Monthly Archives: April 2015

Rural update #879

This week of the school holidays has been busy with visitors, shopping to prepare for the winter school terms, and a few more visitors. It has also been rainy, windy and wet. But surprisingly that hasn’t stopped the children spending time outside!

The boy has been designing and building a fort under a tree near the dam. Each visitor who arrives is taken to examine the fort and assist in its further construction. On Wednesday there were three boys down there, sharpening sticks, building a shower (?!?!) and having a ball. The boy received a pocket knife as a gift from his father last week so it has been used for much of this activity. Which meant three boys with cuts that required band aids- but not a word of complaint from any of them!

Yesterday it was the boy and another friend out there for hours, and happy as larks! When her father came to collect her I noticed a bruise and cut near her eye. She calmly explained this had happened when she fell from a tree she was climbing. No hysterics, or even tears! This move to the country with space to have adventures is good for everyone!

It is also good for beautiful garden images!

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In between all of this I have been squeezing in some sewing and planning. Hopefully there will be photos of some new products to share in the next few days.

But for now it is time to sleep. Tomorrow is ANZAC Day, commemorating 100 years since troops fought at Gallipoli. It is a day where we remember and respect all those who served in the wars and in our defence forces, who fought to give us a life where kids can still be kids, and where climbing a tree and building a fort can happen.

Lest we forget.

Film stars

This morning, for something completely different, the chicks and I took part in filming a promotion for Canberra that focussed on the Shop Handmade. Normally for such a big deal I would stress about what to wear, my hair, makeup etc. what the chicks were wearing, how their hair was, etc…. However this morning was so cold I abandoned all fashion selections and went for warmth instead, in my own slightly different style. (Seriously, when you have turquoise coloured hair you don’t look traditionally fashionable anyway).

My eldest chick decided, quite adamantly, that she didn’t want to participate, but the younger two loved it! I heard the middle chick telling the director that she just wanted to ‘be a star’. The joy of being 10 years old and confident! Even better my boy, my beautiful boy who faces so many challenges, held it together and had fun all morning.

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As it turns out, the success of the morning had to be paid for. Tonight involved meltdowns of the proportion we haven’t seen for a while. A reminder that I can never take the good stuff for granted. I had started to get complacent and plan social activities for us as a family. One of those lessons that I, apparently, need to learn again.

However it did confirm something else I had already worked out. Having my parents living ‘next door’ meant that the girls could go there for respite while I handled the drama. And we ended the night calmly. Which meant I sat on the couch and finally watched the movie ‘Pitch Perfect ‘. (A friend had threatened to de-friend me if I didn’t watch it!! And we have tickets to a preview of the sequel as a fundraiser for breast cancer research, so I gave in to the emotional blackmail.) As someone who normally doesn’t sit and watch TV, it was just the break I needed! Even better, the copy I have includes the singalong lyrics! Danger, danger!!

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Tomorrow is a new day.  The weather forecast is still dire, but the school holidays mean that we will find friends to keep everyone busy, and I will try to remind everyone to be kind – including to themselves. (And will do my best to apply that advice to myself!)

Tutorial – Making an appliqued cushion cover

Tutorial cushion cover |a little bird made meHello!   Today my Handmade Project – How to make an appliqued cushion cover is being used to launch the new series of Handmade Projects on the Handmade Canberra website!  I designed this  project thinking that it would be a great Mother’s Day present.  But as my Mum is a reader of this blog, I might need to go back to the drawing board!

If you make any cushions using the pattern I would love it if you tagged me if you post them on Instagram – #alittlebirdmademe, so that I can enjoy your efforts!

 

 

Rural update #5346

I have been posting my completely random rural updates on my personal facebook page but realised that sharing them here could be fun.

Farm life is all about the glamorous clothing when it is first thing in the morning and animals need attention!
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Last night my chicks arrived home with chicks in a box, and this morning I actually got to see them!

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It is another cold wet day today so my boy and some friends are building a fort inside . They insisted on picking roses to decorate inside their tents, and have gathered all the trinkets they can find!

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Winter is coming!

It is cold and wet here on the farm today, so the fires are burning and cupboards are being examined for winter wardrobes. But the colours outside continue to be stunning!

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I have been tinkering with a little project over the weekend, along with nursing my dog who is having a slow recovery from her snake bite, and spending a morning drinking tea and catching up with an old friend. And now my chicks have returned from their trip s being inside with the fires going and listening to their adventures is the best place to be!

