Tonight was the culmination of weeks of hard work, sweat, logistics, cursing, juggling and planning. And that was just from the parents! Tonight my eldest chick and her classmates performed in the first heat of the national Wakakirri competition. The kids did an amazing job. And more importantly the costumes looked fantastic! All those hours that I and other parents spent making them paid off. They looked professional and impressive up on stage. We won’t know for another week or so how they fared in the competition but I can certainly report that they were winners as far as we were concerned. I have no photos yet, but will share some when they are available. (It seems only fair after all my complaining about making costumes!!)
I had a nice bonus tonight too, with the middle chick joining me for a pre-show hot chocolate at a flash café. It is a rare thing to have one on one time with any of the children, so she and I enjoyed chatting and being all sophisticated and grown up together! The boy wasn’t feeling left out though – he had a ‘date’ with his favourite babysitter, and enjoyed having her all to himself for a few hours.
I have started on a new project this week. It is one that I have been putting off for months as I couldn’t work out how to tackle it. A friend (my magical housekeeper) asked me to make her a quilt using the sarong that she wore, and the shirt that her husband wore, when they were married on a beach in Fiji. Lovely in theory, but difficult in reality. The shirt is a very light cheesecloth, while the sarong is Rayon and therefore moves everytime you look at it! But on Monday I decided to bite the bullet and start. And then a wonderful thing happened. The white cloth that I pulled out to use turned out to be fusible cotton (I thought I had bought some but hadn’t been able to find it over the last few months so decided I must have been confused!). It was perfect for ironing on the back of the shirt material to give it strength and stability. That gave me the confidence to cut the rayon. I am adopting the approach that I can’t stress about bits that might be a little crooked etc, as long as the overall product works. I am using the block pattern found on the Moda BakeShop site called Salt Water Taffy. I will use white in the blocks, and then will use some grey and brown from the colours in the sarong and shirt for sashing. Fingers crossed it works, otherwise I have just cut up two special garments for no reason!!
After the excitement of the day (we were doing full hair and makeup at 7am) and night (the performance didn’t finish until 9.30pm) I am exhausted and heading for bed. Sewing will have to wait a day or two I think!!
I hope that your week is going well and that you have found pockets of excitement of your own!
When my fabric addiction began about a year ago one of the sites that contributed to my demise was the very delightful Cluck Cluck Sew, a blog by Allison Harris. I was lead there by a link from another site to her Raw Edge Circle quilt. I still haven’t made that quilt, although it remains very high on my ‘must do’ list, but instead I made my first ever patchwork quilt (shown in my last post) by using her Star Blocks tutorial. I have been a bit of a fan/groupie/stalker ever since. I really like her approach to making quilts – instead of stressing about not perfectly matching every point, etc, she gives you permission to wing it a bit, to make some mistakes but celebrate the overall effect. This was just what I needed when I was starting out – permission to experiment.
So when I saw that she was releasing her first book, I thought it was time to buy one, instead of just collecting ideas from the internet. That “old fashioned” feeling of paper and pictures to pore over just can’t be replaced by touch screens and brilliant colours. So I put my pre-order in on-line and sat back to wait. And wait. And wait. But finally this week (quite some weeks after the book was released) my online bookstore finally sent it to me! So tonight I am writing my first ever review of a quilting book!
My very first impression was about the way the book is presented. There are lovely clear pictures with clear, simple colours. There is nothing ‘fussy’ about this book – and really reflects the style that Allison shows in her blog. The layout is easy to follow with a chart for yardage, for cutting, for block assembly and for quilt top assembly. It appears to flow really well. Many of the patterns are more than suitable for a beginner, and with this layout, would be a good start for anyone wanting to dabble in patchwork quilts.
My second impression was that the blocks she has chosen are appropriate to use for children and babies, but through their modern simplicity can also be adapted to use for adults. So the book is not just aimed at young people. Following on from that, I LOVE the fact that her quilts for children do not involve cutsie little teddies and duckies and other things that mean that the quilt will forever be a baby quilt. Instead, by using simple lines and clear colours, she makes patterns for quilts that are beautiful pieces of art that can be used for many years. I am very fortunate that my mother made my three chicks their ‘baby quilts’ following a similar approach – so they have not grown out of them and now use them as lap quilts for lying on the couch, or in building forts and don’t think that they are in any way ‘baby-ish’.
