Animal Advent Calendar

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You might not think a shark is particularly Christmassy or a rhino, erm . . . . how about a crab? Well, my eldest boy loves ALL the animals so, mix them up with some Christmas stars and it’s an Animal Advent Calendar.

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I do like the chocolate ones and ‘Yes! I would like a chocolate Advent Calendar thank you very much’  but until Rupes cottons on to the chocolate element, there  won’t be any in these pockets.  He is desperate to look in all the pockets as it is, so if chocolate were involved it might just tip him over the edge. Lots of people do the advent book thing, which is nice and the books don’t have to be new. Other people give something each day rather than getting anything at all, which I would like to do with my boys when they are older and understand more. We are also pegging out a family photo a day, on a little string, in the lead up to Christmas, like this, my favourite picture of my grandparents:

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I’ve always enjoyed watching the passage of time with an Advent calendar, so I wanted something physical and visual which would appeal to a toddler.  I also like the idea of getting something out year, after year and making simple family traditions.

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I started making the calendar when I was pregnant with the twins but never really got it together in time for last year.  I had every intention of hand sewing little, felt decorations to go in the pockets, probably after seeing one on Pinterest.  All those twin hormones clearly made me completely over ambitious. It may still happen one day in the distant future but for now, there are plastic animals, purchased for the bargain price of five for a pound, and Christmas stars adorning the tree.

I’ve found life with a toddler to be full of extreme emotions, but everything about Christmas so far, with an almost three year old is well and truly bringing the magic back.

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Knitflix and cowl

 

 

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Trump. Shit. Some people go running to deal with this kind of thing, some people drink copious amounts of alcohol and some people, like me, binge watch Netflix or, as I like to call it, ‘Knitflix’ and get their craft on.  I’ve been doing a lot of crochet lately.  This is mostly because it’s a really portable and pretty sociable craft.  I can crochet sitting on the sofa, outside, for 10 minutes between feeding or changing babies and before my toddler notices what I’m doing.  Also, designing stuff is my favourite thing to do and crochet is pretty flexible in terms of what you can produce.

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I find crochet to be super therapeutic and I always do it when I feel stressed or sometimes to just wind down from the day.  I’ve been tweaking this particular design for a couple of years and I’m happy with this year’s run in neutral colours.

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They are reversible and warmer than traditional scarves and cowls because of the two layer system.

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The outer layer is crocheted in an alpaca/wool mix and the inner layer is luxury faux fur.

I have just opened my Etsy shop for the winter and these are the first items to be listed.

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They remind me a lot of the natural landscape and walking on the beach in winter, hence why I have named them after some of my favourite beaches.  This also echoes my unstoppable desire to be near the sea, I can’t explain it, maybe it’s just a case of you can take the girl out of Cornwall . . . Matt would definitely blame it on my Cornish ways (I like to think he means my endearing ways, not sure if he does though!) personally I think it’s probably down to all the sea water I ingested as a small child.  When I was a girl, I could step out of my front door and see the sea, I spent hours on boats and surrounded by maritime paraphenalia. The first thing I wanted to do for myself after giving birth was to go and walk near the sea, albeit slightly uncomfortably. I don’t think I could live somewhere for very long if I had to travel far to get to it.  As it is now, occasionally, if the conditions are right, I can hear the waves from beyond the burrows when I go to sleep.  It’s a ridiculously romantic notion, but by hook or by crook, the sea salt has gotten into my system and I think it’s there to stay.

 

Dunga-shorts or Shortalls, even John Johns apparently

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I’m not really sure what the correct term for this item of clothing is, but I found all kinds of names whilst trawling the internet for a pattern/tutorial. Anyway, I have been dying to make some, what I like to call, ‘dunga-shorts’ ,ever since the sun has been out in force and I finally found the time at the weekend thanks to super dad.

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Made by Rae is where I found this free pattern and tutorial.  Rae has some really great patterns and how-tos, although this was from a guest blogger, it doesn’t link through anymore though, so I’ve taken you straight to the original on ikatbag’s site.  The instructions are really clear (I only messed up one part!) I did the simpler version without the waistband and just added the side pockets instead of all five. I didn’t want them to stand out, so I used the same fabric.  It would be fun to make lots of variations.

