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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

We've got mice!

Hello everyone!

Half term is over now - how was your week?

The biggest girl sat at the Singer, making a shirt for her mouse, `Crumbs'
The three big girls (and Mark) are back at school, leaving Charlotte and me to our own devices again. It's been a sluggish start to the week for us - I've had a raging ear ache, and, poor little Charlotte was sick so many times last night that I ran out of clean bedding. But, we did fit in a good play at Bedford Park with friends yesterday, rounded off by my current favourite guilty little secret - a BLT at the newly opened Pavilion, so not all bad. Back to the vomit for a moment, times like this make me feel eternally grateful that I live in an age and society where automatic washing machines are the norm. Hurrah for that. There's no more sign of sickness this morning, so fingers and toes crossed, everyone, huh?
The shoe box that got turned into a wardrobe, thanks to the middle girl (aged 6)
Anyhow. Half term was most excellent on the sewing front. I finished my coat - yippee! I'll blog about that once I have bribed my friend to take some decent pictures of me in it. I felt joyous wearing it for the first time on yesterday's school run. The wind was biting, and I was nice and warm in the coat that I MADE MYSELF. Love, love, love sewing and the joy it gives me. Naturally, I couldn't resist a few coat selfies - so if you happen to follow me on Twitter (@kitchentablesew) or Instragram (@notjustanothernotebook), you'll have already had a peek of what the coat looks like.

Back to the topic...

The biggest girl made this, and called it a `Celebrate Britain' dress (!)
I'd earmarked this half term as a good time to help my little girls brush up on their sewing skills.

Sewing featured strongly in my childhood. Be it Mum going back to college (to get formal qualifications for all the things she seemed to be able to do already) and making her own tailored collection; standing on the dining room table, complaining as she pinned the hem on something she was making for me to wear; the house being full of dance costumes, ready for the majorly exciting to me dancing show (that was how Mum paid for my own lessons), and, not to forget, all the bags of scraps that I was allowed to delve into and make things with.

The middle girl made `Princess Polly', and here she is in her Strictly outfit, made at Grandma's
It's this last memory I most want to give my girls as part of their childhood. So, as the eldest girl (aged 8) already had her eyes on my copy of the Comic Relief Crafternoon Mollie Makes, I decided now was the time to go for it, and offer to help them all make something from it.

These mice were one of her favourites. (She'd like to make the felt guinea pigs with dinosaur outfits next.)

The mice were too tricky for them to manage alone - so they didn't get frustrated and give up, I said I'd do most of the work on the bodies, and they could do the clothes on their own. This worked out pretty well - after making the first mouse, I made the next ones slightly bigger, as the limbs were a pain to turn out and stuff. For a crazy couple of hours, I was sewing as fast as I could, trying to finish the mice before Charlotte woke up from her lunchtime sleep. Meanwhile, the girls did the bits they could - they stuffed, and they hand stitched the tails and the features on their mice. By the time we got round to thinking about clothes, and doing something constructive with the bag of scraps that was now strewn all over the dining room floor, Charlotte was awake, and it quickly became clear we needed to close the door on the `sewing room', resolve to eat our tea in the kitchen, and wait for the next day.

Sewing with children of different ages isn't easy. Part of me would rather they all watched TV, or went off and played their own games and gave me some peace. (There was plenty of that in our half term, too.) But, I want them to share the joy I get from being able to sew. With grotty weather, and time on our hands, last week seemed like the right time to grit my teeth, pretend I am a patient person, and get on with it. I often had to take a deep breath, and remind myself this is meant to be fun for them - that them all demanding my attention at once is just them being keen to succeed at something new and exciting but not knowing how and wanting help to get there. Each of them in turn, needed to be firmly asked to go off and find stuff to play and do on their own, so that someone else could get the one to one help they needed.

This all sounds a bit negative. It wasn't - it was really enjoyable in the end, once they got the hang of some basics (meaning I wasn't endlessly threading needles), and, as soon as they started getting their first whiffs of success (such as the moment the biggest girl finished sewing her mouse a face, above) they were hooked. I know that the mice will probably end up lost and forgotten at some point, and they may not remember making the mice - but I am hoping we've made some decent steps towards making sewing something they can begin to enjoy independently. I'm counting it as a success that they can all now thread a needle, do a few basic stitches and tie off.

`Princess Polly' in her dress (it matches the beloved blankie the middle girl has)
They made the first set of clothes on my ancient Singer machine. They loved using it - being powered by a simple handle, they felt in control and that it wasn't at all daunting. Plus, they quickly worked out how fast they could sew up clothes by machine. The second set of clothes were made by hand, during a grey afternoon at Mum's, when she let them raid her scraps and pretty ribbons.

`Sidney' the mouse, in her dress made by the littlest big girl (aged 5)
The eight year old even commented at one point that maybe she might be allowed to have the machine for her children to use. Whoop, whoop. The seed has been planted. I think the biggest girl is well on her way to loving sewing. To be fair, all three are. Success

The gang!


  1. Sounds like you had a fab time over half-term (apart from the vomit). And, those mice are just gorgeous!

    I haven't quite got round to doing any sewing with my bigger ones. We do have a regular cooking night (Fridays) when they take it in turns to choose and then cook their own tea. Your comment about pretending to be patient made me laugh! I can relate to that - a lot. I have to keep telling myself that they have to learn (and make mistakes) for themselves. But it's hard not to just whip the knife/scissors/paintbrush etc out of their hands and say 'let me help'.

  2. Thanks for commenting. Yep - I definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to attempt this sort of stuff, and to continuously remind myself not to interfere too much, and out of frustration take over, or say things that crush their confidence. The cooking nights sound ace - do they clear up afterwards..?!

    1. We are working on 'clearing up' skills after cooking ;-)

      They do all take their plates/bowls to the sink/dishwasher when they get down from the table - but that's about it

  3. Such cute mice and a great cause too :)

  4. This is a great article - I am just learning to sew properly, and would love to get my own daughter interested but have been worried she is too little at 5 to get the hang of it without giving up in frustration. But you have inspired me to give it a go! Maybe in the Easter hols... H

  5. Such little cuties! They are all excellent. You deserve a medal for patience Janet x

  6. I remember making a rag doll with my mum when i was about four, and I still have it! Have faith they will probobly remember it as being one if the best days of their lives! X