And we have a winner!

The voice of random.org has spoken, and the winner of the Cotswold company cushions is ….

Cotswold company vintage style cushion

Rhoda K!

Enjoy your cushions, Rhoda. I will be in touch with you to arrange to get them sent your way. And thanks to all those who entered.

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The playhouse grand unveiling

 

Well, this has been a long time coming. The playhouse

I have blogged about this playhouse so many times that I have only half-jokingly considered ditching any aspirations I once held to improve our own house, renaming the blog ‘www.rachel’splayhouse.com’, and then moving myself into it. The girls could have free run of our actual house, happily writing on the walls and causing mayhem, whilst I could live peacefully in the calm confines of the playhouse, making myself pretend cups of tea, and re-arranging the plate rack.

Before the renovation - the playhouse

I retrieved some old pictures from an old phone, and was pathetically pleased to find these ones of before I’d done any work to it at all. Here the playhouse is, all new and fresh, and wooden. (And here’s India, all small. Sniff.)

The playhouse interior - beforeAt this point, I would look at the playhouse and fondly imagine things like painting it, and making curtains, and finding furniture … and what with the demands of looking after two small people, and then being pregnant again… well, it all felt very far away.

In my last playhouse update I shared how I’d finished painting the inside. This time I can reveal that the whole blooming thing is just about done. I made curtains. I laid carpet tiles. I hung bunting.

Are you ready?

Here you go….

The playhouseHere’s what you see when you prepare to go in (and believe me, if you’re visiting me at home, then you’re going into the playhouse. If Rosa is around, she will INSIST on taking you in for a quick tour. If she isn’t there, then I end up forcing visitors in myself. Once, both my parents, and one of my sisters were found sitting in there all at once…)
What’s that? Did someone say ‘lovely curtains’? Did someone say, ‘Oh, look at the doormat!’?
Why thank you.

The playhouse interiorAfter my agonies with the laminated cotton, I found a shower curtain in Argos printed with butterflies, and bought two of them. Making the curtains was really simple, but I have promised myself to pull together all my photos and to write some detailed instructions and publish my first tutorial. Not here, though. This post is purely about showing off.

Playhouse curtainsWhilst I was doing my photoshoot, I was trailed by India, who was increasingly disbelieving that I wanted to take pictures of the playhouse and not of her. So she appears a few times here. I don’t mind too much as I can pretend she’s modelling it for me, and also because she’s rather gorgeous (she is, though, isn’t she?), and finally because she is in the ‘before’ pictures, so it feels appropriate somehow to show her in big reveal. Although her increased size does rather reveal how long this has all taken me…

But in the picture above you can see the curtains. We all love them. They are bright, and breezy, and just on the right side of girly whilst still feeling a bit modern. I don’t know how they will stand up to the damp of the great outdoors, but I reckon it will be the work of only a few minutes to unscrew the net curtain wires and to throw them in the washing machine on a hot wash periodically.

Playhouse curtainsThey are a little bit ‘bunchy’, especially here by the door where there is no real space for curtains to fit between the windows and the door itself. (It’s almost as if this playhouse was designed for playing in, not kitting out like a real house. Bizarre.)

Playhouse curtainsBut they actually close. And isn’t this all anyone could ever want from a pair of playhouse curtains? I felt it was desperately important they should actually close, and I was confirmed in this belief by the fact that when I finally (reluctantly) allowed the girls into it, they immediately closed all the curtains and left them that way. Which was pleasing.

Playhouse carpet tilesAnd look! I laid carpet tiles. They are slightly imperfectly put down (it was a voyage of discovery for me and the ‘stanley knife’ which I think I bought from a pound shop when I was a student). But I do think they look great, especially paired with the doormat which I bought on a complete whim at Homebase.

Playhouse climbing roseTalking of whims, on the same trip I also bought a climbing rose to climb up the trellis. I know it is indulgent. And I realise I will probably kill it. But I just love how it looks.

Playhouse interiorHere, you can see the whole playhouse scheme coming together. I went for pastels, which is not my usual aesthetic, and lots of white. The ill-fated laminated cotton did in fact make some lovely miniature bunting, which provided a great finishing touch when I strung it up. Pinks and blues, flowers and butterflies. Far too twee for me in the actual house. But here? Perfect.

Playhouse interiorAfter I first posted about the letters on the wall, they kept falling off. So I decided that the sticky dots I’d thought I could rely on were evidently not up to the job, and instead stuck the initials on with PVA. That seems to have done the job.

