Saturday, 30 July 2016

Making the Nursery Curtains

I couldn't find any curtains for baby Andrew's room that I particularly liked, so I decided to buy some cool fabric and make some myself. I ended up using Spoonflower, a fabric site I have wasted many hours browsing with no purpose. So it was nice to finally have a cool excuse to buy something a bit quirky.

Here's the design I went for.

It's called Robot Circuit Board (red) by Robyriker. I liked that it's subtle but with a nerdy pattern if you look closely enough. My husband is an electrical engineer, so the circuit design appealed to him too.

Since Spoonflower is an American site I was expecting postage to be horrendously expensive, but it turns out the ship from Germany too, so it's very reasonable for most of Europe too. The fabric itself costs $17.50/yard for basic cotton, which would have been reasonable had I bought it before the UK voted to leave the EU and the pound plummeted. As it was, my exchange rate was rubbish. Oh well, silly me!

This was my first time making curtains and I basically winged it. I also wanted black out fabric since it's going in the child's room and we all want as much sleep as we can get. My made-up, probably wrong method of curtain making, was to cut the black out fabric to the exact size I wanted, then to fold the curtain fabric over that (double folding it so the raw edge is hidden. That way I could be sure both curtains would be the correct size so long as I cut the black out fabric correctly. It more or less worked! Pinning the fabrics together was the worst part since my table wasn't big enough and I lack the floor space to do it without blocking all the doors. I was also looking after baby Andrew alone, so this took ALL DAY!

Here are the finished curtains. I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out for a first attempt.

I also made a simple orange curtain for the bottom half of the window as passers-by have a tendency to stare in! 

Monday, 25 July 2016

My Dear Jane Quilt

A few years ago I discovered the joy that is patchwork and quilting. Since I always like to run before I can walk, I decided as my second ever quilt to go for the mother of them all, a Baby Jane quilt, based on a Dear Jane quilt. 

green blue baby jane quilt

A Baby Jane quilt is based on the blocks from the original Dear Jane quilt, a quilt made by Jane A. Stickle in 1863. It consists of 225 individual patterns - each square and border triangle is different. 

dear jane
The original Dear Jane quilt

Now I cheated, I admit. I didn't do all the blocks in a proper Dear Jane, and I left all the triangular blocks blank. But I certainly did well over half of the square ones, and for a complete novice, I'm quite pleased with it myself, if I do say so. This was my second ever quilt and far more complicated than anything I'd ever attempted previously. It took eight months to complete start to finish. Good thing I didn't have a baby back then or no doubt it would have been a lot longer.

baby jane quilt
It will fit the bed it's intended for,
which is a King whereas this is only a standard double.
One day I hope to complete an entire Baby Jane quilt using all the patterns. If you want to know all these patterns, I would recommend the Dear Jane book by Brenda Manges Papadakis, which is what I used. It's well worth the money and you could use the patterns to make hundreds of different patchwork designs.

dear jane book

Friday, 22 July 2016

Miniature Egg and Soldiers Tutorial

If you enjoyed my miniature liquorice tutorial using polymer clay, hopefully you'll enjoy this one too. It's slightly more advanced, requiring more specialised supplies like chalk pastels and oil paint, but it's a fun, little project that yields realistic results for your doll house. As usual, these doll house miniature projects are not intended for young children!

1/12th Egg and Soldier Tutorial

Here is the tutorial I made a while ago showing how to make 1/12th scale egg and soldiers.

You will need:
White polymer clay
Transparent polymer clay
Medium brown polymer clay
Liquid polymer clay
Chalk pastels in ochre tones
Sharp blade
Soft bristled brush
Ceramic tile to work on
Yellow/orange oil paint
Ceramic 12th scale egg cup and saucer
Gloss varnish
Matt varnish
You may need superglue.

1.       Before you begin, you need to ensure your work area and hands are clean, because unbaked polymer clay is a fluff magnet. I like to work on a large, blank ceramic tile, as this can go straight in the oven when it is time to bake the clay, without having to move your work and risk unwanted fingerprints. It helps to use a white tile, as fluff shows up better on it.

