...seen through a slightly smudged, secondhand pair of rose-tinted glasses

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Jumper upcycling…you might warm to...

I had this favourite cashmere jumper; it was a bit baggy and shapeless, but I loved it because it was a present from my husband before he went to Afghanistan the first time.

The jumper was the thing I'd reach for when the kids were finally in bed, and I had a bit of time on my own in front of the telly with my granny squares.
I think I wore it nearly every night for those 6 months. Funny how it became such a comfort, but it did. And it was a long six months.

Anyway, probably because I wore it endlessly, it started slowly falling apart - under the arms, then an elbow, then a random hole. Eventually I just left it in the drawer, until it was time for my old friend to become something else - and no, not a rabbit, though obviously that did cross my mind! No, I wanted to make the jumper into a useful thing, and so settled on a hot water bottle cover, because I  love a hottie; and the one I'd been using has a football on the front.
Hand up here, because I nicked this idea from a lovely friend who used to blog, and made one out of an old cashmere scarf she'd picked up in a charity shop. It was woven rather than knitted cashmere, and possibly easier to work with, but after a few hot washes my jumper shrank quite nicely to tiny, tight proportions. So small in fact, that I was worried there mightn't be enough jumper to make the cover! In the end I opened up the non-holey sleeve.

Then I just drew around the bottle on some newspaper, added a centimetre with a ruler at points round my drawing, and joined the dots. Once I'd cut it out, I folded it lengthways to make sure it was as symmetrical as possible, snipping off any extra bits.

I cut a whole one out from the sleeve, then used the ribbing at the bottom of the jumper to cut two overlapping pieces. The top section is just over a third of the bottle, the bottom piece makes up the rest + an extra 6cm for the overlap.

Then pinned it inside out, making sure when I turned it back the top section covered the bottom, rather than the other way round - I say that, because I often forget to check…
Didn't take long to sew round, and I'm by no means a ninja with a sewing machine. I added a zigzag row to neaten the seams and stop any fraying.

Finished off with two shell buttons that fasten with loops.

It's not perfect, a bit lumpy in places, but I'm really pleased with the end result, and a rather fitting, comfy reincarnation, don't you think?

Also, a pretty easy bit of upcycling, especially when you consider this one costs £109! £109!!

Worth digging out those old jumpers?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Before the rain

I love taking pictures when it's like this - dark, foreboding skies and sunshine. Not kind of what you expect. A battle of the elements. There's more drama, more contrast - the photos look the way I want them to look, if that makes sense…quite often they don't! Especially landscapes.
Having said that, I took loads of the view from the window yesterday morning, because every time I checked, the scene seemed to shift: brighter, darker, greener, hints of orange.

It's often windy when it's like this too. I went for a quick, blustery walk, and just as I reached the top of the hill where the lane flattens out, I found I was heading towards a rainbow. Definitely one of those lovely moments. Beautiful and uplifting.
Kicking myself for leaving the camera at home, though they're tough to photograph don't you think? Hard to catch the magic. Feel like I've seen a lot of rainbows in the last few weeks - more than I can remember seeing for ages - but usually as I'm rushing to and fro from school, so no time to stop. Strange old autumn weather.

And as if to make a point, when I turned to head home, the rain arrived!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Hedwig owl costume

I was up really late last night finishing off, but it was worth it, because today I've been basking in the warm glow of being the best mummy Ever!

Obviously it won't last, so I'm enjoying the moment...

I'm not going to pretend the costume's quick to make, but it is straightforward, so if you're not in a rush and would like to have a go, here's a little run through.

You'll need an old sheet, a balloon, glue and lots of newspaper.

Cut a head-sized hole in the middle of the sheet and slip it on.
Get them to hold up their arms and cut to fit. You'll end up with a sort of circle. It doesn't matter if it looks a bit rough - all adds to the feathery effect!

I pinned and machined a row of stitches down each side, to give the wings more definition, but the costume would work just fine without this.

Zig-zag the wing edges, then make a paper template for the feathers, and cut plenty out of the remains of the sheet, plus any other fabric scraps you like. Quite time-consuming this part, but it makes a big difference I think. Once you've got a decent pile, start sticking them on the wings. We used ordinary PVA craft glue.

The head can take a while too, though this is the most fun part - certainly for the kids. Good old papier mache! Make sure the balloon is as big as possible and that you've torn up lots of newspaper, then get sticking with some runny glue (watered down PVA).
Use a brush to spread the glue all over the top of the newspaper pieces too, so they're nice and smooth. Check you've covered the whole balloon. The ears are scrunched up bits of newspaper, covered in more gluey paper.
For a sturdy head, best to let it dry between layers - this is when you need a bit of patience.
We did three layers altogether.

