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!

Slippers for my sweets

Earlier this week I noticed that the boys’ feet were getting rather chilly. A root through the hosiery drawer turned out one pair of slippers, but not a second. After a few minutes trawling through ebay I realised that even to buy a pair second hand, with the extortionate P&P costs involved these days, would cost me around a fiver, which seems daft when I haven’t really a fiver to spare. So I set to work trawling the interwebs for some simple slipper tutorials.

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My first pair of slippers, and the pair which wee Hal is currently sporting, were based on this tutorial. Simple, quick and effective, these were made from a felted baby cardigan that I bought off ebay without realising that the seller had already shrunk it down in the wash – and so it was too small for my boys. I repurposed some elastic cut from a jersey fitted sheet  which gave a pleasing finished effect as well as putting an existing scrap to use. I’m reasonably pleased with the results.

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However, whilst searching for slipper patterns, I also found these little beauties. I was all ready to buy this pattern, when I realised that it was sold out! So, I’ve been devising my own pattern loosely based on the design. The first pair came out a little wonky, but the second pair are shaping up well – and proving an excellent use for scraps of felted wool too!

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Project: repurposed broken clothes horse book sling

I’ve been struggling to find an accessible display option for our picture books for some time. I had tried book ends, but they looked so messy. I tried a rectangular basket, but it took up a LOT of space. I found a lot of potential ideas online, but they mostly required the use of wall space, and whilst we do have a little empty wall space, our delightfully ancient walls are solid as iron and rock (after several hundred years both wooden beams and bricks seem to repel even electric drills!), so wall-mounted solutions are not really an option. I was fast running out of ideas.

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After a failed attempt at a table-top bookstand made out of cereal boxes (not sturdy enough, but will be great for my sewing patterns and PDFs!) I was busily about the bedtime nappy change last week when I spotted one half of a broken clothes airer which I have mounted on over-door hooks on the wardrobe to provide some extra hanging space for baby clothes and towels. Inspiration hit – the other half of the same airer was in the shed, and would make a great frame for a book sling.

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All I needed for this was the frame and some fabric. To make things extra difficult, I decided I wanted to use some lovely Michael Miller dinosaur-print fabric I bought from Plush Addict last year for the front panels– it had been sitting in my stash awaiting a project that would do the gorgeous pattern justice. Just using the star-printed sheet I used for backing would have made the whole thing far quicker and easier to assemble.

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Then it was just a matter of measuring (twice, of course) and cutting my fabric strips, backing them, and sewing the whole lot together. I didn’t take photos of the process, but essentially*:

  1. Measure the length of the frame from the top rung to the floor, then back up to the bottom rung  x the width of the inside of the frame. Add seam allowance on all sides PLUS 2 inches for fold-over at bottom edge. Cut this twice, hem 3 sides right sides together, turn and top-stitch the top edge, inserting ties/ribbons into either corner.
  2. Measure the drop from each rung to the rung below x width, add seam allowance and 2 inches for fold-over at the top edge, and cut two panels this size for each of the upper rungs (remember, the bottom run will already be accounted for). Again, hem three sides right sides facing, turn the right way, and top-stitch the top. It makes sense to top-stitch the top of the panel as this will be stitched over the bar.CIMG8695
  3. Assuming a 4-rung airer like mine, you now have one very long piece of fabric and three short panels. Taking the very long piece with ties at the top, pin the bottom hem over the bottom rung, fold an inch above the floor, and bring the backing up to the top rung, and tie at corners. Lie the whole thing flat, and use to position the bottom edge of each panel onto the backing, hanging down. Pin, remove ties and pins from bottom rung, then machine two rows of straight stitch ¼ inch apart to attach each panel.
  4. Tie top and fold and pin bottom once more, and fold each panel up over the above rung. Hand-stitch securely in place.

 *instructions assume only one fabric without a right way up – so no dinosaurs.

Ideally, you’ll want to mount this on a wall with hooks to secure each rung, allowing for even distribution of weight. As I said, this isn’t really an option in our house, but I am looking for a hinged wooden stand I can mount it on using pins to offer a sturdier base as the boys get older and more “hands-on”!

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And speaking of repurposed kids’ storage, I will DEFINITELY be copying this idea!

My Sanctuary

For my combined birthday and anniversary present this year, Dapper bought me something rather spectacular. He bought me a refuge, a bolt-hole to give me a break from the boys when he comes in from work, even if just for half an hour. He bought me a hut.

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We got the hut for half price as a former display model from a local garden centre. The carpet was salvaged from an extention my FIL is building just now, and a friend of the family put the electrics in as a favour. It’s fully insulated with a fan heater for the cooler months, and is situated on the decking right outside the back door, so I can nip between the two without getting too cold or wet. It’s the perfect hobby room for my crafting, and I love it.

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To help store my stash, I’ve been upcycling some baby product packaging. Although I mostly make my own baby food, sometimes a jar comes in handy, and we do often feed them pre-made rice pudding! The jars are ideal for sorting and storing buttons on the spice rack my Dad bought for my birthday:

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And the tins their bottle of Good Night milk comes in are just too useful to throw away, so I bought some sticky back chalkboard and a chalk pen to make handy storage containers.

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Hello sanctuary!

Baby project: sun hat

I tend to think a lot of baby products are over-priced. Take for example the simple sunhat. An absolute necessity for a baby, but even cheapies come in around the £5 marker.

