Sunday, 30 September 2012

Big Tutorial + Giveaway: Autumn Patchwork Tote Bag

~ by Kendal

For our second big tutorial and giveaway I thought I’d make a large Tote bag in Autumnal colours, to celebrate the end of September and the beginning of October (my favourite month).

Tote bags are so easy to make, but this one has a little twist – It is a quilted, patchwork Tote bag in purples, and dark yellows. The fabrics are heavyweight cottons (perfect for carrying around lots of things) and what’s more, apart from the lining, they’re vintage too!

If you’d like to be in for a chance of winning this bag, please leave a comment after the post telling us your favourite thing about Autumn.


Although you could do this by hand, I’m going to assume you’re using a sewing machine. I’m also going to assume you know how to accurately cut fabric (if you don’t, there are lots of online tutorials, just google!)

What you need:

- 5 lengths of fabric, 4 inches wide and 19 inches long, in contrasting fabrics (I used two very heavy cottons – one in purple, one in yellow)

- 2 lengths of fabric for straps – both 6 inches wide and 32 inches long

- I piece of batting - quilting batting or old scrap of bedding – 19 inches wide and 40 inches long (I used some muslin I had lying around which added extra weight to the bag)

- I piece of cotton fabrc for lining -16 inches wide and 19 inches long.

Thread for your machine to match the fabrics. (I used cream)

Use ½ inch seam allowance throughout.

How to:

1. Cut all your fabric to the measurements above. If you have a rotary cutter and quilting ruler, use those. If not, use a fabric pen and the largest ruler you have to make sure the measurements are accurate. (Tip: When cutting long pieces of fabric, always fold the fabric in half without ironing the fold. Use the fold as the halfway point )

2. Arrange the five strips into the order you want and, wrong sides together, sew each of the strips to one another.

3. Once you’ve finished, your Outer bag should look like this! 

Turn over and press the seam allowances to one side. In this case, I pressed to the darker side so it wouldn’t show through. Then turn over and press on the right side.

4. Lay out your batting (muslin in this case) on a hard surface, and carefully lay your outer bag onto it, making sure there is batting surrounding each side. It’s important to make sure that the two pieces of fabric are absolutely smooth. Smooth from the middle out, and pin all over. The more pins, the better. If you happen to have bent-arm safety pins (special quilting safety pins) use them, but if not pins will be absolutely fine.

5. Now, you’re going to quilt the two layers together by using a technique called ‘stitch in the ditch’ which literally means stitching along the seams you’ve already created, so very easy. The best way to do this is to actually sew just next to the seam instead of directly on top. The finished look is better this way too. Make sure you stitch on the side of the seam that does NOT have the seam allowance underneath. (Tip: If you’re going to be quilting regularly, a walking foot for your machine is essential as it keeps all layers of fabric together. You won’t need one for this as we’re just quilting two layers instead of three.)

6. Lay your quilted fabric back on the table and using either fabric scissors or a rotary cutter, trim the excess batting off so the two pieces of fabric are even.

7. Fold your fabric in half, wrong sides together and stitch up the sides leaving a ½ inch seam allowance. Repeat with the lining fabric (wrong sides together, ½ inch seam allowance.

8. Lay your strap fabric out on your ironing board and press in half lengthways. Then, fold each half into the centre, pressing firmly. Once you’ve done this, fold the fabric in half and you’ll have one strap, ready to be sewn! Press again, lining up the two outer, folded edges. Now, stitching as close as possible to the edge, sew the strap together. Repeat the process with the other strap.

9. With your outer fabric turned right side out, position the straps so the ends are pointing up the way, away from the bag. Place them 4 inches in from each side and pin. Make sure that the strap edges are just a little over the bag itself.

10. Place the outer fabric, still right sides out, with straps attached, inside the lining which is wrong sides out and line up the top edge. The two bags should fit each other perfectly. Pin in place, and with a ½ inch seam allowance, sew all the way round the top of the bag, leaving a 3 inch opening at one of the sides. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your sewing.

11. Turn your bag inside out by pulling the lining and outer fabric and straps through the gap in your sewing. Nearly done now!

12. Sew all the way round the top of the bag as close as possible to the top, sewing the gap closed and securing the top edge. And that’s it! One Autumn Tote bag ready to go!

Remember, to win this bag, please leave a comment after the post telling us what your favourite thing about Autumn is!

