Monday, 30 June 2014

Vintage Tea Party

Ahhh it is done. We managed to pull off a 'very important because I am in double figures' party with just 3 grown ups with a teething newborn to juggle between us! Hurray! And we have one happy 10 year old. 
Holly wanted a vintage tea party. I was grateful for this theme. Elijah would like Lego... in 3 weeks time.  

Inspired by the posh ladies in Pippi Longstocking Holly and I wore big hats. Mine is less frilly and i can hopefully wear it again during our 'scorching hot summer'. Holly's was from an ebay shop. We had a game on arrival called the Posh Ladies Name game. Each girl had to pick up a book, close their eyes, select and page and a word at random and then pick an appropriate ending from the list on the instructions. They did the same again (because double barrel names have an air of extra poshness) So you select the words 'what' and 'sock' and you become Mrs Whatingham-Sockley don't-you-know. I framed up these little mini frames I found in hobbycraft with their real initials in the corner (which we used to label their activities, party bags etc) and wrote their posh lady name on their badge for the day.

We always run out of time for games but we do love a good treasure hunt. I downloaded a font called zooland from and used it just as it was in capitals to write out a message. So I typed out my message in 'english' and then selected and changed the font to a load of woodland animals. I printed out another copy and Holly printed the alphabet on small bits of card which we stuck the corresponding animal to the back of and I hid these around the house. The girls had a few minutes to run and find the letters and then set to breaking the code which led them to find the treasure. The treasure was a voucher for some dried flowers and poppy seeds from the 'gift shop' (for an activity later) and blott rubbers and rainbow looms in little packs (and the code included the disclaimer that it wasn't a very vintage prize!) 
 There were 10 girls so we split into 2 groups to do some craft. The girls made 'vintage head bands' in the lounge and soaps in the garden under the gazebo. 
For the headbands we provided them with a few sizes of paper flowers, some buttons in ivory and a few pastel shades, scraps of pastel and ivory ribbon, a few gems and gave each of them hair band. I got all these bits and pieces from hobbycraft or ebay and the hair bands were already covered in an ivory ribbon and I bought as a set of 12. Some of the flowers had twisty stems so they could wind them to secure them and some bits needed gluing on so Beth was on duty with a glue gun.
 Soap making is one of my favorite kids activities as it is so incredibly easy. Having had so many disasters with candy melts, sweets and foody items, even in silicone, I was scared when I first tried this but its super easy. I'll do a separate post about what we did as we've even been busy with a couple of other soapy projects since the party. The girls used their dried flowers and poppy seed vouchers to choose the bits of texture to add in and I had a range of colours and essential oils from BeeBeautiful for them to choose from. These little baking molds are from Lakeland and are the perfect size. The best bit is that they are all separate so I didn't have to have all the girls crowding round one mold. The soaps set in about 20 mins (even quicker if you are sitting under a gazebo in the rain) so I had some little cellophane bags ready to pop them into to go into party bags and I get to keep hold of all the molds. 

I made these giant flowers last year for the Oz party as huge poppies. They are a faff and they fall down when you try to make a field of poppies outside... but inside, where they stay upright, they are fun. We keep them in the loft so I ripped the red poppy heads off and replaced them with these big white tissue paper pom poms which I had dipped the edges into a big bowl full of watery pink paint and left to dry on lots of layers of newspaper.  We had fun doing a silly photoshoot here and I'm getting these printed off quick-smart for thank you cards so that each of the girls can have a copy of theirs.
Food: This was a good theme for me. I normally go overboard on food and make 3 sandwiches per person as well as 3 other savory options incase they don't like anything and 2 of each bun, incase someone takes 2 of one kind and someone else doesn't get one. I have leared my lesson from 10 years of having 17 plates of leftovers. The food theme was simple so I stuck with 4 types of sandwiches (white bread with the crusts cut off which my children couldn't believe) salad veggies, mini bread sticks, a bag of skips and some mini pork pies and scotch eggs. For puddings we made classic iced buns with a cherry on top, scones with jam and cream and some fondant fancies (no, Mary Berry, I did not make these - just these were Mr Kipling) Drinks were lemonade and pink lemonade in party bottles with paper straws and hot chocolates served by my 7 year old handsome waiter from tea pots.
The cake always has to be a surprise from Holly  - she never wants to see it before the party which is incredibly awkward - cakes are big things to hide! She saw it the night before covered in plain frosting and thought that was it and was a little underwhelmed but by the morning it was covered in its ruffles and she got to cut into it at the party table to find out what colour I'd managed to make the cakes go inside - which was also news to me as I really had no way of knowing it the colurs had worked!  

Well we obviously needed peonies. Our peonies haven't grown this year. Really sad face. Still, we had fun decorating with the theme 'pretty'.

