Friday, 30 November 2012

Why Handmade?

~ by Emi

I love December. It is such a wonderful time of year, with a beautiful and strong focus on family. This emphasis on something so important is also expressed when we give gifts to those we love.

In our home, we don't give many gifts to one another. We use the following saying to guide our choices;

Something you want
Something you need
Something to wear
And something to read
On top of this, Ru and Pixie are given a larger joint gift, which last year was a wooden gnome house with little gnomes I had made, and this year is a dressing up trunk filled with handmade costumes. They also get a stocking each with a few little trivial things that we'll have picked up during the year and stored away.

Whilst some gifts are bought, we do love handmade.

There are a myriad of reasons that we do this, and not just because of my own fledgling business, MamaPixie. I know many, many brilliantly creative people who spend time, effort and money in making bespoke items that any one with a modicum of sense would be proud to gift to someone they love.

There are a million reasons why we should give handmade, and I'd like to share a few of mine and Stephen's.

Firstly, you are often supporting work-at-home-Mamas and Papas, like myself, like Kendal. You are providing a vital supplemental income that clothes our children, pays our bills, or in Kendal's case, save up to buy a much-needed car! Not only that, when you buy handmade, it gives the sellers the opportunity to then spend that money on handmade items from others, and the chain continues! This makes great sense from an economic point of view, supporting small, and often local, businesses.

Secondly, quality. How often have you bought something from a large chain store and the item simply falls apart within days, much to the frustration of parent and child alike? Artisan crafters have spent hours designing, perfecting and tweaking their products. They've handpicked the materials. They've made each item with love and care, something that certainly can't be said for all larger businesses.

Tied into this is the fact that as Melissa from Holmes-made says "As an artisan, I take loads of care to produce exactly what the customer wants and to go beyond in terms of customer service. You just don't get that on the high street." I take great pride in my work, and will go that extra mile to make something just right.

You know what else is brilliant? We actually LIKE our jobs! We don't turn up to work and complain the whole day with a face like spilt gruel. We enjoy what we do.

Our third point is the wonderful fact that custom items are exactly that. Custom. You can adapt the item in question until it is perfect. You as a customer often become one of the designers, and it makes us feel good to know that our input is value, something very often lost in modern retail. For example, I worked very closely with a lovely woman to create a unique Hobbit-style wool cloak, even down to tiny details like the drape of the hood. Collaboration is a wonderful thing.

You are also honouring the creative in others, something I personally strive to encourage in my children and value in myself. To quote Sarah at Felt so good, you are "supporting individuals and individuality, not corporations who often dodge their social responsibilities."

Number four, handmade items can often have a lower impact on the environment and have greater levels of sustainability. Handmade items aren't from a large waste-producing factory and shipped round the globe using fossil fuels.  Buying handmade items with a smaller carbon footprint benefits everyone. Not only that, many crafters reuse, repurpose and upcycle items that may otherwise end up in landfill.

Number 5. You don't have to deal with the hell that shopping in a city in December. You know, that time of year where normally sane people think nothing of shoulder-barging you out of the way in order to get their sweaty grasping hands on the last must-have plastic crap on the shelf? The fractious children who want to go see the lights and not be dragged and crushed in department stores? The harried mothers? The bored, impatient fathers?

Surely this is reason alone?!

And lastly, my favourite and I think the most important.

Number 6.

It helps us teach our children the value of something, not the price.

It tells the ones we love that we care enough, that we know them well enough, to choose something as individual as they are. I know that I would feel more thrilled with an item that someone has taken time to pick or make themselves, knowing it will be cherished, than something grabbed off a shop shelf at the last minute.

In a world where our children are becoming more and more focused on the 'need' to Have ALL The Things, handmade is an even more vital part of the festive season. You are sharing, giving, something special to others. Not in order to get something in return, but simply for the joy of letting someone know you appreciate and cherish them, which surely is the point of the season, no matter what religion you are part of.

At this time of year especially, children can become over-whelmed with well-intentioned but ultimately pointless gifts, swamped, drowning in a mess of mass-produced sparkly tat that rapidly loses its polish and attraction.

I refuse to let our home be a part of that.

