Monthly Archives: January 2014

Friday Finds – a list of tutorials for DIY Valentine gifts


While there are many who declare that Valentine’s Day is ‘too commercial’ , I have a soft spot for the day.  Not because I receive lots of hearts and flowers and cards.  In fact quite the opposite.  It is my eldest chick’s birthday and her father declared that this meant that we couldn’t possibly celebrate Valentine’s Day as it would detract from her special day (!!)   With her birthday as the focus,  I have a range of different heart shaped cake tins collected at garage sales etc and she loves her heart shaped cake each year.   So it is a special day for me.  However I also like the concept that there is a day that allows people who love each other to be reminded that saying it to the person they love, or treating the person they love to a present, is a good thing.   Not everyone has a relationship that involves daily gestures of love and romance, so a bit of an annual prompt can’t be a bad thing!

Before getting too far into a debate that I don’t want to have, instead I bring you a small collection of ideas for crafts that you can do to celebrate Valentine’s Day with something you have made with love.  The great thing about many of these tutorials is that they can also be used for other celebrations or occasions by simply changing the materials, or the colours.

The first is a paper garland of hearts.  It was originally made as a fourth of July garland but could really be used for any celebration – and using colours that you and your special someone love would make it a great Valentine’s Day celebration.

Lovas World – DIY Paper Heart Garland

Lova's World: DIY Paper Heart Garland

The next is a delightful idea to make your own dice, and to use hearts instead of ‘dots’.  The tutorial, on the website Design Sponge also has ideas on the puns you can use when presenting the dice as a present!

Design Sponge – DIY Project Heart Dice


I discovered these gorgeous little Amurigami crochet hearts on the site RoxyCraft – their tag line is ‘patterns that don’t suck’.  I love it!  The potential to make these for all sorts of occasions is huge – but as a Valentine’s Day crochet pattern I think they are a winner!

RoxyCraft – Crochet Hearts

For some simple ideas, beautifully executed, take a look at the site Sew Jane Work where Holly has a tutorial for making a tote and a pencil box decorated with hearts.

See Jane Work – DIY Valentines Day Projects

Vanessa at V and Co has a beautiful collection of tutorials on her site, but it was this gorgeous ruffled heart pillow that caught my eye – a combination of reverse appliqué and ruffles to make a beautiful pillow.  (And of course, you could adapt it to other occasions by using different shapes for the cut out!)

V and Co – Gathered Heart Pillow

(While you are there have a look at her patterns – her heart quilt is beautiful!)

A group of bloggers created a linkup party last year with 14 days of love and on day 4 JoJo and Eloise provided a tutorial for making a simple heart shaped pouch.  A lovely simple gift to make, with many uses, including as a way of presenting another gift!  From this tutorial you can click through to the other Valentine themed ideas from that collection.

DIY Heart Felt Pouch


A different use of felt results in these gorgeous Valentine’s envelopes from Shop Bonne Nouvelle.

Once again I can imagine different uses throughout the year for both little people and big!

And then combining the two ideas into one great gift DesignSponge has this tutorial for a stuffed heart with an outside pocket.

Sewing Stuffed Hearts

Felt hearts with a different twist are found in the tutorial from Food ‘n’ Femininity on how to make heart coasters.

These Lego hearts are perfect for the geek-love in your life.

Lego Necklace

Free printables

Beautiful free printables to create your own Valentine’s cards or gifts can be found at the gorgeous blog Design is Yay where Wita has made some shabby chic money envelopes that cover both Chinese New Year (today!!) and Valentines Day.

Others include:

Camille Styles – DIY Printable Valentines

Pizzazzerie – Freebie Valentines Day DIY Gifts

Twig and Thistle – Updated DIY Valentine Treat Bags

BHG – Valentines Day Coupons 


As usual I am not the first blogger to collect ideas on DIY Valentine’s gifts, so do have a look at these links if you haven’t found your inspiration in this list.

Soap Deli News – 80 handmade Valentines Day Gifts you can craft

the 36th Avenue – Handmade Valentine Crafts and Ideas

My delicious ambiguity – 10 of my favorite Valentines Day Gifts

For even more Valentine ideas gathered in one spot have a look at my Pinterest board – a little bird made me’s Valentine’s Day Pinterest Board

Bags, bags, bags!

