Breaking out of the gloom – January

Logically I know we have had a great month. When I think about our little family it’s all loveliness, but the outside world is encroaching so darkly.

Good stuff first though. Thanks to lots of time at home over Christmas we have been able to keep the house as under control as it can be with a toddler who likes taking everything out of everywhere she can reach then scattering it far and wide. I have even managed to do a bit of decluttering as and when I see it, which also helps as there is less general stuff everywhere.

Trike & ducks
We have managed to find a few new groups to go to which fit with Felicity’s nap time and we fill my non working days very happily with lots of trips down to the park, Library, feeding the ducks or toddling about our little town. Her latest obsession is her push along tricycle which she points to ever so hopefully every time we open the garage to get the oh so much more practical pushchair out. Most of the time I can’t resist either…

A lot of time has been taken up with planning our kitchen renovation, which is very exciting. Ignoring how much our savings are going to disappear the thought of a working oven and dishwasher is so wonderful. And the fun of looking  at storage solutions – under plinth drawers and pull out spice racks make me genuinely shudder with delight. Felicity has been so patient with us spending a large percentage of our weekends at kitchen showrooms too. She is going through a phase of loving to nose in cupboards, so going to places where there is nothing to do but open and shut drawers and cupboard doors seems to be a hit way to spend a weekend in her eyes.

I have also been keeping in mind my word for 2017 and have been crafting almost every evening for the first time in a long time. It has definitely helped to have something relaxing to focus on rather than just drifting the evening away messing about on the Internet. The only trouble with my tactic of using up random craft kits is my makes aren’t necessarily things I need. Anyone want this owl? I don’t trust Felicity to not chew the felt bits off.

Handmade owl

All lovely and yet I feel gloomy – the news from the US has literally been keeping me up at night, with the Muslim ban being signed just as I was up for Felicity’s first wake up and stupidly checked the news. It was all so horrifying that I then couldn’t get to sleep for hours watching the developments.

I desperately feel I want to be doing something but managed to completely miss that the Women’s March was happening until it was too late to go. We would have loved to have taken Felicity as I worry so much about her growing up in this kind of environment for women. I feel guilty for worrying about kitchens which I know is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. All the things I hold most dear: human rights, the NHS, even actual facts (I’m a librarian, verifiable sources are kind of important to me), are being chipped away at the moment.

Yet I know that just obsessing about these things – rather than resisting them in a useful way, I’m obviously going to do that – won’t make them go away. So I will continue choosing kitchen flooring, taking my daughter to the park and making. Then ramble on about all that on the Internet.

Word for 2017: Make

As I mentioned in my 2016 post, last year I didn’t do very well at concentrating on my hopes rather than drifting into making-myself-feel-slightly-guilty resolution territory. Feeling bad because of a date on the calendar isn’t something I really want to do deliberately! At the same time the turning of the year is still the main benchmark of time passing, along with birthdays and anniversaries I guess (and my birthday is pretty much at the end of the year so all gets bundled together anyway!) so I still like to mark it.

I’ve seen lots of people choosing a word to sum up the upcoming year for them. I think this started with this email course, which I confess I haven’t done. ‘Make’ just kind of came about organically. I started off trying to write about my hopes again and the post just wasn’t working, although I realised that every one of my hopes revolved around making, so much so I was trying to find synonyms so I wasn’t overusing ‘make’. This seemed to be a good indication it is something I should focus on this year.

I want to make by crafting more – if I’m making something (anything) I’ll be happy. I’ve already kicked this off by starting to use up various craft kits I’ve never used. I’m not worrying about what I’ll do with the finished item, just enjoying the process and making some space in the cupboards too. I’m also looking forward to starting to do some basic crafts with Felicity – she’s just starting to enjoy scribbling and I’m looking forward to some crafty fun with her this year.

