Friday, 31 August 2012

Big Tutorial + Giveaway - Play Tent!

~by Emi

So today, campers, we're going to make a totally rockin' play tent! And not only that, Crafty by Nurture will be giving away the tent made in this tutorial!

This tent is a simplified version of the one I will be offering in my MamaPixie Etsy store over the next few weeks, and is perfect for a simple game of hide and seek with my 11 month old, Pixie, or hiding away and reading with my 3 year old, Ru.

Before we start, I am going to barrel ahead and assume that you have some basic knowledge of how to use a sewing machine. There are many wonderful tutorials out there to teach you how to use your sewing machine, and do simple hems etc. This is not one of them. We'll be using sewing in a straight line and a basic hem.

I am also going to be using an overlocker in this tutorial, but don't worry, you can do this if you only have a sewing machine.

First off, we're going to need our tent fabric. This is a great way to use up old bedding that needs a new lease of life. However, if you want to start from new, sheet material from Boyes is perfect for this project. You're going to need their sheet material, as it needs to be WIDE! It's a washable poly-cotton blend, they sell it for around £4 a meter, and it's 2m wide. You will need 2m of this fabric.

We're also going to need a quick visit to a well-known DIY chain store to get four 15mm wooden rods. B and Q sell ones that measure 1.8m, (the four rods will cost you about £19) and you'll need to cut them down to 1.5m. With a saw, not scissors obviously. You could also use bamboo, as long as it was thick and was 1.5m long!

Pour yourself a glass of wine. Wait until the kids have gone to bed because you need to clear your workspace floor, and not have children and/or cats running across your fabric!

So here we are...

Step 1. Lay Out Your Fabric

Well, that was easy. Reward yourself with more wine.

Step 2. Tent Panels

We're going to draw a horizontal line at the bottom of our sheet that is 95cm long. Mark the middle of it at 47.5cm. This is your Base Line.

At the middle mark, draw a line 112.5cm long, perpendicular to the Base Line. This is now your Middle Line.

At the top of the middle line, you then need to draw a line 11cm long, parallel with the Base Line, with the top of the Middle Line joining the middle of the Top Line.

Join the left-hand edge of the Top Line to the left-hand edge of the Base Line, and repeat for the right-hand edges. Cut round this shape. This your basic Tent Panel.

Now, do it all twice more, so that you end up with 3 of these Tent Panels.

And if that step doesn't make sense, copy the diagram below.

Then drink some more wine. Or gin.

Step 3. Door Top

Using the same method as in Step 2, we're going to make a smaller version with different measurements for the Door Top. You will need 2 of these.

Remember, Base Line first, Middle Line perpendicular to the Base Line, Top Line parallel to the Base Line.

(Now, I know mine looks a little misshapen, but I'm taking the photo on an angle, trying not to stand on the curious cats.)

Step 4. Door Flaps

Use the same method for Step 2, with a Base Line of 95cm, Middle Line of 70cm and a Top Line of 42cm.

Then cut straight down the Middle Line, et voila! 2 Door Flaps.

Step 5. Pole Casings

Cut out four long rectangles, measuring 122cm x 10cm. These are your Pole Casings.

Step 6. Hem the Door Flaps

I want you to do a simple hem on the Base Line and the Middle Line of the Door Flaps. I used ribbon on mine, because I'm fancy-schmancy like that.

Step 7. Assembling The Door

Right, lay one of your Door Top pieces upside-down (ie. the longer Base Line at the top).

Place a Door Flap on it, right side up, matching the middle of the Door Top Base Line with the edge of the hemmed edge of the Door Flap.

Sound confusing?

Here's a picture.

Then place the second Door Flap.

Now put the remaining Door Top over the top (again upside-down), making a 'sandwich'. Pin it all together, and then sew in a straight line along that pinned edge.

Remove pins, flip over the Door Top pieces so that the whole thing is the same shape as your Tent Panels. Sew along the Door Top/Door Flaps edge again for extra strength.

