Tag Archives: craft

This and that.

So Mothers day has come and gone. It’s pretty low-key in this house but very happy and loving which is just the way I prefer it.

I had two mysterious homemade cards – Ida’s was full of her impenetrable writing which she importantly read out to me sitting on my chest at about 7am. It was full of have a loverleee day and I love my mumma but also a short discourse on woodlice and sausages. Zeph’s was in the shape of a butterfly, (that’s passed through a jet engine,) and although easier to read seemed to be congratulating me on having a son like Zeph. His logic had led him to the conclusion since his arrival had made me a mother it was in fact him who deserved recognition and thanks.

I genuinely fear for him, as a political career seems more and more likely.

I also got a pile of books and an opportunity to read some as all meal responsibility was removed from me for the day…(leftovers for lunch and a takeaway for tea – excellent kitchen action guys.)

During the course of a standard chaotic and haphazard sunday several things drifted through my mind, hasn’t the commercial emphasis on the day stepped up over recent years? Surely it puts lots of extra pressure on children missing a mum in their family set up and everyone who’s lost their mum – and all the mums mourning a child and the many women desperately trying to become mothers.

In the face of all this heavy emotion it seems painfully flippant that when Steve asked if I’d like to do anything for Mothers day the first thing that sprang to mind was some time on my own. Sans children for a few hours.

Oh the irony.

Part of my living in the moment plans include speaking my feelings more often and I feel reminded to do that – everyday and not just one a year.

I’m not sure either Zeph or Ida need encouragement to speak their feelings. To be honest at the end of every long day I wonder how it would be to hear a bit less of them .

In the usual attempt to beat back the madness we’ve been making stuff; cakes, 



They are the fault of this,

Bane of my life.

Mind, it’s a great book. We’ve got several different types and I’m always glad when they turn up in wrapping paper and generally – pleased in the theory of them.

My problem comes when I try to convince the kids they’re a starting off point to making something and that it doesn’t matter when, due to material differences or lack of skill on my part or, swinging the other way, over-enthusiasm in a certain area, means the finished result doesn’t look a lot like the picture.

It enrages them. They feel cheated and let down. It leads to rancour. As though we needed any more of that.

It’s also the school spring fair this weekend and being a bit early for seedlings for the plant stall we’ve made these plant pots instead. Ida helped me transplant our plants into them today and there is still compost everywhere. It was only as we finished I wondered why we hadn’t done it outside. Ah well.

The finished pots look very cheerful in the colours of sugared almonds. Here’s hoping someone shows up to buy them. The last one wasn’t hugely well attended. I’m always impressed by the teachers ability to keep forging on enthusiastically in the face of apathy. I’ve done my part in begging my Mum and Dad to bring the kids while I man a stall so they’ll probably account for a big part of the take being totally unable to withstand the pleading eyes of the kids.

Do you know I started writing this on Tuesday and it is now, although only barely ten minutes in, Saturday. What has happened to my umph?

In other breaking news I’m flexing my embracing change muscles by trying a new toothpaste.

It’s salty. And brownish red. Every morning it reminds me of a slug. To be honest it’s not going well. Toothpaste shouldn’t be salty – should it?

Make your own Indian Shadow puppets

We had a really satisfying Sunday. Zeph’s topic at school this term is India and making a Bollywood Movie. As well as the usual literacy and numeracy homework he has to research and hand in a piece of work once a week about some aspect of India. So far we’ve found out a lot about sitars and Ravi Shankar, looked through lots of recipe books, made a comic book about Ganesha and got a couple of books of folktales out from the library.

This is the kind of homework I prefer where he’s free to pick and follow any ideas he has. I think it’s really valuable in enabling him to learn how to pull down information for himself and am willing to help turn his ideas into reality. Although I’m resisting quite strongly the idea of cooking an Indian meal for everyone in his class. I found some recipes for Indian sweets and have suggested a boxful as an alternative. He’s thinking about it…

This week he suggested making our own Shadow Puppet theatre after reading about it in one of the books we borrowed. He did suggest it from the end of the bed at about 7am on Sunday morning so my first response wasn’t as enthusiastic as it might have been.

