One of Munchkin’s favourite toys, ever since we bought it for her when she was just 6 weeks old, is a soft ball made of cotton that has a bell in it. It was fabulous as all the seams are on the outside and she could grab, throw and play with it very easily. And as she’s grown, she’s continued to enjoy it. Almost every day it gets launched across the room or skittles over the floor, tinkling as it goes.
I’ve a couple of friends who are pregnant and so I went to buy some to give as gifts. Only to discover that they no longer make them. So I took this as a sign that I should change the pattern, make it a whole heap more colourful and get crocheting! The only down side is that Munchkin has discovered them and now thinks that they’re hers. It looks like I’ll be making some more!
I started this pattern in much the same way as I did the crochet baby noise makers. By filling a Kinder Surprise cylinder with popping corn kernels and taping it firmly closed. But you can use film canisters, small take away sauce tubs, anything that you can tape closed and that makes a good rattling noise. Or you could even recycle the rattle or bell out of an old baby toy.
Then you get crocheting! I used a 3.5mm hook and 100% cotton. Just check the hook size nominated on your yarn and adjust the hook size appropriately. You don’t want large holes in your work so that little fingers can’t pry out the stuffing.
Increase (2 single crochet in the same stitch) = inc
Cotton yarn in at least two colours
3.5mm crochet hook
Cotton wadding (using this instead of normal stuffing makes it much harder for little fingers to get at it, but either will work fine).
Plastic container insert from a Kinder Surprise or alternate small plastic container that you can seal.
Seeds, Grains etc
In yarn colour 1
Row 1: Create a Magic Ring and sc 10. Pull magic ring closed. Sl st in first dc, to join. (10)
Row 2: ch 2. dc inc 10. Sl st in second ch, to join. (20)
Row 3: ch 2. *dc 1, dc inc 1.* Repeat *to* 10 times. Sl st in second ch, to join. (30)
Change yarn to second highlight colour
Row 4: ch 2. *sc 2, dc inc 1.* Repeat *to* 10 times. Sl st in second ch, to join. Fasten off and sew in the ends. (40)
Repeat 12 times to make 12 circles.
Stitching below the last row of crochet using the holes in the crochet with a large needle. Stitch two circles together, using the increased stitches as a guide. Stitch between 2 sets of increased stitches as shown below.
Repeat with 4 following circles until your work looks like the image below. You need to stitch the sides together too, using the increased stitches as a guide again. Finish off and sew in your ends.
Repeat the above steps with your six remaining circles until you have two ball halves.
Taking the two ball halves, align the middle increased stitch on the open end of a circle with a seam on the opposing ball half. Sew together, leaving enough open to insert the filling.
Then, wrapping the shaker egg in wadding until it’s the size you want and push it in. This item is nice for younger children with less wadding making it softer and less likely to roll away. It also makes it much easier to grasp. For older children, you can make it firmer and the ball will roll if pushed.
Finally sew the remaining open portion together with the wadding and shaker inside. Finish of and sew in your ends.
I hope your little ones enjoy it as much as Munchkin!
My templates and tutorials are free for personal use only.
A couple of months ago, my friend Nikki asked me to come up with a concept. She wanted to make gifts to give to her children’s teachers at the end of the year as a thank you gift. What made this request really interesting is that Nikki is a genius with biscuits, royal icing, cake and fondant and I’ve been dying for an opportunity to pick her brains and to work on a project together, so this was the perfect excuse!
We also both have little ones very similar in age, so with this project we had crafternoons and play-dates all rolled into one! Admittedly it wasn’t easy, Munchkin and her friend O liked to keep us on our toes! But after quite a few catch ups and some work alone once the little ones went to bed of an evening, we got them done.
When it comes to icing and piping work, I’ve not touched a piping bag in… years! And so when coming up with concepts my mind instantly went to things I felt I could help with. Then I remembered these amazing cookies I’d pinned a few years ago. I love the idea of using the cookie dough to create the image and then adding just a little icing for the details.
Detailed cutting and splicing I can do!
This is what I came up with. A series of woodland creatures including a fox, owl, hedgehog, squirrel and bear. All to be packaged up peeking out of a ‘tree trunk’.
Nikki mixed up a batch of each her (I’m told) delicious chocolate and vanilla doughs at home so as to avoid accidentally poisoning me with gluten, I was just very careful to wash my hands after handling the dough and definitely didn’t taste test it!
To make the cookies, we rolled the dough out using rolling pin guide strips so as to ensure all the dough was the same thickness, then put the dough in the freezer to harden up. Using templates created out of wax proof paper we’d traced, we then cut the hardened dough using a scalpel to get a nice clean finish (an X-acto knife would work just as well, just make sure you’ve given it a good clean first).
As fate would have it, we made these on the hottest days we’ve had this Summer! So we had dough cycling in and out of of my freezer making sure it all kept hard enough to assemble. We then spliced the pieces together, gently used our fingers to join the edges and baked them.
