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There are parties and then there are parties

17/05/2016

I think I now know what theme I want for my birthday parties for the rest of forever.  Part of H’s wedding anniversary present to me was a ticket to Berylune’s Craft Party, and while not exactly the traditional gift, only when you’re parents to a horde of small children can you truly appreciate how much throwing you out of the house for the evening really does say “I love you”.  I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks and last Friday found me out after bedtime, and lining up for a party where it had never seemed more normal to be knitting on a sock while chatting and waiting for a space to make a beaded necklace.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

I started the evening making envelopes.  It’s addictive.  I don’t send much snail mail, nor can I really think of anything terribly useful to do with hundreds of envelopes but after playing around for a bit with templates and paper I can see why you’d want to make them anyway.  My first attempt, made from an Ordnance Survey map of “Northern England” was for H; a funny sort of thank you present, an envelope with his childhood home on the front but when we were students back in the days of dubious mobile phone reception we used to write to each other all the time through the holidays and I’d have loved to have sent him a letter with “deliver here” and an X marks the spot on it, just to see if it arrived.  Flipping through an old Bunty annual I found the perfect page for my next envelope, a comic strip of a girl falling over wearing heels which was far too close to some of my wobbles in heels to be ignored, and then the final one I made just to see how the concertina template worked out, and then realised that I’d chosen the wrapping paper that matched the tissue paper I used to box up the baby clothes the other week – in my defence it’s a really pretty pattern.Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

The bar had pompom making and hama beads and a giant colouring in poster and I was having so much fun just sitting and chatting and colouring a castle in rainbow colours that it took me a while to realise that there was an upstairs.  Oh wow.  Decked out from end to end in triangle bunting and cactus bunting and giant paper garlands and gold balloons, and full of people chatting and people trying out everything you’ve ever seen on Pinterest and wanted to have a go at but never got around to.

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The line looked shortest for the rubber stamping so I started there; all the stamps were pre-cut but it was amazing to see how different everyone’s pictures turned out; on one side of me a girl was making patterns in gold stars and on the other an entire mountain took shape, all black ink and thunderous clouds.  My imagination conjured up a night sky with three colours of stars, and though I’d thought about clouds or the moon, in the end I stuck to stars, and houses, and trees and I love how it turned out.  Kitty is quite determined to claim this as her own so we might have to see about a frame for the girls’ room before too long.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

From stamping I tried a little jewellery making; there were so many pretty colours of beads that choosing just nine for a pattern along the pin was all but impossible.  Making the necklace itself was actually very easy and I love the way it turned out, I’ve chosen colours that will go with some work clothes so that hopefully I’ll get a chance to actually wear it.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

Leather work was completely new to me, but I can see why it would get so addictive; I love the origami of this little purse and I’m seriously tempted to try to replicate it in patchwork using some leftover snaps from making knitted baby bibs; the girls love having little pockets and bags to put tiny treasures in so I suspect that they would happily embrace all failed prototypes.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

The little notebook was my next creation; it’s made from marbled card and the gold stripes are all colours of sticky tape.  By this point we were starting to get towards the end of the evening and with a hopeful queue around each table there was not exactly a pressure to be quick but certainly a group willingness to make sure we all got a turn, and I actually found it quite fun.  When you don’t have too long to overthink things and you just have to let your hands start making it’s the crafty equivalent of just sitting down to write whatever pops into your mind, without feeling like it has to be right or good, and just like the writing exercise it usually means that I end up with something I really like.  My notebook is a bit of fun and rather sweet and I have every intention of putting it to use.

By the time I got to doodling a mug I’d seen a fair few absolutely stunning designs being produced throughout the evening.  There were some very very talented artists making mugs that evening, especially when you start to draw yourself and realise just how hard it is to make a straight line on a curved surface.  I leave most of the drawing to H in our family, but there is one thing that I can draw and get the proportions roughly right: boats.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

And so boats it was, perched on top of some unlikely looking waves and a few fish, with just the one lone seagull looking down.  I baked it over the weekend so hopefully the pattern will last as long as the mug (which is being very carefully kept away from small children).

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

And last but by no means least, a little modge podge, a little washi tape, and a silver tipped moon.  It’s another make that I’m going to be wrestling back from the children and I’m glad they like it because decorating wooden brooches with washi tape is definitely something we’ll be doing together sometime soon.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

And then all that was left was to head home, far later than I have been out of the house in years, to discover that H had somehow quite miraculously managed to persuade all three children to go to sleep without me (a treat in itself) so that I could sit with him, tell him all about the evening, and unpack my amazing goodie bag (and yes that is a chocolate cactus).

Speaking of chocolate, Creightons were making personalised chocolate bars and it seemed only fitting to get one as a better thank you to H than an envelope.  I could have put his name on it, but “Go Paint!” seemed a more fitting response to the evening, and an instruction that has been duly followed ever since.

