarn for the next project, another Debbie Bliss pattern!