For the love of fixings. (And toddler busy boards.)

I thank my father for giving me a love of fixings and DIY shops. An abiding childhood memory is going to Atlantic DIY store early on a Saturday morning to get something-or-other my Dad needed to make something-else-or-other. Because he was always making something-or-other.

He gave me this sense that it is possible to make anything. That I can make anything. I certainly can't do it to the standards he would do it to, (see the amazing kayak he made below for proof of that) but at least I can do it! My sloppiness in this regard is a bit of a running joke! But every time anything breaks in the house I just ring my Dad so he can tell me how to fix it. (Or sometimes not to bother trying!) It was just normal to me having a father who is that fantastic so I didn't even begin to appreciate just how brilliant he was and what gifts he gave me until I grew up and realised not everyone's Dad was the best tech support for life. I'm lucky.

This love of DIY and skills with using tools is something I really want to pass on to the wee man. He might only be 1, but it's never too early.

So during the week I was making him a fabric "board" on which I sewed a buckle, a large button, a velcro tab, some pockets and a zip as these are the toys he likes!
 (Sorry for the crap phone photos.)

 And while googling for ideas of similar things other people had made their kids, I discovered busy boards. Some inspired people on Etsy have put together boards of fixings for their kids to play with.
So I copied them. (Sorry Etsians!)

We had a Saturday morning trip to the local DIY shop with three generations of my family. (Woohoo, day out in the DIY shop with Grandad!)
We picked up a variety of locks and hinges, door stops, light switches and pulley wheels. (Actually, the wee man picked up a lot more stuff  - "Look, boxes of little metal things everywhere! And it's all at my height!" - but we managed to put most of that back, albeit in the wrong boxes.)

I affixed them all to a large board which is now screwed up on the wall in our house. It was a massive success immediately. I cut a hole in the wood behind the door so we can put different things in there. 
Board in progress.

I want to go to another DIY shop, our local DIY mecca, soon and pick up a load of electrical switches. The boy loves switches. I guess DIY runs in all our blood. Thanks Dad!!



I've been making some playdough recently, which is a nice colourful change from the poo of doing my yearly accounts...

Not so nice.
Playdough is incredibly easy to make so I thought I'd share the recipe I used.

This makes a fist sized lump

1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of flour
1/4 cup of salt
1/2 tablespoon oil
1/2 tablespoon cream of tartar
Some food colouring if you want coloured stuff.

Mix it all up in a wee saucepan, put it on a low heat and stir until it comes together in a lump.
Cool and knead.

I've made it twice now, once while the wee man was asleep and once when he helped me measure everything out. The first result has a lovely texture, but strangely the results of the toddler-made playdough are a little more gritty (what can I say, the boy loves pouring salt). So if you want perfect playdough, I'd recommend sticking fairly well to your measurements. Also if you'd prefer not to dye your child's fingers red and blue for a few days (he loves those little food colouring bottles) then it also might be best to make it while they are asleep.

In more sage parenting advice, unless you want to spend about three hours sweeping your kitchen, you might want to avoid giving your child a full pot of hundreds and thousands and a another one of silver ball cake decorations to pour out in a bowl on the kitchen floor. Although on balance, I have to say it was worth it just to watch the joy!

Dolls for boys - Clothkits doll review

Toy shops annoy me, with their massive distinctions between boys' and girls' toys. I am a firm believer in having a wide range of toys for my wee man, not just fire trucks and cars. 

In the run up to Christmas I heard a long debate on Newstalk FM about Marks and Spencer changing their toy marketing to be gender neutral rather than having specific boys' and girls' toy areas. It depressed me how many comments there were ridiculing this idea. Yes, gender stereotyping of children is apparently totally fine according to the majority of listeners of Newstalk FM. Not exactly representative of the general public I know, but still surprising.

To be honest, I've been surprised at comments from friends my age about particular toys being "girl's toys" or "boy's toys" (and thus unacceptable as a gift for a boy/girl). Why the hell do we have to decide what's acceptable for our kids? A play kitchen is not okay for a boy and a truck is not okay for a girl? WTF?
Okay rant over, (and don't get me started on gender neutral clothing, of which there is none within a 50 mile radius of where I live...) the point of this post is to talk about the doll pictured above. I wanted the wee man to have a doll. It's really good for kids to have dolls (these people explain why better than I could). But I didn't want to get a plastic doll...which is where this kit from Clothkits comes in.

I love Clothkits. You may remember a skirt from them I made before.  I really enjoyed making the skirt and I love the style of their kits. Completely '70s! How '70s is the doll?! 
So I got the kit and made it up for the wee man. It is a challenging project in parts but well worth the effort! On their site they say it is a good way to learn to sew, but I would say you'd want to be pretty confident at sewing (or at least fairly gung-ho and have a good bit of patience). The kit includes the printed cloth for making the doll, instruction, stuffing, poppers, elastic and thread. I ended up using my own elastic as I couldn't figure out the instructions for using theirs.

Cutting out the pattern is very easy - it comes as a big sheet of fabric and you cut around the printed outlines to cut out all the pieces.
The instructions are good, but they could be better. Perhaps my expectations were high after making the skirt (which I don't remember having any issues with) but I found some of the instructions hard to understand. It seems like they could be updated to be clearer, along with some of the diagrams, which are small and not that clear either.
Some of the fabric pieces didn't line up - the hat for example needed a little ripping back and an extra bit cut off the band. Small things like this just take a short while to explain better in the text. 

Also, any mistakes were hard to rectify. The problem with picking seams is that the fabric is quite tender and I managed to rip a small hole in it ripping back a seam. So you want to try not to make any mistakes. 

The seam allowances are tiny too!! (2.5mm) It is very difficult to do such small seams - especially when you are turning 2.5mm over twice (to hide raw edges) and at times I just gave up and did one fold of 5mm, leaving raw edges on the inside.

I certainly found it challenging at times and I think a re-look at their instructions would certainly help make the kit better. But overall I love it! How cool are the owl pyjamas!

How cool is the doll! He's brilliant! The wee man likes him too. Overall I was very happy and would definitely get another kit from them. But I would certainly not recommend it to a sewing novice, unless they had a lot of patience. Or a helpful friend.

Go, dolls for boys!

Are there any toys you think boys and girls should both have?