Lavender love in a half-empty nest

Its been a big week in our house, in fact the build-up to this week rivalled the pre-Christmas anticipation. My increasingly not-so-little girl has grown into a getting-bigger-by-the-day 10 year old, and this week she has gone away. All week. Without us.

She has gone with her classmates for a week long residential at an outdoor activity centre for 5 whole days of outdoor adventures and challenges, all taking place it turns out in pretty much sub-zero temperatures.

She was utterly excited to be going and couldn’t wait to go kayaking, rock climbing, caving and all the rest of it. We have had daily updates from the teacher with loads of pictures and it seems they are all having an amazing time. However I couldn’t help wondering if, as she got into bed on that first night away, she might miss home at least a little bit.

So before she went I made her a little gift and I managed to sneak it into her suitcase as she was leaving, along with a card from us and a handmade card from her little brother.

Sometimes she finds it hard to get to sleep and I worried that lying in a strange bed surrounded by giggly friends that might be even more difficult so in the rare moments she wasn’t looking I made her a quick lavender heart pillow to keep in her bed. It was really quick and easy to make and you can rustle one up yourself if you have a few simple items.

I started by making my own paper patterns. I wanted it to be heart-shaped so I folded paper in half and drew one side of a heart then cut it out so it would be symmetrical. I also drew and cut out a simple ‘L’ to add her initial to the front of the heart.

pattern pieces

I used felt to make the pillow – two pieces of red felt for the heart itself and a small piece of purple (her favourite colour) for the letter. Make sure the pieces for the heart are larger than the pattern piece – approximately 1 inch bigger all the way round than the pattern itself. I started by cutting the letter shape out of the felt and then stitched it with a simple running stitch onto the middle of one of the pieces of red felt. I used my sewing machine but it could be done just as easily by hand.

Once the letter was attached I pinned the heart pattern to the top piece of red felt (making sure the letter would sit in the correct place on the heart when finished) and then pinned the two felt pieces together. Again I used my sewing machine to stitch the two pieces together, using the pattern piece as a guide for my sewing.

Once I had sewn almost the whole heart together I stopped and filled the middle of the heart with a mixture of toy stuffing and lavender, stuffing it through the un-sewn gap until it was full enough. Once I had enough filling in I continued sewing until the gap was closed.

unfinished heart

I then trimmed all the way around the heart, leaving a border of around 1cm of felt as evenly as possible. Then I worked all the way around the edge cutting into the felt with small embroidery scissors to make a fringed effect around the edge.

And that was it – a little handmade piece of home to help her get some well-earned sleep each night.

Feeding birds and baking with kids – handmade school holidays

Our half term was last week, but I know lots of other who are on holiday this week, and with all these grey skies and rainy days you might want some more indoor activity ideas…

Although the days are getting a little warmer, we still have lots or birds at our feeders, so we decided to make a homemade bird feeder.

We bought bird seed, and bird peanuts and the kids mixed it together in a big bowl along with some raisins and a few breadcrumbs. I melted a pack of lard in a pan and poured it into the mix then we stired it all round again.

If you have any disposable cups you can use them for the next bit – I didn’t have any so I lined normal mugs with grease proof paper instead. First put a piece of string into the cup – with a disposable cup you can put a hole on the bottom and poke the string through.In a proper mug I put one end on the outside of the greaseproof paper so it would be left hanging out. Then pour the mixture into the cup(s) and leave to set. This might take several hours – we left our overnight.


When it’s set you can take it off the cup – either cut away the disposable one or slide it out of a proper mug. You should have string sticking out of both ends which you can tie together to hang your feeder outside. We have had blue tits, robbins and starlings visiting since our feeders were hung out.
So the birds were well fed but the children were still hungry – it was time for some baking.  We made this gluten free banana cake together as it is always a winner and it fairly easy to make with lots of opportunities for little ones to measure and stir. I tend to cook it for longer than the recipe though so it might need checking a few times – just keep testing with a skewer until it comes out clean.

My daughter also wanted to do her own baking so I gave her this recipe for gluten free jam biscuits from homeonalake. All I did was to separate out the egg yolk and melt the butter but she measured and mixed the ingredients then shaped the biscuits and added the jam. They were delicious – like a jam topped shortbread.


So there you go – a handmade holiday activity day!

Brighten your day – a wet felting tutorial 

It’s a cold grey February day so I’ve been trying to brighten things up making felted wool balls.


There are loads of tutorials around for making wet felted balls, you can make them in the washing machine, or even shake wool around in a pot, but this is how I like to make them.

All you need is some wool roving, hot and cold water and washing up liquid.
Take a small section of wool roving – it needs to be quite loose with soft edges. Obviously it depends on the size you want the final item to be but a piece about as large as my hand was enough to make the balls that were approx. 1cm in diameter. If you want them to be larger it is often better to make a smaller ball then add more layers – otherwise the centre may not be firm enough.


Start with 2 bowls – one with hot water (as hot as possible for your hands to go in) and the other as cold as possible. Put some soap on your hands and very gently roll the roving, keeping your hands a little apart, until it begins to form a loose ball shape. I once read a tutorial that said to imagine you are rolling a baby chick in your hands – I remember that comment each time I do this…

From there it is about dipping it in the hot and cold water bowls alternately, rolling the ball round in the palms of your hand in between – the longer you roll the firmer the ball gets and the harder you can begin to apply pressure to it. At first it will be very squishy and hard to keep in a ball shape, be patient it will suddenly begin to firm up.

Dipping it in the different temperature waters it will help the felting process, it will also help to get rid of the soap as you progress.Keep rolling until the ball feels really firm. You will need to leave it for several hours to fully dry out.


My daughter loved joining in on this activity too – a great idea for a rainy day craft. I was very impressed with her finished leaf and flower!

There are loads of things you can do with your finished balls – create bouquets of flowers, garlands or even rugs. I use lots of colours, gradually layered together to make the balls and flowers in my Etsy shop:

 

Handmade Felt BallsHandmade Felt Ball Flowers