Space for the Butterflies - Berylune Craft Party

I am absolutely thrilled to be a MADs Finalist for the Best Craft Blog category this year – I would love your vote, all the details are here and voting is open until 27 May

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Crochet Elma Family Handmade Inspiration Kitty Knitting Photography Pip Sewing Work in Progress

Progress and Planning

29/04/2016

This week I have been plotting.  I’ve been making as well but I’m having one of those phases where I flit between projects depending on mood and concentration levels and while some things have got a little bigger since the last time you saw it, none of them are anywhere near finishing.  The backing and wadding and binding for the Fishing Net quilt are still in their bag, as is the background fabric for my next quilt, mostly waiting for me to tidy my desk up even just a teeny tiny bit to make room for what will be a quite gargantuan quilting effort.

Space for the Butterflies - Cottage ripple Space for the Butterflies - Cottage ripple I picked up my crochet again when the weather turned cold, mostly because it’s so cozy to work on while it’s all spread over my lap.  I have now finished the first third of the central section, although given that that has taken me a year and a quarter I can only hope that the rest won’t take as long to finish.  I’m definitely getting faster, and my trebles are getting more fluid, so I have high hopes.  I’d say maybe by Christmas but it turns out that after all these years I am actually learning that given that the last third of the year has all three children’s birthdays and Christmas, I might want to rethink what I’m going to be able to do on top of all of the deadlines for birthday jumpers.  Maybe a year from now – what do you think?

 

The chief distraction from the crochet has been Christmas knitting. Of the 2015 variety.  I was doing so well with H’s Christmas present balls of yarn; he had his January socks in January and his February socks in February and his March socks are ….

20160429-DSC_0073 two inches of the first sock that keep falling off the needles as soon as Pip even looks in their direction.  I do like the pattern but I think it’s my least favourite of all four yarns and when I was looking for something to grab for car knitting while we were travelling last weekend I’m afraid I glanced in their direction, and then went to pick up the loveliness that is Socks that Rock medium weight to make a start on April’s socks.   Space for the Butterflies - handknit socks

It’s proof that lovely yarn practically knits itself because by the time we arrived back on Sunday night I’d got to the toe shaping.  Forgive me for my sock infidelity lovely March socks, I promise I’ll get back to you just as soon as I’ve finished the second April.

But I mentioned plotting.  I picked up one of my stash of Oliver + S patterns the other day and realised that not only has Kitty grown out of the sizing (that’s not that much of a surprise, she may be five but she wears age 8 and 9 clothes) but Elma is on the cusp of being too grown up for them too.  Well that will never do.  And so on a rainy wet evening this week that felt entirely borrowed from February, I pulled out a good chunk of my dressmaking fabric stash, divided the patterns into Kitty and Elma sizes and asked them to do some choosing.  And so I have a summer sewing list of sorts.

I’ve done this before; make lists and lined up fabric and pattern and then that seems to have satisfied that particular creative itch and I’ve never actually got around to doing the cutting and sewing, a sort of textile equivalent to joining a gym making you think that you’ve actually done some exercise.  So lets just say that this is the intention, even if we have to wait a little bit for the reality.

So what do we have?

Space for the Butterflies - campervan skirts

Well probably first on the list is going to be the girls’ souvenir from our weekend away – H and I both fell in love with this camper van print, to the point that even a similar print but with beach huts couldn’t distract us from the vision of two little girls running around in camper van skirts with dotty pockets.  My plan is to make more (yet more) of the Purl Bee’s Skirt for All Ages, it’s a great pattern and the previous incarnations have been top of the wardrobe picks all year round.

Space for the Butterflies - Susanne from Citronille

After that, and in the spirit of fairness and the slightly more important spirit of dressing them as near to matching as I can get away with while they’re still small enough to find it fun, I have the Citronille pattern for Susanne, in sizes to cover both girls.  It’s a beautiful floaty gathered smock dress, which will be perfect for the hot days I’m convincing myself are coming (even if we have to go travelling in Europe to find them), and work well with leggings underneath for the rest of a British summer or when Kitty grows 10 inches overnight.

I can easily imagine that this is as far as I will actually get, but if I indulge myself for a second and press on, both girls have chosen a skirt from my stash of Oliver + S patterns;

Space for the Butterflies - Oliver + S skirts

Kitty’s is the Badminton Skort to be made out of a blue quilting cotton (Toy Box II by Sara Morgan for Blue Hill Fabrics), with possibly something of a contrast for the shorts underneath depending on how far I can make the fabric stretch, and Elma chose the Hopscotch Skirt and a pile of fat quarters from a seaside print. It’s crazy to think that when I bought that fabric it would have made her a dress. Oh well!