“That's the thing with handmade items.
They still have the person's mark on them,
and when you hold them,
you feel less alone."
Aimee Bender

So, I share with you some of my most favourite artisan, British crafters. These are all people whom I have done business with and know that their work is of the greatest quality with the highest customer service.

I hope hope hope that you'll 'like' them on Facebook, peruse their Etsy stores and maybe buy the person you love something unique and special, something that will be cherished... just like they are.

My own shop
MamaPixie on Etsy
MamaPixie on Facebook
 - bespoke children's clothing, costumes and playcloaks, felt Waldorf crowns, wooden trees and more

Kendal's shop
Mama Make on Etsy
Mama Make on Facebook
 - beautiful childrens clothes, hand-knitted elf hats, family hearts, and the most gorgeous bloomers you've ever seen!

Washed-Up Family
 - unique sea-glass jewellery

 - stunning papercuts and Christmas cards

 - speciality custom-dyed wool, knitted goods and jewellery

Button Pocket
 - the coolest custom, handmade bags you'll EVER find!

 - bespoke bunting, woollen goods and tie dye

 - handcarved and perfectly pyrographed wooden boxes, fairie doors and more

Felt so good
 - imaginative felted playmats and items

Earthworks Journals
 - handcrafted, hand-tooled journals (quite honestly, the best I've ever owned!)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Crafty Tutorial: Waldorf Winter Window Transparencies

 ~ By Emi

I am lucky, blessed, to have a great many talented friends. But my favourite recently, the one I am most jealous of... is Melissa.

Melissa does the most beautiful papercuts over at Holmes-made. Stephen and I are lucky enough to own a bespoke piece of work from her, that was commissioned as a wedding anniversary gift for us.

She has been so inspiring for me recently that when I was faced with a decidedly boring and blank living room window to decorate, I decided to mix a traditional Waldorf transparencies with Melissa's beautiful papercutting techniques.

Today, I'm going to show you how I made...


I've used a mixture of techniques here, so that you can pick and choose which ones your children will be able to attempt (or yourself!).

So, first off, we're going to need black card, a scalpel/craft knife, tissue paper, contact paper, Sharpies/felt tips/crayons, glitter and glue. I used mount board which has the benefit of being thick and sturdy... and the disadvantage of being thick and a pain in the ass to cut through. You could just as easily use cardboard or even paper. Cut it to the size you want. I made the Tomten A4-ish and the others A3.

Let's do the stag first...

Next, we're going to draw on the BACK of our mount board (or whatever you're using). We'll need a wavy line marking the 'frame' of the drawing and then a design. You're going to draw whatever design you like, as simple or as complex as your heart desires, but do remember that the more intricate it is, the more difficult it's going to be to cut out.

I chose a stag, pausing daintily in a winter landscape. Perhaps, for the more cynical among you, he is pausing, hiding from a hunter. For me, however... well... I like to think he's admiring a particularly pretty snowflake.

Up next, Cutting Out. This is the tough part. You WILL need to do this on a cutting mat, so that you don't damage your work surface. They are easy enough to find in your local craft shop, along with the craft knives, one of which you will need for this step.

I'm sure I don't need to remind you that these blades are SHARP! This is not something young children can do, although older ones with adequate supervision may enjoy it. Whether your children are dextrous and mature enough to manage this task, that's a judgement call only you can make. As Ru is only three, I figured it was probably best to supply him with a particularly large stack of toast and hope that that held his attention long enough for me to finish this!

The next few photographs will show you the process of me cutting out my handsome deer. Use your craft knife carefully (CAREFULLY!) and just take your time.

I did the outline of the frame first, then cut away large sections that weren't needed. I then moved on to doing the small details, such as his antlers and tail. The final picture shows the finished cut-out.

It was at this point that the toast ceased to capture Ru's attention. He wandered over to me and announced "Why is Bambi on your paper, Mama?!" That's right, I can't help but feel a bit proud of myself when I draw something and my Small Boy recognises it. It doesn't work the opposite way though - cue me asking him "Wow! That's a lovely painting of a... a... well, it's a... Well, why don't you tell me about your painting?"

We now move on to the tissue paper part (this is where the Waldorf transparencies inspiration comes in!).

This is where you can let your creativity run away with you!

I simply layered white and varying shades of blue tissue paper on the BACK of the mount board, sticking down each layer around the edge of the frame with pva glue.

