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Four Seasons Wall Art – A Toddler Paint Activity

Four Seasons Wall Art – A Toddler Paint Activity

Since Darwin was a few months old I have always tried to encourage him in mark making and exploring colour with art materials. We have progressed on somewhat from our first experiments with making baby-safe cornflour paint, and now that our young one is less […]

Changing Photographs And Special Photo Frames

Changing Photographs And Special Photo Frames

There have probably never been more photographs taken on a day-to-day basis than as we snap away today. Almost every person has a good quality camera in their pocket pretty much all day, every day. Digital photography has freed us of the nervousness of ‘wasting’ […]

Lollipop Spin

Lollipop Spin

I finally have a new skein of yarn off of the wheel. It’s been a long time in finishing as the drive band on my wheel broke about six weeks ago and I have had a really tortuous time trying to get hold of another. The shop where I bought my wheel didn’t have one on their website, and I eventually found one elsewhere, but after ordering the wait was so long that I decided to buy another one if I could find one, so emailed the place I bought my wheel and loom in hope, who said they did have them, had just forgotten to update their website, and would do it ASAP. I’ve emailed them four times since, but they’ve not responded, and I started to give up hope that the one I’d ordered originally would ever arrive. Honestly, it all got me a bit down, in that silly way that one little knock can send all of the good things tumbling away, and so I have found it very difficult to create anything since then. But then, one day last week, the band I had purchased plopped through my letter box, and finally this stupidly expensive bit of elastic belt can get to work. I’m happy it is here, because I can spin again. But I learned something valuable from my cousin-in-law-in-law (probably not a ‘thing’, but my husband’s cousin’s husband) – I just call them all cousins because it’s easier and lovelier. Anyway, he works for a company that uses polycord for making belts and things like that and said that it’s a simple length of 3mm round clear polycord, so it transpires I could have got him to make me one cheaper and quicker.

Handspun yarn in bright colours

Once I had the wheel working again I spent an evening continuing to spin up the remaining 40% of the fibre and then another evening plying. This is a simple 2-ply yarn and used every single bit of the 120g braid, hand-dyed by It’s A Stitch Up. I spun the singles onto two bobbins, and when plying the lengths matched up pretty well, so I never had too much remnant on the last bobbin, but what there was I wound into an Andean plying bracelet and spun right to the end. I’ve done this a few times before and it’s perfect for ensuring you get every last centimetre of yarn out of special fibre.

After plying the yarn was wound onto a niddy noddy and gave a total of 120g and 628m. I decided to finish my yarn by steaming it, as I had seen a spinner on Instagram steam-finish their yarn recently, and wanted to give it a go.

I popped the skein into a simple, old-fashioned stove-top steamer and steamed the skein for 2 minutes with the lid on, then removed the lid, very gently took the skein out and rotated it, and then steamed for a further two minutes with the lid off so that the steam could pass through but not condense and run back onto the yarn, to save wetting it through.

The following two pictures give some idea of the changes in the yarn before and after.  The ruler in each picture has been matched up in size and positioning when reviewing the photos, to give the best sense of comparison.

skein of yarn laid out in a loop
Before steaming
Skein of yarn made of very bright colours
After steaming

The yarn has relaxed a lot from its straight and attentive form when fresh from the niddy noddy, where it had been held under tension. It’s difficult to tell if the yarn has pouffed up at all, but it certainly seems more relaxed and airy from its trip into the water. The skein is more open, and, er… floppy? I loved the process, though. It was almost immediate, and didn’t require soaking any towels or finding somewhere to hang the yarn for a day or more to dry. My house did smell like a sheep barn for a short while, however.

I’m glad my wheel is up and running again, so I can start to feel a bit more complete, because daft as it may sound it took a bit of my happiness away when I couldn’t find comfort in the things I wanted to do, and somehow it made me think a lot of less happy times. This lovely Lollipop of colour will help get me back on track.

