Work in progress

My significant other is off for the Easter holidays (the delights of being married to a teacher). This means I can hand Hester over to him for some “quality time” with her daddy while I get on with all the things I don’t get time to do normally due to the pressures of wrangling a small, loud, increasingly mobile person. Callooh callay! First on my list is that pillowcase dress I’ve been planning to make for the baby. The gorgeous orange/turquoise Amy Butler fabric has been winking at me from my craft table for a while, and I want to get the dress made before summer arrives. If summer arrives. I have my doubts on that score.

I admit to feelings of trepidation when I started this project. I haven’t got my sewing machine out in ages, and I think the last thing I sewed was Hester’s baby quilt when I was pregnant (and then I had an expert nearby to help me out when things went tits up). Before I started, I did a bit of fannying around, wondering whether I should splash out on a rotary cutter and a new cutting ruler, but then I caught myself on, cracked out the trusty Fiskars and got cutting. I paid VERY close attention to the excellent, mercifully clear instructions on the Mother Huddle website, and managed to get the body of the dress done:

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It actually looks like a dress!

I’m really surprised at how well this has turned out. There were no major traumas, though I did muck things up a little bit when it came to cutting and stitching the armholes. They don’t quite line up on one side, as you can see:

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Wonkoloid armhole

However, I’m hoping that this won’t be so noticeable when the dress is on. Maybe I’ll just forbid Hester to lift that arm. Yeah, that’ll work.

Things also went a little wonkoloid at the bottom of the dress, but only a tiny bit and again I think this won’t be obvious when Hester’s wearing the dress.

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Dodgy bottom

Overall, though, I’m pretty pleased with how it looks. The cut of the dress seems to have really brought out the turquoise in the pattern, which I hadn’t expected. To offset this, I used orange thread for the topstitching and I’m really chuffed at how it turned out. I mean, check out my straight stitching! Not bad for someone who’s never attempted topstitching before (*pats self on back*):

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Tip-top top stitch

I still have to thread the elastic through the casing, and make the shoulder straps (and a little bow, on one shoulder). Annoyingly, I have to wait to do this as I’ve only just ordered the bias tape for the straps off eBay and I doubt it’ll arrive this week. But the Easter holidays last two whole glorious weeks, so I should totally have this dress done and dusted by the time James goes back to school. Watch this space.

Ten months on…

So, it appears that I had this baby ten months ago today. Ten months! She’s gone from this:

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Fresh out of the box.

To this:

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Standing! What next? Dancing? Running for election?

HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?! I’ve now had her for longer than it took to make her, which feels a bit strange. I feel like I’ve got the hang of this whole motherhood lark – I no longer worry that I’m going to break her, or that someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and gently explain that there’s been a bit of a mix-up and they need her back – and I’ve started to feel like my old self again. Except… well, I don’t look like me yet. I’ve managed to shift a stone and a half since I gave birth (go me!) but that seems to have come off my arms and face and legs and boobs and bum and knees and everywhere but the place where I really need to lose it: my tummy.

Oh! My tummy. It’s all saggy and crêpey, like a balloon the week after a party. If I make the mistake of catching sight of it in the mirror, this is what I hear. It’s in a right state, quite frankly, which is unsurprising considering the battering it took during pregnancy. I won’t lie to you – I was HUGE:

Ten days overdue, and the size of a planet.

Ten days overdue, and the size of a planet.

Now, I’ve never had a washboard stomach. It was always less of a sixpack, more the full keg of beer. But it’s never, ever looked as bad as it does right now, and it’s really started to affect my confidence. What’s such a shame is that, shortly prior to falling pregnant, I was in the best shape I’d been in for ages as I’d got fit for my wedding. My confidence levels were sky-high, and you can tell from the wedding photos: at no point am I holding myself in or worrying about camera angles. I just look happy in my own skin. I so want to feellike that again.

"I'd quite like one of these," thinks Gemma, little realising the destruction it would wreak upon her midriff.

“I’d quite like one of these,” thinks Gemma, little suspecting the havoc that her wish would wreak upon her midriff.