I got a bit sidetracked on the weekend and went to a number of cafes – for lunch, as a place to sit while I waited for someone, for a drink before dinner, for brunch.  Which was all extremely lovely, but none of it got me sewing.  However I did manage to do some preparation for sewing – some cutting, fusing interfacing and fleece, and pressing pieces ready for assembly.  (The steam press is my new best friend – I will write more later but for now can report that I am very happy with my purchase!)

I started assembling bags yesterday, but was distracted by important things like my children and a friend’s birthday (yes – another café) so set myself some challenges for today.  The first one was to steam-clean my carpet.  The next to finish the four bags by 2pm, and the third to cut out (and hopefully start sewing) another 15 teething bibs.

At 2.18 today I can tick the first two off the list.  Hooray!!

I am about to list the bags for sale on Etsy but wanted to give you a sneak peak first.


I hope that your week has been kind to you.  I am off to list bags for sale, have some lunch and start on the bibs.  I might see you back here before too long!



The fabric I showed you a few days ago is perfect to work with and inspired this new style. Might need to make another one and keep it for myself!

New Fabric!

Is it wrong to stalk the postman and the courier drivers?  I love the packets of goodness that they deliver to my front door!  The latest parcel arrived late yesterday afternoon and was full of delicious new geek chic fabrics from Spoonflower.  I just had to share the loveliness!


This one symbolises so many lovely geek things it just jumps off the page!

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Retro cameras anyone?

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Some new takes on old themes with police boxes popping up


And what is more geeky than a good old fashioned calculator?

It is a long weekend here in Australia, to celebrate Australia Day – the day when the British claimed this country as their own (quite regardless of the fact that it had been occupied by its existing owners for thousands of years).   Despite the tragedy behind the original purpose of the day, there are many wonderful things about this country that warrant celebration, so I am not complaining about a public holiday.  I plan to spend the weekend hanging out with the MIML and doing a spot of playing with the new fabric.  I hope that your weekend is a celebration of things you like.



A new toy!

I was so excited to see my favourite postman arrive this morning to deliver my indulgent purchase of a few weeks ago – a Singer ESP2 steam press!  I am hoping to cut my interface applying time dramatically by using it, so will keep you informed how that goes.  I haven’t used it yet as I need an adapter on the plug but am enjoying just admiring the shininess of it!

(I bought it on Ebay and saved a lot of money but had to wait a bit longer than anticipated for it to arrive and now have to wait another day before I can get the correct adaptor!  I am learning lessons in patience!)


I also popped out to our local Spotlight to buy up in the sale that started today.  I found this gorgeous black and white cotton duck – the possibilities are divine!


As all the interfacing was 30% off, and as I only had the eldest chick with me, I spent some time examining it more closely than my usual ‘rush in and rush out’.  As a result I have two new types to experiment with – a very stiff woven sew in interfacing, and some buckram – fusible and relatively stiff too.

Isn’t it funny how life works.  I was investigating different interfacings a few days ago as I want to do some bulk ordering to save money, and save running out of the one that I prefer (which can only be bought by driving into the next state on a round trip that takes a minimum of 1 hour.)  During my searching I came across the term buckram, learnt that it was a woven stiffener and didn’t think much more.  Then today I saw it and recognised the name and thought I would experiment a bit.  I have now done some research and understand a lot more about it!

Buckram appears to have been one of the first stabilizers invented (and Wikipedia tells me that the word “bokeram’ was used in the Middle Ages).  It is a cloth woven of cotton, and often soaked in starch to provide stiffness, that can be used for making hats (when wet, moulded over a hat form and allowed to dry), and is the stiff woven cover used on hardback books.  Modern applications also include providing the stiffness at the top of pleated drapes/curtains, and inside the front of baseball caps!  Once I knew all of this I realised that I had always been aware of it – just didn’t know what it was called!  So there you go – I learnt something new!  Now to work out the best project to maximize it’s potential!

In other news I discovered today that Apple offer a trade-in on dead iPods.  I took the boy’s iPod Touch in to see if it could be salvaged after he somehow bent the port for the charger so it couldn’t be charged (I really don’t know how), and after some valiant efforts by the staff at the “Genius bar” (boy do I need to get a job there so my official title can be ‘Genius’) we all agreed that it was beyond saving.  The Genius that was serving us then explained their recycling program and the discount for replacing like for like – which really took the sting out of a dead expensive gadget!  I didn’t know about that before, so thought it was worth sharing.