It’s also about making the most of time this year. I find that my ‘free time’ is limited – on a good evening we get around an hour and a half after Felicity is in bed to relax. Often we have chores or life admin to be doing, and on the bad nights she wakes regularly and I’m up and down stairs all evening. It’s too easy to sit and mess about on the internet rather than actually making the most of my time – by crafting, reading or putting a little thought into really enjoying our downtime (otherwise known as hygge).

It’s also making time to do fun stuff with Felicity and engaging with her properly. I’m aware that sometimes my phone is too much of a distraction, I don’t want this to be the case. I’m not going into a smartphones are evil rant as they’re not. Having busy whatsapp groups constantly chattering is a wonderful way of feeling connected with the people I like best. But I probably don’t need to check Facebook twice an hour (especially as I don’t often post) to get that connection. Not frittering, not being super productive, just making the most of my time.

Another element to ‘making’ is that 2017 is the year where we’ve got to get a lot done on the house and make it into even more of a home. We need a new kitchen, which is going to be a huge project and will be one of the first (and definitely the most expensive) way of putting a permanent stamp on our house. I’m hoping to continue getting pictures on the walls, as we still have things propped up on the dining room floor – two years in is getting silly – and generally just nesting.

I’m really looking forward to seeing if using a single word like this is going to be something I enjoy thinking about over the year too. We’ll see how it’s gone this time next year!

Wedding memories and an alternative guestbook: handmade wedding #6

Wedding memories, photos and pinata

My Mum and Dad have a beautiful photo of my Nana and Grandad’s 1940s wedding which provided a little bit of inspiration for my own wedding, especially my bouquet and the shape of my dress (large and slim fitting, respectively). So I was keen to have it on display at the reception along with our parents’ 70s wedding photographs. I also wanted to include some photos of us as children so I made a little display with an old tree branch with childhood photos hanging above the old wedding photos in frames. With hindsight I would have glued the childhood photos of us back to back so they couldn’t turn round to the blank side. But overall I still liked the effect and I always enjoy laughing at baby photos at a wedding so thought it was only fair to give our guests the opportunity!

Wedding childhood and family memories photo display

The display of photos provided a good focal point on the table next to our alternative wedding ‘guestbook’ – a handmade piñata. This was definitely the best idea-found-on-Pinterest I incorporated into our wedding. I always struggle to know what to write in guestbooks at weddings, I always write the thoughtful message in the card, when I have time to think about it. I tend to panic under pressure when writing a guestbook message and end up with something insipid and impersonal.

Alternative Wedding guestbook, a pinata to open on first anniversary

So I was keen on an something different and when I found this easy piñata DIY I decided this was the perfect alternative as an entertaining way to collect our guests’ good wishes. When I realised that the first wedding anniversary is represented by paper it seemed even more perfect to seal up the piñata then smash it open on a year later on our anniversary. We actually did have a regular guestbook as well, but no one signed that at all so I think our guests preferred our piñata too!

Smashing the piñata provided a lovely focus for our first anniversary (when I was heavily pregnant so other forms of celebration were limited) and it was like reliving the day again. We had everything from very drunken messages, anonymous jokey messages, a baby announcement (we weren’t going to open it for a year after all) to really sweet well wishes for our future together. It wouldn’t have been half as special if we’d stuck with a guestbook – not least we’d have read the messages right away when there are lots of other exciting things going on like cards, presents and honeymoon. The wedding day flew by so quickly it was so wonderful to save a little bit of it to savour at leisure a year on!

The rest of this series on our handmade wedding can be found here.

All photographs in this post were  taken by our wedding photographer Stephen Bunn.

Handmade wedding part 5: table design, favours and seating plan 

Finally another post in my handmade wedding series. I should get these finished by our second anniversary at this rate!

The little details was where I went properly craft crazy for our wedding. You know the little bits that just make everything a little bit nicer even if they are really not essential? They were also some of my favourite elements of the day (aside from the people of course!). The little touches and details are definitely the fun part of wedding planning and DIY-ing. I’ve actually had to split this post into three, which might indicate the amount of craft excess that went on.