 

Words Are Important: Let’s Talk Winners And Whiners

Words Are Important: Let’s Talk Winners And Whiners

Every day Instagram brings forth pictures of modern calligraphy. There is a definite form to most of the new letter styles and it seems very popular. It’s words, made beautiful. Often, the words are beautiful themselves; positive, affirming, words of strength, happiness and encouragement. Over […]

Weaving: A New Adventure In Colour And Cloth

Weaving: A New Adventure In Colour And Cloth

A short while ago, for Valentines day, my husband bought me a loom. He’d been threatening to for a while (I say threatening to jokingly, as I had wanted one for a few years and just wasn’t sure what to buy. I thought I wanted […]

Toddler Art Smocks: Little Things To Sew

Toddler Art Smocks: Little Things To Sew

For reasons best known to Nana herself, my mother decided to buy my little boy no fewer than 38 big bottles of brightly coloured paint and a whole 70s disco worth of glitter for Easter, so we have been getting our art on these past couple of weeks (it was a rather early Easter gift). My little boy mostly likes to paint with his hands, dipping them into all the colours to make a multicoloured swirl of paint soup, then slamming them down on the paper whilst shouting ‘splash’. I remain calm as he then runs his hands through his hair, slaps his little chubby digits onto his cheeks and then finally picks up his paint brush, dips it quickly in the mud of paint and then dabs it to his forehead a few times before declaring ‘finished!’ This is the art of toddlering.

I bought an art smock a while ago, but it was not cutting the mustard any longer. The cuffs were a bit restrictive, and it was a bit too plastic-fantastic to be comfortable, especially with the warmer weather of spring oh-so-slowly approaching, so I looked online for a hardwearing fabric alternative. I looked and looked. They just don’t seem to exist. In the end I decided to make one. Finding instructions or a pattern for a simple art smock was no less difficult, but eventually I tracked one down to an Oliver & S book called Little Things To Sew.

© Oliver & S

I had a look through my scrap fabrics and decided that I could just about squeeze two sets of the 3-5 year smock front and backs out of a remnant from my Vonn Trapp sofa dress, if I cut the fabric very creatively and reduced the width ever so slightly. I had just enough black cotton to provide four sleeve pieces and a couple of patch pockets, too. My little boy is 2½ and his little friend that I made a matching one for is approaching three. I didn’t think making the smaller size would have been worth my time for the short amount of use my wee one might get out of it, so plumped for the larger size for both.

I don’t really think there is that much use for the pockets on the smock, if I am honest, but as I just about had enough fabric for one pair of pockets, I decided that I would give each smock a single pocket and embroider in a chain stitch a simple initial for each child. I have never really done any embroidery and didn’t have a hoop, so the embroidery is not perfect, but I think matching the yellow to the feature colour of the fabric actually really helped to complete the finished project, and I’m glad I took that quiet bit of time to add the detail.

Two toddler art smocks on hangers with embroidered initial detail.

The smock pattern from Little Things To Sew has a simple and generously sized raglan sleeve. This makes it a doddle to piece the smock and provides a nice amount of roomy fabric for those wild artistic gestures from your own little Jackson Pollock. At first I suspected that the raglan seams and elasticated, gathered neck were slight short-cuts to fit, but really they work very well in a garment that is more for function than style. That’s not to say that there is a sloppy level of finishing to these smocks. The pattern gives instruction to sew the smocks with French seams¹ throughout. I don’t even know that my wedding dress has a French seam treatment, but it does give a fabulous finish to the unlined smock, and  isn’t really much more work than finishing a seam after sewing, so I’m glad I didn’t skip them.

Two personalised toddler art smocks

I used a heavy, 100% cotton canvas-style upholstery fabric that I’d previously used to make myself a dress for the main fabric. A similar weight to denim, it’s hardwearing and I thought would be good at stopping paint seepage. The sleeves are made of a lighter cotton for comfortable and non-restrictive arm movement, hopefully in a less paint-prone area. As the gathered neckline in the heavy weight fabric would be bulky at anything other than single layer thickness, I put my big girl panties on and made some 2.5cm/1″ binding out of a lightweight cotton knit fabric to add a nice, soft comfortable inside edge against the neck on the elastic channel. I don’t want to make binding on my best days, but making it out of such a fine knit made me want to go all she-hulk. However, like many fiddly jobs, it was worth it in the end product.

The back of the smock is left mostly open, so it gives perfect lap coverage when sitting down. Fastened with a single large press stud at the back of the neck and with elasticated cuffs, its simple to just pop on before a painting session.

Would my son wear it though? Hahahaha…

Nope.

He Hated His Smock

After a long think about why showing him the smock made him run off crying (literally… he ran off into his room, shut the door and bawled his eyes out…) I decided that it perhaps was ugly … because he hated me … because yellow is not his colour something to do with his first week at nursery.

