Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Flying the Flag

I think we need a "Home Educating Pride" flag, or perhaps T-Shirts. I know such things are available, commercially, but I don't have a spare £15 for a single T-Shirt. Plus, probably, import duty from The States.

My little darling has been flying the flag high this week, and I'm incredibly proud of her.

Personally, I've been having a hard time trying to find a way to keep track of what we actually do, some weeks it's almost nothing, some weeks we do loads but she has what's basically a very well rounded education. The reason this is important is partially peace of mind, and also we lost our lovely home ed contact lady at the council this year. I know, most home educators are very anti local authority, but I personally really liked the Advisory lady we had. The most disturbing thing is that the Council home education advisory service has been transferred to Education Welfare. Yep. The Truancy team. The Truancy team who are known to be incredibly anti home ed. See my issue?

I have no way to begin to explain how inappropriate this is, but there we go. Through the grapevine, it seems that they've already been seen to be unlawfully throwing their weight around with newly deregistered families in the area, less than a month after the changeover and I basically want to be covered just in case. I do NOT trust them as far as I could spit them.

Also, they'll expect at least an educational philosophy letter next April. They want information? Oh believe me they'll get information. I'm actually planning to send them a typed, padded out copy of my full diary, plus a monthly spreadsheet of what's been covered... it'll cost me a fiver in postage for the pages and pages I'm planning to send and for it to be a tracked delivery, but what the heck?

Anyway, my problem is finding a quick-view version of my daily diary that really works. Apologies for my handwriting. The code on each entry tells me the basic subjects covered. This wasn't even a busy week!!

I'm thinking... spreadsheet. Eventually I hope to make record keeping Squidge's job.

I'll find something that works eventually. And hey, at least I can read my writing.

After watching me hem and tape some new curtains for my friend, and mend and service my friend's sewing machine this weekend, Squidge had a hankering to get her Yule gift out for a play. Using a set of teatowels from the 99p shop, she very competently made a tote bag for her her "Bestie".

On Monday we had said "Bestie"over for giggling and fun. After lunch, we took a short walk to the park, via the shop for ice lollies and vimto. Both girls found other kids to play with at the park, were polite and friendly and basically awesome. Proof that home ed kids are not isolated and weird. ok, mine's a bit weird..... Well, no. individual.

Yes, even when they were climbing trees and looking like monkeys, they were still flying the flag high for the awesomeness of our lifestyle.

This was on the walk home, they're just so sweet together. The height difference reminds me of myself and my "Bestie" at the same age; only I was the short one.

Squidge and I have been walking much more, it's been so much fun. We've done at least 4 miles a week recently which to some isn't much, but to us is epic. This was Squidge walking home from a fun session of swimming last week. A fun session where she'd plucked up enough courage to get in the deep end and then swam 5 lengths!!! Bear in mind that this time last year, she couldn't swim at all. 

This is her entering the parkland beside the sports centre. Awww. 

Beginning to walk to swimming lessons has revealed stuff I never even knew was in our town. I've been living here since 2005, how did I not know this was here?!

Just lovely. 

Going back to the fun day with Bestie, she spent pretty much the whole afternoon in a tree and no injuries were sustained. Later in the evening, she decided o run through the house to get a second helping of pudding... and fell awkwardly on her foot. The pain she was experiencing really scared me because it was similar to the pain I sustained when I broke my foot a few years ago. So, after an hour of having ice on it ,we went off to A+E.

Two nurses, one radiographer and a doctor agreed with me that it seemed broken. The XRays however, didn't!!! the Doctor actually reviewed the things TWICE because Squidge's pain didn't tally up with a clean XRay. But eventually it was decided that she's not broken it. I'm incredibly thankful, we go on holiday in just 6 weeks and for her to miss the joy of staying on a chalet park with an indoor pool would have been tragic. 

The Doctor informed me that I have to keep her off school for the rest of the week. She told him she's home educated, so he said "well, just... erm... stay off your foot."
So this has meant she's missed gymnastics, we've got to rearrange two playdates and she's missing a trip to a room full of trampolines. Poor Squidge is not happy. This was her yesterday. Today she's able to put more weight on it, but it's still not right. She's angry at not being able to go for our every-other-day-walk, and frankly, so am I. HEAL QUICKER!!!

