Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Pink Really Does Stink!

The genderisation of children's products has been debated and questioned for some time now, especially on social media sites thanks to organisations such as Pink Stinks, The Baby Gender Diary and Let Toys Be Toys. It seems that the question has recently become more mainstream, with articles in the Guardian and discussions on BBC Radio 2 and 4 and I couldn't be happier that more and more people are talking and thinking about it.

When I was pregnant with Wiss I didn't want to find out if he was going to be a boy or a girl at the 20 week scan; it really made no difference to me one way or the other so I didn't see the point. I'm pregnant again and it has been the one question asked by everyone I've spoken to, but this time the implication seems to be that I should find out so that if it's a girl I can buy the 'right' things rather than using all the baby stuff we've saved as hand-me-downs. We never put Wiss in exclusively blue or boyish clothes so that's not really an issue but the assumption that girl and boy babies need different things right from the outset really bothers me.

When did the 'pinkification' of everything start? It didn't use to be this way, in fact it seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon. In the late 80's it became possible to detect the gender of the baby in utero, a result of increasing technology in scans to detect anomalies. Since the 90's it has become more and more popular to find out and cynical marketing tactics have been used to sell double the amount of baby products to excited parents. Artist JeongMee Yoon has been documenting the explosion of all things Pink and Blue since 2005 and her images are amazing, and terrifying!

If we trace back the associated meanings of pink and blue things were never so clear cut: blue was the colour used for the Virgin Mary in most symbolic paintings, and pink was often used for male sovereignty as it was considered a regal and strong colour. At other times blue was used for blue eyed babies, regardless of their gender, and pink for brown-eyed babies. But in today's society pink most definitely equals girls, and girls alone! Which is a real shame because pink is such an excellent colour. For everyone...

You may think that it's just a colour, and what harm can it do? And on a basic level you would be right. Pink in itself, as a colour, is just as valid as any other hue but the problem begins when it is one of only two colours on offer. Many products for children today solely come in either pink or blue and ignore the other colours of the rainbow. In fact, it was for this reason that I started making things for babies myself and that is how This is Wiss was created. I do make and sell items in pink but I ensure that they are exactly the same products as the other colours on offer. For example, my felt crowns come in yellow, grey or pink but they are all the same design and non-gender specific.

Pink today signifies more than just one colour, it has been branded female and the idea so reinforced even very young children know that it signifies 'girls'. Pink is now synonymous with 'femaleness' whether we like it or not. So many products have been unnecessarily 'reinvented' with pink versions - pink Pritt stick, pink world globes, pink Scrabble and Monopoly boards, pink Kinder eggs. I could go on and on. These things don't need to come in 'girl' version, the originals are for either gender.

But when products are being made pink and dumbed down I think it is cause for real concern. In many cases the pink version is inferior to the standard or blue option, like in the case of these microscopes and telescopes, the laptops below or the controversial Lego Friends range. What message are we sending our children? Do we really want girls to think that looks are all that is important and for boys to think the only way to be manly is to be tough and clever? Do we really want to narrow the ambition and imaginations of our girls and our boys?

I went to an all-girls secondary school, and although sexual discrimination was regularly talked about, I can honestly say it never really affected my world. I was encouraged to do whatever I enjoyed and I never thought about things in terms of gender. The career I chose is a fairly male-dominated one but I had never considered that one way or the other, it was just a job I was interested in and liked doing. It saddens me to think that children today are being subconsciously told that they should behave a certain way, like particular things and even have different dreams and ambitions just because they happen to be a boy or a girl.

My son is pretty calm, he is also quite cautious and very affectionate, he loves cars and trains, reading, dinosaurs, talking, his play kitchen and he also plays rugby. He loves to cook and to play rough, push his teddy in the buggy and hold hands with his friends. He is just an ordinary child. He is neither 'boyish' nor 'in touch with his feminine side'. He is just 4 years old - it will be a long time before he's figured out who he is and I don't want him to feel pressured by any influence to compromise on that. The story of Grayson Bruce, and the tragic case of Michael Morones have recently highlighted just how strong the stereotypes for girls and boys have become.

It is heart breaking but things are being done to challenge these out-dated views and I believe we can all help to change these perceptions for the next generations. Sign up and show your support to campaigns such as Pink Stinks, Reach for the Stars, Let Toys Be Toys, The Baby Gender Diary, Everyday Sexism to name but a few. Talk to your children about these issues, read them books with interesting characters of both sexes, make sure that pink or blue is not the only choice they are given and above all, provide them with positive male and female role models in real-life too.

