Parties without (ok then, with slightly less) plastic

May 2017

So little ones love their little things, there’s no doubt about it …and their expectations are formed by their experiences of being given little (and sometimes not so little) gifts when they go to parties. The ‘party bag’ is a thing, a big thing, and it’s really difficult to break away from because no-one wants to make a child cry, even when we know that they really don’t need any more things.

Providing small gifts for a perhaps large number of children for most people means that the gifts have to be cheap, and that leads us directly to throw-away plastic – and a sugar fix. Over a good few years now of working in the space between, a) trying to keep the children broadly happy, given their expectations and experiences, and b) trying to avoid contributing to just massive amounts of waste, I’ve arrived at a handful of criteria for semi-ethical but realistic and not too exacting party bags or gifts:

  • does the child have to create something?
  • is there some connection to nature?
  • is it remade?
  • even if cheap (and of unknown ethics in terms of production), will the item last and actually be played with?

If the item satisfies one of these, or more, then it goes in. It’s imperfect, and it doesn’t break at all with social convention because I think that’s only something that you can do collectively or with the understanding of older children – and you do want their birthdays to be nice – so it’s a better than nothing/trying my best without being too dogmatic deal in sustainability terms.

Here are some of the things that I’ve tried or seen others try:

  • bird feeder kit with pine cone, string, seed and instructions
  • bulbs to plant
  • pavement chalk
  • origami rabbits made from old books (any animal?)
  • LED tea light and pyramid lantern kit to make up (see this historical post for a pic)
  • a transparent plastic (I know!) bauble, to find a natural world treasure to put inside
  • a juggling scarf (they come in multi-packs and are one of the most consistently played with, appealing across ages and open-ended toys in our house)
  • willow crowns (been meaning to do the star wands too – see The Stick Book which is a wonderful)
  • wooden castanets (anything that makes music?)
  • pond dipping kit with net, tray, credit card style magnifying ‘glass’, and laminated ID sheet
  • pixie wand kit with a bangle and long ribbons to loop and attach (see this post for a pic, very pretty in the wind)
  • beanbag or oaty/lavendar bag to make up (young children love scooping in the rice or beans through the hole)
  • books, pads and colouring pens or pencils are always nice
  • my favourite, poo, yep poo, coprolite (dinosaur poo) from the fossil shop (see the fabulous Mr Woods)
  • latest, were L’s handmade beach treasure necklaces (see pics) where he learned to do some basic wire-wrapping and use pliers, definitely one for the child who likes to work carefully with his or her hands (as always u-tube is teacher)

I would love to hear thoughts about party excess and just good ideas for wee gifts so please do comment below! x


Home school various

May 2017

Having a really nice, flexi-schooling spell with my never-still, precocious, ferociously determined, sometimes-put-upon middle-sized boy. (Hover over for more information.)


Springtime and springtime creatures

April, 2017

So some nice springtime pictures, although sadly the bunnies moved too fast for inclusion (this time). The tadpoles are now wiggling/being poached by blackbirds. The game shown is L’s version of noughts and crosses, with signs of spring, snowdrops and birds. It was one of those stage-at-a-time projects which I like, with lots of different bits for different moods, days and even different children (collecting, choosing, cutting, pasting, varnishing, choosing again, sewing, threading, knotting). L sewed a lot of the bag on the machine himself – lots of nice straight lines – and was strangely intrigued by threading the cord  (tie). He was also insistent on an inside pocket so he could organise the contents, and it interested me that he had such a particular view on how it should be. So yeah, boardgamesgeeks (not me), I know it’s not much of a game, but as an artefact/creation – and process – it’s lovely.


More Japanese design …

April 2017

…knot bags this time, with harris tweed and scraps of upholstery weight fabric. Basically there is a long and a short handle, and the long passed through the short to pull the bag closed. I’m really drawn to the economy of the design, no pockets, zippers, poppers, buttons, just one basic shape, fully lined. The construction is a little strange because of the shape and is well described here at The Chilly Dog, although I made my own pattern. I quite like the idea of making more of these, but I think I’ll live with these three for a while first  and see how I might next adapt them.

Maybe a Japanese apron next …


Embroidered, collage cards

February 2017

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Ok, so there’s a bit of a backlog due to real-live-actual-work. That’s it now. Playing around with some card designs. I love in hand embroidery that you can get quite far with only a few stitches, looking at Clare Beaton’s books for example (liking the wee french knots, very cute).


Gotta catch ’em all!

February 2017

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Felt pokes: I really love the concentrating face above. This was a nice one to do because it involved some sustained effort and a collaborative project that could be broken down into different tasks: drawing a master version; tracing and cutting pattern pieces; cutting the felt (the adult bit); sewing together and stuffing (snowstorm scenario).

Fairy punch, x

Hearts and cranes

February 2017

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Hearts and cranes with origami boy, the cranes only a wee bit inspired by the big, gold ones in the foyer at Summerhall. The hearts are just strips of different lengths, largest to the outside, stapled to pinch in the top part of the heart with a ribbon loop at the centre, then stapled separately in tiers at the bottom. The tutorial we used for the cranes is here (utube is so much easier than the books for little ones – and me) and the hoop for the mobile is for wreath-making. The boy is getting actually, properly good at this now.