How to Survive the Summer Holidays

The summer holidays are nearly here. Boy 3 has had his last ever day at nursery and Boys 1 and 2 break up next Wednesday. Although I’m looking forward to it, I am going slightly cross-eyed at the thought of keeping 4 little boys aged 8, 6, 4 and 1 entertained and myself sane for 6 weeks.

For me it is not about finding endless activities to march them too, but helping them to find a rhythm that does not revolve around school. It’s achieving a balance between organised stuff with me and playing independently, being active and being quiet, being outside and being indoors, being out and about and being at home. Boy 1 particularly finds this very difficult as he likes routine and he’s so used to school he struggles with having a lot of free time. Yet they all need time to forget about school, reading books, homework, spellings, and SATs. They need time to play, read, run around outside, ride their bikes and just be kids.

Just as finding a balance can be hard for them, I need time to get stuff done. I don’t want to be policing fights or having to yell at them for running round and round in circles in the front room, shouting “fart” at the tops of their voices, or barking at them for trashing the place. If we are to survive the summer holidays, we need a plan.

So this is what I plan to do. I don’t know whether it’s going to work, we’ll have to wait and see!

We’ll have one trip out a week, probably to the beach or to the woods, as they are both free and accessible by bus.

I’l have one activity planned for them to do with me. This will include:


Art/crafts/science, like painting stones, origami, making finger puppets, helping me by making stuff for my ebook, making kites, making a water wall, making it rain in a jam jar. I’ve collected some ideas on a Pinterest board here.

Going to the library. Our nearest library has a reading challenge for primary aged children.

Going to the park.

Going out on bikes or for walks.

I’m also aiming to have an outdoor activity set up for them. I’m assuming the weather is going to be nice! There are ideas on the same Pinterest board, including:



Painting with ice cubes

Ice cube sculptures

Rescuing lego people from ice.

Cars in shaving foam.

Rainbow foam

Bubble blowing



Paper aeroplanes

Play dough. There’s a great recipe on Imagination Tree, and lots of other good ideas too.

I’m also going to have an indoor activity set up, like:

One of the Playmobil sets

Lego, maybe car building bits or house bits, or a road mapped out on base plates.

The wooden trainset, partially built so they can finish it off

A box of toys out that that they haven’t played with for a while.

I’m also going to make an I’m Bored jar. There are lots of ideas for these on Pinterest! I’m going to write the activites onto lolly sticks so that I don’t end up with paper all over the floor and extra hoovering! Ideas I’m going to include are:

Read a book

Read a book to somebody else

Build a den

Find something to do in the art cupboard

Draw a picture

Make a book

Have a bug hunt in the garden

Do a job to help Mummy and earn 10p

Play Top Trumps

Make your own Top Trumps (my boys love Top Trumps!)

Do a puzzle

Make the Playmobil people go camping in the garden.

Hopefully this will be enough to keep everybody sane!

If you like to write stuff down on a pretty planner, there is a gorgeous one here on Brocante Home.

What are you planning to do to keep your children amused?

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A Complete Outfit from Just One Pattern – New Look 6571

It’s been a while since I’ve made anything from a pattern. Since the wrap dress that didn’t fit debacle, I’ve been put off. I’ve found anyway that as long as you keep it simple, it’s fairly easy to make clothes without a pattern.

Anyway, I was reading Sewing World a few months ago and there was an offer that I couldn’t ignore, so I sent off for the patterns. I particularly like this one, New Look 6571, because for my £2.95, I got patterns for 2 tops, 2 dresses and a skirt. Bonanza!IMG_1901

I searched for fabric for ages. I really liked the fabrics used to make the one the model on the packet was wearing but, although I could find pink jersey easily enough, I couldn’t find anything close enough to the skirt fabric that would go with the pink. So I went with brown and turquoise instead.IMG_1903

I did have some concerns as the pattern stated jersey fabric and the only other time I have tried sewing with jersey I ended up giving up as it was horrible. The other thing that set alarm bells off in my head was when I noticed that this pattern was classed as “easy”. In my experience, sewing stuff from “easy” patterns results in clothes that are shapeless and sack like in form. I also do not really agree that making something out of jersey fabric is going to be easy.

I started with the skirt and, to be fair, it was easy! It has an interesting shape which justified it requiring a pattern, but it only has two pieces and the waist is elasticated. The jersey fabric I had bought was not too stretchy and having a sewing machine that has special stitches for knit fabrics made it possible to sew it up. There is a little bit of puckering in the hem, which wouldn’t pass muster on the GBSB, but I was pleased with the result.IMG_1899

The tops unfortunately did not go to well. I had huge issues with the measurements on the back of the pattern. Having had 4 kids and a fondness for cake meant that when I checked my measurements, I was a size 16 in the top part but off the end around the middle! I did think this was a little odd. Usually when I buy clothes a size 14 fits just fine.

