Friday, 25 April 2014

Materials And Techniques - 'Babywear By Babs'

I see a common thread when I talk to other crafters about their art - everyone loves to explore different techniques and materials, experimenting with new crafts. In this series of interviews, I have a fortnightly chat with another artist about what they do and how they do it. Today I am talking to Barbara, another EtsyKids member in the US. Her craft is knitting. Barbara makes baby clothing, including oodles of booties, for her store Babywear By Babs.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area of California but grew up in suburban Philadelphia, so I am a bi-coastal gal. I have been knitting all my life but picked it up again about five years ago and have been knitting and creating ever since. I love to design and knit baby and toddler sweaters because they look so cute when finished and I love to see babies wearing interesting clothing – don’t we all deserve to wear designer clothes? My booties are really fun to knit and have become so that popular I have less time to work on my sweater line, but I love designing booties too.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I love to use wool and acrylic yarn. People hear acrylic and they go “Yuck!” but acrylic has so many wonderful features: it is warm, easy care, and isn’t as scratchy as wool is on tender skin. I really do not like to knit with cotton. It has no elasticity and isn’t really all that comfortable to wear. The American Cotton Board has done an amazing job advertising the virtues of cotton but I really don’t think it makes a good yarn to knit with.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

Knitting takes time. I have so many ideas swirling around in my head that I would love to commit to a finished product, but it takes time to find the right colour combinations, work out the design, knit a sample gauge, and finally knit the finished product – usually with several tear-outs along the way. So time is my biggest challenge. There is no solution to time except creating a time machine.

What drives you to create?

I think my need to create comes from working in a very number-based profession. In my profession, there is little room for creating and I like to nurture that side of my brain. I have been creating all kinds of needle craft my entire life starting with sewing and knitting taught to me by my mother. I have also experimented with needlepoint, crewel embroidery, macramé, batik dying and quilting; I’m sure there are a few I have forgotten too. I started knitting again when the financial crisis hit and I couldn’t sleep very well so I would get up in the middle of the night and start knitting. It started with a few sweaters but it just expanded from there into socks, booties, mittens. There is no end in sight.

What is coming up next?

I would love to expand my product line in Babywear By Babs. I have started developing a mitten pattern that has a long cuff. Haven’t we all experienced snow or freezing wind in that gap between the mitten and the end of the jacket sleeve? I have a line of mittens that has a very long cuff to eliminate that problem. I also want to work on diaper soakers. There are so many mums using cloth diapers these days and knit wool soakers make a colourful cover to cloth diapers. I am still working at a full time job so I hope to keep my shop open and full until retirement when I can concentrate full time on my designer line.

All images provided by Barbara of Babywear By Babs.

Please post a comment below if you would like to share your craft with us. Read up on more crafts in previous materials and techniques interviews.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

In The Garden.

You know those moments when you realise that they've just grown up a bit more?

Like today when Miss 3 drags me outside in the damp to see that she has spotted that the first of the bulbs that she planted a fortnight ago is shooting. And there I was thinking that she'd forgotten all about them and was only interested in growing strawberries...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Building A Bookcase

It turns out that Darren is quite fond of building things. His latest effort has been a bookcase for our study.

He drew up the design and then got the wood pieces cut and drilled at Allboard. Then he painted the pieces and he, Peter-from-The-Toy-Boys and our friend put it all together on the wall, killing a few screws in the process.

It's turned out to be quite a masterpiece and is very solid too. Hurrah.

More on our move and house renovations.

Oh! And I'm guest blogging today over at the Madeit Blog, sharing some super autumn mushroom finds.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'Birthday Blocks' by 'Get Crafty Creations'

I like to find out what other people are doing in the crafty world, and how they are doing it. So each fortnight I talk to another artist about how they do what they do. Today I am talking to Megan. She makes decorated wooden blocks that are perfect as photo props for babies and children. Megan is as fellow EstyKids member, who operates as Birthday Blocks by Get Crafty Creations and she is based in Chicago, IL in the United States.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am recently re-settled back in my native Chicago after five years living in Las Vegas with my husband and three year old son. We are also currently expecting our second child at the end of July. I created Birthday Blocks after my son was a little older, so I never got to use them for him. I love to read and watch movies, and as a former theater major, I love all things musical.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I spent over a year creating and refining my birthday blocks, so I tried all sorts of materials. I prefer using paint and vinyl, but I do incorporate acid-free paper from time to time, if the design is a good fit.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

It took me a long time to figure out how to make my blocks durable and still attractive. They are meant to last for years, after all. I didn't want to simply paint them and ship them out; paint could scratch or wear, and my vinyl/paper designs could easily stain or peel. I went through lots and lots of different "sealant" products to find the right mix. I was anxious to get my shop started, but waiting until I had the right process was essential. I recommend the old trial and error method, and just know that it is best to be patient until you can showcase your best product.

