Wednesday, 15 January 2014

BritMums Carnival Craft for Two Special Little Girls

Carnival Crafty Craft for Two Special Girls

This blog is dedicated to Savannah for her 'Special Needs'  courage and her little sister Super Helper, Sacha.  

Savannah right and Sacha

EK Buddy BlanQuilts prides itself in not just making beautiful BlanQuits but they are educational too.  Our themed BlanQuilts, whether specific to our little customers needs, for Storytelling or just another super creation, they always have a good talking point with images that children can learn from, recognise and relate to.

BritMums are doing a Carnival themed blog and immediately, I remembered what Savannah and Sacha's mum, Mrs Tracey Philip, had said to me when the girls received their blanQuilts.  'Wow, it's pretty like at Carnival mummy. It's Awwwwesome' .

'Carnival is about colours, themes and textures' said their mum, Tracey. 'Colours are like music they make people happy and want to dance. You should have seen our girls when they received their Buddy BlanQuilts, they were getting down!'

So, I looked up the photos.  The beauty and vibrancy of the BlanQuilts, just made me feel so proud and happy that I had actually made these;  I could feel the music, colourful sense of fun and Carnival type vibrancy Tracey spoke about.

Sasha peeping out from her BlanQuilt
Savannah all tucked up under her BlanQuilt

Like most little girls, pink and yellow tend to feature in their favourite colours. Sasha and Savannah are right up there with their pink and yellow themes. But these are no ordinary little girls.  In fact, they are quite exceptional.

Savannah was born a normal, healthy, beautiful baby.  She responded well with her large, dark, bright shining eyes and a wide innocent smile. Savannah was a first and long awaited baby for her 30 plus mum and was much wanted, loved and doted on, not just by her parents, but the whole family.  

Tony and Tracey Philip were devastated, when Savannah, very sadly, was diagnosed as being deaf when she was just three.  I want to share their story, sad, but wonderfully brave and encouraging and how their EK Buddy BlanQuilts have helped their beautiful young daughters.

Just watering my plants mummy

When mum and the girls were ordering their Buddy BlanQuilts, in between giggles, 'errr', 'ummm', pink and yellow please; Savannah and Sacha expressed, through sign language -which Sacha helped translate for me - that they liked dancers, fairies and quite a few other things; forgetting to let Savannah get a signed word in.  It was quite funny actually as mum told me:
'Sacha can be a bit domineering.  She thinks she knows certain signs when she doesn't. She will sign and be verbal with it.  But Savannah will look and say, 'No its not!' and show her the sign for red, for example.  Sacha is like a sponge but a bit of a know-it-all.  It's great having them both really. They feed off each other and teach each other'

'Conversation between my girls is invaluable because Sacha will verbalise and help Savannah to say the word.  Savannah will correct Sacha if she is signing incorrectly'.

And Savannah certainly did, when Sacha signed that Savannah wanted some balloons, that she didn't. She quickly pulled Sacha up, showing her the correct sign and saying that balloons were for baby's like Sacha.

Sonow it was time to get my thinking cap on and I came up with these single bed, carnival, colourful, beauties. Both are 90 per cent hand stitched, 100% cotton and took 5 weeks to make.

Tracey is now a stay-at-home mum; after a 14 year career in the Fashion and Design Industry.  She became a Nursery Nurse as a change of career, which fit in nicely once Savannah was born; and Tracey was able to get her a place at the Montessori Nursery where she worked. 

Tracey started noticing that something was wrong when Savannah was about 18 months, but she was reassured that there was nothing wrong.  However, as time went on, Savannah's key worker began noticing that she did not respond when her name was called, unless she was looking directly at her. 

Tracey's fears were now being realised and it was not until Savannah was 3 years old, that doctors diagnosed Savannah as being deaf.  Tracey and husband Tony were devastated.  Tracey, said, 'The shock nearly killed me.  I could not believe what I was hearing. At first, I refused to believe it. This was something I just could not accept. It was even more difficult because I had started noticing that something was wrong, but was always being told that Savannah was fine.  It seemed that from birth, when Savannah had hearing, her hearing started to deteriorate until finally she became deaf.' 

