Tuesday, 31 December 2013

F Off 2013!

So it's finally the last day of 2013 and I could not be happier to see this year go. I'm not a superstitious person but '13 really has been unlucky for some. It has been one long and shitty year - not just for me but for some of my closest friends too - so I really hope there are better things in store for us all in the new year.

I am lucky that through these tough times I have had wonderful support from those dear to me, I've made some amazing new friends and some relationships have become even stronger than I thought possible. I thank all of those people for being there for me/us.

But even when things felt like they couldn't get any worse, life still goes on. And being a mama to our beautiful little boy has never meant more to me than during this year.

Now fuck off 2013, we've got stuff to get on with! Here's to 2014 - may it be a truly good year for everyone.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas everybody!

Blimey! It's Christmas Eve already. I feel like I've lost a week somewhere in December, it whizzed by so quickly. I'm afraid I didn't get round to doing some of the things I'd intended: Wiss had a shop-bought chocolate advent calendar instead of a beautiful handmade one I'd seen on Pinterest (of course he doesn't care at all!!), I haven't found time to blog about our Christmas, and I ran out of time to send lots of Christmas cards. I'm really sorry to all those expecting one. But...

In lieu of receiving a card in the post from us I'm writing this to wish all my friends (in real life and online) and extended family a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful new year too! Here's hoping it's a good one. 
With lots of love from the Tobins xxx

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Modern Dolls Houses for Girls and Boys

This post has been in my head for almost a year but with one thing and another it just didn't happen. But now in the run-up to Christmas it seems like a great time to talk about dolls houses. I'm sure Santa will have been asked for one or two already!

I loved my dolls house when I was little; I 'wallpapered' the inside with football stickers but I played with it for years. And now with my job as a modelmaker, I get to build little houses all the time! Maybe because of this, and maybe because I cannot stand all the expensive, very pink dolls houses that seem to be everywhere, I started to think slightly differently when choosing one for our son Wiss.

There are some truly amazing ones on Pinterest (of course!) My board This is Dolls House Heaven has lots of inspiration to get started with. I really like the ones that have been made out of other things - boxes piled up together to make tower blocks, or houses in bookcases or sideboards. And I love that they are not gendered - a house is a house, and can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. Simple.

I bought a Componibili storage unit when we bought our first home. I persuaded my husband that the expensive price tag was worth it because it's a 'design classic'. Stylish and retro yet modern - I soon came to find out that it is actually completely useless too! It is impossible to put anything at the back of the compartments as you can't get to them from the front. Aargh! But it looks so damn cool though.

It found it's way into Wiss's room when we moved house and he started to play with it. Genius! It makes a brilliant 3 storey dolls house with a roof garden too. I printed out images of flooring I found on the internet - tiles, carpet and parquet - and some grass and water to make the garden. I glued them on to card and then stuck them place to make the kitchen, lounge and bedroom/bathroom. We already had lots of Happyland people, and I bought the wooden furniture on eBay.

I love the way that Wiss involves lots of different toys when he plays; we often have the Brio train taking people from their dolls house to work and back, and even Lightening McQueen has popped in for a cup of tea and some cake. You can see some tiny figures that have made themselves comfortable on the roof terrace - scale is not important round here!


If you want even more inspiration then why not ask an architect to design one for you? I'm not sure that all the houses would be popular with kids but there's definitely some interesting ideas in this article from the Guardian.

As always, I'd love to see what you (or even your kids) have made. Where do the dolls in your life live? You can leave me a comment below or tweet me your pictures @thisiswiss.

Thanks for reading! Angela

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

I Found My Knitting Mojo Again!

A couple of weekends ago I had the treat to spend a few hours in the West End, alone. Well, obviously there were other people around (although it was so early on Saturday morning that it wasn't that busy.) But importantly there was no little person to dictate how long I was able to shop or linger. Heaven!

I was actually buying supplies for This is Wiss production, but I slipped in a little shoe shopping too, as you do. Anyway, when I was in John Lewis haberdashery department I saw this yarn and I knew I had to buy it. I haven't knitted anything for over a year, and to be honest my 'To Do' list is busy enough without adding new projects but I just loved the grey and the neon pops, so I bought it.
Wiss and I had a trip to visit my oldest school friend in Paris this weekend so actually I was able to find lots of time for knitting - on the Eurostar, on the train, in the evenings when the kids were in bed, even just over coffee! It seems that knitting is considered pretty unusual in France and we attracted some funny looks but I managed to finish a scarf for Wiss in two days.