Hem the top of the Door Top piece.

Step 8. More Hemming

Hem the top of your 3 Tent Panels. Again, I used ribbon, but a simple hem will do.

Step 9. Assemble Pole Casings

Hem the top and bottom of all four Pole Casings.

Take one of the Pole Casings and fold it in half lengthways. Pin and sew along this edge. Remove pins, and repeat for the rest of the Pole Casings to make four long tubes.

Step 10. Main Tent Assembly

Take your Door and lay it flat on the floor, with the side you want on the *outside* of the tent facing upwards.

Line up one of the Pole Casings with the top of the Tent Panel. Starting from the top, pin the Pole Casing to the edge of the Tent Panel.

The Pole Casing may not reach to the bottom of the tent, depending on your hemming. This is fine. You haven't done anything wrong. It's just one of those things.

Below, is a photo of the top of the Door with the Pole Casing placed correctly on top of it.

Now, place a Tent Panel on top of it, with the side you want on the outside facing *down*. Pin the entire thing along where you already pinned, pinning together (from bottom to top) Door, Pole Casing, Tent Panel.

Sew along this entire line. I then used my overlocker on this seam. If you're not lucky enough to own such a machine, I'd do this with your standard straight stitch and then either a couple more times, or use a zigzag stitch to make sure that there's no chance of the seam coming apart.

When you've finished, you will realise that you already have HALF your tent assembled! Half!

Check you out.

I now want you to continue piecing the tent together this way, fabric on the bottom facing upwards, Pole Casing, and then the next Tent Panel on top facing downwards.

until you end up with something resembling... This...

Check my mad Paint skillz, yo.

We're now going to do the final seam, exactly the same way as the others, but this time, joining the edge of the last Tent Panel with the side of the Door (the red lines in my *amazing* diagram above).

When you've done that, your tent is pretty much done! Simply hem along the bottom edge, starting from the inside hemmed edge of one of the Door Flaps, all the way round, over the three Tent Panels, round to the inside hemmed edge of the other Door Flap.

Step 11. Erection

When you've stopped tittering at the word 'erection', slide one of the wooden rods into each casing.

Stand the tent up, arrange the pole tops and then tie round them to hold them sturdily. In the picture below, I've just used some left-over fabric, but you can use ribbon or string or whatever you fancy.

Ta daa!

Then, obviously, get inside and take a picture. And feel REALLY proud of yourself.

Thoroughly well done if you made it to the end of the tutorial, and completed your own play tent!

We'd love to see your own Tents, so please feel free to leave us links to your bloggy-tenty exploits in the comments, or share them with us on our Facebook page.

And now, just because Kendal and I love you all so very much, we're actually going to be giving away the play tent I made in the tutorial! Woooo!

Now, before you get too excited, the cost of posting the tent *with* poles is pretty darn high, so the giveaway is for the tent WITHOUT the poles!

Without The Poles!

So, to win the tent, simply comment at the bottom, and tell us what you think your kids would do with the tent if you won it!

The winner will be picked at random using a random number generator at 7pm on Sunday 2nd September 2012. The lucky person will be announced both on here, and on the Crafty by Nurture Facebook page. We'll then need to sort out address details, so the Tent can be sent out, and will head off on the journey to its new home!

And so concludes our first Crafty by Nurture 'Big Tutorial'!


Play Tent.


And here's another one that was made for a friend!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Tutorial - Home-made Crayons

~by Emi

With the advent of yet more rain, I woke up this morning and knew that it was going to be an arty sort of day. Now, as a family, we really enjoying creating in a vast array of mediums; painting, sticking, gluing, cutting up, ripping, sewing, guitaring, singing, song-writing... So many.

Apart from Pixie.

Poor little Pixie.

Too small for Ru's crayon rocks...

Too small to use Daddy's music software...

Too small to play Mama's guitar properly...

