It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Ahh Christmas, we have a bit of a love/ hate thing, don’t we? While I love the aspects of celebration inspired by the Winter Solstice, I love being with friends and family and I love creativity, I don’t like the commercialism and the huge amount of waste… But, for now, let us focus on the good stuff. Here are some of the recent creations from our house:

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Our turquoise front door has got in the seasonal spirit. The wreath is made from willow, holly and a bit of spruce, all cut (with permission!) and made with my own fair hands. The result is something very ‘rustic’, but I’m down with all that this year.

 

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Talking of greenery, to celebrate the Solstice, the Tiny Overlord and I gathered some evergreens from the garden and proud displayed them in the front room.

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And we have received some really beautiful gifts, the centre three decorations all came from the Tiny Overlord’s playgroups. We’re really touched by how much love and care have gone in to them.

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Rather belatedly (or cleverly in advance of next year!) I’ve made some advent bags from simple small muslin bags (available in most cookware shops) and some iron-on appliques (ours are from here). Hopefully they’ll last us for many many Decembers to come.

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And even the Tiny Overlord has got in on the crafting action – His very first decoration, made from Salt Dough and painted all by himself, after he’d tested the paint by eating it, of course.

Obviously I can’t yet share what we have made for presents for people yet. But if you need anymore festive makery, here are the posts from Christmas 2013 and Christmas 2012. And, of course, you can also keep up to date with our general makings on Instagram.

Seasons greetings everyone X

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A Very Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

As mentioned earlier, this month our beloved Tiny Overlord turned one year old. And, quite frankly, we felt we all deserved a good knees up. So we held a birthday party for family and some of his baby friends at our house, based on his favourite book – Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Hungry Caterpillar birthday tea

Thanks to Pinterest, I found free printable labels, so we could all eat our way through all the things the Hungry Caterpillar ate (the sandwiches were displayed on a ‘great big green leaf’ platter. Water wipes and disposible bibs (eco ones from Naty) were also on hand for our younger guests.

Cupcake decorating at Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

Being a little wary of how much sugar my Hungry Caterpillar eats, I made plain cupcakes for everyone and then provided decorating materials so the ‘big kids’ could have some fun. The popping candy was a particular hit…

Ball pool at Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party

In the front room we had a ball pool (inspired by all the colourful dots in the VHC book). I simply filled our paddling pool with ball acquired from charity shops and end of summer sales. We also put our these free Hungry Caterpillar colouring and activity sheets for the older children

Setting up the Hungry Caterpillar Birthday Party Paper Hungry Caterpillar head

Though my proudest creation, is possibly the Hungry Caterpillar I made from large honeycomb paper balls (inspired by this). I hung it the day before and the Tiny Overlord squealed with delight when he saw it. We really haven’t had the heart to take it down yet, so the caterpillar is still hanging over our dining room table. We wave at it every morning when we are eating breakfast.

Not pictured are our ‘party bags’, which were colourful reusable snack tubs (8 for £1 in our local pound shop!), filled with glittery homemade playdough and finished with a green leaf shaped parcel tag.

I won’t lie about being slightly apprehensive about holding a child’s birthday party, especially after reading this post from Free Our Kids. But the entire cost of the Tiny Overlord’s party came in at about £80 for over 30 people. And it created a lot of joy, personally for me doing my making and having a creative outlet, for our wider families getting together and celebrating and for our little family having something to mark this significant milestone in our life.

If you want to see the Tiny Overlord’s upcycled party outfit, you can do so just here.

 

One

And then the Tiny Overlord turned One. So to celebrate what has been equally the greatest, but also the hardest and most chaotic, year of our lives, we decided to celebrate. And naturally, my first thought when it comes to any celebration is ‘what to wear…

But it isn’t always as easy as that. I struggle with baby clothes, I really struggle with them. I don’t want to dress my little boy up as a tiny man, I want him to look like a baby, in baby clothes, wearing baby clothes that he can easily play in. However, sometimes this seems to be too much to ask. And having baulked at rails of tiny suits, shirts and bow ties, I decided to take matters in to my own hands and make him something special to wear myself.

Front of upcycled baby sweaterThe Tiny Overlord’s birthday jumper cost me a whole 50p in my local charity shop. I can not resist a good stripe. And armed with a fat quarter of Hungry Caterpillar print cotton from Etsy, I set about personalising it for him.

It really was rather simple – I traced the backwards shape of the ‘Ones’ on to some bondaweb, ironed it on to the ‘wrong side’ of the cotton and cut out the shapes. I then removed the back of the bondaweb and ironed the Ones in to position. Then, during an episode of Strictly, I secured them by stitching around the edges with a little embroidery thread. Above, is the front and here is the back…

Back of upcycled baby jumperAnd here is it worn by my cooperative model…

Baby wearing upcycled birthday jumperThe bondaweb and cotton was already in my stash, but the jumper and fat quarter came to about £4.10. A bargain for a special and unique  celebration outfit, if you ask me. And the result was something bold, bright and beautiful. A bit like the birthday boy himself.

