Category Archives: DIY

Lately

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Playing: Nature detective. Not always easy around here, but hey – the challenge makes it fun.

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FOUND SOME! No extra points for cigarette butts, sadly.

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(Not) sewing: hems – we’re letting them down, ladies. Getting a few months more out of our threads (and still trying to find the time to tidy them up…)

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Watching: the washing machine. The twists and turns are keeping her gripped (see what I did there? Like it was a plot? Oh whatever.)

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Shaking: an empty Vitamin C tube that I poured a little dry rice into to make a rattle. She loves it. But, if I’m honest, mostly to chew on. Which also has me thinking: weaning. It’s not far off now is it? Can I do it for free? Anyone tried baby led weaning – feeding them proper foods without baby rice, purees or any ‘baby’ products at all? Possible? Practical? Massive faff? Do tell…

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Playing: the cloud game. How many shapes can you spot? One, if you’re Johnny. A fire engine. EVERY TIME.

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Making: mini scarecrows. Because, as Johnny likes to shout at strangers on buses: “SPRING IS COMING EVERYONE!” And with spring, the vegetables in our patch. And with vegetables, the wee beasties who ate all of them last year. Not this time, beasties, not this time… Quake in your beastie boots. Stanley the Scarecrow is coming for you.

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Planting: a sunflower. There’s a festival going on in our neighbourhood at the moment and a lovely lady was sitting in the yard behind our local cafe helping local kids to plant a seed (literally, we do NOT talk in whimsical metaphors here). J chose a sunflower. We have it in the kitchen window now but she had some ace advice for after it blooms and then dies.

Cut the head off and leave it to dry for two weeks. Then shake the seeds out of it. Apparently we’ll get tonnes. Some we can replant, some we can toast and eat, others we can keep for Johnny’s next birthday party and they will make an EXCELLENT party bag – instead of the usual plastic toot, each kid gets a couple of seeds, a little pot and some soil to grow their own. We could even have a party activity of making mini-scarecrows to guard them.

Sunflower seeds. So many possibilities. Who knew? (Don’t answer that…)

Damn

This lady stole my idea for the NEXT blog…*

It isn’t easy having a toddler with sophisticated ideas about styling you know**

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*Only jokin’ like…

**What?! We were in a BIG rush for nursery this morning… (and baby socks for gloves will be next season’s big thing. Just you wait…)

How to: upcycle. 1 jumper = 3 baby items

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I’m all for recycling and reusing, me. And unisex clothes – that’s my bag [in my bag?]. I don’t want Frida to grow up thinking she needs the latest Disney princess gear in order to be a heroine. Far from it.

And yet… there’s something a bit difficult about passing a beautiful little dress in a shop window and looking down and seeing my little girl in her brother’s old blue dungarees. Again. And so it was that I decided to pay a visit to Kimberley at Mini Magpie. The original upcycling Queen, she was making beautiful, colourful, unisex, brilliantly bizarre kids’ clothes out of old jumpers and charity shop finds before Pininterest and Etsy were even a twinkle in your crafty eye.

I took along an old jumper of mine, a nice green wool one that I accidentally managed to hot wash (the fate of all my best woollens) and became just an infuriatingly tiny bit too small and an infuriatingly tiny bit too felty to wear. And here’s where I get a bit evangelical because: Lo! What miracle did she perform? Three, totally free, absolutely lovely, beautiful soft (the material having had all its bothersome new-item-itchiness pre-worn out of it), unique pieces of kids’ clothes for the baby. Like all the best afternoons spent in the company of inspiring women, I came away determined to do better. I need to dust off my sewing machine again, because really, what’s more empowering than doing it yourself?

There is one down-side. My kid now looks far, far trendier than me. Or any of the rest of us. It now looks a bit like we stole her in Hoxton from some hipsters.

ITEM ONE: THE SNOOD

“First choose your jumper,” says Kim. “Hopefully you have one or two past their best already waiting to be re-purposed! Choose one with plenty of natural fibre content, ideally over 80%. Examples are wool, alpaca and cashmere. This will ensure the warmth of the finished garment and it will also be more thermal than synthetic meaning the change from cold to hot will not overheat your baby. Please remember some babies are allergic to some animal furs or wools so check your favourite baby is safe!

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The jumper – Kim shows me where to start cutting for the first item – a baby snood.

“Choose as large a jumper as possible for your first one,” says Kim. “Men’s sizes are best as they are less fitted.

“Check the jumper for holes or areas you wouldn’t want to show up on the clothes. Don’t worry too much about holes on your first one though, best to use the scruffy jumpers first in case you make a mistake.”

“You will need thread, scissors and some pins.”

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The snood section of the jumper is cut out

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a short run of stitches is added to create a space through which the baby’s face will fit

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The trim is added, to go around the baby’s face

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With the addition of a pompom… TADA! Done and dusted.