Wildlife and nature themed wedding table design

Table design
The vague theme of our day was wildlife and nature, and the table design had this in mind.

Bird nest wedding favour

The favours were by far the most time consuming detail as we (I had a lot of help from friends!) made over 80 of these little knitted nests. I filled them with the traditional sugared almonds to look like eggs. We then wrapped them up with organza and used brown luggage labels so they could also act as name place cards.

I went a bit crazy with the rubber stamps, including the ones I used for our save the dates, invitations and orders of service, to decorate the back of the luggage labels. I made matching menus for each table too.

Beaded bee on the table centre decorations

I also thought our table centres of pots of lavender needed a little extra something. So I beaded lots of these tiny little bees to look like they were buzzing round the plant. At almost every wedding I’ve ever been to the table centres get given away to guests the next day and ours went complete with bees – which I’m pleased to report are now buzzing round the house plants of a few of our guests!

The seating plan 

I know people have mixed feelings about table plans but my controlling streak was actually quite excited about matching up where our loved ones should sit, so we had one.

Table names

Will and I have incredibly different taste in books – and pretty much the only book we both adore is My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. I’m not sure if my guests would agree but once I’d had the idea that we should name our table ‘the Family’ and all the guest tables after the other animals mentioned in the book, there was no stopping me. We thought this would be a bit random without any explanation so included a quote about each animal on the table name sign.

My family and other animals seating plan

Actually designing the seating plan board/display thing was something I left to the last minute and it worked out more by luck than judgement. It was very simple with just a few classic illustrations of animals featured in the book cut out and added via photoshop. This got we got printed on a high quality printer, and it was framed for display by the venue.

I really liked how our tables looked in the end and they didn’t take too long to set up. Beyond the DIY elements I would really recommend potted plants as table centres. They generally work out a quite a bit cheaper than a flower arrangement, and also will last longer if you give them out to guests after the wedding.

All photos aside from the bird’s nest favours and the bee were taken by our brilliant wedding photographer Stephen Bunn. The nest and the bee were taken by my friends and wedding guests Emma and Vikki respectively. 

Baby makes!

I love making things to mark special events, I went a bit crazy on DIY details for our wedding. Impending motherhood had a similar effect. Major life events demand a bit of thought and time spent on making things for me! There is something so timeless about the feeling of knitting for baby and nesting to get your home ready for the new arrival as well. It was a way of mentally preparing as much as producing things I think.

I crocheted, knitted, sewed and stamped away throughout my pregnancy (well once the morning sickness wore off!)

Chevron blanket

I’m still incredibly pleased with the colour choice for my chevron baby blanket from this pattern.

The next make may not be the most useful of baby attire, but I couldn’t resist this bumblebee hat pattern when I saw it! Felicity hates hats so not sure how much wear it will get but it’s quite adorable so I’m counting it as a win.
Bumblebee hat

Felicity's hat

The last thing completed before Felicity’s  arrival was a felt mobile which I designed based on some inspiration from Pinterest. The most difficult bit of this was definitely getting the threads and wool round the embroidery hoop – the sewing was easy in comparison! She has a mixed relationship with being put down – but it does distract her from the trauma of changing (well sometimes…)

Baby mobile

I loved the idea over on Seeds and Stitches of quick baby makes using fabric ink and rubber stamps. I’ve personalised a good few Muslins, body suits and scratch mits. It’s such an easy make. Can imagine it would be a great baby shower activity idea as well.

Stamped muslins

I’d held off knitting the traditional cardigan for baby as so many people had kindly said they’re knitting ready for baby. I cracked a week before my due date though and started on this adorable pattern. It hasn’t got finished yet and my hands seem rather busy with other things now so I fear it will get left a little while and will probably end up as a present for someone else!