And last, but by no means least, we have the challenges;

20160429-DSC_0141

a Fairytale dress for Kitty from fabric from the weekend’s haul, a beautiful albeit nameless quilting cotton, and for Elma an Ice Cream Dress from two of the oldest lengths of fabric in my stash.

20160429-DSC_0110

They’re both Liberty Tana lawn, one a birthday present from the days before the children arrived, and the other bought while I was on maternity leave with Kitty.  Liberty print is far too special not to be treasured and held onto until exactly the right project comes along, and I think this might just be it – always assuming I can get around to making it before Miss Elma grows again.

And lest you be worried that poor Master Pip Squeak is missing out in all of this, (a) his birthday comes first, (b) he needs a new jumper before then and (c) I have some truly amazing navy blue fabric with a white lobster print that needs to be something for him, I just can’t quite decide what – any suggestions for sewing patterns for little boys?

Joining Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On.

If you like talking about sewing, and knitting and making things both with and for the children, please would you vote for me? I’m a finalist in the MADs blog awards and I need your vote to win – to vote click 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 – thank you so much x

 

 

Blogging Elma Family Inspiration Kitty Photography Pip

Five things for a Tuesday

08/03/2016

One

Have you read Gill from Baby on Board’s brilliant post about how having her phone makes her a better mum? It sometimes feels hypocritical to me that I play on my phone but we allow our children very limited access to screens and yet to me my phone is so much more than a mere toy, it’s my friends, and my tribe of soul sisters all packed up nice and neatly to fit in my pocket and to be there when I need reassurance or guidance and for me to be there for them too.  And it has pretty pictures and recipes for cake.

I try very hard not to be on the phone too much when the children are awake; I don’t sit playing Instagram while the children run feral at my feet, for one thing Pip thinks all technology belongs to him, be it a phone, a remote for the radio or a bank card reader and squeaks a lot if you don’t give it to him, but I do love taking their pictures, and I think I probably am a happier mum for having my phone, and happier generally equals better.

Two

Speaking of cake… Well speaking of puddings anyway, at the weekend I made the rhubarb, blood orange and almond crumble that was featured on Decor8 recently, and oh the flavour combination is a wintery wonder.  I think to make it again I would pre-cook the rhubarb with the blood orange juice and reduce it down until it was syrupy, because even with a bit of a thickener it was still very juicy, sort of a self-saucing crumble, though how much of that was due to the fact that the rhubarb may not have quite defrosted is hard to say.  Completely delicious though and I love the addition of flaked almonds in the crumble mix.

Three

Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s new book, Gentle Parenting is out and I’m looking forward to getting hold of a copy.  I generally don’t go for books that prescribe an entire method of childcare, I don’t think there can ever be a one size fits all approach to individuals and so I tend to read things that are specific to one area.  That and when I was first pregnant I bought a “hurrah you’re pregnant” sort of guide and we ended up keeping it at the bottom of the laundry basket (I’ve no idea why we didn’t just bin it) because as far as we could work out, any symptoms in the first trimester (breathing, eating, walking, living your daily life, anything normally attributed to the first trimester) was absolutely definitely a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, in the second trimester it all meant pre-term labour and in the third it was pre-eclampsia.  It’s great to know what to watch for for all three don’t get me wrong, but they’d gone overboard.  On the plus side, we got over book-led neurosis before I’d even given birth and we went with the ‘two intelligent adults who trust their gut are not going to screw this up too badly’ school of parenting.

That being said, when I first read Babycalm it was as if someone had taken how we were instinctively parenting Kitty (and later Elma and Pip too) and written it all down in a book, which for starters made me feel a lot more normal, so I’m very curious to see what this one says.

Four

I find Design*Sponge’s Life and Business series fascinating, both for how much some people’s jobs differ from my industry and for how much is the same regardless of what it is you do.  Yesterday’s post by Andy J Millar blew me away though.  He talks about finding your plot twist, finding the one thing that you have the skill set for, that is both innovative and completely logical and I love it.  But what struck me most was this:

“Most people aren’t willing to innovate to be creative, because at first it’s ugly and uncomfortable. Sometimes it even seems impossible. This is why it looks like magic.”

Isn’t that just the truth – I know I fell like I want everything new to work perfectly and be totally brilliant first time because I feel like I haven’t got time for do-overs.  Except that if you only ever do the easy ‘right first time’ stuff you never get beyond it.  I’m a work in progress. Anyway reading that post had me all fired up to go and find my plot twist so expect many experimental disasters to occur in the near future!

Five

You’ll have to forgive me for saving this til last, and for saving the picture for the very end, but I fear that if I’d led with this marvel of culinary wonder you’d never have read any further for having fainted into a cartoonesque chocoholic daze, with Milky Way Magic Stars dancing around your head.

This my friends, this is a Creme Egg Quiche.

