How did that happen? I was planning the perfect Christmas Eve post, I blinked and it was New Years Eve! Note to self for next year - do not ever think you will have time to write a blog post on Christmas Eve. Despite my best attempts at improved organisation I still didn't get to bed until 1:30 Christmas morning!!
So why do I have time to write a New Years Eve post? Will and Pippa are tucked up in bed and I am manning the home front. Rob and Madeleine disappeared at about 8pm to see the 9pm fireworks - I can hear them rumbling as I write this post. Madeleine was so excited to be sneaking off with her Dad to do something so grown up.
Maybe next week I will write about the wonderful Christmas time we had and share some of the highlights but tonight it seems appropriate to look at the year past and the year to come.
The Year Past
Without a doubt, the highlight of 2010 was the arrival of this little bundle of joy on April 22nd:
He is loved by all. He only has to look at Madeleine and he giggles. If Pippa is upset, her first response is "I want to cuddle Will."
Welcome to your family Will. We are so glad you found us. We couldn't imagine life without you.
My other great joy has been witnessing the beautiful relationship that has developed between Madeleine and Pippa.They are a team. They giggle at night in their shared bedroom. We occasionally reprimand them, but mostly listen secretly from the hall way to their chatter, their shared imaginary stories and their mischief. They watch out for each other. They comfort each other when they are hurting and know how each other works only like sisters do.
Talking about teams - there is Rob and I. (I can't find a recent photo of the two of us!) We have been very lucky to spend a lot of time together this year. No grand dinners or grand holidays. Just lots of hanging out, being parents, tag teaming and making each other smile when the going gets tough. I don't think I would have survived the year without him and Madeleine, Pippa, Will and I would certainly not have had so much fun. He is a man of infinite patience, kindness and love.
The Year to Come
I am not one for grand New Year's Resolutions but here are a few ideas I'd like to see through in 2011.
Lets talk about what counts - Sewing!!!
I am thinking that 2011 will be a year of Japanese inspired craft.
The cloths for children are so pretty:
The adult cloths look so wearable. (Rob gave me this book for Christmas)
And the embroidery patterns are sweet without being cutsie.
I'm tempted to say I will make a quilt - something fresh with lots of white, lots of bright colours (maybe turquoise and red) and some sort of circle design. I like the idea but I have never been good at long term projects.I saw this chair at the Prints Charming Market Day and fell in love with it. Something similar is definitely on my list of projects for 2011.
I have to admit I bought enough charm packs to cover a whole lounge suite!
Well, Madeleine and Rob have arrived home safely from their adventure. I can see the twinkle of the fireworks in Madeleine's eyes. I have just tucked her in to bed and it wont be long before all in this house are asleep. I hope to sleep through the coming of the New Year. Maybe it will set a precedent for the year to come - lots and lots of nights of unbroken sleep.
The week before Christmas is often an overly busy time for us. This year, it feels perfect. The weather is magnificent, the jobs list is being done and we are having fun along the way.
Will's Christmas stocking is completed:
The Christmas cake is baked. Every year Belinda Jeffery
saves the day with her recipe for a delicious last minute Christmas cake:
The last stitch has been completed on the handmade gifts:
There has been plenty of time for hanging around:
For catching up with friends:
And for jumping on the trampoline until your hair is full of static:
We've danced to Christmas music with Grandma:
And discovered new stories with a favourite Auntie:
For me, this is what Christmas is all about.
Amidst the whirlwind of Christmas preparations this week, I've learned a few things;
- When you have a 14 month old, Christmas decorating is never done. I put the decorations up; Martin takes them down….repeat… repeat…repeat…Who knew that a toddler could remove lights from a tree so quickly?
- Christmas music makes me happy.
- Watching my baby dance to Rocking Around the Christmas Tree makes me even happier.
- It’s impossible to put too many smarties and marshmallows on Christmas biscuits. It is, however, very possible to eat too many of them.
- There is always one more gift to make…it’s a bit like the Never-Ending Story.
- 5.30 am is the best time to sew.
- Queuing to have a photograph with Santa Claus isn’t fun, especially when you've queued for 45 minutes to see the only Santa in Sydney that doesn’t seem to like children. On the other hand, happening upon a dancing Santa in a local market who hands out heart shaped lolly-pops brings great joy.
