5 Things You Can Make For A Baby.

I know, it’s been forever since I posted regularly. But there’s been a wedding, a load of jam to make and far too much baby stuff to catch up on. Should be back to blogging now though!

Anyways, here are five things I plan on making for our baby. None are truly bare essentials as in I could buy them at a store or DIY them some other way. But sewing saves money, reduces stress and keeps me from buying every cute thing I see. So if you’re going through the same acquisition urges, here are five things you can make, rather than buy, to save some money and spare your sanity.

1: A nappy bag.

Retail price: From the stats used in my WIP “Baby Budget Diary” book, the average nappy bag costs £50.

Materials cost: Nothing so far! I had almost everything I am using from ages ago and I am repurposing a lot of freebies.

I know I don’t need to make one. A sports bag can be grabbed for a couple of £ and the gods know it’s simpler. But every single penny I can save is a lifesaver when it comes to this new budget book project, and, to be honest, I kind of want a cute, personal nappy bag.

2: Sleep sacks.

Retail price: £20 a piece, total £120 for the first year. I’m gonna faint.

Materials cost: £3.50, and only that high because Jon and I fell in love with this Doctor Who print sheet fabric. Is Doctor Who gender-neutral? Yes, it is. Shhh…

If you want your Winter baby to be as warm as possible and sleep safely blanket-free, you will need sleep sacks. We actually bought a second hand one for £1.50, but usually they cost over £5 even second hand, and I’d rather make some nice, personal, robust ones that can be used by the babies to come.

3: Flannel wipes.

Retail price: From my Baby Budget Diary statistics, a year of disposable wipes costs £310.70 on average.

Materials cost: £0. Free felt and fleece!

Well worth making, for many reasons. Firstly, you have to use cotton and warm water on a baby anyway for the first few months. Secondly, it’s £310.70. Thirdly, all you need is to cut nice big squares of plush fabric, big enough to cover your hand, and probably around 50 of them. You can make them pretty as well and hem them, but the basic is cutting. I will likely be done in an afternoon when I sit down to do this. Couple of days if I decide to sew. Might even drag out the sewing machine!

4: Bibs and burp cloths.

Retail price: According to my Baby Budget Diary stats, £15 average for the first year.

Materials cost: £5 for the bits I’ll use.

I actually spent £20 total on all the fabric I bought this last month. But not all of it is for bibs and rags. Not all of it is even for the baby! Around £5 will go into bibs and rags. So it’s not cheap. But they’re easy to make. Great if you need stress relief. Probably not worth it if you don’t like sewing.

5: Stuffed toys.

Retail price: The average baby’s first Christmas costs £272. Assuming an even four way split between stuffed toys, rattles and travel toys, books and educational tech, that’s £68 on stuffed toys for year one.

Materials cost: Will probably use around £10 worth of fabric at the most.

Stuffed toys are awesome to make. They can be super-cute, you know they’re safe, they are completely personal to your child, you know how to fix them when they break… just win, win, win!

So there you have it, five things I will be making for my baby. I will try and make travel pillows, lactation pads and swaddling blankets as well, but they’re not quite as exciting to talk about.

What things do you like making for babies and kids in the family?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

What Crafting Does To And For You.

Arts and crafts are something most of us appreciate. We love seeing the results of great talent and skill. We also love engaging in crafting activities when we can. But crafting is a little like reading. Despite knowing that most of the happiest, wisest, healthiest people in the world craft, most people seem to avoid it.

It’s quite peculiar how we do this, because, however you look at it, crafting is innately human. From our earliest days, even if toys and paints aren’t available, we take mud and sand and sticks and stones and mash things together to make murals, sculptures and decorations. We are drawn to paint and stickers and glue. We make shiny, bright, ornamented versions of everyday items. In short, we are born with a desire to create. Which makes a lot of sense, really. A human is born a naked ape-grub without any sharp teeth or fangs, without the ability to even stand. We grow into gangly, nude primates that are slow, clumsy and weak compared to most of our would-be predators and prey. So crafting is one of our ways of surviving. By tinkering about with everything we are able to make houses, fire, weapons, traps, cooking utensils and preservation techniques. Crafting made the arrow, the tree-house, the fire pit and fermentation. It’s an instinctive drive.

