Saturday, 11 June 2011

Get Real.

I haven't blogged for quite some time, due to the fact that I have had to prioritise being creative to make money over being creative for personal projects (see my new blog However on this occasion I've been deep in thought about this particular subject and felt in need of a place to think out loud.

Since starting work again I've been feeling pretty sad about not being able to keep up my blog and the creative projects that go with it. We have also moved house, to a lovely big house, but that is rented and lacking in personality – I have been so desperate to inject some personality into this place but honestly don't have the time and certainly not the money.

When browsing some beautiful blogs for the first time in a long while the other day I started to feel more and more down, especially the 'mummyblogs'. These women bake, cook and sew, they do beautiful craft projects with their children and live in the most beautiful homes. They use their fancy cameras to take beautiful pictures of their beautiful children doing beautiful things, and my heart aches to have a life like theirs!

I've been feeling more and more down about how un-cath kidtson my life is, how if I even had the time to bake cakes I wouldn't be able to enjoy them because I am constantly on a diet, but even if I wasn't my cakes would not be at all worthy of the camera! Even if said cake were worthy of the camera, the back-drop – my very un-cath kidston kitchen – would not create the vision of perfect domestic bliss required. The more I thought about this the more upset I became about how far my home was from those on the TV or in the pages of magazines.

Even my garden, despite my huge excitement about finally having one, has been neglected since I've started working again. My hanging baskets have seen drought that has pushed them to the edge of viability, and my newly planted herb garden is quickly being taken over by weeds. Certainly not the backdrop for a beautiful toddlers tea party with bunting and fairy cakes, there will be no Annabel Carmel style picnic shots being taken in this garden.

I really was feeling rock bottom about all of this, I no longer felt able to compete, especially not as a resident of Hove Actually (Portslade Really!). Even though I now have the space to entertain the NCT group, I won't be wowing any of them with my beautiful stylish abode– no quirky personalised touches in this home, no vintage framed film posters or montages of arty black and white photos against these magnolia wood chip walls, and to be honest I have been feeling really rather stressed about it all.

But then this evening, just as I was getting stroppy because my toddler, husband and teenage step-son had dared to 'live' in our home, therefore setting the whole process of washing up, cleaning and hoovering, rolling all over again, I took a minute out and sat down for a short while to watch a programme I had been recommended by a friend – 'Poor Kids' on BBC2.

This programme followed 3 children who live in poverty, here in the UK. I know we have this drummed into us all the time, but for some reason on this occasion this particular programme struck a cord so deep in side I started to feel a little sick. In fact it touched me so deeply that when I tried to tell my husband about it I spent several minutes sobbing before I could even start to explain it to him.

These children, and too many like them, live in conditions you and I would feel ill to spend just a few minutes in. One little girls bedroom was so damp and mouldy her mattress was actually wet and had mould growing on the underside. Another child was lucky to get one meal a day and that was usually just a 'steak slice' of the kind you might buy in a petrol station. And these are not the children of child abusers, or drug addicts, these are the children of loving parents. Parents who may not look after their children the way you or I may think they should, but simply because they spend their every waking moment trying to work out how they will pay the bills, their debts and feed their family. Who has time to think about, or even care about, running the hoover round when your trying to work out how you will afford to keep the gas heater running long enough to keep your baby warm at night. How can you wash your children's clothes when you can't afford to fix a broken washing machine, or the cost of a trip to the laundrettes, and how can you dry those clothes when your flat is so damp you can't hang it near the edges of the room for fear of it going mouldy.

Even if you had the time to spend trying to be a better a parent, how do you lift your self out of the depression that comes with living in an area most of us wouldn't want to go anywhere near for five minutes let alone a lifetime, in a house full of mould living on a diet of junk food. How do you shake off a depression that comes from spending your childhood in that exact same poverty stricken misery and now watching your own children stuck in the same cycle with little or no hope of ever getting out.

Just imagine the heartbreak of knowing your child's asthma and ill health is caused by the home you live in and that there is nothing you can do about it. Imagine knowing that your child is getting bullied at school because he smells, but you can't afford the gas to run the boiler for a bath or to wash his school uniform.

We so often judge parents who let their children run the streets, but in so many cases these children have no safe place to play outside at all. They can't afford toys to play with inside either, so their only form of entertainment is to roam the streets looking for things to do. Whilst my little boy goes to an expensive private nursery (and boy do I moan about that!) other children play in condemned derelict houses with rotting floor boards and broke stair cases. Whilst I take my little boy into town to the library or swimming, these children hang around outside their high rise flats rooting through rubbish bags and finding hypodermic needles. Whilst I moan and stress when my car fails its MOT and I can't afford to have it fixed, these children's parents can't even afford to get on a bus to go and explore the small world around them, let alonethe wider world. These children really will never play in the sand on a beach, swim in the sea, ride a bike through a forest or swing on a rope swing across a river – all things I take for granted that my little boy will do. But its not even the big things like this that matter, its taking for granted our clean clothes, our clean beds, our hot water and our central heating.

Right now children are trying to sleep in dirty mouldy smelly beds, cold and hungry. Whilst here I am sitting in my lovely comfy bed with clean sheets in my clean pyjamas, with my clean, healthy and well fed baby tucked up in his clean and damp free bedroom in his cosy cot. My husband is down stairs dozing in front of the TV on a comfy sofa.

I wonder now what right I have to complain about anything at all.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Walking in Harem Pants!

