Spring Crafts

The recent, unexpected, inexplicable, sunny weather has served to focus my mind.

Focus my mind on the craft show we are due to have a stall at, at Hatton Country World.

The craft show that is taking place in three weeks time.

THREE WEEKS!

How did that happen?

And where did the time go?

It went on

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Needle cases

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And Easter decorations

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And scented drawer doo-dahs

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But still so much to do.

And so little time.

Aaaaargh.

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Handmade Holidays (pt 2)

December already.

Argh.

How did that happen?

A couple of years ago, when I obviously had a lot more time on my hands than I seem to have nowadays, I became irrationally irritated by the plastic inserts in most commercially produced chocolate advent calendars and decided I would make my own (calendar that is, not the plastic insert).

No need to go into the contradiction involved in then filling the home made calendar with chocolates wrapped in, ahem, disposable, wrappers. No sirree we will not go into that now.

(And I do try to get foil wrapped choccies which are slightly less guilt inducing)

Have you been good this year? Hope so otherwise this will be in your Christmas stocking

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Aaaaaaarrrrghhhh

No it’s not the anti-elf. It is in fact Yoda.

Hey I never said embroidery was my strong point.

Hmmm, could be a whole new genre of blog posts… when crafts turn bad

Apart from the embroidery aspect the principle idea behind the calendar is fantastically simple.

You get a large piece of material. You fold the top edge under by a centimetre and then fold it again by about 8 centimetres and sew along the edge to make a sort of channel.
You hem the bottom edge of the large piece of material.
You cut out 24 or 25 (depending on how you like to work the Advent timetable) squares of felt or other robust material. Decorate or embellish them if you wish. Then use fabric paints to write the numbers 1 to 24 (or 25) on the squares. Sew the squares onto the large piece of material in a suitably random fashion.
Insert a piece of dowelling in the channel you created at the top of the piece of material.
Fill the squares with goodies.

This is great because you can adapt the content to your particular ethos. We include a mix of chocolates and small presents.

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It is also easily adaptable so you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want.

Apart from now being terrified of the anti-elf, sorry, Yoda, oldest child is a big Star Wars fan so R2D2 makes an appearance

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Youngest child is more into cute things so we’re working the whole elf/snowman/pudding/furry creatures aesthetic

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Yay, warm fuzzy feelings all round 🙂

Handmade Holidays

Ok, I’ll admit it. I have watched too much Kirstie Allsopp.

I can feel a rising tide of panic that I haven’t handmade all my Christmas gifts (oh the entertainment I will be denied of looking at the mixed emotions flitting across the recipients face as they try to express joy and delight whilst at the same time frantically trying to work out what the badly knitted thing is).

I have good intentions every year. I can spend hours creating lists, browsing through craft books and magazines, trying to decide the ideal handcrafted goodie for each person. I just don’t quite spend the same amount of time actually creating the things.

What’s that? Displacement activity? You think?

But I am super pleased with myself today because I have (drumroll please). Made some stockings.

I haven’t made anything to go inthe stockings, but it will be the best dressed nothing this side of the North Pole.

They are super easy to make (of course).
You will need:
Scraps of material for the stocking
Material for the lining
Ribbon
Buttons
Newspaper
Cardboard

Method.

Draw a stocking shape on your newspaper and cut it out.
Decide how big you want your patches to be and cut a square of cardboard to the appropriate size.
Cut out enough patches from your scraps to cover the stocking.
Sew the patches together

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and then attach the stocking to the back of the patchwork, draw around the stocking shape. Repeat but reverse the stocking.

Pin the two lots of patchwork together, right sides together and matching up the outlines of the stockings. Sew along this outline, leaving the top open.

Cut off any excess material.

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Now cut two stocking shapes from the lining material, remembering to reverse the image and also allowing an extra 15-20cm off the top of the stocking -you will fold this over to make the cuff.

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Sew the two lining pieces together (right sides together).

Turn the patchwork stocking right side out.

Sew a hem around the top of the lining (the cuff). Leave the lining inside out.

