Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sewing lavender bags with children.

It has become a little tradition in our house that once potty training is going reasonably well we make lavender bags to perfume the draw we will need to clear to make way for the big girl knickers.  I like to involve the girls in this as much as possible.  I thought I would share this project with you since it is so very child friendly and quick it makes a great first project. 

Let your child pick some fabric - this is an ideal project to use up scraps.  You can use the chosen fabric for both sides of the lavender bag or use a plain piece for the back.  For each lavender bag you will need to cut two squares.  I use a CD case as my template.  Pin three of the sides together right sides facing.

My girls like to pass the pins to me when ever I do any pinning.
 Stitch around the edges of the bag pivoting around the corners and leaving the final edge undone.  In a project like this where seam allowance is negotiable but, you want nice crisp straight lines.  I have two tips for sewing a straight line.  Don't be embarrassed sewing in a straight line is a challenge even for experiences sewers.

Tip one align the edge of your fabric with the edge of your sewing machine foot and keep this alignment to ensure a straight line (so long as your fabric is cut straight).
Tip two using a fabric marker or even a pencil if you don't have a specialist fabric marker draw a straight line with a ruler where you want to sew.

The age and temperament of the child will dictate how involved in the sewing process they can be.  You will be the best judge of this but this is how it is for my girls.  My youngest who is 2 is a very curious and hands on little mischief maker.  I have only just let her start to sit on my lap whilst I use the machine and occasionally let her press the reverse button.  She does love to watch the sewing machine in action and sat whilst I sewed two or three of these little bags.  My eldest who is 4 has always been a very sensible and cautious child.  She has been sitting on my lap whilst I sewed since she was a baby and I never worried she would try to touch anything she shouldn't.  Now I let her guide the fabric through the machine with my hands on top of hers.

This is how I do a lot of sewing - just as well I have long arms.
 Now you have a bag with an open top.  Clip the corners and turn right side out.  Normally I would press these now but you can skip this process if you are making these with children.

Add 3-4tbsp of dried lavender to the bags - this is where children of any age can really get stuck in.

Fold over the raw edge of the bag about 1cm and secure with pins.  Now sew the opening closed using the sewing machine.  If you want a more professional finish press this edge over and slip stitch the opening closed.  Your done!

In true blue peter fashion here is one I made earlier.
Now if only potty training was this simple ;)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Somewhere Over the Rainbow...

Today would have been my Grandma's 94th birthday.

I am who I am because of her.  My Grandma loved to sew, knit and cook, kept a rose garden and collected tea sets.  She could never be idle and always had to be doing something.  She adored babies and sang songs from old movies all the time!  Does all this sound familiar?  She shared all these passions with me when I was a child and now I have grown to love them too.  I take enormous pleasure in sharing these joys with my children and live in hope that I may one day share them with my own grandchildren.

May I encourage you to share your passions with your family.  I was just 14 when my Grandma died and yet I know I am who I am today because of the time I spent with Grandma.   

Little House on the Patio


I thought I would drop by briefly to fill you in on more of our summer.  Those of you who follow me on facebook will know we have had some excitement here.  Last weekend we collected a second hand playhouse from good friends of ours who are moving and who's kids have outgrown it.  I confess when I found out our friends were moving and not taking the play house I jumped in very quickly and asked if they would mind if we took it - sometimes you just have to put yourself out there!  Amazingly our lovely friends said as long as we did all the disassemble & moving we were welcome to it.  The girls and I were very excited and my eldest quickly began choosing paint and co-ordinating soft furnishings - she's 4 but already has a very strong nesting instinct!

The playhouse was not in a bad way apart from the windows which were broken and the perspex had gone cloudy.  We replaced these, tidied up each panel - making several thousand spiders homeless in the process.  Finally we gave it a fresh lick of paint and new curtains it looks as good as new.   I painted the playhouse inside and out.  A sweet pink on the outside with contrasting white trim.  Inside I painted the panels white.  Our garden does not get much sunlight so I felt a fresh white finish would keep the playhouse light and airy all year round.

As you can see I made the girls pitch in and work pretty hard on this project.  I was keen to teach them that in life when we want something we have to work for it.  Furthermore that sometimes it is more enjoyable to take something old and a little rough around the edges and make it new again.  I had them sanding panels, prime-ing and painting.  Even my two year old!  I am still trying to scrub the paint off her little hands.  It was a great feeling that we were all pulling together, united, working towards a common goal.  That being said you have to be realistic my girls are 2 and 4 &  maintaining concentration on one project, having your parents constantly busy and waiting for your play house to be built for a whole weekend is probably testing enough.  I worked solidly on this project utilising every moment of my time to get this project done.  Half an hour before church I was priming a panel.  All through nap time I slapped paint on as fast as I could.  Most of this took place on our front lawn which is significantly larger than the side garden where the playhouse now resides.  Our neighbours watched on with great interest as I toiled away.  We had several of them come and inspect the finished article throughout Monday & all seemed utterly smitten. 
Come Sunday evening every panel was finished & whilst I put the girls to bed my husband (who has been extremely understanding about having a pink house plonked on his patio) began assembling it.