A bit of negotiation bought Steve and I a lie in as he took his sister downstairs for a first breakfast of cereal and cartoons and by the time we’d finished a more substantial second family breakfast I felt a lot more cheerful about the whole thing.

There is a rich and fantastic tradition of shadow puppetry in India which has lots of regional variations. The majority use the medium to tell stories rooted in religious traditions and the puppets are made from a variety of materials including tin and leather but are usually two-dimensional, often with the head and body as one fixed piece with jointed arms or legs. They’re often full size and always very intricate and highly decorated.

We used; A shoebox, greaseproof papera torchstiff black paperscissors, split pins, plasticine, lollysticks, sellotape and a tapestry needle.

First we cut the bottom of the shoebox out leaving about a 1cm rim. We then sellotaped a square of greaseproof paper over the bottom – trying to keep it taut as possible.


Then we drew out the shapes we wanted on the paper and cut them out.

Some of them had arms attached by splitpins so they could be moved.

We added perforations with the needle to give shape and definition and to add decoration.

Some of us made out own splinter theatre space for purely cat shows…

Then we stuck lollysticks onto the backs and pushed the ends into lumps of plasticine so they could stand up.

Here is Ganesha (mine) and Brahma (Zeph’s) on his lotus flower.

And lit up from behind with a torch. 

This is my favourite puppet though, the King Cobra that Zeph made. He put a split pin just where the hood begins so it can sway menacingly. I love the detail from his careful pinpricks.


Beautiful Things on a cold day

Brrrrrr – it is freezing here today! So much for a thrifty fuel bill winter… The kids are in the grip of coughs and colds and I’m in a truly miserable funk.


So here’s a picture of Mittens our slightly aloof cat.

She loves Steve best and really views the rest of us as impediments to her access to him. She’s not a huggy kind of cat but has been surprisingly tolerant of Ida, especially since she’s willing to share scraps of chicken and fish surreptitiously at the dinner table.

I think she has the most beautiful whiskers.

I’ve read a lot of other people floundering around in post New Year gloom which makes me feel less alone. Certain recent events have prompted a bit of navel gazing and self-analysis. Enough for me to book some appointments with my therapist.

The last few days of administering cuddles under duvets, putting Bagpuss and Totoro in the DVD player on demand, wiping noses and making endless rosehip syrup hot drinks has left plenty of time for introspection. Not always a bad thing and I feel though I’ve taken another step along a long road.

As usual plenty of Beautiful Things litter my path;

* It was MumandDad tea last night and we had a fish extravaganza – which included these very exciting razor clams which were in an irresistable paper bundle at the fish stall.

We could afford five which we cooked carefully like mussels and it turned out only Zeph and I liked them so we scoffed the lot! Huzzah!

He was charmed by the way they bubbled and hissed when we rinsed them and is now set on finding somewhere we can go and gather them ourselves. I find his interest and willingness to try new things really heartening. 

* All the coughing, wheezing and nose mopping aside there’s really nowhere nicer than on the sofa, between my darlings, under a cosy duvet, watching a bit of Studio Ghibli.

* I’m absorbed and pleased with working out some animal masks for a possible order. I have some fairs booked and am also building some stocks up for them. There is a pile of woolly felted purses slowly growing. Recently I felted a grey cashmere charity shop find and can’t resist stroking its luxurious smoothness every time I pass the pieces stacked by my sewingbox waiting to be transformed.  

* I noticed I was talking myself out of an opportunity lately. It was very I can’t-ish hidden under a sensible rationalisation. I want to stop internally running myself down – and it’s all too easy to slip back into the habit. Whilst not wishing to turn into a self-help cliché I really resolve to stop building my own barriers. Although this is balanced with recent events reminding me to keep my boundaries in place.

* Exhausting all this therapy mumbo- jumbo eh? Luckily snot and howled requests for hot drinks don’t let me wallow too long.

* On the walk to school this morning it was sooo cold my toes ached but  so glimmery- the whitebright sun dazzled us every step of the way. All my dusty corners feel illuminated. It is gloriously invigorating.

Do you like my snow?

Anyone who reads this even semi regularly may have noticed my recent itchy finger on the colour background. It’s because I love my snow SO much I want it to show to full advantage (which it does on a navy blue back but then you wouldn’t be about to read the ramblings…oh noes!)