Aside from the educational aspect of a late night in the hospital and fun days walking in the local parks, the other things from the last couple of weeks that are vaguely educational are knitting, using my yarn bowl; and finding out that my 9 year old can make a mean mayonnaise and no longer panics if it seizes because she's amazing. 

Here's to the future, to the healing child and to me working out how the heck to keep track of everything. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Come to the dark side, we have cookies...

I made cookies. And they taste like (and more to the point feel like) real cookies. More about that later. Be patient. Alright, the recipe is at the bottom. 

The Child is still improving at writing, her reading is now awesome with lots of practise and she's finally discovered a true love of reading to herself.

Writing... not so much. She'll write if she has to, for instance if there's a reward involved like a Brownie Badge (in this case Cook : Advanced).

But even this took some serious coaxing. And even after that, all she did was the titles. I do think, however, that her choice to use Insanity Prawn Boy from Weebls-stuff's On The Moon series to explain "Crustaceans" was genius. nicely rendered too.

For this particular badge she not only had to produce a poster about allergies, but also to cook a two course meal from scratch (one course being hot). She made a slow baked lamb curry with help and supervision, and cupcakes with no help, but some "OMG HOT THINGS!!" supervision. She did all the reading of the recipe, weighing of ingredients etc all on her own. Let's just say, I've got competition in the kitchen.

Next the curry; economy lamb chops are much more frugal and delicious when curried. She likes to claim she "killed two birds with one curry" because one optional clause was "cook with an ingredient you've never used before" (i.e. spices) and another was "cook a dish from another country". 

Yes, ok so this was a somewhat bastardized, British curry but what the hell. It was STUNNING. I took photos of all processes, but here's the highlights. Oh, and you may notice Child wearing something that looks like a nightshirt throughout the process. It looks like one because it is one. Home Education FTW.

And finally I get to the point of the cookies. well, soon. One of the teaching tools I use most for maths, comprehension, reading (and generally not being a knob around things like knives and heat) is cooking. However, these babies (the cookies) were not made by her. They were made by me to cheer her up. Poor little thing has a cough and has been denied her favourite social and sporting groups this week because Mummy is a cowbag and doesn't think damp air or dust are a particularly good thing to be inhaling when you're asthmatic and have a chest infection.

Here we go, the purpose of this post. Peanut Butter Cookies. Ever since having to go gluten free myself; not for hipster or food fashion reasons, I am a genuinely diagnosed celiac, I've been searching and trying out gluten free recipes. Mostly, though, they're a disaster. UNTIL I stumbled on a blogger (Laura at who uses pectin as an aid to the gluten replacer, xanthen gum. Xanthen gum tends to make mixtures go... well.... a bit like snail mucous to be honest. And never seems to work properly on its own BUT when used in combination with dried pectin, you get a flour that so closely mimics wheat flour that breads, pastries and cookies feel and taste like "the real thing". Cakes I've found don't need the pectin. Joy, as pectin is not cheap. 

This revelation about pectin has, honestly, changed my life as I have a job lot I bought cheap from Approved Foods last year with a view to making my own jam. Yeah. That happened. NOT.
Anyway, Laura changed my life. Pizza bases WORK. Flatbreads WORK. Pastry is AMAZEBALLS and finally, I have COOKIES!!!!!

This recipe is modified from a wheat based peanut butter cookie recipe. It contains no dairy if you use the right margarine, but it does contain eggs and obviously it contains nuts. 

Here's my tasty photo again... 

oooohhhhhhh yeaaaaaahhhhh.

You'll need a set of US cups for making these, available from all decent cooking shops, most supermarkets and Poundland or the 99p store. 
If you're a martyr, one US cup is 8FlOz. That's Fluid Ounces, not weight ounces, so I suppose you could use a jug but... use the cups, mmmkay?

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup margarine or butter (butter will render these not dairy free, dont feed them to someone with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance)

1/3 ish cup lightly packed granulated brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar (granulated, caster, whatever. just not icing/confectioner's sugar)

1 egg

2 cups Gluten Free Self Raising flour blend/ normal SR flour (obviously, don't feed normal flour ones to a gluten free person)

1.5tsp dried pectin powder; sorry but this is an actual essential in a gluten free version, with the xanthen gum in the SR flour, it makes something very much like gluten. Leave out if using normal flour. DO NOT use liquid pectin.

