Tag Archives: Sewing

How to make your own gadget cover

Make your own gadget case |a little bird made meI promised a few weeks ago that I would prepare a tutorial for you so that you could make your own iPad or gadget cover.  I probably would have bumbled along and forgotten that promise if it wasn’t for our upcoming school fete.  We always have an exceptional craft stall, with a great range of high end products, and this year a friend has been assigned the task of making iPad covers, so I decided that I needed to get my tutorial writing groove on and prepare it for her (and you!)

These gadget covers make great presents for family and friends – you can personalise them with your choice of fabric, or by embellishing them.

These instructions will make a gadget cover that fits an iPad, iPad2,  etc, and will be a little big for the iPad Air.  At the end of the instructions I provide measurements for making this pattern to fit the iPad Air and the iPad mini.

Materials

1 piece of hat elastic measuring 15 cm.

1 button.

Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

Ninjas!!

One piece each in your chosen outer fabric and inner fabric measuring 28cm (11”) x 45cm (17.5”).

One piece of your wadding measuring 28cm (11”) x 43cm (17”).

(For wadding I use Vilene H640 fusible fleece.  Here in Australia you can buy it at Spotlight by the metre.  There is a thinner version – Vilene H620 that is also fusible but the H640 is thicker and provides more cushioning for your device.  You could also use non-fusible wadding such as cotton or bamboo, or polyester by simply stitching it around the edge of the outer fabric instead of fusing it.)

Instructions

  1. Attach the fusible fleece to the wrong side of the outer fabric, following the manufacturer’s instructions. You should have a small gap on either side of the fabric where the fleece doesn’t meet the sides.  This is to help you reduce the bulk in your seams.

When I attach the H640 using an iron I place the fleece on the ironing board with the adhesive side up (that is the rough side) and then place the fabric on top of it with the wrong side on the fleece and the right side facing up.  I then use a pressing cloth (a piece of cotton, calico, or a tea towel) over the top of the two pieces and spray it lightly with water.  Then iron the pressing cloth, applying a small amount of pressure, and holding the iron in each spot for a few seconds before moving it along.  You may need to go over the piece a few times to ensure that the adhesive has properly melted and adhered to the fabric.

  1. Fold the outer piece, with its attached wadding, in half with the right side together and the wadding facing out, so that you have a side that is 28cm high and about 22cm wide. Stitch a line from the top of the long side down that side, and then across the bottom.  Use a 1 cm seam allowance here.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  2. Clip the corners at the bottom of the outer layer, then turn it inside out and poke the corners out at the bottom.

    Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

    And if you are really lucky you will accidentally line up your pattern so that it almost matches perfectly!

  3. Fold the inner fabric in half, with its right sides together and stitch that down the long side from top to bottom, then sew across the bottom for about 5 cm, leave a 10 cm gap, then sew the remaining seam. This will give you a gap for turning your creation in the right way at the end.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  4. Take your hat elastic and fold it in half, then wrap a piece of cotton around the end where the cut ends meet, to bind them together. This will stop the pieces separating when you are sewing them, and give the stitches something to catch so that the elastic is secure in the seam.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  5. Pin the elastic half way across the back side of the outer piece so that the elastic sits on the right side of the fabric, with the cut end just over the raw edge of the fabric and the loop pointing down. Put the pin on the fleece side of the fabric.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  6. Now place the outer piece inside the inner piece so that their right sides are together, and the seams on each one lines up. Make your own gadget case |a little bird made meStitch around the top edge of the two pieces, about 1 cm from the edge, to join them together.  When you cross the point where the elastic is sitting, reverse back and forward a couple of times to reinforce the stitching at that point.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  7. Turn the piece inside out, using the gap in the lining, and tuck the lining down inside the outer piece. Press or iron the seam that joins the inner and outer pieces so that it is flat, and then top stitch a row around the top of the cover.Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me
  8. Now you are ready to close the gap in the lining. To do this you can either hand sew it shut or, as I tend to do, tuck the seam in and then machine sew across the edge of the folds.  Tuck the lining back into the cover.
  9. Yay! The last step!  Time to sew your button on.  To measure where you button should be sewn fold the elastic loop down to the front side of the cover and mark where the bottom of the loop falls, then sew the centre of your button a millimetre or two below that point.  And now – ta da – you are done!!Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

To adjust this pattern for other gadgets you need to measure the width, height and depth of the gadget.  To help you out I can report that the measurements for making a cover for the iPad Air are 28cm (11”) x 40cm (15 ½”).  The iPad mini requires fabric that is 24cm (9 ½”)  x 33cm (13”).

You are welcome to use this pattern to make items for sale on a cottage industry scale, for fundraising or as gifts.

Make your own gadget case |a little bird made me

 

Pottering along

I have been tagged in a blog-along thingy to write about why I write.  This is not the post that will address that.  However thinking about the blog, my business and how it all fits together has been bubbling away in my mind.  When I started the blog I worried that I posted too often and bombarded my followers.  Now I feel that I have abandoned my blog, and my readers.  I have been reflecting on why this has happened and realised that writing here at some point shifted from something that I loved to do, that was like therapy, to something that I had to do but couldn’t seem to find time for.

I have decided that I want to rediscover some of the joy I had from blogging, so will try to post little bits and pieces more regularly.  I think I have also been trying to balance not writing about all the hard stuff in my life, and when things are really hard it means that I don’t write at all.    This, then, is a quick snapshot of what is happening in my life at the moment, with little bits of the hard stuff included.

