All posts by Admin

Pattern Review: Ruby Jean’s Closet “Fashion Play Take-Along”


This Post is full of photographs which are upside down: viz –20140804-192602-69962683.jpg

This is a pattern by Ruby Jean’s Closet, a digital download, for a folder that is designed to allow young and not so young fashion and sewing fans to keep their tools, projects and inspirations all in one place. I have to confess that I made it a year ago for Wee Bear’s 6th birthday present – a brand new Janome 9020 sewing machine. You can use a UK lever arch file, easily bought in a stationary shop (go for something plain and light colour if you are using a light colour fabric print!) without too much fiddling, in spite of US folders being a different shape.20140804-192604-69964299.jpgAbove you can see the little pockets that are there for (left to right) pencils, glue stick and scissors – I didn’t bother buying special fabric scissors. Below, you can see the clear plastic fronted fabric zip pockets – these are GENIUS and so easy to make. I bought the ‘plastic fabric’ on ebay, and used normal quilting weight cotton and zips from John Lewis. I know, I am so frustrated at the lack of decent patchwork fabric in Edinburgh it’s crazy.20140804-192605-69965885.jpg

Here is Wee Bear concentrating VERY HARD on her first sewing lesson – we are in the amazing David Drummond Sewing Machine shop at Haymarket, Edinburgh. His staff are very kind and knowledgeable about the machines. She was shown how to thread the machine, do stitches in a straight line and stop at the beginning and end of the lines.20140804-192641-70001848.jpg


I used my new embroidery machine (also from David Drummond!) a Brother V3, to edit and make a little patch for her front pocket, so that it meant i could use my new toy too.20140804-192637-69997888.jpgI’m tempted to make another for myself – they are incredibly handy for small projects and great to keep bits and pieces together – I can imagine that if you were taking a patchwork or similar technique class then they would make life easy AND have tons of scope for customisation. I liked the techniques and didn’t have any false starts, as I would expect from Ruby Jean’s Closet, whose patterns are clearly written and easy to follow. Recommended.

It’s a little bit funny

this feeling insii-ii–ii-ide.

Or not. (especially as I am NOT a fan of Elton John).

Most blogs start with an apology for being absent but sod that, I’m busy and so are you. I post here because I want to and I will not, repeat not, add another ‘should’ onto my shoulders. [NB. never noticed similarity of should and shoulders – could be significant, at least in terms of where we feel the weight of those unwanted demands.] Neither will I try to trammel the wanderings of my mind into a “sewing blog” or a “home ed” blog (especially as Wee Bear is now at school, sniff). Real life, for most women my age, is way more messy and complicated than that.

Since we went to the ballet last year, we’ve had a confirmed “official” diagnosis of ASD for Wee Bear. ASD – the new DSM-IV guidelines have smooshed together everyone from a nonverbal, totally uncommunicative child with learning disability to the Aspie end of the spectrum which is not entirely helpful outside the non-NT (NeuroTypical) circles – or Autism Spectrum Disorder, but also with a complex presentation (i.e. she’s a girl). Let’s say it’s been a bumpy few years. And I am still at the stage of blaming myself. Did I eat the wrong thing? Was it being an older mum? Was it nursing for 2 years? Was it mixed-feeding? Was it the antibiotics that saved her life at 7 days old? Was it my insistence of wearing her in a sling for most of 2 years and rocking her to sleep for those few hours when she stopped demanding interaction? Should I have noticed that she didn’t put things in her mouth? Should I have taken her to the GP when she didn’t crawl, even though she walked at 12 months? Should I have gotten worried at 18 months when she stopped eating more and more things, when she refused to wear short sleeves, at the tantrums at the sound of the hoover or my violin? (that’s understandable I suppose)… So many tiny signs that my darling girl found the world a confusing, overwhelming, scary place.

I suppose the thing is that I do too. So it all made sense to me (and other family members).

Yet because of her great ability to communicate and to verbalise and to mimic and mask, her skill at drawing, singing, copying, it was all fine. Except it wasn’t. That awful cliche of “you just know” and even the classic “no one knows your child like you” is certainly true but it’s made a lot, lot more difficult if your ASD kid is a girl, is very “high functioning” (shudderful phrase) and you yourself are non-NT. I’m not diagnosed, no, but I tick most of the adult female Aspie boxes, although with the caveat that I tend to overdo empathic feeling until it overwhelms me and I run and hide from people until the spoon drawer is full again. That can take quite a time. For some people, it just never gets full again and I will admit that I do sometimes just have to lose contact with people because it’s just too much. If that happens, it’s truly me, not you. Truly. Sometimes I feel like a dog who can see the emotions of people like hazes of colour or smell (which fits with my inability to tolerate perfume of any kind) and to be honest, I can’t stand it. [Ponders the phrase “you are too emotionally smelly for me to tolerate”].

