Girls' craft evening
Sometimes the best me-time is spent with friends, catching up, relaxing, and sharing a cuppa. Why not take it a step further and host your own girls' night in? Leave the children with your partner's, grab your 'been meaning to finish 'that' craft project, and get together for some much-needed girl talk!
Before we had children, my best friend and I made a point to get together every few months for a crafty weekend sleepover. We'd show up with our latest UFOs (unfinished objects, as well as all the supplies we'd need to make significant progress on that project. Then we'd camp out in the lounge for an entire weekend (spending most of that time in our pyjamas), and surround ourselves with lots of fabric, ribbons, threads, patterns, and assorted creative detritus. Our only forays into the outside world were visits to the local craft store for supplies, or trips to the supermarket to stock up on ice cream. One time we invented a delicious dessert involving Cadbury Caramello ice cream and Prenzel Butterscotch Cream. We stayed up late every night, watched chick flicks, drank wine, and actually finished several pretty gorgeous projects over the years.
When I look back at my life before having a child, those weekends really stand out in my mind as something special. They represented uninterrupted me-time - an opportunity for me and my friend to indulge in our shared passion for crafts and, at the same time, thoroughly enjoy just being in the moment.
Of course, once we both had children, our crafty weekends came to an abrupt end. Children have a way of occupying all of our "free" time, even when they're sleeping and we're busy cleaning up their messes, doing their laundry, and packing their lunches for the next day. Sure, my friend and I have talked about getting together for a whole weekend without the kids to pick up where we left off, craft-wise, but we both have toddlers (one of whom is breastfed) and it's not so easy to coordinate childcare for a whole weekend. So our creative projects have been packed away, stuck in drawers and closets, collecting dust and becoming reminders of our inability to find the time to work on them.
And then a few weeks ago, the light bulb went on in my mind - just because we can't manage an entire crafty weekend doesn't mean we should abandon our creative endeavours completely. Why not institute a regular craft night with a group of like-minded friends? Once the OHbaby! team got wind of this idea, they were all over it like hot fudge on a sundae. It turns out that I'm not the only one who can't seem to find the time to work on my crafty projects. So we decided to get together for a girls' craft evening.
Finding the time
I know what you're thinking: "I have so much to do - I don't have time for something like this!" Chances are you're overscheduled and overwhelmed with things to do. But look at it this way: If your child had the opportunity to go to a special event once a month that would enrich and energise her, provide her with a much-needed time-out from the craziness of everyday life, and give her a chance to spend a couple of hours with friends doing something guaranteed to make her happy, would you want her to go? (Yep, we know the answer to that question too.)
Choose a date that's in the not-too-far-off future and make a list of who you want to invite. Keep things on the small side - four to six people is ideal, as it won't be too crowded (think about how much space people will need to spread out the "bits and pieces" of their craft projects and be able to work on them comfortably). Organise your own childcare first, then send out invitations to your friends at least two weeks in advance to give them time to do the same.
Keep it simple
If the idea of organising a get-together for your friends fills you with dread ("How will I get the house clean?"), remember this: They are likely just as desperate for some me-time as you are, so there's no need to go to extremes to prepare for your guests. Focus on the top three requirements for a successful event - seating, heating, and eating.
When it comes to seating, you'll need to make sure your space can accommodate your guests and their projects comfortably. Unlike a book group, your friends will need a bit of space to spread out and organise their supplies so that things are accessible. You may need to rearrange your furniture for the evening or borrow a card table. Keep it casual. Big floor cushions are great for lounging on, or people can curl up on beanbags if you don't have enough seats.
Heating should be easy , so just make sure your home is at a comfortable temperature for sitting around chatting and crafting. Have throw blankets available in case it's a bit chilly, and encourage your guests to bring their warm socks or slippers. Remember that more people in the room means more body heat, so don't go overboard with a roaring fire or extra heaters.
What to serve
All of this creativity is sure to give your guests an appetite, and won't it be nice, for once, to be able to sit down with some snacks and drinks without sticky little fingers trying to steal food off your plate? We served the divine tomato tart pictured below (our recipe is there too), as well as individual blueberry crumbles, chocolate biscuits, and hot drinks to keep away the chill. You don't need to put a lot of effort into making an entire meal for your guests. Just choose a few yummy crowd-pleasers and make them easily accessible so that guests can eat when they feel like taking a break from their project. You want people to feel at home, so before your guests arrive, set out the plates and cutlery, put everything your guests will need for tea, coffee, and hot chocolate where it's easily accessible, and tell people to help themselves when they feel ready.
How to make it a regular event
While you're all sitting around stitching, painting, knitting, or scrapbooking, ask your friends how they'd feel about making your craft evening a regular event. Talk about how often you'd like to get together, whether you should always have it at your house or rotate the hosting, and who should be responsible for organising the food. You may combine your craft evening with another event, such as an early dinner out, or a visit to a local craft store for inspiration. Lots of craft stores hold classes in the evening and on weekends, so if it's difficult to meet at someone's house, this might be a perfect way to get together.
If you or your friends are stuck for inspiration, consider doing craft work for charity, such as knitting sweaters and blankets, making clothing for premature babies, or making quilts for women and children in shelters. Contact your local hospital, women's shelter, or service organisation and find out if there are any projects like this that they need volunteers for.
Another suggestion is for the host to be in charge of providing the craft idea and supplies for their guests. There are heaps of ideas on the internet, as well as some great books, for easy crafts you can complete in just a few hours. Make your own gift-wrapping paper with brown paper and rubber stamps; create "mix in a jar" gifts by layering the dry ingredients for a cake in a glass jar and attaching the recipe with a ribbon tied around the lid; paint a small canvas; do a quick stitchery; put together a miniature scrapbook. Many speciality craft stores sell kits with all of the supplies you need for creating a single craft, from miniature quilt kits to knitting kits. The possibilities are endless, and it'll give you and your friends a great sense of accomplishment to create something from start to finish.
Most importantly, remember that this is supposed to be fun. It's not a competition to see who can knit the most rows or finish off the most scrapbook pages. You might be having so much fun together, you don't do much crafting at all - and that's all right too. Either way, you're getting some well-deserved me-time!
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 2 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW