Archive for November, 2008

Four going on fourteen

November 29, 2008

Not long after my niece turned four, she and my sister were in the car. My sister said to my niece, “It will be so funny when you’re a teenager. You might not like Mummy and Daddy very much.”

“Why not?” asked my niece.

“Well, you’ll think we’re old and boring, and you’ll find us embarrassing.”

“But why?”

“Because that’s what teenagers are like.”


A few moments later: “Mummy?”


“I don’t like your singing even now.”


Oooh, look!

November 19, 2008

Someone’s made a toadstool using my tutorial. How exciting!

Happy birthday, Big Dog

November 17, 2008

Big Dog is one today!

I gave him a stick. He seemed to like it.








November 15, 2008

Marks and Spencer now delivers to New Zealand!

Ummm, this is probably only interesting if you are British and live in New Zealand.


November 15, 2008

In New Zealand there are two things about me that people think are very strange. The first is that I am vegetarian. “Oh. Do you eat chicken?” No. “Fish?” No. “So you don’t eat any meat or fish? What about sea food?” No. They then look at my husband with pity, as if to say, “Why didn’t you marry a nice normal girl who eats proper food?”

The second thing is that I don’t drive. I did have lessons when I was a teenager, but I failed my test three times, and then I moved to London when I was 19, and in London you just don’t need to drive, so I never learnt. Then last year I moved to a tiny little town in New Zealand, discovered there is no public transport at all, and realised I would have to learn to drive or become a recluse.

So, I have been having lessons for the last six months, and yesterday, I had my driving test.

For the last fortnight, I have been waking up every morning with a feeling of dread at the thought of my driving test. When I booked it, I felt very confident that I would be able to pass, but the spectre of those three failed driving tests of my youth raised its ugly head, and I started worrying that I was just one of those people who would never pass their test. “Don’t worry so much,” my friend said, the night before the test. “Even thick people can drive,” she said reassuringly, quickly adding, “and you’re clever, so you should be fine!” as she realised what she’d said.

Yesterday, I was up at the crack of dawn, and was picked up by my driving instructor at 9.30 am. My test was scheduled for 11.45 am, so I had over two hours to work myself into a panic. We drove around, and I started to feel calm again, thinking “I can do this.” Then my driving instructor’s other pupil, who took her test before me, failed. “Now, I don’t want you to worry” my instructor said. “She failed because she broke the give way rule. Twice.” My mind went blank. Give way rule? I can’t remember the give way rule! Aaaargh!

Then it was my turn. I took a couple of deep breaths, and wished it was possible to have a quick vodka to calm my nerves (apparently, that’s frowned upon) and started to drive. And do you know what? It wasn’t so bad. My driving was okay, although I didn’t think that I was driving as well as normal. When we arrived back at the test centre, the examiner turned to me and said, “You did quite well,” and then started filling in the test form. I sat there thinking, “Quite well as in, congratulations, you’ve passed?” Or, “Quite well as in quite well but not good enough?” She looked up and said, “You were a bit juddery in places, though. I expect that was nerves, was it?” “Oh yes”, I said. Because who’d say, “No, not at all. I’m just really crap with first gear.”

So, she scribbled away, and I sat there too scared to ask how I’d done in case she said I hadn’t passed. For 5 minutes. Then my driving instructor came over, and they chatted between themselves, as I sat there trying to look at the paper-work to see if there were any clues as to whether I’d passed. Then I saw it, written there at the top of the piece of paper.


I passed!

At the grand old age of 38, I can drive.

Right, I’m off to the beach. Byeeeeee.

How to tell…

November 13, 2008

if your cat is plotting to kill you.

Luckily for me, Big Dog and Little Dog tipped me off.

Things I’m going to make one day (# 8,652)

November 10, 2008

A love heart applique thing.

I love this – it is so simple, and such a lovely mix of colours. I have got as far as buying some old woollen blankets from the op shop. One of them was covered with cat hairs – the lady in the op shop was very apologetic about it until I explained that within 10 minutes of being in my house the other one would match it perfectly. I suppose I should get the hair off before dying the blankets, but maybe the dye will disguise the hair…?

Things I’m going to make one day (# 5,386*)

November 7, 2008

Some pillow case dresses for my niece.

* OK, I’m exaggerating, but it sometimes feels as if there are that many things that I plan to make one day…..

Signs of spring

November 7, 2008

I heard my first cicada of the year today.  Noisy buggers.  I do love the sound of them, though.

Toadstool Cottage and Mushroom House: free pattern and tutorial

November 3, 2008

Toadstool Cottage (left) and Mushroom House (right)

Now, I know that craft blogs are full of mushroom pincushions, but when I decided I had to have a mushroom pincushion of my very own, I couldn’t find a pattern or tutorial for the shapes I had in mind. Not that the ones I found weren’t lovely, just that I had a very specific image in my head of how I wanted my pincushions to look.

Failing to find a pattern on the internet, I again had to resort to making my own pattern, this time using a compass, a protractor, a ruler, and my rusty knowledge of geometry. Now, either my knowledge of geometry was much better than I thought, or I was incredibly lucky, because the pattern worked.

If you want to make your own, here’s how.

First, get a compass, protractor and ruler…. Only kidding.

You’ll need the following materials:

Red & white felt: a 9″ (23 cm) square of each will be big enough to make Toadstool Cottage and Mushroom Cottage unless you enlarge the pattern. Or, you can use any other colours you like.

Embroidery floss or wool:

  • White, for attaching the spots (you could use normal sewing thread for this instead)
  • Green, for grass and stems
  • Brown, for the door and windows
  • Selection of colours for the flowers. I used red, pink, blue and yellow

Scraps of coloured felt (or other fabric) for doors and windows

Sewing thread, embroidery needle, etc

Stuffing: I used toy stuffing for mine as I wanted them to be washable, but you could also use pellets or rice, or even wood shavings as stuffing.


Download the pattern file

Click here for the pattern. That link will take you to a PDF of the pattern pieces. If you print the document at 100% of its size your Toadstool Cottage will be approximately 5″ or 13 cm high, and Mushroom House will be approximately 4″ or 10 cm high. (Unless I really messed up the production of the file, in which case let me know…)

You can enlarge or reduce the pattern to make different sizes.

Please note: this free pattern download is not for resale. All rights reserved. No part of the pattern may be reproduced in any form. The written instructions, photographs, design, and pattern are intended for personal, non-commercial use only i.e. you are not permitted to sell any items made using this pattern.

Cut out the following pieces

From red felt

  • Either 4 x cap top 1 for Toadstool Cottage or 4 x cap top 2 for Mushroom Cottage

From white felt

  • Either 1 x cap bottom 1 for Toadstool cottage or 1 x cap bottom 2 for Mushroom Cottage
  • 1 x stalk
  • 1 x base
  • 8 or 9 spots (I used 9 spots for Toadstool Cottage and 8 spots for Mushroom House)

From felt colour for door

  • 1 x door

From felt colour for windows

  • 4 x curtains

Make the cap

Step 1: take two red cap top pieces and pin together. For Toadstool Cottage, sew down one of the long sides, using a ¼” seam. For Mushroom House, sew down one of the sides without the notch, as shown below, using a ¼” seam. Repeat for the other two red cap pieces.

Step 2: open both the sewn pieces out flat, and pin to each other, matching the corners and seams. Sew together, using a ¼” seam.

Step 3: turn right side out, and sew the white spots to the cap using running stitch. If you prefer, you can attach the spots using fabric glue. I used nine spots for Toadstool Cottage, and eight spots for Mushroom House.

TIP: it is easier to sew the spots to the cap before the cap is stuffed, but if you prefer, you can sew them on later.

Step 4: turn the cap inside out again, and baste the cap bottom to the edge. Sew using as small a seam allowance as possible, a maximum of a ¼” seam (I used an 1/8″ seam, but both work).

Turn the cap right side out again, taking care not to stretch the cap bottom.

Make the base

Step 1: place the door in position on the stalk piece and baste into place. Note: the base of the door should sit about ¼” above the bottom of the stalk, as shown below. Sew the door in position using chain or back-stitch, and make a French knot for the door handle. Then baste the curtains in position, and embroider the window frames, again using chain stitch or back-stitch.

Step 2: embroider the stalk with any details you like, leaving a margin of ¼” round the edge of the stalk piece. As you can see, I embroidered lots of flowers, because that’s what I wish the front of my house looked like. I used a combination of detached chain stitches, back stitch, and French knots for my embroidery.

Step 3: once you have finished decorating the stalk, fold it in half with the embroidery on the inside, and the two short sides matching up, and sew using a ¼” seam, then turn the right way out.

Join the cap and base together

Step 1: lightly stuff the cap. Don’t stuff it too much, as you need to be able to insert the stalk into the opening.

Step 2: insert the stalk into the opening, and baste into place.

Then sew firmly using ladder stitch.

Step 3: once the stalk is attached, finish stuffing the cap firmly. Then stuff the stalk, but loosely. You shouldn’t have any stuffing poking out of the bottom when you’ve finished, or the pin cushion won’t stand up (check that it stands up before you attach the base, and adjust the stuffing if needed).

TIP: if you’re using pellets or rice or something similar for stuffing, it maybe useful to cut a circle of card or plastic to line the base with.

Step 4: attach the base using running stitch.

And ta daaaaa! You’re done.

If you make any of these, please post a pic to The Little House by the Sea flickr pool or send me a pic, as I’d love to see them.