From here, it's simply a matter of letting it dry, and then fixing it to a window, allowing Mr Sunlight to do his job, or popping some candles behind it to illuminate it. And because I'm a sparkle-kinda girl at heart, I sprayed the front of mine with hairspray and liberally twinkled it with silver glitter. Just gives it a little somethin' somethin'. (You can't actually SEE the glitter in the dark, but at least it'll shimmer in the daytime!)

I might have also been a little overenthusiastic with my glitter because when Steven saw the floor, he sighed, said "You do know you've got glitter all over the... Never mind. Just... clean it up." in the brow-beaten tone of a man who knows he's going to be finding glitter on his clothes for the next four days.


Doesn't he look handsome?

Next up is the quiet Winter landscape. This one is MUCH more toddler-friendly! Simply cut out a frame, cover one side with contact paper and then get your Little to add glitter and torn up tissue paper.

Once this step was completed, I drew a few details onto the back with black Sharpie, then covered the back with more contact paper.

And finally, the happy little Tomten. Again, cut out your frame and glue on a layer of tissue paper. Then, draw whatever design you like on it. I used wax crayons, but pencils and felt tips would be just as effective. I drew mine on my light box so that I could see exactly how it was going to look in our window, but that's not essential. You could also trace an image and let your child colour it in. (Side note: I found my Tomten picture to use as inspiration from this artist on DeviantArt)

As with most of my Crafty Tutorials, these are easily adaptable to other seasons or subjects. These would also be AMAZING as A1 size backgrounds for Seasons Tables (guess what one of the new products I'm going to be stocking at MamaPixie is going to be?)

I have plans for a few more, a couple will be scenes from The Story Of The Snow Children by Sybille Von Olfers, (including one for Kendal and Ava) and then one will be a large background for our Winter table, both of which I shall be adding pictures of to this post as I complete them!

So, get on with it! Don't forget to post photos of your completed window transparencies over on our Crafty by Nurture Facebook page, and check out more of Melissa's beautiful papercuts here.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Big Tutorial + Giveaway: Christmas Stocking!

~ by Kendal

Hello, and happy nearly December to you!

I honestly don’t think I have ever been so excited about Christmas/Yule. We cannot wait until the 1st December hits and I can finally put up all the decorations and festive bits and bobs I’ve been gradually making. (Although I did sneakily change over our Seasons Table today…)

To get into the festive spirit, we will be giving away this lovely, hand-embroidered stocking for a Mama.  I thought that this Giveaay should be about celebrating how much a Mama does at this time of year. If you are a Mama, then you deserve a lovely stocking all to yourself, or maybe you just know a Mama who you’d like to give this too. To be in with a chance of winning this stocking, just leave a comment after the post telling us what your favourite Yule tradition is. (Winner will be picked using random number generator on Friday at 7pm)

I'll also be showing you how to make your own, completely personalised stocking, since handmade stockings are just so lovely. They are surprisingly easy, can be totally customised and do not require much in the way of sewing skills. A machine is handy for securing the back and front together, but you can just use a blanket stitch instead if you don’t have one.

I have four to make (oh yes, baby Ezra is getting one too!), and have done two so far. So!

All you need is:

Felt of different colours (I used felt that was a mix of wool and acrylic)
Embroidery thread
Ribbon for hanging

1. First of all, you need to decide what size and shape you want your stocking to be. I went for a fairly big, standard shaped stocking and drew it out on tracing paper. With your felt folded in half, draw around your stocking, then pin together the felt and cut. You should have two stocking shapes!

 2. Next, you’re going to create the white collar at the top. Using your stocking as guidance, place it ontop of your tracing paper and draw around the top and sides. Stop when you get to the point your collar will end. Draw a horizontal line across and cut this out, then fold together your white felt, pin and cut out two stocking tops from your tracing paper template.

3. Now, this is the fun part. You get to decide what you want on your stocking! I’ll show you two examples of other stockings later, but for this Mama one I decided I wanted winter flowers and then some embroidered ‘doodle’ lines. So, I sketched a few flower shapes until I came up with one I likes, and decided I was going to use green and white felt for this.

4. I decided on 5 flowers, so using a template I drew on tracing paper, I cut out 5 white flower parts and 5 green flower parts. Easy. Now to sew them on!