ITEM TWO: TROUSERS

“Turn your jumper inside out,” says Kim. “Cut the sleeves off straight across the arm at the top as shown. These are the trouser legs.” 

“Cut down the seams of the trouser legs about 1/3 of the way down. Put them together to make sure they are equal.”

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Arms cut off, like so, then…

“Put the trouser legs one onside the other so that the good sides face each other on the inside, says Kim. “Sew the length of the crotch. It looks like a U shape, but as you sew around, it appears to be a straight line.”

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“Go back to the body of the jumper, or another jumper if you would like to have a contrasting colour,” says Kim. “Use one side of the flat tummy of the jumper to make a longways or horizontal rectangle. Fold in half and check with your trousers’ waist size then trim the excess. Sew the folded over part with good sides facing in into a tube. Peel out into a doubled-over ring shape, then place facing down on the outside of the trousers. Sew around the ring.”

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Let the kids go wild with the scraps…

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“Now your trousers have a warm and cosy waistband and should be stretchy enough to fit your child’s tummy without elastic,” says Kim. “Experiment with different weight wools, different length trousers and different sized waistband. Enjoy!”

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Done!

ITEM THREE: HAREEM PANTS

With the remaining fabric from the body of my old jumper, Kim suggested some harem pants… Largely following the instructions for the trousers above but cutting the pattern from the sides of the main jumper body, rather than its arms, like so…

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She runs classes, you know. And she’s on twitter where you should definitely follow her.

She also generously shares patterns for free on her website, so if you fancy giving these a go, you can find more complete instructions than mine on her website. What a woman…

Come up and see me, make me smiiiiiile (no, really)

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Normal blogging will resume next week.

Because this week, all week, I’ve taken over the fifth floor of the Royal Festival Hall and filled it with children and rubbish.  I’m running my Cardboard Kingdom again along with the amazing Sarah from The Bungaloo and the Land of Kids folk. But this time it’s way bigger and has a waaaaay better view.

It’s day three and already, hundreds of kids have helped to create their version of London – how the capital should be in their eyes, building it from the real city’s recycling and against a panoramic view of it.

Hundreds of kids, nine days, a tonne of rubbish, sharp scissors and me and Frida. What could possibly go wrong?! We’ll be there all week – come and see us! Tomorrow, we’re building London Zoo. So pop in and make a tiger or two? And, of course, It’s freeeeeeeeeeeee…

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Sarah made this bus out of a cardboard box. She is a GENIUS.

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Day one

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Day two

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A week of great swaps

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Some of the stuff we said goodbye and good riddance to…

Last week was lovely in a mild, uneventful sort of way that involved mostly me eating banana on toast in front of the telly and then moving as far as the radio while dropping crumbs over a grouchy baby.

Sometimes, though, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Because what I learnt is this: if I go online to do enough swaps for the kids, and ask people in an apologetic sort of way: would they mind coming to my house to collect/deliver because I have this small baaaaaaby you see… Well, if I do that, I literally do not have to abandon my house or my slippers in order to make friends. Thank god I’m too stingy for Ocado deliveries or things might get seriously sordid.

First I swapped a pile of J’s old clothes for a bottle warmer, two pairs of baby leggings and two nappy wraps – catching up with a cool woman called Jessica in the meantime, who I hadn’t seen for an age.

Then I made a huge chocolate cake and exchanged it with an awesome girl from Berlin who lived on the other side of the borough for two musical, cot toys for Frida.

Towards the middle of the week, I gave away my old maternity jeans, a baby sling, and a couple of newborn sleep suits F outgrew (sob) to various other women who claimed them on online swap sites and who came to the house and rescued me temporarily from my life as an accidental hermit. I didn’t get anything back, but I needed that crap out of the house and the general vibe of goodwill and human contact was lovely.

Then, I put a request out on a local Facebook group to see if anyone had a baby monitor we could borrow just for the weekend. Our home being far too mini (and our children far too noisy) to be able to escape the sound of them from anywhere in the house, we’ve never needed one. But we had plans to stay in a friend’s huge, crumbling, freezing ancient house in the New Forest on the weekend, and I realised we’d suddenly need one for a few days.

A nice man called Harry came to the rescue and this was when I made my most dangerous discovery: I don’t even have to meet people for this to work. I was out when Harry wanted to deliver, so we established a top secret hiding place. I deposited a bag of amaretti biscuits in this secret hiding place and, when I got back, I discovered they had been swapped for a super high tech monitor. One of those ones that has a video screen you can peer at your child through with the spooky sensation that something from a Hollywood horror movie is about to loom into the grainy display.

It was like a prisoner exchange. I felt a lot like I was in a heist movie. And that’s when I realised I really do need to get out more…

Is this unusual? Or do other neighbourhoods have networks like this to plug into?