The Bothered Owl

Alex and Sarah's crafty corner of cyberspace

Brockley to the Max June 5, 2011

Filed under: markets — thebotheredowl @ 11:36 pm
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This is the second year in a row that we’ve taken part in Brockley Max as vendors. This year was a little different, in that Alex and Scott did all the work and I spent the afternoon wandering around after the kids and taking in the atmosphere.

A very cute, napping, impediment to ever getting anything done!

Elias makes it a little awkward to work on the stall so instead I got to take lots of pictures and soak up the sunshine.

Bibs and purses looking purty in the sunshine

Hats galore

The stall looked beautiful, set up under some trees to take advantage of the shade. It gets pretty hot up there on the top of the hill but the trees by the stone circle make the perfect spot to lay out a stand. Unfortunately the hats didn’t stay out too long as there was a hefty wind that made things a leetle difficult, but they did look lovely in the sunshine.

Beautiful brightly coloured cufflinks

We had our usual array of Lego finery on display. I really like what Alex has done with the backing cloth for the stall. She found a load of lovely crushed velvet/velveteen in one of the local fabric shops and it makes a great background for the Lego in particular. I think the dark background really makes the colours POP!

Our new jewellery stands

Lovely organic design jewellery tree

We were also trying out these gorgeous new stands that Alex found. Aren’t they great? A really lovely organic shape to them.

I also got to chat a bit to some of the other stall holders which was lovely. Normally when we’re working on a market there’s fairly limited opportunities to actually get to check out other peoples’ work.

Thai massage in the open air

Brightly coloured dresses and lovely local photos

Two stalls in particular caught my eye and I took the chance to have a chat with the owners about their work.

First up was the stall next to us, run by Pinky Sidhu. Like us, Pinky’s a knitter, but she works with wire and beads, including precious stones.

A really creative way of displaying some thoroughly beautiful jewellery

I’m totally fascinated by knitting with wire so it was interesting to chat with Pinky about what she does. She said the most common question she gets is about what type of stitches she uses to create the ‘fabric’.  No matter what stitch you use, it ends up looking the same.

So tactile.

I particularly love the lapis lazuli earrings.

I love the airiness and illusion of fragility created by the space between the stitches.

The other stall that really captured me was run by a lovely gentleman called Phoesbus Apostolides. Phoebus is a photographer but he also makes lovely fine silver jewellery.

Beautiful glass earrings. I love the silver knots above the beads.

Fabulous curves

This pair were my favourite. I love the combination of the bell shape with those long sinuous curves. I’d feel like a temple priestess strutting around with them hanging from my ears!

Phoebus works with a type of clay called precious metal clay. He molds it to the precise shape he wants, then bakes it in a kiln. Once hardened it becomes silver. He also works with a gold version as well, which he applies over the top of the silver clay to add a touch of additional colour.

A lovely ring

Unlike gold leaf, the gold PMC won’t wear away because it’s baked into the other clay. I rally loved Phoebus’ work and again it’s so interesting to get to speak to the craft person about what they do and hear how passionate they are about it.

The rest of my afternoon was spent like this:

Balloon swords for the win!

Orlaith enjoying the company of a charming local fire officer.

Esme was slightly bemused by the whole experience.

The main event of the afternoon for both of them was the craft tent. Last year they were both a bit too young to really get into it but this year was crafty bliss for them.

Completely focussed on their work

Adding some embellishments


Esme said she was painting a picture of the Tsunami. Or as she pronounces it 'the Salami'.


It's all fun and games...

And there you have it. There was also music, food, cider, large amounts of bubble blowing and some hunting for lions in the long grass at the bottom of the stone circle. And lots of people enjoying the sunshine and hanging out in the park. A fine end to Brockley Max for this year, I think.

As for Elias, he napped through the whole thing but seemed pretty pleased with the experience.

Two very enthusiastically and uncontrollably waving thumbs up from the youngest owlet




Oops! May 2, 2011

Filed under: Life — thebotheredowl @ 10:16 am
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It has just been pointed out that I’ve not actually told anyone officially what the new owlet’s name is. Very remiss of me.