Party Bags:
The girls were given 'gift vouchers' by their plates to use at the  'gift shop' which was the good old ikea expedit shelves with different items spread through the different sections. I printed of what I expect is a fairly unrealistic vintage price-list. I have no idea if a shilling would buy you a bag of sweets or 100 acres of land... but I'm sure non of the girls did either. Most of the gift bags were homemade. I bought the bon bons and the pencils from Sainsburys and the bags from amazon but I got my children involved in creating the things to go inside. We make hair slides with cobochons and supplies from etsy, bath bombs, which I will post about another day and coconut mice with coconut, condensed milk and icing sugar. 

Ahhh...and finally the invitations... which were actually first, not finally, or we would have had no guests... These were made with paper and glue for the background image which I photographed, printed and added printed dates to. I stuck this onto a backing piece of card and cut a slit into the top of the tea cup. The names were printed with stamps on tags with the detail written on the back which were then tucked into the tea cup. 
Ahhh...talking of a cup of tea...
Thanks for reading, and well done if you've actually made it to the end of a crazy long post!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Being Soft (a post about cushions)

A soppy aside: We parked the car this morning for our family church meeting which was taking place in a school building. The place we found a car space happened to be on the corner of the road Joel and I rented a house on when we first moved back to Sheffield. It was 6 months after we got married and we were expecting Holly by then. I explained this to the children and on the way home we did a drive by of this house, where Holly was born into and lived until 11 months old, and then of the 2nd house she lived in until she was 23 months old (and Elijah until he was an 8 month old bump). Sitting outside the houses and trying to describe the insides and the things we did there made me so emotional. I am so sentimental. We sat for so long outside the second house, explaining the little path way was where Holly took her first few steps, and me describing exactly what each room was like, that 2 ladies appeared looking a bit worried about the hovering car outside. I almost went to explain and see if we could come in - but landing unexpectedly with 3 children and a hefty car seat was probably a bit much for a sunday lunch time. It is quite fitting then, as I can't keep all the places we have been and the homes we have lived in stored in boxes in the loft, that I have been spending the weekend making cushions from some of the memories we can keep! 
I mentioned in my previous post when making Willow's dress that I wanted to seek out bits of fabric that meant something - or that have belonged to us. I have a stash of bits of fabric for this very purpose. 
This week I've been redecorating the lounge. As there is no real budget to do this I have been doing bits and pieces a a time and slowly working my way round and seeing what I can upcycle and alter. Before decorating this whole room was quite dark. I has been our 'cosy space' and has basically been decorated for Christmas time. As it's summer now I don't want a Christmassy lounge so I'm brightening it up (and will probably want my old one back in a few months time!) So new cushions to replace the old dark ones seemed an obvious and cheap way to add in the bits of colour. 

I did buy a couple of small feather cushion inserts from John Lewis this week. I have too many polyester ones that lose their shape and though I am making new covers for those, I plan to slowly replace them with ones that are actually square and cushiony. Cushion covers are fairly easy to make. My method is to cut a square and a rectangle. (same size as the square but longer.) The rectangle one will be the front. The longer bit will fold around the bottom. Iron the pieces to make them flat and easier to sew and fold the excess from the rectangle back on itself. Hem the bottom of the square. Sew the remaining 3 sides together including the folded back pieces. You have a pillowcase style cushion cover now. You can sew in buttons and a button hole, or tying ribbons to make the bottom neater and prettier, or you can leave it without. Inserting a zip is also fairly easy - but can be a little fiddly and adds on a few extra quid and a trip to a haberdashery (which doesn't work if you are on a spontaneous sewing spree with things out of the cupboard!) 

I've used some left over fabric here from last summer when we made tops at one of Holly's sleepovers. The yellow is the same fabric as Willow's dress and I have some more to make that have been table covers and decorations at some of our birthday parties. The bird cushion however is made from one of Holly's old T shirts. 
She got a big sharpie ink stain on this one so it hit the cupboard a little earlier than it should have done. However this one has memories as we had identical ones. Here is Holly's 7-8 top and I had the same in an age 13. Sometimes we like to dress the same. It's allowed. She won't always want to do things like that so while she does I should oblige and enjoy finding pretty girlie things in the biggest kids sizes. 
So, I simply turned this T shirt inside out and sewed the top 3 sides of a square. I applied the same principle with the rectangle bottom and, once I'd checked it fitted, chopped off the top section (the neck and sleeves) so that it sits neater to the cushion. Voila... a pretty cushion with a little part of our family story.

These are some clothes I already have plans for even though theyre not done with yet. I just know I have to somehow make double use of these patterns and designs.  
Baby T-Shirts from Zara-from last years sale. £2/3 each and gorgeous fabric design on babygrow Little Bird by Jooles Oliver for Mothercare - a gift from my best friend.