I decided to make the vest top in a size 16 and hope for the best. The fabric was stretchy and there’s always control underwear, right?! So I made it up. It was fairly easy. The straps were trickier and I have learnt a technique by doing this! When I tried it on, it was too big! In fact, it was massive on me!! I took 2-3 cm in at the top of both the side seams and it’s still a bit too big. The straps keep slipping off too, so I’ll need to adjust them.

As a result, before embarking on the wrap top, I checked my measurements again before cutting the pattern bits down so that the top part was size 14 and the rest size 16. But guess what, it’s still too big! It needs taking in at the sides and the sleeves keep slipping down. I don’t really know how to fix this. I might try taking the back seam in a bit. And it looks shapeless, although it might me that’s shapeless as it looks alright on Betty!IMG_1898

I’m going to attempt to sort it out, but I am a little bit annoyed. I cut the pieces out accurately, stuck to the seam allowances and I was worried that it would be too small. I did not think I would end up with something too big.

Well there we go. I like the skirt. I might have a go with some different fabric, maybe cut on the bias. But the tops! Grrr!

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A Mummy Oasis in the Garden

My boys love to play in the garden. I love them to play in the garden too! It gets the noise out of the house and it gives them a chance to burn off some energy.

I often forget that a few years ago the boys couldn’t play out there. It was quite overgrown and the roof on the ex greengrocer’s shop, known as “the garage” (although no car has ever been parked in it) was dangerous and falling in.

A few years further on and the garage roof has been taken down, opening up the space along the side of our house. The garden has been attacked and the triffids brought under control. Plants and paving slabs have been moved and it’s now starting to look like I want it too. It’s still a jungle but it’s under control!IMG_1853 The boys bought themselves a swing/ slide/ tree house thing with birthday and Christmas money they had been saving up, and I got them a little trampoline last year after I had something published in a book and, being mostly over the pram addiction, wanted to to spend the money on something they would enjoy. The area where the garage was has hard standing, so the boys like to ride their bikes and scooters and trucks up and down it.

So it’s great! The boys have space to play, things to play on and there’s lots of green junglyness for me to enjoy. There was no adult designated area, but it didn’t occur to me that I needed one. That was until I found a blog post about making a mummy oasis in the garden here at Making Lemonade. So I set about making one in my garden!

It took only a few minutes and has cost me no money, except for the seeds which I had been planning to buy anyway. The chairs we had already. They were given to us about 10 years ago by somebody we knew who was moving to a flat with no garden. They’re a bit tatty but suprisingly comfortable! I moved them into a neglected corner of the garden where the raspberries grow.IMG_1847 I found a trellis in the garden, but in the end I decided to nail the pots to the fence. We don’t have an Ikea near us and I’ve no idea where I would get such lovely pots and hooks to hang them up. The pots I used are plastic ones I found in the shed. I painted them with acrylic paint I already had (bought cheaply from somewhere in internetland!), the nails and compost I also had in the shed. I bought some seeds and most of them have come up, although some drowned in a spell of very wet weather!IMG_1852 I have pots with sweet peas, which I love, and a lavender plant in a pot, so I’m surrounded by things that smell lovely!IMG_1850IMG_1849 My “after” looks more like her “before” but I am happy to have a little area of mummy calm in the garden. I’m looking out for a little table. There’s a second hand furniture store near us which is a little goldmine! The chairs could probably do with some cushions. I’ve got plans to make some, possibly out of ripstop so it doesn’t matter if they get rained on.IMG_1846 Do you have a mummy oasis in your garden?

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An Apron Tutorial

IMG_1860The observant among you may have noticed from my photography that my house is a bit of a tip. I’m not really one for the housework and there are six messy people living in my house. However, being neither a student nor a slob, I don’t especially want to live in a messy house. So the answer for me has been to load my kindle with books telling me what to do! I have recently read Scrumptious Treats for Vintage Housekeepers followed by The Art of Housekeeping and I’ve discovered that there is a blog as well,!

The general idea in both the books is that the manky jobs need doing but we can make them less objectionable by our attitude, by breaking them up with jobs the author describes as “puttery” which make our homes nicer but are not boring or manksome, and by taking care of ourselves just as we would if we were athletes or prize racehorses.

An example might go like this. Before cleaning up wee stains off the floor, put on a pretty apron. Clean up the wee and give the loo a once over with some cleaning djollop (yes that is how you spell djollop) you made yourself that smells lovely, then pick some flowers from the garden and put them in the bathroom, then have a cup of tea in a pretty China cup. I almost want to clean up wee just thinking about the putteryness that goes with it!