And another unique trait of humans is that we use this tinkering to develop culture. At some point a good, strong arrowhead that felled five bison stops just being a good arrowhead and starts being a lucky arrowhead. At some point Mum’s copper pot stops being a cooking utensil and becomes an heirloom. The more we tinker, the more we develop, the more meaning we attach to things, until we start making this for meaning’s own sake. We find blue peaceful, so we seek out blue pigments. We like the little figures on Uncle’s bow, so we make our own figurines. We go from utilitarian, to utilitarian and meaningful, to purely meaningful.

And gradually these meanings form a culture. If women of a certain tribe wear neck-braces in solidarity with women who need them, women in the next tribe will be confused, because they will either not need braces or view them as simple medical treatment. If hunters of a certain tribe paint themselves blue to connect with the Gods, hunters from another tribe may see the blue as aggression or even aspiration to godhood. By creating a sort of secret language of meaning, we exclude others from out culture and make it ours. We gain solidarity.

Which is where we start losing our desire to craft in the modern world. We live in a world where we no longer need to craft or be inventive. Not only are we avid, hungry consumers, we seem to be trying to become culturally stagnant, merely observing past culture and global cultures and not engaging in any cultural or tribal behaviours of our own.

But crafting is still good for us. The pull is still there, even when you sit down a sixty year old office worker with finger paints. How many people do you know who would never doodle, paint, sculpt, write, sing, dance, build, shape, collage, etc if they could? If you sat a group of adults down in an arts and crafts room and told them to entertain themselves, how many would find nothing to do? We still love it and want to do it. It’s only natural to us.

Crafting is still one of the best ways of dealing with mental and personality disorders, as well as with non-clinical stress, depression, anxiety, fear or boredom. It evens us out and leaves us feeling soothed and satisfied by the end. And to boot, it shows its own fruits. When you work crunching numbers, or teaching a lesson a week, or cleaning machinery, it’s hard to see your own work in the finished product. But when you take your vision and slowly shape it into something, you are present in the end result. And that reward is one of the richest you can experience.

Humans really are meant to craft and create. And we should put more effort into doing some crafting daily.

What do you enjoy crafting? Do you craft as much as you would like? Are there any crafts you would like to learn?

Check out my Pinterest board of things to craft or that I have crafted.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How to… Craft Yourself Tidy!

We’ve all hit that problem. We have a book of sewing patterns, 40 shoeboxes and a Pinterest board lined up, full of crafts we want to make. And we also have a house to tidy and keep, work to do or things to mend. So we put everything away, sort the laundry, finish writing that essay or report, darn those socks and finally have no time to craft. Or we put actual work to one side, start making stuff and end up with more scarves than we need and a few hours lost.

Curse you, scarves!

Curse you, scarves!

What if we could seize that creative urge, take some time to relax, improve our house’s organization and feel like no time was wasted at the end?

Well, here to the rescue, I’ve compiled a list of various ways you can make your home neater and prettier, by crafting the organization into your home.

1: Hanging organizers.

The craft.

Take a length of fabric. Sew the edges flat underneath it. Add pockets by stitching the bottom and side of a square to the fabric. Perhaps attach a ribbon or two to hang it with.

The result.

A convenient hanging set of pockets you can put on the back of doors, inside wardrobes or even attach to the wall to keep your small, frequently used items.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old sheet, a swimming costume and a strip of stripy fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

Made with an old hoodie and some yellow fabric.

The quick option: buy some shoe organizers and decorate them.

2: Repurpose boxes.

The craft.

Take a small, sturdy box. Cut it to the desired size. Use the offcuts to make some slot-together separators for it. Paint or wrap in pretty paper or fabric.

The result.

A fitted box to keep a set of things in one place and organized. I made Jon one for his contact lenses as I kept moving them when I was tidying and mixing the sets up.

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The quick option: make some separators and use the box as-is.

3: Under-table hammock.

The craft.

