Saturday, 29 March 2014

New Playmates

If you've been reading this Blog for a while, you would know that over 2012 and 2013, I had two little girls to look after - my daughter and her three-month-older best friend (currently Misses 3 and 3.5). I've talked about how this came about in a previous post and Miss 3.5's father has also talked about the child sharing arrangement, but in essence when I am at work, both girls are at Miss 3.5's house and then when Miss 3.5's mother is at work, both girls are at my house.

This year, I am at home with our new baby, so although the girls are attending the same preschool and having play days, we are not running our formal child sharing arrangement. However, because we are totally brilliant at planning and co-coordinating things (or just through coincidence), both families fell pregnant with number two at around the same time and Miss 3.5's mother will be at home this year too. And about three weeks ago, Miss 3.5 welcomed her little brother into the world.

Photo borrowed from Miss 3.5's father.

The current plan is to resume child sharing in 2015, so although there'll be less Miss 3.5 on here this year, next year you'll be seeing both Miss 3.5 and her little brother.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'Swaddle Me Snugly'

I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who was always trying out new ways of creating. From painting and quilting, to raffia hats and fimo, she was always crafting and introducing us to new materials and techniques. As a result, I've been running fortnightly posts on my Blog, interviewing different artists about the materials and techniques that they use to create their works. This week I am talking to Kelli from Seattle, WA in the United States. She is a sewer who has the online store Swaddle Me Snugly.


Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a retired wife, mother of three outstanding grown children, and grandmother of three very wonderful children.

Sewing new swaddle blankets, bibs and burp cloths recently for my new grandson, Petey, gave back to me a long-dormant pleasure in designing and creating sweet and fun things for a newborn. My brain and my hands recalled old skills and design ideas that I’ve had since I learned from my mother and both grandmothers how to make things for babies and children. Marrying these traditional designs and skills with current improvements in functionality was so much fun that I was inspired to open this shop to keep on designing and creating them. Before long, Petey grew out of swaddle cloths and burp cloths and tiny drool bibs, but I can keep on having fun making them for my shop.
It’s been a few decades since Petey’s father was a baby, and 18 years since Petey’s next youngest cousin was born. During that time, a lot of changes have taken place in the types and styles of baby care items! What I noticed first of course was the disposable diapers. They replaced the old flat folded cloth diapers that we used for burp cloths, and that led to a wonderful array of shapes and combinations of materials for burp cloths. What fun! Today drool bibs and burp cloths can be coordinated with swaddling cloths to make a well-dressed, stylish baby!

Swaddling cloths, too, have undergone a revolution of sorts, thanks to Dr. Karp’s book showing us all how to swaddle newborns and why a good swaddle is so important in the first few weeks, especially for little ones who were born early. When Petey was brought home from the hospital, they sent one swaddle cloth with him that was the right size and shape. His parents had difficulty finding more of that size and shape so I made them some them some square ones, 42” x 42”, and – yay – success! Snug swaddle, happy Petey! I figured if his parents had trouble getting the right swaddle wraps, looking everywhere online, then there must be other new parents needing a source to get them. So that’s how Petey’s shop, Swaddle Me Snugly, was conceived.

Ever since, I’ve been having a wonderful time designing and making more and more cute and useful things for parents of newborns. Now a few months since opening this shop, my swaddling cloths are snugly cuddling babies all over the country, and in Canada, allowing them to rest quietly and comfortably.

Now that Petey is a year old, I am making toddler bibs for him, those are fun to make, there are so many cute fabrics to choose from, and so I’m putting some of them in my shop too.

Every morning after breakfast, I walk into my sunny studio overlooking our beautiful gardens, and it’s like entering a candy store: I can pick from my fabric stash whatever I want to work on that day, and spend hours making cute baby things, while keeping an eye on the birds in the garden. What else could anyone want?

