Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Mother's Day 2016 crafts with Baker Ross

This year in the UK Mother's Day will be celebrated on Sunday, March 6th 2016. Mother's Day is a great opportunity for children to get creative and make their Mum a card or a gift, and Baker Ross has a huge selection of craft kits which children can use to make Mum something special. We were sent a few of them to try out, and here's how we got on.

Self Portrait pictures

We used these Self Portrait Blanks (£2.99 for 12) as the basis for the children to make a picture of themselves, which was a fun activity for a play date. I'm not sure why Mia saw herself with a purple face! These would also be great for a classroom where each child could make their own face and have them all displayed together on the wall. Then you could write a message to Mum on the back.

Baker Ross self portrait blanks

Wooden key holders

I've always found key holders to be a really practical way to keep keys stored safely, and I love how these Flower Wooden Key Holders (£3.45 for three) can be personalised to make a lovely, useful gift. As there were three we made one each, mine for the kitchen and the children made one each for their bedrooms to use for hanging up some of their smaller treasures.

Baker Ross wooden painted key holders

We started by painting the wooden key holders, using a mixture of acrylic and poster paints. The poster paint needed a second coat to avoid it looking streaky. Then when they were dry we decorated them with felt tip pens.

Wooden painted flower key holders

I think that we all did a brilliant job, it was nice to have a go at doing some of the crafts myself for a change!

Melted bead tray

Melted Hama bead tray

I'm quite an expert when it comes to fuse beads, so I was interested to see how the Baker Ross Flower Fuse Bead Kits (£3.96 for materials to make 6 flowers) worked out. Unfortunately I'm afraid that we didn't have a lot of success with them when used in the proper way with a pegboard, being made of cheaper plastic they were quite slippery and fiddly to use, and not as good as the branded beads. Possibly I'm a bit too fussy, as I've seen pictures of other people using them without any trouble.

However we were still able to put the beads themselves to good use in a simple but effective craft project - making a fuse bead tray. It's very easy to do, all you need is an oven proof container the same size as the tray or bowl that you want to make. Give it a light coating with some oil then place the beads inside so that they form a single layer across the bottom of the container and as far up the sides as you like. Make sure that there are no gaps between the beads. If you want you can place them all facing the same way, or perhaps try to create different patterns or groups of colours.

Child playing with melty beads

Then place into the oven at around 180C for about five minutes, keeping a close eye on it while it's in there. The beads will start to melt and the holes in them will get larger. Take it out and leave it to cool before removing the beads. They should pop out easily, and when they have cooled completely you will be left with a sturdy bowl. Any loose beads can be secured with a quick dab of white glue. My new tray will take pride of place on my desk!

Melted Perler bead tray

I received a box of crafty goodies from Baker Ross as part of their Bloggers Network.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Ideas for a themed Minecraft party

The other week Harry turned 7, and for his party this year I offered to host a Minecraft themed party. He was delighted with the idea, and so I did the best that I could to give him a fun party! It was the first time that we'd held a party for friends at our house so I was a little bit daunted, especially when we ended up with 16 children coming round, but it went really well, I had some great helpers, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Minecraft party ideas

The planning started well before Christmas when I began coming up with ideas for Minecraft party bags. I was a little stumped at first, but once I got started I came up with lots of ideas, so many that you can find them all in a separate post - ideas for Minecraft party bag fillers.

Minecraft themed party bags

The day before, we began decorating. I saw these fab balloon and crepe paper spiders over at Adventure Mummy and made one for the hallway and one over our fireplace.

Minecraft balloon spider party decoration

I also bought green crepe paper in two different shades and cut long strips which I hung from our living room and study doors to make vines. These were very popular and after the party have been transferred to the children's bedrooms where they are still hanging! On the door you can also see the fab Minecraft pig which my friend's husband printed out for us. We used him to play Pin the Tail on the Pig with named strips of pink paper. I also hung bunches or green and black balloons around the house.

Minecraft party decorations

The part of the party that I found the most difficult was coming up with games to play. As well as the Pin the Tail on the Pig I did a pass the parcel and I made up a scavenger hunt by printing out and laminating Minecraft pictures which the children had to find hidden around the house. This was really popular!

We also played the chocolate game, where the children sit in a circle around a bar of chocolate and take it in turns to roll dice. If they rolled a six they had to put on a hat, scarf and gloves, then use a knife and fork to eat as much chocolate as they could. They managed really well with it!