Stay warm friends and have a great start to the week!

Precious cargo

Tonight I opened a box, sent from Tasmania by a dear friend.  It is full of fabric from three generations of her family, and she is entrusting it to me as someone who will make good use of it and appreciate where it has come from.  Talk about precious cargo!  I will be taking my time to examine each piece and really think about what to do with it.

Opening the box and thinking about precious cargo got me thinking about my last few days and other sorts of precious cargo I have encountered.

Yesterday was rather dramatic. I was sitting at the bench having a cup of tea and chatting to two friends when I heard our dog Dottie barking ferociously.  I stuck my head out the door to have a look and found her flinging a dark coloured snake with her mouth. The snake wasn’t running (slithering) away though – it was attacking her.  After calling her away I went to look for the shovel and told my friends what was happening. As we looked for the snake and watched the dog we realised that she wasn’t well, so a phone call to the local vet, a pile of towels wrapped around her and under her and with one of my friends holding her carefully, off we sped to the vet.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

The good news is that we arrived safely, despite my rally driving over the mountain range that sits between us and the vet.  The vet rushed to meet us in the car park, and was able to treat her quickly, and she should make a full recovery.  The bad news is that the treatment is extremely expensive ($1500 just for the anti-venom medication alone).   The moment that our precious cargo stopped panting loudly and my friend thought she had stopped breathing will stay with me for a very long time.  Dottie is very precious to all of us, and to lose her would have been devastating, particularly while the children are away visiting their grandparents and having adventures with their father during our school holidays.

It has really shot home the need for us to be prepared for snake bites for humans as well.  Time for some first aid revision and reminders for the children and adults!!  (The snake was later located and dealt with by my parents who were digging out the garden bed it had disappeared into.  It was a juvenile tiger snake, so we are very lucky.  A grown tiger snake would have killed her.)

We are really experiencing the full extent of country life this week.  The day before Dad and I had to make the hard decision that it was time for two of our old hens to go.  We didn’t want to do it but knew that it had to be done.  I described it as ‘farmering up’ – taking responsibility for the hard bits of being an animal owner as well as the good bits.  They had been precious cargo – they had introduced us to being chicken owners, had provided wonderful eggs, and had taught us a lot about caring for our animals.  The responsibility to end their lives with respect was a heavy one.

On the flip side, our green hued eggs continue to be produced as precious cargo to be carried from the coop.

Green eggs|a little bird made me

In amongst all this drama and country life I have been cutting out patterns, matching fabrics, and dreaming big. Might be time to put the fabric with the machine and actually make something!  How novel!

I am also enjoying the beautiful roses from our garden in these lovely vases that a friend gave me as a house warming gift.  The sight and smell of them warms my heart.

Bud vases |a little bird made me

I hope that your precious cargo, whatever it may be, is safe and well tonight.  Give them an extra squeezy hug, just because you can.

 

Tutorial – the Oma tote bag and yarn pouch

Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me

Last year I had my first pattern published in a magazine called ‘Love Sewing Australia’.  I decided that, with the cooler weather approaching, it was time to share it with you.  The pattern is for a tote bag with a matching Yarn bag (to carry wool for knitting or crochet projects) but can be adapted to many uses.

For those of you who don’t know the story, my grandmother, Oma, is now 99 years old.  Last year, when she was turning 98, she asked if I could make her a new bag that she could use to carry her glasses, her water bottle, her cushion (she is tiny!) and other important things.  Her instructions were that the bag was not to be an ‘old lady bag’.  I mused over this for a while, then made this bag for her.

Oma bag|a little bird made me

The original Oma bag

My Oma spent many hours teaching me to sew, to embroider, and to enjoy other handcrafts when I was young, so dedicating this pattern to her was a small way of showing her how grateful I am that she contributed to my love of making!

My beautiful grandmother, Oma, on her 99th birthday.

My beautiful grandmother, Oma, on her 99th birthday.

Intro:

This project shows you how to upcycle that old worn out pair of jeans into a gorgeous bag that you can use for going to the office, on a weekend adventure, or to the shops.  The accessory yarn bag is perfect for knitting or crocheting on the go, with your yarn accessible but protected from dust and dirt, and from escaping and rolling across the floor of the bus, train, classroom or office.

Top tips:

Using the pockets of your jeans as a feature on the outside of your yarn bag adds a useful outer pocket that can also hold your phone, crochet hooks or a small pair of scissors.