To this end, I am following the 5:2 diet, which sounds terribly unhealthy (you restrict your food intake to 500 calories for two days out of every seven) but which seems to bring with it significant health benefits as well as  a slow but steady weight loss. Sometimes it’s a bit like I’m doing the Butterfield Diet, especially if I go a bit mad on the non-fast days (like I did this weekend), but I’m losing an average of 1lb a week which is good, if maddeningly slow. However, if I keep this up I should be back to my “wedding weight” in time for the summer holidays. I’ve just got to keep my focus and not fall face first into a vat of fudge.

Anyway, enough navel-gazing (ha! See what I did there?). Happy ten-month birthday, Bobo. I’d trade a flat stomach for you any day.

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Tro lo lo

The baby is teething at the moment, which means mealtimes have become a bit of a battle. Some days she refuses point blank to eat anything but yoghurt, fruit purée and dry crackers, turning her nose up at food that she’s previously wolfed down.

Today has been such a day, with breakfast consisting of purée (sayonara, strawberry muesli) and lunch of crackers with yoghurt (go to hell, chicken & vegetable couscous). I had optimistically defrosted some spinach pasta sauce for her tea, but my heart sank when she started screaming as soon as I put her bib on. But then, from whence I know not, inspiration struck. I put my iPhone on the table and stuck on this video. And, lo and behold, the baby stopped crying and ate up all her pasta without a murmur. Sod the Virgin Mary appearing at Fatima, THIS was a stone cold miracle.

I’m sad to report that Mr Trololo died last year. Which is a shame, because otherwise I would have travelled to St Petersburg to give him a big snog. WITH TONGUES.

My hero

My hero

What’s that big yellow ball in the sky…?

Look! I think it’s the sun! The sun! Thank the Lord, winter is finally… oh. No, it’s gone back in again. As you were.

I’m so heartily fed up of this cold weather. I’m fed up of wearing boots every single day. I’m fed up of having lizard skin from the central heating. I’m fed up of the sheer faff of having to bundle the baby up before leaving the house…

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“I’m warm, Mummy, but I can’t sit up.”

Summer can’t come soon enough. I’m craving the feel on sunshine on my limbs, the smell of sun cream, the long hours of daylight. More than anything I want to see the baby freed from all her woolly layers and tottering about in the garden wearing a little sundress. To this end, I am planning to make one. I stumbled across this tutorial while looking for things to do with my fat quarter of fabric from my Crafty Creatives taster box, and thought it looked achievable for a sewing newbie like me. I ogled some of the lovely fabrics on Folksy and found this frankly gorgeous fat quarter bundle of Amy Butler fabric:

Summery!

Summery!

Zing! The colours make me think of strawberry Mivvis, orange groves and swimming pools. Summery! I’m really looking forward to starting this project (even if I am a bit nervous about getting my sew on again), as I think just handling the fabric will make summer feel a little bit closer.

Tasty!

I love getting stuff through the post, and I love it even more now that I’m on maternity leave and can avoid the dreaded While-You-Were-Out Card Of Doom. I follow Domestic Sluttery on Twitter, and they are a great way of finding out about exciting new subscription services. Thanks to them, my in-laws signed my husband up for a monthly coffee delivery from Bean & Ground (at my suggestion) which is pretty much the best Christmas present you can get someone with a small baby. *caffeine twitch*

The Domestic Sluts recently pointed me towards Crafty Creatives, a new-ish subscription service for crafters. Every month, they send you out a themed box of craft supplies. This sounded totally awesome, but being a bit strapped for cash at the moment I thought I’d initially try one of their taster boxes – these aren’t themed, but feature bits from previous boxes to give you an idea of the sort of thing you get. I had a tenner going spare (I didn’t really – I just didn’t feed the baby for a couple of days. JOKE) so I hit PayPal and waited eagerly for the postman.

A couple of days later, a very exciting brown box arrived and holy crapola it was STUFFED with goodies. After a bit of a fallow period, creativity-wise (you try being creative when there is a small person taking up your every waking moment), suddenly my synapses were sparking with ideas. Here’s a run down of all the great bits and bobs I got in my box, and what I’m intending to do with them:

From their Oriental-themed box:

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 – A fat quarter of Chinese brocade fabric. This is going to be a book cover, I think, using the tutorial on the Crafty Creatives blog.

– Some reproduction Chinese coins. I might make a bracelet out of these, or maybe they could be fashioned into some seriously dangly earrings.

– Pages from a Chinese new year fortune book. I think these will definitely go towards a decoupage project.