I also printed out some Minecraft colouring sheets and left them on the coffee table with some colouring pencils and crayons (not felt tips!) and they were really popular. In our downstairs study I put out our large boxes of Lego and Duplo and this was also a good idea. It gave some of the quieter little ones somewhere that they could retreat to if they needed some peace.

For food and drink I went for standard party buffet fare. I did buy some cookies as I know that they are in Minecraft, and I also found some boxes of snacks in little block shapes like flapjacks which fitted the theme.

For the birthday cake, my friend made Harry this magnificent Minecraft cake. It's covered in little squares of fondant and it must have taken her ages! On top of the cake is a little Minecraft figure which fitted perfectly.

Minecraft birthday party cake

I hope that I've inspired you if you are planning a Minecraft party yourself! You can find more ideas on my Minecraft Party Pinterest board.

Amazon links are affiliate.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Three new picture books with an animal theme

This month I've been sent some new picture books to take a look at, and today I'm sharing three lovely new books, all of which have an animal theme.

First are two books from Macmillan - Giraffe on a Bicycle and The King Cat.

Giraffe on a Bicycle and The King Cat picture books

Giraffe on a Bicycle by Julia Woolf

One day Monkey finds a bicycle, and luckily Giraffe knows how to ride it. They go on a chaotic ride through the jungle, picking up their animal friends on the way, but can they really ride along with all the jungle animals balanced on board?

It's a lovely, cheerful story with lots of fun characters, and illustrations which invite discussion with lots to talk about.

The King Cat by Marta Altes

The King Cat is a story about Cat, the undisputed king of his house, who doesn't want to share his home with a new dog. He's upset about the changes and about how all his rules have been broken. But when Dog goes out for a walk he realises that it is actually a bit quiet and lonely without him.

This is a great book to share with a young child that is awaiting the arrival of a new sibling, with a gentle message about sharing, and although change can be unsettling in the end it can be a change for the better.

Then from Simon and Schuster - Blue & Bertie.

Blue and Bertie by Kristyna Litten.

Blue and Bertie picture book for children

Another giraffe features in Blue and Bertie, a gorgeously illustrated story about finding friends in unexpected places. Bertie and the other giraffes do the same things every day, over and over, until suddenly one day Bertie wakes up to find that he has overslept and the other giraffes have left him behind. He has no idea where to go or what to do. But then to his delight he meets another giraffe, only this one is blue, who introduces him to places and things that he has never seen before. It's a story about friendship, with a message about what can happen if you try something a little bit different, and how much fun it can be. And although aimed at young children I think there are some thoughts there for the adult reader too!

I received these books to review. Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Crafting is my Therapy #1

Welcome to the launch of the Crafting is my Therapy linky!

I had been thinking for a while about looking for somewhere to link up some of my regular crafty update posts, and after a conversation on Twitter I connected with Nicola at Me, You and Magoo, who was planning on starting a monthly linky inspired by her recent post The therapeutic effect of being creative.

The post really resonated with me, and I know that I definitely need to make space for crafting in my life. For me it's a way of relaxing, as well as finding a way to express myself and my own individuality. I also love seeing what other people have been working on as I find it really inspiring. So today we are launching a new monthly linky - Crafting is my Therapy - so that you can share your crafty blog posts. You can find more details about how to link up at the bottom of this post.

My main crafty project at the moment is my Sky Blanket. I love having a little project that I can work on every day (although it won't be that little before long...) and each row only takes me about fifteen minutes so I can easily fit it in. I've started working on it in the early evenings while the children are in the bath and reading, I think it's important for them to see me crafting and then perhaps when they are a little older they'll be interested enough to want to learn crochet or knitting for themselves.

Sky Blanket at beginning of February

Next up, in my Baker Ross box this month there were some blank wooden hearts to decorate. As well as letting the children loose with them I also quite fancied decorating some myself, although they aren't finished yet. Below is one that I've painted (unfortunately I managed to mix up a paint colour which matches the colour of the wood exactly so you can't really tell!) and I added a border using thin red felt pen. The thick hanging lace is from Tiger, a fantastic shop that my Mum introduced me to the other week. Now I just need to find a suitable quote to put in the middle!

Blank wooden painted heart

Finally I'm slowly plugging away at my granny square crochet blanket. After a big push over Christmas to get all the squares sewn together I'm now adding a wide border. It's a big blanket now so it's going to take quite a while to get it finished but I don't mind as I like having something easy sitting there ready for me to work on when I get a few minutes! I'm having a bit of trouble with the border curling up and looking uneven, so I'm decreasing stitches to try and make it lie flatter and hoping that as the border gets bigger it will be less of a problem.

