A cute activity mat with a hidden agenda.

Every year, in the run up to Christmas, I get that same feeling that conflicts with the magic of the festive season…the dreaded expectation to buy buy buy!

Whilst we all know Christmas is more than the giving and receiving of gifts, it’s hard to avoid getting caught up in the flow of the consumerist mindset that is all around (as opposed to the much preferable ‘Love is All Around‘…notice here I went for The Troggs and not the Wet Wet Wet version even though we all know secretly that’s the version everyone prefers!).

Having said that, I do consider myself to be quite good at bracing myself against this; going for quality not quantity, often buying experiences – something that can be remembered not forgotten about or broken; but mostly (time permitting of course) I try to make a gift that is personable and unique. And perhaps a little part of me, egotistically, thinks I can make something nicer and more meaningful than what the mass markets can offer!

It was my friend’s little boy, Henry’s, birthday in December – what would a little boy of 2 year old like that would be a little different from the other toys he may get for his birthday and Christmas, that could help to inspire is imagination…and be a little less imposing that a neon piece of plastic that vomits beeps and flashing lights? Or, if he’s like my son, pretty much anything to do with cars will be a hit!

Digging through my piles of fabric, I had one (fairly decent size) piece of car-printed fabric so I  decided to design a play/travel car activity mat to fit.

Car activity mat

The design of the actual mat is quite simple so I made sure the appliqué decoration was detailed enough to make it interesting, and I added pockets for the little cars.

For the road I used grey felt, and a mixture of felt and fabric for the other landmarks – all sewn on using appliqué. The landmarks I wanted to make recognisable for a toddler so includes: a school, football pitch (also to add a bit of colour), a park and pond, playground, houses, and petrol station (complete with fuel pumps).

Car activity mat

Car activity mat

To add a personal touch I included some street signs associated with locations in Teesside where Henry lives.

Car activity mat

To complete the mat, I hand sewed lines on the road.

Car activity mat

The whole thing, complete with cars tucked into the pockets, can be folded up into a handy little pouch to transport around.

Car activity mat

Car activity mat

Handmade, personalised, unique, compact and minimalist, and pretty cute…I bet you can’t find anything like this in the shops!

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The most wonderful time of the year…

So here it is…the 1st of December! Whilst I am, as every year, like ‘woahhh how did that get here?’, this year I’m embracing it and have, in fact been Christmassing it up for the past few weeks.

My attic room has turned into santa’s workshop, the dog is covered in red and green thread, and there are a herd of reindeer and choir of angels in the form of Christmas stockings dispatched and making their way across the country.

I have been making stockings now for the past few years and seem to get more popular every year! However, in addition to the stockings I’ve made an extra Christmassy item this year which I’m pretty pleased with so I thought I’d share, and to decorate my not-very-festive blog.

And, what is more fitting for the 1st of December than an advent calendar…

All that’s needed now are the choccies!

Nicholas’s Quilt

G’day! Oooh how I wish I was in Australia right now with this blustery weather we’re having! Well just let this cheery brightness add some sunshine to your day instead…

My latest baby quilt is for Nicholas, son of my friend’s Laura and Frenchie (aka Richard) who turned the special age of 1 year old in October. Laura and Frenchie, originally from Birmingham, now live all the way across the other side of the world in Australia so this quilt has gone across sea and land to reach them.

I love the colours – quite different to what I normally use, but with Birch Organic’s prints of camping, guitars, trees, birds, I think is gorgeous, and the orange-brightness I felt fit with the ‘sunny-ness’ people tend to associate with Australia.

I used both traditional applique as well as free-hand machine applique, and felt and fabric to decorate the four outer patches: the rocket, the hot air balloon, the teepee, and the boat. I’m currently loving quotes from Dr Seuss so included ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ with the hot air balloon.

Central, as per is the norm on my baby quilts, is Nicholas’ name. And…I had to squeeze something Aussie in there…hence the cheeky felt koala.

Mary’s Duffle Bag

About four years ago I was selling some crafts at a charity fair in Otley. One customer, Tricia, bought a kid’s duffle bag for her grandson Thomas; she recently contacted me again – this time to ask if I could make her another one for her granddaughter Mary. It had come in very useful for nursery apparently, with the little pocket on the front the perfect size for an exercise book.

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Tricia was happy for me to choose the fabric, colours and design on the front. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…I find sewing for girls so much easier than for boys!

The fabric I selected was a cream cotton canvas (hard-wearing!) featuring a cute red-riding hood style print, that I purchased from Etsy, and a contrasting red and white ditsy floral print for the lining and pocket (from my local fabric shop B&M Fabric in Leeds).

I decorated the pocket with Mary’s name, a couple of cute flowers and buzy bee using felt and hand embroidery.

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A little feedback on receiving the bag…‘Thank you for sending the lovely bag – the colours are great! I waited for Kate [Mary’s mummy] to visit us this week so that she could open it – she was thrilled with it!’