After years of juggling a high pressured career, and being an organised single parent, and having a neat and tidy home, cared for garden, and an organised house, now that I am home full time I seem to run late for everything, never catch up on folding and sorting the laundry, have truly dirty floors, and forget important dates on a regular basis.  I don’t seem to have time to blog, to sew, to bake, to hang out with my friends, and yet I am allegedly a ‘lady of leisure’!  Now part of it is getting sucked into the vortex of the internet and losing time that way.  But there is more to it than that.  I suspect it is going to take me a while to adjust to this whole concept of creating my own structure, rather than responding to the structure of an office job.

I am setting myself small targets this week.  First of all to clear the back order of custom orders that I have.  Then to spend a day working through the house from front to back and returning it to order and cleanliness.  (I almost added five more things to the list, but if I can do these two I will be very happy!)

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

A custom order that has been waiting for a while to be made!

I am also back to wondering about the ‘scope’ for my business.  After deciding that I would focus on bags and accessories I find myself making bibs, doing a custom order for bunting, making up heat packs stencilled for another custom order, cushion covers for yet another, whipping up a pillowcase for another, and generally drifting back to making anything that comes along.  This might be contributing to my feeling of being overwhelmed!  I can’t make everything that exists under the sun, no matter how much I want to!  What I can do is choose my scope, and stick to it, and make those things really well.  (Gee – did that sound like a pep talk to you? )

Custom ordered appliqued bunting.  (I love the colours she chose!)

Custom ordered appliqued bunting. (I love the colours she chose!)

Bags and accessories and bibs.  That is a broad category.  It is enough.  This might be my new mantra!

On the topic of bags I can share that I designed and made a laptop bag for my eldest chick earlier in the week.  She has her own laptop now, in preparation for starting high school next year, and in moving between her father’s house and mine it has looked a big too naked and vulnerable being carried in her arms!  I decided that she needed something that reflected a bit of her personality, but could also grow with her.  This is the end result!

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

The front of the laptop bag showing the detail on the flap, and the red leather base.

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

Under the flap you see the lining, and another handy pocket!

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

The back of the bag has another pocket, plus a bit of personalisation.

I have had some great feedback on the bag and am thinking that adding this style to my bag range is worth a try.

I can also update you about further developments for the artist in residence.  After her successful appearance at the exhibition, and being approached to sell her painting, this week she had one of her drawings appear in our local newspaper to launch a survey of the Gang-Gang – a native bird that is the faunal emblem for Canberra.  Needless to say she is thrilled and I couldn’t be prouder.  I am going to have to start recording a portfolio for her!

Gang-gang

Gang-gang

My beautiful boy is still struggling with school, and with coping that anything that changes the direction that he thinks he is following, but we have managed to have one fantastic day this week, and a couple of good recoveries from incidents.  The good moments, or days, make the not-so-good ones easier to cope with.  He is now living with me 100%, after some changes in his father’s life meant that it was best to change our care arrangements.  I shared on Facebook that I was fortunate to have him living with me, then added that I am not trying to be a hero, or downplay how difficult it is to parent him, but if I don’t see myself as fortunate I will probably break.

So here we are.  Pottering along with life, trying to work out how to survive financially, caring for my children, and having a creative brain that is in constant overdrive with new ideas of things to make.  I am pretty lucky really!

I hope that you are having a good week.

Friday Finds: A list of DIY gifts for Father’s Day

While I am informed that ‘handmade is the new black’, the joy of handmade has not spread to the men in our lives as much as the women and children. Today’s list, however, is set to change that! I have gathered together a list of links to free patterns to make a wide variety of things that will all be well received by the men in your life. Remember – handmade doesn’t mean poor quality – it means high quality because it is imbued with the love of the person making the gift!

Father’s Day is a day to reflect on the men in our lives – our fathers, grandfathers, and the fathers of our children.  I am very lucky to have known both my grandfathers, and to still have my father.  I have memories of dancing on my Opa’s shoes in the lounge room, and of my Pop taking us for outings to the only ice-cream parlour in Auckland at the time (because as an American he missed ice-cream parlours).  My Dad is truly one of the good guys.  He provides me with love and support, humour and wisdom as he has always.  I am always grateful that I am his daughter, so Father’s Day is a special day in my life each year.

As you all know, sewing is my ‘thing’ so the first part of this list are ideas that are for sewn gifts for men.
First up – a hat! I love the styling of this pattern for a men’s flat cap from aboutgoodness.com.

Another idea is an apron for Dad.  I have used this pattern from Purl Bee and really like the way that the strap is adjustable so it can fit a multitude of sizes.  When I made an apron with this pattern for a family member I used printable fabric to print a picture of the children holding a sign with her name and made the pocket from that.

Last Christmas I made my father a sun hat using this pattern from April Cobb.  The pattern is a good basic one, and you can personalise it with your choice of fabrics.  I had to include some orange in the one for my Dad because he is from The Netherlands!

012d9e7dd204919c84a4ee70c657936fe4ec312488

Another idea that I am keen to make myself is this tutorial for an iPhone/iPad stand from the lovely Michelle at Factotum of the Arts.

If you are a fan of making bags like me, then a cargo duffle bag is a great personal gift that he will get a lot of use from.  Noodlehead has the free pattern for this bag on her site.

For a ‘metro’ Dad in your life, Sew4Home has a pattern for this ‘Metro Bag‘.

