Tag Archives: crafting

A lesson in slow crafting

The unschooling diaries: week ten

Arthur has yet to show much of an interest in arts and crafts. When he was tiny he just couldn’t abide the mess – he’s still not super keen on getting paint on his hands. Now that he’s older he’ll dabble, but it’s still really not his ‘thing’.

I’m ok with that – mostly – even though my inner crafter is crying out for an excuse to spend afternoons surrounded by tissue paper and glitter and it really doesn’t help my fear that he’s missing out on something by not being at nursery when I see all the pictures of toddler creations fellow mums share proudly on Facebook. But when over breakfast one day last week he started getting enthusiastic about the idea of making some Easter cards I couldn’t help but get a bit excited. Not least because it meant we might finally got round to saying an extremely belated thank you for his birthday and Christmas presents…

The teacher in me leapt to the blackboard to note down his ideas (sidetracked a little by Winnie the Pooh as his most vivid understanding of Easter comes from ‘Springtime with Roo’ – I have no idea where the armour came from).

He happily settled on the idea of painted eggs though – he frequently dances around singing ‘we’re hunting eggs today!’ at the moment, and I’m very much looking forward to his very own egg hunt on Sunday. He then decided he wanted chicks in his eggs (well he said ducks, but I think that’s what he meant…) which led us very nicely to an easy to accomplish collaborative card idea. It might not be very original, but he liked it.

Having bought in some supplies (very important to have the right shades of glitter), and prepped some eggs for him to decorate, we set aside a couple of hours last weekend to make a start. And he of course lost interest within approximately three and a half minutes.

I battled with him for another two before reminding myself that that really was not the point, and calmly telling him that it was fine – we’d come back to it when he felt like it. I didn’t tidy everything away, just organised his workstation enough for it not to descend into total chaos. And sure enough the next day he gravitated towards his eggs again, did a few more minutes of gluing and glitter scattering, and moved on.

And that’s sort of been the background to this week, really. Every so often this little activity has piqued his interest again, and he’s added a little to his eggs. We’ve tried out a few different techniques along the way – stamping, mixing colours to get the shade of pink he wanted, watering paint down so he could ‘dye’ his eggs, mixing it in with glue and glitter. And every time, just as I thought he might be getting into it, he’s walked away again, his attention taken by his diggers or the urgent need for a banana.

We’re still not quite done, but we’re getting there. He’s declared that the eggs are finished at least, so there’s just a bit of cutting and sticking left. I might need to take the lead on that bit, what with it being Good Friday tomorrow and everything, but I reckon that’s ok. I can’t expect him to do all the work!

The homemade Christmas gift experiment


Last Christmas I got it into my head that it would be a really nice idea to make people’s presents. That was after I’d bought them of course, so it didn’t happen. And once the festive season began to fade my ambitions faded with it: I had a novel to focus on, and there simply wasn’t enough time for any serious crafting.

But then in mid-November the thought of a homemade Christmas fired up again. I started looking around for some inspiration, finding two books especially interesting: Makery and ReCraft, both using a combination of found and bought materials to create original and useful pieces.


I honed my ideas, and over the following couple of weeks began to gather the materials I would need. I was starting from a pretty basic set of skills – in fact the amount I was going to have to learn to pull of my plan was a major motivating factor. I had a sewing machine: it had been gifted to me last Christmas, but apart from a length of birthday bunting I’d never actually used it. But in my mind I’d committed by this point so I wasn’t about to give up.

I started small, with some gold necklaces made from refashioned toy animals and personalised notebooks for selected friends. But as Christmas drew ever nearer I realised I was going to have to take the plunge and tackle some of my more complex ideas.

It was a massive learning curve – especially where the sewing machine was concerned. I’d actually made the first few gifts before I realised that I was using it without the UK adapter. It’s a vintage Bernina, and fortunately very forgiving, but that did explain why it had been running at a million miles per hour…

I got over that hurdle, taught myself a few other crafting skills, and with the help of the books, the internet and a healthy dose of imagination, completed my mission a couple of days before Christmas itself.