This wool is super-chunky so I only had to cast on 14 stitches. I wanted to make some little 'pockets' at the end of the scarf to keep Wiss's hands warm when he doesn't have his mittens on. Which is most of the time! The pockets are a 2 stitch rib for 16 rows, then simply garter stitch for as much as possible, before repeating the ribbing for the other pocket. This is not a real pattern, I completely winged it, and ideally I'd like it to be a bit longer, but I only bought 2 balls of yarn. Perhaps it would work better as a wrap over scarf rather than being tied?

Wiss has agreed to wear it (bonus) and I found a hat from Hennes with neon piping on it too. So winter, we are ready for you!

I'm itching to get something else on my needles now - I'd forgotten what a great activity it is for when you're on the move, or how perfect it is for cosying up on the sofa. But what to knit??? Any ideas gratefully received!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Autumn Leaf Bunting

What's this? Two posts in as many days?? Yes, it's true...but this is such a quick and easy make that it's worth sharing, especially after the storm that Britain has just experienced.

One thing we have in abundance at the moment is fallen leaves, so why not get the kids out and collect some to make this beautiful Autumn Leaf Bunting? Davina Drummond at The Making Home has a great tutorial to show you how, but it is super simple and looks great.

Wiss really likes to sew all by himself so we used wool and a plastic wool needle to string the leaves together. Pick your favourite leaves, sew them together and then hang. Easy! Beautiful!

Easy Halloween Decorations to Make with the Kids

We got our hands dirty in the name of art this week!

Our Dining Room Art Gallery needed a new exhibit, so we went spooky for Halloween... Floating Ghosts and Creepy Spiders! These are so easy to make the kids can do most of it themselves, and they look fantastic too.

For the Ghosts you will need:
Some polystyrene cups, some plain white tissues, pva glue and some googly eyes.
Then all you need to do is turn the cups upside-down, paint around the base of the cup with glue and stick on one tissue, making sure there is enough hanging down past the cup. Repeat with another tissue to create a full ghost effect.

Once the glue is dry stick on googly eyes as desired. Hang away from the wall with fine thread (to create the illusion of the ghosts hovering). The ghosts will move whenever someone walks past....oooooooohhhhhh!

The spooky spiders are made from two black hand prints cut out and stuck together and their web is just cut from folded tissue paper (like you would make a snowflake)

I have always loved the Mexican Day of the Dead imagery and think that it is a wonderful idea to celebrate those no longer with us. The brightly coloured sugar skulls and fun skeletons are in contrast to our own spooky ones, and they are great for kids to make (especially those that may get a little frightened by Halloween.)

I drew a very basic skull shape with eyes and teeth and left the rest up to Wiss and his glitter pens! As he was drawing I explained that the festival remembers the happy lives of those who have died so that we don't have to be sad. He thought for a minute then asked if we could paint a happy 'Jimmy'. Jimmy was his black fancy goldfish that was unfortunately found floating on Saturday morning :( So, here are our Day of the Dead inspired skulls, and a fish!

Enjoy Halloween with the kids (and the sugar-induced craziness!) but if you're looking for something more grown-up then check out the Horniman Museum website. They are hosting a Day of the Dead Late night on 7 November from 6 - 9pm for over 18s only. With parades, theatre, puppets, Mexican street food and costumes, it looks amazing!!! See you there?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Where is Wiss? Buy Handmade in London this Christmas

I know we are still in October so it's really not the done thing to be talking about the 'C' word yet...but as this is the busiest time for makers and markets I've been planning upcoming events very carefully. It's going to be a really busy time for me but I'm really excited about involved in some wonderful Christmas Fairs.

So, if you are planning on buying handmade and supporting your local area (London) this season here are all the events that This is Wiss will be at (come rain, shine...or even snow!!!)

Saturday 10 November - Richmond Duckpond Market 10.30 am - 4pm

Saturday 16 November - Christmas Bazaar, Dulwich 10am - 5pm

Sunday 17 November - Ruislip Duckpond Market 10am - 3pm

Saturday 30 November - Open House Christmas Event, Herne Hill 10am - 2pm
Sunday 1 December - Red Ribbon Festival, Battersea Arts Centre 12pm - 4pm

Sunday 15 December - Richmond Christmas Duckpond Market 10.30am - 4pm

Phew! My sewing machine is going to need a holiday after all of those!