So I needed an apron. I have a bright pink one that says yummy mummy. I don’t think so. I now also have a pretty blue one that I actually like.

Here’s a little apron tutorial to show you how I made mine. I am a chunky size 14 and 4 kids and a fondness for cake has left me with no waist. You might need to adjust the dimensions a little bit.

1. Cut 2 rectangles, one 56cm x 39cm and one 110cm x 64cm. If your dimensions are different, you need the skirt piece to be twice as wide as the top part. Cut three more rectangles 14cm x 55cm. These will become the ties and the loop that goes around your neck.

2. Take the larger rectangle and sew 2 rows of long stitches along one of the longer edges. Pull the threads to gather it until it is the same width as the top piece.

3. Fold the top piece in half width ways. With a piece of chalk draw a j shape on the open side. This will give some shape to the top of your apron. Cut out.IMG_1682

4. Sew the skirt piece to the wide edge top piece, underneath the j.IMG_1680

5. Using bias tape, bind the raw edges at the top and the sides of your apron. You might wish to bind the bottom as well. I did not because I didn’t have enough tape, so I hemmed the bottom instead.IMG_1776

6. To make the ties and the neck loopy thing, fold one of the strips in half lengthways. Press, then open out. Fold the raw edges into the middle and press. IMG_1779Fold the strip in half so that  the raw edges are enclosed inside. Press again and sew.IMG_1777 I folded one end of the tie into a point. If you don’t want to do that, just tuck the raw edge inside.IMG_1780 Sew. Repeat for the other ties.

7. Attach the ties to the top part of the apron, just above where you joined the skirt, at the bottom of the j.IMG_1859

8. Pin the ends of the neck loopy thing to the top of the apron. Try it on and adjust the neck loopy thing until it is the right length and in the right place on the top part of the apron.IMG_1864

9. If you want to make a pocket, cut a rectangles your main fabric and another the same size from the fabric you want to use to line it. Put both rectangles together and fold in half. Round off the bottom corners.IMG_1854

10. With the right sides together, sew along the sides and the bottom. Trim the seams and turn out. Use a piece of bias binding to finish the top edge.

11. Position the pocket on the skirt of the apron. Top stitch around the sides and the bottom.IMG_1861

IMG_1862IMG_1863Your apron is finished! Happy housework everybody!


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A Spring Green Wrap Dress Without a Pattern

IMG_1743A few weeks ago I decided to make myself a dress in bright spring green. Winter was definitely over and I was bored with my wintery things.

Last time I made a wrap dress I used a pattern. Unfortunately, despite buying what I thought was the right size, it was too small! So annoying. I managed to make it fit by unpicking the darts and patching in some extra bits but I was far from happy. Not least because the pattern people had made me feel like a fatty.

So this time I threw caution to the wind and attempted to make a wrap dress without a pattern. I bought four metres of cheap polycotton so that if I messed it up it wouldn’t be an expensive mistake! Here’s what I did.

I cut 2 large triangles for the front using Betty, my tailors’ dummy, as a guide, and added some darts to give it some shape.SAM_7284 I pinned the bits onto her, then cut a rectangle of fabric and pinned it onto her back. Matching up sides and shoulders, I drew on the shape for the back. I folded it in half so that both halves would match! SAM_7280Then I cut it out allowing for seams. The length of the skirt was dictated by the amount of fabric I had left. I remembered from the GBSB about the grain of the fabric running down the centre front and back and cut pieces with a bit of a curved edge. SAM_7350The back is one piece as are each of the front pieces. I sewed the skirt pieces together. To attach the skirt to the bodice I matched the side seams and pinned in place, then added a little pleat at the back, hoping it wouldn’t make me look like I had an enormous behind!SAM_7354 I decided that I wanted a bit of a frill, so after hemming the front edge I folded the edge over and back on itself a couple of times, pinned then sewed in place. I cut the bottom of the frill off so that it didn’t dangle below the edge of the skirt.

To finish the bodice off, I made bias strips and attached them all the way round. I made some extra strips for ties and attached a hook and eye on the inside.

To make the sleeves, I used this tutorial I found at I would never have thought of making sleeves this way, it was so easy! SAM_7365Unfortunately my arms are a little bit dinnerladyish and one of the sleeves seams broke the first time I wore it. I might just take the sleeves off and bind the armholes. Or do what I have been doing and wear the dress with a rip in the sleeve area. Classy.

When I tried the dress on it didn’t fit very well. I’ve discovered that I am now thinner than Betty. Yay! It was a little bit annoying about the dress though. With some help from Husband, I made a couple of little tucks and now it fits. To disguise the mess, I made a lovely ruffly flower. I love wearing clothes I’ve made myself. I know that there’s almost no chance that i’ll bump into somebody wearing the same outfit :) Continue reading

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