No board game updates tonight, as the boy and the middle chick are not home (sleep-overs etc.) but I can report that the eldest chick won 5 out of 6 of the songs that she challenged me on while playing “Just Dance” on the Wii – and that I was able to reclaim some dignity by winning the dancing to “YMCA” – all that muscle memory from my misspent youth kicked in!

Perhaps some sewing might actually occur!  Any suggestions on how best to experiment with the stiff interfacing and the buckram are very welcome!!




The whirling head

Arrrggghhhh….I have a head that is whirling with ideas and dreams and plans, but have lost the ability to translate it into action!  A house full of children all day, with their demands for food, water and time (such demanding little creatures they are) is sucking the ability to create out of me!  Throw in some hot weather, some unwelcome news on a different front, and a nice dash of burn out and hey presto – nothing is being made.

Well – that is not quite true.  Today I actually finished a bag that I started two weeks ago(!!).  But I have made more mistakes in this bag than any bag I have previously made – including forgetting to put one half of the magnetic snap in the bag before finishing it all up!  Then, after unpicking, inserting the snap, and resewing, I realised that it was not quite centred!  Doh!  Two things I just haven’t done before!  (A sign that I need to keep sticking to doing one thing at a time). I love the fabric in this bag, but after all the endless unpicking and restitching, and re-doing (because there were other errors too) I can’t bring myself to sell this one to a customer who is expecting good quality.  So it looks like I have a new bag for the new year!  Oh well – there needs to be a silver lining after so many mistakes!

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The good news is that I am loving my new sewing room.  I go and sit in there and it is like a little wave of calm flows over me.  It continues to be a great move, even if I am not actually making much in there.

And that means that I have been sitting in there to calmly work my way through my planning/thinking/dreaming workbooks.  I mentioned these in my last post.  A fellow creative friend put me onto the site run by Leonie Dawson who produces these wonderfully illustrated workbooks and calendars that you can buy as digital downloads for a very reasonable price. Given that I am a bit stuck at the moment ( you know – the whole burn out thing) and that I am pretty much allergic to planning (which is part of the reason that I tell you so often that I am doing it – partly to hold myself accountable and partly to desensitise myself to the concept) I was a little sceptical.  But I am a sucker for clear vibrant colours and messages of hope and inspiration and support.  So after reading testimonials, examining the site, and loving the illustrations, I decided that the risk was minimal and the colours were worth it.  (How superficial can one planning-avoider be?!)

I was just intending to buy the business workbook, but given that I have announced to you all quite emphatically that 2014 is my year, I bought the life workbook on a whim too.  I am working my way through the Biz workbook first (because I printed it first!) and have already had some lightbulb moments.  Some of them turned out to be blown lightbulbs when I re-examined them, but that doesn’t matter – I was thinking and reviewing and not breaking out in hives.

You start by a review of the past year.  Wow – I had lost track of how much I had done in the last year!  Then start on your goals, dreams, and plans for the new year.  Uh-huh.  Now we are talking.  While you might be able to do this with lots of different tools and planners, I am loving this one so far.  It has me thinking about what I need – not just what the business needs.  Powerful stuff being reminded to make time for yourself!  On that basis alone I am happy to recommend the products (which I don’t do that often).  Then of course there are the beautiful illustrations by Leonie.  I would be happy to just be surrounded by them all day!  So I have become an affiliate and put a link up on the side of my page so that if you want to buy them for yourself you can!  (I am also thinking of the meditation course she sells – I would love to go to a health spa and do it that way, but on my current budget think that an e-course might be a more realistic place to start!  I will let you know what I decide!)

I have talked before about how much I love lists – and this workbook involves making lists.  So in my next post, all going well I will share my ‘list’ with you – again working on that accountability thing!

The other thing I am doing is buying fabric!  Oops!  When I sat down and did an inventory of what I had I realised that I am actually in need of updating my stash, replacing some that are almost at an end, and embracing the new season’s fabrics.  What a task!   (Mwahahaha as my son would say!)  So online orders have been happening, and tomorrow we will hit Spotlight – which starts the new catalogue sale tomorrow and has goodies on sale that I need (because when it comes to fabric we always need, rather than want, don’t we?!)