Right now, I’m being distracted by a mouse that runs back and forth across the steps to our garden. It’s super fast but my “notice everything eyes” pick it up and I go off for a second.

Back to diagnosis, ASD, girls and the question of my undiagnosis. Do I want to get tested? Partly, because I’m a geek and I like psychology and the brain and neurological difference is one of the potentially most exciting things that scientists are looking at these days. Potentially. Will I get tested? I doubt it. The waiting list for the only adult ADHD clinic in Scotland is massively long. I don’t even know if they have an adult ASD one. Most of my NHS psychological support has been in the form of CBT or counselling, not assessments. Women do face challenges as they get older that make a diagnosis a useful hook to hang our difficulties on: it’s not “us” that are failures, it’s a real difference in our brain. Not blaming ourselves for being different, for needing time to be alone and quiet, for needing the physical stimulus of walking for miles and miles, for having SPD traits that affect our lives… the boundaries between Aspergers, ASD, social phobia, clinical depression, OCD, they’re all blurring together, in academic research and finally, finally, it’s catching up and being talked about and wonderful women are saying “me too”. I might not be one of them but my daughter is. I want her to avoid the “side effect” disorders that seem to be comorbid with ASD: self-harm, depression, etc. If we can explain to her now about her difference, in a way that doesn’t use the word “disorder” in it’s description thank you, perhaps she will grow up into the full knowledge and awareness of her super powers and her amazing potential.

Meantime, I’m off under my rock to do more drawing and sewing. First up is finishing a smocked dress for Wee Bear that is probably too young for her but too pretty to leave unfinished.

p.s. do you like my fringe? I’m still getting used to it.

The Nutcracker; or, How to do Theatre with non-NT family.

When I was 6, I had already been attending ballet classes for three years. I don’t think I saw a ‘real’ live ballet for several years but a small troupe from Scottish Ballet did visit our local community centre & I was thrilled. Their power and grace had me hooked and I studied seriously until I was about 12 and suddenly too tall and self-conscious to even think of going on stage. Given the hours of practice and four classes every Saturday – in addition to weekly sessions – you can imagine that it was rather a wrench.

Wee Bear also enjoys ballet but thankfully shows no signs of my obsessional, over serious personality. Her non-NT (neuro typical) attitude saves her from many pitfalls and this is one. However, it means she can’t really manage normal theatre performances – well, I can’t with her. The talking, questions, constant need for motion, etc make it very hard for me to relax & let’s face it, other people don’t pay to have a curly haired child bobbing up & down in front of them for two hours.


The Festival Theatre here in Edinburgh don’t do autism friendly performances of this show but they super kindly offered to put us in one of their boxes, so nobody would be disturbed by our antics.

We started our outing with eggs benedict for daddy & chips for Wee Bear & I. I hadn’t been to the City Cafe for years & they were very friendly and relaxed, plus they have a splendid view from the first floor down the Bridges to Register House.


Of course, eating is one of our current challenges but chips are fairly safe.


Waiting to get to our box was a bit challenging but I could see her relax once we were safe inside. No pictures of the performance obviously although there are pictures on the Scottish Ballet website . At two hours long I would say it’s maybe 30 minutes more than we cope with and the performance does end with an actual bang, which I wish we had known about, although she coped very well (and was already sitting on my knee).


Nothing was too scary and the staff were very kind and caring when booking. I’d certainly go again and it’s definitely worth asking about if your child has challenges. I also found it overwhelming to be honest, when leaving: we haven’t dealt with such big crowds for a long time and it’s not entirely positive but her evaluation of the day was “brilliant”, which is all that counts.

An Open Letter to Sainsburys

I don’t go in for these sort of ‘open letter’ posts but I’m hoping I’m not the only parent who feels the same.


Dear Tu clothing at Sainsburys

I wonder if you could do me a huge favour. Please extend the range of your ‘toddlers/little girls’ clothing up to and including an 8. At least. I am asking because my daughter wears size 7 clothes and I’m not yet ready to see her turn into a 1D t-shirt wearing, hot-panted, monochrome wearing pre-teen.

I realise that your market research may tell you something different. I realise that there are lots  of young girls who watch Strictly and X-Factor and other shows where there are fashionably dressed women and they want to look like them and their teenage siblings or friends. I realise that there are plenty of parents who are happy to have their children wearing the baggy harem pants and sleeveless tops and bling-ed up belts and more mature looking clothes. That’s all fantastic, it’s their choice. But I’m asking for a choice.