The book starts off with chapters on how to cut and piece blocks, and then on how to assemble quilt tops. This is written with great simple tips, and doesn’t over-complicate the process. One of my favourite things about the book though, is chapter 3: “Quilting when you have kids: Finding the time and keeping it fun”. The very fact that she thought to include this chapter is one of the reasons that I enjoy her work so much – and the way that she encourages us to break it down and find a few minutes here and there is simple and sensible and (from my experience) works!
Oh look – the raw edged circle quilt is there! Hooray!!
The quilts themselves are modern and funky. Nothing like our grandmothers would have made us and yet they still retain the beauty of those old quilts. They are still made with love in each stitch, are used and cuddled and loved, and give children a special sense of belonging.
I could chat on for quite some time about this book but my simple recommendation is that if you are thinking of starting to do some quiltmaking, or already know how but want some modern simple designs to work with, then this is the book for you. As a bonus, it looks good sitting on the coffee table too!
In other news, I have almost finished with the dreaded burgundy polycotton! All the tunics are made, the capes are made, and the ‘bling’ is attached to the tunics for the characters of Paris and his ‘crew’. I am quite happy with the way that they have turned out – especially considering that the capes are made from donated sheets -a burgundy satin one and a yellow cotton one, just sewn together and overlocked around the edges! Tonight I will finish sewing the capes to the shoulders of the tunics and then I will be done (for now!)
So now I get to think about my next project. I am almost overwhelmed by the possibilities! Do I start on a quilt (perhaps using one of the patterns from my new book), or make some more bags. Do I start on things for the school craft stall so that I am not overwhelmed at the end of the year, or do I think about designing new ‘things’ for my shop. Choices, choices, choices.
First things first though. A few more days of school and then the chicks are off to visit their grandparents. Once they are safely delivered I will have a much clearer head. At the moment I can only think as far as the drive! Someone asked me what I would like to do on the weekend and I just looked blank – I can’t think that far ahead at the moment!
I am just hoping for some sun. We have been covered in fog here for a bit too long. Yesterday the sun didn’t break through at all, all day! So it was cold, miserable and grey. The thought of a trip to a tropical island is becoming more alluring day by day!
During the course of today, as I was sewing metre after metre of burgundy polycotton into costumes for the school theatrical production I was thinking about this blog entry and what to write. I mulled over different thoughts that have drifted through my head in the last week but was feeling that I had no photos to share, and that this was going to start becoming the ‘photo-less boring blog’. So I took some shots of the piles of burgundy polycotton and tried to think of ways to make them seem interesting. And then I turned around and realised that what was happening in my house was far more interesting, both visually and creatively, so took some more photos and hey presto I know what I am going to share with you tonight!! (Ooooh the suspense will kill you won’t it!)
In good news I appear to be fully recovered from the virus that had me floored this time last week. I had two good days in the office and am back to full strength, so that is a huge improvement! And to top things off in the feeling better stakes, the sun came out today! I think I have mentioned before that I am really not coping with winter this year and I think it is because of the fog, the rain and the long grey days. However today was a delight – sun and clear skies all day. The children and their friends played outside for the first time in a long time – and did some great experimenting with vinegar and bicarb soda – including using it to inflate balloons – that shot around very quickly when released! So much fun, discovery and laughter (and I am kicking myself for not getting photos!) I was desperate to get outside and do a number of jobs that have been put on the back burner while the weather has been so dismal – repacking the camper trailer, raking the leaves, trimming the roses – you know, all the exciting things. But those piles of burgundy polycotton were calling my name……
Do you think I have mentioned them enough? I have made 15 tunics (and perfected my technique beautifully if I may say so!) and even managed to adjust a pattern to make it larger (including upsizing the sleeve!!!) but it just doesn’t feel as satisfying as my normal crafting. I think I ‘might’ be a fabric snob. I am too used to sewing with lovely cotton, and delightful designs, and the 16 or so metres of the (now) dreaded burgundy got a bit much! I am not quite finished yet – I need to ‘bling’ up four of the tunics for a particular group of students, and make capes for each of the tunics. (I can’t remember if I explained that these are tunics for Trojans and the story they are telling is the Trojan Horse.) Before I can start on cape construction I need to see what the Greek tunics that other people are making will cover when they are worn over the Trojan tunics. Details, details, details! I will be quite happy when they are all finished and I can return to my usual programming!