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

My favourite material is 100% cotton flannel. It’s so soft and lightweight for swaddle cloths. Another favourite that some families like for swaddle wraps is cotton knit jersey. I use both. It’s lightweight and a little stretchy and so is easier than the flannel to get a good snug swaddle. For burp cloths and bibs I marry the flannel with my other favourite material, 100% terry cloth. I launder all fabrics before I begin cutting and sewing, to reduce shrinkage and make sure the fabric will withstand hot wash water and hot dryers. Now and then I depart from this format and I’ll use polyester chenille which has to be laundered and dried in moderate temps. Sometimes I’ll marry cotton percale with the chenille or with cotton terry. Also sometimes I use diaper cloth that I quilt to cotton batting and marry it with cotton percale or flannel.

The swaddles are always single layer, with turned edges. I like the turned edges better than serged, because the turned edge feels softer to the baby’s tender skin than the serging. The edge of serging can be slightly abrasive. I like to use decorative stitches to stitch down my turned edges – lately I favour a decorative stitch that has a triple design that locks the edges of the flannel to the swaddle wrap more efficiently than other stitches, and looks really nice, too.

I designed my first batch of swaddle wraps with mitered corners, but now I make them with rounded corners; the rounded corners can’t get inadvertently flicked into a baby’s eye like the sharp corners can.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

My biggest challenge is space! After retiring, we downsized substantially and it has been a challenge to make space for fabrics and for finished products. We purchased two sets of cube storage units and have one set in our bedroom and one in our study. I sew in the bedroom because the light is the best in the house; I use the raised bed (that has drawers under it where I keep some of my fabrics) as my cutting and pressing table; it’s just the right height for me, no bending over and causing back pains. My sewing machine is in the sunny window corner of our bedroom. I have two shops, over 100 items in each shop, and aiming at 200 items in each shop, so I will be filling the cube storage to the top when I get there!

I have no problem thinking up things to make, my brain is full of designs and colour combinations that I want to make. As long as my machine works and I have the right knitting needles I’m in good shape. Getting fabrics and yarns is also no problem; I always have to restrain myself when I hit the fabric shop or the yarn shop.

What drives you to create?

What drives me to create is something in my brain that wants to see my ideas turned into finished products. From selecting the material and colours, to the shape and size of the item, to the building of it, to the finished product, is a gratifying adventure all the way from beginning to end. Almost always when it’s finished, I think “hey, that turned out great” and then reach for the next thing that’s on my mind to make. If I can’t say to myself “hey, that turned out great”, then I set it aside, to be taken apart later and the materials reused in some other way. I’m glad to be able to say that doesn’t happen often.
For this shop, for these baby care products, my inspiration was the need to provide the right kind of swaddling cloth to my son, and the fun I had making drool bibs and burp cloths for Petey before he was born. How I get started? Every day I can’t wait to get breakfast over and a little housework done so I can begin making things. It’s my passion.

What is coming up next?

I will soon be rolling out a line of products in 100% certified organic cotton. I think there is a growing market for them. Watch my shop for those.

All images provided by Kelli from Swaddle Me Snugly.

Investigate more materials and techniques, from pottery to upcycling dead insects. I'd love to hear what you do, so do please share with us.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Preschooler Cooking: Coconut Ice

Whilst the baby was sleeping, Miss 3 and I made coconut ice. It's quick and requires no cooking - really she could do this by herself if I measured out all the ingredients. It's also tasty and terribly unhealthy!

Pour a 400 g tin of condensed milk into a bowl.

Then sift in 350 g icing sugar

Add 350 g desiccated coconut and stir until there are no dry bits left. The mixture gets quite stiff, so your little one might need help with the stirring. Then line a tin with plastic wrap and pat half of the mixture into the tin.

Add red food colouring and stir again (Miss 3 has a fascination with food dye. She poured blue dye on the carpet once. I have learned. Don't leave small children alone with dye.), then spread the pink mixture over the white. Place it in the refrigerator for a few hours to set.

When set, remove the coconut ice from the tin, cut it up into bite-sized pieces, and eat it.