Clown design with stripy yellow and white back and 2 very cute buttons  - Mamas and Papas sale

Elijah's monster T-shirt from Boden and stripy knit from John Lewis
 Obviously the baby T shirts will be too small to sew in the same way I did the bird cushion but will be perfect for cutting the designs from and sewing them onto either a plain or patterned fabric. I also have plans for some text cushions on white... but I'm all sewed out for today!

Project Dolly - Willow is born.

Say hello to Willow.
She is just about complete. I am getting somewhat addicted to adding layers of hair. I want it thicker. I have enough practice at hair extensions that I used to clip in a few years ago and can apply this skill to wool dolly hair too so Willow will be fit to appear in Desperate Housewives if they ever make another series.
I have elaborated on her eyes. From plain black circles I have added in some eyelashes, some blue thread loosely around the outer sides, a small triangle of white in the corners and a small fleck in the middle of her pupils which the children and I agreed brought her to life strait away.
I chopped out half of her mouth. It needs a little wearing in after 'mouth reduction surgery' but I think it gives her a cheeky charm and makes her look a little more mischievous.
The hair was the biggest amount of work. As the material underneath the existing hair was black I knew I had to cover it well so I took three long strands of wool and sewed in a plait in rows.

I alternated plaiting and then stitching it into the head so that I was not working with too long a bit of wool at any time. Once this was done and all sewn along it made a secure and easy base to start sewing the strands of hair into. I used the plait I did right down the centre to thread one strand through, knot and divide to make a centre parting.
Secured with a simple knot

 I took this parting through to the crown of the head where I started the first of the horizonal rows of hair.
For this section I doubled up the length of wool and threaded the middle through, taking the ends through the loop and pulling it to sit flat. I repeated this on a few different rows to thicken the hair and this is how I'll continue to add thickness.
I'm not yet sure if I'll need to secure the ends of her hair. I guess some sort of varnish, perhaps clear nail varnish or wax, to stop ends fraying but for now I'm going to leave it and see if they will stay together. I know either of those options will not be safe for a tiny person to play with.

For the last step I made her a little dress. I was desperate to get her out of pink. I did want her in a bright spring green and have a dress of mine in mind which has a big hole in it and may be in the recycling pile soon. I am so UBER keen on reusing old clothes for craft projects. When my children have a favorite t-shirt or dress etc and wear it to death it's often not in good enough condition to pass on. I also don't really like passing on those favorites that are then looking tatty as the people you pass them to never know how loved those things have really been and simply will not like them. Instead I pass on the hardly worn things - with few memories attached and keep the faves for making new things. (such as cushion covers which I am about to post about) So Willow will soon be wearing my old favorite green dress but for now she is modelling a lovely yellow maxi made from some leftover fabric I had from making summer tops with Holly and her friend Maisie when they had a sleepover last year (and went out the next day in matching outfits) I made this in 3 mins max - it was very simple! I held her to the fabric and cut out a rectangle a little wider than her and double (plus a bit) her length from shoulders down. in the centre I cut in a cross shape and then sewed that as a diamond shape. (a little bigger than the picture shows and one side deeper than the other) I then (colourful sides together) sewed down the sides, leaving the top open for the arms and the hemmed the bottom and the arm holes. I used the diamond shape to slot it over her head. The front looks like a wide v shape and the back is a much deeper V (the hussy!) which means I didn't need to add any alternative way for her to get in and out of the dress- the diamond is big enough to fit her head through. I do not need to faff around with buttons or zips! I also made this a maxi as she has pink and black stripy legs. (and who doesn't love a maxi?!)

So we love Willow. Holly is now requesting that I make another one for her. I may order 10 plain doll bodies and get a bit creative. Elijah keeps giving her new hair dos while he watches the world cup and, most importantly, Niema really likes her. There are 3 toys that really make her smile; a happy caterpillar, a little red cow and (my) Willow. This makes me a happy mummy.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Party Time