I'll leave you with this excellent flow chart that can really help those who are still struggling with the idea!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Ta Da! Matchbox Mice

If you're anything like me you'll have a huge and ongoing 'To Do' list. Mine is so big I have to split it up into 'To Do This Day/Week/Month' and hopefully 'To Do One Day...at some point'! Things get added at a much faster rate than they get ticked off, unfortunately.

Rather than dwell on these never-ending lists I thought it would be good to show off some of the things that do get finished: to celebrate the completion and who knows, perhaps this will spur on more projects to the finishing line?
Wiss' friend had her 4th birthday recently and although I love making presents for children myself there are also so many gorgeous things to buy, especially original items from craft fairs or markets that I can't resist either!

During a recent visit to Richmond Duckpond Market I bought two very sweet mice from the Lazy Lizards stall. All the items for sale have been hand crafted in Sri Lanka and as well as the mice in various outfits and costumes there are parrots, caterpillars even anteaters all made in bold bright fabric.
I wanted to add my own personal touch and the mice needed somewhere to sleep so I made a giant matchbox from 3mm mdf (but you could equally use corrugated card.) I googled 'vintage matchboxes' and printed out an image to go on the top of the box. I stencilled a pattern on the sides of the matchbox and then varnished everything to make it really hard wearing (& kid proof!)
Obviously, any self-respecting mice will need a mattress and some cozy bedding to really feel at home. The mattress and pillows are made from my stash of brushed cotton fabric and the blanket was quickly knitted up in garter stitch from left over wool.
The birthday card is from illustrator Stacie Swift and with the little mouse couldn't have been a better match for the present. I am really pleased with how it all turned out and love that it's a combination of handmade crafts by different people; it always feels good to support others too.
So there we are, the Matchbox Mice. Ta Da!


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Project Wild Thing

Hello! This month's post For the Kids is all about "Wild Time".

I first read about Project Wild Thing on Lori's Wild & Grizzly blog in January (check out the post here) It really resonated with me because as a parent I do worry about the amount of time Wiss spends in the great outdoors. We are really careful to monitor his screen time, and as he's only 4 it's quite easy at the moment, but I want to make sure he experiences that there's more fun things 'out there'. I bought the dvd straight away so I could watch the documentary at home - it is brilliant! It's funny, and all too familiar, and actually desperately sad too: "children in the UK spend less than 5% of their time outdoors". Wow.

If you'd like to see the film for yourself then check out the website. You can see it in cinemas, buy the dvd or even request a screening for your group.

This weekend Wiss and I headed out to Bradfield Woods in Suffolk with Nana Daisy. It was a beautiful day so we packed sandwiches and drew up a list of things that we hoped we could spot while we were exploring. You can see the list below... The dog poo was at Wiss's insistence I'm afraid!

When we got there we discovered that Suffolk Wildlife Trust actually have a wonderful visitors hut, staffed by volunteers, where you could have a cup of tea, find out more about the woods and their conservation projects and they even had an 'Explorer's Pack" for kids to borrow. The green rucksack (which matched his outfit perfectly) was filled with similar laminated lists of things to to look out for and pictures of the Spring flowers we may spot, as well as binoculars, a magnifying glass and a bug pot. Wiss loved these three items and marched off into the woods to put them to the test!

At first he was in a hurry to check things off our list as soon as possible, but it was great to see him gradually forget about it as he was busy looking and he started exploring at his own pace. There was lots of hunting small creatures, listening to the different bird songs and poking sticks into muddy puddles to see which was the deepest!

We spent a few hours in the woods and it was wonderful for all of us, plus we managed to tick everything off the list apart from the snail!

Even if you're in a city (which we usually are) there are lots of ways you can still enjoy Wild Time - just get outdoors and see what happens! There is a fab and free Wild Time app which can provide inspiration if you get stuck, and you can even get ideas for as little as 10 minutes up to activities to take half a day.

We have a long Easter bank holiday coming up in the UK, why not pledge to swap some screen time for wild time this weekend and see what you and your kids can get up to? Please share your adventures by either leaving a comment or link below or if you're on twitter you can use #wildtime to link up.