Baby knitting in progress

Handmade wedding part 4:  Order of Service 

After a long break here is another installment about our handmade wedding.

Order of Service
One of the things I find most interesting about weddings are choices people make about the actual marriage ceremony/service/celebration. It’s often the most personal part of the day and what all the rest of the celebrating, booze, food and dancing is all about. People also seem to be having such a wonderfully diverse range of different types of ceremony. So I thought I would share some details about the design and content of our Order of Service.

Out of all the DIY stationary bits I did for our wedding I think these were the simplest, quickest and most effective. Isn’t that always the way?! We went for a vaguely rustic looking brown paper cover with a few simple rubber stamps, including reusing our personalised stamp I had made for our Save the Dates. We formatted the inserts ourselves in quite a plain style and had them printed and stapled.  Then finalised it all off by attaching the covers and inserts with  a very basic sewn binding using ribbons. So easy and simple.

Choosing the wedding readings was something I started thinking about really early on, although a lot of our favourites were actually too short to use for a traditional stand up reading.  I was very pleased when I thought of the compromise of including some of these quotes and sayings about marriage at the beginning and end of the Order of Service. Two of my favourite novelists (George Eliot and Thomas Hardy) could be included in the day after all!

The selections we went for were:

“Let wild birds call the banns
merlins from the hillside
sanderlings from the waves
whimbrels with seven notes
nightingales from the wood
from the treetops rooks
from your own back garden
blue tit, robin, wren.”

From For a Wedding by Michael Longley

“What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories.”

From Adam Bede by George Eliot

“Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”

From Song of the Open Road by Walt Whitman

“At home by the fire, whenever you look up, there I shall be — and whenever I look up there will be you.”

From Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

I found a lot of the so called ‘best readings’ for weddings list tended to repeat the same ones over and over again, so it was a very pleasant change when I came across this selection of wedding poetry from contemporary poets in the Guardian. We loved the Wendy Cope poem and this was read out in full by Will’s sister. It will always be special to us now.

Do let me know details of your wedding ceremonies or celebrations – I’m always keen to hear about them! 

Makes lately

I haven’t been as crafty as I’d like in the last few months of 2014, so 2015 is going to be my year of craft. I want to properly get to grips with my sewing machine, crochet a blanket and try to be organised enough to hand make a few presents.

The last few months of 2014 haven’t been a total making wasteland though, I completed my first proper crochet project by making a scarf. I’ve also made a few wedding photobooks for family as Christmas presents – they went down really well but were quite time consuming to put together. We’re planning to carry on with photobook creation though as it’s so lovely having the photos in a physical book, rather than on the computer. So we’re going to make one for each year, so we eventually build up a little library of our lives together, like old fashioned photograph albums. We’re going back and doing them from 2012 at the moment, making use of some January sale discounts. Hardanger engagement card

I have also got back into a bit of basic embroidery and cross stitch, which I used to do lots of stopped as it started to get a bit dull. I picked up my hoop and needle again though when I wanted to create an engagement card for a few friends, and thought hardanger style white work would be perfect. I customised a basic heart shape with the couples’ initials. They were quick to sew and are hopefully something they can keep. I need to remember to create something more elaborate for their wedding cards now!

Cross stitch

I also used this brilliant cross stitch website to create a pattern for Will’s birthday present. The website lays out lettering into a cross stitch pattern automatically. The quote I used is a paraphrase of a line from the poem Will’s sister read at our wedding. It now sits on Will’s bedside table, so I think he likes it!

Snowflake bunting

Snowflake garland

Finally, I went a bit crazy with some cheap sparkly wool I found in Poundland, crocheting lots of snowflakes from this Attic 24 pattern as well as one in an old crochet magazine. I made them into garlands for our stairs.

Snow ball pom poms
I also broke out my new pom pom makers to create snowball garlands – they look so fuzzy and cheery!

May 2015 bring even more happy crafting moments.