The tale of two chairs

As mentioned in my last post, fuelled by a heady combination of Pinterest and ‘Fill Your House For Free‘, I’ve taken to upcycling in rather a manic way. Why upcycling? Isn’t it just a fashionable pursuit for the privileged with too much time on their hands? Well, maybe. Though being a full time carer of a small child, I’d dispute having too much time on my hands…

But I also rather believe in conscious consumption (I blogged about it here). I worry about our disposable society and what kind of environment the Tiny Overlord will inherit. And well, I just like old things, I love things with quirk and charm and character. I love things that are unique and if I can achieve some of those things through a good old bit of re-loving, then that’s just fine with me.

school chairs Made in Britain

The chairs came from a playgroup, via a reclamation yard in sunny Margate for a whole Four British Pounds (tip: avoid the ridiculously overpriced ‘vintage’ shops in the Old Town and head up the hill past the Shell Grotto to the real thing).

Covered in rust and grime, but proudly Made in Britain, I bequeathed them a stay of execution from the scrap heap and after lugging them home on the train (that lovely parquet floor above is in Ramsgate station), set about transforming them for the Tiny Overlord.

Chair makeover in progress Chair makeover in progress

It took me HOURS to sand all the flaking plastic paint and rust off the metal legs. It took me ages to scrub the plastic clean with sugar soap, so they could be primed and painted. But, after a lot of hard work, a couple of emergency trips to Wilkos for more cans of paint and a lot of cursing, they were transformed in to my primary coloured dream.

Yellow upcycled school chairs Play area

Can I be honest with you? Was it worth it? In principle, yes. These perfectly useable chairs have been saved from landfill and given a new lease of life and I love the colour of them. But, to get this finish on them took two cans of Plasticote paint (not including a coat of primer and lacquer) and two cans of spray Hammerite on the legs. That’s not only a huge amount of money to spend on £4 chairs, that’s an awful lot of VOCs released in to the atmosphere! Someone with more knowledge on these matters than I will have tell me if they really have better environmental value than new chairs.

Even though I have upcycled furniture many times before with a brush, I found the spray paint very hard to handle. I wasted loads of it spraying the thin chair legs. It didn’t dry in the time stated on the the can, the paint is uneven from where they were knocked over on to the grass by rampaging cats (that never happens to Kirstie Allsop…) and one chair has an amazing imprint of my finger prints for prosperity from where I had to pick it up, wet. Which is useful as a crime deterrent as there is absolutely no mistaking they are mine, but it wasn’t exactly the Pinterest perfect polished finish I was hoping for.

However, despite the resulting costs and imperfections, we really do love them. And paired with a slightly less ethical table from IKEA (I had planned to upcycle a table but this one was just too perfect. And it cost a lot less than all that spray paint…), we think they make the perfect pieces for the Tiny Overlord’s play area. And that’s really all that matters. Quirky, colourful and uniquely ours.

Wool Against Weapons Day

Wool Against Weapons Day, Aldermaston

One of those days you really don’t know what to expect, after all the knitting and the excitement online, I packed myself, the 9 month old Tiny Overlord and an ample load of picnic provisions in to the van and we headed in to the West Berkshire countryside. And to Aldermaston and Burghfield, home of the UK’s atomic weapons development centres.

I’ve always been rather in awe of this diverse little county’s legacy of peace protest (you must visit the Greenham Peace Garden near Newbury) and daydreamed of crafty projects decorating the high militarised fences of AWE Aldermaston, in the spirit of the Greenham Common women. So, despite not really knitting anything since childhood, I jumped at the chance of getting involved in making a piece of the ambitious Wool Against Weapons seven mile peace scarf, to link AWE Aldermaston with AWE Burghfield. Having sent my piece to the wonderful Jaine Rose, I wondered if it would be a suitable protest to take the kiddo to. One way to find out…

Rolls of Pink Knitting

We parked and headed to the purple milestone, a meeting point for protesters from Berkshire, Hampshire and the South of England, and were confronted with the site of these huge pinwheels of reams of knitting – the picture above is one mile of beautiful hand knitted and stitched with love peace scarf. The little guy and I were made very welcome and those without babies in tow started to roll out and stitch together the beautiful pieces along the road from Aldermaston to Burghfield.

