Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monster Babbies

Hello friends,
How's things? It's all busy-busy-busy round here. In fact, here is a list of the things I "haven't had time" to do in the last month or so: finish painting the front door, tidy away the two piles of papers either side of my computer, read that novel beside my bed, ring that tradesman to do that job that needs doing, decide what shoes I'm going to wear to M's wedding, etc.
But guess what I DID find time to do: Make monster babies. Yes that's right, monster babies.
Monster babies are tiny and cute. However, they also do monstrous poos and weese and so they have to wear tiny monster nappies.
I wish these babies had come from my own imagination, but no, I saw them in a book, Microcrafts. I immediately recognized them as a great handmade Christmas gift for two quirky children I know. While my children pretend to be grown ups wanting ipods and motorized lego and all manner and means of expensive accessories, I knew they'd just flip for a monster baby with monster nappies, maybe also with a little monster bed, a monster pillow, and a wee monster blanket (accessories not yet made, we'll see if I "have time"). 
I threw these three together while I watched the News one night to gauge the general level of interest. As soon as I was finished the kids started with the bagsies and requesting that more be made, according to the pictures they were just off to draw. Aha! They do still like crazy homemade stuff after all. I'll make weird craft aficionados of them yet! What more could a mother want for her children?

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thoughts on the knitting continuum

In my mind, there is a knitting continuum. At one end, there are essential and very practical things like warm woollen jerseys and hats, socks, mittens, and scarves: things that would keep you alive in a snowstorm along with a home-made cheese and pickle sandwich and a thermos of tea. At the other end are fun, frivolous things like, knitted sharks, goldfish, wombles, sandwiches, and so forth: things that would entertain you on a sunny day when times are good and life is simple. In the middle are the items that are somewhat practical but that also have a fun a frivolous edge to them. This category includes tea cosies and "tv slippers".
 I definite have leanings towards the frivolous end of the knitting spectrum. I would rather knit a sandwich than a jersey, and I would rather buy socks than knit them. However, when my daughter asked me to knit her a pair of tv slippers there was just enough silliness in them for me to say "Yes, of course". Also, I owed her a knitting project after just having knitted something for her brother. (I am from a family of eight children, and hence, I am very aware that I must be careful to be "fair").
Are "tv" slippers a New Zealand phenomenon? I have no idea but it wouldn't surprise me if they were. There are patterns for them in almost every junk shop I frequent, and several on Ravelry of course. This was the pattern I thought I'd follow, since it looked easy and had lots of sizes (click to enlarge, if required):
 In the end I followed a pattern on Ravelry, because it required two strands to be knitted together (= super quick). Quick! Good lord they were so quick. Two nights of tv watching, and they were all done. (Hey, maybe this is why they are called "tv slippers"?). Sylvie made the pompoms to finish them off in very styley fashion.
In terms of knitting enjoyment, this project was a 5/10. The yarn was some supersoft synthetic thing that squeaked as I knitted it, and my 4 mm needles are horrible plastic things that have blunt ends and split the wool if you don't pay attention. Yick. However, in terms of satisfaction, they're a 9/10. She likes them and wears them all the time.  And, they look really cute, in a kind of silly and fun way. I like to think that they might save her life in a snow storm.
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Joe and Cornelius, and parental obligations

Hello friends,
Last post I rashly asserted how much I enjoy making things. Well, my advice to you is to be careful making such rash statements, because no sooner was the virtual ink dry after writing that did I get conscripted into making costumes for a show my daughter was involved in. But Hark, I protest too much, I actually rather enjoyed this voluntary role, especially when I compare it with other things I've done in a voluntary capacity as a parent. The costumes were hilarious, over-the-top, deliciously camp, and sparkley. I'd show them to you but such was urgency for them that they were whisked straight from my sewing machine onto the backs of the perfomers. Instead, I'll show you the lovely thank-you letter I got!
I was tickled magenta to recieve that, I really was.