The seam allowances in this project are 0.5cm.  If you are more comfortable with wider seam allowances the project will still work, as long as you are consistent and use the same seam allowance on all seams.

Fusible fleece is often sold without instructions on how to attach it.  To attach your fleece, heat your iron to the temperature appropriate for the fabric that you are attaching the fleece to.  Lay the fleece on the ironing board, with the glue dots facing up, then lay the fabric you are attaching on top of the fleece, covering the fleece completely, with the right side of the fabric facing up. Lay a damp pressing cloth is placed over the top of the two layers and using your iron, begin in the middle of the piece and iron out towards the corners using a slow steady motion.  You will need to repeat this a couple of times to ensure that the fleece has adhered well.  Do not rest the iron in one spot for too long as you may scorch your fabric.  Don’t let the fleece touch your iron as it will make a sticky mess of your iron plate.  Let it cool before sewing the now fused fleece and fabric.

Materials

Outer

1 pair denim jeans, or  0.5m of denim, canvas or decorator weight fabric

0.25 m feature fabric (quilting cotton is used here)

Lining

0.5m quilting cotton, homespun or broadcloth

36cm Vilene H640 fusible fleece

A zip that is at least 30cm long.

A piece of stiff interfacing 9cm x 28cm

Tools

Iron

Sewing Machine (Zip foot optional)

Ruler

A rotary cutter and mat is useful but not essential.

 

Dimensions

Oma Tote – Base 25cm wide x 10cm deep.  Bag 30 cm long x 34 cm wide.  Straps 54cm long x 4cm wide.

Yarn Bag – 23cm x 23cm

 

Cutting

Repurposing Denim jeans

To prepare your denim jeans for repurposing, cut the inner leg seam on both legs, then up the front centre seam and around the zip.  This will enable you to lay your fabric out flat and assess which pieces are most suitable for use.  Check wear around knees, the seat, and the inner thigh.  This does not mean that you can’t use the fabric, but you may need to add reinforcing with fusible interfacing.

If your fabric has a stretch to it, it is useful to have the grain across the width of the pieces you cut to increase stability.

 

Denim Pieces

Bottom – 35.5cm x 12.5cm (2)

Top –  35.5cm x 6.5cm (2)

Straps –9cm x 50cm (2)

Internal pockets 20cm x 25cm (1) and 10cm x 25cm (1).

Base – 18cm x 28cm (1)

Yarn bag – 24cm x 24cm (1) (NB. I included the back pocket of the jeans within the square which adds both a feature, and a useful pocket to the outside of the yarn carrier.)

Lining fabric

Lining cotton – 35.5cm x 35.5cm (2)

Yarn bag lining – 24cm x 24cm (2).  (NB you may need to join some fabric together in order to create the lining pieces but this will not affect the bag.)

Feature fabric

Bag – 35.5cm x 19cm (2)

Yarn bag – 24cm x 24cm (1)

Fusible fleece interfacing

Bag – 34 cm x 34 cm (2)

General Instructions – Yarn Bag

This is a pouch that will carry two balls/skeins of yarn with openings to allow you to use the yarn while protecting it from dust, dirt etc.  A bag like this means that you can crochet or knit wherever it suits you!

1. The first step is to insert your zip. A zip foot is useful for this, but not necessary.   Take your square of denim and place it face down on top of the zip so that the top edge of the fabric lines up with the top edge of the zip.  The right side of the zip and the right side of the fabric will be facing each other.  Ensure that the zip ends overhang the fabric on each side.  Then take one piece of your lining fabric and place it on the other side of the zip, with the right side facing the right side of the denim.  This is often described as a zip sandwich.  Pin the three pieces together and then stitch along the top edge 0.5cm from the edge.

Oma Tote and yarn Bag|a little bird made me

The Zip sandwich – denim, zip and lining

Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me

  1. Flip the fabric back so that the right side of the denim is now facing up and the right side of the lining is facing down. Repeat the same step with the feature fabric and the lining fabric on the other side of the zip, making sure that the sides of the pieces line up with the fabric already attached to the zip.
  2. Using an iron press the top and bottom pieces so that they sit flat.Oma Tote and yarn Bag|a little bird made me By topstitching along the edge of the seam, the lining won’t get caught in the zip when you are using the bag. To do this measure 2.5cm from the edge of the fabric, and then top-stitch a line along the edge of the seam and stop 2.5cm from the other end.  (If you sew across the whole edge of the zip you will not be able to create neat corners when you put the sides of the bag together.)  Repeat this on the other side of the zip, matching the start and finish points.
  3. Now you will create the yarn feeding holes in your bag. Measure and mark with chalk or a sewing marker  two points on the lining on the feature fabric side of the bag that are 7.5cm from each edge, and  5cm from the zip and fabric seam.  Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made meThese are the starting points for your buttonholes.  Using your preferred technique for making a button hole, make two buttonholes that start at those points and are 1.5cm long.

