Archie was lucky enough to be the only Wave 4 swimmer who took up Chirk's booster sessions over this half term. This meant he benefited from three 40 minute one-to-one sessions with his wonderful swimming teacher, Rebecca. As a special thank you at the end of half term, Arch made her this beautiful card. He painted some lasagne sheets green, blue and yellow with acrylic paints before breaking and gluing. I still love this craft!
Tuesday, 28 February 2017
Monday, 27 February 2017
I ran this tepee up in one evening last spring. It is constructed for function rather than aesthetic appeal so I really didn't worry too much about care and precision on this occasion. It's a bit rough around the edges but Jessica spent many a happy hour in it with her books and teddy bears last year.
I cut out isosceles triangles from a duvet cover and some other fabrics I had stashed away. I don't know what possessed me to make a hexagonal tepee rather than a square one, which would have saved a fair amount of time. It does give Jessica a lot more space in there though. Anyway, I stitched the door first, using three pieces stitched to form a triangle the required size. It has a top panel and the two side flaps. Next I started sewing the sides together creating channels for the bamboo canes to be threaded through. I found that my purple fabric wasn't as wide as I needed so decided to leave those two sides short, which ended up being a positive as Jess uses those sides to peek over...
At the top of each side panel I attached a KAM snap to be connected to three ribbons that also had KAM snaps attached the the ends of them. I can't wait to get it back out of storage again this year.
Wednesday, 22 February 2017
My garden is definitely telling me that Spring is on the way so I thought I'd share this wreath that Jessica and I made together last year. If I remember correctly, we purchased everything for this craft from Hobbycraft. We actually bought tonnes more than we used but decided less was more on this project. The large roses are foam and the smaller ones are inexpensive pre-wired flowers. We literally just pushed the wires through and twirled them around a bit to secure. Really easy and so beautiful.
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Whenever we go to Hobbycraft I let Jessica choose a pack of stickers and we try to create a lovely picture with them. On the most recent visit, she chose a selection of cats and we set about creating a night-time silhouette scene.
It was a great opportunity to do some more pipette painting with liquid watercolours. We mixed up some blue, red, orange and yellow before squirting them all over a sheet of kitchen towel using a pipette. While we waited for this to dry we cut some black rectangles for buildings and bricks and a silver one to use as a wall. Once the scene was set, Jess added a few jewels as stars and cats to complete this beautiful picture...
A previous visit let to Jessica creating this scene on an alien planet...
The following one is a bit old and was put together on sugar paper so it's very faded now. We ripped and glued green and brown paper on to blue to create hills and mud beneath a blue sky (honest). Jessica stamped some yellow paint to create a sun (I have no idea what the bit underneath was supposed to be). I particularly like the flying dinosaur eggs on this one...
Oh, here's a surprise, more cats! This time we cut an aperture out of the card to create a window. This is one very busy household...
Finally, here's an impressionistic ocean scene fit for Dory and her friends. Jessica ripped up blue and green tissue paper for the background. This one is displayed proudly in her bathroom.
Monday, 20 February 2017
I have been bitten by the upholstery bug in the past eighteen months or so. It's something that I always fancied trying but never quite got around to until we moved house. It took no time at all to get hooked. I use foam pads from Dunelm, upholstery weight or PVC fabric and a simple staple gun. It's so quick and I now have the confidence to know that I will be able to change them whenever I feel like it or the need arises (the curse of little ones and their grubby hands!).
The first piece I tackled was this ottoman...
It originally had just a plain wooden lid. It's now a great extra seat in the living room now.
I've done seven dining chairs in total. The three that live upstairs are covered with upholstery weight cotton while the ones that we use at the dining room table are all covered in PVC. There are huge advantages to having wipe clean chairs just now!
My biggest project and greatest challenge was a chair that we picked up in a charity shop for Mum to have in the kitchen. It was a lovely but very tired chair when we got it. Mum chose the fabric and I think she was pretty pleased with the job that I did. She didn't have it long but this will always be Mum's chair...
Sunday, 19 February 2017
It had been a long time since I had done any quilling when I embarked on this project at the end of March 2016. I always forget just how painstaking it is but I find it really therapeutic and I love the fiddly work.
