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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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.

101 Uses of a Vintage Sheet: The Playmat

At the moment I have incredibly worthy crafting intentions. Naively I thought was going to fill the Tiny Overlord’s world up with lovingly handcrafted playthings, crafted while he slept, but the reality of life with a six month old isn’t quite like that (sleep alone is often an enigma, let alone finding the energy to craft). So my crafty intentions remain just intentions for the time being.

Fortunately the Tiny Overlord does kindly allow me to scour the local charity shops for treats and trinkets. I originally bought this lovely geometric patterned vintage* duvet cover for pennies with the intention of turning it in to a patchwork playmat, inspired by Hannah’s in Mollie Makes Mama. But y’know, best intentions and all that. Instead I decided it would probably make a mighty fine playmat of its own accord. So stuffed with a thin summer duvet – tada! A large soft playmat, perfect for my little roller. Quite possibly the easiest make ever, no?

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He seems rather pleased with it, maybe pleased enough with it to let me make some of my crafty intentions more of a reality one day.

*I’m a bit of a hoarder of vintage linens, normally I go towards the lurid 1970s floral variety, they are used throughout our home and you can see some of my creations here. I have to confess that I spotted this amongst a bundle of vintage bedding and grabbed it as well. It is not actually vintage, it is originally from IKEA. None the less, it is spared the landfill and put to good use. And we think it is pretty groovy. And, really, that’s all that matters.

A Mini Fashion Protest: Reading

Cast your minds way back to last Autumn, to a London Fashion Week held in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh and the Craftivist Collective and War On Want’s highly inspiring Mini Fashion Protest campaign.

Heavily pregnant and armed with my hand stitched mini protest banners, I headed to Reading’s bustling Oracle shopping centre, in the hope that my tiny embroidered words might make someone think twice about where the clothes they are buying might be coming from and who might be making them.

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This banner reads “Please show respect to the women who make your clothes. Let’s pay a living wage to all garment workers“.

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Exploitation: It’s not okay here, it’s not okay anywhere” This one was stitched not only in solidarity for those exploited abroad, but also in solidarity for many British retail workers who are paid minimum wage (not a ‘living’ wage) and have unfair working contracts.

One thing I have learnt about display mini protest banners is that it is hard to feel inconspicuous when putting them up there. My heart always pounds, my hands feel a little clammy. Add to the mix being eight and a half months pregnant (and unwisely wearing bright pink and red stripes) and these feelings double. Triple even.

But I really believed in this campaign and believe in conscious consumption, safe working conditions, fair wages, human rights and thinking about the environmental impacts of our consumer choices and we’ve not even touched on the emotive issues around child labour yet.

Maybe someone saw my stitched words by the Oracle riverside and briefly thought about some of those issues? Someone definitely saw them, as nearly five months later the cable ties holding my ‘exploitation’ banner to the bridge are still there.

Oh Christmas Tree

Every year I look towards Christmas with the best of homemade intentions. The level of consumption we are encouraged to undertake at Christmas makes me extremely uncomfortable. For Christmas 2012 I managed to make (nearly) everyone’s Christmas present. But 2013 a combination of the crazy weather, nothing growing in our garden as it should and having a baby (had I mentioned that we’ve had a baby? Baby, baby, baby…) meant I managed to rustle up a mere 4 jars of jam and chutney. So I bought everyone books and framed photos of a very smiley Tiny Overlord in fairtrade photo frames instead.

But I felt a little peeved that my gifts, whilst lovingly chosen from the best shop in Reading, lacked the homemade touch. So I’ve started a new tradition of at least making people a handmade decoration each year. Hopefully this is something the Tiny Overlord and I can do together in the future. But this year, with him only being 2 months old, I went it alone and made a selection of hangable Christmas trees from my button stash and felt.

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I must confess that my birth-and-baby-addled brain didn’t entirely come up with the design on my own, and I took more than a small amount of inspiration from these decorations I’ve had pinned forever by MissyMaddoxDesigns. But I was mightily pleased with the result. I wrapped the books up in brown paper and string (saved from our vegetable boxes – never knowingly overlook an opportunity to recycle) and a button tree on each one was the finishing touch. Now all I need to do is to start scouring Pinterest for this year’s decoration inspiration.

Two Weddings

2013 was a big year, not only for the cooking and birth of the Tiny Overlord. But it also saw two of my ‘little’ brothers get married. As with any special occasion, I decided to mark these wonderful events with a little bit of cross stitch:

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Both cross stitched were based on designs I had found online, but were customised for each of the happy couples. The inspiration for each design came from the proposals – Simon proposed to Amy in the sea and Alex proposed to Jenny over dinner with a card made from Scrabble tiles.

I’m really rather pleased with both of them. Now I just need to think of something to stitch for 2013’s new arrivals…

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops: A #minifashionprotest

Mini Protest banner at London Fashion Week AW 2012 Somerset House

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about ethical fashion, not only for myself, but also when I’ve been looking for clothes for the impending arrival of the Tiny Overlord. Many adult and children’s clothes seem to be made to meet fads and to be disposable.

Now I love my clothes, I see them as part of my self expression, but I don’t want my clothing choices to have a human cost. Millions of workers around the world suffer poverty wages and exploitation producing cheap ‘fast’ fashion for our shops.  In April, over 1000 garment workers were killed in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed, they were making clothes for major brands such as Benetton, Primark, Mango and Matalan. And this wasn’t an isolated incident – check out this shocking infographic.  But these unsafe working conditions are not the only issue associated with our love of fashion, there are also low wages, human rights abuses, as well as awful environmental impacts and we’ve not even mentioned the issues around child labour.

I don’t think people should have to suffer like this to provide clothes for my family and I, so alongside making ethical shopping choices, I’m going to be joining the Craftivist Collective and War on Want for a fantastic and beautiful #minifashionprotest.

Mini Protest Banner in Paper Dress Vintage Boutique

Regular readers of this blog will have seen the Craftivist Collective’s mini protest banners in action before, they are a wonderful way to make people think in a non-threatening way. This time I’ll be joining many other craft loving activists in making these beautiful eye catching banners and putting them in a public place for people to discover and to encourage people to consider the uglier side of fashion without feeling preached at.

Craftivist Collective mini banner kit

If you would like to get involved, it couldn’t be simpler: All you need is stitch a thoughtful and provocative slogan on to a small fabric banner and photograph it in a public place. Send your photograph to the Craftivist Collective and it will be included in an exhibition at the Knitting and Stitching Show’s Upcycling Academy in London in the Autumn, in the run up to London Fashion Week.

Not sure where to start? Then the Craftivist Collective have mini banner kits (pictured above) available here, there is also a video about how to make a mini banner here, ask the Collective (who are very friendly, especially if you are a bit shy – trust me!) a question on their Facebook page or check out where you can join other crafters to make your banners together at a ‘stitch-in’ here. Photos of your mini banner need to be with the Craftivist Collective by 5th October to be included in the exhibition.

I’m looking forward to seeing what we can create.

All photos in this post are by the Craftivist Collective.