 

 

Brogues for Baby Barney

I haven’t made much new to shout (or post) about lately as before Christmas I was really busy with Christmas stockings and Santa sacks…those that I made last year were even more popular this year! I didn’t want to post about them, however, as pictures and descriptions of these are already on this blog, my Instagram and Pinterest (ahhh Pinterest, how I love you so, but…note to self: be more prepared for the influx of your own enquiries this year, it’s not just you that uses it!).

This time last year was all new with the arrival of my baby, but it’s all change and new routines again this year with returning to work and Jesse starting nursery. So, after having a little bit of a break after the stocking making, for the first ‘make’ of the year, I eased myself in gently with a gift for another new arrival.

Remember my Twin cushions? No, well, as I little reminder I made another of these just before Christmas as a Christening gift.

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I adapted this cushion for baby Barney who arrived at the beginning of January. For the cushion cover I used a blue medium weight Japanese cotton/linen fabric printed with mini robots, bought a little while back from an Etsy shop. The lemon spot is also an Etsy purchase. Etsy is brilliant for finding fabric when you have a specific design, style or colour in mind, there is a great range to choose from.

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Picking out the colours of the robot fabric, a matched fabrics to make up the letters of his name, first machine appliqueing these, then hand sewing a running stitch around each letter with embroidery thread.

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I change little Mary Jane shoes with a button detail, that I’d sewn for the girl’s cushions, to mini brogues to suit a little boy. I hand drew the brogues, using roughly the same outline as the Mary Janes, to get a similar shape and size, adding the parts of the shoe by layering up the tan and blue coloured felt pieces, and machine and hand sewing the stitching detail, finishing them off with embroidery thread laces.

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There is alway got to be something I’m never fully happy with; on this cushion it’s the right shoe, but I think this is just me being picky! Overall, I think it’s cute and I think will become a regular on the list of gifts for baby boys (hopefully perfecting the shape of the right shoe!).

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Pocketful of Petals

Having a baby boy means that I get massive clothes envy. I love buying clothes my son, but whenever I’m shopping I like to have a wander around the whole of the baby clothes section, not just the boy’s! Girls’ clothes are just so gorgeous…and you get so many more varieties of styles, fabric and colours.

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When my nephew, Jacob, was born I had the intention of making baby clothes. Jacob is now three years old and has yet to receive an item to wear! I struggle to think of many items to make for boys that I would actually dress them in, other than perhaps a funky printed shirt (and I’ve been a bit scared of attempting these).

Girls, on the other hand are much easier…dresses, skirts, pantaloons, tops…pretty much anything looks good in florals, spots, stripes, animals or other children’s printed fabric. (And simpler to make than a shirt!).

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So I was pleased to be asked to make a skirt for a two year old little girl, Eva, with matching bag…well, every lady needs matching accessories!
A girl’s skirt with elasticated waist band is quite straight forward to make, however; I wanted my skirt to have a flat waistband at the front, to give it a neater look than those that are elastic all the way around the waistband.

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The fabrics I used were light-weight cotton with a small bright pink and orange floral print for the main body of the skirt, and contrasting pink and white spotty for the waistband and skirt edge; both from The Eternal Maker.

I also added a cute gathered pocket with embroidered flowers to the front of the skirt.

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I loved this skirt. The only problem is that, to date, I can only make it in size age 2…and unless I figure out other sizes, my new born niece is going to have to wait a couple more years until I can make one for her! As for Jacob and Jesse, they are just going to have to wait until I get around to attempting shirts!

Annabelle’s Book

You may have seen the post I published a few weeks back featuring Toby’s picture book – well this is similar; another picture book only this time for a little girl.

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Annabelle, my friend Jane’s little baby, was 1 year old at the beginning of December (how time flies…it only seems like five minutes ago since I made her quilt for when she was born!). I actually started this picture book at the same time as Toby’s (back in September) but it got put on hold for a few weeks due to my Christmas stocking demand!

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I used a combination of pink and yellow fabrics for the pages and, again, like Toby’s I wanted to include a mixture of pictures and quotes, made up of different textures: hand-sewn embroidery, free-hand machine appliqué, regular appliqué, and with both fabric, felt and buttons.

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I decorated the front with Annabelle’s name and a little appliqué pic of a girl in a strawberry outfit (as Annabelle had one of these a few months back!).

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One to come out on her 18th birthday…

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Stanley’s Quilt

My friends and I are all at that age now where there is a lot of new little people appearing in our lives.

I like to give a personal pressy when a friend or family member has a baby and this is my latest. My friend Rachel who I went to Uni with, and her partner Sam had their first baby in August. Whilst we, and the other Uni crew were sunning ourselves in Italy celebrating yet another Uni friend’s wedding, Stanley was born.

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I’ve made a few patchwork quilts, the most recent being Annabelle’s quilt, which was actually back in January (who is now coming up to her first birthday…seriously – where has that year gone!).

I started Stanley’s quilt in September when I came back from Italy but I really struggled deciding what colours and fabrics to use.

I bought a lot of cotton/linen blends from Etsy (my fav type of fabric) but it’s so hard to tell if they were going to match until they arrive – which, of course, a lot of them didn’t so unfortunately (obviously I was very upset about this!) I had to buy more.

