30 minute stash-busting shoe bag

BEFORE:

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Our shoe shelves are a good idea in theory. When we first put them up with our shoes neatly aligned, they looked smart. But we all know that shoes don’t stay neatly aligned – they get taken off and chucked, unceremoniously wherever they’ll stay put without sliding onto the floor. They get pulled from the bottom of the pile, without a care for those piled atop them or where they might end up. In short, they look something of a mess.

30 minutes and a patchwork of upholstery fabric from my stash later, and I have a soft fabric bag, suspended from the shelves above by ribbons, to  hold all of my slippers, sandals and ballet shoes neatly out of sight. I could have quilted this to give it more structure, or used card or plastic to stiffen it, but I wanted something I can chuck into the washing machine without worrying too much about it. Because shoes get mucky, y’know?

AFTER: CIMG9333

Job done!

Over the rainbow!

I have wanted these rainbow-coloured storage baskets from Jojo Maman Bebe since the moment I first saw them. They have been on the baby wishlist since before the boys were born, whilst I have waited patiently for them to enter each sale over the last year, only to be disappointed. And still I have refused to spend £45 on toy storage just because, well, it’s pretty!

But then, thanks to my new addiction to pinterest, I stumbled across this completely divine basket tutorial:

And I thought to myself, hang on – perhaps I could make these instead?

My first attempt used too many different weight wools, proved once again that I really struggle to follow patterns, and left me with a floppy, misshapen basket which I was delighted to discover was the perfect fit to line my yarn WIP basket. No more catching on errant wicker = result, albeit not the intended…

My second attempt worked out much better as I worked by feel rather than following the tutorial to the letter, but I was still getting a slight step in my rings. Probably of no concern to anyone but me, and a good way to use up some extra balls of wool I had lying about from a previous project, this basket is now in use storing some of the twins’ cuddly toy collection.

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The handles still didn’t seem secure enough to withstand baby paws, but I had had an idea to fix that. After two practice rounds, I finally felt ready to tackle the rainbow!

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The wool for these cost me £25.06 from local online yarnery The Wool Warehouse, plus they took a couple of evenings to make, BUT I got three of a similar, useful size out of this, rather than three odd sizes that might have proved too big or small for purpose.

CIMG9279I have enough yarn left for at least one more basket, should I need it. I made the lining and handles from my stash – bits left over from the book sling, in fact, with the fab dinosaur pattern. I can’t resist a dinosaur!

I used two strands of Stylecraft Special chunky held together in Lipstick, Camel*, Lemon, Meadow, Aster, Royal and Lavender. I would have like to use Patons Fab Big, as my practice rounds had shown that this created a lovely, firm structure, but they didn’t have the colours I was looking for – in fact, I was surprised how difficult it proved to get hold of brightly coloured  super chunky wools. Most seem to be quite neutral, tweedy colours – perfect for blankets or cowls, but no fun at all for a baby’s room!

CIMG9278I think these would be a great way to turn old t-shirts-turned-yarn into storage for the kids – perhaps a good use for some of those threadbare fitted jersey cot sheets? And plarn versions would be really great for storing outdoor water-play or sand box toys in the shed, or even for sorting the recycling…

Not worth £45, perhaps, but most certainly worth the effort!

*The camel, was actually a bit too beigey for the rainbow, so I swapped in some coral merino dk I had left from a previous project, holding 4 strands instead of 2.

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March: the month that found me

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Blouse: New Look; skirt: F&F; shoes: Primark; cardigan: South via Ebay; belt: Topshop

This month has been a pretty big one for me. Building up to self-employment has been something of a rollercoaster, exciting and terrifying in equal measure. But whether co-incidentally or relatedly, March has also been a major turning point in my post-natal life. It has seen the first time in a very long time that I have really felt myself again.