It seemed unfair for her to be left out simply because she is Little. Have you ever watched a child painting or drawing or colouring in? It's so wonderful to watch them be so engrossed in that moment, completely transfixed by their own genius. If toddlers were hipsters, they'd be saying 'Yeah, pencils are SO over-rated. I am so ALL about the crayons.'

There is definitely something almost 'healing' about art. There's a very good reason art therapy is so popular. In our family, for a toddler who can't express how frustrated he is about not being allowed a /seventh/ piece of salami, there is no better cure than angrily scribbling on a page. It's the one activity we come back to when we're ill too. Art will cure what ails ya.

But back to Pixie. She really loves Ru's crayon rocks, I thought, but she keeps putting them in her mouth. And she snaps the thin ones. If only, if *only* there were a way to make big, thick, baby-palm sized chunky crayons, perfect for Pixies.

And that is what I offer you today!

Giant crayons!

This is a really easy one to do, and a great way to use up all the random, broken crayons you invariably end up finding around your home when you have children.

Firstly, find your supplies. Gather up some crayons and some silicon cupcake moulds. Choose which colours will go into which case. They really do need to be silicon moulds, they are fantastic, you can use them again, they don't melt, and you can pick up packs of them from the pound shop easily.

I went for reds/orange/yellow (fire), greens/browns (earth), blues and white (water) and... purple/pinks (for air... alright, the colours are nothing like air, but I'd already used up the yellow and blue, and you know what? Screw it, I like pink. So sue me.)

Strip off the paper wrappers, then, using a chopping board and knife, cut them up. I discovered afterwards that the bigger the chunks are, the less they mix when melted. I wish I'd known this before hand as I had this idea in my head of amazing multi-coloured crayons and they are a little more mixed at the end than I hoped for. Oh well, live and learn.

Be careful with this part. If you're not using a knife, you can get your children to break the crayons up for you. If, like me, you got up before your kids to make these to surprise them at breakfast time and you use a knife, be prepared for little bits of crayons shooting off in every direction.

The cats, who were curiously watching me, fast retreated to a safe distance when they realised that there were tiny, wax based projectiles shooting out of my workspace.

And now, we bake. 220*C for 10 minutes.

When the time is up, take them out but for the love of ruined-Jesus-fresco-in-Spain, please Be Careful! This wax is hot, and I imagine would be a bugger to clean up off the floor or worktops.

You can leave them on the worktop, out of the reach of Little hands, to set, or put them in the freezer.

I'm impatient. Guess which option I picked?

Guess which option I picked... and then forgot that I had made them?


It was only later when my family all trundled downstairs, and my husband opened the freezer that I remembered... Just as Stephen asked 'Uh... Em? Did you make... freezer cupcakes?!'

Ru, upon hearing the word 'cupcake', practically launched himself across the room and was disappointed to find no tasty, sponge-based treats, only crayons.

'But I can't eat DEESE, Mama!' he says, looking a little sad.

'Well, no, but we can draw with them!' I answer, full of enthusiasm.

'Oh.' he says, clearly underwhelmed.

He soon perks up when I get the pads of paper out, and happily starts to test the new crayons with me.

But what I'm *really* pleased about, really pleased as punch about, is Pixie.

She saw we were doing something, and with all the grace of an arthritic rhino, crawled over to us, pulled the drawing pad off the table, picked up one of the crayons and proceeded...

To put it in her mouth.


After encouraging the baby fist-sized crayon out of her mouth and showing her what to do with it, she picked the crayon up again...

Turned it over and over in her hands...

And did this...

She looked so very pleased with herself. And confused. As if by magic, streaks of colour were appearing under her clammy, clumsy, perfect baby fists. Pixie kept picking up the crayon and looking underneath it. I think she was wondering where the colours were coming from. Very cute.

