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Hey Duggee Betty Sweater DIY!

Hey Duggee Betty Sweater DIY!

We are big fans of Hey Duggee in our household, and Darwin’s absolute favourite character is Betty, the five-legged purple octopus. Darwin’s adventures with Betty are many. She (in toy form) was his companion to his first days of nursery when he needed some comfort, […]

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 we are still enjoying creating works of messy art at home. It has washed really well, and despite being covered with paint all of the time, after a trip through the washing machine it looks like the day I made it.

A few days ago I saw that another important little person that I know and love had taken his first forays into doing some painting at home, and he and his proud mummy were making some amazing pieces of art. I don’t know if he had an art smock, but he wasn’t wearing one, and any excuse for a trip to the fabric store, right? I planned to make two smocks, one for the little artist and another for his cousin, both of whom are Darwin’s first cousins once remumblemumble…something.

I emerged from my local fabric store with two metres of a purple polycotton, plus a metre of dinosaur print polycotton for the sleeves, just because I loved it so much.

When I got home I was struck by the sudden necessity to fit not just the pieces for the two 1-3 year sized smocks out of the fabric, but a third, larger, size 3-5 year smock, for my little boy. The summer holidays fast approach, which will mean seven weeks of home art happenings, and a second smock will likely be much required.

The print on the dinosaur fabric ran in a single direction, and though there was no room for error, the placement of the six sleeve pieces was relatively simple. I had to get a bit more creative with the placement of the pieces for the three fronts and six back pieces for the main smock pieces to be cut from the purple fabric pieces, however. Luckily, my wasted youth and proficiency at Tetris has not gone to waste, and I just about squeezed the placement of the pattern pieces onto the fabric.

Sewing the smocks is relatively simple, and I again followed the suggested instructions in the book to make the smocks with french seams throughout.

The first time I sewed a couple of these smocks I wondered if this wasn’t just a bit too fussy, considering the function of the smocks as protective painting wear rather than a garment, but I’ve since changed my mind on this. After all, seams are sewn twice for a normal zig-zag finishing treatment, so it’s no extra work, apart from manoeuvring the fabric to the wrong side for the final seam line, and it really is a nice finish.

I cheated with the strip of bias fabric required for the neckline casing, and used some satin bias tape, both for speed and because it was cheaper than buying the additional fabric that I’d have needed to get a decent area to cut the bias strip from.

Once the sewing was completed (I worked on the smocks production line smile over a couple of days), I decided to embellish them each with a name, because now that I can vinyl transfer, I will vinyl transfer. I used a simple Arial Rounded font as it reminds me of the nursery font that surrounded my childhood on all the school learning materials of the classroom.

I’m hoping that in the current heat wave this lighter weight smock will be more comfortable and allow more freedom of movement than the heavy canvas smock I made earlier in the year, as we embark on seven weeks of painting, baking, and all kinds of making together, and I hope the smocks that make their way to other family members serve well in all kind of cooking, gardening or art adventures, or even just as a big bib. I think next time I may even make one for myself.

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 […]

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’ precious film on failed shots, so we can experiment more. Instagram, Facebook and similar social media sites allow us to share our pictures instantly so we can enjoy seeing all the little moments from the latest yarn being spun, or pattern being knit, to a toddler’s first trip to the beach and first ever sandcastle. Awwww!

In our house we also have a Google Chromecast, because we view all of our TV on-demand. This also means that all of our 8,000 family photographs display at random between programs on the TV, so we get to look back through fantastic memories quite often. However, there is nothing quite so special as having a few special photographs on the wall.

Back in the early years BC (Before Child) our living room was very neutral in tone. Pale wash ash furniture, cream walls, brown sofa. Grown up and boring. We had a multi-aperture frame bought for us as one of a few gifts from work for our wedding, which held our wedding photos. It was simple and pretty, plain white, and matched our decor perfectly. When we got married it held our favourite wedding photos, special moments from our Most Special Day BC.

Now in the years AD (Anno Darwini) the living room is the main space for family. It is filled with rainbows. A huge canvas of Darwin in a rainbow sweater I knitted, huge rainbow cushions I have crocheted, rainbow floor rugs, posters, bunting, quilts, a 4ft wide rainbow inflatable that hangs from the ceiling, and of course the twenty million brightly coloured toys that belong to toddlers.

The frame of our wedding photos has remained the same, though. Hung in the same spot in the same frame, because those memories and what it represents as the start of our family and the day we started to share a name to share further with our little boy are among the most precious.

Whilst visiting Russell’s grandfather last week I was thinking about our wedding photos and how to celebrate our happiness as a family around not just our wedding but all the loving moments since, when I happened upon a couple of multi-aperture frames in a store in Grandad’s home town. I bought them there and then and decided that we would have a rainbow wall of frames. I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this, but paint would be involved.

The frame that we already had was moulded plastic, and I’ve had mixed success painting various plastics in the past, so I asked around as to what materials to use on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Because people are lovely, I was given plenty of advice with which to experiment, and found that a small leftover jar of chalky emulsion, plus £1 pots of normal household emulsion from wilkos, tinted different colours using a cheap £1 set of acrylic paints from The Works, came out brilliantly. I think the success hinged more on deciding to ‘sponge’ rather than paint the colours on, especially with the first coat which gave the second coat something to stick to, with no bare spots caused by brush strokes. I used a child’s small sponge-tipped paintbrush dabber. You can buy about 10 for £1 in the kids crafts section of many shops. It’d be a good idea to get a pack of ten so you weren’t having to wash it out between each colour, but I pinched on from Darwin’s art drawer and so had no choice (because I was too impatient to wait and buy more).

I used a dabbing motion to sponge a first coat on, and a fine paintbrush to paint the join lines where one section of frame met another. I applied a second coat the same way and the finish was flawless. The end product felt fairly robust as far as the paint finish was concerned, and the paint was not chipping or scratching as I moved the frames about, but to help increase the longevity I gave the frame a final coat with a lacquer spray (£4.50 from Wilkos), though I had to order it to be delivered to store as they have stopped stocking it in our branch (there are alternatives in any craft shop, though). This did perhaps darken the paint down a shade, maybe two for some colours, so that may be worth considering when applying the colour coats if you are looking to match something in your home. If you are unsure, test a patch on the reverse of the frame.

I absolutely love the wall of photos, and now only wish I had bought a few more frames. It’s such a bright zing of colour along one of the more plain walls, and it is bold without being imposing as the colours are all so sunny. I went for ‘bright pastels’ for the most part, and added just a touch more depth of colour to a few. Really, I just went with whatever colour I fancied mixing next and tried not to overthink it.

Hopefully, as our memories grow in number, so will this wall. We hope to take some proper photos with friends and family in time, and add to this wall, to remember special days out and experiences as well as special occasions that we have lived and snapshots of our little boy growing up and changing, hopefully always surrounded by rainbows.



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.