Do you have a favourite flower? I’m not entirely sure that I do, but these last few years I have favoured big, flouncy blooms, and things like peonies and hydrangeas have been high on my list of ones I’d love to have gracing my imaginary […]
A month or so ago we were discussing Darwin’s favourite programs when we said he’d never really got into a film. I thought, perhaps, that he might like Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro. Russell wondered if he’d find it at all interesting, but as Darwin is obsessed with cleaning and the first half is essentially just people cleaning a house, I decided, yes, it would be worth a try.
And that, my friends, is that day that life changed. See… Darwin didn’t just enjoy it. He fell for the film’s charms in an all-consuming way. Now life is Totoro. Totoro is life. He hums the theme tunes whilst he plays. He draws Totoro. Thanks to Nana he has A huge Totoro cuddly toy (and a medium one, and a little one) and a Catbus.
And so it was, when sitting with Nana, and worrying that she seemed to be searching the internet for Soot Sprite toys, I said that I’d had the idea to make some and stick them scurrying into the corner of the room, as they do in the film. I have a lot of these kind of ideas, at least ten a day, and none ever materialise because nobody has that much time or energy. But Nana took that idea as something we must do, and before I knew it, we were making soot sprites.
Though you cannot see from that picture, each little soot sprite has a face, consisting only of a pair of wide oval eyes. You can see them a little better in this image of Mei catching an unwitting soot sprite, in a scene my toddler likes to act out as it plays.
So, we had a few chats about how to best make the little house guests. Little fluffy balls with faces. I looked at buying pompons, but it would have worked out for too costly, so we bought a 400g ball of black yarn and sat and made forty pompons.
Or, rather, Nana made about 37 and I made three, because I have the attention span of a gnat and nana was amusingly enthralled by the Pompon makers I had in my craft tools (so much so that I have now bought her a set of her own).
Nana curbed my desire to trim each of those pompoms into a perfectly rounded shape by reminding me that the soot sprites had little sticky-out bits – they were not perfect little round sprites – they were a little messy. Hnngghhh.
Each soot sprite was given a pair of eyes, simply made from ellipses of white card with a small round hole punched into it for the pupil. To provide a bit of variety, some were made with the pupils facing up, down, left, right and some straight ahead.
We also made several sizes of soot sprite, because in My Neighbour Totoro they are not uniformly sized. The one that Mei catches is very small, so we made sure to have a few smaller ones in the group.
The eyes of each soot sprite were sorted into pairs and then attached using a generous amount of UHU glue, held into place against the bulk of the pompom yarn for a few seconds each.
Once dry I arranged them as if they were scurrying into the corner of the room where the walls meet the ceiling. I attached them using a pack of Command Decorating Clips (the ones that are made for attaching fairy lights to walls and ceilings) and each clip is more than strong enough to hold up even the largest pompom.
Attaching the soot sprites to the clips was a little fiddly, but achievable by using one of the long tails of yarn that are used to tie and secure the pompoms to wrap around the ‘hook’ of the clip, then tie in a secure double knot with the other yarn tail. Carefully peel off the backing of the command clip pad and press to the clip, then peel off the other side to attach to the wall. Be careful not to get the fluff and yarn of the pompom onto the pad or they may not stick as well. I love these little command clips as they are strong but cause no damage to the walls or paintwork and remove easily when no longer wanted (not that this will be any time soon).
I love this unique little corner of our home, now. It was completely unremarkable before, but now it’s a little celebration of one of the little fascinations of a toddler.
…And his Nana.
As I walked with my little boy to his nursery this week, we talked about the changing seasons. He was given a perpetual calendar for his birthday, which also records the time, weather and changing seasons, so we have enjoyed watching the almost daily changes […]
The first Christmas decorations have gone up in our house in the form of our Christmas stockings. In past years I have hung the two stockings that I designed and knitted; (Star Stocking and Cool Stocking) for my husband and I. I love those stockings so […]
We have a tradition of giving each other a small, but personal gift to each other on Christmas Eve. My husband and I have done this since our first Christmas together, and when our son was born we included him in this by buying him new pyjamas to wear each Christmas Eve.
When I was younger I used to receive a little colouring book or family film for Christmas Eve to occupy those exciting hours before I tried to sleep through my excitement of Father Christmas visiting that night, and this is a little tradition I would like to pass on. As well as being a nice little jolt of memory and tradition for me, I also think it has some part in dispelling a little of that nervous excitement before Christmas Day. If those hours can be occupied with some colouring, or a wholesome film, then maybe it adds just a little to a more relaxed evening. I hope so, anyway.
My little boy has this year started to show a little of the interest in Christmas, talking of when Father Christmas might visit and a great interest in sending him a letter, so I thought as well as giving him his Christmas pyjamas this year I might also include a little sticker and activity book, or magazine of one of his favourite characters.
I usually wrap the Christmas pyjamas, but as the idea of Christmas Eve boxes has been a popular one these past few years, and I am trying to make my way towards a more sustainable and thoughtful season, I thought I would make a wooden box that can be reused every year and later used to store memories of our family Christmasses together.
I put this little box together in stages, first deciding on a design and layout for the top, then cutting the vinyl, lacquering the box, applying the vinyl, then re-laquering. As I already had the vinyl and lacquer, the only outlay I had was the £4 for the wooden box, which I bought from The Works (they also have a 2-pack for £7, which is even more bargainous if you wanted two!)
Of course, a design could be drawn, painted or stuck on in many, many forms. These boxes could be fabric-covered or embellished in all manner of ways. I chose vinyl because I thought the finish would be sturdy and long-lasting. And I already had some.
I had seen a wooden box that I quite liked, that was left neutral, with a picture of Christmas trees on the front, so took that as inspiration. I was going to draw each of the trees, and did indeed make a whole selection of them for use on a Christmas card, but decided on a style change at the last moment and used two sets of trees from Miss Kate Cuttables: Christmas Trees and Retro Trees.
I layered the images of trees up to work with a limited palette of colours that I had chosen, and added text and a few circles for snow, before cutting my vinyl pieces and stacking the colours in layers to make the multicoloured trees.
Once the vinyl pieces were all stacked and arranged on a piece of transfer tape to apply in one piece to the box, I gave the box a couple of light coats of a clear acrylic lacquer spray to prime the surface and give a slicker, less absorbent surface for the vinyl to adhere to. The vinyl transferred like an absolute dream, all in one single motion. The lacquer spray made a massive difference.
Once the vinyl was applied I gave the entire box, including the vinyl, one more spray coat with the lacquer spray, and this quick and easy, but personalised Christmas Eve box was complete.