A winner will be picked using random number generator on Wednesday 3rd October.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Traditions in the Making

~by Kendal

Tradition is a word that evokes a very unique response in each of us. Some hear it and feel dissatisfied, frustrated or rebellious. For some, it evokes warm feelings of things that were once looked forward to, that perhaps still hold a special place in hearts or memories.

I’ve never been particularly attracted to cultural or social traditions. Aside from  the ones that we are all, inevitably, swept up in, like Christmas, I’ve never felt the urge to do something purely for tradition’s sake. Getting married, I didn’t feel the need to wear a white dress as a symbol of something archaic and redundant. I did wear a white dress, but mostly because I love wearing white and there’s very little occasion to in everyday life.

There are certain traditions though that I am fond of, because they have particular significance to me and my memories of childhood. Spending Christmas at my grandparents, the smell of honey roast hams and roast beefs, Yule log cakes and soups in every room, or travelling North in the October holidays to Oban and spending a week reading and playing games and exploring the beautiful city.

Having a family brings the idea of tradition more closely into my mind though, particularly at this time of year. Next week, we celebrate both Howard and Ava’s birthdays, and then there is Halloween, Bonfire night and of course, Yule, and all the marvellous things that happen to celebrate it.

I’m particularly fond of the idea of creating our own family traditions, things to do every year, things to anticipate and hold close to our hearts as part of our own story, told again and again every year. We already have some, although I expect as Ava gets older it will be easier to add in more, to see what sticks and what doesn’t, and to adapt as our family grows and changes.

Since my husband and daughter’s birthdays are six days apart, this will be the second year he takes a week's holiday over this period, so we can have a week-long celebration of their birthdays. During this week, we do various things together, like take long Autumnal walks by the river, collect leaves to dip in beeswax and string up by the windows, bake and paint and see friends.

We have special birthday bunting, and a photo timeline of the past year. Then there are the things that I plan to give Ava for her birthday, every year. A birthday dress (Mama made), letters written to her from her Daddy and myself, and a special birthday breakfast made of all the foods she loves the most, wearing her special birthday crown.

Although I’m sure she may not consciously remember these things, we wanted to start them on her first birthday, cementing them in her memory so she always remembers how special her birthday is, to her and to us.

Last year was the first year we celebrated Solstice and began the tradition of exchanging a gift on Solstice eve, and giving Ava some Solstice jammies too, which I made out of very warm fleecy cotton. On the Winter Solstice, we went for a walk and collected some treasures to put in the centre of our table, then lit a Solstice candle to symbolise the beginning of this long winter period.

Ava and I on our Solstice walk, 2011

Christmas day was a bit of a nightmare. We were staying with family and Ava had a ridiculous amounts of presents to open (most of them ‘fillers’ that didn’t have any real purpose). 10 minutes into present opening, and having hardly made a dent into the grotesque pile of presents waiting for her, she was already upset and frustrated and completely over-stimulated. The gifts we had carefully chosen for her - beautiful wooden bark blocks, playsilks I had made myself and her first Waldorf doll - were lost in amongst the pile of glowing plastic toys that we had specifically requested not be bought for her. Most of the day was spent trying to calm her down.

So we decided that from now on, we would exchange our Yule gifts when we celebrated Solstice, and on Christmas day, we would focus on creating a beautiful Christmas feast, playing games and enjoying the time as a family. Presents from other people, family and friends, will be opened on Christmas day, so that there is less of a chance of complete melt-down from overstimulation.

(This year, we also want to start other Yule traditions, like taking Ava for a sleigh ride during December, reading Yule stories by the tree every night, and giving Ava a Christmas Eve box filled with some Christmas Eve treats like special hot chocolate, a Christmas film etc) And of course December will be our elving month, where we make special gifts for all the people we love.)

There are many other festivals to be celebrated through the year, of course, but I’m still trying to figure out what we will do for most of them. Most of our celebrating is seasonal and it seems fitting to the way we live to observe the passing year in this way.

We hope to create some meaningful family traditions that help us celebrate the beauty of the passing seasons, whilst creating an annual rhythm. Whether it is birthday traditions, or honouring the stillness and reflection that Autumn brings, acknowledging the cycle of the seasons is something that, if done mindfully, can connect us to the earth and to each other. Providing an opportunity to make, to be grateful, to gather with loved ones and to prepare and enjoy significant foods, these are the traditions I hope my children remember when they are grown and have families of their own. 