Place the lining inside the patchwork stocking and turn the cuff down so the crease of the turning is flush with the top of the patchwork. Poke your fingers around inside the lining to make sure it all fits inside the patchwork and is lined up properly and not twisted or lumpy.
Now sew around the top of the stocking to give a neat finish and attach the lining and outer together.
Now cut a piece of ribbon, long enough to enable you to use it to hang the stocking on whatever hooky thing you are planning on dangling it off. Double the ribbon over and sew it to the top centre back of the stocking. Sew buttons over the top of the stitch marks

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Christmas crafting

I was talking to one of the cleaners at work today. On Saturday she went to the Christmas market in Birmingham. And she deep breath finishedherchristmasshoppingandthenwenthomeandwrappeditallupandputupherchristmasdecorations.
Including the tree.

I had to say it fast otherwise I might have started sobbing halfway through.

I am in awe of people who are that organized. I thought I was doing well because I bought my Christmas cards in the January sales this year. I have no idea where they are now, but hey, they are in the house somewhere. And in my head, that’s that job done.

So I thought about doing a big Christmas shop and then bringing it all home and wrapping it when the kids are in bed. Then I thought “nah”.

So much more fun to procrastinate and spend the time making stuff instead.

I find one of the nice things about this time of year is the way the house smells warm and inviting with the scent of gingerbread and spices from the Christmas baking hanging heavy in the air. And I like the house to smell like that even if all we have been doing in reality is arguing over the homework or cooking fish for tea.

Scented Christmas Coasters

These are so easy to make, and once you’ve placed a hot cup of coffee (or hot chocolate/mulled wine/insert hot beverage of choice) on top, the scent of the spices is released and you will be enveloped in a warm fug of seasonal goodwill and coziness.

Tempted?

You will need
Coaster sized piece of backing fabric
4 Smaller sized pieces of coordinating fabric
Wadding
Bias tape in a coordinating colour -enough to go all the way around the coaster.
Assorted Christmassy spices.
Cardboard
Pencil

First of all, decide on the size of your coaster and then work out how big your patchwork squares would need to be if that coaster was divided into 4. Draw yourself a template to this size on card and cut it out. Use the template to cut out 4 squares of pretty Christmassy fabric in complementary colours and patterns,

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allowing a 2cm seam allowance all round.

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Also cut out a piece of fabric for the backing and a piece of batting, these should be the size you want your finished coaster to be.

Sew your 4 smaller squares of fabric together to make 1 larger square

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Press the seams open and trim any excess, loose threads etc.
Now make a sandwich with backing fabric (right side down), batting in the middle and patchwork (right side up) on top. Pin the layers together.

Now take some bias binding and pin it around three sides of the coaster. Sew the bias tape in place.

Take some dried spices – I used cloves, a little bit of cinnamon bark (crushed with a pestle and mortar) and some star anise – and place them inside the coaster. Make sure they are well distributed so you don’t get any lumpy bits.

Now sew the last section of bias tape into place, sealing the coaster.

Make yourself a nice cup of coffee (or hot chocolate/mulled wine/hot beverage of choice), place it on the coaster in between sips, and let yourself be enveloped by the smell of Christmas.

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Having a pile of Christmas cards to write as you do your sipping is optional.

Story Quilt

One of the best, the absolute best, things about autumn and winter is the guilt-free opportunities it gives to snuggle up, stay warm and cosy and lose yourself in a story.

Possibly with a cup of hot chocolate in hand.

And toasty slippers on feet.

Oversized, fuzzy dressing-gown is optional.

We have a random selection of fleeces and blankets that do the job but I thought that in honour of the season -and inspired by the colours I see in the garden and in the lanes on the way to work – a new quilt was needed. A story quilt no less, that would enable maximum snuggling and cosyness.

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This is a fun project to do 🙂

Disclaimer
Any quilters out there, look away now. This tutorial ignores all the rules of quilting and is aimed at getting results quick. It in no way shows how to make the beautiful, handcrafted quilts that people lovingly toil over for, weeks, nay months, nay years. In fact I fully expect a lynch mob of seasoned quilters to come hammering at my door, waving extra long quilting pins, anytime now.