1tsp vanilla extract; (if making GF, be warned, most vanilla extracts are made using nondescript grain alcohol which may or may not be over the <20ppm limit for gluten content which most celiacs seem to react to, so you might be better off just buying and using a vanilla pod, using home made vanilla sugar instead of the white sugar OR planning two weeks ahead, buying two vanilla pods and 1/4 pint Red Square or Smirnoff vodka, or another molasses/potato/rice based vodka and making your own extract. It really is that simple. Use the middle paste of the seeds in something like a cake, stick a couple of the empty pods in a clean jar, pour on vodka and wait...).

1/4tsp salt optional; I like it. They're cookies. They're not meant to be healthy. They're meant to be an occasional treat. That's why they contain a lot of sugar and fat too.

mix peanut butter, butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and beat until fluffier and lighter in colour.
add eggs, beat again. 

in another bowl, mix flour (and pectin) and salt, sprinkle dry into wet and mix well. If it's too solid, add a little more peanut butter. If a little liquid, add a little more flour. It should be a soft yet malleable dough.

put in fridge for at least an hour, overnight apparently works best, but mine were lovely after just an hour.

preheat oven to 180 degrees C ish, you know your oven best. whatever YOU normally cook cakes and stuff on, that'll do.

Line a tray with greaseproof, place balls of the cookie dough about 1.5" diameter on a tray, preferably 1.5" space between them. They don't actually spread that much, but leave the pace just in case. This dough makes about 25 cookies. 

Press on top lightly, until they're a bit less than 7.5mm high. Don't bother measuring, but just know if they're too high, they stay kind of cakey in the middle even after cooling. I did the design on the top of mine using a fork.

Put them in the oven and Watch them. They're crafty little buggers. They go from lovely golden brown to burnt in no time at all. Get your bum off Facebook and sit by the oven for 15-20 mins, ok?!

Bake until golden, put on wire rack to cool and dry out, warm they will still be cakey in the middle but if cool, they should snap and be deliciously short.

Only keep a couple of days if making gluten free, gluten free flour blend products tend to taste a bit stale after about 2 days. If using wheat flour, they keep about a week in an airtight jar.

Would probably work equally as well with any nut butter, I reckon cashew would be delicious.
Would also be awesome with chocolate chips or chunks mixed in once everything else is combined. I can recommend MooFree for this kind of thing, it's pretty heat stable and tastes almost like the real thing. Would also work if you use half smooth and half chunky nut butter.  

Go. Make Cookies. Enjoy. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

OMG! Ancient Egypt! Let's mummify the hamster!

Before I get started, I need to state here that we do not own a hamster, will not be mummifying Fluffy the Snail, and only two knock off barbies were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Squidge visited the British Museum a few weeks ago with friends and ever since has been popping out little bits of information about the Ancient Egyptians. Funnily enough, she'd visited at about the same time that I found this wonderful project on Pinterest:

Omg. THAT IS GENIUS!!! We had to do this. And why not get a friend involved?! So, J was roped in for a bit of Egyptian awesomeness too.

So I spent the grand total of <£4 on a double pack of cheap knock off baries from the 99p shop, new prittsticks, salt, herbs, scented oil (essential oil in a vegetable oil carrier), strips of bandage, boxes, grave goods and relevant print outs (link for those further down).

The Canopic jars I think were the best bit in all honesty. I found a canopic colouring in sheet on google, then shrank it down using GIMP and printed the pictures out. They just happened to be exactly the right size for some tiny glass jars I'd bought in The Works, 8 with glitter in for £1. I dumped the glitter from those into small craft pots (also 8 for £1 from The Works) and left them empty for the kids.

So, let reverence commence for the poor dead Pharaohs Knockoffbarbiesatep I and Knockoffbarbiesatep II. It was a sad day for Egypt losing two Pharaohs in one day.

The first thing the kids did was colour in the printables I'd procured from ActivityVillage. This is an awesome website for free printables. Whether you home educate or not, it's something to keep the kids occupied at least.

Then came the time to remove Barbie's brain with a hook. We had a long conversation about how recent MRI scans have shown that not all of the brain was removed this way, and it can be seen in a shrivelled heap at the back of the skull. Nice. I mentioned that the heart was left in the body as the Egyptians thought it contained the soul. J then informed Squidge and myself about the weighing of the heart against a feather in the afterlife. I love home ed kids. they're like sponges.