Take a piece of fabric and cut it to 3-4″ smaller than the table is from corner to corner. In each corner, attach elastics that are just too small to wrap around the table legs without stretching. Put on table. For tables where you can’t slide something up the legs, swap the elastics for velcro or buttoned straps.

The result.

A convenient place to hide your magazines, recently watched or to-watch DVDs, games controls and remote controls.

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The quick option: attach some elastic to an appropriately sized sheet.

4: Baskets and pots.

The craft.

Not much of a craft, but fun to decorate and organize with. Find a suitable basket or large flower pot. Clean and decorate a little. Use it to store rolled-up towels, or your gloves and hats, for easy access whenever needed. Also use one for assorted car repair materials, for example, or anything else you may need to grab in a rush.

The result.

A prettier way of storing my towels where they are all visible and accessible without being in the way.

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The quick option: take a basket or pot and roll your towels or bedding to fit it. It can’t get much easier. 🙂

5: Grease and sauce pots.

The craft.

Take some glass jars and use permanent marker or sharpie to decorate them and assign their purpose.

The result.

Cute little jars to keep my reusable cooking fats in, sorted by type so the tastes don’t get mixed.

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Lard, olive oil, lamb fat, chicken drippings, tallow.

 

The quick option: rather than draw, use a jar or cup that is already pretty and make sure your handwriting looks nice.

6: Curtain ties.

The craft.

Cut some appropriately toned fabric 2″ longer than you need and twice as wide. Fold and stitch all sides but one end. Turn inside out and invisible stitch the end. Tie curtains back.

The result.

I actually just did the quick option here! The room is more open and brighter with these heavy curtains tied back.

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The quick option: cut a strip of fabric or a length of ribbon for each curtain. Tie back in a bow.

7: Bags.

The craft.

Make a deep base bag and line it. Make many smaller pockets and purses and go attaching them as you see fit. Add a draw string, zips, or buttons. Back straps are harder to make than purse handles are.

The result.

A cute and handy bag to carry around.

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The quick option: make a bucket handbag or a tote.

And some I haven’t made, but want to make when I have the time or a purpose for them.

Make fishy laundry and bathing bags like these.

Make some amazing shelves.

Make some handy baskets and holders for better bathroom organization.

Make a pallet shed organizer.

Weekend crafts.

This weekend I was going to see a relative, but the plans got thrown off by tonsilitis. So, seeing as I had cancelled all my work for the week and was determined to not overwork myself, I decided to spend this weekend crafting.

First I needed to sort the coffee table. There was nothing horribly wrong with it. But it was plain white and stained crazily easily, which is not great for a table that will have coffee on it. We also invariably forget to use coasters, so having something I could wipe clean was a must.

The only picture where I allowed the table to be seen. It was thoroughly cleaned before that meal, so no shame. :p

The only picture where I allowed the table to be seen. It was thoroughly cleaned before that meal, so no shame. :p

 

That is the original and finished design. I contemplated a lot of things for our coffee table. I even considered painting a detailed scene and setting some glass on top of it. But I didn’t want to make something I would feel too bad about parting ways with if it broke. So I settled on a boho glass pebble top.

The materials for this were a variety of glass pebbles and grout and filler plaster.

1: Arrange your pebbles by colour. That way you have an idea what you’re going to be able to do with them.

2: Clean and dry the table.

3: Mark out any spaces you want to leave. We wanted a gap for our chess board that we could slide it in and out of.

4: Little by little, spread the grout and/or plaster and place the pebbles in the right pattern.

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I ran out of pebbles so I left the middle almost bare except for some floral coasters and a few pebbles.

The finished product looks pretty awesome and should clean smoothly.

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The other thing I made was an upgraded version of my knitting loom. The original looked like this.

Ugly and efficient.

Ugly and efficient.

 

I made some pretty cool scarves on it.

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But it had too few spikes, was starting to fall apart and was bulky to carry and use. So I decided to make something more portable, attractive and functional. Introducing the loom 2.0:

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Yes, that is a coat rack. I got so used to the knitting needle ends that stuck out of the back of my box that I felt I needed something to stab my wool balls onto, rest my crochet hook on and tie the loose end of wool to. So a coat hanger seemed like the natural choice. Plus, it was a ready-sanded piece of wood for 99p.