Paint it white, pop the balloon and cut the paper carefully at the bottom until it fits (a slit at the back helps)

Work out where the eye holes should be, then draw big owl eyes. Make a beak out of cereal box card, bend to give it a ridge down the middle - then, below the eyes, cut an upside down v, the same width as the beak. Feed it through the v, keeping it angled down. Sellotape in place inside. Make a mouth hole under the beak if you want.

Cut out smaller feather shaped pieces from the sheet and snip them in half. It looks good if the first row hangs over the edge a little, then just keep going round.

We cut a few little bits to go round the eyes, but it's totally up to you how much you decorate the mask.

Finally, tie some string through holes in an envelope addressed to Harry Potter.

I was kind of hoping to take another picture, but the snowy owl I picked up this afternoon was muddy and quite dishevelled with a few tomato ketchup splodges down the front….still, no matter, because Hedwig won a prize! Hallelujah!

She was so excited as we walked to the car.

'I'm not going to wear this again Mummy - next time I'm going to be something EVEN BETTER!'

Yeah....I know...

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Giving a hoot about dressing-up days

I'd hazard a guess that for many parents, events like World Book Day are less about the joy of reading, and more about the angst of finding a 'favourite character' costume for the kids to wear to school. And preferably not Harry Potter or Hermione…though you can't knock the quick-delve-in-the-drawers-or-dressing-up-box option.
In my daughter's class last World Book Day there were nine Harry Potters and 4 Matildas (blue dress and a hair band) - I know this, because she was one of them.

On the whole, I tend to stubbornly steer clear of competitive dressing-up - apart from possibly Mr Twit's Beard a few years ago. I did get quite carried away with Mr Twit's Beard!

But then the other day, I got one of those forlorn looks from my daughter that just made me sort of crumple inside.
Her class had to dress up in something purple for a special party at her new school - I was chuffed to bits to find a purple cardy and a dress with purplish flowers.
She wasn't so chuffed…especially when she saw her friends glammed up in sparkly lycra, Strictly style. That's when I got the look.
The best dressed prize went to an impressive bunch of grapes.

BAsically I was shamed into action. So, when a letter came home about the school's book week with a dressing-up day thrown in for good measure, I thought I'd pull out all the stops.
By the way, don't be worrying you've inadvertently missed something: the official World Book Day isn't for months - this just seems to be a warm up!

Anyway, we settled on Hedwig, Harry Potter's snowy owl - somewhat random, and a rather liberal interpretation of the 'favourite character' theme, but it fitted with my 'make stuff for school rule', which is, only things I've already got at home are allowed. Definitely no buying.

I had a sheet, a balloon and plenty of newspaper.

The dressing-up day is tomorrow and I still haven't finished ….if it works out I'll post a pic!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The nearly but not quite so-so Show

I thought it was going to be a so-so show after a rather slow Saturday, but thankfully things picked up on Sunday. You never can tell really; my friend had a better Saturday - still, I think overall we both felt it had been worth it: good feedback and lessons learnt.

Not that decent sales meant a heap of cash…they're not exactly money-spinners my toys. Not really the sort of thing people are prepared to pay a lot of money for, but that's okay. I'd rather make fiddly bits and bobs than big stuff - though realistically big and simple might stretch my teeny margins.
Thing is, I'm a seasonal crafter - I've only ever sold at fairs in the run-up to Christmas, and I don't want it to feel like a chore, so I'm going to stick to what I like, which is the small stuff. The time-consuming, fiddly small stuff! Best to stop there before I start belting out the chorus of, 'It's not about the money'...

One exception to the 'not going big' rule though is the bunnies, which have been expanding. This was my mum's idea, and a good one, because they're more like a small pillow pet, so actually have a use besides being a squidgey soft toy. I only made one, and can't show it to you because it sold before I remembered to take a picture…should listen to my mum more often.
I didn't sell many of my Christmas decorations, so, possibly a bit previous with those. Hopefully have more luck in a few weeks time.

The atmosphere was great in our big old Vintage Pavillion tent - there was vintage tea party going on down one end, and singing and dancing 40's/50's style straight across from us. By midday it really was buzzing; plenty of people looking around, including Catherine, my lovely blogging friend from Ditsygran Quilts. Really good to meet her in person, and she very sweetly bought one of the little hand knitted mice. Catherine is such a talented crafter - her knits for her grandchildren are adorable: she also recently learnt to quilt and to crochet, and now does both like a pro. So annoying!

Sharing the stand was great from the nattering point of view, but it also meant we could take it in turns to have a wander. Loads to do and see and eat and buy - and I only got round a fraction of what was on offer. I know it sounds sales-pitchy, but there really seemed to be something for everyone at Malvern - classic cars, cooking demos, gardening galore, all manner of machinery, dog agility competitions -  I even found a Tintin shop! Made my day that. And then there was the giant veg: something else, the giant veg. What makes a person want to grow monster onions? What's that all about? Amazing though. The photos don't do them justice - should have put something standard size beside the onions so you could see how colossal they were!

