Make It Monday: Birthday Shenanigans Part 2 ‘Sarah & Duck’

I crocheted the Lamb a ‘Sarah’ doll and Sarah’s favourite animal, a sea cow.

We recently celebrated the Lamb’s third (THIRD!!) birthday. She’s heavily into dinosaurs at the moment so I had planned a dinosaur theme for her birthday. However, as always, the best laid plans for scuppered when two weeks before her birthday, she announced she wanted a ‘Sarah and Duck’ theme. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Sarah and Duck is a charming and quirky cartoon featuring a young girl ‘Sarah’, her friend ‘Duck’ who lives with her and a plethora (I really don’t use the word ‘plethora’ enough. Plethora. Love it) of interesting characters, from ‘Scarf Lady’ who is perpetually knitting and her grumpy knitting bag, Umbrella who doesn’t like the rain, Bug who collects buttons, Plate Girl, Ribbon Sisters, the list goes on.


Which luckily means there are a huge number of characters to draw inspiration from. As we do every birthday, we decorated our fireplace.


With help from the Lamb, we made pom-poms. Pom-poms are a craft I’d been looking forward to doing with the Lamb for a while. It’s very simple and mess-free, plus we loved throwing our pom-poms in the air. Their ‘bed’ was actually a cleaned out croissant tray and we shredded some brown packing paper to make soil. We stuck some eyes on the pom-poms, then it was a case of ‘Hello!’, ‘Hello!’, ‘Hello!’, ‘Ahoy!’


Duck was another toddler-friendly craft with lots of tissue paper stuck onto a cardboard duck. Sometimes the simple crafts are the most fun and effective.


Next up was the paper chains, because it’s not a birthday without paper chains. I found an umbrella shaped hole punch in Tiger (I’ve seen them in multiple stores) and set to work. ‘Umbrella’ in Sarah and Duck is red so I tried different methods of creating a red umbrella. Finally I opted to punch strips of yellow paper, then highlight the holes with red paper, which I think created a lovely effect. It was time consuming but looked pretty good, although I cut the red backing paper a little too narrow so from the back it looked a little messy. The Lamb didn’t mind though.


Another view of the paper chains and the paint blown ‘Moon’ to created a few weeks ago.


In one episode Sarah’s plant isn’t too well. It turns out that ‘Bug’ has been storing buttons in the flower pot. Sarah makes Bug a ‘Button’ bank so I filled a jar with my most colourful buttons and added a label. I think Bug would really like this little Bank, don’t you?


Some paper lanterns became ‘Moon’ and ‘Venus’ and more tissue paper helped create ‘Flamingo’ .


And of course, what would a birthday be without ‘Cake’. Fans of the show will know the talkative cake was make for Duck but ended up helping ‘Bread Man’ in his shop. And what flavour was the cake? Lemon drizzle of course!

Does your little one like Sarah and Duck? Have you thrown a Sarah and Duck themed party? Let me know!

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Make It Monday: String Letters

As Summer in the UK, you can never tell what the weather will do. One particularly dull day, I was trying to think what to do with the assorted ends of my knitting. As part of my ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ pledge for Earth Day, I normally add them to the ‘rag bag’ which I donate to the local charity shop, but suddenly inspiration struck, the Lamb and I would turn it into art!

This was possibly one of the easiest, although muckiest, projects we’ve undertaken and the results were as fun as the making!

We started off by drawing an outline of our chosen design on greaseproof paper, an ‘E’ for the Lamb and I thought I’d get a head start on some of our Halloween decorations so I wrote ‘Boo’.

Then came the fun part! We soaked the assorted wool remnants in the glue water, then draping it around the paper. I wrung the wool a little, while the Lamb popped it on still dripping. Aside from excess liquid, neither method affected the final result. Longer pieces were used to create an outline while the others were layered inside. We both really liked the blends of colours.

And here’s the final result! Super spooky!

 

Make it Monday: Shark Week


We live every week like it’s Shark Week here at Beagle HQ but having a dedicated week is always fun to try some new crafts.

Seeing the Lamb playing with a toilet roll inspired the ‘shark fin cuff’. It was incredibly simple but turned out better than we expected and the toddler loves ‘swimming’ around the house with her cuff. We cut a fin shape, painted it grey, while the toilet roll was painted blue. Then it was a simple case of gluing the fin to the toilet roll and cutting an opening! I added some tissue paper to cover the flaps at the base of the fin and the cuff was ready!


Just in case the Lamb didn’t want to wear a cuff, we also made this fun hat/hairband. Another simple construction, with a band of paper to fit the Lamb’s head, and an extra one to go over the top. The Lamb painted both and again I added some tissue paper to hide the join, and to add a bit of texture. If I’m honest, I think hubby and I are a little jealous we don’t have a fun hat like this. Perhaps next week….

How are you celebrating Shark Week?

Make it Monday: Room On The Broom inspired Quiet Book


We’re HUGE fans of Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler’s books here at Beagle HQ. So much so that the toddler’s last birthday was themed around some of their more famous books, but that’s a post for another day.