- Coffee, no children, a good friend and a couple of hours away from Christmas hysteria is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
- Winning a prize from Sew Mama Sew's Giveaway Day is exciting - it's like Christmas has come a little bit early for this fabric junky. Thanks to Kat from Mumma's time to Create.
- Despite the the busy-ness of present making and giving, catching up with friends and family, the stress of cleaning and preparing and the general hysteria that is December, Christmas is still my favourite time of the year.
Merry Christmas to you - I hope that your festivities bring you joy and that you find time to unwind and enjoy good times with friends and family, a quiet glass of wine and (of course) some time to sew!
My alter ego, who lives in a parallel universe, has finished all her Christmas sewing, has her handmade gifts wrapped elegantly under her perfectly decorated tree, has a carefully designed, non-stressful plan for completing her Christmas cooking and has a sewing space that looks like this:
My reality is actually this:
This is an extensively cropped photograph. I am too embarrassed to show you a wider view.
As the deadline of Christmas approaches, every spare moment and probably quite a few moments that shouldn't actually be considered spare, are being channeled into trying to complete my Christmas sewing list. There are many consequences - we are eating a lot of left overs (who has time to cook?), our house looks like a bomb has gone off (who has time to clean?) and I am feeling very tired (who has time to sleep?).
In an attempt to protect my mental health and the mental health of my family over the next week, I hereby commit to stop sewing on Sunday 19th of December and not sew after 11pm on any night between now and then.
So, it's time to rationalise the sewing list. (Warning, if you will be receiving a gift from me this Christmas, please stop reading now)
The completed list:
- Madeleine's dress
- Pippa's dress
- Will's fabric blocks
- The family's Christmas Eve pyjama pants
- Niece's t shirt and skirt
- Nephew's softies
- Nephew's matchbox car bag
- 2 babushka doll cushions
- a knitted headband
The I think I can get these done list:
- Will's Christmas stocking
- Will's hat
- Drawstring bag for the softies
- Finish a laptop bag for Rob
- 2 tissue box covers
The I am sorry, I will have to make this for you another time list:
- Will's Quiet book (first birthday, perhaps)
- Madeleine's backpack (I'll aim for a 2011 return to school gift.)
- Pippa's little felt dolly (It will become a random Mummy loves you present.)
- Lizzy's dress ( It will become an unexpected surprise from a loving Aunt.)
Well, that's a weight off my shoulders. I'm off to bed to catch up on some much needed sleep!
I have been making bags like a crazy woman for the last couple of weeks all in the name of the Green Grocery Bag Challenge
. As you can see from the photos I've broadened the brief a little, but I'm fairly confident that Christmas 2010 will be paper-wrap free.Below are a selection of the bags. If you are on our gift giving list, don't look too closely - you might just spy your present's wrapping!
Lizzy was lucky enough to receive a brownie recipe as a Christmas gift from her friend Romola this week. We've made them twice already, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind if we shared the recipe with you. Super-simple to make, they're just as a good brownie should be, a little bit chewy in the middle, a little bit crunchy on top, a whole lot chocolatey right the way through, oh-so-moist, and not even a tiny bit greasy.
Pre-heat the oven to 170 C
In a bowl, mix 1 and 1/3 cups of sifted plain flour, 2 and 1/4 cups of sugar, 1 cup of cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and add 4 eggs and 250grams of melted butter (it's probably best to cool it so you don't scramble the eggs!) Process till smooth.
Pour the mix into a lined 20cm cake tin and bake for about 40 minutes.
I could suggest that you make them for friends and family as Christmas gifts, but instead I'm going to suggest you make a pan for yourself, brew yourself a pot of strong coffee, put your feet up and enjoy!
Today, I promised I would show you how you can help your child make a felt sunglasses holder as a gift they can give for Christmas.
So here is a picture another one to inspire you further:
This is a good project for a child who has done quite a few sewing cards and is ready for something more complicated. Obviously, the less sewing experience your child has had, the more help they will need. Felt is great for young hands to work with and creates a lovely finished product without having to worry about raw edges. Remember - preparation is the key. I will run you through the steps that I think are worth doing before you start with your child.