From their Gothic-themed box:

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– 3 large purple resin flowers. These are just yummy. I’m definitely turning two of them into big, Sixties-style earrings; the other one might end up as a ring.

– Silver studs. I’m not sure about these. Maybe I’ll use them to perk up a handbag?

From their Floral-themed box:

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– A sheet of floral tissue paper. I might use this in card making. Mother’s Day is coming up…

– A floral shoe gift tag. Card making? Gift wrapping?

From their Christmas Nostalgia-themed box:

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– Printed fabric. If I can find a suitable frame, then this is totally going in the baby’s room.

– 3 silver carousel pendants. Two of these are going to be earrings; I will find a use for the third one somewhere…

From their Icy-themed box:

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– Icicle paillettes. I have literally no clue what I can do with these. Maybe inspiration will strike if it gets snowy again (please God, don’t let it get snowy again. I’ve had it with all this cold weather).

– 2 glass hearts in a organza bag. Ummm? I thought I could possibly decoupage a picture behind them, then turn them into rings. Not sure if that would work.

From their Woodland-themed box:

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– 3 birch hearts. These are just lovely. They would look so pretty framed (and would fit in with the decor in our guest room), but I’m also considering turning them into hair slides.

– Wooden leaf buttons. Aren’t these toothsome? They scream baby cardigan to me. Which means I need to knit a baby cardigan… *doubtful face*

– 5 metal leaf pendants. I’ve already made two of these into earrings – 0bserve!

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I made jewellery! My husband was immensely impressed when I showed him my handiwork, presumably because he thinks it will stop me buying half of Tatty Devine. Dream on, darling.

Brilliant stuff, huh? BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE! Each box comes with a kit, featuring a different craft each month. My kit requires a skill that I don’t currently possess, but have been itching to learn: crochet.

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A mouse! How cute. A toy for the kid, if it turns out well; a toy for my friend’s cat Rosco if it doesn’t. I’m going to start this in the Easter holidays, I reckon, as the husband will be off and I can leave him to wrangle the baby while I get my wool all tangled up and swear loudly.

As you can see, I am totally sold on this idea. I have instructed my husband that the IDEAL first-ever Mother’s Day present for yours truly would be a subscription, and have reiterated this on a daily basis since my taster box arrived. God help him if he forgets. *brandishes crochet hook meaningfully*

Crafters Anonymous

Hello, my name’s Gemma and I’m a craftaholic.

As stated in my previous post, I’m a bit obsessed with crafting. But whereas some people choose one or two crafts and become really good at them (I would direct you towards my chum Joanne as a good example of this), I tend to get very enthusiastic about a craft, learn how to do it, get bored and move on to another one. Like Mick Hucknall, only with wool instead of beautiful ladies. I’m actually quite embarrassed by my lack of staying power. Let’s examine all the different crafts I’ve got really, really into for all of about five nanoseconds…

(1) Knitting. This was the crafting equivalent of a gateway drug. I took a course at the brilliant Make Lounge in Islington, where I knitted a pair of fingerless gloves; I then made another couple of pairs as Christmas presents, moved onto a scarf for my husband, a beret for a friend… then nothing. I tried to get back into it at the end of last year, as I had a few balls of lovely yarn in my stash, but they ran out before I’d managed to finish and the yarn had been discontinued so I couldn’t get any more. Now the unfinished scarf just sits forlornly on what I laughingly refer to as my crafting table. It’s looking accusingly at me right now:

"Please... kill...me..."

“Please… kill…me…”

 

(2) Sewing. Specifically, dress making. My husband’s granny gave me a whole bag full of dress patterns from the 1950s and 1960s, and I had romantic visions of whipping up wonderful retro dresses for myself and never having to go clothes shopping EVER AGAIN (I hate clothes shopping). I took a course, once again at the Make Lounge (if crafting is my drug, then the Make Lounge is my dealer. DAMN THEM AND THEIR CRAFTY GOODNESS!) and made a very nice A-line skirt. Then I made another A-line skirt, but never wore it because I couldn’t be bothered to hem the thing. Then nothing. The bag full of dress patterns is now somewhere in the garage, because having them in the house was engendering feelings of intense guilt in me.