I actually am thinking of last years whites outs rather fondly…nostalgia and all that. There’s something satisfying about weather that conforms to our storybook imaginings. Also I’d always rather be too cold than hot, I think this comes from being ‘nicely covered’ as Della with the fine figure at swimming says.

Zeph and I romped home triumphant from a very happy craft fair yesterday. I managed to resist spending my profit (except for some irresistible button earrings ) and to keep a lid on Z’s joyous spending (there was a pocket-money toy stall) Some really kind friends and family showed up in support and that was maybe the best thing although the relief of hard cash is also warming my mercenary heart.

Actually one of the best things was Zeph, in the apron my resourceful cousin dug out for him, trying out a few trader gestures. He had a really engaging way of pressing the cards with my contact details into people’s hands. I still marvel at the fact he seems to have better social skills than me, how has this happened? Whatever the process I’m deeply grateful. One of us has to be able to ask the price of things.

Small Things – yes that’s you too Clarkson.

Ah Clarkson eh? 

Haven’t people got their knickers in a twist about it all? Yes, he said an ignorant uniformed oafish thing. Is this not how he makes his money?

Personally I think he’s an arse. Just like I did when I got up in the morning yesterday. I am furious, enraged and calling for some kind of action, from the bloody government not an overpaid under-endowed lout in stonewashed denim.

Also if anyone caught me ranting about my list of first-against-the-wallers they might well be appalled. Of course I understand that the man has a media platform and hence a responsibility but I still think the people I’ve heard expending energy on the slow news day story should redirect it to the real badhats. I’m looking at you Cameron *grrrr*

This is how bad my living room looks at the moment. Not only am I trying to finish off a couple of orders and prepare for a craft fair on Sunday – I am also whipping up a few animal masks for Zeph’s Xmas show of Roald Dahl’s Jack and the Beanstalk.

It’s involved me rooting through my boxes of fabric for scraps that look like feathers for a seagull, rooster, eagle duck and two chickens or fur for a sheepdog, donkey, horse, pig or two goats.  *sigh*  At least I get to hide here at the keyboard picking pva glue off my fingers (really – it’s addictive!)

I actually love making costumes for the play. In fact all dressing up, facepainting, denbuilding activities are a big hit here. We struggle more with the tidying up, clean jumpers, washed dishes, clean kitchen floor end of things.

I bought a new washing up bowl this morning. It might not sound earth shattering but it is purple. I’m trying to feather the nest a little. A clean sink definitely helps my mood. Although I don’t always succeed with my new years resolution of washing up every night before bed I usually manage a bowl first thing in the morning chaos. I think  a purple bowl is going to please me on a daily basis. That’s a good return on a £2.00 investment. 

As always – it’s the small things. Which I accept may not be riveting reading… 

Another small pleasure today is the cigar box of buttons my G’ma slipped me over coffee yesterday.


Buttons. Reliable joy.

Frosty Morning

 Oh it’s a very cold day here today. This morning was more than usually hard due to a very patchy nights sleep. If it wasn’t Steve coughing and wheezing like some nightmarish germ-ridden steam-punk engine it was Ida who had a series of troubling dreams.

I’d sat up too late finishing some more wings so was pretty tired to begin with which meant I was even slower on the uptake in reassuring her about her dreams which seemed to centre around some sandwiches being stolen, a christmas tree walking around downstairs and The Number Taker (damn you numberjacks.)

Although I don’t love how upset she is I do love that her language skills have upped to the point were she can tell me what she’s wailing about. I also love when you can see where the dream has seeded from. I can’t identify the sandwich trauma but I do recognise the tree from Mog’s Christmas which is one of her current favourite picture books and who wouldn’t be unnerved by the Number Taker? In fact he got jumbled up in my dreams and I woke sweating at 5am from one that involved him, christmas shopping and not being able to open my eyes because they’d been sewn up. *shudder*

Getting in from a very cold walk to school has clearly triggered some kind of hibernating cooking instinct. As I write there’s a plum jam steamed pudding and lentil soup steaming and simmering  on the oven top. I might even put dumplings in the soup…

Steve even grudgingly agreed to put the heating on which means Ida and I don’t have to hang out round the sewing machine in coats.