For a Dad who likes a nice hankie, Purl Bee has a detailed tutorial on how to create a rolled-hem Hankie.

Another simple to make but thoughtful gift is a coffee cup cozy.  Hawaiian Paperdoll shares a great pattern on her site.

Another idea, and one that I have been playing with myself, is making Dad a wallet.  A nice simple pattern for a wallet is found on Allisa Jacobs website.

For those of you who like to crochet here is a list for you!

The manly man hat by Green Dragonfly is a great pattern!

I also like this ripple afghan in ‘manly’ colours (whatever ‘manly’ colours are!) from Lion Brand Yarn.

If Dad likes a bit of Dr Who or Star Wars, then Moogly has a great collection of patterns for crocheting a great range of gifts with these themes.

  Star Wars on MooglyDoctor Who Crochet Patterns - all free! Grab your hooks and allons-y! Dr Who on Moogly

Or you might like to make Dad his own Death Star Cushion with this pattern from Pops de Milk.

I plan to make these Opa House Slippers for my own Dad one day……  The pattern is on Ravelry.

Of course Dad could always use a new gadget cover – and there is a great list of free patterns in this post I prepared a couple of weeks ago – DIY Gadget covers.

As usual there are many other great lists of gifts that you can make for Father’s Day.  If you are interested in seeing more lists, or other ideas, you might like to look at the Pinterest board I have created as a place to store these ideas, appropriately titled “Gifts for Men“!

The most important thing to remember though, is that if you make a gift with love, you pass your love with the gift.

Two steps forward, one step back

My small start back into sewing went quite well last week.  I made a few more iPad covers, remembered (well – was reminded) that I still ‘owed’ my kids a few promised sewn projects, and started developing some new designs.

One of the products that I want to develop is a man’s wallet.  (I also want to make a woman’s wallet/purse but with Father’s Day around the corner thought that the men’s products had to take priority!)  I played around with some ideas and then made this prototype.

01f32406710fefd058d74a1d9c3c599894889ae81d 01c80a1d274faee49861f47c05c07a562b87fb0abe

I put it up on my Facebook page and asked for feedback.  Quite a few of my lovely female followers responded, with many of them commenting that it needed a closure of some description.  There were also comments on fabric, leather, colour etc, but I am not too concerned about those as simply making items with different combinations addresses that issue.  However I was concerned about the fastening issue, so I put a post on my personal Facebook profile, asking for input from males on the question of fasteners on wallets.  The first response was ‘No fastener for me. If you need one of those you’re not a man.’  And the following 40+ responses followed that pattern, except for one friend who responded that he had a fastener, then read the other comments and made various ‘manly’ statements to reclaim his manhood.  The respondents were of varied ages, educations, locations, backgrounds etc, so I think this is a fairly definitive indication that men do not like fasteners on their wallets!   I will tinker a bit with the design and hope to make some more this week, and will be sure to label the wallets as ‘man approved’ so that the women buying them don’t think they should have a fastener!

I also put out some feelers on whether people preferred baby bibs to fasten on the back or the side.  The responses were mixed, so I have decided for my next range of bibs to do a bit of both!  This was a custom order, but I plan to make a few more, and make some square ones with teether chews.

01b023bb27cfedac2beea42ded8e9af389b6de4110

I then had a great Saturday afternoon and produced a Kindle cover, shoulder bag, and library bag for my chicks (finally!!)

011cedd40adce9e29f9bcdeb72df8d0b5b173e2bb8

The shoulder bag as a work in progress

01953d2d8a51e60f4b98c326676c85866d1f90ae89

Kindle cover

0123b2708739c4f19fe04835624fca327e230cc47a

Library bag for the boy using the fabric he chose some weeks ago.

My steps forward were going well.  But I feel like I am going backwards this week.  The boy only managed to last 40 minutes at school today.  Last week he was there most days for between one and two hours, so I had some time to get things done.  This week, although we have only just started, I am feeling much more dejected about my ability to sew, to earn a living on my own terms, and to keep everything afloat.  I have finally decided to apply for some government benefits to help out.  While part of me feels grateful that the services are there, the other part of me is falling into a deep well of self pity wondering how I went from high-flying lawyer to government benefits.  Of course I know the logical answers – parenting a child with special needs means a change of course – but it is still sucking the energy out of me.    My mission this week, then, is that, in between filling out many, many, many forms, and organising my financial records for my tax return, I will find time to make things that are fun, and will re-energise me.

One of my ideas is to make a few more stencilled bags.  I made these two over the weekend as gifts, and enjoyed it, so a few more will be fun!

01a61a703a0f4f646b99698c1da4504f4d741f5624 010a1726190a702448c685b1dda267e7a3eaa6d8c7

I have also been playing with ideas for handwarmers and road tested a couple  with my boy and his friend yesterday – and received positive feedback from them, so will try to make a few more – sure to get me up and going!

0105fb3b7e9e99fc61bef2a468cacd6998a5847263

Right.  Here I go, off to get re-energized and move forward again!

 

Following through

After posting my list of gadget tutorials on Friday I was a bit inspired, and finally made a cover for my iPad!  I have owned it for about 6 months, without any cover on it, so this was very overdue.

And then because the pattern that I designed worked well, I made a few more!

These ones have all been delivered to the Shop Handmade where I stock my products, but I plan to make more this week that will then be stocked in my Etsy shop.  I made some to fit the iPad Air, and some to fit the iPad mini, so my next task is making some to fit the other iPads.  I love technology but why do they have to change the size slightly every time they release a new model?  Then again – it does give designers a chance to make new products each time, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain!