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I also added elastic around the bottom because they now look like those old-fashioned ones, which I just love, and make me want to squish Roo’s little chubby toddler legs even more than usual.

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I did use a contrast fabric for the lining as I thought the colours looked good together and Roo likes birds. The lining is some old (slightly faded if I’m honest) fabric from IKEA and the main fabric is an old shirt of Matt’s.  I used pretty much the whole shirt, whose collar and cuffs really had seen better days.  If I was super-organised, I would now be posting one of those before and after photos, but this week, sorry guys, it was one step too far.  Ah well, there’s always next time! 🙂

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The little fox came from Sass and Belle and was given to me by my lovely friend Laurel when Roo was born.  I have only just got around to making the perfect item of clothing for it to adorn now, 18 months later, but I think the fox was waiting for just the right thing to come along.

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In fact I think I love these so much, I’m feeling the need to make Roo at least two more sets!  I’ll let you know how that goes.

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I also made double amounts of dinner tonight so that my friend who has just had a little girl doesn’t have to cook tomorrow.  All I could think about with a newborn was home-cooked food as I was always starving (that lasted about 3 months!) and I just wanted to give the babe the good stuff.  I’m not able to do things like I used to now we have Roo but batch cooking was a small, but attainable kindness today and  it just feels really good to offer something like that.  So my friend and I both win (unless my cooking is really bad – haha!). I made this Four corners lentil soup, by Sarah Britton which is so yum, easy and quick and the easiest ever soda bread which is a real treat, thanks Laura for introducing me to The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook.

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Stitch your heart out quilt

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So . . . a patchwork quilt, it’s complete and my, oh my it was quite a task.  It’s going to be for Roo’s first proper bed but is doubling as a play mat at the moment, as he is still in his cot.

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This really was a labour of love, I think this is what mothers do for their children, for no particular reason, just because.  Sometimes mothers do these things and their children probably, no, definitely don’t even want them – hopefully it will stand the test of time and Roo will actually like it one day, he seems to think it’s alright now.

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I used different cotton fabrics collected from all over the place: the florals are new fabrics, the white was a worn out shirt belonging to Matt and the paisley a piece of fabric inherited from my Grandma.  I found the navy backing in a charity shop and the other plaid I have had for a long time, the first item of clothing I made for Rupert, a pair of summer trousers, was made from this.

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I still have to do a little bit of hand sewing to keep the wadding in place, but that’s ok, he hasn’t even got a bed yet!

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I have been reflecting a lot this week on the world’s events and to say it’s been a tough week for a lot of people is a drastic understatement.  It makes me grateful for what I have and without wanting to belittle daily feelings of frustration or tiredness or anxiety, which we all face at times, life is sharply put into perspective when you see others suffering real tragedy.  I recognise that I am small but I also feel an important sense of gratitude to have been able to give my son something I made for him this week, and to have done what I can do, by donating to the plight of the Nepalese.  Here are just two of the places you can do so too: here (Unicef) or here (Red Cross).  Do that and do something for or with someone you love.

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Daniel the Tiger

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So now the festive season is well and truly over and we have passed the milestone of Roo turning one, I can finally catch my breath and check in here; I’m sorry I’ve neglected you!  I also went back to work at the start of January – it’s been emotional.

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One of our nieces, drew Roo this picture of ‘Daniel’ the tiger before Christmas, he’s so sweet:

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I thought it would be fun to make her drawing into a toy to send to her as a Christmas gift.

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I cut him out of lovely organic linen and embroidered his stripes and face using cotton embroidery thread.

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I added some embroidery on the back and gave him a little knitted jumper to keep him cosy.

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He is a little mischievous though!  When it came to posting time, Daniel had to burn off some of that energy and Christmas excitement before his long trip to the USA.  First I found him here:

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And then here hanging with the swallows:

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It took a while to find him here:

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And here:

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He listened to a couple of his faves before getting into the Christmas spirit and then into the post:

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Making a toy from a child’s drawing was possibly one of the most fun things I’ve done!  I really enjoyed trying to make him resemble the drawing and seeing him come to life.