5. Place your flowers where you want them to be, and either make a mental note or take a photo. 

Then, sew one green flower on.

I used a split stitch to outline the green flower, and then I placed the white flower on top and used a simple running stitch to stitch that on. Then, I placed a white button in the middle and sewed that on securely. Repeat with four other flowers!

 6. When you’ve done that, you can doodle on some fun embroidery lines to  create swirling stems and add some extra prettiness. I used a running stitch and white embroidery thread and, drawing down where I wanted the lines to be roughly first (on a piece of paper, for guidance), I sewed them on to the stocking.

7. Now, we need to embroider ‘Mama’ onto the white collar. There are lots of ways to do this. I simply sketched the word onto paper first so I had a bit of guidance, and then I very lightly wrote it on the felt with pencil. Barely visible kind of light, so that when you stitch on top, you won’t be able to see it. Remember to leave room at the top, bottom and sides of the felt for further stitching. I used a split stitch to create the word so that it had a nice thick line to it.

8. Once I was done, I used my machine to sew the stocking together. Place right sides together and pin, then sew all around the edge (apart from the top, obviously – we need a gap for gifts!). 

Snip small ‘v’ shapes into any curved seam allowances, then turn right side out, smoothing and pressing with an iron (dish towel between your iron and felt to stop burning)

9. Now, you’re going to blanket stitch both sides of the collar, making sure that it fits flush with the stocking. Because we used up ½ inch or so of your stocking at each side as a seam allowance when we sewed the front and back together, you should now have just enough extra collar at each side to sew a nice blanket stitch up it.

10. Once you’ve done this, you want to sew a piece of ribbon onto your stocking with which to hang it. A nice chunky ribbon works well. You can machine stitch it if you want or just hand sew but make sure you make it extra secure and tight. The collar will go over any visible stitches.

11. Now, you’re going to place your collar over your stocking and blanket stitch all the way round the top, until it is securely sewn on. Repeat at the bottom of the collar, but just to edge it – you don’t have to sew it onto the stocking, just tidy up the edge and make it a little sturdier.

12. Admire. Hang it up. Put lovely gifts in it.

Here are some other stockings I've done too - Hopefully you can see how easy it is to customise a basic stocking and make it as personalised as you want!

(Howard's stocking, with simple Yule trees sewn on)

(The start of our Winter Seasons Table...)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Review: My Top 5 Winter Books for Littles

~ by Kendal

On the 1st December, we will be changing our Seasons Table over from Autumn to Winter. Although Autumn will always be my favourite season, I've never been so excited to acknowledge it passing into Winter. It means the festivities can truly begin, and now Ava is at an age where she can really appreciate lots of different things about this season

Next to our table (which is actually our fireplace) and our Christmas tree, we keep a basket of books that are particularly fitting for this month - books that celebrate the season and Yule. We plan to read some of these books every night, sitting next to the tree, and perhaps sipping a little hot chocolate, all the way through December. So let me share what are our favourite Winter books are this year, in no particular order.

All of these books are in our Amazon store if you want to find out more - just click on the title!

1. The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren

We got this for Ava last year, but she is starting to really appreciate the story - A story about a strange little creature that only animals and small children can see, who walks about the silent farmyard at night checking on the animals and sleeping humans, and dreaming of warmer summer days. We love this story because it captures some of the magic and strangeness of snowy, silent Winter nights.

2. Winter by Gerda Muller

The Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter books by Gerda Muller are one of my favourite series of all time. We got these for Ava when she was very young, but because there are no words, just beautifully depicted seasonal scenes, you can make up the story as you go along. These days, Ava is the one who makes up the story and she really loves these books. They take pride of place on our Seasons Table.

3. The Mitten by Jan Brett

This was the first book Ava was ever given as a gift. It's a story about a boy whose Grandma knits him a pair of mittens. He loses one, and gradually different animals find their way inside, stretching it huge.

It's quite a simple story but the animals make it a firm favourite with Ava and it is a brilliant book to read out loud. It has a very enchanting, nostalgic feel.