Unfortunately I had my hands so full of dough and babies that I didn’t get many photos taken during this process. But I’m going to re-create it with some gluten-free recipes and another template I’ve made to create a tutorial in the coming weeks.
This is what the owls looked like just before we baked them.
And this is what they looked like afterwards
Flash forward a few days, after we’d both completed cookies on our own (once the little ones had gone to bed) and we were ready to add the icing details! Nikki, whipped up some royal icing and after laying the templates underneath wax paper, traced the features in royal icing. It is a fabulous method I can’t wait to try myself, particularly as it allows you to keep going until you’ve created one you’re happy with before you apply it to the biscuit! Here’s some information on royal icing transfers.
We glued the eyes, beaks and noses down with some more royal icing.
The limit of my piping on this project consisted of using royal icing to glue toasted slivered almonds onto the hedgehog to give him spikes, and piping on the hedgehogs noses.
I think they turned out really cute.
Then I got to work making the packaging! I wanted to display them standing up and so made a box within a box. I glued the biscuits in using royal icing which allowed them to be transported without fear of them falling out of their peepholes. But if you wanted to you could add some acetate or clear plastic to the inside of the box to ensure your cookie is safe.
I’ve included all the templates in a PDF file at the bottom of the post if you want to try and make your own!
Here are the steps to put the packaging together.
You’ll need an x-acto knife, adhesive (I used a Pritt Stick) and 3 pieces of A3 card stock about 160 gsm or as thick as you can get through your printer.
I then used a little bit of tape to hold the lid in place. But a clear sticker or double sided tape works well too.
Here’s the finished packaging.
And here they all are just before they went to school to be given to some lovely teachers!
I had a fantastic time working with Nikki on this project. I can’t wait until we get to do another one
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.
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.
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.
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.
Increase (2 single crochet in the same stitch) = inc
Decrease (singe crochet decrease) = dec
Cotton yarn in at least two colours
3.5mm crochet hook
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
It’s that time of the year! That time when Spring arrives and all the shelves in every store are full of chocolate bunnies and pretty chocolate eggs. That time when we eat too many and then swear never to eat chocolate again.
As I’m something of an enabler when it comes to spoiling ones-self and others; and in order to aid with your chocolate consumption and gifting this year, I’ve made up a pretty little Easter bunny milk carton template that you can customise with the names of both the gifter and giftee… or you could just fill in your name in both spaces.
It’s quite simple and subtle, so it will allow your gorgeous gift inside to take centre stage.
Or simply print it off if you want them left blank.
The finished box is 9cm wide x 9cm deep x 13 cm high
It’s as simple as printing it out on A3 card stock, cutting it out, scoring along the dotted lines and folding.
Update: I’ve had a question about ‘card stock’. Sorry, I should have been clearer. Just print it out on the thickest card you can get through your printer. Anything about 160 gsm should work well.
Then use double-sided tape or paper glue to stick it together and you’ll have a super cute little box in a jiffy.
In the interest of full disclosure, the inspiration for this little design came from one of my favourite outfits for Munchkin. We bought it in Australia. It’s this beautiful little jumpsuit by Oeuf NYC. I love it so much I’ve plans to buy it in more colours and larger sizes so that she can wear them for as long as possible.
My templates and tutorials are free for personal use only
I don’t often share the work of others on this blog. But now and then I stumble across something that I can’t resist sharing with you, this is one of those things!
I haven’t made these paper pieces of fruit… yet. Primarily because Munchkin still has a habit of making papier mâché out of everything she can get her hands on. But they’re splendid!
I can’t help but think they’d make fabulous presents filled with candy, or put in a fruit bowl as a table decoration. I only wish I’d thought of the idea! Honestly, though, Mr Printables do some splendid work I’m exceedingly envious of. Go check them out here
It’s coming round to that time of year wherein I look at the calendar and panic. I’ve not even started to think about Christmas presents for friends and family, let alone creating an advent calendar. And this year is particularly difficult as I’m trying to do it all whilst sleep deprived and often with a Munchkin who won’t let me put her down. So this year, I’m remaking some of the advents I created last year and thought you might want to do so too.
So here’s a slightly revised Little Mr Robot advent blog post:
A friend of mine dropped into conversation that she thought that I sketch I’d done years ago would look rather cute as an advent calendar. So I spent a little time this week playing with it to see if I could get it to work. Et voilà!! Here is the result!
I’m not on bed rest (thank goodness!) but I have been ordered by my doctor not to do anything more energetic than a walk. Maybe she knows me too well… she specifically told me I’m not allowed to clean the house or start emptying cupboards. So I’m all ironed up and feel like I should be bouncing off the walls. But at 37 weeks pregnant, I’m fighting a persistent head/ chest cold and playing the waiting game… I’m continually tired and carrying what feels like an energetic and very uncomfortable bundle of elbows and knees.
Munchkin is running out of room and I’m running out of patience with being pregnant. But we have managed to get some stuff done!
We set up Munchkin’s temporary nursery. The rest of her furniture will arrive in a couple of months. But for now, we have everything she needs to start life. All of her clothes are washed and ready and she finally has her own space in the house which feels nice.
The reason we’re not overly worried about her nursery is that she’ll be sleeping in with us for the first few months. We’ve her Leander cradle all ready and waiting for her arrival.
On the days my brain works, and when I’ve not been trying to get all the paperwork etc together for Munchkin’s citizenship and passport or finding her a paediatrician, I’ve been playing with felt; making little shoes for Munchkin and for some friends who have recently had babies. I think I’m finally happy with the design. I love them in coral and grey! I now just have to work out the different sizings.
I can’t decide if I like the bows on the front or on the side. So I’m making Munchkin a pair of both!
We had a small get together with some of our friends on Sunday on the deck of my favourite gluten-free café in Cully. It wasn’t a baby shower in the traditional sense, but we really wanted to see our friends before we temporarily slip even further off the social scene after Munchkin arrives.
I wasn’t allowed to go all ‘Nicola’ on it. Frustratingly, all I was allowed to do was to book the space and to send out email/ Facebook invites. So it was a decidedly un-Nicola-like event, not a hot air balloon to be seen, but it was delightful nonetheless (DM soothed my ruffled feathers by reminding me that I have many, many future Munchkin birthdays and unbirthday parties to organise). And I have to admit, it was quite a novel experience not to have to worry about anything more than just turning up.
Munchkin received some seriously splendid gifts from our lovely and very generous friends. She already has a toy collection and wardrobe I’m envious of!
Some of our crafty friends had got together to create a gorgeous present for Munchkin. They each knit or crochet some panels and made them up into a beautiful baby blanket. They’d been sneaky enough to get DM to send them the colours I wanted for the nursery and in amongst the pretty patterns, they included a couple of sneaky geeky panels. One of a Dalek and the other of a storm trooper. It’s perfect and suits DM’s and my style exactly. I’m really looking forward to seeing Munchkin wrapped up in it.
I spent yesterday with my feet above my heart trying to get my swollen feet back to a size that would fit inside my slip on shoes and worked out this little pattern for a crochet aviators hat/ helmet for the little nephew we’re expecting in a few weeks. I then made another one for DM’s cousin who just had a little baby boy. I’m waiting for Munchkin to arrive so that I can custom make her one that fits perfectly.
I’m now 34 weeks pregnant and I’m feeling it! I look like I’ve eaten ALL THE CAKES and I’m now getting tired a lot earlier than usual. My social calendar has taken another hit as I find I’m needing more and more down time. But the Doctors say this is all normal and that Munchkin is perfectly healthy. So I’m slowly but surely working through the remains of my to-do list before Munchkin arrives.
This week I’m making her a cot quilt and trying to get the design for her birth announcements done. As I’ve never quilted before, I enlisted the aid of the lovely Lynne who is quite possibly the most prolific and fabulous quilter I’ve ever encountered. Under her expert tutelage I’m making fairly good progress and currently have only had to unpick about half a dozen triangles. I’ll keep you updated as to it’s progress and shall blog the finished product.
I’m also discovering that I get fairly strange cravings. After a horrendous night wherein Munchkin ensured I slept less than I thought was humanly possible, I found I was craving carbs and sugar. In particular I found myself feeling rather partial to one of my childhood favourites, pikelets, and so quickly whipped up a batch. They’re delicious! I used the recipe from the Common Sense Cookery book and substituted gluten-free flour for the normal flour. Voilà! Deliciousness on a plate! They’re perfect covered in jam and cream or slathered in salty butter. I’ve had to promise DM that I’ll make him some soon as I ate the remainder of them this morning for breakfast. For those of you who want to try them, I’ve put the recipe at the bottom of this post.
It was around about this point in time that my trusty old Brother sewing machine started spitting out small parts at me. Literally.
A little investigation revealed that these are in fact the pieces that turn the lights and power to my machine on and off. I can’t complain. The machine was my mothers before it was mine. And I know for a fact she inherited it from someone else. So it’s definitely seen it’s fair share of work and has travelled halfway around the world without grumbling, until now. The machine still works, I just have to power it on and off at the wall. And on the plus side it looks like I’ll be getting a new machine for my birthday! Any recommendations?
Gluten Free Pikelet Recipe
150 grams of gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons of gluten-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bi carb of soda
1/2 cup of sour milk or fresh milk plus 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon of melted butter
Sift flour, salt and soda
Place egg, milk, sugar and butter in centre of flour
Beat until smooth and a thick pouring consistency
Place a dessertspoonful into a teflon coated pan – cook until they brown, turn over and cook other side.