(3) Decoupage. For a while this was definitely A Thing with me. I took a class (guess where?) and came out with a decoupaged plate that even now takes pride of place in our living room:

Woo! Another thing to dust!

Woo! Another thing to dust!

 

I made two more decoupaged plates as gifts in quick succession, and trawled secondhand bookshops for oldannuals, maps and music manuscripts that I could use for all the future projects I had planned. I was going to decoupage our hallway table in back issues of the Guardian. How much decoupage have I done since? You guessed it: zip. I recently got rid of our hallway table, as its look of mute accusation was beginning to get me down.

(4) Felting. This was a non-starter. I made a hot water bottle cover and quickly lost interest.

(5) Tea cup candles. A brief fad. That Christmas, pretty much everyone got a teacup candle off me. I have them scattered all over the house, but I don’t burn them because I can’t be bothered making more. Look! Here’s one:

"Please burn me. It is my function. I'm just sitting here getting all dusty."

“Please burn me. It is my function. I’m just sitting here getting all dusty.”

 

Quite pretty, and entirely pointless.

(6) Cross-stitch. This was fun, and I made a couple of cute things. Exhibit A:

Oh how witty! See how I subvert traditional cross-stitch. I bet my grandmother is so proud.

Oh how witty! See how I subvert traditional cross-stitch. I bet my grandmother is so proud.

 

It never really captured my imagination though, so I felt no guilt when I abandoned my needle and thread.

(7) Embroidery. The least said about that, the better:

Why have you left me like this? What the hell is wrong with you?

“Why have you left me like this? What the hell is wrong with you?”

 

It did turn out to be a useful skill to have, as last year I found myself having to teach embroidery to a class of Year 5 children. However, the process of doing so did put me off embroidery for ever (picture eighteen small people all calling out “Miss! Miss! I’ve gone wrong! Miss! Miss! Can you re-thread my needle? Miss! Miss! I’ve accidentally sewn my work to my trousers!”. FOR THREE DAYS STRAIGHT).

(8) Quilting. Once again, I learned this at the Make Lounge (I really should get some sort of loyalty card for those guys), with a view to making a quilt for the baby. Which I subsequently did:

That quilt took me hours to make, kiddo, so keep the bodily fluids to yourself.

That quilt took me hours to make, kiddo, so keep the bodily fluids to yourself.

 

I was so very pleased with how this came out. But (and this is a big but) I sewed the binding by hand and this took me such an achingly long time that it has rather put me off making another one. I guess I could cheat and use my sewing machine. Hmm. Maybe I’ve got another quilt in me.

(9) Screen printing. I had a go at this on my hen night (which was at the Make Lounge. Why don’t I just move in there?) and totally loved it. I have a lot of screenprinted gig posters up in our house and would love to make some of my own. But you need a lot of equipment and space so pffft, whatever. Maybe when we move to a big house in the country (ha!) I can get a studio and get into it properly. Something to dream about.

(10) There is no number ten… yet. However, I got a crochet kit in my Crafty Creatives taster box (a post about which is to follow). And a couple of friends can crochet, and have offered to get me started. And I’ve always fancied making a granny square blanket…

Oh heck. Here we go again.

Back again

Well hello there.

If you’re reading this then you may have already read one of my previous blogs (also called ‘You are a god to me’, on the now defunct 20six and Vox platforms. I’m trying not to get paranoid about the fact that every time I start up a blog, the platform goes belly up. But if you also have a WordPress blog I’d suggest that you back up your writing, just to be on the safe side. Also any shareholders in WordPress might want to think about selling up and investing in something more secure. Unilever are doing quite well at the moment, something to do with Magnum ice creams). If so, hello again! If not, welcome! Let me give you an idea of what you’re in for.

In my mid-twenties I was an enthusiastic blogger. Thanks to the marvel that is Wayback Machine I am able to see that I spent the Noughties drinking too much, occasionally getting acting jobs, buying stuff on the internet, worrying about my weight and having crushes on various unsuitable people (including, memorably, the manager of the Costa Coffee across the road, whom I dated for a short while and who dumped me over the phone on New Year’s Eve 2003).

Since I last blogged, however, my life has changed somewhat. I got married. I had a baby. I developed a bit of a crafting obsession. All of which will be making their way into this blog, no doubt.

Anyway, hello! It’s nice to be back.

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