What follows is a list of my craftings, mainly with pictures (apart from where it seems I got so into the making I forgot to take any) and with links where appropriate. I haven’t included detailed tutorials but I do hope to get round to that in the future – for some of these at least. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to know more about then please let me know in the comments!

For the kids 

There were three children I wanted to make presents for: Arthur (nearly two) and his two cousins, aged three and five.

For Arthur I had decided months ago I wanted to make a doll. Having trawled the internet for ideas I decided on a Waldorf doll: I liked the principles behind it, and the fact that I could tailor it to suit him. There’s lots more I could – and will at some stage – say about this project, but I was generally pretty happy with how it turned out.


I came across a vintage pram in Oxfam to go with it, filled a couple of cardboard suitcases with a selection of clothes and accessories, and also made a doll-sized mei tai which only seemed appropriate for my little sling baby.



For Arthur’s cousins, I was keen to create things which would inspire imaginative play. For the three year old I decided on a hobby horse, inspired by one from Red Ted Art.


And for the five year old I made a wolf costume, loosely modelled on an idea in ReCraft.


For the brothers

There were five grown-up boys to make presents for, and they were actually my most challenging at first. By focusing in on their interests and just generally where they’re at, though, I soon came up with ideas.

Leigh’s brother is very into comics and graphic novels, as is Leigh. So when I came across the comic book coasters in Makery I figured they would be perfect. In the end Leigh did the actual crafting – clearly I couldn’t be trusted to choose the right pictures…

My eldest brother was about to embark on an adventure across the pond, beginning a new job in New York in January. So I carefully chose some fabric to make a passport case, again following instructions from Makery – and made a matching one for his wife too.



My middle brother is very into self-sufficiency and the environment, and has just finished a Masters degree in soil science. I made him a lunch pouch (another Makery idea), again choosing the fabric carefully, to help him on his eco-friendly path.


And the youngest… What exactly do you make an international rock star? I decided on something to make his life easier on the road, designing an allergy-friendly eating kit with stamped vintage cutlery and signs for the kitchens his food is prepared in. I might need to make a set for myself too!




Ben’s fiancee’s brother was also joining us for Christmas, and with Leigh’s help I made a set of scrabble fridge magnets. He’s in his final year at Oxford and I figured they fitted with the student vibe – I’d actually quite like a set of those as well…

For the girls

The four grown-up girls were a little easier to come up with ideas for. There was the passport cover for Greg’s wife, and for Ashley’s fiancee I created a picture from framed vintage lexicon cards to celebrate her growing business, Queen Bee Cakes. I’ve seen these all over the place, but I quite liked the addition of the lace background to give it a vintage feel.


For my youngest almost-sister-in-law I had a raft of ideas – she’s a clothes designer, and I came across all sorts of crafty things I thought she might like. In the end though I settled on a vintage tape measure brooch and a toy truck pin cushion – once again inspired by Makery.


Leigh’s brother’s wife was a little trickier, being considerably more sophisticated than me. But then I fell in love with these glitter candle holders made from vintage crockery in ReCraft– easy to make, but surprisingly effective.


For the parents

Neither of our dads are massive fans of stuff, so we decided to go down the route of photo gifts. For my dad I printed off an image I love of him with my Grampa from this summer, presenting it in a refurbished vintage frame.

For Leigh’s dad we cheated a little – we wanted to give him a jigsaw, and decided that one with the necessary complexity would be a little beyond my skills. So we created one with the help of photobox, and I made a little tin to keep it in from an old fairy light box.

Our mums were a little easier. Leigh’s mum is an expert at crochet, so I made her a bag to keep her supplies in – along with a pouch of new bamboo crochet hooks and a book of adorable crocheted animals.


For my mum, I fell in love with this mobile, inspired by a Liberty creation. She embraces the changing seasons in her countryside home, and I loved how this design brought beauty to the rain to brighten up even the greyest day.