Little Mountain Bear Cub

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So, all has been a bit quiet over here as I have been beginning to prepare for the Magdalen Road Christmas market in Exeter,  it’s on December 6th so I haven’t got that long before I need to have things ready!  I’m doing it with my friend Laurel from Arrietty who has a stall there every year.  Laurel has been knitting up some soft and lovely lambswool into beautiful patterns and she has kindly donated me a few bits for creature making:

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I used Laurel’s lambswool, linen and felt and the little bear cubs aren’t too big, they look like little totems.

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Im also working on some dinos and trying out some embroidery, I like the little touches of detail.  As well as being on sale at the Magdalen Road market on the 6th, they are available in my Etsy shop.   I’m sure they would make lovely Christmas presents, remember it’s great to shop handmade if you can, support small businesses and avoid mass production.  Everyone wins!

Winter Mountain Mobile

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I’m just a little bit obsessed with mountains at the moment, they are popping up everywhere over at our place.

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Oh and bears, bears feature heavily too.

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I have been meaning to make Roo a mobile since he was born, but it’s taken me a while!  Anyway, I was forced into it yesterday as at the weekend he destroyed his swallows mobile, which was my fault really as I should have moved them before he could get his paws on them.  They were still attached to the cot, from when he was very small, now that he is moving around and grabbing etc it was only going to be a matter of time before they got it.  They ‘got it’ after nap time two days ago when I walked in to find one of the birds crumpled in his hand.

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So yesterday afternoon I sewed the trees, mountains and bears:

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I spent the evening assembling the rest.  If you would like to have a go at making a mobile like this you will need the following:

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I knotted the fishing wire, and used a needle with a large eye to thread on the shapes and felt beads.  I tied each length of wire onto the inner circle from the embroidery hoop as well as some lengths for hanging and then tightened the outer circle over the top.

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I like the muted colours of the shapes with the brighter colours of the felt beads and the different lengths of wire.  I am going to add one of these on a ‘made to order’ basis to my Etsy, as well as some hanging decorations just in time for Christmas.

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Anouk

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Here is a project I did with my friend Laurel from the lovely shop Arrietty in Exeter.  We actually did this for Christmas last year and as we head into mid-October,Christmas is starting to feel just around the corner.

We screen printed Anouk and her friends onto tea-towels which could then be used as they are, coloured in, fabric painted, embroidered and cut up and sewn into toys.

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We made one side customisable and the other in negative:

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Anouk is quite a serious little soul but her friends the fox and swedish chicken keep her light-hearted enough, luckily the fox only eats ducks so this chicken is safe.

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The lovely Laurel working hard on her beautiful Anouk:

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Fox and Badger join the party

 

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Hooray, the set is complete! I’ve had a lot of fun making these little lovelies!  It was a fun challenge to set myself as there were tricky parts and I just really enjoyed designing them from scratch.

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I like the way they fit nicely into this time of year.  We’ve been so lucky, it’s still really warm here, but the evenings and early morning are definitely turning more autumnal.These creatures make me think of England in Autumn, woodland walks and blankets.

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Roo even has a blackberry stain on his top just to add some English hedgerow bounty to the picture.

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My Feltidermy Friend

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Here is the first of my attempts at taxidermy without the actual dermy! Animal heads are great, but personally I think I prefer them made from felt and small enough to be sociable in a 30s terrace. I’ve been working on these little fellas for a while now and I think I’m finally happy with the outcome.

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I was inspired by the many antlers and paper mache animal heads I saw on a trip to New York a couple of years ago.  On my return I made some prototypes but I wasn’t happy with my initial attempts until I eventually settled on working with felt which made me much happier.  It’s lovely to sew with and makes nice defined shapes.

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I think it could be sweet to have on the wall in a child’s bedroom as the face is friendly and could make for a good discussion point as they grow.

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This guy is particularly friendly, look at that little nose!

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He is currently available to buy in my Zoe Did It ETSY shop and will soon be joined by this little guy:

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