{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

November 27, 2015

DIY || Applique cushion cover

Applique-Star-Cushion

Applique is a really effective decorative technique, and it's really simple, too! Follow this tutorial to create your own cushion cover with an appliqued star on the front.

What you'll need for this project:

Fabric in your desired colour, enough for two 40cmx40cm blocks
A coordinating fabric for your star
Scissors or a rotary cutter
The star pattern, which you can download here
40cm closed-end zipper

How to make the appliqued cushion cover:

Start off by cutting your fabric into the correct size. Remember you are free to make the cushion the size you want!

Print out the star template and cut it out from the fabric. Pin it to the centre of the front of your cushion. Be sure to pin it on every loose seam so that when you applique it, the design does not move around. If you prefer, you can tack the design to your cushion front or even use a double-sided interfacing to keep it in place.

Set your sewing machine to medium-sized zig-zag stitch, with the stitch length as short as possible. On my machine the setting I use is the same for buttonholes.

Slowly zig-zag all the way around the design, ensuring that edge of the star is at the centre of every zig-zag stitch.

End off by going backwards a little and then forwards again.

Place both sides of the cushion cover right sides together and sew around three of the sides, leaving the bottom seam open - this is where you'll put in the zipper.

Pin the zipper's right side to either side of the right side of the open seam. I find that pinning both sides together before sewing prevents the zipper placement from shifting.

Before you sew it up, make sure the zipper is open, otherwise you won't be able to turn the cushion inside out.

Use a zipper foot to sew the zip onto the fabric.

Trim the corners of the cushion, turn inside out, and press if you wish.

(I apologise for the lack of photos - I made this without the intent to share it on the blog.)

November 25, 2015

7 Things I Would Have Done Differently With My Baby

depressed-woman
It's already been almost three whole years since Emma was born, but I can still remember the feeling of being thrown into the deep end and drowning. I'm the first to admit that my despair after Emma was born was something I kept hidden from everyone - after all, when a life is brought into this world, into a happy family, you should be happy, shouldn't you?

I suspect I had some sort of postnatal depression, possibly even bordering on the more serious postpartum depression, but I was not medically diagnosed with it. However, postpartum depression is a silent, guilty reality for many women and then what do we do about it? Nothing, because we simply feel too guilty to say how we really feel; we feel too ashamed because we should be cherishing every second instead of feeling the urge to bawl our eyes out.

It was a bumpy road for me emotionally when Emma was born and the one thing that helped me keep my sanity was routine. And boy, was I a stickler for routine! I did everything at the same time every day; I kept a pedantic record of how often Emma urinated or her tummy worked, how much she drank and whether or not she threw it up, when, how often and how long she slept. Getting her to sleep and keeping her asleep was another challenge I solved by instituting a bedtime routine, which had her falling asleep by herself and sleeping through the night when she was just eight or nine months old.

Looking back now, I realise that clinging to a semblance of a routine was the only way I could feel in control of a situation that had terrified me: the responsibility of looking after and raising a child in a world filled with tragedy and violence was altogether too much for me.

And looking back now, I have many regrets; things I would have possibly done differently had I sought help for my issues and settled on my own happiness instead of my guilt.

Here are seven things I would do differently that you should consider if you have just had a baby or have one on the way:

  1. I would have spoken to someone about how I felt. The despair was a terrible cycle that made me the perpetrator and the victim at the same time. I was determined not to let anyone know how sad and scared I felt, but lashed out at everyone around me because they did not notice.
  2. I would have had more naps. I am a terrible napper as I need about 20 minutes to become settled. This was difficult with a young baby, but as Emma became older, I simply didn't bother at all, even though her own naps were long and peaceful. A lack of sleep did nothing but exacerbate the emotions I was feeling.
  3. I would have relaxed more. I spent most of Emma's nap times cleaning the house. I washed dishes and floors, cleaned the bathrooms, tidied, moved stuff around, did knitting and sewing and embroidery. I kept myself busy at all times. I know this was to distract myself from my feelings, but I really did need to relax more.
  4. I would have tried not to worry so much about Emma's wellbeing. Before you think this sounds like a terrible thing for a mother to say, let me explain: Emma was the only thing I was worried about. I didn't eat, I didn't hydrate, I didn't exercise, I didn't go outside. I was so focused on making sure her stools were healthy and that she was drinking enough milk that I did not worry about myself. Many mothers forget that they do not disappear when their baby is born: they still have their own needs that they should fulfil, too.
  5. I would have cuddled more and listened to my intuition more. Now that Emma is a toddler, she very seldom wants to cuddle unless she is feeling sad or ill. Cuddling was easy when she was a baby, even though she didn't like it that much to begin with, being quite a wriggler. But I would have held her and rocked her and cuddled her more and followed my instincts about holding her instead of worrying about whether or not she was sticking to her nap- and bedtime schedules.
  6. I would have exercised more. My favourite exercise is yoga, which is really beneficial for my core and for its meditational purposes. I did yoga regularly while pregnant, right up until the middle of my last month, but stopped doing this entirely after Emma was born. The first time I did yoga after she was born was when she was a year-and-a-half old, and then very seldom. If I had kept up with my practice, I wouldn't have found myself as unfit as I am now and my mental and emotional state would have been better all through the postpartum stages of Emma's life. Even now, I cannot get into a regular practice. This has set me back almost three years in my health stakes.
  7. I would have asked for help. My genetics does not allow me to do this easily. As proof you can take the fact that I would rather teach myself how to do something than go to a teacher or on a course. But I would have asked for help. I did not ask for help with anything and then felt pained when no one offered.

I believe the last point is the most important thing you should do differently than me: ASK FOR HELP! If you have help, you might be able to solve all my previous regrets: speaking to someone about my emotions would have helped me feel important and listened to; having someone babysit while I napped would have solved the exhaustion issue; having someone to do the dishes and tidy up would have helped me relax; and all this help would have given me more time and less anxiety to cuddle with her.

I become teary-eyed when I think about how much I feel I have done wrong as a mother, about how I have done Emma an injustice through these actions I regret.

However, I have a very happy, very healthy little girl, who is affectionate, playful, kind, generous, and unbelievably smart, so I must have done something right!

{Image credit: By Irais Esparza (Own work Naucalpan de Juárez, Edo. México) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

November 12, 2015

DIY || Broke your favourite mug? Mend it and keep it around!

mended-mugs-duo
Whether they're sentimental or simply a favourite item to drink coffee from, a broken mug can sometimes be heartbreaking. But follow my tutorial to mend your broken mug, and heart!


What you'll need for this project:

broken-mug-liquid-liner
A mug that's not too badly broken: that is, the pieces should be able to fit together again relatively well
Liquid Lead (used for stained glass crafts)

How to mend the broken mug:

rebuilt-mugYour first step will be to rebuild your mug so that you have an idea of where all the different pieces go. If you skip this step, you may root around for the correct piece for too long.
liquid-liner-along-crackLine one of the cracked edges with a generous amount of liquid lead.
mug-pieces-placed-togetherPlace your pieces together and squeeze them so that some of the lead squashes out.
Repeat these steps for all your separate pieces, slowly rebuilding your mug as you go along. Sometimes you may have to wait for a section to dry first before moving onto the next one.
mended-mug-finished
mended-mug-closeup
Your end product should look something like the above images. There are different liquid lead colours available nowadays, so you can mix and match or coordinate. Remember that the lead does not have to be perfect!

I did not do it with the mug in my example, but if you like, you can make random lines of lead all around your mug if the break is converges in a particular area and you don't like the way it looks. I did this with the black mug in the photo.
mended-mug-planted
Please share your mended mugs with me!