 “think together with” the fading of the leaves, 
with the ripening of the fruits, in a Michaelic way, 
just as at Easter one knows how to think with the sprouting, springing, 
blossoming plants and flowers.

Rudolf Steiner

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Tutorial - Autumn Fairies

~by Emi

I would like, today, to share with you our Waldorf-inspired Autumn Fairies!

Quite often, they are rainbow coloured, and simply lovely. However, in the spirit of celebrating the Autumn Equinox, Ru and I (with a little help from our good friends who came to stay with us for a few days, Emma and Connor) decided to give these awesome mobiles an autumnal twist!

Firstly, you're going to need a few things.

*watercolour paints in autumn colours - we used greens, reds, yellow, orange, browns and a little purple


*very thin white material - I used silk, but thin white cotton would work just as well, as would a polyester habotai (which is only a couple of pounds a meter)


*needle and thread

*stuffing - we used scrumpled-up kitchen roll, but you could use scraps of material, cotton wadding, whatever you have

*offcuts of ribbon and ricrac

Firstly, cut your fabric up into squares. I ended up with 16 - 15 ended up on our mobile and Ru insisted on giving one to Ava! Mine were about 5 or 6 inches square, but this is totally up to you!

 Next, (and this is a good step to do outside if the weather is good!) soak your square in a bowl of water and lay it, wet, onto your work surface. Liberally dot with spots of watercolour paint and hand your Little a brush. Get them to mix the colours together, blending them and playing with them until the entire square is covered.

I like to gently bleed and blend the colours together. Ru... not so much. He likes big and bold!

At this point, I realised that the finger-paint and paper I had set Pixie up with was going slightly... awry.

I like to think that she wanted brightly coloured hair like her Mama!

And yep, she does have some of the paper in her mouth. (Don't worry, put away your 'Worst Mother of the Year' award - the paints are non-toxic! *grin*)

As you complete each square, hang them to dry. We were blessed with a lovely sunny day and our fabric dried in no time at all!

Once they're dry, we're going to make up our fairies. Ru lost interest in this part, instead choosing to dig in my flowerbeds, wreaking havoc on some courgette plants.

Take your square of fabric, pop a ball of whatever you're using as stuffing in the middle and tie up with your ribbon offcuts. The fabric will feel a little stiff at this point, that's normal and nothing to worry about, you can soften them back up if you wish by rolling them in your hands/scrunching and unscrunching several times.

We soon ended up with a veritable mountain of them...

Your next step is to sew a long thread to the top of the 'ball' end of the fairy, and thread on some beads. We stuck with our fall colourway. (And you could add in a little colour-recognition for younger kids here, getting them to find all the red beads in a little bowl, or orange and so on.) You could also use pasta tubes for the threading part.

Finally, you can hang them up! Simply tie the end of the thread onto something and hang! We hung ours on an unused embroidery hoop wrapped in green ribbon, but you could just as easily hang these in a window or from door handles (I do NOT advise this if you have cats. Don't ask. Just trust me on this one.)

The best part is that you can change the colours of these to suit any season. We'll be making red, green and blue ones for the Winter season, complete with silver beads. Imagine pastels for a Spring and vivid pinks and yellows for Summer... They could even be made with favourite colours or to match existing decorations.

And there you are, beautiful Autumn Fairies!

Emi, x

And finally, I'd like to share with you one of my favourite Autumn poems... And to those of you who celebrate it, Merry Mabon!

Dance on Autumn Breeze

"Hear the gentle Autumn breeze
inviting you to share
the cornucopia of colours
floating through the air

Pick up your faithful lantern
bring a favourite cloak
Gather near the shady wood
by maple, birch and oak

We'll dance upon the arms of Njord
and sail where dragon flies
We'll revel in sweet music
that soars through amber skies

Pray upon the evening sun
Swim among the fae
Join a troupe on Nature's stage
and craft a sacred play

See the stunning, golden views
observe the cyclic power
that visits the deciduous
upon this wondrous hour

Now's a time to celebrate
When Greenman takes his rest
The harvest has been copious
Our spirits have been blessed

Sit back, relax, and ride the wind
Join the Festival of Leaves
See the world through Nature's heart
and all that she perceives"
Theo J. Van Joolen

Monday, 24 September 2012

Review: The Big Rumpus

~by Kendal

The Big Rumpus is one of the few books I’ve ever read that is actually laugh out loud funny. A candid account of urban life for a young bohemian family, the stories are both hilarious and quirky and have all the honest and sometimes cringeworthy details you’d expect from this author, Ayun Halliday.