In school holiday updates – the boy has beaten me in Uno, but lost to me in Carcassone in a close run game.  The two girls joined us for a game of Carcassone tonight with two add-ons (extra tiles and rules and pieces that you can add to the basic game) and it was hilarious.  I went all out and strategized my placement of pieces and for the first time it worked!  I cleaned up and won convincingly.  Yes – I know that it is sad that a grown woman is gloating about beating three children who are all under 11 – but they have been beating me in everything so it was time for a win for the oldie!

I hope that your week is going well and that your head isn’t whirling!  Remember – one day at a time.  (For me and for you!)

Answers to riddles

After the rather obscure references to burnt bits of meat in my last post’s heading, I thought I should clear up some other vagaries in this post!

For those of you who have been reading along over the last year, you might recall that I did my Right Brain business course last year and had all sorts of lightbulb moments that I promised to tell you about.  Then life, and my boy, got a bit chaotic, and all lightbulbs had to be tucked away for a while.  With a new year, and a lovely card (that ironically was in a gift from my ex-husband) stuck to my pin board to remind me that 2014 is my year, I have been dusting off the lightbulbs and adding to them.

The first lightbulb to share with you is that I love making bags.  I love playing with colours, textures and shapes and making those little pieces of art that people get to use.  No surprises there – but a really good reminder about what gives me that zing in my day.

The second lightbulb is that I love to share ideas, to pass on tips, and to help other people to find their creative niche and passion in life.  The first tiny step towards that is my monthly newsletter where I hope to share ideas, tips and links that I find so that you can explore creative ideas until you find ones that resonate with you.  (Heavens knows that making bags was a complete accident for me and now I can’t imagine not doing it!)

The second step in shining the light of that lightbulb on my world is that I am developing some kits so that you can make your own ‘things’ at home, and learn some skills along the way.  Of course there will be bag kits – with everything you need to make a funky, practical and personal bag for yourself.  But I will also be adding in some other kits so that you can make personalised things (like superhero capes) of your own.  I am so excited about this!  I am hoping to have my patterns with testers by early March, so stand by for updates!  (Those who know me understand that I often want to rush in and do everything at once, so the fact that I am doing this in stages is sensible but excruciating at the same time!)

Then last week I was teasing you with images of me walking around the house with wet bamboo fabric on my shoulders to test absorbancy and wicking.  The answer?  I accepted a commission from a lovely business owner to make some bibs for her shop.  She wanted bandana bibs with teething chews attached as she had customers asking for them regularly.  I brought my analytical brain out of hiding and looked at the problem from several different angles and decided that cotton tops, with bamboo/cotton French terry towelling as the lining would do the trick.  The style of a bandana bib is that the folds that naturally form then trap dribble, spills, etc.  Having the bamboo, with it’s super-absorbancy means that all that wetness gets held in the bib, rather than going straight through onto the baby’s clothes.  As for the teether being attached?  Well – I can now say that I have sewn plastic onto fabric (and remembered to change the needle before sewing cotton again)!  Then the question arose of how to close the bib.  Ah-ha!  My days as a mother using modern cloth nappies (diapers) came to the fore – plastic snaps with two snaps on one side makes the bib adjustable.  So I am now the proud owner of a press and die set to install the snaps.  (And we all know how much I love a gadget!)  The trial run of bibs is on its way to be photographed ready for listing at – who will sell them exclusively.  Another bit of excitement!  (And while a small deviation from my bag plans, is a great way to play with fabrics for small people that I don’t often get to use!)


In reviewing my business plan from last year, and working on it a bit more I have been focussing on what is important to me at home, in my business and in my working life (you know – the job that pays the bills!)  I had a think about this blog.  You might have noticed that I have been blinging it up a bit over the last few weeks – creating the home page, adding some other tabs, putting up a shiny new header and tag line.  Hmmmm…..perhaps I got a bit too focussed on the ‘business’ aspect of it all, and forgot the stuff that I like doing – writing to you and talking about what is happening here in the nest.  You can expect a return to ‘normal programming’ soon!  (I am still undecided about the ‘home page’.  All feedback welcome!)