A zipper for a mouth
What’s inside? Some other characters!

I wanted to make the toddler something a bit different, so I combined some of her favourite characters with different openers and fasteners to help her improve her dexterity and coordination. The product was ‘Evie’s Quiet Book’.

Bird’s wing has a magnetic which helps it move. There’s also plenty of ribbon to practice tying bows

Quiet books seem to be hugely popular and it’s easy to see why: soft to touch for little hands, they are only limited by your imagination and can keep little people occupied for ages. 

Help Dog count bones

I created a page for each of the main characters: Witch, Cat, Dog, Bird, Frog, Dragon plus all of them on the broom.

What’s in Cat’s cauldron?
All the ingredients fro a witches brew! Each item is sewn onto a popper so can be removed for an endless mix of spells

I tried to use a mix of fabrics and materials to make it interesting to touch as well as various colours. Some worked better than others, with some of the coarser fabric fraying, however I think this adds to the characters. 

The Dragon isn’t too gruff here – he has a squeaker for a voice

There are also different fasteners including zips, poppers, buttons and clips, all of which encourage to toddler to explore and learn how to use them. They’ve helped her improve her manual dexterity while also teaching her some key skills for getting dressed. 

Help the Witch button her cardigan and plait her hair, but be careful not to lose her ribbon!

I think the Witch is my favourite page. Her long ginger hair is a mix of different wools, from very soft, to slightly more coarse and even a few strands from my rag doll I had as a baby! Perfect for learning how to plait, and to tie a ribbon! Her cardigan also needs buttoning. This was the only page where I used my sewing machine (for the cardigan), all the rest was sewn by hand.

And out flew, a magnificent broom!

The last page is the broom with all the characters sat safely in their seats. I made the finger puppets as a fun accompaniment when reading the book, but they can be used for reenactment while out and about, or for creating new adventures!

Endless fun with the finger puppets

Have you made a quiet book? Do you like the characters from the Gruffalo and Room on the Broom? Let me know in the comments below. 

Make it Monday: silk weaving in Laos


Facebook is telling me it’s nine years (NINE YEARS! Honestly, where does time go?) since I did my silk weaving class at Ock Pop Tok in Laung Prabang, on the Mekong River in Laos.

Ock Pop Tok (East meets West) is a social enterprise where local women are employed to teach traditional textile crafts. It was still in its infancy when we were there so I’m really pleased to see from their website that they’re continuing to do well as I have such fond memories of my day there and the amazing staff who taught me with such humour and patience. 
I remember there’s a stunning garden where my guide taught me about traditional silk dying, and the plants used. We collected different plants and I dyed skeins (does silk come in skeins like wool? Let me know below) of silk which I’ve still got on display.


Then it was on to the silk weaving. I’m not going to pretend I understand the machine – it was a large contraption with more threads going everywhere than Shelob’s lair! I remember it being a little tricky feet, as I needed to press each paddle (again, sorry to any weavers if I’m using the wrong terminology) to move the threads and create the pattern. Once in the ‘swing’ it was surprisingly quick to create my piece. 

I chose a ‘naga’ pattern, a traditional Buddhist symbol which I was told was a protective, wise deity. 

And here’s my finished piece! Happy to say it’s still pride of place, currently in our bedroom. So many happy memories. 


Have you visited Ock Pop Tok? What did you make? Have you tried any local crafts on your travels? Let me know in the comments below. 

Make it Monday: Soap with Soap Daze

Soap making

You’ll remember a few weeks ago I ran out of soap, so used ‘melt and pour’ goats milk soap. The results were fine and I’ve been happily scrubbing with the coffee grounds, but I didn’t really know what was in the soap and was keen to learn to do it properly.

Luckily I know Sharon, owner and maker of ‘Soap Daze‘ based in Devon. She’s been making natural soaps for about six years and having bought (and recommended!) some of her soaps in the past, when she announced she was running courses to learn how to make soap, I knew I wanted to try.

My friend Jo (@handmadebyjo seriously, read the rest of this, then go and check out her beautiful crafts. I mean it!) and I booked. We arrived at Sharon’s ‘she-shed’, her converted garage in her garden and got to work (over multiple cups of tea and yummy home-made biscuits).

Sharon took us through the history and basics of cold process soap making, how the oils bond with the lye and transform during a process called saponification to make soap. It was really interesting to learn that different oils have a different saponification figure, relating to the quantity of lye you need to add. The only downside was that we needed to do some working out, which first thing on a Saturday wasn’t my strong point!

Measuring out.JPG
Getting to work measuring out my oils

Sharon has a huge variety of ingredients, with base oils including cocoa butter, coconut oil and hemp oil to name a few. I chose avocado oil, olive oil, help oil and sweet almond which I’m hoping will produce a very rich, moisturising soap. Added to that, some rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed, mostly because I like the names (seriously, don’t they sound like the villain in a DC comic?) and mandarin and sandalwood essential oils. It was lots of fun sniffing all the different essential oils and choosing our ‘top notes’, and ‘base notes’. Jo chose cocoa butter, olive oil and avocado oil, with grapefruit and black pepper essential oils.

