Thursday, 22 January 2015

Who's First in the Shower?

I don't know about your house, but in ours, there's usually an argument when I ask "who's first in the shower?"  The discussion usually goes like this:

ME: Who's first in the shower?
BOTH GIRLS: But you were first last night!
BOTH GIRLS: No I wasn't!!
BOTH GIRLS: Yes you were!
ME: I honestly don't care.  If you guys can't decide, you're going to bed without a shower.
BOTH GIRLS:  more arguing and yelling
ME: feeling a strong desire to rip my hair out

OK, I know this doesn't rate terribly highly on the "most important things that go on in my house" list, but it does drive me nuts.  So I came up with a solution.

I whipped up a quick chart in PowerPoint using some patterned digital scrapbooking paper, a yellow duck clipart and a couple of boxes with the girls names typed in them.  I laminated the paper, and used self-adhesive velcro dots to stick the names to the sign.

This sign now lives on the wall in the bathroom, next to the shower.  When the first girl gets into the shower, we swap the names around ready for tomorrow.  Since I made this we have had virtually no arguments about who is first in the shower.

As always, I'm happy to share with people out there.  If you are having the same frustrating arguments every night and would like a copy of this document, just send me an email at randomcraftingadventures[at]gmail[dot]com or leave me a comment.
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Saturday, 17 January 2015

Getting Crafty in the School Holidays - Long Stitch

Samantha has been badgering me for ages to have a go at sewing a tapestry.  Olivia has been working on one for a while, and Samantha was keen to try it as well.  I had a look at Hobby Craft to see what kits were available.  All the tapestry kits were a bit big for a five year old, and I thought she would get bored with the endless little stitches. Instead I went for a nice long stitch by Anchor, with a picture of a horse on it.

I wanted to put the fabric in a frame, to minimise the chances of Samantha pulling the yarn too tight and causing the fabric to buckle.  I used a heavy piece of poster board and cut a hole in the centre, slightly larger than the image.  I then used staples and masking tape to secure it to the board.

I threaded a piece of yarn onto the needle, tied a knot in the end and showed Samantha how to get started.  She found it a little difficult at first to find the right place to poke the needle through from underneath, but after a while she was able to work on her own.  Some of the techniques I showed her included:

  1. Pulling the yarn until it is taut.
  2. Pinching the yarn and needle between your fingers as you pull to prevent the needle slipping off the yarn.
  3. Stitching from top to bottom across a section to fill in all the colour.
  4. Choosing which hole to sew through to follow the printed pattern. 
  5. Making sure you sew through the same hole where two colours meet, so there aren't gaps.

Here are a couple of shots of the work in progress.

She worked on it in bursts.  Sometimes she would fill in lots of sections in a day, then she would leave it for a week.  In the end it probably took her a month to complete the whole picture.

Once she was finished, I removed the tape and staples, and took the picture out of the frame.  I then trimmed it, and mounted it in a simple IKEA box frame.  Here's the finished picture.

I think she did a fantastic job.  She is delighted with the picture, and it is now displayed proudly in her bedroom.
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Thursday, 8 January 2015

Organising the Playroom - From Total Carnage to Neat and Tidy

Like many families, we have an ever increasing mountain of toys that we struggle to keep tidy.  We recently moved from London to Singapore.  Before we left London I took the opportunity to have a big clean out of toys that the girls no longer play with.  I managed to cull lots of toys, which went off to a charity sale.

We still had toys all over the house.  There was a play area in the lounge room, another one upstairs, and the girls both had loads of toys in their rooms.

In our new house we are lucky enough to have a basement room, which we decided to use as a playroom.  Since we have a dedicated playroom in the house, I decided to send all the toys there when we were unpacking.  After the movers had finished unpacking all the boxes, this is what it looked like.

Total and utter carnage!  I was still dealing with an entire four storey house full of chaos, so I left it like this for a few days.  After several days of feeling utterly overwhelmed by the chaos and mess, I had an inspiration for how to tackle it.  We started by setting out two plastic tarpaulins in the carport.  We then divided the tarpaulins into three sections and labelled them MUST KEEP, MAYBE, and DON'T NEED.