4. Ollie's Ski Trip by Elsa Beskow

We got this book recently because, frankly, we're a little obsessed with Elsa Beskow, and although it is quite wordy, Ava has been quite taken with it. The pictures are lovely and the story is as magical and simple as all of Elsa Beskow's stories are - A boy who is given his very first pair of skis and decides to use them to set off on a Winter adventure to see Jack Frost and King Winter, who shows Ollie his Ice Palace where all the presents are made. (A nice alternative to Santa Clause if, like us, you don't do Santa!)

5. The Story of the Snow Children by Sybille Van Olfers

Ava's Solstice book last year was The Story of the Root Children which we instantly fell in love with, so this was one of her winter books this year. It is whimsical and has a simple, yet heartwarming tale. The snow children are dancing snowflakes, who promise a girl they will take her to meet the Snow Queen, and off she goes to meet a princess and enjoy a beautiful feast. It is a classic and a perfect tale for young children.

What are your favourite Winter books?

Friday, 23 November 2012

Snips and snails, and puppy dog tails.

~ by Kendal

When it comes to finding out the baby’s sex, there seems to be two types of people. There are those who are patient, who relish the surprise at the moment of birth, who find bonding with their unborn child easy, regardless of knowing whether they’re a Timmy or Tania. I am not one of those. I am the other kind of person – the kind that could not bear the idea of being able to know something so exciting and yet choosing not to.

I am simply not a very patient person. This seems to come as a surprise to a lot of my friends who have an idea of me as a super calm, super zen Mama who never gets cross. Of course this isn’t true, but when it comes to surprises, I genuinely have absolutely zero patience. None.

I am the kind of person who would rather watch a series of something back to back, over an intense period of time, than wait week by week. The kind of person who will buy a lovely big bar of Lindt and have eaten it by the time she’s left the shop and crossed the road.  So you can imagine, when it comes to the possibility of knowing what gender my baby is, there is simply no question. I want to know. Of course I want to know!

Those that do not find out, frankly, confound and impress me. I do understand the logic and I have contemplated what it must be like, at the moment of birth, to suddenly know whether your baby is male or female, but I just don’t understand how anyone can possibly wait so long.

After all, a surprise at 20 weeks is just as good at 40, no? And what’s more, the moment of birth is so monumental and overwhelming that the added surprise of gender seems superfluous to me. But the main reason, impatience aside, that my husband and I are both keen to know what the baby is, flavour wise, is because we both feel it makes it so much easier to round out this little person in our imagination.

To stop calling them it, or them, or Pillywiggin, as we have been, and start referring to the baby by name, seems like no small thing to us. With Ava, we started calling her Ava the moment we left the hospital, and by the time she was born, she was very much Ava to us, complete with an imagined personality which, strangely enough, turned out to be pretty accurate.

So, on Wednesday, we found out. We are having a boy. A boy! And funnily enough, I knew, without a shred of doubt, that this little one was going to be a boy. Even during the scan, when the sonographer was slowly going through his anatomy, measuring, analysing, I kept referring to him as ‘him’. I just knew. And I know how that sounds…because whenever I’ve heard someone say that in the past, my inner sceptic raises her head and eyebrows and thinks, ‘Hmm, well, sure, you think you know, but you have a 50% chance of being right so…’

I can’t even explain how it is that I knew. When we found out the baby was due in April, my first thought was that he was going to be a boy. (I’m a bit of an astrology nerd, and family astrology is of particular interest…Howard and his sister are October/April babies, as are Howard’s parents, and since Ava is an October baby it wasn’t a surprise at all we were due an April one next…)

Partly, too, it was down to how different this pregnancy has been. I have been a lot more sick, and that lovely second trimester surge of energy kicked in about two weeks ago as opposed to at 12 weeks when I was pregnant with Ava. I have been craving meat as much as I was disgusted by it with Ava, and I have generally just felt …different. It is hard, of course, to know whether that’s down to carrying a boy instead of a girl, or simply any number of other variables, like the fact I am looking after a toddler this pregnancy and am much, much busier and much more active. Or the fact that I am two years older. Or…well, you get the picture.

So, there we were on Wednesday, in a dark room. Me on a hospital bed with a rod poking my belly whilst Howard did his best to make the baby on screen seem interesting to a tired two year old, and as soon as the sonographer said, ‘See that, there? That’s a willy’’ and I thought, ‘Yes! I knew!’, I was also flooded with a whole wave of other emotions and thoughts which surprised me somewhat.