2.       Let’s begin with the eggs. Condition some white clay by rolling it in your hands until it is easily malleable. Unconditioned clay can crumble, and make it harder to work with later on. Roll your white clay into a sausage about 0.5cm in diameter, and then cut into sections about 0.5cm long. Roll each section into an egg shape, by applying more pressure at one end than the other. Once you get the hang of it, it’s satisfyingly quick and easy! Don’t worry if there are little bits of fluff on your egg’s surface, the next step will cover up all but the largest imperfections.
3.       Using your blade, scrape a small amount of your chalk pastels to form dust. I use a mostly ochre and a little bit of reddish brown, but it really depends how light or dark you want your eggs to be. I wouldn’t recommend making it too light, or it will be difficult to see the contrast of the shell against egg white later on. Brush your egg gently with your soft bristled brush until you’re happy with its appearance. 

4.       Place your egg in the ceramic egg cup, as this will hold it in place and let you see how it’ll look in the end. With your blade (which you’ve carefully wiped clean of pastel dust of course), roughly cut off the top of your egg, so that the white is showing. It looks better if it is several small cuts rather than just one sweep, as egg shells never crack uniformly. Using your pin head, create a small dimple of a well in the eggwhite place, this is where your yolk will go.

5.       To make the egg yolk, pour a very small amount of liquid polymer clay on to your work tile. Next to it, mix up some yellow and orange oil paint until you get a yolk colour. This only needs to be literally a couple of drops’ worth. Mix this yolk coloured oil paint in with your liquid polymer clay, being careful not to add too much. If your liquid polymer clay covers a penny, you only need a ball bearing of paint to tint it.

6.       Using your pin, carefully add the yolk one drip at a time. You won’t need much! Put your egg to one side, it’s finished for now. 

7.       To make the toast, condition all your clay first, then mix 2/3 white polymer clay with 1/3 translucent polymer clay. Add the medium brown polymer clay a pinch at a time until you’re happy with the colour you’ve achieved. I always add the darkest colour only a little at a time, as you can’t take it out once it’s in and it nearly always changes the tone more than I imagined it would. The finished bread mix should look like untoasted bread.

8.       Using your fingers shape your bread mix into a long square sausage. It doesn’t matter how long it is, but the height and width should be approximately 1x1cm. The corners should remain rounded, so use your fingers, rather than a blade.

9.       Using your blade, scrape yet more of your chalk pastels to form dust, but this time it needs to be darker as this will give you your crust colour. I use dark brown and a little reddish brown. Apply with your soft bristled brush.

10.   Slice the bread using your clean blade into thin slices of no more than 1mm thick and lay all the slices flat. Don’t worry about the end slices, no-one likes the end slices!

11.   Lay all your slices flat. Now you need to add some texture and there are two ways of doing this. The easy way is to press sandpaper on the polymer clay. The long (but better) way is to use a pin to individually scratch out every single little piece of texture. I like to combine these techniques to get a good effect without losing my mind.

12.   Press a small piece of sandpaper on to each individual slice. Don’t press too hard or it will lose its shape, but you need to press hard enough that it leaves the texture behind.

13.   Then cut each slice into 4 strips to make soldiers. Using your pin, gently scratch and poke all the pale sides (not the crusts) of each soldier. Also use the pin on and sandpaper-textured parts which have been missed or look too uniform. This will take a while. 

14.   Create another pile of chalk pastel dust using your blade. This time it is to make your soldiers look toasted, so the colour depends on whether you like your soldiers hardly warmed or burnt to a crisp. I use ochre to dust the tops of the soldiers, then dark brown to highlight the edges and here and there. This dusting should really bring out the detail of the texture, so all that time spent prodding it with a pin will be worth it!

15.   Now bake all your eggs (still in the ceramic egg cups) and soldiers according to the polymer clay manufacturer’s instructions. Once done, allow to cool before handling, as the ceramic egg cups will hold on to their heat especially.