As well as all the usual best-sellers I will be bringing back my 'ChWISStmas' products: Rudy Reindeers, Make your own Rudy Kits, and festive t-shirts and baby gros. If you are able to come along to any of these events, you will be able to pick up some wonderful, unique presents and stocking fillers from all the sellers - and don't forget to say hello!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Kids Capture the Colour Competition - This is Wiss entry

A couple of months ago I took Wiss on a Toddle around London (a treasure hunt in Shoreditch with a digital camera). I was amazed at how much he enjoyed it, impressed at how easily he could operate the camera and fascinated by what he chose to capture. The world does look very different through the eyes of a child.

When I found out that Travel Supermarket were running a photography competition for 15 year olds and under I thought it would be fun for Wiss & I to think about over the summer. There are 5 categories to enter - Red, Yellow, Blue, Green & White - with a different guest judge for each, and an overall winner too.

The first 100 bloggers to register were given a digital camera, but although I wasn't one of them Wiss was lucky enough to borrow a V-Tech kids camera from Yat at Toddle. We like it so much that Wiss will be getting his own for Christmas (but sssshhh, that's a secret!)

The colour themes were simple enough for a little one to think about but also turned up some surprising ideas, as you will see! Lewis took the camera to a wedding, the supermarket, the park, and even just snapped away at home.

 From over 300 shots, there were lots of blurred photos but also some recurring themes:
Some surprising subjects:
Lots of shoes:
And lots of selfies!

But here are the final 5 photos which we are entering into the Kids Capture the Colour Competition. All the pictures below were taken by Lewis (aged 3 and three quarters) but I have chosen the final photos to submit.

Lewis loved this scooter in Shoreditch - you can see him reflected in the chrome at the top!

This was taken in Shoreditch again - Lewis was fascinated with the street art, particularly the colours.

Lewis spent a lot of time looking at the sky, noticing how it changed colour, and prompting the tricky question 'why is the sky blue?'*


Lewis took lots of photos of the trees and plants so I had lots to choose from, but I particularly liked the simplicity of this one.

Lewis took lots of photos when he stayed at his Nana Daisy's house.This is his favourite spot to sit and play in the sunshine so it was no surprise he took a photo of it.

If you want to check out some of the other entries you can use #KIDSCTC on Twitter or just google the competition for the blogs taking part. Good luck to everyone who's entered and I look forward to seeing the winning photos!

*Answer: it just is!

Friday, 27 September 2013

Handmade Toys and Other Essentials for Babies, Kids (and their parents!) available in South London here...

Everyone I speak to is in agreement - this year is flying by. And that means that the dreaded/exciting 'C' word is approaching fast too - eek!
I hope to be at a few Christmas markets this year but before I announce all of those (and because it is still only September) I will tell you about this one first:

I am really excited to be part of the wondeful Wonderhill Market this weekend. They have a fantastic line-up of stalls from local designers (including South London Prints, Made by Mrs M, and Ray Stanbrook to name a few). I'll be there on Sunday but the market runs across the weekend so please pop along if you can. I think it's going to be a cracking event!


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Minion Craft - Despicable Me Fun

Recently Wiss has started watching a few films, and he had his first visit to a cinema to watch Despicable Me 2 a couple of months ago. He loved it, obviously! The whole experience was pretty awesome for him (especially the popcorn!) but he particularly loved the Minions. I mean, who doesn't?

But rather than just watch the film over and over I thought it would be fun to make some Minions of our own to go in our Dining Room Art Gallery (although Wiss would probably disagree with this!)

The thing about the Minions is that there are a lot of them. And I have to admit that I thought that they would look pretty cool en mass on our wall. However...I have since learned that although small children like repetition of many things, making the same thing over and over doesn't seem to be that appealing. Making these Minions did turn out to be a bit of a chore for Wiss (sorry darling!) so we made them over the space of a week. I actually think now that this craft would work much better with a group of children: each child could make their own or you could try to get a production-line going with one child doing one part.

Anyway, we finished our Minions this morning and I have to say, we all love them and they do look pretty cool!

If you'd like to have a go at making your own army of Minions this is how we did it...

I cut out lots of body shapes from yellow card, blue dungaree shapes from blue card, and gloves and shoes from black. Admission: I used a laser-cutter to cut out my shapes because I'm lazy and I have the use of one. But you could easily cut a few at a time by hand with scissors.