It felt good to be back sewing again.  Before I could get back to work I had to clean up the room.  It had become a dumping ground for anything extra in the lead up to our trip, so required some cleaning out, and tidying up.  I should have taken some before shots so that you can appreciate how amazing the after shots are!

011196b03ab82ceaf07c823633e634b11189b3e11a 018a8022326fbb70a75a42806f30a758c814713b53

In the process I decided that it was time to be a little ruthless with my scrap boxes.  I suspect it was the result of my childhood training but I find it hard to throw away scraps of fabric – they can always be used in some sort of project, and so many of my scraps are from just delicious prints.  However 4 boxes of scraps was getting a bit ridiculous, particularly when I have so many larger pieces of fabric these days.  I was feeing resolute but guilty, and posted on Facebook about my decision.  And voilà – problem solved.  A friend who makes beads will take my scraps and make fabric beads from them!  Much better than throwing them away!

Cleaning up my room also meant that I had room to put away all the new fabric I bought in Hawaii, plus some more that arrived from Spoonflower too.  And that meant I could finally sit and catch up on custom orders.  The first was a library bag for a young woman in Grade 4.  She enjoyed picking her own fabrics and I am thrilled with the way her combination turned out.

012c121db57193ed2dc0a4b63efd1074d7d9ec0be5

Over the weekend I also made up a custom order for a nappy (diaper) bag.  I am very happy with the way it turned out.  The fabric was chosen by the customer from Spoonflower, so is different from what I might have chosen myself, but it came together really well and completely suited her style.  I have a couple more custom orders to complete, and then can get back to designing.

01f227b3eeb57dc68f59c5e5e59798486ef87983e1

0186ef0a0106a6c17b6e729b88f94625aa8cfd10af

It is definitely time for some new bags – all that gorgeous fabric is sitting there tempting me!  I also need to update my Etsy shop – I have a couple of boxes of bags at home that are not listed there yet!  Time to get organised!

I hope that your week has started well, and that you have found time to do things that you enjoy!

 

 

A long weekend

This weekend just past was a long weekend in Australia, in celebration of the Queens’s birthday.  (Which is amusing really as her birthday is actually in April.)  Anyway, it means a three day weekend, and who am I to argue the semantics of whether we should or shouldn’t be having a day off in June?  It also means that winter has started, and, more importantly for me, that the Handmade Markets have been held.

01bf8cd49f702ff5728f313c3bd428441aa799feeb 01f9237cfe95aa0538eba09a2d936a95e24f61283e

I know that I have written about these markets before, and that I am a bit biased as a stall holder at the markets, but they really are quite fabulous.  The standard of handmade, Australian made, goods that are available is very high, and the diversity is wide.   (and to show that it isn’t just me that thinks so here are some links to media coverage of the markets! ABC news coverage, Canberra Times article)

I have been working flat out over the last weeks to ensure that I had enough stock to take to the markets, and that it was of a sufficiently high quality.  (Which explains my relative quiet here on the blog – I have been busy sewing!)  It definitely paid off.  I was very happy with the presentation of my stall this time (learning and refining each time I do a market) and with the bags and bibs that I had on offer.

01cb69d21f7a18cad3a4a8ac8098bd0d13be977254

Making bibs for the markets

I had planned to make pencil rolls to take to the Market as well, and had left them as my last bit of sewing to do on Friday.  Until the mailman delivered a parcel from Spoonflower (that I had ordered 5 weeks earlier) and I was compelled to wash, cut and sew the fabric into bibs – it was too cute for words!  Needless to say – no pencil rolls.

01f475f39b4da6446027e570dfc747c614e3b21bcf

Very cute fabric from Spoonflower

Then, to top off an already exciting day, I had a mid-afternoon mail delivery of a magazine called ‘Love Sewing Australia’ which is a new publication released by Practical Publishing, an Australian publishing group.  Why was it so exciting?  Because a pattern that I wrote was published in the magazine!!  I was approached to submit a project back in January/February and prepared a tutorial for making an Oma tote (named after my grandmother, Oma) and a yarn bag – a pouch with holes for yarn to feed through so that you can knit or crochet on the go.  And there it is, in radiant colour!  The magazine is available in Coles supermarkets and newsagencies here in Australia.  I might have to go and buy a couple of spare copies!

0150a2ceba097122e7eea9dd4494b668bf65ccd8b6

Page 22 of “Love Sewing Australia”

01d93e0cdf9b165674d4ef710a2d83cce1dd935de3  0151cc8b51b661df4ebdc88a524b396568c1706965

The markets were busy.  I was on my feet all day of each weekend, with few exceptions, and talking to the most amazing customers.  I think that attending markets and interacting with customers is the icing on the cake for me.  There are so many wonderful people who want to talk about products and learn about them, and who are interested in what I can provide them, that it is really energising.  They were also so busy that I had to do a bit of sewing on Saturday night to re-stock in time for Sunday!  (Luckily common sense kicked in so I only made a few bibs, then went to bed – I was bone weary!)