Halliday became famous after her parenting zine, The East Village Inky, began to gain an underground cult following. Adored for its pithy drawings and words exposing both her parenting foibles and her strong opinions on everything from public breastfeeding to co-sleeping, Halliday gave voice to a new breed of parents – parents who wore their babies and celebrated the bizarre oddities of their children’s character. ('All Inky wants to do is talk about the murder of John Lennon. I think it's my fault.')

Reflecting on the absurdly fleeting nature of childhood, Halliday writes, ‘…I have to remind myself to relish the constant, exhaustive demands little children make on my body and my time. I’m preparing myself to miss Inky’s frequent bleating – I’ll miss it when she can’t wait to ditch me. Sweet memory will soften the edges of their razor-sharp fingernails, those sticky paws and all the little elbows and heels that have found their way to my eye sockets. I’ll long for the old burdens when Inky and Milo are sneaking out the window to swap bodily fluids with their friends.’

Halliday’s voice is inimitable and manages to expose the bittersweet reality of watching your children grow, whilst at the same time never becoming too sentimental or twee. She is unflinchingly honest about her opinions on everything, yet quick to point out when and where and how often she falls short, which makes you wish she was your best friend. She is ferocious, Amazonian and also a total slob.

The Big Rumpus is a kind of memoir of the first years of her daughter and son’s lives, organised into somewhat random chapters and covering a huge range of topics. The chapter entitled NeoNatalSweetPotato is all about the birth of her daughter and subsequent days spent in the NICU, waiting for her to come home. In the chapter entitled, ‘Topless Lunch’, Halliday writes,

‘Breastfeeding is wonderfully intimate, but it’s also so danged handy! Kid did a triple gainer off the jungle gym? A hooter will fix what ails her. The balloon from the shoe store popped after a passionate but all too brief romance? Num-num num-num….It is as legal in our country to breastfeed children past babyhood as it is to bitch about it. People who want to protect children from harm would do better to fill up a grocery cart on behalf of a hungry family than to hassle mothers whose well-fed sucklings are too big for a high chair. In the land of plenty, breastfeeding women should be represented on a postage stamp, not in Family Court’

One review recommended the book to any stay at home mum who ‘believes in natural birth and granola’, but honestly, whatever your parenting views, this book is a good, well-written and funny read about things that every parent experiences, even if they don’t always admit it. And in the constant stream of serious and challenging parenting books that come their way in this house, in most houses, I imagine, it was a welcome bit of light relief.

For more info on Ayun Halliday, check out her website.

To buy the book, visit our Amazon Store!

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Benefits of Open-Ended Toys

~by Emi

With Christmas steaming closer and closer, it is natural for parents to start thinking about gifts for their children... and often wondering what presents other people will give! Stephen and I have had trouble in the past with getting some of our family to pay attention to what our parenting is all about, and what presents are wanted for our home.

We love toys that encourage the use of imagination!

Stephen and I are very much trying to move towards making the majority of Ru and Pixie's toys open-ended, and for some very good reasons.

Open-ended toys are SO inspirational. When Ru plays with them, his little creative mind is firing on all cylinders. One of my favourite photographs is this shot of him 'riding a motorbike'. His motorbike is an old Christmas tree box, and his steering wheel is a cardboard tube.

Children are simply imaginative little creatures, and we feel their toys should encourage that, and not dictate or think for them. Not only that, open-ended toys grow WITH the child, with little chance of them out-growing them. That carbard tube could be a drumstick tomorrow... It could be made into a rocket in a few months time... A sword to slay dragons... A musical instrument filled with rice... Endless possibilities. Problem-solving, cognitive learning, creativity and critical thinking are just some of the skills at work.

Natural toys also give space for 'downtime'. Simple toys allow children to naturally move from one activity to another gently. With loud, noisy, active toys, it is much harder to switch from playing with that to a more restful activity. This is important to us, because at this point in Ru's life, he's no longer needing a nap in the middle of the day, but definitely still needs a couple of 'chill-out' periods. A room filled with natural toys also has a vastly different energy, calmer, more aesthetically pleasing, all having a beneficial effect on a small child. Natural objects themselves have a positive psychological effect on humans. The weight and quality over a wooden rattle far outweighs a flimsy plastic one.