 

  1. In order to assemble the yarn bag you should open the zipper at least half way so that the zip pull is in the middle of the zip. Then put the right sides of the lining together and match up the edges, and the right sides of the outer fabric together and match up their edges.  This won’t look nice and flat and neat due to the buttonholes, but is still very manageable given the amount of fabric involved.  The teeth of the zip should be facing towards the outer fabric when you are pinning it in place.

 

  1. You will leave a gap in the side of the lining to turn the bag in the right way, so start your seam about 5 cm below the zip on the lining, and sew around the edge of the pouch, until you reach the bottom of the same side of the lining. When you are sewing across the seam and zip where the lining and the outer fabrics join, you will need to open the edges of the fabric up a bit so that instead of sewing in a straight line you feel as if you are sewing a curve.  This is to compensate for the top stitching that you did earlier along the zip. Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me

 

  1. Once you have sewn the edges of the bag, clip the corners, and then clip the excess fabric around the zip, so that the long ends are cut off and the bulk of the fabric next to the seam is removed. Be careful not to cut the stitching and consider applying an extra row of stitching as reinforcement here.

 

  1. Then turn your bag inside out, or outside in, so that the outer fabric is facing out and the lining is tucked in the bag. It will be a little wriggly due to the buttonholes, but it will happen without too much commotion.  Make sure that your corners are pushed out properly, and ensure that your zip corners are pushed up properly.  A chopstick is very handy for both operations.  Then either handstitch the side seam in the yarn bag closed or use your machine to stitch a line to close it.

 

  1. You can now place your yarn in the bag, with the ends poking out through the buttonholes, so that you can use your yarn without the balls rolling away across the floor of the train, bus or lounge that you are in. If you are likely to use more than two colours at a time you could place a third buttonhole in the bag to allow for three colours.

 

General Instructions – Oma Tote

  1. The first step in creating your tote is to piece together the fabric for the outside of the bag. Pin the long edge of one bottom piece of denim (35.5cm x 12.5cm) to the long edge of a piece of the feature fabric (35.5cm x19cm) with the right sides together.  Sew a 0.5 cm seam along this edge then press the seam down towards the denim piece, and top stitch along the denim piece about 0.5cm from the seam.  You can choose to use a coloured thread to make a feature of the stitching, and may like to add a second line of stitching 1 cm parallel to the first line to give it a nice finish.  I used white thread here, so it blends into the denim and can only be seen subtly.

 

  1. Then pin the long edge of the top piece of denim (35.5cm x 6.5cm) to the long edge of the feature fabric with the right sides together and sew them together with a 0.5 cm seam. Again, press the seam towards the denim piece and top stitch on the denim 0.5 cm from the seam.

 

  1. Repeat this with the denim and feature fabric for the other side of the bag.

 

  1. You now have two pieces measuring 35.5cm x 35.5cm. Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me. Place your squares of fusible fleece (34cm x 34cm) onto the wrong side of each piece, and apply following the manufacturer’s instructions. My tip on the way to attach the fleece is that when you are preparing the fabric and fleece for ironing, you should check that the fleece is on the bottom, with the glue dots facing up, then the fabric is on top, with the wrong side facing the fleece, and then a damp pressing cloth is placed over the top.  This will help to ensure that the fleece is well adhered to the fabric.  The fleece is smaller than the outer piece to reduce the bulk of your seams.
  1. Once the fleece is attached, place these two pieces together with their right sides facing each other, and match the seams on each side and pin them in place. Sew from the top edge of the top denim down the side, across the bottom and back up the other side with a 0.5 cm seam.
  1. Now you are going to make the corners of the bag. With the fleece side still facing out, fold the bottom corner of the bag  so that the bottom seam and the side seam are lined up over each other, and the sides of the bag are pushed out into a triangle shape.  Pin this corner in place. Measure a point 4cm (1.5 inches)from the point of the corner along the seam, and then mark a line across the bag that should measure 8cm (3 inches). Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made meRepeat this with the remaining corner and then sew a seam, reinforcing with a second row of stitches, along the marked line.  Trim the excess fabric so that a seam allowance of about 1cm is left.
  1. This is the time to make and insert the base of the bag. Adding a base gives your bag some stability, without too much rigidity. Take your base piece of denim and fold it in half width wise so that you have a piece 9cm x 28cm.  Insert your stiff interfacing inside the folded piece and either fuse it, or simply sew it in place.  I used a fusible interfacing, and then zigzagged around the edges to hold everything in place. Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me