Things that, given my dislike of stereotypical gender roles and my attempt to discard them at any opportunity, I was surprised I was occupying. ‘What will I do with a boy? I don’t know boys. I can do girls. I have a girl. But boys?’ And, ‘What will he wear?’ ‘What toys will he play with?’ …and so on, and so on.

Every time I thought one of those thoughts, I also realised how absurd it was to think it. How some habitual, learned part of my brain was bombarding me with things I didn’t really think. With stereotypical gender ‘norms’ that I have never bought into and certainly don’t want to now. As a dear friend wrote to Ava when she was born, ‘There’s no such thing as ‘for girls’ and ‘for boys’. There’s just what you like and what you don’t.’

And I know this. I do, of course. I genuinely had no preference when it came to what sex this baby was, as sure as I was that he was a boy. But if I’m being totally honest, the reason I didn’t care is because I already have a girl, and in the film that has played out in my head since I was a child, the one where I fantasized and dreamed of being a Mama, it was always to a little girl. I’ve always felt relieved that we had a girl first, because on some basic level it ticked a box I had waiting to be ticked. I had always wanted a daughter.

And now, I also can’t pretend that knowing this wee one is a boy doesn’t add an extra level of excitement to this, my second child. After all, we’ve never been parents to a son, and whilst his anatomy might be totally irrelevant to what kind of person he will be, it’s still different and new. Something we haven’t yet experienced.

Recently, a friend pointed out that it is almost impossible, now being a Mama to both a girl and a boy, to tell whether the difference in their personalities has anything to do with their gender or simply personality, and a whole bunch of other factors in their environment. The fact that a second child is generally more chilled out (or so I’m told by friends and parenting books), because they don’t get the kind of 24/7 microscopic attention a first child does, or the fact that, as a second time parent, you are not quite as freaked out by everything, not quite as paranoid and nervous….these are all things that are bound to have a huge impact.

When I think of all the little boys and girls I know, it is certainly hard to make sweeping generalisations, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see some small, but common differences at times. For example, in general, the little girls I know are less likely to become aggressive in times of frustration than the little boys. I’ve read that this is, indeed, in part due to hormonal differences between girls and boys. Likewise, it’s always funny to be in a big group of children and notice that, as someone pointed out recently, all the little girls had found dolls or teddies and were playing quietly, whilst most of the little boys were running around, making more noise, and even banging things with sticks.

Yes, it was quite a startling difference that particular day, watching how very different the girls and boys were behaving. But of course, once again, it’s impossible to tell whether or not that’s down to gender or down to the way they are treated by parents and friends. If a boy is always encouraged to rough play, he will be more comfortable doing so. If a girl is always handed teddies and soft toys, she will most likely go to do the same. I suspect, of course, that like most things, it is a combination of all these factors. That gender may well play a role, albeit quite small, I think, in defining a person’s characteristics, but that it is other factors that have more of an impact on a developing personality.

The boys I know (like the girls) who are gentle and kind and introspective have parents who are like that, themselves. Or who, at least, are encouraging of them to be as emotive and sensitive as they would with any girl. And if you’ve met my daughter, you’ll know that she can be extremely energetic and boisterous. Whilst she seems to have next to no aggression in her (most of the time she is pretty calm and chilled out) she can be as physical and as excitable as any boy I know. She loves nothing more than throwing herself off chairs and down slides.

I’d like to think that by the time our son is born, I will have had enough time to contemplate how silly some of my learned gender assumptions are. Any time I think something about having to buy ‘boy clothes’ for example, I can remind myself that Ava dressed mainly in blues and reds and that so will he (until he is old enough to decide what colours he wants to wear) And not because those colours are gender neutral, but because there is no such thing as gender neutral colours since all colours are gender neutral. I just happen to dislike pink.

I am lucky enough, and very grateful, to know some exceptional people who just happen to be male. Some of them are young and are incredibly kind and gentle souls, some are full of energy and excitement and curiosity and I hope that we are the kind of people, with Ava and our son, who will always be able to look past what gender our children are and to take account of the whole person, whoever they may be. To encourage them to be whoever it is they want to be, without the need to behave ‘like a girl’ or ‘like a boy’, whatever that means.