Its that time of year again. Birthday season. On Wednesday I turn 35 - actually very grown up. Then a number of sleeps later Holly becomes the big 'ONE-ZERO' - I should know exactly how many sleeps - we have had birthday countdown written on the blackboard for enough months now. Then, just less than a month later, Elijah is 8. I feel quite relieved that I have ridiculous party planning issues and that I ordered things for Holly's party last October. This sort of silliness is really quite useful when you have 2 parties coming up fast and an 8 week old baby... plus the the children (and parents) coming expect you to have something exciting up your sleeve. I'm not sure I will have this year... which I know the parents will get - the children I'm not so sure about! 
This year I have the assistance of my prodigy Holly. She's decided that her 10th is a very important birthday and has been far more opinionated about how this party should go, including the theme, the guest list, the decor. She has decided to invite a select few (normally we have all the girls in the class plus a few extras. I feel guilty about this culling - they all ask her all year round what her party will be and can they please come - but she wants to do things smaller this year and I guess she could blame it on the baby...) The theme? She wants a Vintage Tea Party. Well, could a theme be easier??! This is good timing as I'm pretty sure I would be stretched if I needed to find time to create a yellow brick road or giant flowers again to trail through the house and create a room of green, or a ceiling of playing cards, or 18 hot air balloons. A Vintage Tea Party surely just requires a small bit of space, a table and some cups and saucers, and a few flowery bits here and there - and most homes these days possess a fair few bits of shabby chic 'this and thats' unless they have been somewhere else for the past ten years. Plus, it sounds civilised. So yes, I can remain calm on this one... and then gear up for how to create a LEGO world for the 22nd July. (Do 8 year old boys really not like vintage tea parties too??!)

Today we made a start on the party bags. I've not entirely planned these out yet but I'm sure they will be smaller than last years hot air balloons. As always, I'm keeping to to my strict party bag values. I hate the tack that is just destined for the bin. Either it should be useful to them or at least useful to me.  (I don't mind one bit if last years hot air balloons went in the bin when they got home - they created a good decoration and were fun for the children to make so they served a purpose and Holly has hers hanging next to her bed in her newly decorated room) So this year I'm planning on 4 things; coconut mice, bon bons in a stripy candy bag, a rose shaped lavender bath bomb and some lilac and purple hair grips. We are making all but the bon bons. My nearly-ten-year-old and I are going to have a busy and creative next few days. I didn't realise it would be so exciting to receive an email telling me my Epsom Salt has been dispatched!

(I've never ever made a bath bomb before - are they easy???)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Project Dolly

I finally have some of my creative urges back. Perhaps it is because I now have a wriggly 7 week old baby who is not a fan of being put down anywhere that I suddenly have a strong desire to paint, create and sew things?! I do love a challenge. Currently I'm painting and decorating Holly and Elijah's room when I have a spare few minutes and I've now thrown in another ball to juggle - customising Niema's 'Perfect Rag Doll' myself. I had seen a set of plain, 'blank canvas' dolls on Etsy which we just a doll shape with no face, hair, clothes etc but felt too scared at the concept of starting from (almost) scratch on something that HAD to be special - plus there were 10 of them and I wasn't looking for a new hobby. (I just may have changed my mind about that now and am likely to have 500 dolls in varying neon hair shades all around the house by the end of the month!?) 

In the process of the bedroom clear out Holly decided to part with lots of her teddys and cuddly toys. I was surprised she managed it but apparently 'approaching 10' is a VERY grown up age (and I think she is making way for a mobile phone and a tablet that she will NOT be getting - sorry Holly) 

In the charity bag pile lay her little nameless dolly. It was one Elijah and I picked up for her from Paperchase and had just unfortunately never become a very special friend. I like her...but she'd just not very 'magical' perhaps. So my choice was either to pack her off for charity collection and then order a special dolly from far away and for lots of pounds for Niema... or I could have a go at a bit of a makeover, some cosmetic surgery, a hair transplant and a new outfit? The second one please!! Yay!

She's half done. I'm loving sewing her new hair. I'm wondering if I'm a bad person - I work in self esteem and I'm sewing false eyelashes onto a doll and giving her long blonde hair?! It's not intentional at all... but I picked up a dirty blonde-brown that I couldn't find on any of the dolls for sale because its the colour I expect Niema's hair to be (based on mine and Holly's) and it just HAS to be long and hippy hair if she is to live in our house. Its just the style we do - low maintenance and often tangled. (Plus I'd just spent too much at Meadowhall and the blonder wool was £2 vs the first darker brown one was £4- doesn't make that much of a dent in my spend but every little helps?!) 

I'm trying to give her face more character. I think she missed out on being Holly's favorite because she maybe looks a bit TOO nice... maybe as though she doesn't ever have any interesting ideas or sneaky plans... and that will never do. It is very important for a little girl to have someone to blame a few mishaps on... is it not? None of those things could ever be blamed on a dolly with such a plain face. I would just not believe it was her doing.

So her cheeks are added, her eyelashes sewn on (there were none before), and the hair, which is half done is going to be lovely and thick and not like those dolls from the shops where they are bald if you take their bows out! I did google to find out how to do hair but it looked to complicated to read so I've made this up as we've gone along. I'm quite pleased with my method so I will write about it in another post in detail. 
Next stage is to unpick some of the mouth - she's too simple. I'm thinking of adding some eye colour and then we will find something special to make her a new outfit for the finishing touches! Am I too old to make one to keep for myself???