And finally – I have been planning.  Let me explain something first.  I am a list maker – I love to tick things off.  I used to be highly organised  (before I had children) but sitting down and developing plans just isn’t my forte.  So to be working through plans step by step is a little unusual for me.  But I have found a workbook that resonates with me (and will share more about it when I am finished) so am actually using it!  The point I am up to today is to list the things that I will do each day.  There are suggestions in the workbook, that are so simple and obvious and yet reading them gave me such clarity.  I haven’t yet finalised my list, but the ones that resonated (yes I am aware that I am using that word twice in one paragraph) with me were to step away from the computer, to spend 15 minutes each day decluttering a part of your house,  to allocate time for emails, etc.  So obvious, but such a good reminder!  There is also a challenge to reduce emails to 5 lines.  (Thank goodness it wasn’t to reduce blog posts to 5 lines – you know how verbose I am!)

While there hasn’t been a lot of sewing (apart from the bibs) happening, there has been a lot of mental activity going on.  I am struggling a bit with the constancy of children due to the school holidays but am trying to find time each day to just focus on being present with them.  It is harder than it sounds.  I am so burnt out from the emotional demands of the last couple of years that dealing with their demands all day means that I am retreating a bit in order to cope.  But a daily reminder to myself is keeping me from falling away too far.  A three day Monopoly game with the boy was hilarious – even when I finally managed to bankrupt him.  The middle chick thought she would make meringues using a recipe from her Science book.  It was an experiment in more ways than one – the electric hand held mixer I received for my 21st birthday died in a puff of smoke and the smell of burning sugar and rubber.  The eldest chick is doing her own version of planning.  She is writing, cutting, sticking and writing some more.  I think she is making lists to try and help her make sense of the transition we are all going through.  Or maybe she is just her mother’s daughter.

Ah look – another long rambling post from me.  If you are still here – thank you.  I hope that your week allows you time to be present with the people who are important to you.

Why I am going to stop eating the burnt chop

As a mother I have always put my children first.  It is what I thought all mothers did, and in fact all parents did.  I didn’t see it as a sacrifice, I simply saw it as the natural order.  It wasn’t conscious, it was automatic.  I heard the stories about burnt chop syndrome (a very Australian phrase that signifies mothers eating the food that isn’t perfect while serving up the good, perfectly cooked food to their children and partner – worth googling) and just chuckled knowingly, because of course I eat the burnt chop.  That is what mothers do.  Right?

Well, no more.  I have become so good at putting my children first, at being a ‘good mother’, at making every decision in my life (career, marriage, finances, food, sleep, car, exercise, holidays….) based on what is best for my children, that along the way I seem to have lost the ability to look after what is best for me.

Well meaning friends and acquaintances have counselled me for years that I do too much, and that I need time for myself.  For a while I had a taste of that time.  After my husband left and when the children would go to his house for one or two nights a week I had what I felt was a huge luxury of time and space.  I would read books, listen to music, arrange to catch up with friends in trendy bars and restaurants, where ‘mummies’ like us didn’t normally go.

But then he left the country and I had the children 24/7 for a few years.  And I was working full time in a high pressured position.  My son started school and started to exhibit all sorts of troubling behaviour like running away.  Daily.  My girls were missing their father and couldn’t understand why he had chosen to leave them.  (Heartbreaking stuff.)  And I was trying to keep the wheels on the wagon, to be the best mother they could have to make up for the father they didn’t have, to be really good at my job so that I could advance and earn more money to pay for the things that they would have had if they had two parents living together, to keep them feeling secure, loved, and yet let them be independent.

I stopped reading books.  Didn’t listen to music at home.  Didn’t go out.  Anywhere.

I kept pedalling as hard as I could to hold down a job, to leave work to rush to the school to help locate or calm my son, then return to the meeting I had fled and assure everyone that everything was okay and continue on, being as professional as possible.

I can’t write more detail about just how hard it all got because it is too upsetting.  I felt I had no choice (and I really didn’t have many choices) but to keep going and putting my children first.

Until there was almost nothing left of me.  Luckily I have people who care about me who recognised what was happening and gave me the right support to see that if I didn’t make some changes there would be nothing left of me.