You haven’t, as far as I know, ever given us the horrors of slogan T’s that demand girls are kissed or only interested in boys. Thankfully, it’s puppies and bears and the odd pop group or cartoon. No, you’ve not crossed that line.

What I’m begging for is the chance to keep my little girl looking her age for a bit longer. Or at least let me pretend that very soon I won’t have to face the horrors of Monster High type pouting and swaggering and posing and everything that goes with being a pre-teen because you know what, they don’t really exist if we don’t buy into that. And I won’t be buying into that. Not ever.

The reason I’m asking you is because your little girl clothes are truly gorgeous – the colours are perfect – bright but not gaudy, flattering to tiny faces but not too insipid. The styles are appropriate – no ‘bra type’ tops, all just right for the age, comfortable dresses, leggings, matching sets. This week I particularly fell in love with a soft jersey hoodie that was lined with fleece, trimmed with fur and had an adorable girl applique on the front. The biggest size was age 4-5 and yet there’s no reason a 8 year old girl wouldn’t wear that. Along with it was a range of co-ordinated printed cotton tops and leggings, which my LO lives in full-time when not at school. We bought the burgundy/black versions but you know what, it looks weird. She’s 6, not 16. Not even 11.

Please: you do the little one’s clothes SO DAMN WELL – won’t you consider extending the age range, to allow our girls to be girls, not “pre-teens” or “little women” for as long as they need to be?

Thank you.

p.s. Not all women are shaped like eggs on legs or want to wear dresses that show off their knees. Just so you know.


Edinburgh Festival: learning & fun outdoors – Day 4

One of the great – and I do mean great – things about living in Edinburgh is the annual August Festival. I love it. We don’t go to grown up shows any more but we do three or four children’s shows and I’m going to say without hesitation they are far better than any grown up performances I’ve seen in the past. Ever.  Wee Bear has been going to shows for about three years now and loves theatre and performance.

As a last ‘hoorah’ to our official homeschooling experience (for now), I’ve decided that I’ll use the festival as a learning time. We missed Friday (kick off) but on Day 2, she went to the Pleasance courtyard and spent a few hours colouring badges, making a t-shirt and handpuppet and befriending a five year old. Most – if not all – of the learning is about making friends and dealing with kids who are hopped up on being out with grown ups and sugar. She usually copes well, although today (Day 4) was hit and miss… we dealt with a girl who really *didn’t* want her to join in the gang but with admirable perseverance, she wouldn’t give in, even when she had to take a break for a minute or two… in the end though, with no ‘new friends’ in sight, we headed round the corner from the BBC Potterrow area to discover two fantastic free acts.

The first were two performers from New Zealand, the Hoop Hooligans – in spite of a modern architectural gale blowing that meant we had to put our jackets on, we really enjoyed these guys. Thank you for making her smile!

Second – and only a few yards away – was a short excerpt from Brush (reviewed here) a Korean show involving a lot of paint, some very amusing clowning performances and a lovely looking piece of art. Wee Bear insists that we go tomorrow, so Fringe performers, take note: do a freebie show outside, you will definitely get more sales (if you are any good, and of course children’s shows are fantastic). If you’d like to buy tickets for Brush, always use the official Fringe website & have fun!20140804-191938-69578784.jpg

Online Learning – for grown ups! Creativity, Business Skills and more.

cellophaneSo this blog covers a wide range of subjects – a garden post later this week, an embroidery machine review after that – but it’s also about learning. Learning is something I really enjoy: I find it harder now than when I was in my twenties but I’m hoping to be one of those people getting into new things when I’ve silver haired and zipping about on a mobility scooter.

These days, the internet has revolutionised how we can learn – I’m a big fan of for instance, and hope to teach myself photoshop and illustrator using their courses – but I think Skillshare is awesome. THey have such a huge range of subjects and with some incredible teachers, notably Seth Godin, king of the entrepreneurs. At the moment they have a chance to win a lifetime of *FREE* courses – just click this link and enter for your chance!  Plus, if you click on the link, I get another entry 😀 Have a look around at their courses and I’m sure you’ll find something you want to learn. Here’s to learning for grown ups!

Movie-Inspired dress(es)

So this house, like many others, is fond of a film about two sisters, two boys and a snowman… Yes, Frozen has taken up home here too. I’d not say she was obsessed but we do know all the words to “Let it go”…

Finding costumes that fit and are play friendly is impossible, so I decided to make them!

20140605-093005.jpg the new embroidery machine means that it’s possible to recreate bodice and skirt designs that really look good (instead of faffing about with paint and stencils) and can cope with playtime!