A blackboard for the playhouseI was slightly obsessed with the idea of having a blackboard in there, and unable to relax until I’d found one. On ebay, of course. Once it arrived, I painted the frame with one of the girls’ paintbrushes, and a matchpot that I found in the basement. I hadn’t thought it through massively carefully as I was trying to paint fast during Persephone’s nap. So it felt like lucky happenstance that the teal colour almost perfectly matched the teal of the blue butterflies on the curtains.

Playhouse plate rackTruthfully, the plate rack is still one of my favourite bits. Whenever I go in, I am unable to resist spending a few minutes hanging the cups up, lining up the spotted plates, and generally beautifying it. I am just so pleased with how it looks. And of course it helps to keep the teaset and other accoutrements tidy, which is a bonus.

Hooks for the playhouseI put up a row of hooks on one wall as well. I think I was having a bit of a rush of blood to the head. I couldn’t see any useful function for them until I noticed one day that Rosa had hung her stilts on them. Well. Every girl needs a row of hooks for her stilts, don’tcha know?

India loves the playhouseSo there you have it. Perhaps in an ideal world I would add a few more items of what I described as ‘naff homeware’. I think a small metal sign saying ‘home sweet home’ wouldn’t go amiss. A little picture of some kind. And I definitely plan to add a door knocker. And a small plaque for the house name, which will say, ‘The Play House, number XXa’.

But to all intents and purposes the playhouse is finally completed. I am thrilled with it. The girls love it. All my ideas and half-thoughts about how lovely it could look have been realised. And it is making our actual real house look scruffier and less complete by the day.

Perfect.

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Cotswold Company giveaway!

I am having a bit of a cushion moment. This might be because they are, in the parlance of interiors magazines, ‘a quick and economical way to freshen up your decor / add a pop of colour / ‘ etc. This might be because I am still spending much (although increasingly less) of my time making piles of them to prop my elbows on whilst I feed a baby. It might also be because our cushions are getting a bit old, and I have been wondering about getting some new ones. It might be because I have been watching friends of mine make some incredibly beautiful ones, and wondering whether I should in fact make some myself.

But surely the only thing that could be better than buying or making lovely cushions, would be to win some and get them for free?

Cotswold company vintage style cushionHurrah therefore for giveaways, and for the Cotswold Company who will send two of these vintage-style cushions to one of my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment, answering this question:

If you could decorate one corner of your house with any Cotswold Company product, what would it be and why?

Leave your answer in the comments below and we will select a winner 31st July 2013.

Good luck!

 

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Playhouse progress

I made some progress! I think I have started to see just a little light at the end of the ‘constant breastfeeding and never-ending baby and small child wrangling’ tunnel. For the last two Sundays I have occupied myself during daylight, and in a reasonably uninterrupted fashion, for a few hours at a time, with continuing my mission to do up the playhouse. And it looks fabulous, even if I do say so myself. And – my god – it feels fabulous to sense just slightly that I might get a little bit of my life back. (Even if I do spend that little time I have got back in doing stuff for the girls…)

So here is where we started.

Playhouse

Remember this? It was part-painted (the wall you can’t see here was still bare wood), and was tormenting me. The inside was, if anything, worse.

Playouse interior

This is where I’d got to last time:

Playhouse updateAs I described, I found two little sets of shelves, spray-painted them, and hung them up, then filled the larger set with a plastic teaset and some poundshop treasures.

Well, time went ticking on, and the playhouse was still quite a long way from the Playhouse of Dreams. So I decided it would be ridiculous to finish the playhouse just as the girls grew out of it, and finally squared up to the task ahead, wielded my paintbrush, and revisited the poundshop. And here’s where we are now.

The playhouse exterior paintedThe trellis is particularly lovely, isn’t it? There are two nice things about this trellis. One is that having white trellis on that exact place is EXACTLY what I’d imagined going on a blue playhouse. The second is that it really did come from the 99p shop, and when I saw it there for less than a pound I was stunned. It was as though my imagining had brought it into being. (I have since bought a rose to grow up it, but that’s for another post….)

I am also rather taken with the rainbow plastic thing that twists in the wind. It’s obviously objectively rather hideous. But here, somehow, it works. And turns from naff into sparkly and rainbowy and beautiful. Aren’t aesthetics odd things?

Playhouse potsThe 99p shop also yielded up various stick-y things, or ‘fun things to put in pots’. A beaded butterfly here, a jewelled flower pinwheel there. I agonised for ages about what to stick them in (sand? cement?) and in the end just filled up some pots with compost from the composter and stuck them in there.

