Friday, 25 September 2009

Cross eyed in Croyde

In the long distant past when my eyes were sharper and I could stay awake past 9pm, I belonged to a group of enthusiastic bead stitchers in Saratoga Springs. One of the ladies taught us brick stitch and peyote stitch and we made mad earrings and purses and daisy chain anklets from the tiniest seed beads we could fit on our needles. I still have boxes of minute beads squirrelled away - I can't bear to part with them even though my beading tastes have moved somewhat since then.

Then last summer I picked up a kit for making a beaded spiral bracelet, being sold to raise money for two schools in Zimbabwe. It sounded like a wonderful cause and the bracelet was rather enticing; but I foolishly tried to start the pattern after a restorative G&T and couldn't make any sense of it, so it languished in my knitting bag for an entire year. Then while we were away this summer, I tried again and it flew off my needle and onto my arm:

It makes me think of DNA - there's a double helix in there and although strictly speaking the bases are on the wrong side, I still find it appeals to the geek in me! The beading group have produced an entire book of fundraising designs - the Minerva Spirals book. I am tempted to have a go at this one next but going on past performance don't expect to see it before next summer!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Say it with flowers

I'm sure many, many of you saw the tutorial for the Little Pink House picture on Sew Mama Sew recently. I don't know how many of you, like me, squealed with joy and went to ransack the craft drawers for felt and embroidery hoops. And then sat stitching happily in front of The King And I. And then got out of bed at 6.30am ON A SUNDAY in order to stitch some more (no, wait, that was probably just me).

Well, this is what I made.

So, my stitching is a bit wonky, and my photography isn't the best, but I love it. I love it so much I want to cover the walls of my house with felt houses. In fact let's be honest, I want to LIVE in a felt house.

The design is by the supremely talented Melissa at Checkout Girl - go and look but be careful, you'll end up spending your housekeeping money on felt. Speaking of which, I'm off to see Sarah to order some more colours!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Hanging on to summer

One of the books from my childhood that has left the deepest impression is 'Miss Happiness and Miss Flower' by Rumer Godden. I read and reread it on damp chilly autumnal evenings, and remember being enchanted by descriptions of tiny Japanese dolls, how to make a house for them, sewing miniature futons, creating a tiny weeny living garden. How I longed to have an elegant dolly home with sliding paper doors, and how my own two little girls would now love to have the same.

Well, tiny Japanese houses may not be on the agenda, but we have found out how to make the tiny paper flowers Nona has for the pond in her Japanese garden, that unfold when you put them in water; and more than that, we know how they work too. Yes, it's the return of kiddie science!

Left to right, top to bottom:
1. Take a square of pretty paper
2. Fold it in half with the pretty side in
3. With the fold at the bottom, bring the bottom right corner up and across to make a squashed diamond shape - you don't need to be absolutely accurate here!
4. Bring the bottom left corner up too.
5. Keeping the bottom point towards you, draw a petal shape but make sure you don;t cut through the point!
6.Cut your petal.
7. Unfold the flower and admire your dexterity.
8. Start folding the petals over, bringing each petal tip to the centre of the flower.
9. Tada!

Now you're ready to drop the flower into water and ooh and aah. And make some more, and spend the rest of the day clearing up bits of soggy paper.

The science is pretty simple - as the paper absorbs water the fibres that make it up expand and force the petals open. But simple explanations notwithstanding, these were a lot of fun.

The inspiration for this comes from Usborne's Big Book of Science Things to Make and Do, but we branched out from their four petalled flowers. We experimented a lot with various folding patterns, putting one flower inside another, rolling the petals instead of folding them, refolding soggy flowers. Both girls took extra flowers to school for Show & Tell, apparently with great success.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Summer sewing

I start every summer with great intentions of making dress and shirts and tops for myself and my two little ones - I'd offer to sew for Mr DC but I don't think he'd go for flowery frocks - and most summers I fail miserably.

This year was different - each girl has had simple handsewn dresses galore, with low cost cotton prints from our local travelling fabric sale.

I wish I could get away with flowers like these!

This is adapted from New Look 6478 - very easy, and works in cotton
rather than the recommended jersey if you extend the back
slit and add an extra button.

I particularly covet this one - it's embroidered sequinned linen and it sparkles in the sunshine. It also creases like you wouldn't believe but it's worth the ironing.

This one (which is tiny yellow rosebuds though you can't see them here) even works over jodhpurs when you're having your first ever ride on someone else's pony...

Adapted from Simplicity 4206 - originally a peasant style top.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Dotty's Lottie

Earlier this year we took over a new allotment - long time readers might remember I had a part share in a plot last year, and when the chance of a new plot of our very own came up in February, we jumped at it. This is what it looked like:


The first three months flew by on a hectic schedule of arranging ploughing (a great luxury, but it was an absolute disaster area), building rabbit fencing, covering designated growing areas with weed suppressing fabric till we can tackle them, making a big compost bin and digging. So much digging.

Finally we were ready to plant more potatoes than we can eat in this lifetime, beans of all varieties, sweetcorn, various berries, butternut squash, pumpkins ...Now it looks more like this:

And my pride and joy? The reason I craved an allotment in the first place? My very own cutting patch - I only planted up one of the planned four beds this year but it is hugely productive right now:

Sarah Raven, eat your heart out.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Taking my mind off it

Well, it's official, I'm no longer the mother of pre-school children. Tiny Small started at the village primary yesterday and the combination of that with Tall Small going into KS2 has left me feeling like I've gone through an emotional mangle. Anyway, they're having a lovely time, which is of course the main thing, and I have managed so far only to fall apart when they're not in the room. I must be learning self control in my old age. Well, apart from the chocolate - for therapeutic purposes, you understand.

So as a distraction I have been looking back through photos of our holiday this summer. We spent two weeks in a little cottage in Croyde, famous for its surf and its pubs - both of which we fully enjoyed. One weekend we saw James Cracknell on the beach teaching his son to bodyboard, just the same as we were, though I think he looked rather more glamorous in his wetsuit than I did in mine.

There was plenty of rockpooling action:

Quite a bit of seagull chasing:

Sliding down sand-dunes - rather her than me; and yes, she did complain about the sand getting everywhere!

One afternoon we ventured away from the beach and headed for a walk along the cliffs above the bay. I think this photo was taken just after the point where our collective vertigo kicked in - the cliff path is the brown band about 30 feet down the hill from where we were standing, and we had taken the higher alternative just as soon as we could ...

There's nothing quite like sea air to make you sleep well and give you an appetite - which probably explains why my clothes felt tighter at the end of the holiday!