I am so pleased with how our house turned out.  We have named it Bethany House after its former owner.  Also because we discovered one meaning for Bethany is "with red hair" which my eldest daughter has so it really seemed to fit.

On Monday morning at 8:30am my girls went into their Bethany house they had been talking about having breakfast in there the night before but they instantly fell to playing.  An hour later I decided they really ought to be hungry so took them their breakfast which they had not once asked for.  They played so nicely all morning in their play house that by lunchtime I had made 4 curtains and a cushion.  In the afternoon the girls helped me plant geraniums in pots outside the Bethany house.  We went out briefly to buy food and all they talked about was their play house.  When we got home they were back in their playhouse before the shopping was out of the car.  Needless to say getting them in for bed was tricky too.  On Tuesday we had a play date and our housewarming party.  We served french fancies and a great time was had by all.  On Wednesday the little house became a shop for the morning and later a cookery school.  And so it continued for the rest of the week the novelty has most certainly not worn off & both girls seem genuinely proud of their little house on the patio which they know they helped make happen.

Friday, 10 August 2012


I know many of you will have choked on your cup of tea just reading this tittle and I apologise if I have offended you BUT my biggest and best tip for you if you want to save money on Christmas... start thinking about it in July.  
My first port of call is the dotcomgiftshop sale this little online gem is always great value for gifts for all but their sales are amazing!  I am afraid you have missed it for this year but it's still worth checking out for lovely gifts.
I like to make many of my presents and this takes time.  Hampers make a lovely gifts at Christmas so once again I urge you to get your preserving pan out and make the most of the summers bounty.  Home made jam on toast in front of the fire at Christmas time, a sharp chutney to temper your Christmas cheese platter or a fruity liquor to toast the new year.  Make them now and then have fun making them look really special once the cold weather kicks in. 
If you follow my blog you'll know I love to sew even not more than I love to make jam.  This year I am making the beautiful Princess and the pea toy from the last issue of Mollie Makes.

 Isn't it adorable?!  You can read about this project and see more pictures on the designers website here.  I am making this for my youngest daughter complete with a little bag to keep it all together and hope to find a beautiful copy of the story to really set it all off.  I am really excited about this project.

I have also been picking up old vinyl records at charity shops and have plans to turn them into funky presents.  Another thing I have been on the look out for in charity shops are pretty pieces of china and glassware these make pretty, useful and different gifts for women of all ages.  

I hope you can begin to appreciate why I start my planning 6 months in advance I confess that in part I am a control freak and dislike leaving anything to the last Minuit.  I love to lavish time on the gifts I give and give something original.  Also by making a couple of gifts each month it spreads the cost. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012


Hello Readers

Its been a while since I last posted.  Life was tremendously busy in the run up to the end of school term & I also had the heaviest cold I've ever had and broke my toe.  There just didn't seem to be enough hours in my day.  But now the school holidays are in full swing and I wanted to share with you what we have been up to in the kitchen.

Do you remember a couple of months back I reminded you to start saving your jam jars well I am working my way through my stash already.  Those of you who live in the countryside may be familiar with the scenario of coming home to find punnets of fruit or fresh vegetables left on your door step by kind friends and neighbours who have more produce than they know what to do with.  I think the strangest thing I have ever found on my doorstep was a large crate of fuzzy quinces and a handful of runner beans.  Lately I have been given a punnet of redcurrants and a punnet of blackcurrants.  Another way to get hold of inexpensive fruit and veg is to visit your local market or farm shop or even the supermarket at closing time.  If the weather has been especially cool or wet - which it has been for months here - this technique of bargain hunting works particularly well.  Last week I also picked up some raspberries very inexpensively.  I made a raspberry and redcurrant jam and a blackcurrant one too.

With my eldest off to school in September my thoughts are also turning to cheap and nutritious packed lunches (school dinners at our local primary are schockingly unhealthy).  I have made several batches of cordial to pep up her water bottle.  Whilst I try to encourage my children to drink water as much as possible we all like something a little fruity.  I won't buy squash I either dilute pure fruit juice or give my girls home made cordials that way I know exactly what's in them.  Another great idea for school lunches and snacks is to make fruit leathers.  Fruit leathers are like those fruit winders you can buy.  You can use any fruit but soft fruits and berries work particularly well.  Stew them with as little added liquid as possible.  Strain the fruit through a sieve to remove stones or pips.  If you wish to add sugar now is the time to do this use icing sugar as it dissolves easily.  Now spread this mixture thinly directly onto a baking sheet and put into the oven on the coolest temperature your oven can do and cook until you have a flexible sheet, this will probably take several hours.  Cut into strips and store in an airtight container.  So easy and so much cheaper than anything you can buy in the shops!

At this time of year it feels as though there is always something happening in my kitchen.  The area I live in is famous for its orchards so in late summer and Autumn there is an abundance of orchard fruits to preserve in all manner of ways.  I hope to bring you more on this topic and a wonderful high dumpsey deary jam recipe.