019e628dcb6a26905d9b3220c30356f84baf09a1df

There were two big differences in my experience of the markets this time.  The first was that I didn’t need to call on my friends to help out with last minute prep, or set up.  However I did utilise my children.  The artist in residence spent time on Wednesday night attaching stickers to bags and cutting out care instructions.  Then on Friday night the eldest chick rode her bike to my house straight from school (while the other two were still at their father’s house) and helped all afternoon, and into the evening, with packaging, counting, cutting, labelling, etc.  Then she attended the markets all day Saturday and helped with the set up, and served customers.  She interacted with them, told them about the products, made small talk, and made a few good sales!

The morning sun made for warmth on a cold morning, but not for great photos!

The morning sun made for warmth on a cold morning, but not for great photos!

The artist-in-residence attended on Sunday morning but was a little shy and didn’t feel comfortable talking to customers on her own.  That, of course, was okay too.  She did join in a conversation with a lovely couple who overcame her shyness by talking to her about things she was interested in, and she was able to tell them that she is having a painting submitted for an exhibition shortly.  They were suitably impressed and asked for her name so that they could say they had met the famous artist when she was a child – and that made her day!  (They also bought a bag, so that made mine!!)

The second difference was that customers knew me from the last market, and came looking for me specifically!  That was a real buzz!  I had a great position on the side of the market hall, which meant that there was room in front of the stall for people to chat without blocking the stall, and they could browse without feeling they were holding other people up.  I was also interviewed for a TV show by the delightful Kitty von Tastique whose hair colours put mine to shame!  This is definitely not my best angle, or shot, but a selfie was required!

016079e825a9c9c00a1a91976a699e7f063e052d22

The interesting thing that I am finding about the markets and my products is that I am constantly growing.  I am developing my ideas, my style and my approach, and feeling more comfortable in my skin every day.  Being able to say, quite honestly, “This is my full time job” felt good.

I also had my very first experience of someone being openly shocked at my prices.  Of course it happened when another designer I know, who has attended one of my mentoring sessions, and who also makes fabric bags, was at my stall.  I had just been giving her a pep-talk about how her prices were too low when a lady came and admired my bags, decided that she liked one, and then asked the price and recoiled in horror, thrust the bag back at me and said ‘Oh no, I won’t pay that” and walked away!  I didn’t mind personally but thought that the timing was more than a little ironic!

For now, though, I am back in the sewing room, making new stock for my Etsy shop, for the Handmade Shop, and filling custom orders.  I also need to catch up on my posts about my experiences in the Human Brochure – they have been amazing!

I hope that you had a great weekend too.

The first day of the rest of my life

Today marks a ginormous step in my life.  Three weeks short of 22 years as a public servant, from today I am, by choice, self-employed.  (Well I did hint at changes that were coming!)

The last couple of years have been particularly challenging at work and at home.  One challenge on its own would have been fine, but being challenged on both fronts left little room for respite – which is how I came to be in the state I was at the end of last year.  With amazing support from my employer I have been able to take leave for the first half of this year, to rest, recover, and think about how I want to live my life.  Having green fields in front of me has been an uplifting experience – I have sorted through so many different possibilities in my mind (sea-change, tree-change, runaway-from-it-all-change) and am very happy that I have settled on the right path for the chicks and I.  I am going to spend my time focussed on my family, on building my creative business, on supporting other creative people to reach their potential, and on living life in a meaningful way.

And that, my friends, is why I died my hair blue!  That outward expression of claiming my life as my own was a small step towards looking at how I want to live, who I want to be, and how I want to grow.  The sense of freedom is immense!  My biggest fear is I will get into a habit of slacking off and playing instead of working – but I suspect that my bank account will motivate me to get over any tendencies in that area!

The first step is getting past this weekend successfully.  It is the second Handmade Market for the year, and I am working very hard to prepare new stock so that I can have some wonderful selections on offer.  The new sewing machine has been in overdrive!  It arrived last week, and after a bit of learning, tinkering, adjusting, etc I am getting the hang of it!  I will write more next week to give you all the details and do it justice, but for now – some shots of the arrival and set up!

01705f22aa12943f697199da0d68f39eca45d97dd9

Two very big and very heavy boxes!

01f0e75be753ed15107ca0e64128b9ed07ade7ed34

I did it! (All by myself!)

I have also been able to use my new teether bits as a result of the new machine.  I am very happy with the way they look, feel, and handle – so will be launching them at the markets this weekend!  I had a bit of a production line (manned by my staff of one – me) yesterday so have a good range of colours and patterns to showcase the new bits!

01c9b60b66891cb6d93b9b0873ad93b621cdda3709 01cb69d21f7a18cad3a4a8ac8098bd0d13be977254

It also sews leather and denim beautifully so I am working on executing some of the ideas that I have been carrying around for a very long time in my head!

0154f8e776a53115c94c41aeb971ed39f4a6e0b6f3

This bag is made from supersoft leather, with the fabric detailed flap. Sewing the leather was a dream with the new machine!

01a53657b47c0997424ff5e5d12fc776f0f02e92f8 01cfccd35d634f137b6aaa7143bf3acd3710b8ead8

Other exciting news in this very brief summary of an amazing week, is that the launch of the Human Brochure that I spoke about last week was extremely successful.  Since then we have attended a number of delightfully wonderful discovery events and started to get to know each other – and really I cannot imagine a nicer bunch of people to be hanging out with!  I will write more in the next week about the events so far as I want to do them justice.  At the moment I can happily report that I have a huge crush on a part of Canberra called New Acton, have had my eyes opened to so many, many, many wonderful things in my own town, and am learning on a daily basis!  If you are interested in seeing what we have been up to have a look at the Human Brochure website where you will see so many beautiful photos from my fellow humans you will want to visit here straight away!

