Thursday, 1 March 2018

Embracing the snow and having creative fun while we're at it

Well, it's been a somewhat frustrating week so far! The Beast from the East, as the current weather pattern has been branded, has been making itself well and truly known in Comfy Marmalade land, resulting in postponed meetings, work and visits, lots of slipping and sliding, and the first snow day at the children's school in eighteen years.  As a result I have a couple of extra companions today, which has been lovely and frustrating in equal measure!

Photo taken in our back yard yesterday - we have another couple of inches now

Our front garden this morning - the bushes look like they've been covered in icing!

As I look out of the window there's still snow in the air, although admittedly it's difficult to tell if it's fresh stuff or just flakes being blown around in the wind -  wind which is making the already minus degrees temperature feel even colder.

The church opposite our house always looks beautiful, but more so in snowy weather

This is the view from one of our attic windows - how pretty?!
The Husband took this photo on his travels earlier today - look at those amazing icicles! He estimates the longest ones were about 10 feet long!

And in a house the age of ours, a breeze is seeping in through gaps I hadn't even realised existed - so we're having to choose our spots carefully - and it's also whistling down the chimneys. The crocheted blankets are out in force and will have been well used by the end of the day I'm sure.

Multiple blankets? Check.
Haribo mix? Check.
Captain Underpants on DVD? Check.
This is how we roll on a snow day...

The kids are keen to go out in the snow later - we have a cracking little hill close to us, kind of a training slope size, and they're hoping to get the sledge out and have some fun. Personally I hate being out in the snow - love to look at it, hate being in it. I just get really cold very quickly - I have terrible circulation and my fingers and toes go like blocks of ice. It was bad enough when I was a child, running around and playing, but since becoming a parent sledging invariably means a lot of standing around and making sure the kids are safe, and I end up cold to the core. Oh joy. Maybe just for half an hour...

Just you dare...!

These past few days I've had to cancel a visit to a local yoga session with a friend (I'm determined, again, to try and crack yoga and apparently this class is a really good one), a visit to a very eco-aware pal to pick her brains on all things environmentally friendly, in an effort to implement some of her strategies in our own household, and an evening out with my good buddy who lives in the town next to ours. The museum and art gallery at which I volunteer is closed today due to the severe weather, and my craft class last night was also cancelled. I feel like I've been snowbound for days!

So, what to do? Well, in addition to the dull stuff (washing, hoovering, dusting), it will not surprise you to learn that I've been a little creative...

A week or so ago I saw a panel of amazing fabric on JaneFoster's Etsy website.  It wasn't her own design, in fact it was some vintage Swedish Katvig material from her private collection that she was selling

I couldn't resist this beautiful fabric from Jane Foster's Etsy site

It wasn't the cheapest, but it was a good price for what it was, and I had some Christmas money to spend... the fabric arrived at the end of last week and it is as beautiful in real life as in the photograph - the pattern, age and colourway of the fabric are all right up my street.

I was tempted to frame it but decided instead to put it to another use. The fireplace in our bedroom can be quite drafty (especially this week!) and a couple of years ago I purchased this wooden fireguard at a local charity shop for no more than a couple of pounds.

A lovely fireguard - and the perfect size - but not to my taste. Ripe for recycling...

The green tiles are original - sadly some of them (hidden under carpet and general muckiness) were beyond repair, and so I've filled the space left with a variety of mismatched ones.  A friend made the red ones which I painted; I made the small silver ones, I bought the creamy coloured one from Hebden Bridge and the others were charity shop finds

It fits perfectly into the space, but I wasn't overly enamoured with the embroidered panel - I appreciate the craftsmanship but it isn't really my thing at all. Over the years I've placed an insert over the embroidery and covered if it various fabrics, but I've never found one that I'm completely happy with. Until now...

I realised that the fabric piece was just the right size for the fireguard, in fact I didn't even need to cut it down; even better, the colours of the material beautifully complement the original green tiles of the hearth that we managed to rescue from under layers of carpet and gunk when we first moved in (sadly not all of them were salvageable and, as you can see,  I've gradually replaced the damaged tiles with a patchwork of clashing and colourful ones, both homemade and shop-bought).

I cut a piece of strong cardboard to the size of the panel and wrapped it in some thin wadding. Then I covered the wadding with the fabric, securing it on the rear with fabric glue, and pinned the panel in place in the fireguard using white headed pins which you can hardly see against the fabric.  And here's the end result!