I then explained to the girls that we were going to take absolutely everything out of the playroom, and put it in piles in the carpark.  If they were absolutely certain they wanted to keep something, it went in the MUST KEEP pile.  If the were absolutely certain they didn't need something, it went in the DON'T NEED pile, and if they were not sure yet (or I was trying to convince them to get rid of something they wanted), it went in the MAYBE pile.

When we started there was lots going into the MUST KEEP and MAYBE piles, but after a while the kids were agreeing to get rid of toys.  About half-way through, both girls had had enough, and I sent them off to play while we finished.  By the end this is what the carport looked like.

We cleaned the room thoroughly and started with a blank slate.

We then brought all the toys from the MUST KEEP pile back inside and put it away neatly.  Once this was done we called the girls back downstairs.  We showed them how much space was left in the playroom.  They were then asked to go through the MAYBE pile and choose toys they really wanted to keep.  We slowly moved a few more things back into the playroom, and they also moved quite a few into the DON'T NEED pile.  After we had finished moving toys inside, this is what the carport looked like.  We had also consigned quite a lot of junk toys (odds and ends from Happy Meals, party bags, etc) and broken things to the bin.

I sent a message out to the other residents in the condo development where we live, and invited them to come and help themselves to any toys they wanted.  Before long we had got rid of everything.  I probably could have sold some of the larger items, but Singapore isn't a great place for selling secondhand.  I also wanted everything gone quickly, incase the girls started changing their minds and bringing things back inside.

So, after all that work, this is what the playroom looked like.

And here's the before and after picture.

It's incredible.  This is my favourite before and after picture.  That mountain of toys in the first picture was so completely depressing.  I just had no idea how I was ever going to sort it out.  By taking absolutely everything out of the room, and sorting it into those three piles, I was able to tackle the chaos in stages.  Involving the girls worked really well too.  I promised them I wouldn't throw anything away, and I would give them a chance to decide what to keep.   But at the same time I set limits - they could only keep what would reasonably fit in the room.  It's worth trying if you've got a similarly mammoth tidying task.

There's still some decorating to do (pictures to hang, baskets to label, etc), but for now I'm happy to call this task done.
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Monday, 5 January 2015

A Perfect Self-Drafted Pattern

I've been back at the sewing machine again.  This time I had a third go at perfecting my self-drafted version of the sleeveless top sewn in the Great British Sewing Bee (Season 2, Episode 1 - read the episode summary here).  I think I have finally nailed the pattern.  The neckline has a really nice shape and the shoulders sit perfectly.  I am absolutely delighted with the final pattern, and am going to make at least one more version soon.

For this version I used some of my stash of Liberty Tana Lawn that I bought on my last visit to Desai in Cricklewood Lane, London.  This fabric is called Pelagia.

I love how light these fabrics are.  They are also such beautiful quality.

I am especially proud of how I matched the pattern through that centre back seam.  You can't even see the join.  Also, the two top edges align absolutely perfectly.

This is the original top sewn on the Great British Sewing Bee (read my summary of this episode here).  I especially liked the neckline, but I wanted a slightly looser fit around the body.

Just so you can see how far this pattern draft has come, this is a comparison of versions 1 and 2.

And this is a comparison of versions 2 and 3.

Some of the changes I made in this final version were:

  1. I slightly changed the angle of the join on the shoulder (which makes the front of the neckline sit flatter).  
  2. I moved the top of the armhole slightly wider.
  3. I widened the neckline.
  4. I cut the neckline lower at the centre front and centre back.

As I'm really new to pattern drafting, the whole process has been a great learning experience.  I think the most important thing I have learnt is that  I should always make a toile, and make all adjustments on the toile before making a final garment.

You can read about the first two blouses here and here.
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Saturday, 3 January 2015

DIY Colouring Calendars for Kids

I was on Pinterest recently, when this very cute printable popped up.

Image Source - 1+1+1=1

There is a one page printout for each month of the year, with a cute colouring picture at the top.  I printed out a set for each of the girls and bought them an inexpensive clipboard from Popular (a big stationary shop in Singapore).  The girls set about colouring in the pictures with their new Christmas gel pens.  Once they had coloured the pictures, they set about highlighting holidays and birthdays.

Once they were finished, they hung the calendars in their rooms using some Command hooks.  This was a super easy craft activity, that kept them busy for a couple of hours.  It also required very little expenditure.
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