What drives you to create?

I have what I like to call "Crafty A.D.D." :) I am constantly being inspired to try new mediums and crafts, and inspiration comes from everywhere. I get ideas from movies, cartoons, books, songs, photographs, you name it. A lot of my block designs are custom designed based on requests to match a nursery theme, so that helps a lot.

What is coming up next?

I'm looking to branch out and add other fun photo props to my shop, which still keeping the general theme of the Birthday Blocks alive. I'm working on some alternatives to the blocks, such as stickers and signs, as well as props geared specifically for newborns and families. I love that there are so many avenues to pursue to keep my shop fresh!

All images provided by Megan of Birthday Blocks.

Explore more materials and techniques interviews, and if you would like to contribute, please do leave a comment.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Happy Household

Mum needs time alone with the children. 
Dad needs time alone with the children. 
Mum needs time on her own (work doesn’t count). 
Dad needs time on his own (work doesn’t count). 
Mum and Dad (partner) need time together. 
The family need time all together. 

All of the above need to happen, both at home and away from home, at least once per fortnight.

I saw this Formula For A Happy Family by Martien Snellen when I was at the maternal and child health nurse and thought that it was a lovely, commonsense approach to thinking about what makes my household happy.

We have a new baby and as for all families with a new baby, it takes a little while to work out how to fit the happy formula around the new circumstances. Now that we are three months in, we are getting more and more comfortable with how it's all going. Increasingly, I have time on my own playing netball, gardening and crafting. Increasingly, my husband has time on his own playing board games, building things and riding his bike. Increasingly, we have time together when the kids are asleep and when a kind relative takes the children out. The family has time together playing in the house or on excursions out to the park or the zoo.

Time alone with the children is actually more challenging that it appears. Not because my husband and I don't both get time with the baby and Miss 3 together, that's easy, but we also have to be conscious to have one-on-one time with each of them. Miss 3 is older and has a strong personality; she is quite able to ask mum or dad when she wants to do something alone with us and I wrote last month about some of the activities that I have been doing with her.

But what about alone time with the baby? This baby is very calm and unless he is hungry, hungry is usually happy to entertain himself on his play mat. But feeding does not count as alone time. So how to make sure that he gets his one-on-one time?

Carve out some time for the baby.

It can be hard to find time completely alone with the baby, and it would have been even harder if the two were closer in age. But when Miss 3 is at kindergarten or swimming lessons or playing over at a friend's house, this is the perfect time to recapture that alone time that was so easy with #1. Right now, we use the time when Miss 3 is out to just sit and sing to, read to or play with the baby. But as he gets older, we'll be heading to the park, or story time, or perhaps music classes together.

Find separate activities for each child.

The baby is only three months old. But already his personality is different to Miss 3's. For example, at this age her favourite toy was a green noisy ball, but he loves a brightly coloured peacock. So I can often set Miss 3 up with an activity that she likes to do alone, playdough or driving cars on the car mat for example, and then spend some time alone with the baby looking at high contrast pictures or shaking rattles.

Carry the baby.

As you know, we love the park and have for a few years. And we also love walking and riding around the neighbourhood. It's easy to put the baby in the pusher for these outings and he is happy looking around and the napping when he gets tired. But when he is in a baby carrier, he's not just sitting alone at the side of the playground, he is part of the action.

Leave the children to play alone together.

One-on-one time is important for siblings too. Miss 3 is learning to be more careful and gentle around the baby, and he is less breakable. So she can play with him on the play mat or bouncinette, or burp him, or read to him. This makes her feel very important and children often learn much more from other children than they do from adults. It also promotes the bond between them.

We're only three months in to a family of four. We're by no means experts and there's a lot more to learn. And we'll be happy learning.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Preschooler Cooking - Gingerbread Biscuits

Six three-year-olds.
36 gingerbread cookies.
Four bowls of royal icing.
One bowl of sprinkles.
What could possibly go wrong?