Granny square crochet blanket

We'd love you to join in with our linky and share what you've been crafting this month.

The “Crafting is my Therapy” linky will open on the first Friday of each month and stay open for the whole month – giving you plenty of time to get involved.

You can link up with maximum of three posts per month, old or new.

Grab the linky badge or link back to our blogs on your post.

Please share the love and comment on other people’s posts.

If you could share your post and the linky (using the hashtag #craftingismytherapy) on any social media channels that would be great. This will help us to grow the community. We will retweet all your posts via Twitter if you mention us (@pouchvintage/@JenniferJain)

And finally, if you would like to follow me on TwitterPinterest and Facebook, you're more than welcome. Nicola's links are here too: Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook

Jennifer's Little World

Thursday, 4 February 2016

What I've been pinning recently

I'm a huge fan and user of Pinterest, and as well as my own Pinterest account I also work on the BritMums Pinterest account. Over the last few months I've been neglecting my own account a little bit as I spend a lot of time pinning for BritMums, so recently I've been making an effort to pick it up again. I love Pinterest as a source of inspiration (you can see some of my favourite Pinterest wins here!) and always feel rejuvenated and ready to craft after spending a few minutes browsing my newsfeed and looking back through my own boards. So I thought I'd share a few of my boards that I've been pinning to lately.

Most of my recent pinning has been to my Craft - Blankets board. It's one of my oldest boards, started way back when learning to crochet was just a distant dream. Now that I've picked it up and am running with it, I'm pinning crochet blankets that I could actually see myself making one day. But there are so many beautiful ones out there that I won't know where to start!

Another crochet board is my Sky Blanket board, which I started when I was planning my Sky Blanket, and I've been continuing to pin ideas that I might yet use in my blanket. When I began I was intending to just do simple rows of sky colour but I've seen so many variations that it's given me lots of ideas that I could use as the year goes on.

One of my favourite and most popular boards has always been Craft Inspiration. I pin ideas that I've seen for craft projects which are easily doable and that I'd love to try. I must admit that I try to keep this board looking quite pretty, with lots of bright, clear images of gorgeous crafts.

My newest board is the board that I created when I was planning Harry's Minecraft party. Even though the party was a few weeks ago I'm still pinning to it because creative ideas keep popping up in my newsfeed. I found that the Minecraft party required a lot of thinking about because there isn't that much official party merchandise about to buy, so I hope that my board will be a useful resource to anyone else that's looking for ideas.

Finally, I don't always keep up with it, but I do try to pin all my latest blog posts to my Jennifer's Little World Blog board, or at least my favourite posts.

What are your favourite Pinterest boards? I'd love you to leave me a link in the comments so that I can make sure I'm following!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Valentine's Day crafting with Baker Ross

This month I was lucky enough to receive another fantastic box of crafting materials from Baker Ross! So many that I'm going to be splitting them across two posts, and to start with I'm sharing some fab crafts for children with a Valentine's Day theme

Heart Lanterns

We started off making some simple but pretty heart lanterns using the Heart Lantern Kits (£3.49 for 4). There are four different coloured lanterns, as well as plenty of tissue paper squares in the different colours, so the children had a choice of which colours they'd like to use.

Tissue paper and card lanterns

The tissue paper pieces are the same sizes as the sides of the box so it was really easy for the children to stick them where they needed to go, and Harry enjoyed cutting out his tissue paper pieces to cover different parts of the design. Then when they'd finished I folded them up to make the lanterns and we strung them up across the banisters. They'd make great gift boxes for Valentine's Day treats too!

Valentine's Day hanging lanterns

Craft foam and wool heart hanging decorations

Foam and wool hearts for Valentine's Day

To make these heart hanging decorations I cut out my heart shapes from pink coloured foam sheets (£2.75 for 12 A4 sheets), making a larger and a smaller heart for each decoration. I used a hole punch to make holes around the edge of each heart, then gave the children a needle and coloured wool, not really giving them any instructions as to how they could sew the wool through the holes. 

Materials for making foam sewn hearts

Harry kept his simple, sewing around the edge of the larger heart and criss crossing the smaller heart with wool. Mia chose to decorate her hearts with some Pink and Silver Stick on Jewels (£1.99 for a pack of 480) and her felt pens. We glued the smaller hearts to the centre of the larger hearts, and used ric rac and ribbon to create a hanging loop for the top.

