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In which I’m going to the MADs again – Thank You!

26/04/2016

THANK YOU!! Last Thursday as I sat at the computer in the evening, finishing up a little bit of work and trying not to get too distracted by Twitter, a little notification flashed up on my screen, a tweet from Jess congratulating her fellow finalists.

What? Wait a minute? Fellow finalists? Does that mean?

It does.

Vote for Space for the Butterflies at the MADs

I am a MADs finalist.

To have been able to say that last year was amazing, to be saying it again this year as a Finalist for Best Craft Blog is simply incredible and put the cherry and icing on what had already been a pretty awesome week.  That my text to H to let him know was mostly party hat, smiley face and shocked face emojis pretty much sums it up.  I was floating so high you would have needed to scrape me off the ceiling.

When I asked if you would consider nominating me I’ll admit I asked in hope rather than with expectation. We are so lucky to be blogging in a time when the Internet is full of wonderful writing, great ideas, and beautiful photos, but I bet I’m not the only one whose sometimes found it a little overwhelming, and been certain that anything that I can write or share with you will pale in comparison to the best of everything else out there.  The more years I spend blogging, the more it seems that there just aren’t enough awards to go around and whenever an awards season comes around my inner self critic goes into overdrive on the “why are you even trying”.

But, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know and so I asked, and you nominated my little corner of the Internet and that truly means the world to me. I don’t really know how to explain it except to say that while I would blog even if there were no stats, no rankings and no awards, every single nomination was an acknowledgement that I’m not actually standing shouting into the noisy abyss, I’m here among friends chatting babies and school and gardening and making a creative life for my family.

To be a finalist is a huge honour, and to win would be ….well I don’t know – and I’d really like to find out.  So I’m asking for your help again.  If you’ve enjoyed some of my crafty posts in the last year, either the things I’ve made for the children and the family, like their Christmas crowns or my Fishing Net Quilt, or all the things we get up to on our crafternoons, like lunar eclipses and tiny fluffy felt eggs please would you vote for me?

The voting form is here.  You have to give an email address, presumably to stop us spamming the results and then look for Space for the Butterflies on the drop down menu for Best Craft Blog.  You don’t have to be a blogger, or based in the UK, just be someone who enjoys reading and can spare a couple of minute to vote sometime between now and 27 May.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade life

Crafty Ideas Elma Family Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Handmade for Pip Kitty Photography Pip

Fluffy eggs and hidden root babies {handmade for Easter}

01/04/2016

Every Easter that we’ve been north with the family my inlaws have put on the most epic of epic Easter Egg hunts around their garden. The only other occasion when you’ll see this much chocolate in one place is inside a shop. The girls think it’s absolutely wonderful of course, they collect it all in, and count the eggs and admire the colours, and on Easter Sunday they can help themselves within reason (after that a degree of rationing kicks in for all our sakes, and my colleagues have been known to benefit from a share of the bounty!). But because the chocolate aspect has already been covered off, H and I try to give them a little non-food Easter treat, the more handmade the better.

So this year we found a rainbow pencil crayon each for the girls, and a book for Pip, and I made these:

Space for the Butterflies - how to make fluffy secret eggs

The cutest, fluffiest Easter Eggs you could ever find.

Space for the Butterflies - how to make fluffy secret eggs

And what could that be hiding inside the eggs? Why three little flower root babies of course!

Space for the Butterflies - how to make fluffy secret eggs

Several weeks ago I was playing around with wet felting with the children, and once we’d made various wiggly worms and they’d moved on to something else, I kept playing, wrapping layers and layers of pretty wool roving around the plastic inside from a kinder egg. It’s not a completely perfect egg shape I grant you, but it’s more egg shaped than anything else I had in the house at the time.

I found the best way to get a good felt was to wrap several thin layers around in different directions, then just sprinkle on a bit of hot water to start with and start gently patting. Once it got matted and damp all over, then I would hold it inside my hands and dip it into a bowl of hot water, squeeze gently as it came back out and then add soap directly to the egg. We’d started with our nice child friendly very gentle soap but that just didn’t cut it, and I had a lot more success once I moved on to washing up liquid (we have Ecover but anything ‘stronger’ would probably work even better).