After his first session or two at nursery (he’s been going for four weeks now) I noticed that my little boy had come back with a bit of bruising and small areas of bleeding around his neck and ear. I’ve found this process ever so difficult… not knowing exactly what has gone on in those hours we are apart for the first time in our life together. It disappeared after a couple of days and he’s been fine, and is settling slowly into the routine of attending two sessions a week. He’s come back absolutely covered in paint, though, which I thought was odd as I know they have painting smocks at the nursery.

My completely surmised guess is that he has, in those first couple of upsetting sessions away from mummy and daddy, somehow hurt himself putting on or taking off his smock/apron. I may be wrong, but it would sort of explain his ability to paint his jumper so completely, as well as his smock aversion.

When All Else Fails, Yoghurt

After identifying the problem (smock hate) I formulated a solution. Yoghurt is always the solution. You can bribe anything with yoghurt. Look, sweet child, if you wear this smock you can eat yoghurt in it! Yes, he cried a little, but blomp the smock straight on his head and his arms in the sleeves in one easy action and before he has time to complain he has a yoghurt in his hands. I know him well enough to reason with him that though I know he’d like to be complaining about his smock that he can’t complain and eat yoghurt at the same time. And this is how we have come to accept my role as parent. I spent the entire duration of the yoghurt-eating espousing the amazing qualities of his painting smock and a short while later he and his super-smock had made peace and he wore it for the rest of the day because it is actually awesome. We have decided.

toddler wearing an art smock

¹ French seams are formed by first placing the two pieces of fabric to be joined with wrong sides out and sewing a seam line. Excess fabric is trimmed close to this line, and then the piece is turned inside out and pressed so that the right sides are now facing on the inside. The seam is now sewn for a second time to encase the raw, trimmed edge. The seam allowance is now self-contained within the inside of the garment.

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Coddswallop

Our First Two Years Together

Our First Two Years Together

It’s been two years since our family grew by one. I think we were always a family, Russell and I. From, perhaps, the day that I felt like I trusted in his goodness to let go of that little bit of certainty and security of the path I was on, soon to have my own little place to live, and took the leap that I could trust in this human to be good and to care and love enough that I could uproot once more and move in with him to a pokey little cold flat in Whitley Bay. Boy it was cold. And it was so tiny! But perhaps it was my favourite of all the places that I have lived due to it being where our story began and the first place in which I had felt safe in a very, very long time.

But my favourite chapters of the story so far all burst into colour two years ago when a tiny human popped into our world, a mixture of Russell and I. This whopping great blackcurrant stained baby shot into the world at a faster rate than I could really handle it. But after all the worry and panic there lay this 9lb bruise with a wrinkle for a nose and Russell and I cradled pure love in our arms. It had not been so very long previously that I did not think that I could trust anyone to truly love in my lifetime, and now I had these two pillars of love, one huge and protecting and one (not so very) tiny, heartbeat fluttering fast upon my chest, and I knew that I would never feel the same again. And our family was strong.

I truly love being a parent, but as so many people will tell you, parenthood is tough. Gosh, yes we have our off days. Tired, grumpy days, days of illness and the mystery maladies of baby and toddlerhood, sometimes that write themselves apparent three days after the screams and sobs with a scarlet rash and sometimes which manifest on no physical symptoms that you will ever detect and are put down to some mystical condition which may or may not have existed. And you are always, always doing it wrong. So says that lady in the supermarket, or the health visitor who you’ve known for four minutes of your life, or that relation who’d do that differently, or the neighbour who is old enough to remember when babies did not cry because in those days 10 month old babies did as they were instructed, and probably earned their keep down the mines at the same time.

If my little boy knows or feels anything I would hope it is just how perfectly I love him and that I love learning from him more than from any of those people. I hope that Russell and I can teach him, above all else, how to be kind, how to be thoughtful and how to have empathy for all the people whose lives touch on his. I do not expect that as he grows and natually makes mistakes for him to always be good, or that he will always make the right choice, but I do so hope that we will always have time to put three chairs around the table and to talk about how we feel and how others might feel, and the effect of our actions on others. And from him I am learning how to best see the world anew. How the most basic and fundamental feelings that I have can be best nurtured and put to use. I am tougher in my resolve to surround myself with good and kind people and to not let damaging influences into our lives without guard, and to that end I have a strong determination to stand up for my family and to know when to say ‘no more’.

I hope that our third year together will be one of greater learning and growth. I hope it will be full of rainbows and colour, but when there are grey days that we can make things better with love and understanding. I hope that that there will be laughter, kindness, and, importantly, dinosaurs.

 

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