Sunday, 24 February 2013

Easter Parade

Not long until Easter now & my thoughts are turning to Easter Bonnets.  I always make my girls Easter Bonnets.  Sometimes we just trim a plain straw hat with eggs or flowers and sometimes I sew a cute vintage style baby bonnet.  This year We have a wedding to attend the weekend after Easter & my girls have requested "Little House on the Prairie" bonnets.  Well I don't need much encouragement (a you know) so I am going all out and making dresses with matching bonnets.  

Yesterday I made the first dress using the Flower Girl Dress pattern (below) from the book Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross.  Isn't this image beautiful?  I have been hoping to have occasion (such as a wedding) to make this dress for quite a while.

 I haven't settled on a bonnet pattern yet, I am still looking - once again Pinterest is offering of wealth of inspiration.  I was hoping to make the girls identical outfits & dreamt of using some lovely Liberty Tana Lawn like the fabric in the picture above.  However this was too expensive & when I looked through my stash of fabric I found 2 meters of a lovely floral design that complimented my eldest red hair beautifully.

However nothing for L my youngest.  I began looking for fabric and was delighted to win an e-bay auction for some Tana Lawn in a print that my sister and I saw plenty of in the children's department on our recent visit to Liberty's- just enough to make her dress and bonnet.  This luxurious fabric will make a dress and bonnet that will be treasured for years!  I can't wait to show you how it turns out.

A little on the wild side but I love the retro look of this fabric.
 I am really enjoying my sewing at the moment I feel like I am finally no longer a beginner and can produce a simple project like a skirt or simple dress in a few hours and find this tremendously satisfying and relaxing.  I am experimenting with different seam finishes with these next projects to produce items that are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside and hopefully more durable too.  My girls are delighted when I whip up a little something for them to wear - I hope that continues for a few more years at least.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


My latest "do it yourself" attempts have been at making bread.  This is slightly bonkers because I can't actually eat bread!  I am intolerant - hate that phrase I don't like to consider myself an intolerant person - to gluten.  However the rest of the family does eat bread & I am very concerned about all the nastiest in shop bought bread.  The E numbers, preservatives etc.  So I bought the cheapest bread maker on the market (Argos Cookworks if you are interested and I am experimenting with bread making.  The girls have no problem with this but my husband loves his baked goods particularly white bread (which even pre-bread machine I refused to buy).  White bread is nutritionally useless I beg you not to go near the stuff!  He is not impressed by this latest thrifty venture but has graciously consented to a trial period.

The first thing I have discovered is that bread baked in the machine is not great.  So I generally only use the dough setting.  The dough setting kneads and proves the dough you then turn it out, shape it, leave to rise & then bake.  This may sound a little silly but even using the dough setting is a serious time saver & gives better results than doing the whole thing by hand.
Having tried a few recipes from the book I am now trying a recipe I found online.  Today's adventure - currently in the oven - is a sweet bread which uses condensed milk.

If you have a bread machine gathering dust at the back of the cupboard or fancy having a go at this yourself check out bread machine 101 by blogger Paula Rhodes as I don't think I could hope to better it

I've costed it up and a loaf of home made bread is costing just short of £1 so is cheaper than bought bread and a lot healthier!  However I am starting to worry that I may have made myself a little too self sufficient in the kitchen and that I may never be able to leave my kitchen ever again.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Teaching Children to sew

A post that is a little off the topic of thrift today but something I get asked a lot is "What is the best way to teach your children to sew?"  Let me just say there is no "best" way or "right" way to do this.  If you have an enthusiasm for it this will shine through.  Think about and, talk to your child about what types of projects they would like to do.  I love teaching my girls to sew.  Gradually I am passing onto them the skills and little tools that I used when I was a child.  Our sewing time together is precious and I often share my memories of learning to sew at my Grandma's knee with my girls as we sew.

Sewing cards are a great place to begin & children of all ages and abilities can do these from about 2 years old.  All you need is some stiff card, a whole punch and a shoe lace or piece of stiff string.

image and tutorial available at moms best network
Once children have grasped the over and under technique of a basic running stitch try drawing a picture using a permanent marker onto large plastic canvas and using a darning needle and wool get them to sew around the outline you have drawn.  These activities are great "quiet time" activities even for older children and make a nice alternative to the TV.