November 9, 2015

Just Read || A Dance with Dragons I by George RR Martin

Dance-with-dragons-pt-1-cover
Perhaps you've read my review of George RR Martin's preceding novel in the 'A Song of Ice and Fire Series', A Feast for Crows. If you have, you would know that it was one of the slowest and most unexciting novels I had read in a long time. Although I admit that the novel was somewhat spoiled by the television series, the focus on only a few of the characters - none of which are my favourite - was frustrating to say the least.

However, the next novel in the series, A Dance With Dragons I: Dreams and Dust has completely redeemed Martin and has even inspired me to consider boycotting the television show entirely.

I was told that A Feast for Crows was difficult to get through and that Dreams and Dust was much more interesting and exciting, and this is true indeed. A Feast for Crows left me hanging after A Storm of Swords II. Focusing on only a few of the characters didn't answer any of my questions about the whereabouts of Bran, for example, despite setting up the pieces for the game of thrones.

Dreams and Dust made up for this, throwing in all the familiar characters, adding new interesting ones, deepening the intrigue, upping the ante for all those involved in the chess match taking place in Westeros. I could hardly put the book down in places, despite the television series, because getting into the characters' heads is simply so interesting.

So if I loved the book so much, why do I want to boycott the series? Well, because many of the changes in the television show just have me shaking my fist to the sky and asking why. Martin's world and its story is so incredibly detailed, the characters so rich in personality and depth, the moves of the players so deliberate that I don't see any reason for the basic plot to be altered. But the screenwriters have changed so much of the story now that I believe they should add a subtitle to the series: 'Inspired by A Song of Ice and Fire'.

I actually wrote my Honours on the changes made to scenes in the first few novels and seasons, but the changes now are completely ruining the story for me. Even after reading the novel after the final season, the book completely outshines it.

[Please stop reading if you wish to avoid spoilers!]

Facebook.com/GameOfThrones
One change that has not only made this humble writer ill is the alteration of the plot to send Sansa Stark to Winterfell to be wed to Ramsay Bolton (formerly Snow). In A Feast for Crows, she remains with Littlefinger and makes up some of the most boring chapters in that book. But in Dreams and Dust, it is not Sansa who is sent to wed Ramsay as Sansa, but Sansa's friend Jeyne Poole, who is sent as Arya Stark. In the series, Sansa is raped on her wedding night, and she is not even given any agency as we are treated to a view of Reek's face as he is forced to watch. Apparently Sansa has absorbed the characters of Jeyne and her avenging mother, Lady Stoneheart. And the producers loved the subplot. Which subplot exactly is perfectly summarised by GoT Gifs and Musings here. But my issue is that Sansa has gained so much power in her story arc in the novels and the show strips her of this, all of it.

And then Tyrion's entire journey to Qarth is altered inexplicably - inexplicably because on his trip he meets someone I think could change it all: Daenery's little brother, Aegon. I realise that the producers of the show wished to shorten the story to fit it all in but considering the wealth of the story that already exists I cannot see how leaving this detail out makes any sense, unless Aegon dies in the second part of A Dance with Dragons or they wish to surprise the viewers.

And what about the Prince of Dorne heading to Meereen to wed Daenerys? Everything is coming to a head in Meereen and all that doesn't matter to the producers!?

I really could continue but I think the point is made: I feel that those in charge of the Game of Thrones television series are doing the story an injustice by squashing everything into a 10-episode season. George RR Martin seems to agree, at least from what we can infer from vague statements he has made about the digressions. Remember, he cannot be too openly critical, as he has deals to work on three other television series for HBO.

Salon ran a piece criticising the books after A Storm of Swords as uninspired and rushed. The author even goes so far as to suggest that had the producers not taken the reins and rewritten the story, HBO's viewing stats would have petered out - in essence, the claim is that they saved the story from the author, who has admitted he may not even finish the next instalment before the series catches up.

However, I feel for those who have only watched the television series. If the producers have made the series 'better' for the viewing public, the viewing public is missing out on an excellent story and is watching one dumbed down to appeal to people who are only watching the show because dragons and 'booooobs'.