For these flowers I can't use the precut quilling papers so the first job is always to cut the strips, and plenty of them. Next I have to do the fraying. This involves making hundreds of tiny cuts along the length of the strips, as close together as possible, being careful not to cut right through the paper. It takes hours but the flowers that result are beautiful.
There are four flowers in this design. Two different sized roses, which are created by rolling and folding and two types of fringed flowers, with and without centres. On the ones that are quilled without centres I added tiny jewels on this occasion. The design comes from Anne Redman's book Practical Quilling. It was published in 1998 and it looks like it might be out of print but she has some really beautiful projects in there and I've always found the instructions to be very thorough and easy to follow.
I don't do it often but I think quilling will always be a craft that I come back to. I enjoy the process and am almost always pleased with the results.
Saturday, 18 February 2017
We've been living in Colchester for over eighteen months now and have done very little in terms of decorating. It was a relatively new house so nothing really needed doing especially. I did have a little incident with a candle in our ensuite that meant I had to repaint that room and we've had to remove some wallpaper ready for some new kitchen units that will be fitted at the end of this month (whoop whoop) but otherwise we've chosen to just live with the scuffs and marks while Jessica is little.
However, there were a fair few really unsightly marks in her bedroom that offended me so I decided to cover them up. It seemed an easier solution than redecorating the whole room. Now I don't know what I will do in the future because I am never going to want to paint over this.
I grabbed some clipart images that I liked and made them into stencils. I used them to draw the designs on the wall before painting them freehand. This is what I had so many paint testers lying around for making Jessica's cardboard kitchen!
Friday, 17 February 2017
During Katryn's summer visit last year she convinced me (it didn't take much) to teach her how to use a sewing machine. I will admit that I only taught her as much as she needed to know and I wasn't massively thorough in my tutorials but she left feeling confident enough to take my first sewing machine back home with her.
She jumped straight in and made this beautiful striped bolster cushion as her first project...
... and this was her second...
Thursday, 16 February 2017
We absolutely love this one. Dried lasagne is brilliant; the little ones love painting it and breaking it into interesting shaped mosaic tiles. We literally just painted the pasta with ready mixed paint and brushes and allowed them to dry overnight. The sheets did curl up but that didn't matter at all. Do be careful when you break the pasta up though, you can get a few shards shooting off when you snap. Creating the mosaic artwork went down a storm at the Toddler Group. We had a huge array of colours and lots of PVA glue, what's not to like?!
(These photos are really dating the crafts. Jessica, I'm sorry that I didn't sort your hair out before taking this one!)
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
I have only made one dress in my time crafting and this is it...
Jessica loves it and wore it a lot last year. I'm hoping that she won't have grown out of it by the time the weather picks up. Mind you, she has already chosen some new fabric and requested another dress for this summer.
This was a cut and hope affair. I didn't follow a pattern and I definitely didn't really know what I was doing at the start. I made the skirt and top separately, both fully lined with some blue cotton from my Nan-nan's old sheets. The top opens over the shoulders using KAM snaps, which I still think are magnificent! I played around with the shape of the skirt a little, trimming and restitching until it hung satisfactorily. The only important thing was to get the bottom of the top and the top of the skirt exactly the same width. After I had stitched them together I decided that I'd made the top too long so I added a satin sash to cover the join and marginally improve the balance.
The question is, will I follow a pattern next time?!
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Jessica used a toilet roll squeezed into a heart shape to print some lovely pictures a few weeks ago. I used a few of them as thank you cards after her birthday and saved just one to use as an anniversary card for her Gran and Grandad. She wasn't completely on board with me using her favourite glittery pink card but she was very satisfied with the end product and I can always buy more sparkles!
Monday, 13 February 2017
I recently ordered a bumper batch of pipettes when I needed to add a couple of pounds to an online order without really knowing what I would do with them. In the run up to Valentine's Day I thought we might have a little go and using them to make pretty hearts from kitchen towels. We had a go with the intention of doing them at Toddler Group but I decided I wasn't brave enough and that it had the potential to get far too messy. Jessica and I enjoyed it though. We mixed up some very watery watercolours in little pots and then set to work dripping or squirting with our pipettes.
Jess wanted to create whole family of hearts...
