Crochet Baby Toy – Noise Makers

Crochet baby noise maker

 

One of Munchkins favourite toys was this Pram Necklace from Littlephant that we bought her for her first Christmas. She adored the colours and the textures of the toy hanging over her pram. And apparently it tasted delicious too!

But as she’s gotten older it has fallen out of favour, she’s now showing preference for toys that make a noise or that we build towers out of and she knocks down. So I decided to make her a toy. One that combined the tactile nature of the Littlephant pram necklace along with a rattle and shake!

The fact that they’re also round and can roll a little way from her is also a good thing as we’re trying to encourage Munchkin to move. At present, she’ll just happily play with whatever she can reach or make big eyes and pout until her father gets the toy she accidentally just launched.

 

Crochet baby noise maker

 

These are what I came up with. They use the plastic insert from a Kinder Surprise filled with various noisy items. For these I used whatever was handy in my kitchen cupboard. Popcorn kernels, quinoa, rock salt and sunflower seeds were put in the shakers and they were closed and taped up. Each has a very distinct sound in comparison to the others.

 

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I then added some decorative embroidery with contrasting cotton. Stitching in and out of the holes between the crochet stitches. This has two benefits, it makes the cotton wadding surrounding the Kinder insert pretty much impossible to pry out by tiny fingers and it looks pretty!

I used some of my remaining cotton wadding from my quilt rather than normal cushion stuffing also because it’s nice and firm, making it hard for little fingers to get out and it makes crocheting the Kinder insert into the ball much easier as you’re less likely to get your hook caught up in tons of little fibres.

 

Crochet baby noise maker

 

To start with, I put a small amount of my selected seed into the Kinder insert. I taped it up to make sure that it didn’t come open inside the toy and spill it’s contents. Mainly because this would stop it making a lovely rattle noise and as yet another safety precaution.

 

Crochet baby noise maker

 

Crochet Baby Noise Maker Pattern:

 

Stitches you need to know:

Magic Ring

Single Crochet = sc

Increase (2 single crochet in the same stitch) = inc

Decrease (singe crochet decrease) = dec

 

Materials

Cotton yarn in at least two colours

3.5mm crochet hook

Cotton wadding

Plastic container insert from a Kinder Surprise or alternate small plastic container (the ones in the vending machines that kids love and parents loathe would probably work well for this project too)

Seeds, Grains etc

 

 

Row 1: Create a Magic Ring and sc 6. Pull magic ring closed and place marker at end of row. Move stitch marker at end of every row following.

Row 2: inc 6. (12)

Row 3: *sc 1, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (18)

Row 4: *sc 2, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (24)

Row 5: *sc 3, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (30)

Row 6: *sc 4, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (36)

Row 7: *sc 5, inc 1.* Repeat *to* 6 times. (42)

Rows 8 to 12: sc 42. (42)

Row 13: *sc 5, dec 1.* (36)

Row 14: *sc 4, dec 1.* (30)

Row 15: *sc 3, dec 1.* (24)

At this point I placed a piece of wadding into the bowl of the ball. Wrapped the shaker egg in wadding and pushed it in. I then used my crochet hook to stuff more wadding in until I had a nice full ball. Then placed another piece of wadding over the top of the shaker, tucked it in nice and firmly and continued crocheting the Noise Maker closed.

Row 16: *sc 2, dec 1.* (18)

Row 17: *sc 1, dec 1.* (12)

Row 18: dec 6 (6)

Row 19: dec 3 (3)

Finish off and sew in the ends. I did this by taking a large needle and pulling the cotton through to the other side of the egg, in between the shaker egg and the wadding, and then cutting of the remainder. This left the ends well out of reach of those cheeky inquisitive fingers.

I did the same thing with the ends of the embroidery I added.

To add the embroidery, merely fasten on, and sew in and out in the spaces between the crochet stitches.