Painted playhouse interiorAnd look – I finished painting the inside! It took a little longer than it looks, primarily because of all the fiddly bits of wood, and because I had to keep taking the windows apart in order to paint the frames. I can’t count how many times I have now unscrewed those little boxes holding the window dividers in. In fact, after the wood preserver, the exterior paint, the painting of the dividers, and the painting of the inside, I could count it, but I don’t want to.

But all that said, doesn’t it look fabulous? I don’t have much time for painting anything these days. So I had forgotten how lovely the experience of actually painting is. Dipping dark bristles into thick paint. The slap of the brush against the wood. The instantaneous transformation. I am, as I’ve said before, a big fan of spray painting things. The mistiness. The novelty. The way the colours build up gradually. But I’d forgotten the simple old-fashioned allure of brushwork.

I found the initial letters here on ebay. I wondered for a while what colour I should spray-paint them, then realised one day that since it was their playhouse, and their initials, I should let the girls paint them. So I got out their paints and let them loose, only involving myself to encourage them to paint all of the letter leaving no MDF blank (ok, and then painting the edges myself, in a slightly obsessive manner). I was feeling dead pleased with myself until I remembered that their paints are – of course – washable. Meaning not weather proof in any way. In fact, the opposite of weather proof. So I had to cover them in about ten coats of spray varnish. But they do look good now, don’t they?

Naturally I fretted a while over what order to put them up in. Birth order comes out as RIP (Rosa, India and Persephone) which felt a little morbid. ‘PIR’ felt odd, ‘IRP’ like… well, like a stifled burp, and ‘IPR’ too similar to ‘IPPR’ the thinktank. But that seemed the lesser of all evils in the end (not to mention highly thought of and beautifully left-wing) so I went with that.

130601playhouseinteriorNext up on the to do list are to mend the window, to put in carpet tiles, to find a small blackboard for the wall, make bunting and to make some curtains. And then I really think I might be done. I mean, please try to contain your excitement when I say it’s actually possible that I might FINISH something.

On the curtains topic, I will say more in detail in a future post. But remember this laminated cotton I bought for curtains?

Playhouse curtainsThe stuff that Rosa loved so much, she took it to bed with her? Sad to say it’s not going to work out. I cut out two curtains, wondering as I did so whether the material would not have enough drape. Once cut out, it was very obvious that they didn’t just ‘not have enough drape‘, they actually had no drape at all. Imagine, if you will, trying to make curtains out of corrugated cardboard.

I was bewailing this at my local sewing class (“What can I dooo? I can’t use normal material. It will get covered in mildew!”) when my friend Kath, genius that she is, suggested shower curtains. Of course! Shower curtains. So I’ve ordered some shower curtains, and will make curtains from those. And perhaps use the beloved laminated cotton to make a table cloth and bunting.

So it only remains for me to add that after a rather lukewarm reception to some of my house improvements (remember the reading corner? The letters ‘RIP’ would really be quite appropriate there), the playhouse ones have been nothing short of rapturously received. Once I started to paint, Rosa came and looked at my progress, and shouted, “Mummy, it’s going to look AMAZING!” then when I did some more, there was plenty of, “Oh WOW!”ing. And since then, whenever they can, both big girls demand that I open the back door, so they can vanish down to the end of the garden and play long involved games inside it with ‘pixie dust’ flowers from the tree.

A success, I think. Hurrah.

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The dormouse and the teapot – my grandmother’s teaset

My grandmother's teaset

I am a guest writer on the rather wonderfully named Dormouse and the teapot blog, writing about my grandmother’s teaset. You might have spied it on the shelves of our dresser in the front room. Well, here it is on a blog all about vintage, and tea, with an entry all of its very own. Please do stop by and have a read.

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Crochet flower shadow boxes

There are generally many house-related questions swilling around my head at any time. Questions like ‘what should I hang up on the walls in the bathroom?’ and, related to that, ‘if I hang pictures up in the bathroom, will the frames buckle and warp, and the pictures be ruined?’. ‘Should we spend a bit of money on replacing the floor and worktops in the kitchen, or is it throwing good money after bad and instead we should just hold out for our entirely new kitchen which will never happen will happen at some point?’ ‘What should I put inside the big square frames that I want to hang over the desk in the study?’

I suppose my old idea about ‘house dilemmas‘ is really just another way of framing a set of questions like ‘what shall I do about the alcove in the front room?’.

Could I crochet anything for the house?’ and ‘What on earth could I put in those shadow box frames?’