This year I am putting myself first and doing what I need, to look after myself.  I deserve to be healthy, to be happy, and to be fulfilled.  And my children deserve a mother who is more than just surviving.  Today marks the day that I say no to the burnt chop.  I am going to build a life that nourishes me, and fulfils me.  I am going to stop being the selfless martyr.  And after all these years of being told that I am a ‘good mother’ I am going  to choose to be a more selfish mother, so that I can in fact start to be the great mother that my children deserve.

I am now stepping down from my soap box and heading to the kitchen to eat the single serve dessert that came with our takeaway pizza order tonight (our first in 5 years but the heat has driven me out of the kitchen!) that I am not sharing with my children.

Have a great weekend and remember that refusing to eat the burnt chop is not a bad thing!



Friday finds – tutorials for Back to School projects

The summer school holidays are stretching on in a haze of heat, sunburn, bushfire warnings and crankiness at being told to drink more water and stay in the shade.  And that means that it is time to think about pushing the little bodies back into uniforms and shoes to see if they still fit (because it is a well known fact that amazing feats of growth happen over the summer school holidays every year – especially if you have stocked up on their school uniform at the end of last year!)  It is also time to think about what they need for going back to school.  Which is the basis of the following list of tutorials.

Each of these has been found on the blog of another crafter who has also been faced with the back to school dilemma, so I present simply a gathering of their ideas so that you can think about some projects to help the back to school process begin!

School bags

While some schools require a uniform bag, complete with school logo, many still allow students to bring along a bag that reflects their individual personality.  That is where the following patterns come in.  With the amazing range of fabrics available the possibilities for individual fashion statements are endless!

I just love the vintage feel to this bag by Hannah13 from Sew Adorable Fabrics that is posted on the Riley Blake site – Vintage inspired boxy school bag

The Quilt as you go Improv Patchwork school bag by TeresaDownUnder provides lots of opportunities to personalise a bag for your student.

Quilt-as-you-go improv patchwork school bag | Sewn Up by TeresaDownUnder


For a completely different look this bag by LisaMarieblog uses burlap – DIY Burlap messenger bag

The lovely people at Plaid have already collected a lovely selection of tutorials with their collection of 5 DIY back to school bags


Library Bags

There are so many bags that children need for back to school.  Library bags are a definite need, especially in the junior school.  (The librarian at our school is constantly pleading for parents to remember to pack books in bags to protect them!)  They can be as fancy or as simple as you like.

The 20 minute library bag by And Sew We Craft is a great place to start.

The Library Bag Tutorial from Pam at Threading My way is along a similar vein – with lots of potential for using different fabrics to make a statement.

Another option is the Simple Library Bag Tutorial from Embracing Life’s Journey.

Samelia’s mum provides a beautifully detailed tutorial to make a  Library bag with name applique tutorial.

Library Bag with Name Applique

While Sewing by Moonlight provides a different take again with her Nancy Drew Blog Hop Library Tote Tutorial.

 Pencil cases

In addition to the various zippered pouches you will find listed here, the tutorials below might also assist in making a new pencil case for your school goer.

At Crazy little projects you will find a zippered pencil case bag pattern – nice and straight forward!

Then there is this one Ann Kelle’s site for a Pencil case

A slightly different take on the traditional at Heidi and Finn with their pencil case

And yet another style with A Spoonful of Sugar Designs

Snack and lunch bags

Of course, in addition to the books and pencils there are also nutritious lunches and snacks to be thinking about and if you are packing them in these lunchbags or snacks bags they are going to look good as well as tasting good!

A Kids Lunch box pattern from Crazy Little Projects guest posting at Skip to my Lou is a good place to start.

The Girl Inspired has a great tutorial for a re-usable snack bag.

As does/do Sisters Sisters

and Rugrat Design posting on Lazy Green Mama.

And Sew Can Do

And for the ultimate collection of patterns for lunch bags, over at fresh juniper she has collected 50 patterns together for lunch bags and totes with tutorials!

I hope that you find some inspiration in this collection to assist you with the back to school requirements!  (I can tick ‘new school shoes’ off my list, but have found post it notes from the eldest chick stuck to a pillow on my bed, and the screen of my computer, that list her ‘stationary’ requirements.  Think a trip to the office supplies store is in order – plus a quick lesson on the difference between things that don’t move, and things that are used to write on and with……)

If you have ideas to add to the list, please feel free to add them in the comments!