 

Crochet baby noise maker

 

Depending on how much wadding you add and how firmly you pull your embroidery stitches, you’ll either end up with a nice round ball shape (lots of wadding, stitches reasonably loose) or an oval shape (less wadding, firmer stitches). I did two of both as the ball shape are a little too large for Munchkin to hold easily at present, but the oval shape are perfect! And they don’t roll away so easily, encouraging her to move in small increments.

 

My templates and tutorials are free for personal use only.

 

T&Cs-2

Finally finished

Next to nicx quilt

 

They say that every quilt tells a story.

This one certainly does!

I started it before Munchkin was born. Last Summer, my friend and quilter extraordinaire Lynne, went with me via ferry to Thonon les Bains in France to pick out fabric. It turned out to be one of the hottest days that Summer and neither of us was dealing very well with the heat. I was seven months pregnant and feeling every bit of it!

But I was determined to get a quilt finished for Munchkin to come home in. So I waddled around Thonon and we selected the fabrics. Then over the weeks that turned into months, Lynne taught me how to cut the fabric out, sew it together and quilt it.

I struggled though-out the pregnancy. It turns out I’m not one of those people who glows and feels fabulous and honestly, I didn’t like being pregnant at all. Probably because it felt like I was unwell for most of it.

My sewing machine even attempted to die before I’d completed the project! It threw out springs and twisted bits of metal in a cartoonish fashion, only missing the associated “SPROING!!”.

Thankfully we were able to get it working again. And poignantly, this quilt turned out to be the last project I’d do on this machine. My mother gave it to me about 10 years ago, it was second or third hand when I received it and it had survived being lugged halfway around the world when we moved to Switzerland. But I now own a beautiful new machine, given to me for Christmas by DM and Munchkin.

 

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At some point I gave up on having the quilt done to bring Munchkin home in. Only digging it back out to give quilting it one more try the day before I was due to be induced. I’d been having regular contractions for 11 days by this point. I was exhausted… and scared. In an effort to distract ourselves, DM commenced painting a robot and I finished quilting my quilt.

Amusingly you can see when I had contractions in the quilting. In places it resembles the monitor they plugged me into frequently over the last weeks of my pregnancy! The stitching goes from lovely, straight and ‘in the ditch’, to off tangent quite badly, and then back ‘in the ditch’!

Finally I packed it away, a little disappointed that I’d not managed to complete it (I had the binding and hand sewing to do), and we went to the clinic to meet Munchkin.

Munchkin entered our lives in something of a rush as I eventually needed an emergency cesarean. And she came home almost a week later swaddled in a super soft Aden + Anais muslin square instead of in one of my creations. I didn’t have time to feel disappointed. We spent the next 6 months learning about each-other, falling head over heels in love, doing all we could to help her thrive and enjoying our beautiful little spirited sprite.

 

Munchkin arriving home

 

Then, Lynne came around for one final quilting lesson and, at one point with Munchkin looking on, we made and sewed on the binding using my new machine.

I did the hand sewing, a little at a time, over the following few weeks (I’m not great at hand sewing, particularly when tired! ;))

And it’s complete! Almost a year since it was started my darling little girl is sleeping under it.

I love it. It’s perfectly flawed and I feel it tells the start of our story wonderfully.

 

Next to nicx quilt

 

I’ve been told it’s traditional to name a quilt and have it embroidered on the back. But I’ve been struggling to come up with anything other than “Contraction Quilt” which isn’t very romantic.

What do you think I should call it?

 

Next to nicx quilt

 

Quilting details: I used the pattern created by See Kate Sew as a guide but made a few changes. Lynne made up an alternate pattern piece that allowed for the triangle to have seam allowances added, meaning that it was much easier to get the points closer to lining up. The quilt Lynne made up as a test had the points matching perfectly! And I put my quilt pieces together randomly, only ensuring that the same colour didn’t sit adjacent.