Crochet flowers in shadow box frames

Realising that I’m constantly daydreaming about big and small ways to improve the house is no surprise. The moment when two questions joined up together, and provided the answer to each other, was rather more surprising. Because, of course, the shadow box frames were in fact just crying out – crying out I tell you – to be filled with crochet flowers. So, in turn, the questions ‘How can I justify buying wool when we are supposed to be budgetting?’ and ‘What shall I spend these John Lewis vouchers on that my lovely friend has given me for my birthday?‘ met in my head, melodiously answered each other, and melted away into peaceful happiness.

The frames were a slightly rash purchase from Wilkinsons, which I made a’hrm-ahem years ago. I had thought that shadow box frames were always very expensive, so when I found these ones for not-very-much each, I instantly stacked up three of them. ‘Aha!’ I thought to myself, ‘Useful and cheap shadow box frames! I can use these for… for… well, for anything really. I’m sure something will occur to me.’

And then they moved into the frames pile. And there they stayed.

Then of course I learnt to crochet. Did I mention I’ve learnt to crochet? I love it. I have a real yen to make huge enormous piles of rippling rainbow blankets, but in the meantime, I’ve come to particularly love crocheting things that are very, very SMALL. Little roses, for example, are pleasingly pretty, easy to attach to brooch backs and clips, and can be hooked up if not in minutes, then at least within an evening. Discrete, realistic tasks are evidently the order of the day, and crochet flowers definitely provide that.

I was wittering on about filling the frames with flowers at my local woolcraft group when my friend Jo said immediately, “Oh, lovely! One flower for each of your girls. You could write their dates of birth in the frames, too.” And the idea was so simple and lovely and brilliant that I was very sorry a) not to have thought of it myself and b) suddenly sorry not to have gone for flower-themed names so each girl could have a flower that literally represented them.

Crochet rose in shadow box frameOf course a rose for Rosa was easy.

Crochet gerbera in shadow box frameThis one I have decided is a crochet gerbera for India. If only because I was pointing out a gerbera to her recently in a local cafe and she thought they were called ‘Ger-bleurgh!‘s which I found more than a bit amusing.

Crochet flower in shadow box frameAnd this one, well, I guess it’s ‘another lovely flower’. You can see in this picture how I backed each frame with rather pretty, slightly speckly, artist’s paper, torn from a pad that I used to draw pastel pictures on in a former life.

Group of framesPleasingly, I then found that the three small frames fitted so perfectly into our family arrangement of frames in the hall that it was as though they’d always been there.

130401hallAnd there you have it. You might notice we’ve finally replaced the lamp shades in the hall, and put up the paper stars that we had in our old house. The shades are from Habitat, and I adore them. I love how they mimic the stained glass star hanging up on the wall. And I always like things shaped like stars, in any case.

The pictures on the wall in the hall are fast becoming a collection of personalised, family-based artwork and images. This pleases me very much. (I have plans to add more to this collection, but they are at least partially under wraps at the moment, so I will blog more soon…)

And on that note, I will sign off. Pausing only to add that if you have wondered what the pinkish-reddish thing on the floor is, in the picture above, then allow me to let you know that it is a discarded sippy cup of milk. Of course. Of course it is.

Excuse me, I must go and tidy up.

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Kitchen corner

It was a long old time ago that I first began thinking about improving our kitchen corner. You might remember this post here. Even if it weren’t clearly dated, I would still know how long ago it was, because the coy reference I made in it to being a ‘bit under the weather‘ was in fact my being wracked by absolutely horrendous morning sickness, the result of which is currently 6 months old, and angelically asleep in her grobag upstairs.

Remember this corner?

Kitchen cornerThe wardrobe was bugging me, and accumulating rubbish. The whole thing had some potential, I thought, as a display place for children’s art. So I ebayed the wardrobe, flirted briefly with the idea of putting an old telephone box there, and plotted. My ideal of putting an easel in the corner, and painting a bit of the wall in blackboard paint, was rather thwarted by not going to Ikea to buy said easel, and by the double whammy of not being quite sure where our blackboard paint is, and not having the time to do any painting whatsoever.

So I decided to put stuff up on the walls. Of course. (Turns out I am a bit fond of doing this). And here’s how it looks now.
Kitchen corner      You’ll note the appliance on the floor. Turns out that a tumble drier, whilst not exactly essential to modern existence, is pretty damned handy when you have three children. My long-term plan is to convert the downstairs bathroom into a toilet room and small utility room, and the tumble drier can then find a permanent home there.
But for the moment here it is, churning out dry towels and bedding in industrial quantities and saving the day – well – daily.

IT all started with finding a way to display the copious amounts of art that the girls now produce. It’s been accumulating on the fridge, and looking a bit scruffy. I had decided on a clothes-line type solution, and planning to buy a curtain line from Ikea, when I suddenly decided I should, for once, stop putting off home decisions until after I’d been to the Swedish superstore of dreams, and instead just do it.

