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Teacher Gifts: Personalised Flower Pots Made With Vinyl Transfers

Teacher Gifts: Personalised Flower Pots Made With Vinyl Transfers

Yesterday was Darwin’s last day of nursery for this year, as he has now broken up for the summer holiday. Though he will be back again next year (he actually has another two whole years of nursery ahead of him!), I thought it was important […]

Sewing & Embellishment Project: Toddler Painting Smocks, V2.0

Sewing & Embellishment Project: Toddler Painting Smocks, V2.0

Back in March of this year I made a couple of toddler art smocks for two awesome little guys in my life: my little boy and his best friend. My little guy’s art smock gets used at least a couple of times each week as […]

First Experiments With Heat Transfer Vinyl

First Experiments With Heat Transfer Vinyl

If you are a creator, a maker, artist, crafter or dabbler then you may well agree with me that few things feel more exciting than new supplies. So, as I needed a bit a creative boost I decided to treat myself to a crafting medium that I had never tried before, and I bought some vinyl, as I have owned a cutting machine for a number of years but only used it for paper and card projects.

22 sheets of heat transfer vinyl

I had never actually handled any craft vinyl before it arrived, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I ordered a pack of assorted colours as I didn’t have a specific project in mind at the time of buying. My first task when it arrived was to take stock of the colours I had and to arrange it into colour order. What kind of monster would ship a selection of colours without arranging them in colour spectrum order?

I didn’t really know what to make with it, so with no project in mind I raided my toddler’s clothing drawers and rummaged until I found three plain and unremarkable polo shirts which I’d bought extremely cheaply from George at Asda’s school uniform selection, and decided to customise them as an experiment.

Though there seem to be a few different formats when buying heat transfer vinyl (HTV), the Arteza brand that I purchased works as a very thin film of coloured, flexible vinyl, mounted on a thicker, transparent and less flexible, carrier sheet.

A design is cut in mirror image into the reverse of the coloured vinyl sheet, but not deeply enough to cut through the carrier sheet. Excess pieces of vinyl not intended for the final design are then picked (or ‘weeded’) off of the carrier sheet.

The finished piece of cut vinyl is then laid on the garment (or other medium, such as wood) coloured side up, and with the clear carrier sheet topmost. A dry pressing cloth such as a handkerchief or thin tea towel is then placed atop the vinyl, and the image heat pressed (either with a dedicated heat press or domestic iron). The settings for the iron were a bit trial and error to work out, especially on the textured knit surface of the polo shirt, but I eventually found that a pressing temperature half way between medium and high on my iron worked very well.

The first polo top I customised was the narwhal design at the top of the post. The entire design is only a single layer thick, with each of the ‘spots’ lined up to sit within corresponding holes of the other colour. the only part of the design where this differs is on the corkscrew lines of the narwhal’s horn, where the (very fiddly) lines sit upon a solid shape for the horn.

The second polo top that I customised (the octopus) I tried slightly differently. With this shirt, almost the entire image is two layers of vinyl thick.

The first (darker yellow/orange) sheet was cut, and then an identical second shape was cut, with additional ares cut for the features of the octopus, and the spots and tentacle suckers. The resulting image is, of course, thicker. It’s still flexible, but you can feel more resistance to when moving the fabric in this area.

polo shirt with spider and web decoration

For the third polo shirt I just thought I’d have a bit of a fun with placement. The web at the button placket edge was difficult to apply do to not being able to so easily apply pressure to an area of fabric that was not completely flat, but after a few attempts and simply manoeuvring the iron into various positions, I finally got it to hold. Only after finishing this shirt did I spot the slight mark towards the hem that has been picked up at nursery, but if these polo shirts hold up in the wash at all then I also have a fabulous method to disguise the future stains and wear that a mucky little human inflicts upon clothes.

The instructions for the vinyl advise to wait at least 24 hours before washing garments that have been transferred onto, but I’ll be back with an update once these shirts have been worn and put through the wash.

Vinyl transfer of a spider

The Narwhal design is my own. The Octopus and Spider designs are both from Miss Kate Cuttables.

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.



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.