For my Grampa

The final recipient of a homemade gift was to be my 96 year old grandfather. Again stuff was the last thing that he needed, but he’s been an invaluable support in reading the drafts of my novels and I thought he might like to sample some of my blog. He’s not online, but I found a brilliant company who turned a selection of posts from my blog into a beautiful book. Not quite homemade, but certainly with a lot of my creativity in it.

So there you have it! A selection of homemade gifts for all the family. There were moments when I’d regretted my decision – generally when it was three in the morning and I just had to finish one last thing – but it was immensely satisfying to give presents which I had made myself. Now I just need to get thinking about what I’m going to make next time round…

Linking up to The List with Hannah at Mums’ Days and Aby at You Baby Me Mummy.

Word of the Week: Hectic

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


I mean, every week is pretty busy, but this week has been crazy! I’m sure having just come back from holiday hasn’t helped, but even just reflecting on all the different things we’ve done this week is making me exhausted.

No sooner had we dropped our bags in the hallway on Saturday than we were out again, heading to a wedding reception. This was no ordinary wedding, with celebrations taking place at a Yurt Camp near Dartmoor. We actually spent the night in a yurt, and that along with stealing the bride’s ukulele were the highlights of Arthur’s evening.

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Over the next few days my main focus was supposed to be finishing the initial read through of the first draft of my novel. But even though I know it’s vitally important, and I’m actually really enjoying it, I’m finding it so much harder to fit the reading in than the writing itself. There always seems to be something else to do: catching up on what I’ve missed in the blogosphere for example, and finally getting around to tackling the ‘make your own monster’ kit Arthur was given for Christmas.

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We obviously had to find the time for some outings too, reacquainting ourselves with the beach and Berry Head.

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Just as I thought we might be settling back into some sort of rhythm, I had a call from the school where I’m a governor saying that Ofsted were coming in. Cue a rapid reshuffling of Thursday’s plans to accommodate a dash to the school after Arthur’s first Music with Mummy session (which was fab – but hectic!).


After battling through the rain I delivered Arthur to the administrator who’d kindly agreed to look after him whilst I faced the inspectors. The pushchair we hadn’t used since he was six weeks old was initially supposed to make their life easier, though ended up being a pretty handy receptacle for all the files and toys and snacks I was lugging around.

When we eventually got home there were some secret missions to be accomplished: it’s Leigh’s birthday today, so there was a cake to be baked and cards to be made.

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Arthur has been a superstar with all the craziness that’s been thrust upon him, though he’s definitely been checking in for cuddles even more often than usual to recharge his batteries. As for me, I’ve enjoyed the buzz of getting everything done but I’m hoping things are going to settle down next week. Otherwise I might just need another holiday…

The Reading Residence

A crafty thank you

I’ve always been pants at sending thank you cards, and always, always felt guilty about it. When Arthur was born we were sent some gorgeous gifts, but the world was such a haze back then that our friends and family were lucky to receive a text message in return.

So in the wake of Christmas and Arthur’s first birthday, and in the spirit of all those new year’s resolutions, I’ve decided it’s time to make a change.

In between various other things over the last few days I’ve been making some thank you cards to send out on behalf of Arthur. I wanted to do something personalised, something that would begin to make up for lost time if you like. I was thinking handprints, but he’s really a little little to find that fun. So instead I used his hand as a template.

We had some paper left over from wrapping his presents which seemed appropriate as well as being kinda funky, so after tracing round his hand (the trickiest bit) the first job was to draw out all the hand shapes on the back of the paper.


Then a bit of cutting out.


Then some sticking, a bit of stamping, and voila!


The lettering wasn’t all as neat as that. My stamping definitely needs some practise. But all in all I was quite pleased with them – and when I showed them to Arthur he waved, which confirms at least that they look like hands.

All that remains now is to write them and get them in the post – hopefully beginning a lifetime of guilt-free thank you card sending for our little man.