Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Quick Crafting with the Kids

I was tidying up the kitchen cupboards when I found these:

I loved the colourful, polka-dot cupcake cases and thought the kids would have fun making something. After a couple of minutes brain storming, we decided to make flower pictures.  I was put in charge of the scissors and the girls told me what to cut.

It was a fun way to pass half an hour, and the girls made lovely pictures.
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Getting Patriotic Over Toast

At breakfast this morning Samantha asked me to draw a flag so she could colour it in.  Sure, why not.  So I grabbed a piece of copy paper, a black marker and drew an outline of a Union Jack.  Immediately, Olivia decided she wanted to colour a flag in too.  Both girls sat in the kitchen munching toast and colouring flags.

Once they were coloured in we cut them out, added some double sided tape and stuck them to straws.

Naturally, lots of flag waving followed.  Samantha insisted on taking her flag with her when we ran errands.
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Monday, 29 July 2013

Dressing up Peanut

Meet Peanut ...

Peanut has been around since I was pregnant with Samantha.  She was Olivia's own little baby, while I was busy trying to manage a toddler as well as a newborn.  Peanut has been loved.  She has been bathed, dressed, undressed, and generally dragged around the house.  Peanut hasn't been played with much lately and I thought she needed a little bit of love.  I found some great ideas for doll clothes here and here.

I started by raiding my fabric stash.  I used a whole bunch of different cotton fabrics, and flannelette.  Peanut needed dresses, nappies (that's diapers to the rest of the world) and (of course) wipes.  I used the brilliant idea from Bee In My Bonnet for tracing and cutting the patterns.  First I worked out my draft pattern, traced it onto a heavy card and cut it out.  I then placed this template onto the wrong side of the patterned fabric and traced around it with a pencil.  I then put the lining fabric underneath and sewed directly onto the pencil line.  When this was done, I trimmed the edges, clipped the curves, turned it out the right way and pressed it.  Velcro and buttons were added last.  Here's the finished wardrobe:

It was a little bit fiddly to sew, simply because the patterns are so small.  There was a lot of careful manoeuvring of the presser foot to get around straps, and it was fiddly to turn out, but the end product was worth it.  The clothes are adorable, and the girls love them.  I think Peanut is happy too!

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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Summer Shorts go Retro

The first two pairs of shorts I made were a roaring success with the girls.  They've only had them for a week and they've already been through the wash three times.  I think they'd wear them every day if they could.  Just as a reminder, I'm using this pattern by MADE:

For round two of shorts making, I'm trying the retro, racer style shorts.  These are the ones with curved hems and bias tape edging.  We visited the fabric shop and I let the girls choose their own fabrics.  It was fascinating watching them choose.  Samantha (my 4 yo) headed straight for the brightest pink fabric she could see.  Olivia (my 7 yo), chose a Nana-style blue floral and a stripe/floral print that reminded me of 70s wallpaper.

These shorts were much easier to sew than the first pairs.  There was no messing about making piping, pockets and having to do proper hems.  I don't have a lot of experience using bias tape, so I headed back to the Google and searched for tutorials.  I found loads of photo and video tutorials out there, which explained different methods.  I ended up going with a method where I pin the tape carefully onto the edge of the shorts, and then edge-stitch as neatly as I can with a regular presser foot.  When I bought my new sewing machine, I also invested in a bias tape foot.  It is absolutely brilliant, however, it only sews 1/4" double fold bias tape, and these shorts use 1/2" double fold bias tape.  I did try to sew as slowly and neatly as I could, but I probably could have gone even slower and made the line of stitching a bit more perfect.

I think the end result is fabulous.  I love the look of the bias tape edging.

Olivia and Samantha were desperate to wear them, and headed off to holiday camp wearing their new shorts the very next day.  I was especially delighted to get Samantha into shorts, as she has an obsession with skirts and dresses.  I think letting them choose the fabric made all the difference.
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Friday, 26 July 2013

Tidying Up the Littlest Room

The shelf in our downstairs cloakroom (that's polite English speak for toilet) has become a jumbled mess of supplies I'd really rather not have on display.  I would post a before picture, but it's just too embarrassing.  I found these really handy wooden storage drawers at Ikea.  Unfortunately they are not very pretty, so I decided to decorate it to match the accessories and towels in the cloakroom.

MOPPE Mini Chest of Drawers

I started by giving the boxes a light sand and then I spray painted them.  To make sure the paint had a nice finish I started with a coat of wood primer, then two coats of colour and a final layer of varnish.  I also did a light sand between each layer.

To finish the drawers off I found a coordinating wrapping paper and used my Decoupatch glue and varnish to glue the paper to the fronts of the drawers and give it a nice, sturdy finish.  I'm not sure, but I think Decoupatch is very similar to Modge Podge.  It's a bit like a diluted PVA glue.  Once the drawers were finished, I popped them in the cloakroom and filled them with all the mess from the shelf.  Here's the finished drawers.

I think they look great.  So cheerful and bright, and no more mess.
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Thursday, 25 July 2013

Organising my Recipes

Since moving to London, we have been living in a house without loads of storage.  While the kitchen isn't the smallest one I've ever had, it is seriously lacking in storage.  One of the annoying things, is that there is no space to store recipes and cookbooks.  A great big mess has gradually developed, which is taking up loads of the kitchen bench.  Here's the before photo.