Its been a while, the result of a blanket of sewing depression descending upon me, caused by lack of money for materials and sewing lessons being extortionate in Brighton. However, I am back with a vengeance, and Harem Pants!

I eventually stopped moping and started swatting up instead, watching and reading loads of online tutorials. I was still faced with lack of funds for materials, combined with complete bemusement as to what fabric to buy for the projects I want to do. This however was soon remedied by a mysterious package from the eastern block – inside which I discovered my crafty god mother had sent me a selection of Jersey and Ribbing fabric, a Jersey needle and some ribbon.

So I dug out my Ottobre magazine, which I had subscribed to months ago but hadn't been able to find the correct fabric for any of the projects, and picked the easiest of projects to start with – the Harem Pants!

I am so so pleased with these pants! They are my best project so far, and its all because of all the learning I've been doing over the last few weeks. The instructions are really difficult to follow, saying things as basic as “gather the pant legs with clear elastic” with no further advice on exactly how to go about this. I only made one mistake, which was not adding the seam allowance (I misunderstood when it said “hem allowance is included”), but luckily I had gone for a size up anyway and they fit just fine!

(above left, the pattern sheet! Baffling! Right, work in progress)

The pants are so comfy for Wesley and absolutely perfect to fit over his cloth nappies, and the tight ankles are perfect for him to practice his latest skill – 'toddling'! He took his first steps about 5 weeks ago, and he is now on his feet 85% of the time! Its such fun! He walks around with both arms in the air and pointing with both hands, its very funny!

Finally, and sorry its a long one this week, I am still feeling a little depressed about the availability of decent fabrics in the UK. All the designs in the Ottobre magazine are made up with the funkiest nice thick Jersey and nearly all use ribbing, which is hard to get here in basic red, blue, black, but absolutely impossible to get in any slightly more interesting colours! I think these pants look and feel so professional because of the great fabric my sister sent me from Germany – thank you Beccy!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Stumbling Block

Feeling a bit disheartened today, I had big plans to make more highchair splash mats in some fancy fabrics and try and sell them on ebay or etsy. It was all going well until my sewing machine started slipping and seriously messing up the decorative stitch i've been doing around the outside. After doing some research I have discovered that this is a common problem and that oilcloth type fabrics are notoriously difficult to sew.

I sewed 2 mats, the first mat looks a mess because the stitch is so irregular, so in an attempt to save the second I decided to just do a regular straight stitch, however this mat also hasn't turned out good enough to sell as the fabric ended up gathering up, which looks pants.

So I have decided that I need to get some sewing lessons. I am really passionate about doing this, but my skills are still really limited. I have found a lady up the road who does lessons and have left a message on her answerphone, hopefully she will get back to me. However, having done some sums it has become apparent that we have run out of money this month, so all plans are on hold until payday at the beginning of feb.

Here you can see the messed up stitching :(

And here you can see how the fabric has gathered up...

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Messy Baby Floor Protector

When we weaned Wesley it became clear that my carpet was going to get a 3x daily splattering if I didn't take some kind of precaution to protect it! This was clearly going to be a long term feature in our small open plan kitchen/living room so I didn't want to just cover the floor with newspaper, I wanted to at least try and keep an inch of adult sophistication to my fast becoming baby play ground of a house!

So I looked online and really couldn't find anything to suit my needs, and instead turned to the local fabric shop for a quick fix piece of oil cloth, which has laid on my floor underneath the high chair ever since. At first it looked okay, but quickly the corners began to get kicked up, it got screwed up under chair legs and eventually a few rips started to appear. So when looking for a sewing project this week, one where I didn't have to spend any money on materials, I decided to revamp the mat and turn it into something neater and longer lasting. It didn't take long at all to trim it down and make a double sided splash mat.



Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Welcome Sweetest Eilidh

This weekend saw the arrival of a very special little girl into the world, my lovely and very talented friend Eleanor ( gave birth to her second child on Saturday, Eilidh Skye – what a beautiful name for a beautiful little girl! Here she is, just a few hours old –

Congratulations El and family, I couldn't be happier for you!

Eleanor and her husband found out the sex of their baby but kept it a secret, however I had quite a strong inkling that she was having a girl – just little things she said gave me clues, so I decided to make a second sock monkey for her, and if she did come out a boy I'd give it to one of my nieces and make another one.

This time, knowing what I was doing and having a decent sewing machine I really took my time to make this monkey as carefully as possible. Knowing she was for a newborn baby I chose a gorgeous pair of soft wool socks and and instead of buttons for eyes I stitched them on so Eilidh's mummy didn't have to worry about her choking. Here she is:

Until she departed for Eilidh's home Eric had been keeping her company:

Monday, 3 January 2011

Old Jumper Leg Warmers

I saved the arms from the old jumpers I made yesterdays cushions from, and made these awesome leg warmers! I really love them, they are so warm and comfy and look great with ankle boots.

Old Jumper Cushions

I've been struggling to get back into things since christmas, but yesterday I had a big clear out whilst Jon took Wesley out. I planned to sit down in the evening to make these cushions, however Wesley was unsettled and didn't go to sleep until 9pm. Then, determined not to have my plans scuppered, I rushed these cushions out in an hour, the result is that they are all wonky and rather home-made looking! A valuable lesson learnt! At least it got me back on my sewing machine though!

Take three old jumpers....

And make three wonky cushions!