Ta-dah! Apologies for the photo quality, the light there is not great most of the time. But you get the general gist, right? 100 times better than it was - I love it!

A wider shot for you

I'm so, so happy with it - it totally pushes all my creative and aesthetic buttons - colour, pattern, era... and it looks fantastic alongside the various items that sit atop the fireplace.

I've also been crocheting more of these blessed squares, out of which I am determined to create a single bed sized blanket or possibly something a little bigger.

I'm a third of the way there...!

The squares are mega-easy and relatively quick to make, and are ideal to produce when in front of the TV or at my craft class as they take so little concentration.  However, after making nigh on thirty of the buggers I'm losing the will to live and I still have around sixty to go… I think for now I'm going to have to put them on the back burner and pick them up again as and when I can drum up the necessary enthusiasm. At the same time, I'm impatient to get the blanket finished, which might provide me with the impetus to pick up the hook again and carry on.

Last Sunday I spent literally hours creating outfits for the Girl and Boy to wear to school for this year's World Book Day celebrations. Which is today. Which is a snow day. Cue one rather hacked off 6-year old this morning when he realised he wouldn't need to dress up today.  I'm hoping that the school may have their WBD celebrations a little later than most, probably next week, so that the kids aren't too disappointed (and so that all of my hours of slaving over a hot sewing machine won't have been for nothing).

The Boy decided that he wanted to go as the penguin from Oliver Jeffers' Lost and Found, which was relatively easy to make - I found an orange jumper in a charity shop for 99p, turned it inside out and used the material to fashion a beak, covers for his shoes and a splash of colour for the top of his white chest, which was made from an old sheet.

Oliver Jeffers' amazing and beautiful Lost & Found - the Boy decided that he wanted to be the Penguin from this book for World Book Day. An inspired choice I think.

If/when the time comes they'll be attached to his black top and jeans and, if I can find our facepaints, I'll give him some black cheeks too.

The Girl chose to go as Hetty Feather from the Jacqueline Wilson books.

Hetty Feather, the Girl's choice of World Book Day costume

For those unfamiliar with the stories (I raise my hand) she's a child from late 1800s who wears a distinctive outfit with brown dress and a white hat, apron and pointed collar type thing around her neck. This was much more difficult to make as I had to fashion all the white elements of the costume from scratch, making up my own pattern for each. After much sweat, tears and a not insignificant amount of swearing, I finally finished just before tea time, feeling smug that I'd got it sorted before the weekend was done. Wish I hadn't bothered now…!  I realise that you can buy all manner of costumes in shops and online, and while I totally understand the convenience of buying outfits I try to view it as a last resort, primarily because I feel the big companies have latched onto WBD as a major money spinning exercise, and I'd rather keep my cash and try and be a bit more creative, even if it does stress me up to the hilt.

I've also had some homework of sorts this week. A lovely and very generous friend of mine has kindly offered to try and enlighten me in the dark art of Adobe Illustrator, as I have an idea of how I might expand on the Comfy Marmalade brand. Put simply, Illustrator is a computer programme that allows artists and designers to create images. I've worked with similar software before and was relieved to find that a lot of my skills are transferable to this particular programme, but it's still been somewhat of a steep (but hugely enjoyable) learning curve. Lesson One was completed last weekend; Lesson 2 is to take place early next week, and so my homework has been to fiddle and faff and generally try and work out exactly what Illustrator is capable of, and whether or not I can achieve what I want to achieve by using it. So far so good… it's very early days but I'm enjoying dappling and dipping my toes into it. I sketched this bird…

Here's my original sketch, roughly drafted onto standard white paper with standard HB pencil

…and then scanned it into the computer and manipulated it until I came up with this little cutie…

How about this? What do you think? I think he's really rather cute! It's witchcraft I tell ya...

Not bad for a first attempt methinks. I'll keep you posted on progress.

Looking out of the window again and the snow appears to have stopped falling. Or at least stopped swirling. For now. Maybe it's time to drag the kids out of their PJs, into their snow clothes, and get out in the white stuff and enjoy ourselves. Or maybe we'll just snuggle under the blankets with hot chocolates and watch a DVD. Maybe we'll do both. I feel we should be making the most out of this snow day. After all, based on their school's record, there won't be another one for another eighteen years…

Bye for now xx

PS: we did venture outside. It was cold. I didn't like it, but the kids had fun for half an hour!

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