A different creative project each week…from children's parties to sewing curtains

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Juggling Balls

I have spent an unusual few hours with only one of my children. Jack is a lively five year old and so I wanted to think of an activity that would keep him busy.

So we set about making these juggling balls and had heaps of fun in the process. Teaching him to juggle was a different matter!

To make these juggling balls you will need balloons, flour and the top section of a bottle. I used the top of an empty milk bottle, which I cut off with scissors.

Stretch the balloon over the top of the bottle until firmly attached.

Now turn the bottle over and add spoonfuls of flour into the bottle. The bottle acts as a funnel and your child can shake the bottle to make the flour tip into the balloon.

You may need to push the final bit of flour into the balloon with your fingers.  You should carry on going until you are satisfied with the shape of your ball.

We were happy once it was the size of a small apple.
Carefully remove the balloon from the bottle and tightly knot the neck of the balloon.

Push the knot into the ball shape.

Finally cut the neck off another coloured balloon, then wrap it over the ball to cover the knot.

These make suprisingly robust juggling balls. They are really fun to touch and play with and cost pennies to make.

Jack told me it had been the 'most fun afternoon ever!'

Monday, 22 July 2013

No-Sew Bags

As the summer holiday begins I am beginning 6 weeks of blogging with my children.

We shall do a craft a week and let you know how it goes. I hope it inspires some of you to have a go with your children as we are already having fun crafting together!

This week we are making no-sew bags for them to keep their holiday things in. Here are the girls ready to get going!
Firstly I printed off some letters. I choose a font and then enlarged it to size 500. On your computer you can choose to print fonts as they are or just as an outline. To save ink I choose to print just the outline of the letters. You can see Billy's B here…

The children choose scrap fabric from my selection, a big enough piece that their letter could be copied on.

Then, lay a sheet of bondaweb the same size as the fabric on an ironing board and lay your fabric facing upwards on top. Iron them together for about 10 seconds. Bondaweb will act like double sided sticky tape and can be bought very cheaply from any haberdashery shop.

I carefully supervised the children as they ironed their fabric to the bondaweb, which gave them all a great sense of achievement.

Once your bondaweb is ironed on you are left with a paper back to your fabric.

Now cut out your printed letter and draw around it onto your bondaweb paper side. Don't forget to reverse the image so that when you cut it out it is the right way around.

You can draw straight onto the bondaweb paper and it doesn't matter if you make a mistake as you won't see it anyway!

Let your children have a go at cutting around the letter. You can always make it neater if you want, but it is so lovely to see them succeed.

Billy did a great job cutting his out, though I did need to help with the holes in the middle.

Your child can now peel the backing off the bondaweb to reveal a thin layer of glue.

Here is Molly ready to stick her M to the next piece of fabric. We have used a brightly coloured felt to back the shape onto. The felt adds colour and texture.

Position it as you want and then iron over it all to stick it together. The bondaweb must be warmed thoroughly, and as the felt is thicker you may need to hold your iron in place for longer.

You can back each shape as many times as you fancy. The important thing to remember about bondaweb is to iron it on before you cut out the shape.

If you cut out a shape before the bondaweb is stuck to the material you run the danger of ironing your bondaweb to the ironing board or to the iron…

The children have added felt layers until they are happy with the look they get. Then we used hessian bags that cost 99p from Hobbycraft and added one final layer of bondaweb to iron the finished shape onto the front of the bag.

Here are the children and their finished bags. We had a lovely morning and the children are so proud of their work. Each bag was well under £2 to make and it was a perfect for children aged 5+.


Monday, 15 July 2013

Giant Water Pillow

Over the next 6 weeks my 4 children are home for the summer and so we will be blogging together. We will embark on a child friendly craft each week and blog about our creations.

As the hottest weekend of the year arrived we set out for some fun making a giant water pillow. Not really much creativity needed, but boy did we have fun crafting this enormous garden feature!

We spent a few pounds and about 10 minutes making this garden toy and 3 days later the children are still keen to play on it...

The only things you need to make it are two plastic sheets (we used 3m by 4m) and some duct tape, beautifully demonstrated by Molly.
Lay the two plastic sheets out flat on top of each other (as demonstrated by Jack) on the flattest garden you have. With even a slight decline you will find it hard to fill up.

Now roll the edges together. We rolled it over twice to keep the water tucked in and then stuck it down with duct tape.

It is important to ensure that the tape has no air gaps so take your time with sticking, and any bits you are unsure of, go over twice. You can see where we did the corner several times.
Finish all four sides with the duct tape, but leave one corner untaped so you can fill up with water from a hose.

Here are the children eager to start filling it up.

 Insert the hose into the hole and start to fill!

You can see the pillow is starting to take shape. It won't billow up as much as a pillow but you should get a reasonable amount of water in there.

I kept the hose going whilst the children played on it, and once it was as full as we wanted I used a final piece of duct tape to close the hole. I didn't do anything to permanent because I wanted to fill it the next day if necessary.
And now for the fun. This picture of the girls was before it was properly full and already they are having fun.

It is a very strange sensation, almost of walking on water. The children played for hours and hours. We put some soap on top which gave it a slippery surface which was fun too and just washed it off when we wanted it dry on top.

At the end of the day, hot and tired we all laid on top of the pillow and let the water underneath us cool us down. What a hugely fun way to make memories on a sunny afternoon!

Monday, 8 July 2013

How to write beautifully

I think we have lost the art of writing. We are so used to typing and texting that it is sometimes days before many of us even need to pick up a pen!

Today I am championing the forgotten craft of writing. Many of us have handwriting that we wouldn't naturally describe as 'artistic', and yet with a few tweaks and changes we can make the most ordinary handwriting beautiful! So here are a few ways to get started...

The first photo pictures my handwriting. I haven't rushed it, but I have not laboured over it either (I do want them to look like I have written them, not used a computer font!). In order to get the lines straight I used lined paper underneath, which isn't picked up on this photo.

Once I have finished I draw another line next to each downward stroke on every letter. This is parallel to the writing and can be as far apart as you want to make it.

Now fill in the gaps between the two lines on each letter making it look almost like calligraphy.

This technique can make good any mistakes because you are just colouring them in!

Finally, I finish each letter off with a small horizontal line at the top and bottom of each long letter, i.e. on the T, H, Y etc.

This photo is of five different ways to make your writing more interesting!

The first is my normal, block writing…not great!!!

The second line is writing where I have enlarged one or two letters to make it more fun. A good example of this is the writing on my chalkboard page. See link.

The third line simply dots the end of every letter. My creative mum taught me how to write like this as a small child and it is so clever how it transforms any writing! Try it…I dare you!!!

The forth line is better demonstrated in the picture here. It takes some practice because it goes against your natural formation of letter, but it is a fun way to write and is lovely when addressing envelopes.

The principle behind it is to make every letter the same height, stretching from the top of the line to the bottom of the line. So you can see that the 'a' in 'Katy' is proportionally much larger than the 't' and the 'y' sits on top of the line rather than sinking below. It is immensely fun and quite challenging to undo years of learnt behaviour.

Here is another way to jazz up your writing. Write the name or title you want to decorate. I am using an envelope and have made my writing much larger than I would naturally do. This allows me more room for adding creativity.
Now I add the same parallel lines down each vertical line (as mentioned above). Instead of colouring them in I draw lines as the filler. You could also use colour.

Finally, I lengthen some of the lettering to add a sense of fun and then finish with the horizontal bottoms.
I am going to end with an envelope design. I have drawn on a scrap bit of paper some lines to follow and I add in a centre line to help me centre the writing. I insert the scrap paper into the envelope so I can see what is straight.

The easiest way to find the centre of each line is to write it in your natural handwriting on scrap paper and draw a line down the middle of the writing. Then you know what part of the line will need to land up in the centre. If you want to be particularly cautious you should draw the middle letters in first and then work from middle to the edges of each line.
Once you are satisfied with the writing add anything extra to decorate. I have added curls to some letters, but I have tried to mirror the right and left side of my writing.  If embellishing a letter on the right side of a line I will find one on the left side to embellish too. This leaves a more balanced finished look.

I do have to apologise about the lack of other examples of where you could use your lovely handwriting…perhaps labelling jam jars, cake tins, school books, birthday presents, etc. I had every intention of photographing lots of examples but the sun is shining and I must work on my tan!!!

This blog entry is dedicated to my mother who is the most creative person I know and who has never lost the art of beautiful handwriting.

Monday, 1 July 2013

patchwork blanket

Here is the picnic blanket that I have spent this week making. I have really enjoyed the challenge of making it, but a challenge it was!

Enjoy the blog and hope you feel brave enough to make something like this for your summer picnics!