Peace Scarf on the road between Aldermaston and Burghfield

While the scarf was joined in to one peace, people happily chatted about the issues of the day – nuclear proliferation, military expenditure in a time of austerity and, most importantly, peace. Huge thanks to the lovely guy who played Twinkle Twinkle on his accordion to entertain the little guy. When the scarf was joined in to one seven mile long piece at 1pm, we all stood and rang bells to celebrate peace for five minutes and then stood silently (well nearly all of us, it is difficult to tell a nine month old to be silent) in respect of Nagaski Day  and in memory of all those who had lost their lives to nuclear weapons.

We headed home, but not before we drove the length of the scarf route from Aldermaston to Burghfield. Beeping the van’s horn at everyone gathered round each milestone. It was quite overwhelming to see the sheer extent of it, in some places so much had been knitted it took up both sides of the road. And to think that each metre of those seven miles had been knitted with love, by someone that believed in something better. One of the most beautiful things about craft based activism is that it engages people that wouldn’t go to a traditional protest. It gives people all over the world, from all walks of life, a voice they might not otherwise have. It gets people involved in issues from an angle they might not gave previously considered and gives them time to think and reflect. Just a wonderful and inspiring day. I’m so pleased we went.

Obviously, there was little chance of me ever finding it in situ, but this wouldn’t be a crafty blog if I didn’t share what I had knitted. Made from wool from charity shops and rather imperfectly: here is my little piece of peace.

My piece of Peace

If you want to know more about Wool Against Weapons, my first post is here and there are lots of updates on their website.

 

Messing about with paints

There are few things I enjoy more than painting. Not that I have much prowess and skill with paint or brush, just mainly I find it deeply satisfying. That, and it is a completely legitimate excuse for making a bit of a mess in the name of creativity. Recently I’ve been trying to get the Tiny Overlord involved in a bit of creative play, so here’s some stuff that he and I have been painting:

Little Stitch Blog: Hand Painted Onesies

Painted onesies: I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with children’s clothes at the moment. I don’t really want to dress my baby boy as if he is heading to the golf club, I want to dress him with fun, brightness and all the colours of the rainbow. Like a baby. But I find a lot of bright gender neutral clothes prohibitively expensive, for the amount of times a rapidly growing tiny human wears them. So I made my own, using Pebeo fabric paints on H&M Conscious Collection vests.

They are washing and wearing very well, especially given the fact the Tiny Overlord loves to paint his entire body with food several times a day. Bicycle loving friends will also note that the delusions about my son wearing the Rainbow Jersey have started already.

Little Stitch Blog: Baby-made Mother's Day Cards
Hand painted Mother’s Day cards: These were made by the little guy (with a little bit of artistic direction from me…) for his Grandmothers. He hand printed using simple poster paints in spring colours and I finished them using my favourite ink stamps. Both Nana and Grandma loved them. Though I may hold off revisiting poster paints with the Tiny Overlord until he is less inclined to eat them.

Wool Against Weapons

Recently I have been overcome with an increasing sense of urgency. Not to do small stuff, like pair up socks or weed the garden, but to do big stuff, like find world peace. Or eradicate weapons of mass destruction. Things that are easily achievable while the baby is having a nap. Ahem.

But something does boil, deep within. We often walk up the slopes of the Thames Valley to my local park where, on an admittedly rare clear day, you can see AWE Burghfield. One of the UK’s atomic weapon establishments. The second, AWE Aldermaston, is located a mere seven miles away. Like find this a difficult concept to get my head around, that WMDs are developed here on our doorstep. And it’s not just infuriating on a global justice level, I can’t understand how we can live in a country where millions of public money is spent on new nuclear weapons, yet services like our local children centres are frequently facing cuts. It boils inside me. Repeatedly.

Fortunately our little county of Berkshire has a fine history of visual protest against nuclear arms. The women of the Greenham Common Peace Camp decorated the fences of Greenham Common Airbase. In the spirit of these protests comes Wool Against Weapons

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Exciting? No? Imagine the lush green Berkshire countryside being draped with lovingly crafted pink stitches of peace. And that’s not all, after the knitted pieces have made their stand against the atomic menace, they are going to be repurposed in to blankets for children in need of some extra warmth. Win win win.

Let’s have a think about some of the gritty, not knitty, facts – the U.K Government is going to spend over £80 billion on renewing the Trident Nuclear warhead, not only is this a WMD project, I think it is an insane amount for our national government to be spending on arms in a time of financial austerity and recession. The world has a global arms trade worth $1.74 trillion. I’m with Wool Against Weapons on this. Lets invest in people instead – lets move from a war economy to a green economy. Cut the military, address the root causes of violence, wars and terrorism. Please.

I’m not much of a knitter, but even I’m trying to make my metre. I’ve been collecting pink balls of wool from the local charity shops. Slowly, but surely, I’ve been making progress. I have about 30cm left to go. But I’m so excited to be part of this. Even while the baby sleeps I might be able make tiny steps or stitches to change the world.

Want to get involved? Check out the Wool Against weapons website here

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