I then went to make myself a cup of chai, and heard Ru say "Dat weely good, Pickle. We not eat dem though. Dey only for a *pretend* eating... (pause)... I like drawing together."

I don't think the morning could have gotten off to a better start!

Aside from the cuteness overload from my kids, this activity could also tie in some science (solids, liquids, melting), and art (colour mixing). You're also reusing all the old stubs of crayons that are too small to properly use, and we all know that the earth loves a recycler! You really could use any silicon moulds too, a quick search on Ebay came up with hundreds of really cool ones (Is it wrong I REALLY want Lego-shaped crayons?!) and you could easily whip some up from a big batch of crayons as party bag gifts.

So there you have it, giant homemade crayons!

'Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.'
~ Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Who Teaches Us Best?

~by Emi

Some people say that it is unhealthy to live in the past.

I'm tempted to agree.

But what a wonderful learning tool it is. I can't even begin to count the lessons that life has given me, both good and bad.

But there's a better learning tool out there, better than the past, better than any school, teacher or shrink...

'What is it?' you cry.

I'll get to that, I promise.

With the advent of a particularly tumultuous time in my life, it has led me to question myself more than usual. Who am I? How did I get here? If I had taken the other road, where would I be now? Would it be better? Would it be worse, or just... different? Massive life events have shaken me recently, right down to my very core and center of my being, making me question things that I haven't thought about, haven't faced, in a long, long while.

Today was a hard day.

Today, I had to cross a bridge that I have been unwilling to face for well over a decade, and was feeling particularly small and vulnerable.

But then...

Something happened.

Some ONE happened.

You remember I mentioned there was a better learning tool than the past? Want to know what it is?




Your children.

My children, my wonderful children give me the opportunity to learn. Every day, our children give us these amazing opportunities to learn simple, yet unavoidable lessons. Sometimes we forget that our children are actually teaching us most of the time.

I don't know about you, but there are so many times where Ru has said something outstandingly insightful and I am just blown away by his way of seeing things.

Today, he was my teacher.

Today, he came up to me and grabbed at me, then, cupping something in his hands, made a motion to throw it away.

When I asked him what he was doing, he said "Taking it 'way from choo, Mama.", as though this was the most *obvious* thing in the world.

"What are you taking away?" I questioned.

"I take *IT*, Mama, what make choo sad! I trow it 'way now, all gone!"

And with that, he sat back down and started playing with his pinecones again.

I was just sat there, speechless.

Screw the past, screw life, screw school and teachers and shrinks...

CHILDREN are our best teachers.

The only lesson I needed to learn today was the one my son taught me.

Let It Go.

Funny how they always know just what to say...

I don't think he'll ever know that I will remember that moment, possibly for the rest of my life.

What wonderful lessons our Littles have to teach us, if we just stop talking for a minute and listen to them, *really* listen to them...

Emi, x

Monday, 27 August 2012

Review: The Creative Family

~by Kendal 

There are few people in this world who have influenced me as much as Amanda Blake Soule, and no one more so than when it comes to parenting. I read The Creative Family before I was even pregnant, when my good friend, who has an uncanny knack of knowing exactly what and who I’m going to love, sent it to me.

It was one of those books that I read from cover to cover, feeling that rare sense of simultaneous wonder and familiarity. Yes, I thought. This lady gets it, this lady has put into words exactly what I already knew but couldn’t say, or wanted to know but wasn’t quite there yet.

The Creative Family is the first of three books by Amanda Blake Soule, famous for her much loved blog SouleMama. It is my favourite of all of them, because it combines simple yet insightful thoughts on parenting mindfully, whilst offering a variety of easy to follow activites which nurture creativity in young ones.