Come on, mother. The suspense is killing me.

He rejoices in the name of Elias Pelham Goldzieher Leavesley.

Goldzieher’s my maiden name and I’ve lumbered all three of them with it. Pelham is for dear old P.G. Wodehouse.

So there you go. Officially announced and registered and everything.



World Book Day March 3, 2011

Filed under: General Crafty Chat,Life — thebotheredowl @ 9:12 am
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Thought I’d just very quickly share a few photos of the completed costume for World Book Day. Orlaith headed off to school, very excited in her full Captain Flinn regalia about half an hour ago, waving her sword and looking absolutely delighted with herself.

So full of piratey glee

She was in fact attempting to stab me in my belly in this photo. And giggling unrepentantly throughout her attack too. Rotter.

Piracy is serious business, doncha know?

Like her tricorn? I used a fantastic tutorial from over here, to refresh my memory of how the outer brim should be pinned, mainly. For the most part, a tricorn can be made in the same way as a sun hat, it just has a much much wider outer brim and you have to stitch it up in a particular way to make that lovely pointy triangular shape.

And because it would be wrong to leave Esme out of the action, here is the costume she devised for herself. We’re not ALL about home/handmade here at Owl HQ:

A princess? Seriously? An owlette as a princess? But that's just so... vanilla!

As obsessed as Orlaith is about pirates and dinosaurs, Esme trumps her with her current passion for Sleeping Beauty. We have resisted her urging to buy her a Sleeping Beauty costume so she fashions her own from all the other girly princess dresses we’ve been given. Most days are spent either in this fabulous frothy creation or more often than not, draped in her big sister’s Snow White costume. She insists her name is Princess Sleeping Beauty.

But there’s a twist.

What's that, Lassie? Timmy's in the well? With some dragons? Avaunt!

This princess comes complete with her own pirate sword – I get told off for sugesting it’s a pirate sword, it’s a PRINCESS sword – and she fights dragons. And builds her own towers.

Ignore the sweet smile and pay attention to the flash of sharp sharp steel. Well, all right, foam. But that's not the point.

And there you have it, folks, our first ever World Book Day is off to a cracking start. Onwards and upwards!


PS Have a link to The Guardian’s brand new children’s book site. Huzzah!


Arrrrrrr (For Alex) February 27, 2011

Filed under: Life — thebotheredowl @ 11:01 pm
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This post is mainly for Alex, who missed out on seeing Orlaith’s birthday cake today.

It’s Orlaith’s birthday tomorrow, she’ll be spending it away from us for the first time ever – first day back at school and all that.  So we celebrated with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins today.

And of course, given her obsession with marine based larceny, there was a very specific request regarding the cake. Luckily we bought a pirate cake tin a couple of years ago, last time she made the request.

Alex, being somewhat occupied with being at a certain lovely yarnfest, wasn’t able to join us, but she asked for pics, so here they are:

Had to disguise the horrible brown icing with some carefully placed party rings.

What's that you say, Orlaith? You want sharks? Can do.


Over sized biscuit helm? Never. It's just that this is a ship for Really Big Pirates.

The sharks were made by cutting triangles out of licorice and the canons are licorice comfits. She asked for brown icing, for some bizarre reason, but it came out looking vaguely like an unmentionable substance. So I smothered it in tiny smarties and party rings. Because (apart from me) who doesn’t love party rings?

It was slightly lopsided and not quite as I’d hoped it would look but to be honest, Orlaith really really didn’t care.

Ahh, that smile 🙂



It’s a Mum Thing… February 25, 2011

Filed under: General Crafty Chat,Life — thebotheredowl @ 10:41 am
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I’m not quite sure where the burning need to make Amazing Costumes for our offspring comes from.

My mum had six kids and I don’t think she slept for at least 20 years, let alone took a quiet five minutes for a cup of tea and a chat on the internet (Internet? Pfff! I am OLDER THAN THE INTERNET!) But I remember always having the most incredible costumes for dress-up days when I was at school.

Whether it was a Holly Hobby style stripy skirt and mob cap for our special ‘Olden Days’ open day or a bright pink boob tube and gingham rah rah skirt for the school production of Joseph And The Technicolour Dreamcoat, she pulled it off, somehow. (Yes, somewhere there is photographic evidence of me as an Adoring Girl. No, you don’t get to see it. Ever. Some things are best kept hidden from the world.)

So when the lovely Julie of  Tilly Flop Designs reminded us all that next week is World Book Day (Thursday 3rd March, specifically) I was filled with dread.

Could I live up to my Mum’s amazing creations?

Would Orlaith agree to wear what I made? What the hell would my eccentric child want to wear for World Book Day anyway? She has somewhat… eclectic taste in books and I could see her asking for something completely undoable like a Captain Biceps outfit or Herb The Vegetarian Dragon or something. I have no idea how to pull off a dragon costume. None.

In the end it was fairly easy. One of her favourite books is Captain Flinn and The Pirate Dinosaurs which was a much treasured perfect birthday present from Alex and Scott (I seem to recall). We’ve subsequently acquired and devoured each new episode in Flinn’s fantastic adventures. They’re hilarious, full of swash and buckle and just the right amount of naughtiness. Dinosaurs and pirates are two of Orlaith’s all consuming passions in life, so the books are just perfect.

And of course, she wants to be Captain Flinn for Book Day. (So proud my daughter is continuing my own penchant for cross-dressing on Book Day. I remember going dressed as Prince Caspian at least once. Gender, schmender. Swords are cool.)

Flicking through the book I realised with dread I was going to have to make an actual *gasp* garment. A pirate coat, no less.

It sounds silly to be so daunted, but you have to remember that it’s been almost a year since I last made anything that wasn’t a knitting bag or a sun hat. I haven’t made myself any maternity skirts and I’ve never ever made a top, let alone a whole coat.

Still, armed with my trusty tools, I went to work with a will. I took Orlaith’s measurements and we sketched out what she wanted the coat to look like.

Look! I drew something. And it actually looks like the thing it's meant to represent.

I started out by looking at her existing coat and trying to figure out what I would need to do to adapt that shape to be more… piratey.  SarahAbroad suggested hitting up the thrift shops and finding a jacket to modify. And then I remembered my handy stash of Sew Hip contained in it, somewhere, a pattern for a duffle coat. I hunted like a pig for truffles and sure enough, there it was!

The kid in the photos is just so cute.

I used the pattern pieces for the lining as a starting point. One of the best tools you can get, if you’re going to be working with templates or patterns is a tracing wheel. Looks a bit like a tiny pizza cutter with little bumpy bits all over it and you can use it to copy pattern pieces without having to ruin them by cutting them out.

I traced the lining pieces, then I modified them.

Always, always, always write down what your pattern piece is.

Mark which bit is the neckline, armscye, hem etc. Really important to transfer any markings as well.

Not sure if you can see the markings too well in the photos, but I took Orlaith’s collarbone to ‘waist’ measurement, marked a line at that point on each of the pattern pieces, then basically extended the line of the bottom of the coat, to make it into an A line shape. Effectively, I added an A line skirt onto the bottom of her coat. Sort of.

DIdn’t need to alter any of the sleeve pieces so after that it was time to cut it all out and get sewing.

Sleevish! The funny looking bit at the top is where your shoulder goes.

All pinned together. Pinning is super important when making a garment.

Make the recipient try it on before you sew, scratchy pins and all. It will save you much heartache.

You can kind of see the new shape, no? Slightly swingier from the waist down.

I didn’t take any photos while I was sewing. I was too busy swearing at the thread for breaking and sweating over things like pocket placement and so forth. I roughly followed the instructions from the pattern in the magazine which were really nice and clear. I’d definitely make the duffel coat based on the pattern instructions. One of these days…

Anyway, skipping over the hours it took me to actually sew the things together – interspersed with breaks for taking people to the potty, making lunch, reading stories etcetera – here’s the finished product, like magic.

Ta dah! Pirate jacket, with dinosaurs. See what I did there?

(Um, Alex? I may have been forced, forced I tell you, to raid the stash on the table a little. Sorry about that. But the dinosaurs say they like living on Orlaith’s coat and they really wanted to be pirates rather than knitting supplies anyway.)

Best of all, are the buttons. I am so happy about the buttons.

Anchors away!

Jake bought himself a lovely coat earlier in the Winter – I think it might be a pea coat? – but the buttons were sewn on very badly. I repaired them three or four times in the first week or so he had it, until he finally got sick of not being able to wear his shiny new coat and we cut all the buttons off and replaced them with plain navy ones.

Not being one to throw anything away (Random birthday cards from when I was 6? Still at my Mum’s house somewhere.) I held onto them, just in case I should one day have a need for nautical themed buttons. And lo, I looked upon them and realised they were good. Oh yes!

I bound the cuffs with some offcuts of satin ribbon leftover from making drawstrings for our yarn pouches:

Mmm, smooth.

It took me all blinking day and most of my evening to put it together. But when she saw it this morning, it was all suddenly worth it.

Menacing, no?

She has yet to remove it for more than 5 seconds at a time and she and Esme have constructed a pirate ship on the armchair.

Arrrrr. Etcetera.

I’d like to think my Mum would be proud.

Captain Flinn and Pirate BicBic

Of course, the only problem is that now I have to make one for Esme. She’s already picked out the fabric. A mum’s work is never done…


PS Stay tuned later, we should hopefully have an Unravel Preview Post for you…


It’s bigger on the inside… January 3, 2011

Filed under: General Crafty Chat,Life — thebotheredowl @ 3:37 pm
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Never ever throw out a cardboard box. Seriously. Never.

We got a new suitcase delivered yesterday as the old one has been thoroughly trashed over the last 18 months of being dragged around to craft fairs.

The not-so humble cardboard box...

I came down this morning looking for the owlettes, only to be told by Jake that they’d left home, replaced by Mr and Mrs Fox, who had taken up residence in our lounge room inside their ‘den’.  The girls had gotten hold of the suitcase box and turned it into an underground residence of palatial magnificence. At one point, Esme even took a blanket and pillow inside and tucked herself up in bed.


Mr & Mrs Fox, Esquire. Please note panting tongue of Mr Fox



Over the course of the day the box has morphed from fox’s den, to mystery cave, to Toad’s motor car.

Poop! Poop! Get out of the way! Motorcars are The Only Way to Travel...

Then it was Cinderella and Prince Charming’s automobile on the way to their wedding, a rocket ship and now we’re back to Mr Fox again.

Prince Charming and the lovely Cinderella

Even the flaps and the tape can ebcome fodder for their imagination. Orlaith has pinched dangly bits of tape from the edges to serve as a doorbell for the cave and currently she’s manufacturing magic bracelets for protecting your village. All from junk.

Don’t have a cardboard box to hand? Don’t despair! Plastic storage tubs, wicker or plastic washing baskets, the backs of armchairs or the undersides of tables.

I have no idea what on earth they were doing. But look at those faces!

It really is such an easy way to let them explore the world and express all the things those spongey little brains are taking in. Chuck them a  box, see where they go with it and before you know it, they’ve achieved Lift off!

You're off to great places, you're off and away!



New Year musing January 1, 2011

Filed under: Life — thebotheredowl @ 1:21 pm
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So, here we are. 2011. Whole new year stretching out ahead of us like a big blank stretchy thing.

Although for some of us the canvas isn’t quite so blank as it might be. I already know some of what’s coming: mainly change. A lot of it.

Orlaith starts school, Tuesday week. Esme starts pre-school the following day, 3 mornings a week. I am frankly terrified about Orlaith starting school. School was not an easy place for me, socially and that has really affected me in the way I’ve lived my adult life so far. I had hoped I might be able to explore home schooling but with the other changes taking place in our lives at the moment it just didn’t feel like a realistic option. It’s not one I’ve closed off totally. If school doesn’t work out for Orlaith, then that is a bridge I am still prepared to cross.

Esme starting preschool will be a bit of a relief, in some ways. I think it will be good for her. I think some of her more challenging behaviour is to do with being a little bored. She, like Orlaith, is incredibly sociable (God knows where they get it from, I’d happily go and live in a cave and Jake’s not exactly Mr Extrovert either) and I think having the chance to interact with other kids and having other adults reinforce good behaviour expectations will really help her. It’s still a big change but one I feel less daunted about.

And then in around 12 weeks – which will no doubt feel like years while at the same time flashing past far too quickly- there’s going to be this whole new person in our lives.

I have no idea what to expect. Orlaith was such a placid baby right from the start. Esme was a startling contrast and, if I’m honest, a bit of a shock to the system. She is really full on and has been since the day she was born. If I’ve learned anything from having the two of them, it’s that I won’t know what’s coming until it’s here. And whoever arrives, they will come with their own personality and their own set of needs which will be totally different from either of the other two.

Then there’s all the business stuff to think about as well.

With Alex and Scott heading home, I am excited and daunted about the challenges of running my own business while juggling a family of 3 children and the house and … I am determined, at the moment, that I will make it work somehow. I know I am going to have to dig deep and go back to a bit more of my old, teacher self if I’m going to make it work. I’m going to have to streamline things, make decisions about what is realistic and what is just pie in the sky, wishful thinking.

It’s been interesting having a few days off over Christmas and New Year’s. I’ve barely touched my machine and whenever I have, Orlaith has told me in no uncertain terms how much she hates it. There is such guilt from being told by your four year old that she doesn’t like it when you sew because she feels lonely and sad. Ouch.

It makes me sad too, thinking how much of the last 18 months has been spent with me telling them I’ll just finish this and then we can… Or saying I can’t play right now, or I can’t read a story right now because I’m working, because I have to get this done, because I’m doing something Important and I really just need to finish it. I worry that I’ve wasted some of the precious time I’ve got with them, pushing them away a little, not savouring those moments quite as much, partly because of artificial time constraints that I’ve allowed myself to construct. If I’m honest with myself, I am a workaholic. I was the same when I was teaching and it’s somewhat ridiculous the extent to which I have been pushing myself over the last little while, particularly whilst pregnant.

At the same time, I know that I’ve done my best to balance time spent with them, with time spent working. Moving my machine into the loungeroom has helped. Sharing leftover scraps of fabric for them to make pictures with, setting up a kid friendly craft area at the end of the table so they can show me what they’re doing while I am working. Trying to make them feel included in what I’m doing, asking their opinions of fabrics, shapes and textures. I like to think that being surrounded by colour, pattern, shapes and textures has helped them develop in other ways. They love to see what I am working on and tell me if they think it’s good enough, although Orlaith in particular takes great delight in teasing me and telling me things are really ugly!

I think though, that with the two of them heading off into situations where I will have less time with them, I need to start to look at how we’ve been doing things and make some changes, because me spending all my time with my head stuffed in the fabric stash or bent over the computer is just not going to work out. I need to plan my time better and I also need to learn when to say no to people, how to set better boundaries and also that it’s okay for me to take my time on things.

I don’t need to answer every email or twitter conversation Right Now.

I don’t have to cut out, iron and sew up the custom order on the day that the fabric arrives.

If we don’t have 50 of every single item made up for the Big Show that’s coming up, or I don’t finish everything in my work basket, it’ll be okay. We’ll still have enough to go around.

I don’t have to try and be everything to every one and make everything Perfect. People will take me as they find me and understand that I am doing my best.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. They always seem to me to be ridiculous things, they get broken or forgotten very quickly and we fall back into our old patterns and carry on again, shifting things as they come up, but otherwise just ticking on with the business of our lives.

But this time of year does have me thinking about change and the decisions and challenges I have ahead of me in the coming months. Change can be a good thing and I think this year, I am going to embrace it, whether I want to or not!

I hope all of you have had a lovely holiday season and that your own reflections at this time of change will bring you good things in the year to come.

Happy New Year, all!