I started by just stroking the fibres down in different directions, you want enough soap that it feels sudsy and then as the egg started to felt I could roll it around in my hands until it felt solid.

Space for the Butterflies - how to make fluffy secret eggs

I found adding extra layers part way through to be quite tricky, some people swear by building it all up a layer at a time and some say have all the fibre there at the beginning, it’s a bit of trial and error, but for me I think starting with lots of thin layers already built up works best, plus if you start with one colour and change to another then you get an egg that’s one colour on the outside and another on the inside.

Space for the Butterflies - how to make fluffy secret eggs

The pink egg is purple inside and the purple one is pink! The blue one actually has some other colours somewhere in the mix but I think they’re all hidden in the middle.  My other top tip is that you need more layers than you think you do.  The pink one was my experimental attempt and it has quite a few more layers than the other two so it’s nice and rigid once the kinder egg bit came out – the other two have slightly flappy lids.

Once the eggs were fully felted I rinsed them in more hot water and then left them to dry for a couple of days.  Then I took a pair of embroidery scissors and sniped them open.  The stitching around the edge is just blanket stitch and three strands of embroidery thread, a loop and a button from my button jar to keep the root babies tucked up safe and sound.  I didn’t make the root babies, I’d been trying to think of what to hide inside the eggs when I spotted them in one of our favourite shops and knew they were just the thing.  The Story of the Root Children has been one of our favourite bedtime stories for ages and it’s very apt at this time of year.

And to accompany the fluffy eggs H and the girls revealed their latest project, a whole clutch of beautiful eggs.  They’d blown them themselves (more Kitty and H than Elma!) and then dyed them with tissue paper and the results were amazing.  We had 10 in the end, strung up along the kitchen windowsills for Easter Sunday in all their gorgeous colourful glory. Definitely a craft to add to the repeat list for next year.

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Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On

If you have a moment, I would truly love a nomination in the MADs and the BiBs blogging awards for writer, craft, or family/school days (all the details are here – short version: anyone can vote, you don’t have to blog or be in the UK and I will be eternally grateful if you do x).  And if you can’t quite decide for who to nominate in the hotly contested pre-school category, can I persuade you into taking a look at Clarina’s ContemplationsDear Little Daisy, Make Do and Push, or A Baby on Board all of which are completely awesome and wonderful 🙂

 

Crafty Ideas Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Handmade for Pip Kitty Knitting Photography Pip Sewing

Hearts and Butterflies {handmade for Kitty, Elma and Pip}

19/02/2016

As of the end of last week I became the poster child for the power of subliminal messaging.  Or possible the power of liminal messaging, is that a thing? Anyway.  Ever since the calendar flipped over into 2016 I have spent my working days happily ensconced below Emily Quinton’s gorgeous pictures in this year’s Mollie Makes calendar.  They’re all lovely inspiring pictures (I may have taken a sneak peak into the year ahead) but February’s picture is so pretty and the crafting idea so simple, that after two weeks sat staring at it I was powerless to resist.

And so with Valentine’s day rapidly approaching I spent last Friday evening happily immersed in felt and ribbons and thread; listening to an audiobook and stitching away.

Space for the Butterflies - Valentine Hearts

The girls gave me some stacks of lovely soft wool felt for my birthday  (which I’m 99.99% sure came from Berylune) and I loved dipping in to it to choose the perfect colour combinations for each of my three, fairly heavily influenced by what they’d made a grab for the last time we were all playing felt.

For Kitty, a pale rose and a deep coral, for Elma, jewel-like pink and purple, and for Pip the same coral as Kitty but matched with a darker orangey red.  The ribbons are all from my stash too; I can’t remember where Elma’s purple velvet came from but in a moment of beautiful kismet I realised that the ribbons I’d chosen for Kitty and Pip were both free cover gifts from old issues of Mollie Makes.