The short time frame to complete those relatively large sewing projects was actually very good for me. It made me wonder why I don't do things for my children or myself unless a fire is lit underneath me. So, as soon as the sewing machine was packed away, I resumed work on a project that had been dead on the needles for more than a year: Joe and Cornelius.

These charming knitted friends are from More Knitwits (Katie Boyette). I had this book out from the library an age ago and we all fell over ourselves chuckling at the great characters. The kids instantly ordered some up for themselves, and I began knitting with gusto but then got sidetracked with house renovations. Somehow my brain could not accommodate circular knitting while my fingers were occupied with writing cheques.

Anyway, I loved seeing these guys all knitted up, I loved how my big 10-year-old boy was as delighted as a 3-year-old to finally have them, and how they now live on his bed. I might even rashly commit to knitting some more of the characters out of that book, there are so many cool ones.
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Thursday, July 4, 2013

A wee quick project that rekindled my fondness for craft

Hello friends,
Sometimes I forget how incredibly satisfying it is to think of a project, gather the things you need, and do it straight away. I think many people might identify with this, since I'm sure I'm not the only one that conceives of a project without the things I need to do it, or purchases fabric without any particular project in mind.
Now I have to confess that it wasn't actually me who conceived of a project and completed it immediately. No, no, no, I am still procrastinatory, disorganized, a bit dreamy at times, and slow, as usual. It was my daughter. Towards the end of last week, she presented me with one of her craft books, the page for a simple pencil case book-marked, and asked me to get the things she needed to make it happen, tout de suite! (She didn't actually say "tout de suite" but I like that phrase very much).
 The book was this one, The Crafty Kid (Kelly Doust), which has some pretty cool projects. They are simple and achievable for a small person. There are some fun ideas, and the styling is very nice. Beautiful pictures are quite a good motivation to make something, in my experience.
I bought some cool waterproof fabric and a zip. 
We cut out the pieces.
I put in the zip.
She did the rest.
Et voila...
Altogether, the project took about 40 min (and that included getting out the sewing machine, and putting it away again afterwards). 
I resolved that craft will be back on the menu as something fun to do for myself, as well. Over the last year we have been so consumed with doing other things, mainly to the "character" house (read "character" as an old needy money-pit) that craft fell off the wagon. Well the craft monster has been unleashed. Soon my new-old house will be full of (maybe nice, maybe fugly) things I've made. Hooray! 
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Monday, June 10, 2013

One Gloomy Sunday in June

Hello friends, I apologize for my absence lately, I kind of lost my voice for a while there. That sometimes happens with me, in real life as well as on the interweb.
Anyhoo, I would show you stuff I've been sewing lately, only it's just tooooo boring. Curtains, curtain lining, a humiliating encounter with sewing stretch knits; no, I'm too proud to show you the extent of the failure there. Instead, perhaps we can go on a short nature walk.
Here, it is almost the shortest day. When the weather closes in the sky is dark and gloomy, but when a ray of light shines through it becomes very beautiful.
This view is from a walk we like to do from our house, often on a Sunday. It snakes through farmland, across hill tops, and through different types of forest. How lucky are we to have such great places to walk through, so close to our little town?
The highlight for Harry, a New Zealand common skink, which was hiding under a log. It raised such excitement that we have renamed it "the New Zealand Awesome Skink".
 The highlight for me, because I am quite nerdily fond of lower plants, the array of lichens and fungi along the way.  
What with one thing and another it ended up being just Harry and I on the walk yesterday. It is mightily fun hanging out with a 9-year-old boy, their enthusiasm for life is just wonderful. It might even inspire me to have another crack at sewing stretch knits.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sweet and Simple Handmade

Hello friends,
I was extremely pleased to be asked to review Melissa Wastney's book, Sweet and Simple Handmade. First, because I was going to buy it anyway. Second, because I knew I would have no shortage of nice things to say about it.
If you read the Tiny Happy blog you'll be familiar with Melissa's work. She uses new and used materials to make sweet garments, toys, accessories, and home wares that have her own characteristic style, which I would describe as Japanese-Scandinavian-Vintage-Antipodean-fusion.