About a year ago I introduced my eldest (then 4) to french knitting.  I know this isn't technically sewing but it's a great way to improve dexterity and and get them used to controlling and holding their work, the yarn and a needle or hooked tool to manipulate the wool (we use a crochet hook).  I still had my french knitting dolly from when I was a child but you don't have to have one to have a go.  French knitting is sometimes called spool knitting because it was traditionally done using a wooden spool with 4 small tacks in the top as shown in this handy french knitting tutorial.  If you only have a plastic spool or bobbin to hand simply attach 4 paper clips to the inside.

you don't need a knitting dolly to begin french knitting as the picture above from CraftSanity blog demonstrates.
 So far I have not suggested you lay out a great deal of money in teaching your children to sew but let me strongly recommend the following small investment to you.  The book Made By Me by Jane Bull is a delight for adults and children alike and covers many different sewing and knitting techniques as well as some wonderful projects.  Girls LOVE this book!  It is fresh, modern and accessible & I can not recommend it highly enough to you.

Another project I have written about before that is a beginners classic is lavender bags, they are such fun and can be hand or machine sewn.  The next project I plan to start with my 5 year old is some cross stitch.  A friend of mine passed on some cross stitch magazines with free kits and wealth of free designs inside.  I must confess cross stitch bores me to tears but it's a good technique to teach children as once they have mastered it it is quite easy for them to produce a piece of work they can be proud of.

felt is another classic beginners project and there are lots of kits available however, don't feel confined to these.  Craft felt is inexpensive and easy to come by.  For little girls get them to make a little felt doll and as her sewing skills improve she can make little dresses and outfits for her doll.  Boys (I know we have neglected boys projects somewhat) will love designing their own monsters and making them.

As you can see I could go on all day - sewing is something I am very passionate about and I thank you for indulging me.  I am sure as my girls grew there will be more on this topic to share with you.  happy sewing!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Meal Planning

The job of creating 6weekly meal plans has been on my to do list for AGES!  Although I do always plan our weeks food I end up doing this each week just before I do our food order online.  I always feel totally uninspired and daunted by the prospect of dreaming up a weeks worth of family meals on a Sunday evening.  I often end up turning to my husband who seems to only ever reply is questioning tones "sausages?" I think if it were down to him we'd have sausages 3x a week!  Anyway this January I promised I'd do it and (by a whisker) I completed the task on January 30th.

There is a wealth of pretty free printables out there to help you with this task & if pretty paper and colour coding gets you going on this project then go for it!  I recommend Pinterest as a great place to look for free prinatables.  Much as this idea appealed I knew I would spend half an hour looking at different prinatbles, change my mind each time about how I was going to organise my meal plans and ultimately accomplish nothing!  Instead I drew myself a table in good old Microsoft Word and went to it.  I can always pretty it up later ;)
I had a chart with days of the week and 3 spaces for meals.  Below this I had a chart with 2 columns one column for the things I would need to buy and another for store cupboard essentials I would be using this week so as I could check I already had them & buy them if not.

Feeling daunted by the prospect of planning 6 weeks worth of menus I began by choosing the breakfast cereal we would be having each week.  Week one Wheatabix, adding that to my list and so on, adding dried fruit such as raisins or a fruity porridge at the weekend to mix things up a little.  I should also say I had made a list of every family meal that I have memorised, cook regularly & we all (more of less) like.  I am pleased to say I had around 23 meals on that list - apparently the average number a person can come up with in a task like this is 9!  However I still had an empty meal plan so my next tip for filling these gaps is theme nights.  For example we always have Jacket potatoes on a Wednesday night.  So I filled in Jacket potatoes each Wednesday & then added various toppings.  Lately we have been in a baked potato rut (I hold my hands up) we have had tuna, sweetcorn mayo for countless weeks but now with my plan I have lots of different toppings lined up.  We are adopting meat free Mondays (I do always try to have one day without meat in our week but felt keeping this to a set day would help at the planning stage).  Tuesdays are cheap nights (just like at the cinema) which prompts me to use Sunday's roast dinner leftovers and prevents them from sitting in the fridge until inspiration strikes.
Our Wednesday potato ritual, using up leftovers and a meat free day are all principles I always try to stick to when I plan our weeks food but I've just got a bit more organised about it with this plan.  The aim of planning your meals is to save you time in the long run not to look up a ton of new recipes and ideas to try (that would just be too much work!).

I have numbered my plans and will use them in order because I have designed them to follow on from another.  They run Monday to Sunday (Because I generally do my food shopping on a Monday) and therefore, I use the leftovers from Sunday dinner on the following weeks menus.  In practise this might look like this Meal plan one might end with a roast chicken for Sunday lunch therefore in week 2 we will have chicken soup for lunch on Monday and Tuesday and have chicken and avocado in our jacket potatoes on Wednesday.