Armed with a Pritt-Stick Wiss assembled the bodies and their clothes. We used a potato cut in half to print the eyes on with white paint (some Minions have 2 eyes, others have only 1.)

Once these were dry we used an old jam-jar and an ink stamp to create the rim of the goggles. Wiss came up with the idea of using his fingerprint to make the eyes - and he had great fun getting them to look in different directions or look cross-eyed!

For speed and ease we used blue electrical tape for the straps of the dungarees - I cut strips and Wiss stuck them on. And the finishing touch was wool hair sellotaped to the back of each Minion.

And there you have your very own Minion Army!

I really like the way they all look the same but when you look closely they are actually very different. We have been having lots of conversations about 'similar', 'identical' and 'unique' which is a great result I hadn't expected (and makes me feel better about forcing encouraging Wiss to make these!)

If you've been crafting with your little ones recently then I'd love to know what you did (and how it went!) Please don't let me be the only Craft-Dictator Mama out there...


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Wiss likes to ride his bicycle, he likes to ride his bike!

One of the things I find most fascinating about being a parent is discovering what your child's personality is like. There is the age-old debate about Nature Vs Nurture, and although of course, the way you bring your child up does have a huge bearing on shaping them (for better or worse) but each child does have their own traits within them from birth.

Wiss has always been a cautious boy. He prefers to have a hand to hold when he climbs or jumps for instance, and he will look for approval that something is safe before he does it. That's all ok, that's just who he is right now but I am keen to build his confidence as much as I can.

Enter the Balance Bike! Admittedly, it took a while for Wiss to get the hang of the balance bike, and we traded in the heavy wooden one for a light Micro version*, but once he had it there's been no stopping him. He loves his bike and will ride it at every opportunity - which has it's benefits for me too as we can get from A-B so much quicker now, but it's more than just that.

It is so wonderful to see him empowered by his own body and the pure joy he gets from moving at speed. I am filled with pride when I see him free-wheeling with his feet tucked up; it is wonderful to see my child doing something completely independently. Of course, he's had the occasional tumble (and maybe the concrete skate park wasn't such a good idea, Mama) but to see Wiss pick himself up and get back on the bike, after a cuddle of course, was also a great achievement.

I know there will be many more accomplishments and triumphs as Wiss grows up and I am looking forward to seeing them. For now, it is enough for me to simply recognise and record this moment - and include these fab videos. (I'm ashamed to admit mine is the slightly panicked voice at the end!)

*Bought from eBay for only £40 so it's worth looking around for bargains.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Tutorial Stall - Village Fair at the South Bank Centre

 Tutorial Stall - featuring 12 UK Craft Bloggers

This weekend (24th and 25th August) the Southbank Centre is hosting a large scale quintessential Village Fair including stalls, traditional games and crafting.

The key theme of the fair is community and bringing people together to share their passions. This is explicit in a series of interactive talks titled the Craft Code Village, which explore the relationship between the craft community revival and the Internet. In response to this the Southbank Centre have invited 12 Craft Bloggers from across the UK to create a collective Virtual stall on their blogs for the weekend of the fair - and one of them is me!

Crafters traditionally share their practice at market stalls and sell their goods as a way to generate income, whereas craft bloggers are more likely to share online and often share how to make their craft too. What happens when craft bloggers create a virtual stall?

THIS is the result: a Tutorial Stall sharing one link to each blogger's favourite DIY tutorial on their site. It provides a chance for all 12 bloggers to simultaneously share each other's practice to their readers and through doing so celebrate the very foundation of Craft Code Village.   

Participating Craft Bloggers (click on the link to be taken to the tutorial)

DIY Plastic Taxidermy by Pointless Pretty Things

DIY Dip dyed Shoes by Trends with Benefits
DIY Rubber StampPrinted Handkerchief by Davina Drummond at The Making Home

Crochet pin cushion by Crafting Finger

Woven ribbon lavender by Tales From Mountpleasant

Flower Fabric Badges by The New Craft Society

Felt Streamers by This is Wiss

Little Paper Book by Some I Made

Teacup Embroidery by Ailie Willia

Booboxes by Emily Quinton at the Start Up Wife

DIY Curve Bead CordBracelet by Claireabellemakes

Bunting Notebook by Papermash

I hope you are feeling inspired and please let me know if you do follow our tutorials - I'd love to see the results. Happy Bank Holiday!