 

See Kate Sew Quilt

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

There were a few things I gave up on finding when I found out I couldn’t eat gluten anymore. One of them was profiteroles and a good choux pastry. But a trip to my favourite bakery assured me that a gluten-free choux pastry is very possible. They make the most amazing gluten-free eclairs!

So when the latest issue of Delicious magazine graced my letterbox with a Better Cook Challenge on choux pastry I was determined to try and make a gluten-free profiterole. We had some friends and their gorgeous offspring coming for lunch last Friday, so I seized the second wind I got on Thursday night after putting Munchkin to bed, and tried.

And it worked! *cue cheer and happy dance*

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Honestly I can’t really remember exactly what the glutenous version tastes like, but both of my friends and my husband assured me that my version were delicious. And my husband advising that I could make them again very soon convinced me of it.

As per usual I used Schaer patisserie mix C as it’s the best commercially bought flour mix I’ve come across for pastries and cakes (and Sonja in Cully wouldn’t divulge her amazing recipe ;))

I finished them with a drizzle of salted caramel sauce rather than the chocolate one in the magazine. I’ll write up the caramel recipe for next weeks gluten-free recipe post.

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Profiteroles with Vanilla Crème Pâtissière‎

Ingredients for the choux pastry
  • 100ml of cold water
  • 45 grams of unsalted butter
  • 60 grams of Schaer patisserie mix C or your preferred gluten-free flour mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon of guar gum
  • 2 medium eggs

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Ingredients for the Crème Pâtissière
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 10 grams of Schaer patisserie mix C or your preferred gluten-free flour mix
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cornflour
  • 35 grams of caster sugar
  • 150 ml of whole milk
  • half a vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 100ml of double cream

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Method for the choux pastry
  • Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced) and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Put the water and butter in a saucepan and bring to the boil, ensuring that the butter is melted and combined.
  • Remove from the heat, and immediately stir in all of the flour and guar gum. Stir quickly until the mixture thickens and starts to come away from the side of the saucepan.
  • Place back on the heat and cook whilst stirring for a little longer, just to dry the mix out a little. A minute or two should do it.
  • Put the pastry into a large mixing bowl. Leave for 2 minutes to cool. This ensures that when you add the egg it doesn’t cook immediately.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and stir in quickly with a whisk until well combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fit with a 1cm plain nozzle.
  • Pipe the mixture onto the baking paper. In the photographs I made large profiteroles, and so piped them about the size of a large walnut. Pipe them about 4 cm apart.
  • Using a finger, wet with a little water, push the spikes down so that the top of your profiterole is smooth and not peaked.
  • Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced) and then turn down to 140 degrees celsius (120 fan forced) for another 20-25 minutes to dry them out.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool on trays.

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Method for the Crème Pâtissière
  • Place the egg yolks, flour, cornflour and sugar in a bowl and whisk until combined
  • Put the milk and vanilla pod in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Pour the milk mixture over the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
  • Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and put back on a gentle heat, stirring continuously until very thick.
  • Take off heat, place in a bowl, discard the vanilla pod, cover with cling wrap and allow to cool.
  • Whip the double cream until you get soft peaks.
  • Fold in the cooled custard mixture and push through a sieve to get rid of any lumps.
  • Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm plain nozzle.
  • To fill the choux buns, make a small hole in the bottom of each cooled profiterole and insert the piping nozzle. Gently squeeze in filling.
  • Serve on a plate or platter with your choice of sauce. I used a salted caramel sauce (recipe in next weeks blog).

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

Recipe adapted from May 2014 issue of Delicious Magazine.

 

Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

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Gluten-free profiteroles (choux pastry)

 

My greatest project

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Many of you who have followed ‘next to nicx’ over the years have probably noticed that it’s not plastered with my photograph. In fact, I’ve actively avoided putting my face on the blog as I’ve rather liked hiding behind my creations. I’ve loved letting them do the talking and showing off, particularly as I’m not comfortable in front of a camera and have tended to prefer being behind it. I am something of an introvert.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

I thought that if my ‘face’ didn’t match what you thought it would look like, you’d be disappointed. A little like when someone creates a movie adaption of a book you love and they put what you feel is entirely the wrong actor in the part. The book is forever tainted by the awful actor and the mental image you had created is slightly overwritten.