Space for the Butterflies - Valentine Hearts

I cut little hearts from one of their pink and yellow watercolour paintings to write them little valentine messages, and when the hearts were sat on the breakfast table there were three tiny chocolate eggs in each (we’re just not that organised to have actually managed to buy hearts so H went for Easter as a fall back!) but somehow and quite mysteriously, by the time I came to take pictures of the hearts, all of the chocolate had disappeared!

Space for the Butterflies - Valentine Hearts

And the butterflies? Well Kitty and I have started to do a little finger knitting again.  We tried back in the autumn but unfortunately, tucking it back into a basket just wasn’t enough protection from the “assistance” of small siblings, and it kept being pulled undone, or tipped out all over the floor when the basket was needed as some crucial part of a castle or something.  We started again after Christmas with a new and very pink ball of yarn, kept safely wrapped up in a paper bag and tucked into my knitting bag between times, but I wanted Kitty to have somewhere of her own to keep it, and for that somewhere to be beautiful, just to add to the already great charms of all things wooly.

In short she needed a project bag, and armed with the great tutorial at In Colour Order I had a quick stash dive one afternoon, spent one evening armed with a rotary cutter, and another evening sewing, and made this:

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

A lined drawstring bag, with two strings so that (a) it stays shut and (b) it can also act as a backpack on a five year old.  The main fabric came from a fat quarter I bought in a little craft barn on the road to Edinburgh (which dates it as at the very least, pre-Kitty).  I loved it at first sight and love it still and I’m so glad that I finally found a project that didn’t involve cutting it up too much. It’s been rejected for goodness knows how many projects over the years as being just too pretty to water down the impact of such a glorious flutter of butterflies.

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

The accent fabric (and the fabric ties) are leftovers from a quilt that I made for one of our NCT friends, Heather Bailey Swing Toss in pink, and then the lining is what in yarn I’d call a semi-solid, is that the right terminology for fabric? Whatever it’s called, it’s a variegated pink and just the thing for my pink loving girl.

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

It’s a great tutorial and really easy to sew up and I love how polished it looks as a finished bag, from the matching ties all the way to the nicely boxed off corners that make it so very good at standing up by itself.

Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

I left it on Kitty’s chair the morning after I’d finished it, tucked in so she wouldn’t see it until breakfast and as I got to the office a little video pinged in my text messages. Never has a bag been hugged so hard.Space for the Butterflies - Drawstring Butterfly Bag

So now all I have to do, is make one for Elma.  Déjà vu, coming to a blog near you, probably next week!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm Craft On

Blogging Crafty Ideas Elma Family Inspiration Kitty Pause for Thought Photography Pip

Five things for a Tuesday {February}

09/02/2016

One: I absolutely love this post by Sarah Ockwell-Smith looking at whether gentle parenting will always be at odds with mainstream schooling by interviewing an awesome teacher currently working in mainstream school. It’s a fantastic counterbalance to so much of what we see in the media about how our schools are full of teachers who were once inspired and in love with imparting knowledge but are now tied up in red tape to the point of quitting the profession, and a lovely view of how a school can be perfectly functional without having to resort to the “sit still in a line and memorise this” version of education.

Two: There’s usually a pretty fast turn around time between my writing these posts and them actually going live.  Sometime I’m publishing straight away, sometimes I might write in the morning and schedule for the next day, but there isn’t much of a gap.  It’s a huge contrast to work where my drafting will sometimes be reviewed and reviewed and reviewed again before it ever leaves the office.  This podcast talks about the editing process and it’s a wonderful reminder of how important that can be – and a fun listen too. Space for the Butterflies

Three: I love doing wet on wet watercolour painting with the children; mainly because my drawing and painting of actual things skills needs quite a bit of work, and this sort of watercolour painting, where we usually just use a couple of colours and let them blend themselves, has all the peaceful bliss of laying down colour in swirls and none of the “what was it you were trying to make” problems.

Space for the Butterflies

(photo by H proving that he has not been oblivious to 10 years of my putting projects in the shrubbery for photographs!)