Children's artwork display

I decided to use ribbon, and hooks. I was half-resolved in this plan of action, then became totally determined after seeing two friends with clothes line-type set-ups in their houses (thank you Sarah, and Elli) and suddenly fearing that clothes lines with pegs and children’s art might be having a moment, and that I was missing out. I also reasoned that if I didn’t like it, it would be cheap to replace, and easy to remove.

And guess what? I love it. It does everything I need it to. I can quickly change around and remove the artwork, it holds art of all shapes and sizes, and it turns it into a bit of a feature rather than just clogging up the fridge.

My ribbon bag (have I mentioned my ribbon bag? I love my ribbon bag.) was stuffed with red gingham ribbon after a Christmas wrapping frenzy involving this, brown paper, candy canes, and tiny bells a couple of years ago. After spending far too much time thinking about different kinds of hooks,in the end I just used little cable clips to fasten the ribbon to the wall. I honestly can’t believe this didn’t occur to me before. They are so cheap as to be almost free, tiny, and basically invisible once I’d tied the ribbon in a bow.

Children's artwork, and platesThese pictures show the ribbons adorned with slightly sad, weather-beaten grey-brown wooden pegs. This was because I was on a roll, and not to be held back in my zeal by missing materials. So you will have to trust me (and await an updated photo) when I tell you that I have since ordered red and white polka-dotted pegs from ebay, and pretty splendid they look, too.

I am especially pleased with the plates above the ribbon display. For ages I’d been staring at these two empty walls whilst I ate, weighing up the relative benefits of hanging up my Rob Ryan plates there, or putting artwork up, when suddenly in a Damascean moment one day I realised I could in fact do both. I found these rather brilliant plate hangers which glue onto the back of plates, and promise faithfully not to fall off, and then just tapped little picture hooks into the wall and – voila!

Rob Ryan platesI have a complete soft spot for papercut art, and Rob Ryan’s is fabulous. My favourite plate reads, ‘Other planets cannot be as beautiful as this one‘. Perfect.

Once this was all sorted in my head, I just needed to decide what to do on the other wall.

Frame arrangementI spent quite some time arranging these frames on the kitchen table, trying to get a balance that looked right. I went through my frames pile and pulled out ones that were white or largely white, and then moved them around, and moved them around. It was frustrating as they were almost there,but not quite. I kept shifting, squinting, and shifting, when I suddenly let out a ‘Eureka!’ and ran upstairs, coming back down moments later with two small heart-shaped ornaments in my hand, to the visible bemusement of my husband.

Hanging heartsThe hanging hearts (originally in our bedroom, but since it was redecorated, awaiting a new home) were perfect.  They are pretty, light, and white enough to link in with the rest of the frames. I love the look of hanging up small items in amongst pictures, and on the right hand side they provided just enough balance to the rest of the frames. Once I added them to my kitchen table configuration, suddenly the whole thing worked.

MirrorThis mirror was a Christmas present years ago. It was on the wall of our old front room, and has been seeking a home ever since.

FramesThese picture frames I picked up in a second hand charity sale in my local church for a pound or two. They were a brassy gold colour, with old postcards in, but I spray painted them white thinking they’d come in handy one day. They need another coat or two, and I am not sure what photos I will put in them eventually (these pictures are just placeholders), but they are making me smile in the meantime.

Multi-aperture frameThis multi-aperture frame was another Christmas present, and like the mirror has been languishing in the ‘pile of stuff to be put on the wall’ which has been threatening to take over one corner of our study.

Modern printer's tray

This leapt into my hands when I was last in a branch of Tiger, and I bought it before I really knew what I was doing. My sister and father thought it looked like a dolls house (and in fairness, perhaps that is why I like it) but I think of it like a modern take on a printer’s tray. I’d like to fill it with very small, white things. I have a vision of a little tiny white teapot in it, and a tiny white silhouette of some kind. But as with the clothes pegs above, I also didn’t want to wait. So for the moment it contains one Barbie shoe, one fairy ornament, and not a whole lot else. I do like it, though. I like it on its own, but I particularly like how the square shapes of the tray mirror the boxiness of the multi-aperture frame, above.

wooden mouldingThis wooden moulding was from Cox and Cox. Since I bought it, in a moment’s indulgence, I have at various points planned to put it in almost every room in our house. It seemed for a while as if there were not one single space in our home that might not benefit from a random piece of moulded wood hung up on it, and I struggled to think how I would choose where to put it. But when I first hung the frames up, there was a space at the top. Like so:

A spaceAnd when Oli saw it, he paused and said, “Doesn’t it need something at the top?”
And I was annoyed with him, because I feel myself to be rather superior to him in matters of the home, so I snappily said, “No. Why?”