 Last night Zeph helped me pack up these teacup pincushions. They’re now wrapped up in cellophane and looking very pretty piled on top of the piano. It helps ease the pain of breaking into my teacup collection. I can’t resist them in charity shops and jumble sales much to Steve’s disapproval. Finally the raggle-taggle collection under the bed has been put to a satisfying use.

They’re voting today in Egypt. I think of it hopefully. Thin ends of wedges, small steps on long journeys and all that. It’s my best BT of the day and I send optimism up into the air and blow it their way.

Trees and dreaming

I see this tree twice a day on the school run. On difficult days it lifts my heart.

I haven’t captured how beautiful it is. The leaves are delicate and the most intense burnished mottled scarlet. They glow against the grey morning skies, arranged with careless grace on the knobbled black branches. I stand underneath it and pause to look up for ten seconds. The angular symmetry reminds me of japanese silk paintings. I half expect to disturb a crane and see him flap away awkwardly. Instead it’s me who is tugged insistently back into the morning’s pell mell progress.

One of my main internal resolutions this year was to try to pay more attention to the moment and celebrate the beauty all around me, in all things. Feeding the white wolf to attempt to balance stuff out a little as I fear my gray one is the size of Godzilla.

I think it’s working. It’s been a tough year in many ways. Anyone who’s spent anytime in therapy will recognise the adage that you go in expecting to be fixed and you come out prepared to live fully in whatever broken shape you are.  This week, taking a deep cold breath under the trees crimson benediction, I felt as though I could feel every of inch of skin. I felt like you’d get a static shock if you touched me, strumming as I was with happiness. Momentary and fragmented –  it passed but I hug the memory of it to me.

Being creative and making things fills me with satisfaction. Selling some of them has given me a much needed feeling of accomplishment and purpose and, possibly, more importantly paid the gas bill.


Of course the house is pretty chaotic – fabric stewn everywhere, bits and bobs balanced on the piano, golden wings hung on a doorknob. Last night Steve suggested if I ripped the mouldy cupboards out of the strange unused room on the way to the kitchen I could use it as a space for all my bits. It’s a DIY project I’ve been dodging and I’ll admit this substantial carrot has got me eyeing the room speclatively.

Picking my way through the islands of discarded fabric around the table I imagine shelves of jamjars filled with interesting bits and shelves of stacked fabric. I find myself wasting gobbets of time on pinboard looking at other people’s organisation. As if I didn’t have plenty of ways to waste time already…

Not that dreaming is ever wasteful.


Making ends meet – important in sewing.

Recently I have been mostly crouched over my rickety sewing machine trying to create enough stock from things I already have to sell. The already have point is crucial as our cash flow problems are mounting in urgency.

The thing is, if your outgoings are always bigger than your income there’s only one direction you’re going to head in. The red. I still have the overdraft I had when I had a salary so we have room but eventually, they’ll want that stuff back and I can’t imagine where it’ll come from.

The fine balance between wage and childcare costs mean I need a really well paid job in school hours. Brief pause for hollow laugh. Another drawback being I am qualified for NOTHING. Well nothing well paid anyway.

A few years ago I’d of picked up  a few night shift at a nearby supermarket or something similar. No childcare costs, I’ve done restocking before and it’s okay and just a little would top up our coffers.  Now that seems pretty tricky thanks to the legacy of osteoarthritis my galloping Paget’s left.

Sooooo. A few long nights looking at the ceiling considering my skill base has prompted me to look more speculatively at the Etsy and Folksy sites I spend far too long wandering. At the moment it’s only the seed of an idea but a few christmas craft fairs maybe with my very good and far more professionally handy friend Hattie also bolstering the table is actually  achievable.

Mooching around assessing my craft stocks I played around with some angel wings I made for Ida for her first Christmas.

 At the time loads of people asked where I got them but I was to befuddled and enmeshed in the grip of PND to actually do anything about it.  While she was out a few days ago modeling the more recent prototype someone asked about them and made an order for some…

Which means I’m either hunched over the sewing machine cursing wildly, chasing Ida to retrieve buttons or pathetically seeking reassurance from Steve, “Would people buy this?” Which almost always ends in tears as he usually says “Well, I wouldn’t.”

