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January 2008
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March 2008

Go fly a kite or sit and sew


Happy birthday Sofia!

Yesterday it was dull and grey, what better thing to do than embroider? With Gracie beside me, she was using a hoop for the first time, we had a quiet afternoon of making.


Give a child a hoop! That's my new motto for sewing with children. Gracie has long been able to master a simple running stitch, but was willing to conquer new stitches simply because I gave her an embroidery hoop. She felt it was real embroidery because she used the same tools as mummy.


Gracie's heart. She used a backstitch.

Not bad for a six year old. The only thing I did for her was help her knot the thread.

Seven fail-safe tips for hand sewing with children:

1. Let them use real tools, especially the needles. Ever tried to sew with one of the safety needles that have a blunt end for children? I can't do it, don't know how they'd be able to. I even bring real needles into the classroom - shhhh, don't tell. Same with scissors, let them use proper fabric scissors. If they are embroidering on cloth, give them a hoop. (Incidentally, I've never had a poked finger in my four years in the classroom.)

2. Keep the thread or embroidery floss on the short side. Don't cut a piece more than about 12 inches or 30cm long (at the most.)

3. Wax the thread or embroidery floss. Run the thread along some beeswax to help keep it from tangling too easily (I do this for my own sewing too.)

4. Choose simple shapes. Keep to very simple shapes and simple stitches until the child feels confident.

5. Encourage the boys to have a go. Boys usually love to stitch and often are better at it than the girls. Every sewing project I've brought into the classroom boys managed easier than the girls.

6. Don't try a big project. Create small things then add to them if you want to. Children feel better about trying new things when they can finish it in a short amount of time - they love a quick pay off - so do I!

UPDATE: Forgot to add this very important item

7. It's a good idea to divide the child's floss (so it's not too thick) into three strands then tie the two loose ends together, knotting the end. This will eliminate the problem of their needle coming unthreaded over and over. I learned this one the hard way after my first classroom sewing venture.


And while Gracie was having fun with her hoop, I was enjoying mine. I made this little "Go fly a kite" gift bag for Gracie's friend Sofia.

I've been playing around with these little drawings for a while and decided to bring one to life on fabric. I appliqued some Liberty fabric for a dress then embroiderd the body and a heart on the kite made from a scrap of raw silk. Her shoes are simple felt.

When I put the bag together I added pom-poms simply because all little girls love pom-poms.

Inside the gift bag went two Rosie Flo colouring books. If you've never seen them, find them. They are made up of the drawings of gorgeous clothing and accessories to which you add heads, legs, and arms. The books are also made of nice quality paper so they aren't the price of your average colouring book, but worth it.

Spring peaking round the corner


Spring is in the air around here, we've had sunshine - a lot of sunshine.

Here are a couple of little cards made with scraps. The bodies are from a very pretty used piece of gift wrap, button eyes, lace scraps for wings and raffia legs. Though I made these blank they'd be nice for Easter.

The template I used for the clay Christmas robins could be adapted for these cards, download away.

One of these went off as a VERY belated thank you to Nicky who kindly donated a prize for our Christmas fair raffle. She owns a couple of shops that sell my favourite clothes. Thank you again Nicky :)

I'm a whole-hearted supporter of the better late than never theory - for obvious reasons.

Here's an unrelated, yet nothing short of amazing little treat. Check out this gallery of work by the sand artist Jim Denevan and hold on to your jaw because it will drop ; )

Paper cut love


It's a bit late for a Valentine show and tell, but I'm finally back online! I was so pleased with this little paper cut I made Paul for Valentine's day that I must post it so I can remember it.

I seem to have a serious bird and heart thing going on. All my designs have birds or hearts creeping in somewhere - probably because they're simple forms and therefore quick to produce.

I gave a few tips here on how to make these paper cuts. I really must find a good source for thin paper, the paper I've been using is a bit too thick to keep my design fluid, but I'm still pleased with the outcome.

I generally buy paper in bulk at these shops here in the UK, but I need to find a good local source for different weights and textures to make these paper cuts.

Linocut1_3A big thank you to Ally who ran a print workshop for mums recently. She's another local art teacher and so lovely, It was fun to be a participant. Here is one of my prints - no surprise with the subject matter.

It's a simple lino cut, but I hadn't done one for ages, it reminded me of how similar lino cuts are to paper cuts. Both involve simplified graphics with bold and usually surprising results. I need some serious practice with the tools, but I was still happy with this first attempt.