Phew – this might be the shortest summary of the most exciting week I will ever write – but the sewing room is calling me, and the Market countdown is on….so stay tuned for more updates!  (and if you are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, following @alittlebirdmademe is a great way to see quick snapshots of what is happening during this exciting time!!)

I hope that you have had a great week, and that you are also finding little bits in your life to give you joy and excitement.  Just remember – today is the first day of the rest of your life too.  Get out there and embrace it.

 

Quelling the inner critic

Are you your own worst critic?  I know I am.  I can immediately list all the things that I have done wrong, could have done better, should have done better, should have known better, but I have to stop and think before I can list what has gone well.  You may have noticed in my posts that I try to talk about the good things that have happened.  This is my personal training ground to focus on the good and put the not-so-good into perspective.

With that in mind let me share what I have achieved in the last few days!  I sat down on Saturday and made 5 and 3/4 handbags (the last quarter had to wait until the next day when I realised, late at night, that I had made a small error that required a lot of unpicking to rectify). And I am proud of them!

0100360a23796f02105f46562c232d1a2d147b3ebc 01474b382ab5e0f8853662cce92eaa8e72a470692a 01131db10b7bda931cc50c75c8e0476a9999d01ded  01ad87d8b4f273dbd396dc37594694be901408e22d 01ea5f97351cc8c8876174cc99818afc151654a8a4 01ba9f38232e42ce2f07adfb3f5e6c5d603f57f285

One of them sold that night, so I made a another one from the same fabric the next day, and finished off the one that I hadn’t completed on Saturday.  So in one weekend I made 7 handbags.

Then I sewed up 14 bibs, without their snaps and chews.  I was kicking goals for those two days!  I even managed to do a load of laundry, undertake yet another (futile) search for missing items of clothing for the chicks, take the dog for a walk over to drop some things off to the chicks at their father’s house, and to talk to my Mum for over an hour on the phone.

On Monday morning I zipped around cleaning the house in readiness for a mentoring workshop.  (I will come back to that in a minute).  Over the noise of the vacuum cleaner I heard the dog going berserk and opened the door to find a courier delivering a large box from China.  My teething chews arrived!

0154b3402181b4247031926c91460e2f551968ec84

The colours are delightful and just as I ordered them, the quality is great and the sight of them had me dancing around the house (which meant that it wasn’t particularly pristine for my mentoring session but it wasn’t the end of the world!)

The mentoring session was fantastic.  (Yes, yes I will get to that in a minute.)  I felt inspired, energised and ready to tackle my own business when we finished.  And then….I tried sewing my new teething pieces onto my bibs.  Slump.  Big time.  The improved quality and flexibility means that, even after a lot of research and tension, needle and thread adjustment, my domestic machine can’t cope with them.  (The samples were okay to sew but I increased the thickness in order to provide a better quality…….without realising that this would impact the ability of my machine to sew through them.  Obvious now of course.)  Determined not to feel like a complete failure I drove across town to collect my good old workhorse Bernina that has been in for a long overdue service.  And discovered that the shop that was servicing it sells Industrial machines.  I have been researching them online for a while so took the opportunity to pick the brain of the shopkeeper.  Then I went back this morning with samples of leather, denim, bamboo, the silicone teethers, etc and tested them out.  What a difference!!!!!  The stitches through the teether looked perfect – and doubling over my thickest leather wasn’t a problem for the machine.  I am hooked!  But this particular shop has only just started stocking industrial machines, hasn’t built or set them up properly, doesn’t have a lot of options or choices, and they are quite expensive.  So…. back to the computer, more research, phone calls, searching, tagging, searching…….  My head hurts!  I finished off the new bibs with some of the original stock of teethers, and will have to hold off on launching the new teethers until I acquire an appropriate machine.  I have a solution, but it has exhausted me in the process!

The mentoring?  I told you I would get back to it!  As part of my reflection on what I have to offer, what strengths I have, and what excites me, while assessing how I want to live my life, and find that balance with the needs of my chicks, I realised that all the growth I have experienced over the last couple of years with starting and building my business, and researching every step of the way to the nth degree means that I have a large body of knowledge to share!  And I get really animated and excited when I get to share it with other people!  (My years of being a lawyer, manager, leader, etc don’t hurt either!)

Because I am working on quelling that inner critic it took me a while to form a firm plan, but the plan is taking shape, the inner voice is being told to pipe down, and I have started to offer my services as a mentor for other creative people in business.  I have held a couple of group sessions that have gone really well, and have more planned.  I have come away feeling energised just from the community that exists in a group of craftspeople and artists.  I am excited to see where each of these women will grow their business to, as their ideas and talents are inspiring.   At this stage I have only offered the sessions to a small group of people I know, while I assess structures, venues, approaches etc, but over the next few weeks I hope to launch this as a service that can be utilized by people in my local area, but also people anywhere in the world, through the wonders of Skype!  My feedback so far has been positive, and useful, but I am taking my time and not rushing in to oversell what I have to offer, and not undersell the value that I can add!  Another exercise in taming the inner critic is underway!