More preschooler play ideas, including art, cooking and play.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Miniature Pegs and Clothesline Kits

At the end of last year, I introduced some miniature wooden pegs to the kaetoo range. Over the last few months I've been expanding the range with lovely little washi tape covered pegs for kaetoo notice boards and all sorts of other projects.


The current range is 22 different coverings available alone or with twine and screw eyes at my Etsy and Madeit stores, or at Madeit's sister store Craftumi.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Bathroom Makeover

Obviously, being pregnant and subsequently having a new baby slows down the renovation process. But here are the results of our completed bathroom renovation (pending painting the window frame, once we work out how to get the sliding part out of the window frame...).


... and after!

Catch up on the history of our move and house renovations.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'Clayful Impressions'

Finding out about different ways to craft is interesting. Each fortnight I have a chat with another crafter about the materials and techniques that they use. Today's guest is Debbie, who works with ceramics in her store, Clayful Impressions. Debbie is another EtsyKids member and is based in Murrieta, CA, United States.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I started out wanting to be home with my children and still be able to work. I have worked as an Early Childhood Educator for many years with my degree in Art and Education. I always had my hands in art with work in murals, glass and gourds. I now have a ceramic shop specialising in personalised handprints for families to keep and cherish forever. I wanted there to be away to hold on to memories and when I discovered hand and footprints in ceramic clay, I just had to share with everyone else.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I started with imprints and then played with techniques to be able to offer the imprints to others all over the world. I have now perfected my technique and I am able to send these precious keepsakes to anyone who would like without stepping into my studio. I send out a mould kit for parents to print hand and foot in mould. I believe the best results are the pop out hand and footprints where the prints are raised above the plaque. The print is easier that you think and when it dries the mould is sent back to me where I create the magic. I transfer it to ceramic in a way that allows it to keep its detail. After the initial kiln bisque firing, glaze of your choice is painted and the plaque is kiln fired again. There is some shrinkage. Customers need to know that this is a timely process and takes up to eight weeks to return the item. I have many customers wanting a piece of work done just weeks before a holiday! Much time is due to transferring, etching, detailing, drying, cleaning, kiln firing twice, glaze painting and finishing with writing baby information on back, adding sheer white ribbon and securely packaging up to be sent out.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

Challenges I face are the same all working mothers deal with. Trying to be all to everyone and everything that comes my way. Recently I began taking care of my aging mother and it has been a challenge to accommodate her needs, my family and work, but my mother is such a blessing and I will always be there for her

What drives you to create?

My children are my inspiration for Clayful Impressions.

What is coming up next?

What I love from working in my shop is all the new creative ways to promote, create new photo images, advertise. I also love finding in my every day environment new ideas and solutions to bring to my shop. I never want to limit myself. I always have new ideas to try out.

All images provided by Debbie from Clayful Impressions.

More materials and techniques interviews are available for you to read. If you'd like to share your creative story, please let me know.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

And Now We Are Four...

Two months ago, we became a family of four when we welcomed a new baby and since then I have been fairly busy doing the whole feed-nappy-settle routine. There hasn't been a great deal of time for crafting, or coming up with fun preschool activities, or being active on social media.

However, I can't (and don't want to) put aside my first-born whilst I concentrate on the little one. Miss 3 can entertain herself, but like all children she enjoys playing with her parents and adores it when I say to the baby "I'm sorry, you'll just have to wait a minute whilst I finish what I'm doing with your sister." Reading is perhaps our favourite activity at the moment, especially as I can read to Miss 3 whilst feeding the baby.

Other things that I have been doing with Miss 3 while the baby is asleep are simple activities around the house that don't require a lot of setting up or pack up. Things like playdough, stamping and painting...

... pretend play...

... puzzles and games...

... walks to the park...

... and imaginary trips to the beach.

There may have also been a couple of actual trips to the beach with all four of us over the last two months. It has been summer in Australia, after all!