Next they drew lines down Barbie's body using permenant markers to show they'd cut her open, and placed all of the organs into the canopic jars. The right organ for the right jar. Some folks use felt body parts, we just used paper ones, the outlines drawn by me, coloured in and cut out by the skidlets. Squidge was using her hook to pretend to dig out the organs. J just calmly stated that "They used their hands. Not the hooks.".

Liver, protected by Imetsy (human), stomach, protected by Duamutef (jackal), lungs, protected by Hapy (baboon), intestines, protected by Qubhsemuf (falcon).

Squidge said the falcon looked more like an owl the jackal looks like a "normal" dog and how the heck is that a baboon?! "It looks like a flipping bunny!!" But we persevered. 

It was now time for the embalming process. Like the family in the blog post I mentioned as inspiration, we couldn't be bothered to leave Barbie for weeks in the salt mixture. Our salt mixture was plain old fine table salt with dried oregano, basil, mint, sage and verbena added. Use what you have.

They then anointed Barbie in scented oil. I added a few drops of peppermint oil to some plain sunflower oil.

After this, they wrapped the barbies in strips of cloth. I have plenty. In fact, I have some left over.

They then placed their Pharaohs in their tombs, glued on the death masks and placed grave goods in with her to keep her happy.

Both kids chose to put in Hama beads just in case the Pharaoh gets bored in the afterlife. Both used buttons as plates, and glitter as either food or wealth, plus pieces of gold paper and glass beads as money. Both also added a small jar of barley and Squidge wanted a jar of either beer or honey, I didn't have either but I did have some Mead so she had a tiny jar of that. J put his Hama beads in a small jar, and also added a bit of string because the Ancient Egyptians didn't have electric irons to glue the Hama beads together, so instead this Pharaoh could make a necklace. He's so thoughtful, that boy.
J even showed Squidge how to tuck in the bandages.

Squidge's grave

J's grave

As the guest, J chose first box. His chosen tomb once held Grissini bread sticks; one of Squidge's favourite snacks. Squidge was happy with being left with a Maple Sunrise cereal box because she likes the smell.

Please, please do this. It's so much fun. There's glitter everywhere and my livingroom smells of odd herbs, mint and a mild maple tang...... The children have retreated upstairs to play, but not before the well trained J had helped me clean up the craft bits then chastised Squidge for not helping. He was telling her off while tidying up her doll's house. Awesome child.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Spleling and lysdexia

In the past two years, school traumatised child has been what can only be politely referred to as a reluctant writer.
Some days (most days) we've had panic attacks and/or refusal.

Recently though, things have changed. She's sick of having a scribe. She's sick of not being able to put into words what is actually going on in her head. She's annoyed that, although Brownies understand and provide a scribe if there is to much for her to cope with, she feels different.

So SHE had decided to improve. With help of course.

So on her go ahead, I have been teaching her how to spell usung the "look, say, cover, write" technique.
She's been doing writing practise in the form of the odd note to me and some work books.... although the notes thong didn't really work out well.
I led her the chance to write me a note before she goes to sleep, and I will reply for her to read in the morning... Yeah. Disaster... see the photos at the end. Apologies for this not being a very slick post, I am trying the Blogger app and so far it is making me want to drown things.

On her go ahead, we went to WHSmith and had a gander at the books and I found one which covers grammar and the English language and showed it to her, she liked its style. She also picked out a rather engaging maths book at the same time, and I found a word bank book for her to use too.

Well it turns out that having a maths book that had a "mythical worlds" theme (unicorns, dragons, wizards and faeries) was just what she needed to give her a kick up the bum with numbers, and the grammar book we'd both loved and she's started doing (and enjoying!) is actually for age 9+. When she noticed that, she spent the afternoon beaming because she's an 8 year old dyslexic and couldn't possibly have done this work if she'd seen the age before she started..... Oh ye of little faith, Child.

She's also chosen to start learning spellings. So, from her pieces of work, we pick out three she's not got right, and write them out for her to practise. I gave her a week for the first three and she managed to learn (and retain) them in just 3 days.