Other lessons so far this week include that taking a fresh look at branding and marketing my business is useful.  A reminder from the lovely ladies at Shop Handmade (where I sell my bibs and bags here in Canberra) about packaging saw me re-evaluating what I like in a product and looking at my products from that perspective.  Today I spent some time designing a new package for the bibs.  They will now be packaged in a clear bag (that can be resealed if customers want to open it to feel the fabric) with a sticker on the front telling them who made it, and an insert inside with the care details and the story of the bib (you know – where it was made, what music was playing, etc!)  I am not sure if this is the final design for the packaging, because everything is evolving, but for now I am happy to put them on display in the Shop!

01f70438168e5505144632b0834341645be5f700ed

After a few days of highs, and then lows, I think that tomorrow is a day for even-ness.  Hmmmm…. lets see how that plan goes!

Celebrations

I can’t believe that I completely skipped referring to Mother’s Day in my last post – and that it has taken me all week to post again!  My own beautiful mother (you know – the one who flies in to help at a moment’s notice, who was my super-assistant preparing for the Christmas markets last year, who is amazing in all areas) is worthy of a day of her own.  Last year she was with the chicks and I on Mother’s Day and was part of the celebrations.  This year we missed her and had to suffice with a phone call.  That meant that I got all the celebration fuss from the chicks on my own!  First of all they presented me with the most wonderful gifts including a ‘Mummy Survival Kit’ they had made with their step-mother – chocolates, panadol, throat lozenges (for when I have been yelling too much!!), tea bags, a scratch and win lottery card (I didn’t), a needle and thread so I can always sew, a bottle of gin (they know me so well!), and bed socks, all in a beautifully decorated container!

01bc73e0390b1a9306b72be1e67c66cd165ba4c191

The middle chick had made me a jar of cleaning slime (!!), the boy bought me a new mug with chocolates inside it, the eldest chick bought me some bath fizz, and they all gave me a mug decorated with little birds.  Now this was all pretty wonderful, but they topped it all off with my breakfast in bed.  First the menu, then the preparation and delivery.

01bfcd8af7bbb6cb012a68926e57bd569669b2d1fd

012f25372fc90434cdc15f7fc53a00b9097d7ff667

(For the record I had ‘Perfect Pancakes, Everything tastes better with Bacon, a cup of tea and freshly squeezed orange juice!)  They even stuck the order up on the cupboard above the stove, and presented me with my bill (to be paid in hugs and kisses) when I was finished.  My little people never cease to amaze me at all they can achieve!

I hope that you were able to celebrate Mother’s Day with your mother, or, if you are a mother, with your children.

The week then started off with a new idea I am pursuing.  I invited a small group of craftspeople that I know to participate in a group mentoring session, facilitated by me, to discuss the business side of having a creative business.  Three amazingly talented women were able to attend and we had a really interesting two hours talking, sharing, and exploring ideas.  It is such a privilege to be able to share the knowledge that I have gathered about having a creative business, and we are going to meet again soon to continue our discussion.  I am exploring the concept of being able to offer this as a service for individuals and groups – including by Skype for those who don’t live close by, so as I develop the concept I will keep you informed.  There is something so invigorating about being in a conversation with other people who are developing their craft and are interested in how they can take it to the public – this is going to be fun!  I added a few new links to the Resources page (at the top of the screen) so do pop by and check them out.

A large part of my week has been spent juggling children’s sporting activities and social lives, attempting to get organised at home, and getting involved in some discussions about my future (wooooo…..scary stuff!)  This has meant that not a huge amount of sewing has happened.  Which is a bit slack given that it is three weeks until the Handmade Markets and I have 1000 ideas that I wanted to have completed for the Markets!  Looks like I am going to have to rein in my ideas and streamline the items I am making (which is of course very sensible, but always slightly frustrating to any creative person who loves to follow bright and shiny objects and ideas wherever they may go!)  I have cut out a pile of fabrics ready to create bags, and will be making bibs this weekend too – all those pretty fabrics have been calling my name all week!!!

015ff50ec586fb8fa2f12c4c35b7df6eac9d5b5e8d

However today I spent the day working with a fellow craftsperson, teaching him how to sew a cushion cover.  He normally works with wood (and makes beautiful creations with his wife that you can see at Creations by Holmes) and it was really interesting as we worked together on designing and making the cover how similar the principles of construction using fabric and wood are.  Although it took most of the day we were both pretty happy with the end result and, as usual, identified how to do it much more efficiently on the next occasion.  The exchange of ideas and concepts in sewing and wood-working was a really good intellectual exercise too!

01436573a3154769aaf1eea11e80c7b06c194c4825

I wrote last week about the humour that we have been enjoying about the fact that I am officially a ‘human’.  Another factor in being a human is that we ‘mature’ according to my optometrist.  I tried to tell him that it is just getting older but he insists that my eyes aren’t getting older, they are ‘maturing’!  Anyway – whatever the phrase, I have had to accept that my eyes are changing and after wearing glasses since I was 12 I now discover that I need to move to multi-focal lenses!  Eeek.  Forget the ‘maturing’ thing – that just feels old!  A friend and I had vowed not to move to multi- or bi-focal lenses until we were 50.  I had to send her a text of defeat telling her that I couldn’t wait that long after all.  She was in a very high level meeting and tells me that she saw my text and couldn’t help laughing despite her surrounds!  Ah well – at least it brought a smile to someone’s day!

I have many other exciting things bubbling around in my head, but have to wait a while before sharing them.  What I can say is that I have had great joy this week in making decisions that are good for my family, even though they may not be good for my finances.  The future looks different, but it looks happy.

And now I need to leave the vortex of the internet and get to work sewing!!!