Checking the oils.JPG
Mixing my oils

The first part was to heat the base oils, then preparing the lye (something I’d been a little worried about but Sharon gave us clear instructions and wrapped up in gloves, an apron and protective glasses we mixed  the lye with water before monitoring its temperature.

Lye
Mixing the lye with water. I was amazed at how much heat it gave off!

Once both the base oils and the lye were at the same temperature we mixed them together using a hand blender until we were able to achieve ‘trace’, when the mixture has formed a custard-like consistency. It was really interesting watching the changing colour of the mixture. In went the essential oils and it smelled soooooo good! (I think mandarin and sandalwood may be my new favourite combination!)

 

Blending.JPG
Looking for a trace of trace

Finally it was time to pour the soaps into the block. A little tricky as I’m a bit cack-handed at the best of times but managed it. I poured half the mixture in, then blended the rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed with the remainder before adding that, hopefully in a way that it will create an interesting pattern once the soap is cut. Sharon then wrapped up our soaps, explaining that they need to sit for at least three days before being cut and cured.

Adding the powder.JPG
Adding my rhassoul mud and bladderwrack seaweed

So now we have to wait for three weeks! I’ll let you know how our soaps turn out.

Poured into block.JPG
My soap, poured into the block

Have you made cold process soap? Do you have any recipe ideas? Or have you tried the melt and pour? Let me know in the comments below.

IMG_0257.JPG
I up-cycled some Soap Daze packaging to make the toddler a ‘Matchbox Doll’

Disclaimer: Sharon is a friend. However, I paid for the soap making course (bought during a promotional phase run by Sharon) and all thoughts, photos and opinions are my own.

 

Make it Monday: the Bag Challenge

Not gonna lie, I’m a bag girl. Always have been. From quirky prints to unusual designs I love them all! Since starting to sew, I’ve made myself a few, mostly simple tote bags, which was a good way to cut my teeth (or cut my needle? I think we need a new phrase for learner sewists, but as always I digress…..) as they’re easy to make, lots of straight lines, gave me a feel for different fabrics and were pretty forgiving of the odd wonky seam while I was learning how sew.


However, there are only so many totes a girl can have (I mean, the toddler already has four! Yup, along with my cheekiness, she’s already got the bag bug! See my post from yesterday with her Easter bags) so I started designing my own! 


The first was the ‘Evie’ and evolved due to my need to be able to carry my essentials while either out walking the dog or out and about with the toddler. The catalyst was when she’d started walking (well, running. The toddler does EVERYTHING at a hundred miles an hour!) and we were having tea with friends in an outdoor cafe. I’d just put my tray with our treats, my purse and phone down on the table, turned around and saw the toddler belting off! Of course I went charging after her and as we got back to the table I realised I’d left my valuables on display (luckily under the watchful gaze of my friend!). However, it was a scene which was repeated frequently and so the ‘Evie’ was born. Influenced by medieval belt pouches it’s big enough to hold my purse, phone and lip balm (and of course spare dog poop bags on our walks with the pup). It’s become a must have on our outings and a few mums friends have asked me to make one too.


My next challenge was the ‘Japanese knot bag’. I’d seen them on Pintrest and thought they looked pretty cool and unique. With assorted birthdays coming up, I pulled out the tracing paper and pencil and got designing again. The ‘Anna’ was created! I made two as presents (though annoyingly forgot to take photos before gifting them!) and had plans to make one for myself, which went on the back burner due to assorted skirts, toys and other things I was sewing for the toddler, me and presents.

Which brings me to my current bag challenge. I’ve long admired this mandala fabric and a friend gave me just under half a metre. I knew immediately I wanted to make as many bags from it as I could! 


My plan was to make an ‘Evie’ and ‘Anna’ bag, with a more complex pattern I found on Pintrest. However, it quickly became apparent that I wouldn’t have enough fabric for the more complex pattern. Given that I’ve a friends wedding coming up, I decided to try and make a clutch bag, something I don’t have already in my collection. As you can see the fabric has different colours but the background is a pale beige, a perfect match for my calico which I decided to use as the liner and backing to my bags.


Using my patterns, it was fairly quick to sew all the pieces together. 


As always there was something new to learn, such as putting in a twist clasp, but I was happy with how it turned out.

And these are the finished bags! I was able to make an ‘Evie’ bag, an ‘Anna’ and the clutch that I’ve called the ‘Pippa’. There was a small piece of fabric left which I managed to turn into a small purse and there’s another small panel which I’ll use to make a drawstring bag. 


What do you think? Are you a bag fan too?

 If you’d like a bag made, please send me an email on bluebeaglebaby[at]gmail.com, comment below or on my Facebook page.