Right now, I am drinking tea while she is practising her spellings. This is the life.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Nuts and seeds, knitting your own yogurt.... etc

This post is long. Sorry.
 TL:DR home education is awesome, legal and won't mess my child up.
I have found I dont get a lot of time for blogging any more. Actually I don't get much time for a lot outside of educating the child and making sure there's a sanitary bathroom and a kitchen worthy of making food in.
But here goes with trying to fit in blogging too.
The reason I am back is because Squidge is Home Educated. When most people hear about home education they assume a few of many things.
Here's some of the most common:
• The child is a genius and ahead of her age in everything and school couldn't keep up or the complete antithesis of this;
•The child is not up to parr and couldn't keep up with school.
•  More worryingly,that child was kicked out of school.
• That we are transient, extreme vegan hippies who live on lentils, don't own a TV and don't vaccinate.
• That as such, Squidge is being left to find her own way, be completely autonomous and that we believe she will absorb learning rather than needing to be taught stuff.
• That we are Tiger Parents.
• It's easy, we're lazy.
• That we are snobs.
• That we are religious zealots
• She will never learn how to fit in with schedules
• The child has no social interaction with other children and finally
• That what we are doing is unregulated, unsanctioned and/or illegal.
NOPE. Well, mostly.
The child has her own pace. Her writing has been a big block since she was withdrawn from school. Did you have a teacher at school that you felt picked on you, no matter what you did? Squidge did. Her literacy teacher.
   The kid didn't get a break time for the whole of her time in year one because she was slow to finish and the teacher had high expectations of both accuracy levels, neatness and productivity expected for 5 and 6 year olds. I would have complained at the time, but this didn't come out until she had been out of school a year and had only just started taking about that part of her experiences.
   She still has nightmares involving this man shouting at her and screwing up her half page of work for a spelling mistake.
Here's the thing... SHE'S DYSLEXIC. In a school aparently prized food is SEN provision, glaring signs were ignored. My concerns were brushed off and ultimately Squidge was failed, pushed to far and stressed out of her gourd. The week after we withdrew her from school, we paid for the test the school had refused time and again; lo and behold!
She was also mercilessly bullied by other kids. One particular child made it her life's work to make squidge's life hell. She also had such power that other kids, fearing reproachand the same treatment, home in ganging up on squidge. "Kids will be kids", yeah but they will also not change into decent adults if they're not taught the correct way to act.

  School was informed of the issues over and over and did ZIP. Meanwhile my kid became a broken shell.
She didn't eat. She didn't sleep. She was in her own world a lot of the time, and when she wasn't, she was volatile. She talked of self harm and causing her own death. This isn't some emo, hormonal teen we're taking about. This was a SIX YEAR OLD.
We had planned to leave her 'til summer and see how it went; the same as we had when the problems began arising in her reception year. By easter, something had to be done because I was certain my child would not be alive by July.
This is even before you factor in the lack of care for a medical complaint she had requiring medication at set times; and the time when (in her second week of reception) an LSA gave her a snack. Squidge handed it back, saying she couldn't eat it. She understood about her lactose intolerance. Something which I had informed the school of. The LSA ignored her, gave it back to get, told her it would make her big and strong and that she had to eat it. So she did. She was then in so much pain that she couldn't manage lunch and when I picked her up I was told she had spent the afternoon in "time out corner" for not sitting and doing her work. She had told the teacher her tummy hurt, but the teacher had thought she was making it up to get out of working before playtime.

This happened another four times, I complained each time but was told the head wasn't available for a meeting. It was only when I sent a letter, explaining that if it happened again I would be contacting the LEA about it that she was finally added to the school-wide list of children with allergies and intolerances.
My kid is not stupid. She is sharp as a tack, has an incredibly grown up sense of humour and can grasp new concepts quite easily now she's recovering. Ok so her handwriting is terrible. Her spelling atrocious, but she's working on English grammar concepts meant for a nine year old. She's at around age 10 level in scientific understanding, while her reading age is spot on for her chronological age and her maths is age appropriate too (now! After much work on her part!).
Ok.  Are we all hippies? I can't speak for others,  but my family are what I would refer to as partially hippy. Not transient, we live in a rather nice 1950s rented mid-terrace.
Not vegan but we do enjoy the odd lentil from time to time and I gave been known to knit my own yogurt.
We do own a telly, sophie is quite partial to a bit of Dick and Dom. I am not.
Squidge is vaccinated to the eyeballs because I believe wholeheartedly in vaccination. Others do not, and that is their choice, same as this is ours.
Autonomy is one of the hardest concepts for non home educating people to grasp, and is often misunderstood. Squidge is not autonomous, but her education IS mostly child-led.
I have seen completely autonomous children go on and do really well for themselves, but I know squidge's brain doesn't work like that. She needs structure. Not as much as some, more than others.
Autonomy is the idea of leaving a child to do their own thing in their own time, but providing support and resources if they're wanted or needed.
We're using an approach that is often muddled up with autonomy. Child led education is where a child chooses their own education stew for want of a better analogy, but an adult is very much in the picture giving that stew the extra veg it needs to be satisfying. Ok so that analogy maybe isn't great...
The approach varies from family to family, so I will focus on ours alone. I have no right to judge others because what works for us might not work for them, and vice versa.
Squidge does "projects". Generally amounting to 1-2 pages of A4 paper. She choose the subject (sometimes from a list given by me) and we work on it. 
The only long teem project we're doing is about our giant African land snail, Fluffy. She has charted his growth from when we got him (12 weeks old) to now (26 weeks; they become mature at 40-50 weeks).
This project wasn't just about her pet. There is literacy in the form of writing a short paragraph about Fluffy. Numeracy in the measuring and charting on a graph. Accuracy, hand eye coordination, art, biology. We even fitted in a little Latin when identifying his breed (Fulica), geography of the main locations Fulica choose to breed in. ICT in using search engines to find information... One snail, many uses.