 

Being human

This week I am able to announce that I am officially human.  Even better, I am a local human.  I am one of 101 local humans selected to be part of a ‘human brochure’ about Canberra.  My chicks think it is hilarious that I am now a local human.  Over the next couple of months I will meet my fellow 100 humans and we will get to visit all sorts of VIP events at local attractions – many of which involve food and/or alcohol, and places I haven’t visited.  The chicks get to attend a few events with me too.  Then we get to spend time sharing our experiences in our local region, using social media, culminating in a weekend in October where we can show our city off to family from out of town.  It is a pretty big deal.

Of course, you know me – part of me is terrified about all the juggling of competing priorities, about letting myself put me first for once, about meeting all these uber-cool fellow humans and remembering that they have all been fooled into thinking that I am uber-cool too.  The other part of me is really excited about getting to go out and have fun with adults doing cool things!  If you follow me on any of the social media I use (instagram, twitter, facebook – oh my I am so cool these days) you will see the hashtag #humanbrochure appearing and you will now know what it is about! (and I promise I will try to reduce my use of the word ‘cool’, given that it isn’t actually that ‘cool’ these days.)

Of course, with the confirmation that I am human, comes the realisation that I am a mere mortal, and therefore fatally flawed.  Which isn’t really a surprise to anyone!  The notification about being human also arrives at the same time as a whole slew of good things, and an avalanche of challenges.  Life.  Gets you every time doesn’t it?

Good things first (then you can choose to skip the challenges if you want!)  I was selected as part of the launch of a new feature on Ebay where you can make your own collections of things that you like.  They selected a pile of bloggers and other people to create the first collections, to set the scene for the launch.  So far I have had two sets of 5 collections approved, and am working on a 3rd.  I tend to use Ebay for very functional things, so taking the time to stop and look around has been interesting.  One thing I have learned, very quickly, is the importance of good product shots.  I have been aware of it for selling on Etsy for a long time, but really hadn’t thought about it in the Ebay context, until I was looking for images that would hang together well.  Oh my there are some shockers out there.  One image of a gorgeous vintage porcelain piece had a background of a piece of uncovered, dirty rubber foam.  Others showed delicate things for babies sitting on the carpet for the shots – which just didn’t work!  The whole image of Ebay as a place for bargains might be the reason, but given the amazing array of good available there, I suspect that the move to collections might start to have an impact on the way people choose to display their wares.

The next good thing was lovely feedback from a customer, lovely feedback from a colleague, and a request to be allowed to quote one of my blog posts in someone’s book (!!!) all within a day or two.  It is a bit like getting a compliment from a random stranger while walking down the street – it makes your day!  I have also managed to have some of my items on Etsy make the front page after renewing my involvement in my teams on the forums – one of those cases where promoting others really does help yourself.

FP9052014

This one made the front page of the US site, so massive exposure for my bag!

FPUS7052014

 

The middle chick is currently directing the shooting of a video that will star the boy, as an entry in a competition to represent the local milk company.  Whether they win or not is irrelevant as they are having so much fun making it, negotiating the story line, and adding special effects – it is hilarious to listen to them!

And finally, I was able to sit down and make my first bag using the leather I recently purchased.  It is very different from sewing with fabric – not just because of the bulk of the leather when dealing with seams etc, but because it seems to stretch and move when it is sewn (despite my judicious use of clothes pegs to hold it together) and unpicking (which I did a LOT of) leaves holes in the leather that don’t disappear like holes in fabric do.  Still – the results are so different to fabric that I think I will continue learning and practising.  I am considering investing in an industrial machine – I suspect that would help a lot!  For this one I used some leather from a piece of milled hide, a part of a sleeve from a suede jacket a friend sent me, and lined it with an indigenous print cotton.

01ad30a1cec7c787bdf5e638be1b94e959cd7e011a 01b01304bd3908f0ead7eb40e3bc8874fcca70d4c5 01f6f67a2a582591f6ed444aedb29f1a456688a56d 011bae4167f4cd5b2d2a01a847413bd0952bac2c7c

As for the challenges?  My boy.  That beautiful soul who snuggles in and remembers the most awesome details about conversations you have had years before, who loves to be able to help, who fills my heart with joy.  Once again we are back to dealing with challenges.  The respite gained after the trip to the chiropractor was short lived.  I suspect the change in houses over the weekend contributed to it.  For a boy who doesn’t deal well with change, moving between houses each week is challenging.  I have said it before and I will say it again.  Divorce sucks.  It doesn’t just suck because the adults are hurt and grieving. It sucks because the children who have no control over their environment get hurt, over and over, for years after the fact.  I struggle every day to think about how I can reduced the impact of our family circumstances on my boy.  There are no simple answers.   However his school continue to find ways to support him to feel okay about himself.  When a relief teacher did something in reprimanding my boy that still makes me shake with emotion, the boy was able to come home feeling good about himself (and completely unaware of how upset I was) because the executive teachers made sure that he was safe and felt wanted and useful.  God bless them.   We are entering another phase of analysis and diagnosis with yet another specialist.  The next few months will be challenging.  Again.  Thank heavens that when he is good he is awesome!

Heading into the weekend with the rounds of winter weekend sports, children who need to be ferried from friend to friend, and all the other activities that seem to fill our days of ‘rest’ I am hoping to be able to get a little bit of sewing done – and finishing those last few rounds on the rug for the girls’ room!  I’ll check back in and let you know how it went!

Have a great weekend, wherever you are!