Let's start with a list of materials:
- felt - ideally 100% wool (it comes in such beautiful colours, will last for ever and won't pill) Main colour - 18x20cm, Contrast colour 9x9cm
- embroidery thread
- a water soluble marker or dress makers chalk - Children love water soluble markers. It is truly magical to watch that blue colour disappear when you dab on a little bit of water!
- pins and a needle
- sewing scissors
- a teeny tiny hole punch - mine measures about 1mm across (this is not essential but does create a nice finish)
- Choose a shape for your embellishment - I usually use cookie cutters for templates - stars, hearts, circles, a letter of the alphabet all work well. Cut one out of the contrast piece of felt.
- Fold your piece of main felt so you have a piece that is 18x10cm. Cut a gentle curve on the double on the bottom corner
- You will have 2 pieces that look like this:
- Grab your teeny tiny hole punch and your embellishment. Punch holes evenly around the edge a stitch width apart.
- Make the same holes on your main piece of felt, but only on half of the edge. Your child will only need a guide on the top part of the fabric as they will only be stitching from the front. It should look like this:
This next bit is the only fiddly part, so bare with me!
- Pin the embellishment firmly to the front of the sun glasses case
- Push a pin through one of the holes you have punched on the embellishment. Flip the felt over and where the pin exits, mark it with your water soluble marker. Do this for each punched hole.Your child will use this as a guide when they are using running stitch to attach the embellishment to the case.
- Don't remove the securing pins until the embellishment is stitched in place or your marks will not line up with the holes.
- If I have confused you, have a look at these pictures!! I promise you it is quick and easy.
Push the pin through the hole from the front.
Flip your felt over with the pin still inserted and mark where it exits with your water soluble marker.
Your work is done. Now let your child have a go!!!
- Thread an embroidery needle with 3 strands of embroidery thread. Double it over so your child will be sewing with 6 strands and tie a knot in the end.
- Get them to start by stitching on the embellishment. Use running stitch - in exactly the same way you would do a sewing card. Use the punched holes as markers on the front and the dots you have marked on the back as a guide for where to place the stitches. Help them to tie a knot once this stitching is complete.
- Fold your main piece of felt in half and pin securely
- Use whip stitch (also known as over and over stitch in our household) to stitch the case together. Knot your thread. Insert your needle so it comes out through the back layer and the knot is sandwiched between the two layers of felt. Bring the needle around to the front, put it into the first punched hole and then push it through both layers of fabric. Move onto your next hole, always stitching from the front:
Congratulations!! You are done.
I hope you and your child have fun and that the lucky receiver of this gift feels appropriately honoured!!
One last thought - you can use the same techniques to make a variety of different things - a Christmas stocking with an embellishment on it, a Christmas ornament or a little felt pillow for your child's favourite doll.
There's been way too much Bah Humbug in my corner of the world this week. Since our return from Hawaii, I've had the worst case of the Christmas blahs. You know the feeling - too much sewing to do, too many presents to think about, a Christmas menu to organise, decorations to put up, the guilts because I haven't really yet embraced Christmas craft with Lizzy. In reality, I think I have been reading way too much Martha Stewart.The strange thing is I love Christmas. The time with family, the carols and music, the weather, the food
and even the cricket are things that I look forward to every year. So right here, right now I am publicly committing (assuming of course that anyone out in cyberspace is reading this blog)
to a serious change in attitude. My plan of attack looks a little like this...
- I am going to get the advent calender out and organised. Who cares that it's already December 6th? Some things are better late than never.
- I am going to put away Martha Stewart. My kids, a gingerbread house and fondant icing don't mix and while Martha's Christmas tree may look beautiful, what's a family tree without that weirdo ornament that you made out of spaghetti and papier-mache when you were four?
- If I don't get all my bags made for the Green Grocery Bag Challenge, so be it. It doesn't mean that I'll resort to using paper - I'm sure the crafters in my life would love their gift wrapped in a piece of fabric and I know my super-stylish mother in law will be thrilled to receive her present wrapped in a beautiful scarf.
- Cheesy Christmas carols will be on my play list. There's nothing like a bit of Jingle Bell Rock to revive the Christmas spirit.