Squidge also does a bit of English and maths every day. Well nearly. Well, at least a few times a week. On average. And she is a voracious reader.
I do not force the issue. This panics some people I know because they are certain she will never catch up. I think I need to lend them a book which has really helped me; Ruby Flew Too. It's a young children's book about a duckling who is a little behind the rest of her clutch, but who ends up excelling. The main repeating theme is "She will do it in her own time". That duckling could honestly be a metaphor for my child. When I get wobbles about our approach, I just re read it.
Neither me nor my hubby are snobs about home ed. It works for our family. It works for our lives. It may not work for everyone and it is not the easy route. The is a lot of soul searching that goes on, stress, fear.. but ultimately when you find your approach and are confidant and comfortable with it, it becomes a lot less scary and stressful.

Many times I have feared that or approach won't work, that she's not doing enough, that we are doing her a disservice.... it all turns out to be tripe in the end.
Squidge is being raised by a pagan and an atheist. In a wide family and friendship group that contains Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Jehova's Witness,  Quakers,  Muslims, Agnostics and even one or two  Pastafarians (r'amen). I don't think she's ever actually noticed. To her, they're all just kids to play with. Even home ed parents are largely very inclusive and friendly, which is something I never found with the school gate cliques.
Socialisation is a word that REALLY gets my hackles up. It's a misnomer, a lie, a fallacy. "But what about socialisation? They only learn that in school". I CALL BULL POOP ON THAT. Forced association is NOT socialisation. Squidge attends quite a few groups, sees friends regularly and spends a lot of time of and about. Does she hide behind my patched,grass stained jeans? No. She gets out the and talks. The reaction of the first few kids she told that she's home educated made her refuse to tell anyone, but she's got a thicker skin now, and great pride i her lifestyle.

For the groups she attends, we need to know how to balance our time. We have to stick to a schedule. She knows that her week kind of revolves around the things, Brownies on a Monday, Gymnastics on a Wednesday and a semi structure group on Fridays.
What we do is perfectly legal. We chose to have LEA involvement because Squidge loves our education lady, and because I need the support of a yearly check to see that we really are ok. But, we don't legally have to have this. If she been home ed from birth, we'd never even have had to contact the LEA. Even now, we would have the right to request that we only send in a letter once a year. However, Squidge loves out visitor.

Although I know some families with home ed from birth kids who chose to be in contact with the LEA, most choose not to because of the "ultra vires" methods used by some councils.
So that's us.
My blog will still be largely craft based, but as my life revolves around Squidge's education, I guess this will too lol.
 (yes. that says bum. repeatedly. she's writing ok?!) 

Monday, 24 March 2014

New Jacket for The Squiglet

Serendipity has smiled upon us in the past couple of months, Squidge's growth spurt and need for a spring jacket has coincided with a sewing competition run by Hillarys. Seeing the Calluna Amethyst fabric, I had to apply. Funnily enough, Squidge was next to me and pointed to the exact same fabric, so great minds think alike.

To promote their new Country Crafts range of fabrics, Hillarys generously sent 100cm x 100cm of fabric to me, and asked that I make something. Anything. The only prerequisites were that the item made must be original, and involve their fabric.

I've also taken to reading the Hillarys blog page too; (Psst! It's where information about upcoming competitions will be!).