Anyway.

First you need to decide what your colour scheme/theme will be. For me it was the carpet of leaves I see in my garden. The carpet of leaves that really needs sweeping up (ahem) but which I can leave for a little bit longer if it is providing (drum roll please) artistic inspiration. Reds, yellows, oranges, browns. Complementing and warming colours. Beautiful.

Next go to your stash of fabric and pick out a number of fabrics that fit your chosen theme/colour scheme. How many you choose will depend on the size of your stash, the size of your quilt and how “busy” you want the finished product to look.

Now cut lots of strips of material in different widths and lengths

20131007-174510.jpgfabric strips.

It’s playtime! Layout the strips until you have filled an area (including overlaps) slightly larger than the wadding you will be using. Move the strips around and experiment until you are blissfully happy with the colour and pattern combinations.

Now take the first two strips and pin them together along the length of the fabric. If a strip is made up of two shorter lengths you will need to sew these together along the shorter edges first in order to make a long strip. Sew the long strips together along the length of the fabric. Press the seams open.

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Keep sewing and pressing the strips until you have a rectangle of material large enough to cover your quilt wadding.

Now you need to go on a lovely woodland walk and pick up an assortment of large leaves. This is a great home ed. opportunity to learn to identify trees. Or you could just be like my kids and use them to look like the Ood in Dr Who. I try, I really do….

Anyway, go home again, clutching your leaves/Ood beardy things and find yourself a nice, contrasting fabric. Two options here. The easy option is to attach some bondaweb to the fabric (using the manufacturers instructions) and then trace around the leaves.

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Carefully cut out the fabric leaves, remove the backing paper and iron the leaves onto the patchwork you carefully prepared earlier. Sew a dainty border around the leaves to help keep them attached to the quilt and to make it look even nicer. Option two is great if you have younger children and want props for your story. To do this option trace around the leaves without the use of bondaweb and then cut out, leaving a 1cm seam allowance 3/4 of the way around, and a 3cm seam for the last 1/4 which will form the top of the pocket. Turn the 1cm seam under and iron flat. Turn the 3cm seam under twice (ie 2 x 1.5 cm) and stitch this hem. Now position the leaves on the quilt and stitch the 3/4 seam to the quilt, leaving the previously stitched 1/4 unattached. Ta da! A handy pocket to stash your story props.

Still with me?

Now with cunning fabric leaves attached, you need to make a quilt sandwich by placing your backing fabric (which should be about 6cm larger all the way around the quilt and wadding) face down, the wadding/batting on top of the backing fabric and then the quilt face-up on top. Fold the backing material seam allowance over once so it butts up to the edge of the wadding/quilt cover, then fold it over again so it effectively forms a bias binding around the edge of the quilt. Mitre the corners for neatness and then stitch all the way around this seam, anchoring quilt, wadding and backing fabrics together.

There, you’re done.

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Now grab a book and a small child and enjoy 🙂

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Warm hands

This weekend I think we’ll do the big change over to autumn/winter living. Summer clothes put away; jumpers, hats and scarves hunted down from whichever dark corner of the loft they got pushed to during the conversion work; thicker duvets put on beds. General hunkering down.

Which got me thinking.

Last year Father Christmas brought the kids handwarmers. Which were great. Except…
We could never find a pair together when the kids actually wanted to use them. And they were a bit (a lot) big for tiny 6 year old paws so didn’t easily fit in her mittens. And the covers weren’t removable, or machine washable. They came with instructions to “wipe with a damp cloth”. Really?. Have they seen the state of a 6 year olds hands after a day out in the wilds of Leamington? Or perhaps my kids are just unusually grubby. But believe me a wipe down with a damp cloth would not kill the many and varied strains of icky ness left on those handwarmers after a good days use.

So it got me thinking – how hard can it be to knock up some hand warmers at home? Or to make them with removable covers that can be thrown in the wash? And it turns out that it’s not hard at all.

First thing to do is make the inner bit. I used some old cot sheets that I still had stashed as they might come in useful someday (see? Vindicated). An old t shirt would do just as well. You could probably use felt but I have smelt warm felt before and eau de wet dog is not the scent I’m aiming for with these.