20140605-093144.jpg I added an extra underskirt layer, complete with ruffled net, for extra foof, but if she was a real climber I might leave this off – it looks good without it too.

20140605-093321.jpg it comes with a peasant style, pull on cotton top, although I’m planning a stretchy jersey version too that looks a bit more like the film – anything for a bit of variety!

20140605-093514.jpg and in the back I put a serious zip! I know Velcro is easier for the little ones but isn’t it frustrating when it gets covered in fluff and won’t come off or fasten properly? Although yes, Velcro would be easier…

20140605-093711.jpg yes, one very happy little girl, no feeling guilty about buying something from a sweat shop in the Far East, something that fits.. I think it’s a win! Now to persuade her to let me take it to the Mayfield Salisbury Playgroup summer fair this weekend… And make a mannequin for it.. And and and. Can I have an extra day please?

Review: Pattern Emporium Flat front Gathered skirt. No photos!

Another super speedy, photograph-short review, mainly because a) this pattern is very, very easy and quick to make and b) the results were hideous on me.

The Pattern Emporium skirt looks cute: it is versatile, comfortable and the version I have includes an ingenious way to add pockets with either a straight or a curved top. It is speedy to sew and I cannot fault a single step – it’s clearly illustrated, very well written, and ideal for beginners or those wanting a really fast make.

However: I refuse to take photographs of how it looks on this very pronounced, overweight pear shaped woman. In fact, I’ve already removed the waist band and will be making it into something else. It was THAT unflattering. I should have bought the skater skirt, which would be much better for my shape I think.  If you are pear shaped, either buy this pattern if you don’t mind having the ‘bubble butt’ silhouette or are happy to only wear it at home. Or in the dark.

You can be sure that when I’ve shed this 50lbs, I will be making lots of them AND sharing the photographs x

FIAR: a Pair of Red Clogs

As we began homeschooling, I looked at lots of different curricula. There are soooo many it is quite mind boggling and, until you know how your child (or children!) learn, it’s tricky to choose. There are lots of ‘out of the box’ ones which cover all topics with separate textbooks and a ton of worksheets… but for our Wee Bear, that would be a disaster. She thinks on her feet, she twirls and spins, she jiggles and dances. Finding a way to read is tricky. Then somehow, somewhere, I read about “Five in a Row”. A selection of well written, beautifully illustrated books, chosen by homeschooling parents and with a manual that supplies, for each book, a series of ideas to spark your little one’s imagination and thirst for understanding in the areas of science, mathematics, arts, language, geography, personal studies… You can go as far with each book as you, or more importantly, your child wants. On the days when you’re feeling less inspired, this will literally save your bacon!


We started by having Wee Bear choose the book we were going to ‘row’ – “A Pair of Red Clogs”, about a little girl and her shiny red clogs in (what looked like) pre-WWII Japan. We went to our favourite outdoor garden cafe and I read her the book, asking her questions afterwards to see what had sparked her interest. There was a lot of discussion about motivation – why did she nearly lie? why did she do something that damaged her clogs? We talked briefly about the clothes she was wearing (“Make me a kimono Mama!”) and the way their house was laid out – the boiler for water in the kitchen, the table with mats around it rather than chairs, the paper screen doors etc.


After our snack was finished, we went to our local Chinese supermarket – they sell all kinds of Asian food and since Wee Bear was unlikely to eat ANY of it, I figured it was more about the experience than the actual taste.



The following day, we wrote out some of the key words (‘language’) in Wee Bear’s word book and of course they were illustrated. What I particularly enjoyed was the sketch of the bottom *cough* which was in the right place and size but done while the book was folded over, so she was kind of working blind! A word on her handwriting: yes, she is mixing upper and lower case. Yes, the way some of the letters are formed isn’t ideal. Her spelling also tends to the idiosyncratic. At this point, I don’t care – the urge to write and draw is far more important and (as I know her very well) any discouragement could backfire quite spectacularly.




For our “Art” day, we made Japanese kimono peg dolls, complete with ‘obi’ belts, coloured in some of the printables from Homeschoolshare who have a great selection of free resources for almost every subject imaginable, looked at the pretty writing and packaging of our purchases and then goofed off in the garden explored the great outdoors,


before we looked really carefully at the shading, use of colour and way the figures show us physical motion through their line drawings. By this time we had a really good selection of materials to get stuck into the lapbook!

Our final day was spent assembling the lapbook, colouring in and glueing and sticking, talking about earthquakes and tectonic plates (Geography), and really enjoying the feeling that we had got to grips with the book. We counted up clogs, we talked about pairs, we did very basic maths and number awareness…. Keeping it all very simple and low key so that no horses or small people were put off FIAR.