 

  1. To insert the base line it up along the base of your bag so that the ends slightly overlap your corner seams. Attach the base to one corner of the bag by sewing through the existing corner seam, and the base so that the base is connected at the corner of the bag.  Then, ensuring that you have the base flush with the bottom of the bag, repeat the same method on the other side of the bag.  Trim away the excess from both the base and the seam allowance of the corner seams, and then turn your bag so that the outer fabric is facing out.  Using your fingers crease the edges of your corners so that the base sits neatly in the bottom of the bag.  Oma Tote and Yarn Bag |a little bird made me

 

  1. To make the straps fold each piece with the right sides together across it’s width so that you have two pieces that are 4cm x 50cm. Stitch along the long edge of each piece with a 0.5cm seam, then iron the seam allowance open.  Turn the straps inside out and press them so that the seam is along the middle of the strap.  Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me Top stitch along each side of the strap 0.5cm from the edge, and, if you are using a feature colour thread, add a second row of stitching to create a nice finish.
  1. At the top of the bag use pins to mark a spot 10cm from each edge of the bag so that you have two spots on each side of the bag. Take one strap and pin it to the top edge of one side of the bag so that the seam of the strap is facing out, and the end of the strap is extending slightly past the top of the bag.  The strap will appear to be upside down.  Ensuring that the strap is not twisted (which is where having the seam to follow is useful) pin the end of the strap to the second point on that side of the bag in the same way as the first.  Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me Repeat this on the other side of the bag, then stitch the straps in place just under 0.5cm from the top edge of the bag.
  1. In order to prepare the lining you need to first prepare your inner pockets.  Take the piece of denim that you have cut to be 20cm x 25cm and fold in half with right sides together, so that it measures 20cm x 12.5cm.  Sew around the three edges of the rectangle, leaving a gap of  about 10 cm to enable turning in the right way.  Clip the corners, turn it inside out,  and press the seams so that the opening seam is tucked inside the pocket.  Take one piece of the lining fabric, and pin the pocket to the lining so that the centre of the pocket aligns with the centre of the fabric, 8cm from the top of the lining piece.  Sew the three side of the pocket to the lining, adding some reinforcing stitches at the top of the pocket on both side.  Sew a line from the bottom to the top of the pocket half way across the pocket, adding the reinforcing stitches at the top of the pocket.Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me

 

  1. The second pocket is to assist with holding knitting needles. Take the piece of denim that you cut to be 10cm x 25cm, fold in half so that it measures 5 cm x 25cm and, using the same method as the first pocket, attach the pocket to the second piece of lining fabric.  I attached mine so that it was in the centre of the bag, 5cm from the top.  Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made me You may decide to have the pocket more to the side so that long needles don’t interfere with the straps.  In that case you could attach it 5cm from the top, and 7cm from the side.
  1. With the two right sides of the lining facing each other, sew down one side, across the bottom and up the other side. Using the same technique as the outer bag create the corner of the bag to measure 8cm across.
  1. To assemble the bag place the outer bag inside the lining, so that the right sides of the fabric are facing each, the tops of the two pieces are aligned, and the side seams of the outer and inner bags are aligned. Oma Tote and Yarn Bag |a little bird made meAfter pinning the two pieces together sew around the top edge of the bag 0.5cm from the edge, leaving a gap between the two straps on one side in order to be able to turn the bag inside out.  Sew an extra row or two of stitching over each strap to reinforce these points.  Turn the bag inside out, tuck the lining inside the bag, fold the edges of the opening inside the seam and press the seam.  Finish the bag by top stitching around the edge of the bag to close the gap and create a neat finish to the bag.  Oma Tote and Yarn Bag|a little bird made meCongratulations!!

I would love to see any bags that you make using this pattern – tagging me on Instgram is a great way to share your photos!  (@alittlebirdmademe).

Now I am off to sit in front of the fire and warm my toes for a while!