Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ruby - the Christmas dolly

Here is Ruby, all dressed up in her best Christmas frock, ready to meet her new family.

Ruby is a Ric-Rac Kinder Doll. She is made from soft wool flannel, with wool felt hair and black satin shoes. She even has undies!

And here she is with her new mum - I think Ruby will be calling the shots for a little while yet.

Thank-you gifts

Back in December Jack finished his first year of school. He had a great year, and I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer in the classroom for one day a week, most of the year. We wanted to do something as a thank-you to his teachers, and as there were two part-time teachers and a teacher's aide, we needed three.

I feel pretty strongly that a thank-you gift for a teacher should come from the child, so we had a think about it and Jack wanted to make something with fabric from my stash which was fine by me. We decided on a cushion for the main teacher and pencil cases for the others (I only had one cushion insert handy).

We found some fabric dye crayons at a local craft shop and some cream fabric, jelly roll strips and a bag of bright scraps in the stash and set to work.
Artist at work
The first step was to draw on some squares of cream fabric. I taped the fabric to some cardboard to stop it shifting, wrote the names on a bit of paper for him to copy and left him to it. The names were my suggestion but Jack decided on the rest. He drew a picture of each teacher surrounded by flowers and love hearts.

I love how each teacher is drawn with a big heart taking up most of their body
 The next day Jack picked out fabrics to frame each drawing and then sat on my lap to sew them together. By this stage he was running out of steam, and a bit bored by all the pressing going on, so he picked out fabrics for the backs and found something else to do.

He was particularly adamant that the two pencil cases needed to have the spider fabrics on the back "cause that will freak them out, Mum". Charming child.

The pencil cases turned out much larger than intended, but that may just make them more useful? The cushion cover was all jelly roll strips, so was easy to put together. I made an envelope back with a velcro closure, and really loved the way it turned out. (Jack's Dad even liked it enough to request we make some for his family for Christmas. We made two but forgot to take photos. The picture Jack is drawing in the photo at the top of the post is one of these.)

We finished off the gifts with cards Jack made by drawing a Christmas tree on the front of a pre-cut blank card. He wrote his own message to each teacher inside the card and I so wish I had taken a picture of them to put in his scrapbook.

The only thing I purchased specifically to make these gifts was the set of fabric crayons, everything else was from the stash so they weren't expensive but there was quite a bit of time and effort from both of us to create them. The look of pride on his face when he carted them off to school was more than worth it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

13/13 Challenge: Book One - The Casual Vacancy

The first book on my list (Welcome to Normal by Nick Earls) was a bit of a bust. A book of short stories that just didn't grab me. Usually I enjoy curling up with a heap of different tid-bits but I gave up on this one after 2 and a half stories. There was nothing really wrong with them it just really felt like they were writing exercises or scenes out of a bigger story. I love short stories that arouse your interest, give you a jolt, leave you wanting more - but this didn't do it. So that one is going back to the library.

Instead of going for the next one on the list I grabbed a new one as an impulse buy while shopping for something totally different.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling - a book I've been interested in reading but really didn't know what to expect.

A warning - if you are after a lighthearted holiday read with a feelgood happy ending then put this one back on the self. It really isn't what I was expecting. Gritty, intense, uncomfortable...but a really good read.

At first it reminded me of an Agatha Christie or Midsommer Murders type tale (without the murder) but the further I got into it it more closely resembled something along the lines of Jodie Picoult's The Tenth Circle (another one I highly recommend).

There are lots of interesting characters in this story and while JK Rowling doesn't use Picoult's technique of developing the characters and plot by using different characters as narrators at specific points, the effect is similar. You learn a lot about the characters and their inner motivations as the story develops. You won't like most (or maybe any) of the characters but you will recognise parts of yourself and parts of people in your life, and that can be in turn amusing, uncomfortable, revealing. I did wonder how the author lived with these people in her head while she was writing this. It must have been an exhausting and emotional process.

So, while the subject matter and the characters are difficult, the writing is excellent. This book sucked me in, and while it wasn't one I could read from cover to cover in one sitting I was compelled to put other things on hold so I could get to the end. I think it took less than three days and left me with that satisfied and spent feeling where I don't have the need to immediately pick up another book, but also with the urge to share the story and my reactions, to mull over the plot and the cast, to relieve bits at odd moments.
Books like these leave me wishing that my husband was a reader so that we could talk about it. Bring on the book club!

My reading for the next few weeks will mainly consist of Maths and Science textbooks, but that will give me the break I need to refresh before opening the next book on the list. I wonder which one will take my fancy?