Then I looked at it again, and saw he was right. And this was somehow even more annoying. But once I’d admitted it to myself, and to him, I hung up the wooden moulding and we both relaxed a little. Ah! There it was.

Kitchen cornerAnd here it is. Our new kitchen corner. It is undeniably ‘busy’, but I think a certain kind of happy busy-ness will undeniably be part of our kitchen, especially whilst the girls are small. Whilst I keep being drawn to, and resolutely pinning pictures of beautiful, monochrome, minimalist kitchens on Pinterest, I don’t think that this look is necessarily either achievable or desirable for us right now.

Our kitchen has always had some blue in it, and lately also a bit of red. But in hanging up the printers tray, and the artwork, I started to see how our kitchen might look in the medium term if I can do it up a bit: a white background, white painted wood, with multi-coloured accents, largely of red and blue.

Delft houseAnother small pleasing thing in this corner: my KLM Delft house. I spotted a row of these at a local market, baulked a little at the price, and subsequently snaffled this one on ebay for about a fiver including postage. I confess that I have since bought one more, which is on its way to me.

KLM Delft house on plate rackFor now it sits alone on our plate rack, co-ordinating rather beautifully with our wedding crockery, and adding a little whimsy to our kitchen corner of lovely things.

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A labelling frenzy

I take it all back. In my last post about labelling things, I may have mentioned a blogger who made her own labels. And – I’ll confess – my tone may have been a little mocking. In fact, what I actually said was:

‘I had a good read of this blog (so happy! So very, very American!) where she gives lots of details about how to make your own labels. And as with so many detailed sets of instructions about how to do things, I found that all the various steps described (Excel! Print! Mount! Laminate!…) made me feel like putting away the laptop, and having a little lie down.’

Well, never let it be said that I’m not prepared to admit when I’m wrong. After putting the chalkboard labels onto the girls’ drawers, I had a bit of a rush of blood to the head. I looked around the whole house with label-obsessed eyes, and started to see the potential for labels almost everywhere. I started to wonder, in fact, whether the answer to everything (how to have a beautiful, organised, perpetually tidy house, and live a glamorous, and relaxed life, pottering about in wafty clothes, trailing a lovely scarf and the whiff of Jo Malone after oneself, instead of a trail of snotty tissues, and Disney Princess dolls in various states of undress) was in fact not baskets, as I’d previously suspected, but labels.

Sylvanian family label

Or maybe baskets with labels on them?

Ok, ok, ok. So I totally went back on my mocking tone last time, and threw myself into the spirit of home-made labels. I decided that labelling more receptacles in the girls’ room might have many benefits: the slight ‘Blue Peterishness’ of the labels would not look so out of place in a child’s room, the lettering could provide some early readng practice, and maybe labels that were easy to decipher might encourage the girls to do some tidying up themselves. (On which more later…)

hats labelI went the whole hog. I repented of my mocking words: I used Excel. I printed. I mounted. Reader, I laminated. I obediently followed all the instructions that my American friend helpfully posted here. In the end, I was so pleased with the result that I made several, and even once I’d put them up, I kept sneaking back into the girls’ room to admire them. That evening, I become a fully-fledged, paid-up, bona-fide labels geek.

bags labelI decided to label the Trofast drawers that were holding an assortment of the dressing up clothes.  I thought we might use them more effectively, too. So I started by empting them out and making some piles, and dividing those piles up into categories: hats (or rather, ‘headgear’ including tiaras, etc.), bags, shoes, etc. I decided that my labels should have large letters on them, plus a small image for the benefit of non-reading two year olds.

dressing up clothes labelI was particularly pleased with the backing that I found. A quick google for printables yielded this highly jolly design: multi-coloured triangles laid out in a way that looks rather like bunting. Remember the curtains in the girls’ room?

The girls' curtainsI like how the design seems to mirror that. And of course the bunting that is strung up above the dressing up clothes. It is perhaps a little excessive to match the design of the mounting paper of one’s labels to the fabric of one’s curtains, but nevertheless it is a small detail that gives me pleasure.

Dressing up clothes storage

So here they are in all their glory. Please excuse, as ever, the explosion of taffeta and polyester that is the hooks on the left. And also the drawers on the right are not quite complete: one drawer is downstairs, full of water beads for playing with, another is slightly cracked and its replacement depends upon our long-awaited trip to Ikea.