The book
This paperback book is published by Stash Books, and contains 25 projects. It is available here and here and perhaps in your local bookshop, too. Each project is photographed (by none other than her good self), and has paper pattern pieces or measurements and full instructions.

The audience
Melissa notes that it is intended for home crafters; grandparents, friends, aunties, parents who want to make clothes or gifts for the small people they know. It would certainly be ideal for that audience. I found myself wishing that I'd had this book years ago, because there is a simple pattern for all of the essentials that I needed back then; pants, a skirt, a Sunday-best dress, dress-up capes, a cardy, a sweatshirt, a coat, etc. There are small and large versions of many of the patterns, so they will still be useful for me with a 7 and a 9-year old.

The projects
As I mentioned above, there is a good selection of essentials, but also some great extras. There is a pattern for those fantastic baby shoes, you know the ones, and a grown-up's bag, a children's satchel, pencil case, a foraging bag, drawstring bags, soft toys, and a cot quilt. There is a knitting project, and some great ideas for wrapping gifts imaginatively and inexpensively. The methods of construction are explained in an easy-to-follow manner. As well, there are new ways of thinking about sewing. For example, it wouldn't have occurred to me to refashion a child's cardy from a piece of adult knitwear, but there are instructions and photos for how to do that in a very stylish way. There are some very simple projects suitable for beginner sewers, and more complex ones for more experienced sewers. If you are a sewer and you have a fabric stash, even a small one, you could likely make at least half of the projects without even going to the shops. If you do need something, you could very likely get it at a charity store. In this way, the book is extremely democratic. You don't need lots of money, designer fabrics, special notions, or advanced technical skills to achieve these looks.
Other points to note
Melissa's simple and practical techniques could be applied to a whole range of projects for adults or children. I found this book to be a great springboard for ideas- I'm planning to make an adult version of the bias-trimmed cardigan, for instance. I hope this wonderful book is just the first in a series, I would love to see a follow-up that included some of her home wares and accessories, too.
Worth buying?
Most definitely!
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sewin, cookin, and being good lookin

Hello friends, 

Why didn't I start de-stashing sooner? This using-what-I-have phase is so satisfying! So cheap! So very inexpensive! And did I mention cost-effective? Most latterly off my sewing machine is a new top, made from a Japanese cotton gifted to me by my neighbour. 

The pattern, New Look 6080, was simple and yet had nice little design features, like french darts and cute little pintucks. Instead of using a facing, I finished the neckline with a bias-strip made from the same fabric. Here are those features up close: 

It's a great late-summer top to go with jeans or a skirt. I'm wearing it lots.

Speaking of tomatoes, because we were doing that last post, thanks for the recommendations for things to make. I made another Annabel Langbein recipe, harvest tomato sauce, and it is tomato-sational. The best thing I've made this season. Sorry, make that best equal, since I also made the tomato sauce recipe out of the Edmonds book, which turned out to be fabulous. This fabulous:

Yes it's just about all gone after a few sessions of saussies, fish'n'chips, and homemade chippies. Nom nom nom.

And since the title of this post includes "being good lookin", I will finish up by telling you that I spent my Christmas gift voucher from my father-in-law on a new lipstick and some mascara. It's the first make up I've bought in about 5 years. It felt good. 
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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fun with tomatoes (and labels)

Hello friends
You know that summer is in full swing when a stranger says to you in the street "Beauuuutiful f#*&ing day, isn't it!?" (true story), ... and when there are so many tomatoes around and they're so cheap that you find yourself up to your armpits in preserving.