16.   To finish off the piece, add a dab of gloss varnish to the egg yolks so they really stand out. Use a thin coat of matt varnish for everything else. You shouldn’t be able to see it, but it helps to seal in all that chalk pastel dust and makes the piece more durable. Finally, you may need to glue the eggs into their egg cups, as polymer clay does not stick to shiny ceramic well. A small dab of superglue will do the job. I also used some of my leftover egg yolk mix to make orange juice as it’s the perfect colour for that. 

tutorial dollhouse miniature egg toast

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Corn on the Cob felt food

Remember a while back when I was making felt food and decided I would make corn on the cob as my next felt item? I decided to follow this tutorial:

felt food
Felt Corn on the Cob by While Wearing Heels

I may have had one of those run before you can walk moments again.

It's not that the technique is particularly difficult, it's pretty simple and very well explained. It's just that it takes quite a long time compared to the other felt food projects I had already done. I sewed the whole thing by hand too, just because I'm too lazy to set up my sewing machine for a little bit of one coloured thread. Also, I didn't realise before I started that my two sheets of yellow felt weren't quite the same shade of yellow (and this project does use a lot of yellow felt) so that doesn't quite match. Oh well, it's only going to get chewed to pieces by the baby when he's a little older, so I'm trying not to dwell on it.

But anyway, despite me taking forever and being ill-equipped, I think this turned out quite well. Not bad for play food!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Pink Star

I naturally have an aversion to pink. I think it's a lovely colour, but as the only girl of four children I spent of my childhood actively rebelling against pink. I didn't want to be the girly one, the dainty one, the quiet one, with three boisterous brothers. Aged 5 I decided the best way to avoid such stereotyping (I didn't know that's what it was called, but that's essentially what I was against) was to avoid pink. And boy did I. My dear grandmother was an amazing seamstress and was probably quite gutted over my refusal to do pink, but she soon learnt I was perfectly happy in green or blue and made me far too many dresses in those hues instead. Nowadays I will wear a bit of pink (not a whole dress!) and I'm slowly getting over my pink aversion. If I had had a little girl, I probably would have dressed her in pink sometimes, but I'd have been on the hunt for every other colour over pink any day.

So it's taken me a while to start drawing pink onesies. Here's my first pink star onesie, although it's got a lot of red in it too. I can't go all pink at once. Do I look like Barbie to you?

pink star onesie

pink red star onesie

Friday, 15 July 2016

Baby Food

We're nearing the 6 month mark in baby Andrew's life so thinking a lot about food. But not the edible kind! You may know I have form when it comes to making pretend food if you've seen my miniatures post, but those are not at all suitable for young children. But a couple of months ago I was given a bag of felt, so the obvious thing to make was play food. I already had lots of different coloured thread and wadding in the house from my patchwork supplies, so off I went.

Here are the first few things I have made for Andrew. He's probably a bit young for them now, so I will save them for next Christmas onwards. So far we have a slice of bread, some cheese, lettuce leaves, tomato slices and a fried egg.

felt food

I hand sewed everything, primarily because I am too lazy to change the thread colour on my sewing machine just for a couple of lines! I am pleased with how neat most of it came out.

felt food

My favourite thing so far are these tomato slices. They were quite fiddly to cut out but I think they look pretty good. The photo doesn't show it well, but I used two different colours of felt so the inside contrasts a bit more.

felt tomato

Some of these I just made up as I went along (how hard can it be to make a slice of cheese?) but for some of them I followed online tutorials. There are hundreds out there, so I won't bother putting my own methods up. Here are a few good sites if you're interested in making your own felt food, just click on the name to go to their blogs.

Pieces by Polly I followed her slice of bread tutorial, great tip on how to stuff it!

Apartment Therapy Lots of different foods by type, from different sites. 