And the most surprising thing is – they work! I was upstairs this week looking for India’s shoes, realised that by some miracle they’d not been discarded in the middle of the floor… was looking around trying to imagine I was two, and wondering where I would put them…

shoes labels

Of course! I opened up the ‘shoes’ drawer and there they were, nestled alongside the glittery Mary-Janes, and the feather-bedecked Disney shoes. I was rather touched by the idea of India, in her room, looking about her for somewhere to place her shoes, noticing the label with the picture on it, and tucking them into the dressing up shoes drawer. Brilliant.

The only problem, in fact, is how to secure the lovely labels to the drawers. Currently, like determined little lemmings with a deathwish, they keep peeling themselves off and landing on the floor. The glue dots that I used to secure them to the drawers and the basket are evidently not quite cutting it. I could obviously just superglue them on, but am loath to as I’d like them to be peelable so I can change them around if necessary. Does anyone have any ideas?!

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The dolls’ bed

Just as I never intended for this blog to become a record of child-based home improvements, I similarly never intended for what few craft activities I do have time for to be solely those for dolls or made on a miniature scale.

But here we are. The time available for making stuff (I resist saying ‘crafting’. It sounds American. Not to say pretentious and a bit wrong) is very limited. And the benefits of making things that are small are manifold. They are fast! And cheap! And require little time or space. And mentally, they are easier to start, since they feel risk free. After all, if halfway through your double-bed-size patchwork quilt, you decide you’re not so keen on the design after all, you’re really in quite a bit of trouble. Whereas anything for a doll… well, as my friend Jo said, ‘Dolly doesn’t mind‘. And she’s right.

Dolls' bed In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Dolly (in this case, ‘Baby Isla’) looks rather snug and pleased with herself. As well she should, as she reclines upon a dolls’ bed that is spray painted, with a hand-made mattress, removeable sheet, pillow, pillowcase, patchwork quilt, and crochet blanket, if you please.

130401patchworkquiltI definitely didn’t start personalising this bed intending it to become some kind of kitsch handmade in miniature exercise. But I seem to have got rather carried away. Bear with me. To begin with, I started making bedding partly to personalise the bed (the fabulous value but rather plain Ikea dolls’ bed that almost everyone I know seems to own) but also in order to practise with my new sewing machine. I could remember vaguely how to sew, but didn’t want to start anything too scary or expensive until I felt more confident. Similarly, I had some hazy aspirations to make patchwork quilts, but didn’t know where to start. Sewing this little quilt was a great way of overcoming a mental hurdle and realising it was all quite simple, whilst also learning how to sew binding on,  how to quilt, and also a good way of making some mistakes in a place that didn’t really matter.

130401pillowcaseI was guided in my making by the memory, as ever, of what I would have liked as a little girl. I was in some ways, a serious and exacting child, so specifically, this meant no shortcuts. I covered the foam mattress with an old pillow case, then painstakingly sewed an elastic-cornered, removeable spotty sheet. (So far, of course, none of the girls has ever shown any interest in taking it off, or indeed done anything that betrays they’ve even noticed it is removeable…) In making the sheet, I discovered that there is a reason why sewing instructions say ‘press seams open’. Which was funny, as I’d evidently previously thought that they just put this in for fun. But I digress….

Crochet dolls' blanketAnd then I learnt to crochet. I went to a totally fabulous local course where a whole bunch of us learnt to crochet, and another group learnt to knit. The process of sitting down and focussing, coupled with being creative, and with learning a completely new skill and seeing it come on steadily every week (not to mention the chat, the tea and the cake), was so brilliantly therapeutic and enjoyable that I’ve signed myself up again next term to learn to knit.

I found myself wanting to crochet something, thinking of blankets, thinking of king size throws, musing on organic wool and bamboo/ cotton blends … and once again contemplating potential expense and time in slightly melancholy fashion. I also found I really wanted to make something with ‘granny squares’, but realised that I didn’t necessarily really like many of the things that are made in this design. And the answer to all of these things, naturally, was more dolls’ bedding.

There was another advantage, too, which was that I was pretty sure the girls would love it. I had started to notice how Rosa and India would consistently use the dolls’ patchwork blanket in their games, removing it from the bed and spreading it out on the floor as a ‘picnic blanket’ usually. But when it came time to tidy up, I would often retrieve it from some corner of the room where it had been tucked, and it seemed to me that they would enjoy having another blanket to use in their endless round of teddy picnics, and princess parties.