Is it not an easily categorizable book. That is, I would not say it is a book on parenting, and nor would I say it was a Crafting book. Within a chapter on ‘Being Resourceful’, where Soule talks about the importance of handmade and respecting our planet, she gives instructions on how to make comfy trousers using old T-shirts and sweaters (something we have done many times here)

Within chapters on things such as ‘Everyday Rituals’, ‘Exploring Through Nature’ and ‘Encouraging Imagination’ there are instructions on some wonderful activites, but they are all tied in to a deeper thread which focuses on how to live mindfully and meaningfully with your family, always working towards building connections with one another and finding ways to live a creative and harmonious life.

Within a chapter entitled ‘Gathering Materials’, she gives tutorials on how to make wool felt blocks for younger babies, and felt pencil rolls for older children. Within a chapter entitled ‘Sharing the Tradition of Handmade’ she talks about how to encourage even the youngest children to sew and knit and shows some very easy examples of how to do so.

I have used many of these tutorials with or for Ava and each one has not only been a simple yet lovely activity to do together, but it has indeed added to our own family’s desire to ‘keep things simple’, which means, for us, a great deal of creating within our own home.

The tutorial on how to create a bedtime bag for your Little to put his or her PJ’s and bedtime book in is one of my favourites as it has truly helped us to create a much looked-forward-to bedtime routine with Ava.

Likewise, the tutorial on Family Hearts (a heart shaped cushion that can carry notes in the pocket, so your wee ones can read your words when they are away from you) was so inspiring I have made many, many for Ava and her friends.

And then there are a myriad of simple but heartwarming ideas like The Gratitude Hug; when one of Soule’s children isn’t feeling their best, they get a figurative ‘talking hug’, showered in words of gratitude from the rest of the family about what each of them really loves and appreciates about that child.

This book is one of the few books I would recommend to anyone with a family, or anyone even thinking about starting a family. It works so well because it is not forceful and nor does it attempt to explain Soule’s somewhat ‘alternative’ lifestyle choices, but like the blog she writes, it merely opens up a life that is lived beautifully, with intent.

I remember reading this and thinking that this family and their way of living was exactly what I wanted for myself. This book led me to the blog where I read 6 years of archives, where I eagerly await each new post every day. This book led me to the idea of homeschooling, and then unschooling, and cemented some radical and some transformative ideas in my head which have changed the way we live.

Such is the power of showing, not telling (as my first writing teacher liked to say) and that is what Amanda Blake Soule does so well in all of her writing. She understands the great power that lies in showing by example, and I believe one of the reasons The Creative Family has enchanted so many is because her world, and her views, are never forced upon you. Her writing is powerful because it is gentle and quietly confident and one gets the feeling that Amanda Blake Soule does not have anything to prove – her family is living proof of how amazing this way of living can be.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to live a more creative, handmade life, ideas on how to nurture imagination within your family in very simple and achievable ways, this book is ideal. I urge you, read it, and you will love it.

Ava's birthday crown, based on one of the tutorials in The Creative Family.

The Creative Family is available on our Amazon Store.

This Week

Patiently waiting to get into the pool

So much unrequited love for the geese

 On rainy days we watch the rain fall in the garden and Ava says 'Pitter Patter' over and over

 Daddy-Daughter nap times... There's been a lot of them this week...

A Small Boy who simply loves being out in the rain...

And him... Always him. <3

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Tutorial - Masking Tape Watercolours

~by Kendal

On days like today, when the urge to be creative is there, accompanied by a distinct lack of energy, I like to crack open the paints. We do a lot of painting around here, and sometimes it’s nice to spice things up a little by adding a little masking tape. Masking tape, you say? Yes, really.

This is really easy and simple and yet the results can be spectacular. So pretty, that even the littlest Little feels mighty proud of their efforts.

All you need is watercolour paint, watercolour paper or card, salt, masking tape and a variety of brushes and sponges. (We like to use toothbrushes too!)

How to

First of all, apply some masking tape to watercolour paper or card. You can do any design you want. I love doing trees, but we also do stars, moons, and Ava's name, since it's one of the few words she can 'read' right now. (This part is usually a solo-Mama activity since my Little is not yet 2…but she does enjoy doing some sticking too, sometimes)

Next, paint! It’s good to use darker colours for more contrast, once the tape is removed, but obviously the effect of lots of mixed up colours works well too. Just as well, really.