I didn’t feel like the face of this blog. I was pregnant and fat and I’m still not back to my ideal shape. I’m sleep deprived, tired and have struggled with an iron deficiency. I’ve used all these as my excuses for leaving my face off the blog and to keep hiding in relative obscurity.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

But all that comfortable anonymity has recently been stripped away. I was asked to complete a project (rather a splediferous one I can share with you in August) and they wanted to put my photo on it. After the subsequent panic attack, I realised that I can no longer hide. And whilst I’ve no plans of plastering my face over every post, I probably do need to share a little more than I have been.

Thankfully I’ve recently become friends with lovely and insanely talented Hayley Hay. She’s amazing! Hayley came to my rescue and took some really great photos of the Munchkin and I. Many more than was needed for my project. And so I’ve decided to share some of them with you and to say;

“Hello, this is me. Nice to meet you”.

As well as; “Check out my greatest project of all time! Isn’t she adorable?!”

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Because Munchkin is by far and away, my greatest creation/ project/ job.

She is a handful. Just like her father and I, she knows her own mind and makes sure we know it too. She is also gentle, generous and kind. I’m adoring the personality that is emerging every day and seeing just how excited she gets as she learns something new. Just last week she learned how to clap her hands and so clapped proudly whilst saying “Yaaaaay” for about a day and a half. She clapped even whilst crying!

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

I’m a firm believer in “Do it once. Do it well”. And I’m doing my utmost to do it well with Munchkin. We have our good and bad days, and I’m learning to go with the flow a lot more. My perfectionist self has had to learn to be happy with ‘Almost perfect’ and more often with ‘Good enough’. It has been a challenge.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Just minutes before we were to start this shoot, my daughter decorated her outfit so badly it had to be changed entirely. And it was washing day. So she end up wearing a t-shirt, baby Converse and spotty tights in this shoot instead of the pretty dress I’d planned. I was a little disappointed. But after seeing the end result, I’m so glad! They show every gorgeous little squishy baby roll and her beautifully chubby belly. She’s thinning out a little now as she’s starting to move around a bit more.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

This beautiful little one has taken all of my days and a fair number of my nights. Any any spare time I’ve had, I’ve been making but haven’t had time to blog.

It was starting to get to me. I hated seeing the blog stagnant. Even though I told myself it was only ‘maternity leave’, I seriously considered giving up next to nicx. Being an expat and not having easy access to family had meant that I’d not had time alone to work etc. I couldn’t see a way to make it work.

But a couple of my friends and my husband gave me a serious taking to, I’ve decided to keep it going. And I saw a need for a little me time as I’d started to feel like I was losing myself. Consequently, we’ve made some lifestyle adjustments. My husband comes home early a couple of nights so I can get in a swim/ workout and we now have a sitter come to look after Munchkin a couple of half days a week so I can get back to ‘work’. Munchkin has made a new friend, and I’ve finally got time to bake/ blog/ make and create!

It has the added benefit of making me feel a whole heap better and therefore, I’m a much better mother.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Good news! This means that the blog is going to get busier than it has been. All those half finished projects are starting to be completed and photographed. And I’ve a whole heap of new ones. So you should start to see a craft/ GF baking blog post every week or so. And I’ve a list of splendiferous things I’ve found whilst wandering around this new world inhabited by little Munchkins, I’ll share a few of those with you too.

Nicola Pravato by Hayley Hay Photography

Thanks for following next to nicx and for being patient all these months!
So see you next week; right now I’ve a tiny skirt and post to finish!

Nicx

 

All images in this post are Copyright to Hayley Hay Photography