Space for the Butterflies - Creme Egg Quiche

I’ve been wanting to make one for ages but with that amount of sugar and chocolate around you need some extra adults to help soak it all in if you have any regard for your sanity and so we waited until my brother in law and his wife came for lunch.

The recipe, and thus the glory, belongs to my Siblings co-host Annie from Fable &Folk (formerly Mammasaurus) and basically I did what she did, only I added in some orange zest to the pastry (and it was good).

Because you’re not cooking anything you could easily use whatever flavour egg is your favourite (and I refuse to believe there can be someone out there without a favourite mini Easter egg).  I also had enough pastry left over to make some mini cases which I filled with shop bought chocolate mousse for Pip (the original recipe being a raw egg mousse) and he thought all his Christmasses had come at once.

Resistence is futile; you know you want to go and make one now!

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.

 

Blogging Elma Family Inspiration Kitty Pause for Thought Photography Pip {the ordinary moments}

Why Blogging? {Blogfest 2015}

22/11/2015

In the last few weeks, as the return to work has started to make itself felt in the long days and the late nights, I’ve started to question why I’m blogging, not spending the evenings sitting on the sofa knitting. Am I truly writing my children’s baby book if I’m just not with them as much as I used to be? Is my story of motherhood still valid if I’m spending more time with my colleagues than actively mothering? And most importantly, am I truly motivated to blog, or have I just got myself onto a treadmill and forgotten that an off switch exists.

So I took a day out. A day to not even think about work (OK, to try not to think about work, that’s the best I can offer), and a day out of the precious time that I do get to spend with my family to give my brain proper space and time to unravel, to think and to be inspired.

I went to Blogfest. And hard though it was to leave the family (and miss the school Advent Fayre which sounds like it was completely incredible) it was a wonderful thing to do.  I’m writing this on the train home having spent a day with incredible insightful creative women (and a few men) who were funny and touching and knew a lot about YouTube and if I knew morse code I’d have been clapping out “yes, this!” every single time.

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

the Mumsnet team had put together a truly phenomenal line up, and it’s not everyone that could persuade the Margaret Attwood To be on a live video link from Toronto at 4 o’clock in the morning and that’s before we’d even got to the rest of the first panel; Bryony Gordon, Meera Syal, Bridget Christie, Polly Vernon and Catherine Mann discussing the balance between motherhood and creativity and whether the two can ever happily co-exist.  The general consensus was that yes it can but maybe not all at the same time, and that it requires determination, planning and a little bit of a ruthless challenge to the “good mummies sacrifice themselves” myth.  Food for thought and I could have listened to them, and laughed with them, all day.

The tone was set for the day, from the main panel speakers to the smaller practical sessions; we want you to think and we want to challenge you just a little bit.

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

Sandi Toksvig spoke of her vision for the political party that she co-founded, The Women’s Equality Party and the unlikely inspiration for making it a political party not a lobbying group (Nigel Farage if you’re curious),

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

David Baddiel shared with such humour the trials and tribulations of putting yourself out there on Twitter and other social media, and the fact that, as he put it, “raising a little flag of self” opens the floor to other people taking your agenda and trying to supplant it with their own,

Space for the Butterflies - Blogfest 2015

and the very wonderful Val McDermid spoke about the importance of story telling, the fact that it is by stories that we make sense of the world, that stories existed long before writing, and possibly my favourite quote of the day:

“Creativity is the way we fight back against the people who would oppress us”, which has never seemed truer when we look around at the unquiet in our world.

The final panel discussion, about how much we share in public of our private lives was about so much more than should you share pictures of your children in the bath or whatever is the latest Instagram controversy, but was beautifully chaired by Fi Glover to cover issues of authenticity, the fact that none of us are ever sharing the whole picture of our lives, and the degree to which we write for ourselves and write just to process things, versus what is fit for public consumption right now.

And as I sit here on the train home in a happy buzzing glow that has nothing to do with the small glass of prosecco at the drinks party (honest) and everything to do with having used and stretched the really creative bit of my brain, the answer seems so obvious.

Why am I blogging? Because quite simply, I love it.  I love to write, and I need to write.  I love to take photographs and video and I love that through blogging there is a whole world out there of people who completely get it; the lovely friends I got to hang out with in person today, a whole heap of new faces, and you.

And I know that this seems a strange choice for an ordinary moment, because I don’t get to spent every Saturday listening to award winning comedians and internationally acclaimed novelists and it probably wouldn’t seem as special if I did.  No, the ordinary and everyday treasures that I want to cherish and celebrate are every other day of the week, the moments on trains spent tapping away at my iPad, or evenings playing on the computer after the children have been tucked up in bed, the snippets of daily life that Instagram captures and the conversations with friends on Twitter, and most of all, the memories and the milestones recorded over the years.

I might not have quite figured out how it is that I can fit blogging into this brave new topsy turkey world that H and I have made, but that I am a writer and a blogger, as it turns out, was never even a question.