At this age, we also attempt to avoid over-stimulating Ru, which is not helped by a combination of blinking lights, automated movement and loud music or sounds. The website Hazelnut Kids also suggests that 'Pressing one button to make lights blink and sounds appear merely teaches a child simple cause and effect and passes up a wonderful opportunity to encourage more creative play on the child's part.'.

As well as all these points, studies have shown that certain plastics may negatively affect health, often due to the presence of phthalates. For instance, states that 'Some phthalates have been linked to cancer, kidney and liver damage, harm to developing reproductive organs, and premature breast development in baby girls. Inhaling these chemicals can also worsen asthma in children. Phthalates are not bonded to the plastic, but can migrate, or leach out.', definitely something to be taken into account considering a small child's love of 'mouthing' their toys!

And finally, wooden and bamboo toys are durable so they last longer than their plastic brothers and therefore there is less waste. It means *we* waste less money buying more toys, and hopefully Stephen and I will be able to get joy from seeing our grandchildren playing with the same toys their parents did. When the time does come to retire our toys, wood and bamboo are recyclable, replenishable resources so their disposal will be gentler to the environment.

As parents, we would much rather have a few, very high quality toys, than lots and lots of lower-quality ones, a point of view shared by Kim John Payne in his book Simplicity Parenting. If a child has masses of toys, he knows the price of all of them, and the value of nothing.

However, the downside to these high-quality toys is the price. You really do get what you pay for! Some of these toys are VERY expensive, and can seem hugely daunting to cash-strapped parents in these economic downs. We usually ask family and friends to contribute towards a bigger, more expensive gift for birthdays and Yule/Christmas. For Ru's birthdays, for example, we've gotten bunkbeds (3rd birthday), a wooden music centre (2nd birthday) and reuseable nappy sets (1st birthday). For Pixie's first birthday, we had family contribute towards a beautiful heirloom quality Haba wooden walker, an item that we've been coveting for a while, but at £110 retail price, we would never have been able to afford on our own.

By doing this, it means that not only are we getting to provide wonderfully made, high quality toys for Ru and Pixie, it also takes away any chance of family giving the noisy plastic tat that so many parents fear their house will be full of come Christmas time! It can also take the stress out of giving gifts for other relatives too. Ru and Pixie's great-grandmother, Nana Ralph, sends money for birthdays and Christmas, always telling us that she doesn't know what they'd like and for us to get them something that we know they will. On a side note, I was always told by my mother that giving money was 'cheating' and that if you *really* cared about someone, that you would find them a gift that they would love. It can still be difficult for me to request that family contribute towards a bigger gift because of this, but as Stephen reminds me, it means better quality toys for our children.

And let's not forget, the fantastic cardboard box! That old saying about how children prefer the box the toy came in, to the toy itself? Completely true. Try checking out the great book 'Not A Box' too, for masses of ideas for what to make from your box!

So, after all of this, I thought I'd share some of the open-ended toys that we have in our home currently.

Firstly, a LOT of art supplies! Some people will dispute that these are not really toys, but if you can't have fun with paint, then... well... that's kind of depressing. Ru loves nothing better than wet-on-wet painting. When he paints, it is simply for the love of blending colours and watching them bloom across a page. He hates when I try to 'direct' him with comments of 'Let's paint a rabbit, shall we?', preferring instead to do his own (messy) thing! I find he does best when I paint alongside him, enjoying my own artistic endeavours, rather than harassing him in his!

We also have a lovely wooden kitchen with some wooden and felt (and *gasp* some second-hand plastic) playfood. We often supplement play with the kitchen with our 'proper' crockery, cutlery and utensils, as well as silicon cupcake cases, decorations, dried beans and pulses and playdough!

We have a dolls house that we bought from a carboot, and I fell in love with! The man selling it had built it from a kit in the 60's for his daughter, and couldn't bear to see it not being used! Add in some lovely wooden furniture, and some Mama-made wooden gnomes and it quickly became one of the most played-with toys in our home. (And I know that Ava is particularly fond of her wooden dolls house too!) What is it that Littles love so much about playing with teeny, tiny people?!

Stephen is VERY fond of Ru's wooden traintrack (a mixture of new and second/third/fourth hand Brio style) and on occasion, spends more time playing with it than Ru does!