While Wearing Heels I plan on making her amazing looking corn on the cob soon!

felt food
Felt Corn on the Cob by While Wearing Heels

I fear this could very quickly become an obsession. I hope Andrew enjoys playing shopkeeper/chef.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Pink and Blue

One of my favourite baby onesie designs are swirls. They're quite therapeutic to draw too. I enjoy coming up with different colour combinations. Here is my latest one in pink and blue.

pink baby onesie

hand drawn baby vest

Here are some other swirly baby onesies I've drawn. My favourite is the green, orange and yellow one, but I do have a thing for green.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Nursery Time

Most people I know had their baby's nursery decorated and sorted long before the baby arrived. Not so in this house! In my defence, we did a LOT of home renovations while I was pregnant with Andrew, but our house is such a project there were much more pressing needs, like my own bedroom and a room (any room!) to live in downstairs. I was up a ladder painting beams at 7 and a half months pregnant, so it's not as though we took it easy. And since we always planned on having the baby sleep in our room for at least the first 6 months, we weren't in any huge rush to complete his bedroom. We did the dining room when he was 2-3 months old as I wanted an easy floor to clean for when he starts weaning. Priorities!

So as it happens, we've only just gotten around to doing Andrew's bedroom. It isn't a terribly in-depth job - it just involves stripping back, plastering, painting, skirting boards and door trims and some carpet. That's pretty good by our standards (please see aforementioned beams). At least this room wasn't full of the dreaded artex (stucco) like so many others were. I'm pretty excited about decorating the baby's room as you can always have a bit more fun in a child's bedroom. We're sticking with a neutral wall colour, but I'm having fun picking out the little finishing touches like curtains and lampshades. We've gone with bright, light, yellow walls, and I'm thinking red for the little extras. Here are few ideas I found on Etsy which I hope to incorporate. Click on the picture to take you to the maker.

We're not spending loads of money buying new furniture, 
but I hope to spruce up some existing cabinets with new handles.

I'm quite liking the idea of red chevrons.

More chevrons! On the curtains this time!

I love the idea of a chalk board on the wall, although I'm not convinced it won't encourage him to draw all over the walls. I did that loads as a kid! Hopefully having a framed one will make it obvious where he is supposed to stop. Never helped my parents though. My childhood speciality was painting radiators. 

We'll need some pegs. I'll probably end up painting some wooden ones red, 
but if I had infinite budget, how beautiful would this be? 

And finally, some bunting, since I love a bit of bunting.

I've got plenty of ideas buzzing around my head now. 
It remains to be seen what I actually end up doing!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Bacon and Eggs Baby

I don't know why I find food-themed clothes on babies so cute, but I do! Perhaps it dates back from my previous life as a miniature food maker, or maybe I'm just always hungry. Who knows. Here is my latest hand drawn onesie, featuring bacon and eggs. And why not!

bacon onesie

The sad part is I can't actually remember the last time I had bacon. I'm the only one in the house who likes it (weird, I know!) so I don't usually buy it in just for me. But I can enjoy bacon vicariously through my baby's wardrobe for now.

egg onesie

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Better late than never...

I taught myself to knit while pregnant with Andrew, because I believed this to be a Thing That Must Be Done for some unknown reason. I am not a fast knitter, so it's a good thing pregnancy lasts 9 months. I was able to complete my first baby blanket a good few weeks before he was born. We've had a lot of use out of it. Well done me.

When my due date came and I was clearly not having a baby today, I decided, what the hell I'm going to start a new baby blanket. I got quite far into it in during the week or so I had to knit uninterrupted. And I reasoned, I can always carry on knitting it when the baby comes. WRONG. I did not knit when the baby arrived. Partly I was too knackered, but mostly, this blanket's pattern involved more than one kind of stitch (two stitches, it's madness I tell you!) and I find I need to be able to complete a row in one go or else it all goes terribly wrong. Counting up to 7 is difficult when you're being distracted. Baby Andrew clearly didn't get this memo, and rarely allowed me a quiet half hour stretch in which to knit a couple of rows (I said I was a slow knitter). So progress was slow. Very slow.

Nevertheless, there was progress. And here we are, 5 and a half months after Andrew's birth, with one new baby blanket.

I'm pleased with the textured pattern, even though now it's finished I can see a couple of obvious lines I messed up. It's only knit and purl stitches, but it's the most complicated thing I've attempted. 

The border is moss stitch, I managed not to mess that up!

I like that the textured pattern looks nice on the reverse too.

And even though it's rather late, we still get plenty of use out of blankets so it's not wasted. I'd better get started on my next knitting project if I've got any hope of finishing it by this time next year.