Valentine's Day sewn heart

Valentines Day hanging picture decorations
The other week I shared these Valentine's Heart Collage Pictures using two Baker Ross Card Picture Panels (£2.99 for 4). The cardboard backgrounds are really sturdy and would be great for all sorts of artwork whether it's painting, drawing or collage. 

Hanging heart picture decorations

Blank wooden hearts

Our final craft is going to be some painted wooden hearts. We have a pack of plain Heart Wooden Decorations (£2.96 for 8) and I'm planning to paint them with a plain background colour and then let the children decorate them with more paints of stickers. I've seen some gorgeous examples on Pinterest that include a quote, so I think I'm going to be making some for myself too, look out for them in a future post!

Blank wooden hearts to paint

I received these items to review as part of the Baker Ross Bloggers Network. Prices correct at time of writing.

Monday, 1 February 2016

My Sky Blanket in January #skyblanket2016

January is over already, and the first month of my Sky Blanket is complete! I've been finding it pretty easy to keep on top of and have almost always completed my row on the same day. I'm also managing to keep up with sewing in the ends! I think it's looking pretty good, with a lovely mix of colours.

Sky Blanket 2016 crochet project in January

I began with a foundation chain of 200 stitches, although I suspect that I've added a few more, particularly in the first row. It's a nice length as it doesn't take me too long to do each day, although I am starting to fret that it's not going to be wide enough. It's 146 cm wide - about the right width for a single bed. The final blanket is going to be quite long though - it's 24 cm so far so I make that an estimate of 2m 88cm - so it will be a nice long thin blanket, plenty long enough to go along the whole length of our sofa for us all to sit under at once! I could always add a border when it's finished, although at that length it would be quite a mission!

First month of my crochet Sky Blanket

It seemed to take ages to get going with it, but it's building up nicely now, and I'm looking forward to when it becomes more blanket like. This is when I'd just started and was so eager to do more!

The beginning of my Sky Blanket

I've found that the project isn't just about completing my row of crochet for the day, I'm also spending time looking at the sky throughout the day while I decide what colour to choose. It's definitely the most attention I've ever paid to it, and I'm really enjoying it!

I'd planned to just stick with simple sky colours for the blanket - basically blues and greys. But quite early on in January there were gorgeous rainbows in the sky twice during one day and it seemed a shame not to incorporate them somehow.

Rainbow in the sky

So I found some bright rainbow ribbon, and sewed a short length around the edge of the blanket. I also added a mottled dark grey button to each end to represent the corresponding rain clouds.

Rainbow ribbon on a blanket

Similarly, on the 13th January the sky first thing in the morning was a beautiful pink colour.

So I sewed a tiny pink button on to the blanket to match it. I also added a sparkly clear button for the only really frosty day that we had in January, and for Harry's birthday he chose a green flower button from my stash. I've now gathered up a few beads and buttons to save for special occasions throughout the year, for example I've found a little anchor bead which I'm saving to mark the date that we are going on a cruise later in the year. For these rows I've also started doing a row of trebles instead of the half trebles that I'm usually using.

Sky Blanket with themed buttons

The edges of my blanket are starting to look a little wonky, I'm not sure if I've been losing or adding stitches or if it's just my uneven crochet. I'm hoping that they will be less noticeable when it's blocked or if I add a small border.

I really like the way that using the occasional row of trebles has broken it up a bit, and also that because the colors are so varied it makes the blanket look more interesting, especially when there is a dark row next to a lighter one. So my one white row (for fog not snow!) looks really pretty and loopy next to the dark grey of the next day.

Close up stripy crochet blanket

I've settled down into decisions of when to use the different colours - I use light grey for cloudy days and dark grey for those days when it just seems to rain all day. Light blue is for when the sky is blue but with some pale cloud cover, medium blue is for a completely brilliant, blue sky. The first three rows were all the same light grey and funnily enough so were the last three! Apart from that I've only had two colours next to each other a couple of times, usually I'm ending up with a different colour than the day before.

I must admit that I was a little disappointed not to get any snow in January, and I'd saved a couple of sparkly buttons and some silver ribbon for frost, but there's really only been than one frosty morning. Perhaps I'll be able to use them at the end of the year!

Crochet bits for a Sky Blanket

There are lots of people taking part in the Sky Blanket 2016 project and sharing their progress on their blogs and across social media using the hashtag #skyblanket2016. Sky Blanket 2016 is hosted by three bloggers - Bug, Bird & BeeThe Boy and Me and You Little Sew and Sew.

#skyblanket2016 logo

With thanks to Make it Coats for providing me with the yarn for this project.
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