Things I made this year (left to right, above): loads of pasta sauce (made with olive oil, onions, garlic, tomato pulp, salt, sugar, pepper, marjoram, basil, white vinegar, and whatever vegetables I can sneak in there to torture the children with); tomato relish (from this recipe at NZ gardener, my favorite recipe even though I just know that your Gran makes your favorite kind); and something new, a Moroccan tomato sauce from Simple Pleasures (Annabel Langbein). When I first tried this new recipe I cursed aloud because it was too sweet and too gingery for my tastes. However, I tried it in a chicken tagine thing and it was very very good, so I take back all my bad words. By the way, if you have any yummy tomato things to recommend I'm all ears. I have another 7 kg on the kitchen table even as we speak.
I had a lot of fun printing off labels for these various concoctions. I found great vintage labels here and here, and also printed off these fun postal ones you see below. Being a low-tech girl I just printed them on paper and glue-sticked them, but you can print them onto sticky labels if you like. Boy, I could really waste a lot of time mooching around those websites.

Oh and thanks for all your nice comments last post. Linda, I hope you enjoy the fabric, it's on its way to you.
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The one and only resolution of a 40-year-old

Hello friends,

I have really enjoyed reading other people's New Year's resolutions here and there, and many of them resonate with me on one level or another. However, I have one and only one resolution this year. It is nothing huge or earth shattering, it is not trying to be a better person in any way at all, it is not to be healthier, or to be a better parent. No, now that I am freshly FORTY, yes 40, and once again I stress four decades old, I am going for one, tangible, practical goal, and that is.... appreciably diminish my fabric stash.

There it is. You heard it here first.

I know this is a rather modest resolution, but there is a degree of reasoning behind this middle-aged madness. Even though I like to sew, and I like fabric very much, especially vintage fabric, I do not like having a stash, because:
1. The stash takes up room in my house, which is tiny. We 40-year-olds need to make the most of whatever space we have.
2. I do not need a stash as part of my employment, since I never sell anything I make. This 40-year-old has a different job that does not rely on fabric in any way.
3. The stash inhibits me, rather than inspires me, because I always feel like I should use something from it instead of buying the fabric that excites me to do a particular project when I see it in the shop. Here is an example: I very much want to sew new duvet covers for the kids. But I cannot bring home new fabric until I use something from the stash. However, there is nothing in particular, at this moment, that I want to make from the stash. Outcome = I sew nothing, and we make do with ugly duvet covers. This situation is unacceptable for a 40-year old person.
4. By hanging onto the stash, I am actually depriving someone who would use that fabric if they got their hands on it. This is nothing short of selfish. Forty year olds are many things, but never selfish.

So, I outlined to myself three practical steps towards having less of a stash:

1. I must get rid of three pieces of fabric before I buy another piece. This can be via giving it away, throwing it away, selling it, or using it.
2. I must use the fabric I do buy in a timely manner, within 1 month. If I don't, the fabric must be disposed of via the methods listed above.
3. To be reasonable, I will allow myself one suitcase full of fabric as a modest stash that neither takes up too much room nor stifles my sewing mojo.

Funny how just having a plan is enough to get your enthusiasm back. No sooner had I thought this plan through than I felt like sewing something. This bag, from "Bend the rules sewing" by Amy Karol, is one I'd been meaning to make for an age. Big enough to hold your togs, towel, purse, magazine, and sunglasses. Not too plain, not too fancy. used three pieces of fabric, denim and a contrast cotton drill on the outside, and a different cotton drill on the inside.

By using three pieces of fabric I have now enabled myself to bring home some new duvet cover fabric. How liberating sewing can be....

But to show I'm serious, SERIOUS, about diminishing the stash, I'm also giving a piece away. This vintage cotton is a bright white and chocolate brown floral print. It's only 87 cm wide, and I have a little over 2 m of it. It has been stored with mothballs at some point so it has that smell, but that washes out after a while, I promise you. If you want it, please leave a comment below. I'll check comments for one week and if you are the only one that wants it then, sweet!, its yours. If there's more than person after it then I'll do some random number thingie and alert the winner that they can have it. I'll even post it to you if you live in New Zealand for FREE, such is my commitment to my resolution. And Happy New Year to you!