- I'm going to get real about the amount of sewing I can do between now and December 25. I know my mother would love a hand made gift. My 7 month old nephew, on the other hand, is not going to care if he doesn't receive a hand appliqued animal pillow. Sorry Will - they'll be other years, I promise
I'm feeling better already. It's so easy to get caught up in the petty niggles and stresses of life and forget the big picture. Christmas is about celebrating and honouring family. This year I'm going to work extra hard to make sure I don't forget it.
With beaches to explore...
new gardens to discover...
and beautiful things to see...
we all wanted to stay just a little bit longer!PS - The icing on our holiday cake?
I found fabric Nirvana in the Kapaia Stitchery.
One of the questions we regularly get asked at Sew Together is "Do you run sewing classes for children?" (The short answer to this question is "No, but we are thinking about it"!) There seems to be a real interest in teaching children to sew, even by mothers who are not confident at sewing themselves.
I think for some people it is about sharing something they find enjoyable with their children but for others it is about teaching children a useful skill for life. For me, I teach my children about sewing for both these reasons but most importantly because it is fun! I love having Madeleine on my lap as she feeds the fabric through the sewing machine to make a peasant top. She is pretty keen to operate the foot pedal at high speed too! I love seeing the pride that Pippa feels when she looks at the Christmas ornament she and I made together.Today, I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts about sewing with children from the very beginning. Next week I will show you how a child with a little bit of sewing experience and a little bit of help can make a great Christmas gift for their Dad or Grandparents - a sunglasses case
.Let's get started
.When sewing with children
- Start simple. Madeleine and Pippa both attend a Montessori school and it is there that I learnt the value of giving children a series of small achievable projects that continually build skills. For both my girls their sewing debut was at about 2 and consisted of a sewing card - a single straight line across a piece of cardboard made up of about 8 stitches. Tiny holes had been made by their teacher in the card and they were given a tapestry needle threaded with embroidery thread and shown how to push the needle though, turning the card from one side to the other. With time the sewing cards can become more complicated - circles, squares, hearts, even two shapes interlinked which can be sewn in different coloured threads. Madeleine has since moved on to more complex projects - she can competently sew on a button, make a fragrance bag and sew a simple hand stitched softie. Amanda Soule, in her book The Creative Family has a lovely first sewing project that a very young child can do. She suggests placing a coarse piece of fabric in an embroidery hoop and showing the child how they can do free form stitching pushing a tapestry needle back and forth through the fabric. Pippa's Christmas decoration is a variation of this project.
- Be Prepared. With any sewing project for a young child it is worth thinking it through carefully before you even suggest sewing as an activity to your child! Break the project down. Think about ways in which it can be simplified or preparations you can do beforehand to make the project more manageable. From personal experience, once the word sewing is mentioned to my children they want to start straight away. Frustration levels run high if they are waiting for me to trace off a template and cut out fabric.
- Let them use the good stuff! There is something very appealing about beautiful crafting materials, soft cottons in colourful designs, 100% wool felt and a rainbow of embroidery threads and knitting wool. I think children appreciate this as much as we do. I know it adds to the cost but show your children how to use these materials sensibly. Most projects that young children make don't require much fabric and if all goes well they will make something that you will want to keep forever.
- Let them use the real stuff! This is probably a little controversial but I think children need to know that pins and needles are sharp and hurt if they get stuck in your finger and that scissors can cause damage if not used with care. My children's Montessori teachers say that a child will not know that a glass is fragile and will break if you drop it, if they have only ever been given a plastic cup to drink from. I feel the same way about sewing equipment. Carefully supervised, my children have access to most of my sewing kit. (I draw the line at my rotary cutter and hot glue gun!!!)
- Be an inspiration to your children. Let your children see you sew and the pleasure it brings you. Let them see you learning a new skill, making mistakes and learning step by step. If I am sewing, my children want to sew. I find it works well if we have projects we can work on side by side.
So I'll finish with some inspiration for next week. This is the sunglasses case Madeleine made for her Dad last Christmas when she was 4 1/2.
She has also made them for all her Grandparents. Next Friday I'll show you how your children can be giving them as gifts this year, with a little bit of help from you!
PS. Have you seen all the softies for Mirabel? If you are in Melbourne go and check out the display in the window at Meet me at Mikes. Otherwise, check out the photos here