Have a great long weekend and Happy Easter to you all :)

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Work in Progress...the Chevron Quilt

This week's Work in Progress features the chevron quilt I am making for the sofa. I wanted a snugly quilt to throw over us while we were watching telly on chilly evenings...last winter. Yes, I've been planning it that long! I only actually started cutting the fabric at the start of this year though, and as seems to be the way, the quilt top came together really quickly.
I love chevron designs and I have pinned tons of them onto my Quilt Loving board. I think I got a bit carried away choosing fabrics and colours, because in hindsight I think I would have liked there to be one back ground colour and then I could make more of a feature of the zig zags of colours. Never mind! You learn as you go along...
I used diagonal half squares to make up the chevrons (rather than using rectangles) and I'm really pleased how they turned out. I was worried about them stretching out of shape as essentially they have all been cut on the bias but I was careful to press, rather than iron the seams.
The fabrics are nearly all from the Timeless Treasures Sketch range - coffee, denim, latte and lime all in cotton. The bright green has a hexagon waffle pattern but I'm afraid I can't remember what it's called. I was keen to use textured solids to add extra interest to the simple pattern.
I'm using a Sketch Flannel in Neon for the back, and the same flannel in Denim for the binding...I think! I really like the pieced binding I did on this quilt and am struggling to decide whether I should do the same on the chevron quilt, or if a plain colour will frame it better. Hmmm? (Any opinions will be gratefully received!)
I asked Twitter for help on choosing which batting to go for as I wanted to make sure this quilt would be warm and cosy. The answer came back as Sew Simple Eco Wadding which is made from 100% recycled material: 70% cotton and 30% polyester. I'll be quilting it myself in zigzags either side of the chevron pattern.
Work has had to stop for a week or so while I make some more This is Wiss stock for my upcoming markets, so it remains a work in progress for a little while longer. Although I love the sunny days we're enjoying at the moment, I have to admit I'm still glad it's cold in the evenings. If only so that we will be able to use the quilt when I finally finish it!!
What are you working on at the moment? Please share photos or links of your WIP so that we can all spur each other on to the finishing line!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Big Fish Little Fish

We are always on the look out for new fun things to do as a family so when I read about 'Big Fish Little Fish' I thought it sounded right up our street. In their own words "Big Fish Little Fish is a brand new, creative and exciting music and dance party for the post-rave generation of parents and kids: all the fun and freedom of a mini festival, right in the heart of Brixton, Crouch End, Balham……"

We went along to the Bedford in Balham today for a spot of daytime clubbing. It's a huge pub and has loads of space for all the activities - a big dance floor with an overlooking balcony, and upstairs there's a large room for craft activities and a separate chill out rooms for toddlers and non-walkers.

It was really funny going 'clubbing' with a 4 year old - a strange clash of our previous lives with our current ones - but we all really enjoyed ourselves. Wiss liked the upstairs rooms a bit more but we all managed a dance on the stage, hands up in the air!

If I'm honest, I found the music a little bit hard to dance to (& I don't think/hope I've not just lost my edge!) The tracks were pretty obscure - I guess we were expecting more classic 'tunes' & floor fillers - but everyone was having fun. Glow sticks in the air!

Check out the Big Fish Little Fish website to see future dates for more parties.


Tuesday, 1 April 2014

We Like to Read - 1 to 20 Animals a Plenty

Welcome to my first monthly 'We Like to Read' post!
I'm linking up with Fritha from Tigerlilly Quinn, and other bloggers to share what books are popular with our little ones this week (or month!) I love children's books and am always on the hunt for original and wonderful titles so I'm looking forward to getting inspiration myself from this series.

'1 to 20 Animals a Plenty' is by Katie Viggers (published by Eightbear) I bought this book from Katie herself at a Crafty Fox Market in Brixton, but you can buy online too. I loved the illustrations - fun but not cutesy at all - and it was an immediate hit with Wiss. The simple rhyming text is very catchy but we like the fact that she has not gone for the obvious: how many other books have capybaras in them?! There are also many different breeds of the same animal: '9 cats in matching hats' even features a Maine Coon, like our cat Raoul! 

The last pages show all of the animals stacked up from 1 to 20, and Wiss enjoys listing them all from memory. It's a bedtime favourite for us!

If you want more inspiration, don't forget to head over to Tigerlilly Quinn, where there are weekly posts. I'll be back next week with a 'Work in Progress' update...