I started by making the outer pinwheel-style patchwork (not sure if this is the offical technical term!) using a range of cute nautical fabric, robots and guitars, matching them with spots and stripes. When these were put together, I didn’t like it – the colours looked too dull which is kind of what the natural linen looks like so I don’t know why I was surprised.

So, back on the internet I went to buy more fabric for the centre square patches that would add a bit more colour and brighten it up whilst still co-ordinating. Finally I found some that worked – and I’m pleased that I didn’t just go with the typical blue-is-for-boys type colours.

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I threw the nautical theme in there as Rach and Sam met in their University rowing club and the rest – robots and cars were just cute!

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As with most of my crafts, I like to add a bit of decoration and personalisation. Unlike Annabelle’s quilt where I mainly used free-hand machine embroidery, I decided for Stanley’s to use regular applique but use felt as well as fabric to add a couple of different textures.

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For the personalisation, of course there was his name in the centre…

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His date of birth in a balloon held by a robot (to tie in with the fabric prints, plus robots make a brill applique shape).

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His birth weight on the side of a truck – again tying in with the other fabric print used in the centre panel.

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As well as machine quilting the pinwheel patches, I hand-stitched a running stitch around the centre panel giving it a bit of a boarder.

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I backed the whole quilt in cute red dots and binded it with a red linen bias binding.

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And here’s the little man Stanley himself looking pretty chuffed with his new blanket (or at least I think so!).

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Toby’s Picture Book

I made this little picture book for my friend Sam’s little boy Toby, for his first birthday. I always think it’s nice to give something special for a first birthday and this project was certainly a labour of love.

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Initially, I thought this project, whilst a nice gift, would be relatively simple and straight forward, which in practice it could have been! But oh no, I seem to get these ideas popping up in my head as I’m going along and as soon as I’ve thought of them, I have to do it otherwise I feel like I’m cheating or cutting corners! So what could have been a quick project, turned out to be quite a task…but totally worth it! I love how it turned out and feel pretty proud of the end result. Toby and his mum and dad loved it too.

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To start, like most of my more detailed projects, I like to draw them out to make sure the layout and design looks right (and the keep referring to so I don’t forget what I’m doing along the way!)

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I chose six different printed fabrics, all in nice bright colours but with subtle prints, nothing to detailed to loose the picture amongst.

Each fabric was to make up in total ten pages in the book plus the front and back cover.

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I wanted each page to be pretty, with a fun picture for Toby to look at and use for learning objects, but I also wanted to put a little bit of meaning behind the pictures so I decided to use some nice quotes and phrases that were relevant.

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Some quotes I choose after the object e.g. To my sailing boat, I found a nice lyric from a Van Morrison song ‘Into the Mystic’ which fitted well: ‘Smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirit fly. Plus Anth (Toby’s dad) is a big music fan so that added something else a little special.

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Other quotes I choose before I’d decided on a picture, so then came up with an image that worked; so I wanted to use that old familiar rhyme for little boys: ‘Frogs, snails and puppy dog tails’ to which I added an appliqué dog.

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To make the book more interesting for Toby to look at and touch, I used a mixture of fabric, felt; both regular appliqué and also free-hand machine appliqué, hand-embroidered letters, and buttons.

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Once all the pages were designed, the putting together part was easy! Each page has a piece of wadding between the layers to make it nice and padded.

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I finished the book by adding a ‘Happy 1st Birthday’ to the back cover, edged the covers with a running stitch and added a button and ribbon for the closing.

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I currently have another on the go for a little lady’s first birthday in December and, the way time is flying, I best get cracking…

Christmas is coming…now taking orders.

I’ve just finished my first order of Christmas stockings of the year, and about to start on another…you people are getting organised early!

This recent order, I have to admit, are my favourite stockings to date.

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I made these for the lovely Sarah of Leafy Couture who did the most amazing flowers for our wedding a couple of years ago. She asked me to make these for her two little ones: Lily and Elliot, and nephew Finn.

The main stocking is made from a cream cotton linen fabric, with the toe, heel and cuff in a red spotty linen blend – whilst these fabrics are not on the cheap side, using quality fabrics really makes such a difference in the overall finish, and are sure to be much more longer-lasting.

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They are fully lined and include a wadding inner to make them nice and padded. These stockings measure 51cm in length and 28cm in width (around the top of the stocking) – nice and big for Santa to fill with treats!

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Whilst keeping all the stockings matching in size, basic colours and style, I’ve personalised each with their names (also in cream cotton linen), edged in a hand-sewn running stitch, on the cuff. On the fronts of each, I appliquéd a cute Christmas design in felt and fabric on the front, with additional hand-embroidered elements such as the Gingerbread Man’s bow and icing, and the Angel’s halo, hair ribbons and dress decoration.

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Each have a vintage cream and red gingham loop to hang over the fireplace on Christmas eve.

Word in from Sarah on receipt of the stockings...’Emily you are ridiculously talented, they are beyond perfect, thank you so so so much!’…I think she liked them!

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So, if anyone else is getting organised early, and would like a personalised Christmas stocking like these for your loved one, please do not hesitate to contact me (hello@emilycarlill.com).