I have been given a lot of second hand baby gros, many of which I have loved, used, washed and handed on to my S-I-L for her 6 week old son. But some, having been pre-loved when they arrived and used and washed by myself several times too, have come out a little bobbled, a little faded, a little too well-used to be handed on further. These I cannot bring myself to throw away, but are starting to rather over-balance my stash…

So, I picked a few out in similar colours and attempted to turn them into a sun hat for my boys. My inspiration came courtesy of the Jojo Maman Bebe catalogue, but I could not find a similar pattern online, so devised my own…

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My first attempt came up on the large side, so I narrowed some of the segments and altered the pattern for the second hat. The result was quite pleasing – or at least, the boys certainly thought so!

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sew make believe reblog post: my place mats!

(N.B. this is a reblog of a post I wrote for sew make believe – hop on over to the site to see more club craftiness!)

As part of my home-crafting blitz, I made a list of potential makes including some brightly coloured place mats for the dinner table. I began these quite a while back now, and didn’t have the impetus to finish them until we invited some family members around for a meal last month.

The mats were made entirely from stash oddments. The patterned fabric came from one of our stash swaps, the “wadding” was an old flecce blanket and the backing is from a pair of velour curtains I got in a charity shop – I made an evening skirt from one for a masquerade ball last Christmas, and these from the other!

I wanted to add something that personalised each mat for each guest, so went for the rainbow trim bias binding – a different colour for each mat!

Happy Jubilee

Yup, here in the UK we’re enjoying the second of our two public holidays, celebrating our wonderful Queenie’s jubilee! I am a royalist through and through, loving the royal family, the heritage they provide and the tether they give us to our fantastic and varied history. So inevitably I got right into the jubilee spirit, and booked a table at the Jubilee Vintage and Handmade Fair in Birmingham city centre alongside the lovely Charlie of Charlie Button Knit Kits.

Sunday’s outfit: dress & belt: charity shops;
cardi: Monsoon; shoes via ebay

Unfortunately, Sunday was dreich! I have never seen Birmingham quite so deserted…

Even the floozy in the jacuzzi looked stroppy! The highlight of my day was running into a familar face in the shape of the lovely Louise & Peter, on their Bebopaloulou Vintage stand.

And bringing Charlie home to one of Dapper’s famous cottage pies!!

Monday was much brighter – so much so that my Mum, who stopped in for the day, was able to take some proper outfit shots on the streets of Brum:

Victoria Sqaure was looking much livelier:

As were the decorations!

Even the floozy looked far happier!

And guess who won a HUGE box of chocolates for her Jubilee inspired outfits?

You can see a round-up of the fair and some more photos over on Down the Garden Path. But do leave m a comment and tell me, how did you utilise your free days off?

How was your weekend: Part 2

The latter part of mine looked like this:

Forget-me-nots – one corner of our meadow is a cloud of blue just now…

Vintage 70s dress (+belt, worn as hairband) & parasol: via ebay; vintage scarf (worn as belt) & South cardigan: via charity shop

There was also lots of this:

And repeat. Yup, I have truly got the felting bug, both machine and needle. I’m making some interesting discoveries concerning what will and won’t felt – largely on a brand basis, as some treat their sweaters even if they don’t tell you they do – so sometimes 100% lambswool should felt, but doesn’t. I’ll let you know when I find a use for the baggy, mis-shapen mess that comes out of a hot wash in these particular cases – I’m determined to find a use for them!

My hot tip for the best sweaters to felt in my limited experience is Gap lambswool – the stripy ones that were all the rage about 10 years ago now. They felt up a treat:

Shown here with a Liberty print bias trim and pearl press studs.

The stripes also make it really easy to line up any poppers or buttons! Meanwhile, avoid M&S like the plague – they refuse to felt full stop!

Getting handy with sock toys

At the Vintage and Handmade fair last week I was amazed to find that my sock toys once again sold out. This has inspired me to concentrate on making Toesles for the next fair, and I duly went shopping on Wednesday and blew a lump sum on kiddy socks…

Last time I stocked up my sock stash, I also bought a couple of pairs of boys’ gloves, which I was drawn to because of their colourful stripes. I had in mind a dinosaur toy of some description. The above is the result of a couple of hours fiddling last night. I’ll be putting a tutorial on sew make believe sometime soon, if you fancy having a go for yourselves!

(P.S. If you haven’t already, please nip over to the shiny new sew make believe website and have a squizz – it’s just lovely. And there’s a fab relaunch giveaway going on too!)

 

Oh dear…

I’ve fallen off the blog wagon again, hey? I’ve just had rather a hectic week or so, and not much that would actually interest you… This weekend, for example, I went home because my Step-Dad was in hospital having a hip replacement. Ben, my Mum and I had a delicious Chinese takeaway on Friday night, and Ben and I had a glorious walk on Saturday before visiting Pete in the hopsital on Saturday afternoon… But none of that really justifies outfit shots! The above, in fact, is from LAST Saturday, a grocery shopping trip in the rain I’ve not even had time to tell y’all about!

I do, however, have some lovely pics of Cannock Chase bathed in golden spring sunshine to post for you tomorrow, and an outfit shot from last Wednesday for the usual slot later this week. And if you’ve been suffering withdrawal symproms there is always the sew make believe blog to peek at. Recently I’ve blogged projects including: