Some of you may be aware that I am developing my own website based around archaeology activities you can do with your kids. It’s not ready yet (finding the time is hard). However I thought I’d flag up this brilliant simple activity we did at one of our local museums. It’s basically Roman headdress making, but could be turned into an Olympic themed activity. In fact, should you want to adapt it you could make anything your heart desires. All that is needed is a stapler, some paper and some card. Self evident, something we have all done in the past, but lets face it, often the simplest old fashioned ideas are the best and it’s worth remembering them!
When people think of straw plait nowadays they usually think of corn dollies. However, that’s not really what I am talking about here. I mean the industrial straw plaiting techniques which were used in Victorian times to manufacture hats. This is something that I have become interested in as the St Albans area was one of the main centres for this industry. I’m interested in the Victorian period and in particular the home-working which occurred anyway so its just part of that.
The other day I was lucky enough to attend a course on straw plaiting and learn lots more about it. For example, children as young as three years old started work plaiting, some attending special plait schools. The work was hard and they were expected to produce 20 yards of plait a day and this had to be very regular and precise. Over time the plaiters fingers were damaged due to the sulphur used to treat the straw and they developed sores around their mouths where they ran the straw through their mouths to moisten it. It was a hard and demanding job, however the bonnets and hats produced were beautiful and have a very special magical quality about them.
As part of the course we were taught how to straw plait and use straw plaiters. It’s a skill in itself and there are a wide range of different types of plait and patterns/ colours that can be produced. However, the most simple straw plait can be produced using two straws which folded can produce three stalks to plait. You could either use paper or craft straws.Obviously in the past they would have created these lengths of straw plait which would then have been coiled around and sewn together to make the hats.
Anyway, it struck me that straw plaiting would make a wonderful activity for toddlers. You don’t need to use actual straw as that can be quite sharp. The most basic straw plait requires 2 straws and you simply fold them over and start plaiting away using both hands. For younger children its best to use craft straws, there are a few places on the Internet, for example I found some here. You can also used shredded paper, but that is a bit more fiddly
Hold one straw horizontally, take the second straw and fold it over your horizontal straw at right angles near to one end of the horizontal straw. You’ll then have the basic start.
You then work the straws so you move the outside one to the inside on alternate sides. I’ve tried to show you the basic technique in the images below:
It breaks my heart to throw away perfectly good clothes for a tiny hole when they can get a bit more use. I have been searching high and low for nice funky patches for the kids clothes and these are the first ones that I have found which fit the bill properly. I love sewing and making things, and really enjoy customising Fifi and Toddler Boys plain T-shirts and jogging bottoms. Again, these clothes plasters have proven themselves well worth their weight in gold and I have had several comments on how nice they are.
I know that one of the things that puts people off applique patches is the need to sew them on, however you only need to iron these ones on! Absolutely no effort at all then to transform a baby grow, T-shirt or patch up some ripped knees. Can you tell? I’m ever so impressed!
There are so many fab designs to choose from we were lucky as we got sent 2 boxes by the lovely Jennie who produces them. I know there will be something just right for you. Just don’t let your children choose from them as you may be there a very long time (Fifi spent about 20 minutes umming and eerring) I have even started using them to customise my own jeans. You can get hold of some here. Do make sure you check out the website as there are quite a lot of nice potential Christmas gifts.
I have been sewing on and off for years and years. I think I first started when I was about eight. Back then I wasn’t very successful, I was much better at knitting. However, in recent years I have really begun to get bitten by the sewing bug. I like the fact that it can be fairly instant. It doesn’t take more than about 30 minutes at most to knock up a simple bag, bib, pyjama bottoms. Instant results and the satisfaction that your child is not wearing something produced by another child. I also love the fact that you can produce something uniquely individual to them, something that mirrors their tastes, styles and lifestyles.
I have found that sewing is something that, if you are self taught, you can really improve through practice: looking at how to do things on blogs, studying how clothes you have bought yourself are constructed and through reading. Although it’s creative, it’s also accessible. Believe me, if I can do it, I am sure you would be able to.
Where to start? Well, DO NOT under any circumstance attempt to make some baby bloomers. These are incredibly hard to get right. I would suggest a really simple bag, or some Pyjama bottoms (mastering how to make these will save you a fortune over the years), a simple shift dress or pinafore dress is fairly easy. And if all else fails, have a go at making some simple rag dolls. It sounds silly but make sure you use fabric that you like, this will increase your satisfaction by ten times! I’ll try and write a few tutorials for these over the next few weeks and maybe a vlog.
Having gone around a few of the sales I have come to the conclusion that there is not much out there in the way of reasonably priced, nice clothes for little girls. Therefore, this year I will be making a lot more of her clothes. Sewing baby clothes is surprisingly easy to do, I also have been saving up my old clothes in order to re-cycle them. Below are a few free patterns that I intend to use, I’ll show the results shortly, but if you have a child of a suitable age why not have a go yourself?
The Pinafore Dress
The T shirt Dress
The Retro Dress