This was much more free form than my paper cuts have been, with very little preplanning or sketching involved.

Angie Lewin has beautiful, contemporary lino cuts. To feel truly inspired look at this gallery of work which involves multiple impressions, cuts and colours - bloomin gorgeous!

Elizabeth Rashley is another favourite. I especially love her fairy tale images. Art in Devon has a short interview with her and she discusses how she works.

The process was so relaxing and immediate I found myself wondering why it's been so long since I've done these. The supplies are inexpensive and easy to come by too, I'll definitely be trying to squeeze in a printing project for my class this year, I'm sure they'll enjoy it as much as I have.

Personalized paper dolls


Here's a little digital project for girls or boys that I've been working on as part of a project for The Green Parent magazine. It's a great way to personalize a gift or make one for your own children.

Here's how to do it: Simply photograph your child in a bathing suit, then photograph the child in other outfits or costumes. Be sure to put he or she in the same position and at the same distance to the camera as you did in the bathing suit.

Print the photos out on to card stock then cut out the full body in the bathing suit. Next cut out just the clothing of the other pictures. Be sure to make tabs on the clothing to fold over the body as you would with regular paper dolls.

I'm planning on making this a gift for a friend of Gracies. To do this I will take an existing photo of the friend and use a simple photo program like Photoshop Elements to put the child's head on to Gracie's body, that way the other child doesn't need to pose and thus ruin the surprise. I'll also make a sturdy, decorative envelope to keep them in.

The paper dolls pictured are a magnetic version, to see how it was done as well as other magnetic crafts you'll need to get your hands on a copy of the April/May issue of The Green Parent magazine.

More Crafts at Mistletoe


UPDATE: The first of these spring craft days has taken place, click here to check out what the busy crafters got up to.

Spring craft days are planned at Mistletoe Cottage for March 14 and 18th.

We will be making these chick trees to decorate for Easter and we'll also do some freehand embroidery pieces like the heart design I showed here.

We will learn some basic, useful embroidery stitches - no previous embroidery experience is necessary (the chicks here were created by a first-time stitcher!) It will be a relaxed day of craft for people of any skill level - and a tasty lunch is included.

Click here to see photos from our last series of Crafts at Mistletoe Cottage.

Just email me or leave a comment below for more information.

Card art


This is a little paper-cut I did for Dianne's birthday card recently. I did a lot of paper cutting at art school but haven't worked on many recently. Some may recall my appreciation for Rob Ryan's work which I talked about a few months back - amazing! He creates very intricate designs and often includes text in his work.

This little piece was fairly quick to make as I kept the design quite simple. Here's how I make these paper cuts (this is a bit larger than A5.)

1. Draw a design onto paper or tracing paper.

2. Tape the drawing to a window or put it on a light box.

3. Tape a sheet of paper (the one you will cut) over the drawing and lightly trace your original drawing onto the clean paper. Do not use a heavy piece of paper, use normal or light weight paper - even tissue paper will work.

4. Use a craft knife (Xacto) knife to cut out the design. Experiment with different types of blades. Have plenty of blades available. As soon as you begin pressing harder to cut the paper, change blades. Pushing hard to cut the paper usually results in: rumpling the paper, a jagged edge or a cut finger. Change blades often!

5. Using spray glue, lightly spray the back of the cut out image and carefully position it onto a piece of card stock.

Tip: spray glue can be really nasty stuff, try and find one of the newer, water-based varieties like Spray Craft Adhesive from

Give it a try, the results can be really clean and satisfying.

Vintage make do and mend


We STILL are without a web connection! Promised it by today - but no connection, "...another 10-12 days" a nice, sympathetic yet anonymous person tells me on the phone. But as this has dragged on for over a month and I've spent hours on the phone trying to sort the mess out I've now turned into a witch shouting in exasperation and throwing expletives at anyone that tells me they can't find my order - again!

This witch puppet is one of a dozen or so made by my lovely mother-in-law, Mechtild when her children were young. She is the ultimate make-do and mender. All of the heads are of papier mache and the clothes were made of scraps of clothing that was beyond repair. They were kept in a plastic carrier bag and are a bit rumpled but my children love them and love the fact that their daddy and his sisters once played with them too.

I will add more images of the puppets soon and give a tutorial for her design - she's so generous I'm sure she'd love to share it.