'Once I managed to stop crying, Tony and I made up our minds that this was not going to affect our daughter's life.'

Tracey and Tony, went all out to ensure that Savannah got the help she needed and one of those things was to help their daughter communicate.  The whole family started to learn British Sign Language (BSL).

When making the Buddy BlanQuilts, I wanted to take the girls individual needs as well as their personal preferences into account.  Sasha, when asked how she's feeling, its usually, 'hot hot hot'; so I made her Buddy BlanQuilt with a light weight wadding. 

Savannah on the other hand, likes to be wrapped up nice and snug as a bug in a rug', with her head under the BlanQuilt. Whilst Sasha's BlanQuilt has a light fleece back, Savannah, as an eczema sufferer and her very sensitive skin required a 100% cotton backing.

As a typical girly, girl, Savannah loves her bling and what better way, a fancy kangaroo ballerina, the central theme of her Buddy BlanQuilt. So I also gave her some patches with handbags, make up and nail polishes too. For that extra touch and to show the luuuuvvvv, I added lots of cut out hearts and hand quilted the entire thing with lots and lots of hearts. Savannah wanted her name on her BlanQuilt and as mum explained, colour, shapes, texture and smell are all very important to a deaf child, who relies heavily on their sight and other senses. Savannah found, that tracing her finger along the letters of her name, helped a great deal in identifying the letters and learning how to spell it. Together with mum and dad, the girls learned how to sign all the images on their BlanQuilts using the BSL system. 

This beautiful kangaroo ballerina in her pink toutou took a great deal of work.
I drew a likeness of her from a picture in 'Josephine likes to dance'.  I then had to draw it onto a plain fabric and cut out all the individual parts, draw them on to the fabrics of choice. Draw out the picture again onto the white fabric and embroider the flesh and shoes of the kangaroo, then appliqué on the dress cut-outs.

Mum told me, 'The thing I love most about the girls BlanQuilts, is that they can be used for children who are blind as well; because like Savannah, they would be able to identify smells and the different textures of the various fabrics, thread and other mediums used to make the BlanQuilt. They can trace around the letters and objects because of their 3D feel and appearance. It acts a bit like brail and anything tactile is really important particularly for children with special needs. Savannah cannot sleep in the dark because she does not sleep in her hearing aid, so she uses her eyes as her ears at night. Just as a blind child uses their ears as eyes. Sacha however, alerts her to anyone calling whenever her hearing aids are out'.

Here you can see Savannah's name going up in a V shape.  I drew and cut out the letters and appliquéd these on.
I then added little pictures I cut out to dress the letters up a bit.  Savannah is a great fan of the Tweenies, as you can see.

Every girl loves her sweets, so I added a strip of delicious Ice-cream treats.
In 2012, Savannah started speech and language therapy at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, prior to receiving Cochlear Implants. The therapist was very impressed with how much Savannah knew and the steady progress she was making. A very proud Savannah told me via her delighted mum, that during the 'Deaf Olympic Games', Savannah won 1st place in the 100 and 200 meters. She came 4th in the Shot Put and Long Jumping events; whilst little sister, Sacha, cheered her on.

'Sacha is more of a matter-of-fact girl; who is protective of Savannah. If someone is trying to talk to Savannah, who is shy, Sacha will explain things to Savannah and reassure her and will help her to answer. 'Savannah is very proud of Sacha', mum told me, '... and introduces her to all her friends. Sacha often wishes that she was also deaf, because she thinks that Savannah is very special and would like to have a pink hearing aid of her own'. 

'When your child is being assessed for a hearing aid, request different colours to encourage the wearing of them, you can get covers that look nice too.  Savannah now enjoys wearing her fancy hearing aids and was able to take part in a carol service.  It was overwhelmingly amazing, just incredible.  Children with special needs bring so much more to a family unit'.

Sacha also loves singing, animals and her storybooks. Sasha's list of likes was rather long, and in it, she included a song - 'The animals went in two by two Harrah Harrah...'  Intitally, I thought of giving her Noah's Ark, but being a very cutsie, if not a very girly girl like her big sister, Noah's Ark seemed too boyish.  And, just so that there was no bad feeling, and Sacha did happen to mention a fairy, several times in fact, I came up with this! 