I really love the handmade wooden stable (another carboot find!) and the wooden farm (second hand from a work colleague) along with all the cute little animals! We have some awfully crappy plastic animals, I will admit, usually because Ru has an obsession with a particular story character and simply *NEEDS* a dolphin or whatever, and we simply can't afford one of the Sleich or Ostheimer ones that I really love. We are very slowly trying to replace the plastic animals with better quality plastic, (like the Sleich for example) and wooden ones like the brilliant Ostheimer.

Add in a wooden garage for cars, a treasure basket of objects for heuristic, sensory play for Pixie as well as a whole bundle of playsilks, and we're pretty much set!

Playsilks? Ah yes, these are one of the best examples of open-ended play toys, they truly are. Usually around a meter square, these ethereal, light pieces of fabric are limited only by your imagination. It is wonderful to see how different children utilise them. Pixie loves playing peekaboo, and hiding things under them to 'reveal' them a few seconds later - accompanied by surprised faces and shocked sounds from Mama and Daddy, of course!
Ru loves to have them knotted and then placed around his neck as superhero capes and dragon/bird/fairy wings and use them as fields/grass and lakes/rivers for our small world play with the dolls house, farm and animals.

We also use them on our seasons table in suitable colours (reds, orange and yellow for autumn, anyone?), and of course, don't forget that they can be doll slings and blankets, they're perfect for picnics AND they're easy for Littles to wash in warm, soapy water when they get grubby (also tying in valuable real-world skills. It's always good for children to help with the daily activities of them home, perhaps washing their silks and putting them out to dry whilst you do laundry?)

Where can you find these awesome toys though? My first response would be ETSY, every time. There are so many wonderful sellers on there, many of whom are work-at-home parents, and it's always good to support them, right?

The Early Learning Centre sells Sleich plastic animals, which are a reasonable alternative to the more expensive Ostheimer.

Secondhand, pre-loved toys may not be brand-new, but if well-made, will have lasted through previous owners and will last through your Littles playing with them! Carboot sales are also amazing places to grab a bargain (we've claimed a wooden stable and dolls house, as well as a vintage wooden rocking horse!), but admittedly, these finds can be few and far between.

Obviously, the internet is a fantastic place too! Let's not forget Ebay either, we've managed to pick up extra track for the trainset very cheaply on there.

It's always worth asking friends, both in real life and online if they have any toys they'd be willing to sell or swap. I find my favourite forum always has parents selling wonderful, pre-loved books and toys (incidentally, this is how we came to own Pixie's wooden walker!).
There are several companies who share our ideals that you can find online...

Hazelnut Kids donates 1% of their sales to land conservancies, and have one tree planted for every product that they sell.

Myriad UK sells only products that are made by people paid a fair wage for their skills, working in clean and safe environments, including a range of dolls from a single mothers' cooperative in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Green Toys uses high-density polyethylene (or HDPE) made from recycled milk containers as the primary material for making their toys, considered one of the safest, cleanest plastics around.

These benefits are simply too good to dismiss, and definitely too good to deprive Pixie and Ru of!

Emi, x

"Teach children what to think and you limit them to your ideas.
Teach children how to think and their ideas are unlimited."
Sandra Parks

(In fact, if you fancy some playsilks of your very own, head on over to my MamaPixie Etsy store, and use the code 'CBNSEP' to get a 10% discount off your order!)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Tutorial: Fabric Pumpkins

~by Kendal


I know it’s Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day, but I’m afraid this is not pirate themed. The Mosley-Chalk’s are a house of ill at the moment so I decided to make something using resources I had in, and hey-ho…Fabric Pumpkins!

I love pumpkins. Real ones, knitted ones, felt ones…I love everything about them. Their shape, their oddness and the simple way they symbolise everything lovely about Autumn.

The instructions are a little longer and more in-depth than usual, but don’t be put off - these are super easy to make. Each one takes about 30-45 mins and require no sewing skill whatsoever. 

 You need:

Fabric (scrap fabrics work great)
Scissors or rotary cutter
Contrasting Embroidery Thread
Stuffing (I used an old pillow's stuffing)

How to:

1. First of all, cut a rectangle out of your fabric. Any fabric works well, but I happened to have some pumpkin fabric. You can make these any size, as long as the rectangle is always twice as wide as it is long. For this pumpkin, I cut out a rectangle 6” by 12”. I used my quilting ruler and cutting mat but you can easily just measure out a rectangle too. It doesn’t need to be too precise either.

2. Fold the rectangle in half, wrong sides together. Draw a line ½ inch away from the short sides and sew these together using a simple backstitch and 2 strands of your embroidery thread. Make sure you knot the end of the thread.

3. Next, using a running stitch, sew along the top of the fabric….this take about 30 seconds! Once you’re all the way round, pull the thread, cinching it together as tightly as possible, then secure the thread by pulling it tightly and doing a few stitches back and forward, then making a knot.

4.Turn the fabric right side out until you have an odd looking bag, and stuff. Stuff until there is stuffing pouring over the top, the more the better! Once you have your stuffing in, you’re going to do another running stitch along the top just like you did in the last step. Pull it tightly at the top and make sure all the stuffing is inside. Do a few stitches again to secure it and tie a knot. (It doesn’t matter that the top looks a little messy as you’re going to cover it with a stem)

5. Now, for the fun part – Giving your pumpkin shape! You can use embroidery thread or yarn for this (yarn works best for the larger sizes) and use a long needle too, if you have one. I did not, so had to use pliers to pull my little needle out (not so fun). Thread your needle with all six strands of embroidery thread and tie a knot in the end. Put through the bottom of your pumpkin and go straight through to the top.

6.Now, make a ‘segment’ by bringing the thread over the pumpkin and back down to the bottom, where you will repeat the process several times (always inserting needle in the bottom and pulling out through the top) Make sure you pull the thread tight – the tighter you pull, the more defined each segment – and there you go! Your pumpkin is nearly done!

7. Once you’ve made all your segments, pull the needle through to the bottom and tie the end of the thread through several of the segment strands and tie a secure knot. Now, for the stem!

8. This is pretty much guesswork, but all you do is cut out two identical stem shapes from a contrasting fabric. Hopefully you can see from the photo what sort of shape they are, but it really doesn’t have to be perfect, or uniform. In fact, the variations make all the pumpkins look all the nicer. Just try to get a good sized stem in proportion to your pumpkin.

9. With wrong sides together, sew the stem all around the curved sides using a simple backstitch, and the turn right side out. Stuff tightly! Then, using a whipstitch, stitch the end of the stem closed. Nearly done now…

10. This bit is a little finicky, so be careful not to poke your fingers. Sew the stem onto the top of the pumpkin by stitching through the bottom of the stem and pulling it closely to the pumpkin. You can gather the stem a little if you want, as long as you make sure that the stem is securely fastened to the top, with a knot finishing it off.

And there you have it, one little fabric pumpkin. Lovely, no? The other pumpkin was made out of an 8” by 16” rectangle.

We have ours on our dining room table, but I’ll be making a few more for our seasons table, too.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Nutella and Banana Turnovers

~by Kendal

These are very tasty, very quick to make and can be thrown together last minute. I think I first found the recipe on Pinterest, but I’ve made them so often that I’ve modified them to suit my tastes.

(Sorry for the lack of pictures, but Blogger is not my friend today!)


1 block of Puff Pastry or Ready Rolled Pastry Sheet
1 jar of Nutella
1-2 bananas
Icing Sugar
Egg or Milk to glaze

How to:

1. Preheat your Oven to Gas Mark 7/220 C. Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper and use a little butter to grease. Chop your banana into thin slices. I find that one usually does me, but you may want to use more if you *really* love bananas

2. Flour a surface, and either roll your block out until it is a fairly thin rectangle, or simply unroll your pre-rolled sheet! Cut your rectangle into 6 squares. (There will be a little pastry left over which you could always make into a 7th mini turnover...or give to your child to play with/eat...)

3. Leaving about 1/2inch border around each square, spread a layer of nutella over each square. You don’t need to use too much as it is super sweet. Cover one diaganol half in banana slices, making sure you leave that ½ border untouched. Repeat with all squares!

4. Now, fold each square over, from one point to another, making a turnover and enclosing the banana slices on the bottom half. Press the sides together. A little nutella may squeeze out the sides but this is okay. Using a fork, press the sides down further, giving them a lovely ribbed finish.

5. Now, using one egg mixed with a tablespoon of water, glaze each turnover and transfer them carefully to the baking tray. Place in the oven for around 15 mins. Keep an eye on them as obviously all ovens vary and you don’t want them to burn.

6. Take them out and let them cool on a wire rack. Once cooled a little, sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy with your Littles. (Also very yummy with ice cream)

These work really well with Nutella and Marshmallows too, and also as teeny-tiny turnovers for birthday parties etc!