Anyway. Cut out a rectangle of your nice soft base fabric. Size is up to you but with my (now) 7 year old in mind I cut mine 8cm x 7cm

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Fold the material over, right sides together and sew around the edges leaving a small gap at one end. Turn the material right side out.

Now get your filling of choice. Some hand warmers are filled with wheat, but frankly wheat in its unprocessed state doesn’t feature in my pantry so I filled mine with rice

20130925-115732.jpgthe filling.. If you are the kind of person who has useful things like small funnels around the house, this would be a good opportunity to use one. I am not that sort of person so had to make do with a rolled up piece of paper and a teaspoon.

Oh, and don’t do what I did and nonchalantly leave the teaspoon, loaded with rice, perched on top of your jar. They make incredibly effective catapults.

Once you have filled your inner (and you want it comfortably, squishily full, not overstuffed) sew up the little gap and voila your inner is complete.

Now comes the more satisfying part. Go to your stash of scraps of fabric and pick out some lovely pieces that reflect your mood, the season, whatever takes your fancy. Cut out a piece which is about 3cm wider than your handwarmer inner and about 2.5 times longer. Fold, press and hem the two shorter edges

20130925-120325.jpghemmed edges. Now fold the length of fabric, right sides together into a sort of envelope so you have two folds and the two edges overlap. The folded fabric should be just long enough to fit your handwarmer inner. Sew down the sides of the fabric and then turn it right sides out. You should have what looks like a teeny, tiny envelope cushion cover.

Squish and squash your inner into its tiny cover. Warm in the microwave (how long for will depend on what type of microwave you have, but do check how hot it is before using it!). Pop it into your gloves or mittens and enjoy a nice autumn walk with toasty fingers.

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Floral wraps

When I was pregnant I read. A lot. I read about putting your baby on a strict schedule, I read about baby-led parenting. I read about Steiner and Montessori, about Kumon and SATS. I read about buying this toy and that to make your child into the next Einstein, and I read about the numerous evil chemicals present in absolutely everything that are lurking waiting to do harm.

A lot of what I read and suffered angst over I’ve quietly discarded over the years as experience and our reality has shown me what works for us. There still remains a distrust, nay paranoia around plastics though. I hate the stuff. I know it serves a purpose, is indispensable in a lot of things, but I feel better if I don’t have too much of the stuff in the house. One of the things I really hate? Plastic wrap on food. I haven’t used cling film or sandwich bags for packing up for years, preferring reusable Tupperware. But it’s still plasticky and, lets face it, not a thing of great beauty.

The answer, for sandwiches at least, is reusable wraps. They keep your food fresh, you then use them as a napkin and finally throw them in the washing machine and then use them again.

They’re easy to make. First get your fabric – or use two different fabrics if you fancy a different lining and outer. Decide on the shape and size you want for your wraps. The first ones I made I used an old oval meat platter as the template to draw around. This is great for adult sized sandwiches but my youngest still likes her sandwiches small and dainty with the crusts cut off and this original design swamped them. Wraps mark 2 used a normal dinner plate to draw around

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Cut out the shapes leaving a 1cm seam allowance. Place the two pieces of fabric right sides together and place a loop of elastic cord or very thin ribbon with raw edges matching up with the outside edge of the fabric, loop pointing down and sandwiched between the two pieces

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Sew around the outside edge to join the two bits of fabric together leaving a gap of about 5-10cm unsewn to enable you to turn the fabric right side out. You may like to add extra stitches on the cord to give it extra strength.
Turn the fabric right side out and sew around the outside again, very close to the edge, to give it a better finish.

20130918-220058.jpgthe open wrap.

Now fold the wrap up as if a sandwich was inside it, leaving the edge with the loop till last. Bend this edge over and mark where the loop falls – this is where you will place your button

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Attach a pretty button and Ta da! A pretty, useful and plastic free wrap ready to use.

Now make lots more using up all those scraps of fabric you’ve been hoarding for just such a useful project as this 🙂