Ava chose one of her costumes to do some painting in, which is fine because these watercolours come straight out in the wash. A necessary precaution..

While the paint is still wet, sprinkle a generous amount of salt on top. The salt soaks up some of the paint as it dries and creates a beautiful 'grainy' texture on the paint. (I let Ava do all the salt sprinkling which meant very little ended up on the paint...and the effect was barely noticeable this time around!)

And that’s it! Now all you have to do is wait for the paint to dry, which usually only takes a couple of hours max.

(I like to make up some different masking tape scenes the night before so that when we come down in the morning there is a crafty activity ready and waiting on the table. Accompanied by a few blueberries…it’s a good pre-breakfast way to say hello to the day.)

Once the paint is dry, carefully remove the masking tape to reveal some lovely shapes.

Finally, hang on the walls wherever your 'Art Gallery' may be!

Ava, in cloak, showing off her gallery to Daddy

Monday, 20 August 2012

Warm Couscous and Halloumi Salad

~by Kendal

It's Saturday and I have a cinema date with my wife (Emi) later. So I thought I would make something easy, quick and yet very tasty for dinner.

It has been *hot* today. And on hot days I am always looking for tasty salads. I came across this cous cous salad recently at my friend Camilla's house and fell in love with it. Couscous? Halloumi? Nuts? What more could I ask for?

So here it is! Warm Couscous and Halloumi Salad - perfect for these late summer days.


250g Couscous
1 pack of Halloumi
2 Peppers
Large handful of Brazil Nuts
2 cloves of Garlic
Boullion Stock  -approx 1 pint

Olive Oil
Soy Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste

How to

1. First of all, make your couscous. A chef once gave me a good tip on how to make couscous taste very 'golden' - melt a little butter in a pan and coat the couscous in that before adding your water or stock. I always use Boullion just to give the cous cous a little more taste. Once the butter has coated all the couscous, add your stock and let simmer for a minute or two and then let the couscous rest, giving it a good stir.

2. Chop up your peppers into small bits. I used roughly 2, although Ava kept stealing sizable chunks as  I was cutting, and running off to the garden, so I can't be too sure.

3. Chop up your Brazil nuts roughly into slices. You can use any kind of nuts and seeds work really well too, but I happen to love Brazil nuts. Chop up your garlic into small peices (it works better to chop rather than crush the garlic in this salad)

4. Put everything - couscous, peppers, garlic, nuts, into a bowl and give it a good mix. Add a good dash of olive oil and soy sauce (I like to use about half a bottle...I love soy sauce!), and squeeze half a lemon in too. A small sprinkle of salt and a good dash of pepper and then give it a very good stir.

5. Chop your Halloumi up into thin slices and add to a pot or pan. Dry fry it (the juices from the Halloumi mean you don't require any oil) and keep stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom. The Halloumi will start to break up and eventually will start to resemble scrambled eggs. Once all the 'bits' look brown and suitably 'fried', it's ready to go, so you can add to your cous cous. And you're done!

I love this easy dish because you can basically add whatever you want to add. We like to eat ours warm but it's lovely cold too. It works well with different chopped up veg, with roasted tomatoes, and with almost any variety of seed or nut. It's healthy, it's fast, and it makes a lovely accompaniment to almost anything (we had ours with organic sirloin steak...very yum!)

And, it tastes good the next day, freshened up with a little more olive oil and soy sauce. Or if you can't wait, it also makes a good late night, post-cinema-date snack :)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

This Week

Serious faces from little girls...

The beginning of chicken pox for small boys...

And a child-free coffee date for Emi and Stephen...

Addicted to hummous, and so young

 When there's silence, I usually find her in here, just sitting.

Ava and Ru at Friday night dinner...