31 Jan 2011

my crafty little devils

My girls (aged 7 and 4) have had a lovely time after school today.
They have made a little house each for their Zhu Zhu pets.
These started life as washing powder boxes, that I glued plain white paper to.
I cut an arch in the front of each box, and the girls did the rest.

They drew tiles on the roof, bricks on the walls, little windows, and even a plant pot on the windowsill. Then after the Zhu Zhus moved in, they realised they could stack them into a block of flats :)
And if you wonder what they are staring at so intently...
...it's the tissue box and bubble wrap TV that my youngest girl made at nursery this morning!

25 Jan 2011

Sewing adventures with a slippery sleeping bag

Well, I've had a very productive night :)

I dipped my toe in at the shallow end first, by sewing another simple sleeping bag from felt for the other Zhu Zhu Hamster!

Then I jumped in at the deep end, and attempted to line one of those horrible slippery nylon sleeping bags with brushed cotton (a human size sleeping bag this time).

I briefly considered making a whole new sleeping bag. Then I realised it would involve a really big zip, and zips frighten the bejesus out of me. So I gave myself a big slap, and decided to line the one we have with something nice and soft.

This is unknown territory for me. I can only just sew a straight line through 2 layers of thin cotton that have been pinned, so tackling 2 layers of slippery nylon, a layer of wadding and a thick cotton sheet was a bit worrying.

But the sleeping bag was unusable in its current state, and I was about to buy a new one, so there was nothing to lose in trying to make do and mend this one (I’ve become a bit of an over-analyser, in case you hadn’t noticed)...

And if I do say so myself, it came out much better than I expected. A bit wobbly sometimes on the old zigzag stitch, but not enough for me to throw it away and cry :) So now it's back in use on my oldest girl's bed, since they all went mad on sleeping bags when we camped in the back garden last year. And she said it's "all cuddly", so that's good enough for me.

I wonder if I will be blogging in 2012 about actually making something on my intimidating machine?

22 Jan 2011

Ballet School Mummies

Ballet Mums are a funny bunch... most are exactly what you would expect: pushy middle class mummies, who roar into the carpark in 4x4s, 5 minutes late, talking on their iPhone, rushing their older kids about, and completely ignoring the younger ones in tow.

Said younger ones often have a huge wet nappy bulging inside their pumpkin patch jeans (I rarely see a changing bag). I won't be crass enough to tell you what these children are called, but I'm sure you can imagine. Their behaviour is invariably atrocious, and they are only spoken to when Mummy wants to tell them something for the benefit of other Mummies listening in. These things usually go along the lines of "Oh I hope Daddy remembers the parsley and dill on his way home from his meeting". Now I know this sounds like a raging stereotype, but I assure you, I have genuinely heard those very words in a community centre...

The cloud of designer perfume in this community centre today is quite overwhelming. I can pick out Angel, Britney Spears, and possibly Christian Dior today. I've heard at least one hair appointment and 2 nail extension appointments being made/ discussed, a delivery of a £600 buggy, a holiday to Egypt, and a phone call to the builders to check progress on an extension.

As I'm typing this, a 2 year old has been threatened that if she doesn't stop kicking her mum, she won't be going to Spanish lessons tomorrow, which is Saturday. (She doesn’t stop kicking her: maybe she doesn’t fancy Spanish on a Saturday morning?)

So I sit here in the waiting area, typing this on my HTC Desire HD (much better than the iPhone I had last year). I'm glad I decided to wear Christian Dior perfume today (one squirt first thing in the morning - didn't bathe in it). It's fragrance is uplifting, and it isn't a very popular one because I don't follow trends in perfume. I like what I like.

My other daughter who is waiting for her lesson to start, is playing an educational game on her Nintendo DS, and asking what we are having for dinner. Most people where we live Up North call it tea, but I have always made an effort to teach them to say lunch and dinner. If we were having chicken casserole that I had made earlier in the slow cooker, I would gladly tell her. But I've had a busy day, and prepared nothing, so knowing in my heart it is likely to be beans on toast or KFC, I say "I haven't decided yet, we might go out for dinner if Daddy finishes his meeting in time"

Oh God, I'm one of them aren't I?

(Well, in some ways at least. I don't consider myself middle class, I always have a well packed changing bag with me, I never ignore my children, and we drive a Ford Galaxy - families of 6 don't have many transport options!)

18 Jan 2011

gumball invasion

I have just spent 3 hours drawing. It's the first drawing I've done so far this year, since I hurt my arm in a car accident before Christmas.

It's hard to describe, but I feel like I've got something off my chest: like sharing a secret. Maybe the act of creating art again is therapeutic. I rediscovered a long forgotten obsession with my gumball invasion drawings from my degree work. As soon as I picked up the pen, it just flowed out! Are they going to take over the world, or just my brain?

The drawings I did for my degree were huge, and each one took a few weeks, so I wasn't sure how they would work in a smaller format. I have decided to do some ACEOs, to get back into drawing, so I can finish a piece in one day, and not have half done bits hanging around, staring at me!