Even Pip is big enough to join in, and because he just gets one little pot of colour there’s less for him to throw around and a lot of it does end up on the paper.  It means we’re building up a fair stash of finished pictures so I’ve started to use them as backgrounds for the girls other drawings, and for this week’s crafting with the girls we painted with red, pink, orange and yellow and then I cut out a whole heap of hearts (the big ones traced from a biscuit cutter and the little ones freehand) to make a Valentine’s day garland for the lounge, and I love how it turned out.

Space for the Butterflies

Four: Becky’s post on the right to feel out of sorts when you feel out of sorts is a really thought provoking read and raises an interesting question about the reality of life versus what you put out on the internet.

Five: and finally, via Design Sponge, who has a very pretty illustrated version of it here, a quote from Joseph Chilton Pearce:

“To live a creative life, we must loose our fear of being wrong”

True indeed.

 

Crafty Ideas Elma Family Handmade Kitty Photography Pip Work in Progress

Crafting with the girls: felting

01/02/2016

Saturday afternoon, while H is at hockey, and Pip is hopefully having a nap, is my craft time with the girls.  It’s not an exclusive thing, they make and create things all day long, but I try to make Saturday afternoons a little bit special, a time when I can just push away the outside world for a little time and focus on my girls.  Making it a part of our weekly rhythm is a bit of a work in progress though and this week we got to Saturday and I wondered what on earth we were going to do, I hadn’t planned anything, or even thought about anything.  The answer it appears is to have a house that is full to the brim with craft supplies because this week’s project literally landed at my feet when a little parcel of bright pink carded wool tumbled off the dresser into my lap.

Space for the Butterflies - crafting with the girls

It was Kitty’s, a birthday present from Elma, but it had sat unopened just waiting for us to try another experiment in felting.  And so that’s what we did.

I’ve never tried needle felting before but I do own a needle felting tool, a rather vicious piece of kit that holds five felting needles inside a circular guard.  What I don’t own is any sort of felting mat, either official, or clean washing up sponge purloined from the cupboard, so we used a garden chair cushion on the basis that it was largely foam and if I accidentally felted something to it, I could live with that.

I’ve seen a few beginner projects that start with making a 2D shape inside a cookie cutter so with Valentine’s Day approaching we thought we’d try hearts. My first effort, just using layers of fibre did very nearly end up being part of the garden cushion, but then we  put down a background of wool felt and that helped, although we still had to gently lift it off the cushion from time to time.  Those of you who know about felting, is that normal on a proper felting mat or is there something clever about it that stops things sticking?

It was the perfect project to let Kitty loose with, stabbing away to her heart’s content and adding layer upon layer to her pretty heart while Elma and a newly awake Pip and I had another go at wet felting.

Space for the Butterflies - crafting with the girls

The last time we tried wet felting, hoping to make little felt balls we could string as beads we ended up with wiggly worms, so this time I thought we’d set out to make wiggly worms, managing all our expectations from the outset!  Thanks to Christmas I also had quite the collection of bubble wrap envelopes and it turns out they’re just the thing for making wiggly worms.

Space for the Butterflies - crafting with the girls

We practiced teasing out the wool until it was as light as a cloud and then laid them all on top of each other, splashed on a bit of warm soapy water (Pip’s favourite part), and rubbed them back and forth between two sheets of bubble wrap envelope until they were all stuck together.Space for the Butterflies - crafting with the girls

Elma has decided that they’re wands, although a wobblier wand you’d be hard pushed to find, but I’ve got every intention to sneak them away when they’ve finished playing with them to try needle felting the wet felting to some background felt as the outline of a heart and making it into a little heart for them each for Valentine’s Day. What do you think? I’m very much a novice at the whole felting thing – would that work?

Space for the Butterflies - crafting with the girls

But the bit that made me smile to myself was that when the felting and the construction lost its appeal neither of the girls could quite bring themselves to put down the wool! They made streaks for their hair, pretended to powder their noses, and just generally squished and mashed it between their fingers. I think their exposure to all things woolly from a very early age is starting to show, and it does make me happy to see!