To make:

-10-100 round-end or skirting board nails

-30-100cm of wood

-a hammer

-a ruler and a marker pen

1: Use the ruler to mark the board at even places.

2: Hammer in the first three nails and last three nails at an angle. This will hold your board.

3: Hammer in the central nails deal straight, for easy weaving.

To use click here.

Last Minute Crafting, or Knitting for People Who Can’t Knit.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit. But I have days when I’m very clumsy with my hands, which would get in the way of even knitting, and also have a serious problem with numbers to a point where I can think of the number four and say “Seven” and “Eleven” first, or where I can skip entire numbers when counting or copying something. I usually deal with it in time for everyday situations, but when crafting something invariably goes wrong. Never a good place to start. And when I got bored of crochet due to the constant mistakes and plateaus caused by shaky hands and poor number management, I gave up on learning to knit, at least not while I had other things to do.

But I never stop learning about crafts, even ones I can’t do. Looking at patterns led me on a pinterest-crawl and soon I was learning about arm knitting. Then I realized that, even if arm knitting was simple, it required me to keep both my arms working on the knitting until I was done, in case I messed up and tied a knot when getting loose. Me? Sit still for over five minutes? With a craft? No chance. Especially not when the results look like they’d be so easily destroyed by a cat or a clumsy movement. But I  also discovered finger knitting. And it got me thinking.

As you can see, finger-knitting is based on the old way we used to use toilet rolls to knit bracelets in art class. It eliminates the counting, the fiddly needles and the time-consuming element. But I had two concerns. Firstly, that as with arm-knitting I just hadn’t the patience to sit like that for so long. Secondly that I only have four fingers, meaning I could only make something as wide as I could spread my fingers. So what if I could add to my fingers? What if I made a board or a box that I could use to finger-knit without knitting at all?

This is what I made:

 

Ugly and efficient.

Ugly and efficient.

However you could also make one with a board, maybe even paint it up and use it as a Christmas gift for any young or klutzy crafters in the family. I’m definitely making a knitting board all to myself sometime in the new year. Or maybe you could make yourself one and use it to knock out some quick and easy Christmas gifts for neighbours. However you want to play it, here are my instructions for a knitting board and a knitting box.

Knitting box.

Equipment:

-a cardboard box

-10-100 spiky, sticky things (actual sticks, kebab sticks, chop sticks, knitting needles, anything)

-heavy duty tape, hot glue gun, crafting glue

-(optional) fabric or paper for decorating

-(optional) small hook or clasp for holding your thread end (see instructions)

Assembly:

1: Mark an even number of dots along one edge of the cardboard box.

2: Insert the spiky things in through the dot and out through another side of the box, to hold them firm.

3: Make sure your knitting ends (the ones where you drew the dots) are all an even length.

4: Tape/glue the non-knitting ends against the box.

5: (Attach optionals.)

Knitting Board.

Equipment:

-1 long board

-10-100 evenly sized nails, round tops or other nails that don’t have a very wide top are much, much better

-hammer

-(optional) an extra nail or a clip

-(optional) paint

Assembly:

1: Mark the board with dots an even distance apart.

2: Hammer a nail into each dot.

3: Even out the nails.

4: (Add optionals.)

Definitely making myself one!

Instructions.

So how do we use this badboy? Well, we start by attaching the end of our yarn to the clasp, or otherwise just taping it to the side of our box/board.

KNIT1

Next we weave the ball end of our yarn over and under until we reach the end of the spikes.

KNIT2

Wrap it around and go over and under on your way back, so each spike has a bit of thread on the top and bottom of it.

KNIT3

Repeat both ways so that each spike has two bits of thread.

KNIT4

Pull the thread nearest the box/board over the top of the thread nearest you. Make sure the top thread stays on, but the thread near the box/board comes off!

KNIT5

KNIT6

KNIT7

Repeat on every spike.

Take your yarn again and weave once both ways.

KNIT4

The old “top” thread should now be the one nearest the board and the new one should be the top. Pull the bottom thread back over the top one.

Rinse and repeat.