Many new mothers feel “lost” in their first year of motherhood, and I have certainly felt this way. I became “Mummy” so completely, and to everyone around me, that I haven’t seen “Caroline” in what feels an eternity. But last weekend, my Mummy and I went to the NEC for the Sewing for Pleasure/Hobbycrafts/Fashion, Embroidery and Stitch show. I had been shopping on the Friday and picked up a new blouse (not my usual style, I know, but I just fell in love with it!) and blow-dried my hair properly for the first time in over a year. I felt good when I arrived, and after a day of browsing crafty goodies I felt truly inspired. I learned to tat lace, and came home buzzing with ideas and positivity.

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I also came home with a tatting kit, some felt, some hessian for a rag rug, a rainbow of felting wool, a load of ribbon and lots of frankly gorgeous fabrics for kiddly clothes which I can’t wait to get started with! And Mummy bought me a big ball of the most gorgeous yarn with which to knit my first scarf when she teaches me to knit (again!) this week.

That evening, sitting in the conservatory eating dinner beside my husband, I looked up and saw my reflection in the glass. I was amazed to see myself looking back: not the tired, puffy face I have grown accustomed to avoiding eye contact with over the last year, but a glimmer of someone I recognised from a few years back. I don’t know whether it was the result of the boys hitting that 1 year corrected age marker, getting a bit of my old craft mojo back, giving up the commute and taking control of my own work schedule, or a combination of the lot all in line with the equinox… All I know for sure is that something clicked back into place. And I felt good.

In related news, I have now had my wedding ring on for 2 months solid. This has not been possible since before the boys arrived, when my fingers became swollen sausages with irritable skin. Woohoo!

The unexpected

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What I wore last Wednesday: skirt: gift from my Mum; long–sleeved scoop-neck body top: ebay; cardigan: Matalan; hold-ups: M&S; shoes: Bertie

So, the panic has started to set in. I was looking around for ways to boost my income when I’m self-employed next month – no-longer needed goods to sell on ebay, for example – and I realised that the greatest value items in my possession are the raw materials with which I can make saleable goods. I genuinely do not hoard for hoarding’s sake, only when I have a particular project in mind for something (ok, that’s not 100% true when it comes to fabric and yarn, but it certainly is true with regards to packaging and boxes). I simply do not have the time to put half of the ideas in my head into practice. So, I’m thinking seriously about how I’ll order my time from the start of April. I need to build in time to work on freelance projects, time to craft and time in the veg patch. But these things need to be flexible to allow me more time to freelance, for example, when I’m working on a big project, or to craft, for example, when I’m building up stock for a fair. And it all also needs to fit around our ever-generous mothers who provide us so much free childcare! I’m not yet sure how it will all work – it’s really all a bit “wait and see.” And that’s where I’m struggling, as it leaves everything so outside of my control. I can’t prepare for the unexpected. Only for what I hope will come to be…

You know you’re a hoarder when…

Bottles + zippers = cute DIY Pac-Man monster containers

  1. The under-sink storage in your kitchen looks like a jumble sale made up of clothes too threadbare/paint-splattered/grass-stained to be upcycled into anything but cleaning rags…
  2. …And empty spray bottles which might come in useful when you finally get yourself in gear and make some of your own cleaning products.

    Image: Poppy’s Money Tree House

  3. You have to wrench yourself from a public bathroom without taking that empty loo roll for your ever-growing seed-starter collection.

    Image: Gardening Clan

  4. Your grocery shopping list is no longer directed only by budget, season and air-miles, but also by packaging – yes, the own-brand yoghurt drinks are cheaper, but you need three more Actimel bottles to make that set of skittles!

  5. Friends, family, colleagues (and friends of friends, family, colleagues…) send you carrier bags of wool, fabric, old clothes, and their recycling, because they have heard about the amazing things you can do with an old picture frame, a handful of elastic bands and three empty M&S noodle boxes (turn them into wall-mounted saucepan lid storage, of course).
  6. Your kitchen window shelf is home to two sprouting avocado stones, several jars of herb cuttings you’re attempting to root, and an array of sorting boxes for:
    • The regular compost
    • The bokashi compost
    • Food for the birds
    • Empty eggshells (slug repellent)

      Image: via pinterest

  7. Your husband has to buy you a shed to store all the “crafting” goodies you cannot help but hoard.

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This may, or may not be a comment on the current state of our house, or of my hoarding compulsion…

Lovely dresses

At the weekend we decided to meet up with our friends Marios & Aysu for an afternoon in the sunshine at Charlecote park. It was a glorious sunny day, with temperatures in the Midlands hitting around 17°. And I had nothing to wear.