The ACEOs I have collected and swapped are an eclectic mix, so I might put a few of mine on Folksy if I'm happy with them, although I don't know if they will speak to anyone enough for them to part with hard earned cash for them...

I have only ever drawn for the sake of drawing, and never offered any of my drawings for sale (even in my degree show), so I'm really nervous about the reaction they will get. It's like opening your brain and letting people look in and tell you what they think. I'm feeling vulnerable and exposed right now, and half of me is thinking I might just hide them somewhere safe!

Here's a bit of the one I finished lastnight...

14 Jan 2011

aah that's better...

I have treated myself to a nice bit of jewellery making this week.

This was the first craft I ever tried, and I made jewellery for myself, friends and family.
That was when I was 15 (20 years ago *ahem*) and I loved my hobby.
Me and my best mate Charlie used to go mental when the new bead catalogue arrived and be on the phone for hours talking through it page by page and writing lists!

I used to spend all my pocket money and part time wages on Janet Coles beads (remember her?) - I bet she took early retirement thanks to us :)

My Mum got loads of compliments when she wore my jewellery, and she was my best saleswoman ever (still is - thanks Mum). I started to make things to sell, and built up a nice pot of spending money for myself over the summer holidays after my GCSEs.

Aah, life was so simple back then: no bills; no responsibilities; all the time in the world; perfect eyesight!

So now I'm off supply shopping, and I will definitely be treating myself to more jewellery making from now on. It was so enjoyable and relaxing - much better than "bloody crochet" :)

9 Jan 2011

I thought craft was supposed to be relaxing...

Which is never a good start to a blog, but a fair warning of the moaning to come...
I have had the most frustrating crafting week ever!

If you follow me @maytreelane on twitter, you will be painfully aware of my crochet attempts of the last week: lots of swearing and teeth blowing, officially renaming crochet to "bloody crochet", followed by a tantrum and storming off to bed. Not a girl to be defeated so easily, I went back for more, tail between my legs, yarn in knots and tatters. Armed with Kirstie Allsop's Homemade Home book (thanks mum) and the internet, I set out to learn double crochet (or dc. or something else if you are American - just to confuse me).

I can do a mean foundation chain (well who can't?) but the instructions for double crochet in the book had me baffled. I seemed to be missing out a vital step, and the diagram didn't show me exactly which "space between the chains" I was aiming for. So I turned to eHow and Youtube, and found 6 million (almost) tutorial videos.

Some of these had super slow motion sections (for the crochetically challenged like me), and I sussed it straight away. This has left me reeling, as I am a devout book reader, and believe anything in the world worth knowing can be learned from a book. So now I have had to admit that the videos won hands down, and I picked it up much easier (don't get me wrong, my attempt was technically correct but bloody ugly and uneven).

All of this prompted my husband (who sat quietly in the corner, racing his pixel car) to dare to say "I thought craft was supposed to be relaxing"...

7 Jan 2011

zhu zhu hamsters

Oh yes - we are now the proud grandparents of 2 zhu zhu hamsters. One has a boat and dock, and the other has a car and garage. They whizz and chirp around, and I have to admit they are very cute, and not as annoying as I expected!

I have made simple little felt sleeping bags for them (needed sewing machine practice), and my 4 & 6 year olds were very impressed. That's the kind of audience I like when I'm learning a new craft: one that is easily pleased, and influenced by snacks :)

Nana wants to know when I am going to make them some clothes. Ahem, maybe a bit more sewing machine practice first...

4 Jan 2011

Oh brother I love my new sewing machine!

I got a sewing machine for christmas-yay!
I've wanted one for ages, but was scared to buy one myself in case I never got chance to use it and it would be a waste of money. But my lovely hubby got me one, and I've even been brave enough to get it out and have a go.

OK, so maybe I just hemmed a pair of annoying curtains for the boy's room, but I gotta start somewhere, right?

The problem now, is that it's at the back of my desk: just sitting there, looking at me, saying use me you lazy mare...

Well, a very inquisitive toddler and all the school runs etc means it isn't coming out in the daylight hours, so that just leaves after bedtime, when hubby gets in from work. But I still don't seem to have found the time to have a proper play with it.

And if I'm honest with myself (and you) I think I can admit I'm a bit scared of it! I'm scared I will never sew a straight line, or figure out how to thread it, or that everything will unravel when I don't remember the reinforcing stitch at the ends...oh the list of panics goes on!

With a needle and thread I can just sit quietly and get on with it, and if it goes a bit wrong (it never does) I can quietly unpick it while nobody's looking. But with this shiny beautiful new gadget, I feel under pressure to whizz up amazing things in 5 minutes. Where does this stress come from? Who is watching me? I feel like I need to justify the money he spent on it, by producing everything from curtains and cushion covers to clothes in 4 different sizes for the kids! Even though he doesn't care, and has told me to just enjoy it and use it whenever I feel like it...

And I know there is only me thinking like this - but that doesn't make it any better. Hobbies are supposed to be relaxing. And enjoyable. But I've single handedly sucked all the excitement out of this ace present- what a nutjob. So now I've got that off my chest, I'm off to get a grip!