Squidge had full artistic control over this one. She chose, and so I used the Silver Lake pattern from Sewing Clothes Kids Love by Nancy J.S. Langdon and Sabine Pollehn, but I made some quite major changes to the original design and pattern.

For one thing, that jacket design is quite boxy and once I had made it following the instructions, it just didn't look right on Squidge. She's too girly, to twirly for a boxy coat so it got unpicked and tailored a bit.

For another thing, Squidge doesn't have an ipod or anything that would require the sleeve pocket from the pattern.

Finally, Squidge prefers slightly fuller sleeves. It's a "sensitive armpit thing" apparently. Personally, I think it's more of a "having her own style thing" or a "just likes pouffy sleeves thing".

Obviously, the fabric provided wasn't enough for a spring jacket for a quickly growing eight year old child, so I added two unpicked velvet cushion covers and a reused separating zip to the mix.

Well, I have spent two weeks finding extra time in amongst housework and home educating Squidge... ok, so I ignored the housework except for essentials, and Squidge is pretty easy to be honest. I have her a workbook, make sure she's occasionally fed and watered and all's good. My dining table is still heaped with a mixture of sewing items and home ed stuff (mostly sewing to be honest), and the floor still has velvet fluff EVERYWHERE, but I am happy.


 cutting the first piece, I am always terrified of cutting into a beautiful fabric.

 Pinning the sewn up side inserts, and checking everything aligns well before setting them aside to do the inserts on the back piece. I topstitched the inserts with a satin stitch too because Squidge said she wanted the joins to stand out more. The great thing is, the topstitching also served to stop any interior shedding or fraying. As this jacket is unlined, I figured I better do something so that she can take it off and not look like a beaniebaby. Also, I made that bias binding for the pocket tops. Jus' sayin'.

Using my ironing board as there's no space left on the dining table and the floor's too low....

This is a view of the velvet yoke, piping, fullish sleeve top and overstitching to make the yoke lie properly. All Squidge's idea.

Well, once it was properly put together, both seamed and overlocked to make it hard wearing for a child, the collar was attached on the reverse by machine but I hand stitched the top bit down so that it was the right shape. My sewing machine is a bit like a newly tamed horse, you never know when it's going to go full pelt so I prefer to hand-stitch some bits. I hand stitched the blind hem too so that the velvet didn't bruise and the hem doesn't show, and then I defluffed it from all of the threads and velvet cuttings. I think it's a hit. She likes the pockets, and the collar, the cuffs, the fabrics... she's all round happy. I think she also enjoyed being consulted at every stage, she's got exactly the jacket she ordered.

I love it, it's got just the right amount of quirk.

And look! It doesn't just work for flower smelling and looking pretty, it works for playing aeroplanes too:

For doing park things: 

And finally (most importantly) it looks stylish, even while being cheeky:

She wants a mini backpack made from the offcuts, but as it's got to be patchwork now due to the size of my offcuts, it wont be done before the competition closing date. It'll be online in a couple of weeks though lol.

Having seen my friend's entry, I was terrified and almost thought of giving up..... but then I decided, if I don't enter, I have no chance at all.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

I collect odd books

Any book with an interesting or strange or non PC title, I love them. I gather them. I preserve them. Here's a selection from my collection.

I think we'll begin with Gaytime Stories. Frankly, completely un-PC now, but very of its time. Personally, I find the table of contents incredibly amusing when taken in modern context with the title.

here's some more oddities before I get to the juicy stuff......

OK, this one's not mine. it belongs to the Manflesh I'm married to :D

This next one is very interesting when you think of its age, it's early 1930s. It's in a completely plain, blue leather cover so nobody can see what you're reading. naughty naughty!!!

And this one I rescued from certain destruction. I know a lot of people don't see why, and cry out "omg! burn it!" but IF books like this are destroyed, then the memory of the atrocities associated with such words may be forgotten, and how can we learn from history's mistakes and not make them again? The human race is essentially incredibly stupid and doesn't learn quickly. Persecution of non white peoples, hatred of homosexuals, religious warfare, all are mistakes for us to learn and move on from and should never, never be forgotten. So, save old, un PC books. Show them to your children and explain why they're not acceptable any more. Explain how to love their fellow man and maybe we'll grow a more tolerant race as a byproduct of education. (oh, and as a modern thinking personage, I think Joseph Conrad should probably have stayed with his original title of "Children of the Sea".... but at the time, this was a better selling title.)