Knowing that we are having a son won’t change anything about us. It won’t make us decorate his and Ava’s bedroom differently, or buy different toys. At most, it allows us to imagine what having a little boy is like, and to imagine what his personality may be, but really, this has little to do with gender and more to do with acknowledging that, although he may still be in utero, he is, after all, a whole, definite, important and unique person.

It is nice to be able to say to Ava that the baby is a boy and to hear her refer to the baby as such. It’s lovely to see her ‘draw’ four different spiders – Mama Spider, Daddy Spider, Ava Spider and Baby Boy Spider (she likes to draw spider families at the moment). And it is easier for me to carve out a space, mentally, emotionally and physically, for this new person, being able to refer to him not just as Pillywiggin but by his name. Ezra. Or, as Ava says, Ezzzzza.

'What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of'

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Crafty Tutorial: Festive Felt Decorations

~ by Kendal

(Our felt Shooting Star)

Today is an exciting day for the Mosley-Chalks. We had our 20 week scan this morning, and all looks rather well!

But, this post is all about felt. I think I’m addicted to felt. Seriously, if you could see the amount of felt in my house, and the amount of felt decorations that are slowly piling up in my Yule stack, you’d think I was a little nuts.

But felt is so versatile. And this is the first year we’re getting a real tree, which means I want to make sure the only thing that goes on it is lots of handmade decorations. Felt can do so much, and all it takes is a little ingenuity (and by that I mean a roam on Pinterest, of course)

So today I thought I’d share with you some of the things we’ve been making. It’s all super easy and all it requires is some basic hand sewing. If you need a little guidance with stitches, there are tonnes of different websites and Youtube videos that can show you, and it’s well worth a watch. They are really simple to learn and then you can do so much! I've used all six strands of embroidery floss for everything here today.

So, first of all, let me show you our Felt Hearts. These are to hang on our tree, and maybe to make bunting with as well.

All I did was make a heart template on some tracing paper, then cut out two copies from the felt.

Using a running stitch make an outline inside one heart. 

Then, using a blanket stitch, sew all around the outside of both hearts together, until you have a small gap at the top. 

Stuff with stuffing and insert your ribbon of choice, then sew all around it. And voila! Lovely hearts. We did ours in red and green since our tree is going to be red, green and gold (I’m a sucker for warm Christmas colours)


Now for some Shooting Stars. I’ve made a winter one (for our seasons table) and a bright yellow one with rainbow ribbons as a gift for a young baby.

(Where there's a star, there's a girl loves the moon!)

I googled ‘star’ template and then traced it, using it to make my two stars.

Then I used a trusty blanket stitch to sew around all edges. 

Take your ribbons and fold them in half, bunching them together (I used 7 rainbow ones, 2 feet each) and sew them.  

I started half way down one point and when I got back to that final space, I stuffed the star full of stuffing (from an old pillow), then inserted the ribbons. 

Sew around the gap (using a back stitch over the ribbon area) and continuing with blanket stitch until you’ve sealed the star. And voila! A lovely little sensory, colourful gift.

(Reversible Winter Star for our Winter Seasons Table)


Next, let me show you a little winter gnome I made for Emi and her seasons table. I call him The Tomten, because that’s what he’s based on. 

This was very fun to make. I basically cut out two long triangles and on one, ‘stitched in’ a gnome. I did a drawing first, to use as guidance, and then it was easy to follow and make the gnome. I used a split stitch (my favourite of all stitches) for most of it, and a running stitch for the boots and beard.

Once I was done, I stitched the two long triangles right sides together, with my machine. You could easily just use the blanket stitch technique to secure both sides, but I wanted to make sure it was very solid. I turned it back right side out once I was finished, then I made an oblong base out of felt, using the sewn together gnome as a guide. I stuffed the gnome full, then blanket stitched on the base. And there you go! A Tomten winter gnome!

(I’m thinking of doing one for each season and selling them on my Etsy store…and using a similar technique to make Miss Ava a mermaid for Yule, since that’s her current obsession!) 

So, there you go - a few examples of what we've been doing felt-wise around here. My big giveaway for November is also made of felt - a felt stocking for a Mama. 

See? Look how much fun felt can be!

'Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.'
― Marcus Aurelius