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'!!
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