I'll definitely be back…but buying bulbs and blooms and gorping at giant veg rather than selling I think.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Jumble by name and jumble by nature

Nerves jingling a bit now, though in a good way I think! Still have the occasional wave of fear that I won't sell anything, but mostly I'm excited; and sure, there's nothing more I can do, seeing as the show's tomorrow…

SO pleased I'm sharing the stand with a friend - definitely takes the pressure off, and we'll have a laugh, whatever happens. There's also a bit of me that's looking forward to escaping for two days...is that bad?  I'd kind of hoped my husband was going to have a full-on home alone with the kids experience, but they're all away on sleepovers! Sod's law, hey?

The main reason for the jingling nerves is the Malvern Autumn show is in a different league from anything I've done before - it's an all singing, all dancing proper 2 day County fair, and it's vast! Gardening, fair rides, food, cookery demos, cars, animals, flower arranging, and monster vegetables. Thousands of people go, but not necessarily to buy crafty things if you know what I mean, so it'll be interesting to see how it pans out. We're in the Vintage Pavillion, which is a rather chi-chi way of saying a big old tent, but apparently there'll also be a band playing and a bit of tea dancing and jiving going on, which sounds fun.

So I've got halfway down a page without mentioning my stuff….this time I thought it'd be a good idea to pep up my Jumble Betty display. A friend of my husband's very kindly made me a tiered stand, and I covered cardboard JB letters with all sorts: paper, fabric, napkins, yarn. I've got to say, this took A LOT longer than I was expecting, especially the knitted T. Which is why there's only one.

You'll probably recognise some of the toys, but there are a few new ones too.

I've a few vintage bits and bobs I've picked up as well, so it truly is going to be a right old jumble!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Cafes, customer care and curiously cute kitchens

Still no bloody broadband.

Three engineers out so far and each one has said it's someone else's problem. Sound familiar?

So I’m writing long lists of stuff I want to check and drinking troughs of Cafe coffee, when time allows.

Only a few weeks in, and I’ve had a change of heart on the Cafe front too. I’ve been going to the same one pretty regularly for a year; making use of the wifi when there’s no point traipsing 35 minutes home between pick ups. I have the same coffee every time, the staff are the same, and still I’m lucky if I get the faintest flicker of recognition. Not the best feeling really, being instantly forgettable! Even a smidgeon of interest would be good, and we’re talking small town here; a steady trickle of customers; they’re not exactly run off their feet.now you see, I’m writing this wondering why I've stuck with it for so long! Anyway, when one of them was monumentally unhelpful about my failure to get online, I popped across the road to another Cafe, where I instantly got connected, and the next time I was in, the girl remembered my coffee. Such a small thing, but that’s all it takes.

Back to blog business and promised pics of a few summer french finds. 
I think my favourite ever buy at a french flea market/Vide Grenier has got to be this small, vintage toy kitchen by Comme Maman. Maybe you remember it?  

So imagine my utter joy when I spied another one! Couldn’t believe it! Though had to hold my breath as I watched a woman right by it hand over some money..huge wave of relief when she picked up an old doll’s wardrobe. 
The kitchen is rather tatty and rusty with bits missing, like the other one - I think it would have had a little water container so you could fill the sink, and there'd have been lots of tiny utensils. Need to do some investigating.  Another thing to add to the flipping list...

I happily handed over 3 euros, and the kitchen was mine. My husband wasn’t with us at the time.and not being the biggest fan of the first one, his face was such a picture when he saw it. Sort of bewildered resignation. 

The kitchen has now joined the orange kitchen in our kitchen. 

This find had wider appeal - it’s vintage Tupperware and has a clever little draining handle for olives, gherkins and the like. One euro well spent I think.

Another pyrex dish, and the eldest's first apple crumble. Don't know why he's looking so glum, it was delicious! I know I've got a fair bit of pyrex, but it was only 50c.

A little wooden couple that made me think of the rather weird candlestick I got last time.

Lovely antique salt cellar - a little dear at 8 euros,  but I've been looking for one for a while.

This was only 50c - always handy to have a place to display tiny things. I thought I might jolly it up with a bit of decoupage and sell it, but if I do, I’ll probably want to keep it. This is the problem...

A lovely vintage four-in-one game in great condition.

If there is a plus side to all this internet strife it’s that I've really pushed on with my crafting.  The toy pile is growing and it all looks bright and cheery, so I’m feeling pretty happy about that. I’ll hopefully be able to show you some Jumble Betty stuff next week. Maybe even from the comfort of home, wouldn't that be great? 
And exceedingly unlikely.