Crochet dolls' blanket

I followed a tutorial online to make a rectangular blanket as I felt very strongly that I didn’t want it to be square. The tutorial was a bit scary (alarming manicure, but perhaps I am too closed-minded about these things) but very simple. Once I’d done the rectangular centre, I could happily treble my way around and around and around, in a soothingly mindless way, in the car, in front of the TV, anywhere… I found there was something rather meditative about it.

Dolls' crochet blanketI am most pleased with the colours. Which is funny, really, since they were completely serendipitious. Which is to say, unplanned. I bought a bag of small rainbow odds and ends and just crocheted them together depending on what size the balls were, and whether I thought I’d have enough to do another round or not. I love them. I would never have combined these myself, but I not only like the way they look together, I also love how they go with the rainbow colours I already have on the dolls’ bed. This close up (above) is rather pleasing to me. Like a landscape of wool. Or a geometrically pebbly beach.

So there we have it. I learnt to crochet. I love it. I have added ‘make crochet things’ to the end of my long list of things I would like to spend more time on. The girls love it. Rosa spotted it as soon as I put it out, and gravitated towards it shouting, “Oh wow!” in what I can only describe as a highly gratifying manner. I do fully intend that at some point in the future, my entire house might be as beautifully appointed as this dolls bed. Perhaps my sofas will be piled high with crocheted blankets, my beds heaped with patchwork, and lovingly covered with handmade sheets.
At some point.
Maybe.

Until then, a bientot.

 

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Sorting and labelling

 

Labelled drawer

      I do love to sort things out. But it’s a sad fact that things which are sorted out have a strange tendency to un-sort themselves. For ages I have happily blamed Oli for this, accusing him of spending his time purposefully undoing the lovely storage and sorting systems I have created.

But it occurred to me recently, as I was hauling open a drawer, and wondering whether the pyjama bottoms in it belonged to Rosa or to India, that actually, it may not be entirely his fault. And I realised (with the kind of flash of inspiration that I seem to be reserving for the blindingly obvious at the moment. I blame baby brain) that in a house of two adults, three children, and one cleaner, it is just NO GOOD organising things if the receptacles into which they are organised are only recognisable to me. It’s not helpful. If I forget which is the basket for the charity shop, and which is the shelf for the single sheets as opposed to the double sheets, then what hope does anyone else have?

I realised that from here on in, labels would be my friend. And I turned my attentions firstly to the chest of drawers in the girls’ room.

Chest of drawers beforeRemember this? It was no longer needed by my aunt and uncle, and gratefully received by us. The drawers are just a little bit ill-fitting, and in an ideal world, I would like to paint it, perhaps a funky colour like a leafy green, or bright turquoise. But here we are in our less than ideal world, the time available to me for repainting is precisely zero, and it has ten lovely drawers to hold tonnes of clothing belonging to small children. Perfect.

Chest of drawers beforePerfect, that is, apart from the constant question about what belongs where. Not helped by my periodic reorganising of the drawers, as the quantities of different types of clothes ebb and flow, depending on the vagaries of growth spurts, hand-me-downs and the Boden sale.

I had a good read of this blog (so happy! So very, very American!) where she gives lots of details about how to make your own labels. And as with so many detailed sets of instructions about how to do things, I found that all the various steps described (Excel! Print! Mount! Laminate!…) made me feel like putting away the laptop, and having a little lie down. Besides which, I knew that I would want to change things around so I needed something that was, if not exactly temporary, certainly easy to change.

Chalkboard labelsSomething nagged at my memory, and I returned to my pinterest boards where I found the answer. Chalkboard labels! Of course. I could stick them on the drawers, buy a chalkboard pen (who knew such things existed?) label the drawers, and just wipe the labels and change them around if I needed to. A quick hunt found me some from a UK seller, here on ebay, and I was away.

Labels in progressObviously even with such a small job there was a problem with all this. And that problem is rather beautifully illustrated by poor Persephone’s cross face in the picture above, namely the constant presence of various small children. But I managed to distract the children, write the labels, and stick them onto the drawers.

Chest of drawers afterI love them. I can’t say how much I love them. I think the flute-y shape of the labels is inobtrusive, but attractive. And although I just used my neatest ‘maybe I should have been a primary school teacher‘ writing on them, I love the way it looks. In my generally optimistic way, I wonder whether the labels will give Rosa a bit of extra, purposeful reading practice, too?

LabelsWhat they will definitely do is make the job of putting clothes away rather faster for me and Oli. So in essence they look good, are highly functional, and will save us time. I call that a win-win.

India approvesAnd after some hesitant enquiry (“What you doin’?” …) India has decided she approves as well.

Result.

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