I found these three pieces of material in a discontinued basket in Hobby craft and I love them. They were only one meter lengths each so I needed a project that wouldn't need more. 

This was supposed to be a simple patch work design, which certainly began that way.

First I cut two squares of fabric using a cardboard template. Then two rectangles (double the square template). And that quickly I was ready to begin sewing. I pinned the two squares together and sewed down one length leaving a 1cm margin.

I am not known for making extra work for myself, so ironing and pinning are not high on my list of priorities. So do listen to me say that ironing and pinning are essential to the success of patchwork! Do it!!!

Open the squares and iron the margins to make a neat crease. Then pin the the first rectangle to the two squares facing the two fabrics. Sew down the length of both squares to join the three pieces of fabric.

Again open the fabric out and press them with the iron.

At this point you should have a square of fabric. Now place the second rectangle (faced down) onto one of the edges of the square. If you, like me, are only using three patterns of fabric do make sure the colours you are using do not edge onto one another. See my pattern (below) to demonstrate how the colours can be laid out.

Use your square cardboard template as a guide to measure the width of the next colour fabric. You should make this rectangle as wide as the others but this time it is three lengths long. Repeat the above process by pinning this rectangle against the longest edge on your pattern, then sew and press. 

Repeat this process until you have a size that you are happy with. My finished square is 75cm long and wide. 
I repeated this pattern four times so had four squares each measuring 75cm. What made my work hard was not having the same amounts of fabric to repeat the pattern exactly, so two of my squares (top right, bottom left) are the same pattern but changing the fabric order). This is what flummoxed me, as the order must be the same for the finished blanket. It is worth drawing out four squares on a paper, cutting the out and working out the best order for your finished blanket. Or just repeat the same pattern on all four squares which will make a better finish than mine!

Carefully I sewed the large squares together with the same 1cm margin I have used on each small squares. Don't forget to pin and press in order to get complete accuracy.

When working with much larger quantities of fabric the margins for error are greater. It is easy for fabric to lay a little skewed meaning that the fabrics are unlikely to meet at other points.

It really is worth your time making sure that things line up properly at this stage!

Now I use a 150cm piece of fabric from IKEA. I find IKEA fabric much firmer to use than average cottons and therefore they make a good backing for a blanket like this. It is also very cheap at £6 a meter.

Lay the fabric faced down on the floor.
Next add a piece of fleece. I bought this white fleece from Yards Ahead for £7.50. It is the first time I have used fleece instead of wadding and I much prefer it. It gives you a thiner yet firmer feel than wadding and is much easier to work with. It can also be bought in 150cm width which is unusual for wadding.
Here you can see I have laid the fleece onto the backing fabric and then pinned the patchwork onto the top. Lots of pins all over the blanket hold all three layers in place.

Now you are ready to quilt it all. Sew around the edge of the patchwork and then down any of the seams on your patchwork.

I sewed down the middle cross, and then around the sides. You can do as much as you like.
Once you have sewed around the patchwork trim off the excess fabric from your backing and fleece. Take the edge to 5mm of the stitching.
My strong advice to you now is to buy Bias Binding. It is cheap and will save you a lot of hassle. I didn't do this, so beware, learn from my mistakes!

I used four lengths of the backing fabric to make my own bias binding. Each piece must be slightly longer than your blanket and 15cm wide.

Begin by ironing each length in half making it only 7.5cm wide. Then cut a piece of cardboard 6cm wide and iron the fabric around it on both sides.
You can just make out on this photo the crease in the middle and the two sides that have also been creased towards the centre.

Even my instructions are confusing…save yourself the hassle and BUY BIAS BINDING!!!

Open your binding and lay it under your blanket with the centre crease running alongside the edge of your blanket.
Fold the edge up along the adjacent side making a triangle shape.

It will be easier to do this if you are using shop-bought bias binding because you can use one long length rather than four pieces as I am.
 Now fold the side of the binding over to make a perfect corner. Pin into place.
Turn the edge of the blanket over to reveal the back of the binding.
Then fold this corner into line, flip the blanket over and pin into place. Repeat on all four corners pinning each edge as you go.

Once you have done this with all four edges and corners sew them into place. On occasions you will be sewing through 7 layers of fabric so go carefully around the corners especially.

This project is not a quick one. I think mine took about 6 hours (would have been less is I used shop-bought bias binding!!!), though I am hoping it will last for many years and be a lovely addition to any summer picnic.