Monday, 29 April 2013

Kids' Clothes Week Project 3: Aprons big and small

I promise I finished this project during Kids' Clothes Week. Two days ago, in fact! It's just that circumstances conspired against me so that I couldn't photograph the aprons on actual children, and if you've ever tried to photograph an apron you'll know that it looks pretty unimpressive when it's not being worn.

So - the details of this very simple project:

Pattern: None. Vaguely copied (reducing considerably) an adult apron, then vaguely copied (enlarging slightly) a child's apron made a few years ago. Decided against adding pockets - could see myself finding disgusting bits of old food in them when doing the laundry after cooking sessions. Used D-rings on neck straps so they are adjustable - hate it when aprons hang too low (as K's does anyway. Must adjust it.)
Fabric: Drill from Spotlight. The children adore it.
Size: One big, one small.

And that's my final KCW project for this season. Now for some cooking!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Kids' Clothes Week Project 2: Red Geranium with an invisible zip

Pattern: Geranium dress from Made by Rae
Fabric: Three Cats from my stash
Size: 3T (for a very slim 5-year-old)

Every year or two when my dad visits from Cape Town I get him to bring me a couple of metres of Three Cats shwe shwe, a sturdy printed cotton fabric used in South Africa to make women's clothing for traditional ceremonies as well as everyday dress. When I was a little girl I had skirts made of shwe shwe, and I love that I can now make clothes for my own daughter in similar fabrics.

For this geranium dress I used some of my special stash of Three Cats and decided to put a zip in the back instead of the buttons, as I wasn't completely happy with the way the overlap worked at the back of the last one I made. I'd used invisible zips a while back for a couple of Amy Butler skirts so - knowing that the instructions do work, despite the completely counter-intuitive method required - I pulled out the pattern and used the instructions for the dress. I like this closure a lot better than the buttons, as it's neater and doesn't catch on R's long (and tangly) hair. Plus I saved myself at least half an hour's work as I am quite possibly the world's slowest and most indecisive button-chooser.

I love the dress but I'm kicking myself as I was so distracted by modifying it to add the zip that I completely forgot to put in the white piping I had prepared for the bodice. While not quite as frustrating as last year's KCW linen dress debacle, this was still extremely irritating, especially as I only have myself to blame... On the positive side, though, the fit is perfect and all the dress cost me was the price of the zip. And a tiny piece of my sanity.

I showed R where the 'secret' pockets are, but she still struggles to find them!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Kids' Clothes Week project 1: DMK coat

Got off to a bit of a late start with KWC due to preparations for R's birthday party. Last time round I did some preparations beforehand - planned projects, cut out patterns, chose fabric etc - but this time I've basically done nothing. In fact, the only reason I have something to post today is that I made this coat some weeks ago, then failed to finish it off as the party took over. So, not strictly speaking a KCW project, but having worked on it for an hour last night (30 minutes to find the matching thread I'd been using; 10 minutes to find the buttonhole foot; 20 minutes to sew buttonholes and buttons) I'm just going to say it qualifies.

I love the old-fashioned styling and the fit of the coat on R; it's a little roomy, but that's what I was aiming for. The DMK pattern is very simple and I'm extremely tempted to make another coat in wool, only I've never used wool fabric before and I'm concerned about how well it would wash. Thoughts, anyone?

Pattern: Dear My Kids stylish double-breasted coat
Fabric: Cotton duck lined with quilting cotton (both from Spotlight)
Size: 4T

Monday, 22 April 2013

A rainbow birthday party

The past week has been a bit crazy around here, with preparations for R's rainbow-themed 5th birthday party taking up most of my time. Once I did the calculations and worked out that we had invited 19 children, 6 grandparents, 5 other adult relatives plus the many mums and dads who would most likely stay for the party, I had a total freakout about the catering and started frantically preparing any adult food I could think of that could be made well in advance and frozen or stored (for the record, I made these potato latkes, some sweet potato patties from an Ottolenghi cookbook and a huge container of Proud Italian Cook's pita bread crisps, plus - on the day - her cannellini bean dip - incredibly delicious).

K and R helped make lolly necklaces, which are sweets wrapped in a cellophane roll and tied between each sweet with tiny bits of ribbon. Use a length of string to tie up each end and make the whole thing into a necklace and you have a very pretty lolly-bag substitute that your guests can wear home. We did the same thing last year... I guess now it's a tradition.

Filling the pinata was a much-anticipated event. They insisted on sorting all the sweets first. Kind of a shame to have to destroy something so beautiful...

And of course R had to have a rainbow skirt, which I foolishly decided to sew myself. It took about an hour just to find six colours of the star fabric, as they were cunningly hidden in different places around Spotlight. I was initially going for spots, but after digging out red, yellow, blue, green and purple I discovered they didn't have orange. Turns out it also takes rather a long time to hem, gather, pin and sew six ruffled layers - my estimate of how long the skirt would take me was wildly optimistic. And once the thing was done it reminded me disturbingly of something a clown might wear, but hey, it was for a rainbow party after all. Now if you're thinking there are seven colours in the rainbow, you are correct - I just decided for practical reasons to condense blue/indigo into one colour.

I couldn't pass up an opportunity to make my beloved Mexican tissue paper flowers again, despite the feeling that my preparations for the party were getting a little excessive:

In the spirit of rainbows the children ate fairy bread, ice-cream cupcakes with sprinkles (directions here) and rainbow fruit skewers before playing pass-the-parcel (accompanied by K playing 'Smoke on the Water' on his guitar) and a home-made game with the very catchy title of 'pin the coin in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow'. Then came the destruction of the aforementioned pinata and the consumption of excessive amounts of sugar.

Had enough of rainbows yet? I'm a bit over them myself at this stage, but let's continue anyway. Since I made K a pinata cake last year R hasn't stopped talking about wanting her own 'smash cake'. I made the shell with white chocolate this time, and decorated it with smarties and rainbow rocks. The cake and the shell are relatively simple to make, but the rainbow decorations were a late-night labour of love. Below left you can see what I put on top of the cake before the 'shell' went on:

And here you can see the cake just after it was whacked with a ceramic pestle by an overexcited five-year-old.

We got lucky with the weather and had a beautiful sunny Autumn day. And there's my baby's fifth birthday party done and dusted, until next year. If you read this far, give yourself a pat on the back!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Playgroup art & craft: Black paper painting

We have loads of black paper at playgroup, which seldom gets used. So now and then I like to mix up some whitish shades of paint and let the children paint on black for a change. The light colours on the dark paper provide a striking contrast, and some glitter adds a bit of sparkle.

On Monday we followed up our black paper painting with some cupcakes to celebrate R's 5th birthday:

I like to use this recipe, which makes delicious, light cupcakes that cook very quickly. Had to make a second batch the next day for a kindergarten birthday celebration - and R's party will be this weekend. Lots of baking going on around here!