So far, the only other way we have used the pipettes was to do some waterfall painting where I propped a pad up, put plenty of kitchen paper underneath and let drip. Jess liked making the drips race to the bottom and she enjoyed seeing what happened when the different colours ran into each other. It was a really fun process and great for her fine motor skills. Sorry, that's the teacher in me!
Sunday, 12 February 2017
I rarely have a project in mind when we do some painting and the resulting sheets can hang in the conservatory for months before inspiration hits. Here are yet more examples of cards that I have made from some of Jessica's paintings. Like the jellyfish these were both created from shapes cut from her hand-print paintings. They make the most interesting prints and are so much fun to do. Although Jessica remains squeamish about getting her hands dirty she's perfectly happy to cover them in paint. It's a wonderful sensation tickling the palm of your hand with a paint-laden brush. Give it a try!
Saturday, 11 February 2017
Archie's holiday homework last October half term was a lovely activity that inspired a rather elaborate response from the pair of us. The Year 1 class were asked to go for an Autumn walk, to collect leaves and create a collage.
Earlier in the week we'd been making pretty pictures using flowers and contact paper so we thought we'd try a similar thing with the leaves. Archie asked to cut his initials out of the paper to create the apertures which he eventually filled with his beautiful selection of leaves. Before this though, Archie wanted to try out doing some melted crayon art so we grated some autumn coloured wax crayons and he sprinkled them liberally all over the page. Using baking parchment I ironed it to melt the wax. We then covered the whole sheet in contact paper and Arch stuck the leaves down on the back of the paper to cover his initials in leaves. I'll be honest, it was all a bit over the top but we enjoyed it and it was certainly something a bit different!
Friday, 10 February 2017
Hobbycraft have a half price event running for half term (until Sunday 26th) so we will be heading over to one of their stores at some point in the next fortnight to grab ourselves a bunch of bargains to stash away for a rainy day or two. During another one of these half price events I bought Jessica a paint your own ceramic teddy bear money box. Brilliant value at £3 (full price) but completely irresistible at £1.50. The kits come with six paints and a paint brush. I also have Jess a little palette so that she could do some mixing of colours to satisfy her curiosity and brighten up her bear further.
I introduce Mrs Teddy Bear...
Ahead of Father's Day last year I found myself in Hobbycraft (I know, however could that have happened?!) and I spotted a load of mosaic bits in their clearance. Ordinarily it's not a cheap craft and I hadn't really considered trying it with Jess (my blood pressure does increase somewhat when she makes a mess of more expensive materials) but I can't resist a bargain. The clearance price facilitated a brilliant activity. We bought a couple of ceramic coasters, lots of shiny pieces and a small pack of grout and planned to make presents for the Grandads.
I cheated and covered the coasters with double sided tape so that there was no concern over speed or glue drying and just handed Jessica the pot of pieces. Once she was happy with what she'd done I did squeeze a few more small pieces into the gaps that remained but Jessica absolutely did do the vast majority of the hard work. I did do the grouting but now that Jess is a little happier to get her hands mucky I would definitely consider letting her have a go next time.
Thursday, 9 February 2017
Here's another example of how I have used some of Jessica's paintings in the past. This one was a big favourite when she was about 2 and beginning to improve her pen control. She drew lots of lines/scribbles on the card before we added the jellyfish that were cut from some of Jessica's handprint paintings. We added sticker eyes and both loved the results. Jess asked to make them over and over again.
They made lovely cards...
I liked them so much that I framed one of her pictures. This one hangs proudly in our ensuite...
Wednesday, 8 February 2017
I do my best to use most of the painted pieces Jessica creates. Often they are turned into cards but occasionally our process art produces something far too big for that. Painting with your feet is definitely one of those processes.
I forget where the inspiration for creating a huge monster came from but it was a fabulous way to use up a really big piece of paint work. I taped two A2 pieces of black sugar paper together to give her plenty of space on which to trample and pretty much let her get on with it. While we waited for the paint and glitter to dry we set about cutting out everything else we would need. Jessica decided to scribble on the white circles to give the scary, bloodshot appearance. He's a friendly beast I assure you. He hangs above the radiator in the living room so his arms wave about in the convection current, which can be a little disconcerting but he's lived there happily for almost a year now. He hasn't scared too many children in that time!