I know it's not really that messy, but it does take up too much space, and it's not easy to find the recipes I want.  I found this terrific inspiration and decided to make a recipe box that's filled with only the recipes I actually use.

Putting together my recipe box was a real labour of love.  It took me weeks of slowly typing up recipes, searching for pictures and creating some cute templates.  I'm not terrific at desktop publishing or digital scrapbooking, so I reverted to something that I actually know how to use - PowerPoint.  Once I had all the recipes ready to go, I sent them off to be printed as 7"x5" photographs.  I finished off by using a punch to round the corners, then I laminated them to make them durable.

I made dividers with some sturdy card and printed up some labels for them (PowerPoint again).  Finally, I carefully cut the dividers out with a craft knife, rounded the corners, and laminated them.  The recipe box proved really hard to find.  London isn't the best place for craft supplies, but I eventually found a pretty Orla Keily CD box, which fitted the cards perfectly.  Just so you can see how much better it is, here are the before and after shots.

It's so tidy!

And check out those gorgeous cards.  I can't believe how beautiful and practical this is.
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Monday, 22 July 2013

Tackling the Mess in the Kids Bathroom

Having fabulous, organised spaces is one of the things I really love.  I'm most definitely not the tidiest person in the world.  My tidy spaces gradually devolve into disorganised messes, but when everything is put away and looks beautiful, it is delightful.

Our girls bathroom has lately become a jumbled mess of random shampoo bottles, piles of toys, sticky toothpaste tubes and more toothbrushes than I have children.  A while ago I corralled the toys into a colourful, plastic basket, which made a huge difference.  However, there was still that horrible mess on the window shelf.

I started by working out what was essential and throwing out, or putting away, everything else.  I ended up needing to store one bottle each of shampoo, conditioner, bath soap, a tumbler of toothbrushes, toothpaste and a comb, and a box of wet wipes.  I wanted to use pump bottles, because my girls have a tendency to squeeze half a bottle of soap into the bath.  I hunted around for a while and found these really stylish dispensers:

Once they were filled up and on the shelf, they looked a little bit bland and boring.  I really wanted a tray, basket or box to sit them all in neatly.  Preferably something colourful.  After a couple of weeks of fruitless searching, I decided to have a go at making one.  I'm most definitely not a wood worker and my tools consisted of a handsaw, staple gun and PVA glue.  I bought a few pieces of hobby wood from the craft store (I think they're used to make things like model planes), sawed them to the lengths I needed, glued and stapled them together, and finally painted them in some bright colours.  I used masking tape to create neat lines between each colour section.  I then printed some matching labels and attached them to the jars using clear adhesive film.  All it needed then was a bit of greenery and we were done.

And just so you can really appreciate it, here's a closeup of that homemade bathroom caddy:

I'm delighted with the results.  It's so practical and adds some much needed colour to the bathroom.  It has the added bonus of making sure the kids only use small amounts of soap, shampoo and conditioner.
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Sunday, 21 July 2013

Summer Shorts

For years the only sewing I have done has been things like curtains, sheets, bibs and other bits and pieces for around the home.  I stopped sewing clothes because they were fiddly to make, supplies (like fabric and patterns) have become really expensive, and too many times I had finished something, put it on and it just didn't look as good as I hoped it would.

I decided to dip my toes back into sewing with some easy kids clothes.  I found this great pattern at www.danamadeit.com:

I only needed half a metre of fabric to make one pair, so it was quite economical.  I used a really cute gingham print in a lovely, soft quilting cotton, and added pockets with a piping detail.  I had never worked with piping before, so I was a bit worried about them turning out perfectly.  After a bit of internet searching I found a load of tutorials and videos explaining how easy it was to do.

As part of my mission to improve my sewing skills, I worked really carefully and tried to make the shorts as neat and professional as possible.  I think they turned out brilliantly.

I've got three more pairs planned, using fabric that the girls chose themselves.  The next ones are going to be the racer style shorts with bias tape edging - another new sewing skill for me to perfect.
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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Breaking in the Brand New Sewing Machine

Last month bought my very first brand new sewing machine.  My previous sewing machines had been a 1960s Bernina (one of those old black enamel ones in a wooden case) inherited from my Nana, and a ragged old Janome (with all the paint peeling off) that shook the house when I sewed.  This new machine is a step into luxury.  It's shiny, has loads of accessories and is so quiet to sew with.  I love it.  Incase you're interested, it's a Janome 5124.

The first thing I decided to sew on my new machine was an apron that I had created in my head ages ago.  I know everyone out there in blog-land makes aprons, so this is probably a good place to start.  I have been using the same apron for the past 30 years!  It's my high-school, home economics apron.  My mum must have done an amazing job sewing it, because it has stood the test of time.

I tried using my recently learned pattern drafting skills to come up with an apron pattern.  It was rather hit-and-miss and the fit isn't perfect.  This is version number one, and I have tried to perfect the pattern for version number two (which is still in the works).

These aren't the best photographs ever posted on a blog, but they were taken by my 4 year old daughter, using my iPhone.  Not too bad after all.

The fabric is a nice, heavy cotton from Ikea.

I've also been trying to improve my sewing skills lately.  I learnt from my mum, who knows all the shortcuts, and my sewing techniques are more than a little bit suspect!  I taught myself one new technique in making this apron - buttonholes.  I had no idea how straightforward they were.  It probably helps that my new machine came with one of those fancy automatic buttonhole feet.
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