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I am still 2 dress sizes larger than I was pre-pregnancy, and the summer dresses I last wore two years ago just won’t fasten over my bust any more. So, I decided I would have to admit defeat and buy a couple of size 18 dresses.

My first stop was ASOS – a favourite because they make such a great range of midi dresses. When I’m bigger I find that I really need to hide my knees in order to feel confident. They had some beautiful dresses, but most were outside my price range.

Tiffany Midi Dress in Floral Jacquard, £85: Also available in green, Amber. I might splash out on this come summer, as I have a couple of weddings to attend this year.

ASOS Skater Dress in Check – available with 3/4 sleeves or sleeveless: £55

Just as an aside, what is with this model’s mouth? To quote one of my favourite childhood films, “Close your mouth… We are not a cod fish!”

So many pretties, so little cash! Especially since this month’s salary will be my last for a while! I needed something just a little cheaper.

On to Aspire, where the dresses are not only a little out of my price range just now, but also stock brands which stop, in many cases at a size 16, or even 14! Because we bigger gals don’t deserve to look pretty….

Emily and Fin Isobel dress – pre-order only just now, but Oh So Beautiful!

Yumi Daisy Denim Dress: £55.
Would look lovely with a white petticoat peeping from the hem!

Hell Bunny Claudia Dress: £59
LOVE LOVE LOVE

Enter the lovely Amber, and her birthday dress from Florence & Fred. I’m sorry, A, but once again, I am stealing your style! When I saw this £35 polka dot number I just had to have it. And it’s available in blue chevrons too?! Bonus!

F&F Limited Edition Chevron Print Prom Dress: £35

It is now winging its way to me. A bit of a flutter, yes, but I need at least one dress to see me through spring. I don’t think Dapper could take another morning of tears of the “I have NOTHING to wear!” variety like Sunday’s!

Oh, and for the record, this is what I did wear in the end – an old favourite, definitely a little too snug just now, but affectionately known as my Charlecote dress anyway, as it’s the one I wore on our first date there!

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First steps and next steps…

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What I wore last Wednesday: dress & cardi: Papaya at Matalan; belt: can’t remember; tights: Charnos; heels: Bertie

Sorry about the blogging hiatus – it has been rather a busy few weeks! The boys are taking a few steps together without holding our hands now – we’re waiting with trepidation for the day when a few steps turns into a run! The sun has made an appearance, and I’m pretty sure spring is within our grasp. It has been an odd kind of year, as I don’t feel we’ve really had a winter here in the midlands – dreadful flooding in places, and storms, but no snow or ice to speak of. The arrival of the snow drops a couple of weeks ago, and the first daffodils this week came as something of a shock. As did the fact that it was suddenly warm enough to wear a dress and bring out the sandals!

I’ve also had a couple of weeks without a trip to London – the first in the aftermath of the most horribly debilitating flu I’ve ever experienced, and the second  a result of a team-building day which was not really relevant to me – as I’ll soon be leaving the team! I handed in my notice at the end of February. After years of talking about going freelance I am finally biting the bullet and going for it. I won’t bore you with details just now, but over the coming weeks I will be working on a website with all my credentials and experience, and asking you all to bear me in mind for any work you may need to send out-of-house, whether editorial, marketing, web-content, writing… you get the drift!

I’m also planning on fitting in a lot more sewing and many more fairs, to increase my children’s clothing output. So far this involves a lot of cardigans, a number of sun hats, few pairs of slippers and one skirt… but I also have a notebook chock-full of designs. I’m hoping that going freelance might give me the time to follow-through with a few more of these and really build up my stock, perhaps even chase up a few stockists willing to trial some of my designs on the market. We’ll see!