What a bit of controversy, this fairy stirred up.  The girls BlanQuilts were hanging up at a quilting exhibition when I overheard a strange conversation.  My ears perked up and as I listened, I heard one woman say, 'It's beautiful, but it's not a chicken'.  I went over and said, 'Thank you for the compliment, but it is a chicken',
Then an elderly lady quipped in and said, 'Then it must be a transsexual, because this fairy chicken is actually a cockerel'. You would not believe the fits of laughter that spread across that hall like wild fire.

In addition to animals, Sasha's Buddy BlanQuilt had to have balloons.

                                        And of course, I had to add her name too.

Like her sister Savannah, Sasha had to have something that they both have a lot of, heart!

Sacha and Savannah's BlanQuilts were two of the first I ever made.  They posed many challenges but I learnt a great deal from making them, and my Buddy BlanQuilts have gone from strength to strength.  One of the most important lessons I learned at the start of my business, was a piece of advice Tracey would like to give to anyone with a special needs child, and that is: 'Don't be afraid to ask for help, advice or something you or your child needs to improve their quality of life, or just to make life easier.'  A most valuable piece of advice. 

Tracey went on to give some other really important tips.

The BlanQuilts were delivered, and mum, Tracey, called me to say how delighted she was and that the girls were so excited, she had to put them on their beds straight away.  A short while later, I received a call from a very cross Sasha. 'It's not fair!  Savannah's got strawberries.  Why don't I have any strawberries?'  I asked her if she did not like her BlanQuilt.  She said, 'Wait a minute...', then started to count.  Then she came back to me with a cheerful shout, 'I got 1, 2, 3 errr, lots of strawberries.  It's AWWWWEEEEEESOME.  Thank you, I love my BlanQuilt and my strawberries.'

It is really important to ask your Local Authority (LA) for activities they run, especially in the summer holidays, for children with special needs.  Your LA may provide transport for the whole family. You should sign up for emails to get day trips etc. also with the National Children's Deaf Society (NCDS).   If you are willing to travel the NCDS provide lots of support and activities around the country.  Don't be afraid to ask the school for support with delayed speech and homework.

There are things you can do at home to help your child.  Tell your child a story of about 4 lines, then ask him/her about it. 

Night Night this is aaawwwwwwesome

Give only simple instructions, e.g. ' put your coat on'.  Just 1 task at a time.  Correct your child gently. You need a lot of perseverance, commitment and patience, but it pays off. You may have to constantly repeat yourself and this can be frustrating, but children learn quite quickly and your child will pick it up. Encourage your child without being overzealous, they want to learn but it can be very frustrating for them too.

Get support for learning a sign language of your choice.  There are many out there, so research them and see which one you think would benefit your family most.

Savannah hugging her cousin

Also make sure that if you are doing a LA or NCDS activity, that there is signing support available.  People often think that children with special needs are just naughty, particularly if their disability is not obvious, so you have to let people know and should not be ashamed or embarrassed to do so.

Shush! Nobody knows about our Buddy BlanQuilt hideout.
EK Buddy BlanQuilts would like to take this opportunity, to thank Tracey and Tony Philip for their contribution to our blog.  Most of all, we send out a very big thank you to two special little girls, Savannah and Sacha for all their help and for choosing us to make their Buddy BlanQuilts.

(Mrs T. Phillips, Grays, Essex) I have too girls and both have a single bed size EK Buddy BlanQuilt. They use them as tents, love the colours and textures, they sometimes take them in the garden for their picnics. The quilts have been really good for helping my little one learn the spelling of her name, objects  and  colour identification. My 8 year old is deaf and learnt the deaf signs for the characters and pictures, so they are really educational. They are really good for winter and summer, not too hot for summer and nice and snugly for winter. My little ones is a lighter weight as she does not like to be too hot. My older daughter's is heavier as she likes to be warm and cosy. The quilts wash very well and come up lovely, even on a hot wash there was no shrinkage. The colour's are just as bright and vibrant as when I first got them. They are fantastic and the girls love them.

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