Tuesday, 7 February 2017
These patchwork elephants were one of the first crafts that I did with the Toddler Group. A box full of bits of coloured paper is always a hit, regardless of what we're actually aiming to achieve with it. Most of the children are far more interested in the sensory side of my activities than creating anything to take home and keep. I've even started encouraging them to bring the toy diggers over to the table to play with whatever we're using. This week we were gluing wool and fabric scraps to paper hearts for Valentine's day. Whilst they did make some beautiful hearts, the little ones had a hundred times more fun throwing the scraps at each other (and me) and hiding piles of them in their den (under my table) when we were supposed to be tidying up! Sometimes it's important to just have fun.
Back to Elmer; we're big fans in this house. From a crafting perspective he is a gift. Our first attempt at a paper patchwork creation inspired by the lovable character was this mask that we made back in April last year.
Another nice Elmer impression was created quite simply with a paint brush. Add a great big googly eye and an ear cut to stick out slightly and you have a lovely, colourful elephant with a big personality. This one hangs proudly in our conservatory along with a multitude of other projects.
My favourite patchwork elephant is the closest replica of Elmer himself. The process by which he is created has Jessica yelping with excitement. It's called tissue paper printing. We sprayed thick paper with water before laying squares of tissue paper on top, spraying with water again and leaving to dry. The tissue paper falls off when dry leaving the dye on the paper. We love it!
Monday, 6 February 2017
This was an incredibly simple craft created after Jessica had collected an impressive collection of sticks when out and about last spring. First, Jessica and I made a batch of salt dough that we stuffed into a small plastic plant pot ready for our pom pom laden twigs. On this occasion I only let Jessica choose which pom poms to use because I was attaching them to the twigs with my hot glue gun but I'm sure it would work with PVA glue if you had enough patience. Once the twigs were complete we pushed them firmly into the salt dough and allowed it to air dry. I slipped the plastic pot into a nice black ceramic one and this tree has sat in our front window ever since.
Friday, 3 February 2017
Mum loved flowers. When she died in the summer I knew that I wanted to arrange at least some of the flowers for her funeral and wake. It was an enormously therapeutic thing to do the evening before her funeral. It took time and focus and enabled me to be by myself for a while to mentally prepare for the day ahead. I needed to pay tribute to the brave, loving woman who had left a close-knit family behind and who had helped shape her two daughters and three grandchildren into the equally strong, caring and compassionate people that I hope we are.
I remember quite clearly the time when she worked at Pickles & Co. creating her own dried flower arrangements and I used to love doing them with her in holidays as presents for my friends. I hadn't really done anything since and I know that a professional would have done a much better job but these flowers were arranged with so much love and I know they would have meant a lot to Mum. This first one would have been her favourite...
Thursday, 2 February 2017
Last winter I had an inexplicable urge to make honeycomb and attempt to perfect the art of doing so, which was easier said than done without a sugar thermometer. I will confess up front that in making the several batches more than a couple ended up in the bin and somehow I also managed to ruin a couple of my saucepans so this was certainly not one of my most successful exploits but the ones that worked were delicious and the photos I took at the time still make my mouth water now...
I used a BBC good food recipe but halved the quantities after my first attempt. The full recipe was huge and very thick in the 20cm square tin that they had recommended. I liked the thinner honeycomb that came from using the same tin with 100g of caster sugar, 2.5 tbsp of golden syrup and 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda. I used this recipe because it didn't require a sugar thermometer. The reviews aren't great but with sufficient care and attention it did work for me.
I also made up a collection of chocolate spoons by scooping melted chocolate onto wooden teaspoons and then seasoning or decorating them laid out on greaseproof paper. I liked the idea of the chocolate chilli ones and the sea salt chocolate ones stirred through hot chocolate for a more indulgent drink. I didn't keep any for myself though so I've no idea if they worked! They did look pretty wrapped up in cellophane and ribbon though!
Wednesday, 1 February 2017
A big thank you to Laura for a fine selection of craft kits for Jessica's birthday - this is the first one we've attempted. She loved doing them and was thrilled with the results. In fact, Jessica even enjoyed "reading" and following the instructions included. There is, however, no need for the age guide on the front of the packet to be 4+, particularly when the instructions recommended 3+. These would be suitable as soon as you can trust your child not to put the pieces in their mouths. Overall, a very nice, quick activity that little ones will love.