Things have improved since I sat him down and explained I’m not asking him about his own shopping tastes which don’t run to gold angel wings, hairslides and patchwork bags but seeking reassurance and bolstering.

There are lots of beautiful things to see along the way. Some of my favourites are the dark nights which make our home and fairylights seem very safe and cosy. I love frosty mornings and the sky being streaked with pink, orange and red as we brush teeth and scramble into our clothes. I love the smell of quinces in our house and the storing up of jams and jellies. I love Ida’s new enthusiasm for dressing in the morning and her creative approach to wardrobe selections. I love seeing her in her rain gear leaping through puddles. I even love my Dad for miraculously mending her beloved umbrella despite the traumas of being out and about with a truculent toddler armed with what is essentially a collection of spikes. 

The colder weather perfectly suits the economical soups and stews I concoct from the storecupboard. Silky pearl barley is very soothing and sustaining.  Ida is in the full grip of inventive play. We move through the day as crocodiles, aliens, cooks and pirates. As I cook and sew I listen to her narrating exciting games to herself. I am heartened by her happy contented chuntering and offer monster/mummy crocodile/customer/ elaborate meal eater support as needed. I know I am rich in many things although a bit more filthy lucre wouldn’t go amiss.


Something has to be done with the leaves stacking up around here…

 This satisfying hour of sticking used up a few…

 I’m loving Ida’s intense concentration here – there was a certain amount of bossing from Zeph about correct leaf positioning and the markings of particular owls but he eventually accepted leaf medium restrictions.

 It really required very little effort on my part and wasn’t that messy… miraculous! I’m on this side of the table getting on with some sticking of my own in my feeble efforts to build up a bit of craft fair stock. It’s only looking at these pictures that I notice how out of hand the tottering piles of “stuff” on the piano is getting.

We have a lot of “stuff” here you know. Now including a happy array of owl leaf colleges.

 Just what I needed…

Patchwork curtains

Huzzah – curtains. These are deeply satisfying for several reasons – the first being it’s been a while since I managed to make something more than tea or a bit of a mess. Another is that they’re all from my scrapbag so genuinely pieced together from bits and bobs to make a new glorious whole. Finally, Zeph loves them, as does Ida – they love to draw them in the day and look at them glowing like a cross between stained glass and boiled sweets.  

 It doesn’t matter that it’s all a bit wonky and that I used different bits of cotton to back them…  Look I freely display my sloppiness… 

A lovely friend who makes “proper” patchwork hisses at the centres of my pinwheels that do not meet and the lack of colour plans or balance. It’s not what she calls patchwork. It makes me giggle because I see what she means but also it’s the very definition of patchwork in that I took some patches and made them work…

I’ve got two big bits of foam that I salvaged from the old bed and I’m making covers for them in the same way to make floor cushions. Bunkbed summer seems to have worked out okay. Ida’s not actually sleeping in her bed yet but is very pleased at the prospect and Zeph is busy rearranging his treasures on the new shelves and spaces.

All my fingers and my relationship with Steve survived the construction process which, frankly, is a miracle worth celebrating. Resting on my loins slightly I try to avoid looking at the mouldy cupboards that need crow bar-ing out in the kitchen…

Lots of BT’s at the moment – having Zeph home after a week away – although he’s yearning a little for country living. Right now I’m drinking a tall glass of pink grapefruit juice over ice. I have lots of ice. It’s very hot and ice is free. I keep making more in my two old battered trays and fill up old margarine tubs with clinking blocks ready to lavishly chill my drinks. Getting home after the long sweaty bus journey to fetch Zeph from his art workshop this week we all rush to the bathroom for baths and showers. Ida splashes for a long time in a deep cold bath while I sit on the floor in the breeze from the open window and read a book. We can hear Zeph singing in his bedroom, checking on him I find him lying on his back with his legs up against the wall reading a book. I have one of those sudden rush memories of my childhood, like a jolt in the arm. We have bread and cheese for tea with the reddest, ripest tomatoes ever, they smell of  green vines and summer.