The more important things I want to share with you tonight? The creativity that is happening all around me, even when I am moaning about that particular coloured fabric. First of all the great backyard experimenting in the sun, and then the eldest chick (who is only 10) announced that she would cook dinner. And she did! She experimented earlier in the week in making a Jamaican chicken dish, and as it turned out so well, she repeated it again. It is delicious! Each time she has cooked the chicken to perfection! She served it with rice and vegetables and her brother and sister cleared their plates!
Using the stool to reach the microwave!
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
(Imagine the dinner table discussion about what kind of jerks these chickens must have been!)
The bonus to her cooking was that I got to give my new workout program a go. Now that I am healthy again, I finally made it to see my personal trainer for my first official session. We agreed that I need a program I can do at home, that involves the kids, otherwise I will continue to not exercise. So the middle chick ran the timer and she and the boy counted my ‘reps’ for each exercise. The boy was hilarious and started yelling ‘encouragement’ in the style of a drill sergeant! I say hilarious, but it could easily become dangerous! I suspect my body will be complaining loudly tomorrow but for now I am feeling suitable virtuous.
The other creativity in my house was on public display at school on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday the eldest chick had her annual piano recital. Her teacher is delightful and ensures that all students, even the youngest and newest, get to play a piece that showcases their ability and makes them feel special. This year the eldest chick emulated many senior students before her, and chose to play a piece from memory. I was a little dubious about her decision, especially as her piano practise has dropped away recently. However, she made me very proud with a lovely rendition of a classical piece called “Climbing”.
Late last week the middle chick and two of her friends auditioned to participate in the ‘performance assembly’ held at the end of each term. On Friday students chosen from years 3 and 4 put on displays of martial arts, piano playing, drum playing (!!!), hip hop dancing, ballet, skipping, and singing. The middle chick and her friends performed a piece that my chick had scripted, that was a news report, reporting on the state of their school. It included lines such as ‘the level of cool in our school is 100%. We are not too school for cool, or too cool for school. We have nerds here too, but they are cool.” They also went on to explain that the reason that their school is so great is due to the teachers and the principal. Hmmmm….. a good way to score points in the good graces of said teachers and principal! It was delightful, and they were all appropriately proud of themselves.
The added bonus of attending the assembly was that I was able to be there to see the boy presented with an award (that I didn’t have advance notice of). He was so proud being up there on the stage and immediately presented me with his certificate (part of a peer growth program in the school called Making Jesus Real) before returning to sit with his class. Much happiness all round.
Now that was worth waiting a few paragraphs for wasn’t it? Far more interesting that the other topics I was considering (which may or may not have included mid-life crises, the gender issues in Australian politics, and/or internet dating.) None of them in any way related to crafting!
On a final note I can report that it appears that my judgement as a parent, that I was beginning to question a couple of weeks ago, is still working. (Phew!) It doesn’t make our issues disappear, but it reassures me that I still have perspective on those issues. I can also predict that there will be much of my own crafting to report soon, as the children are going to visit their grandparents for the holidays so I will have free time, and it is time to start making ‘stuff’ for the school fete craft stall. Hmmmm……I can feel more lists coming on – some might even make it onto the blog.
May your week be delightfully creative in many different ways!
Tonight is certainly a night of changes in Australian politics with a change in the leadership of the Labour Party, and therefore in the role of Prime Minister. Not our finest moment as a country. The changes that follow will be interesting, especially as it is likely that the election will happen sooner. I am not particularly ‘political’ but being a public servant, and working in the nation’s capital, you end up being a bit of an interested bystander to it all! On a very superficial note, our just-ousted Prime Minister had just had a series of photos done where she was playing with her dog and knitting. They were the best ones yet as far as this little crafter was concerned! Oh well – wonder if the new Prime Minister will take up crochet to corner the same market? Probably not.
The other change of pace in the house is that I am putting down my personal projects for a short time while I concentrate on making costumes for the eldest chick’s class entry in the annual Wakakirri competition. This is a national competition which, for the primary schools, is a story dance competition. Our school enters with the Year 5 classes each year, and this year is our first as a family. Parents and teachers help out with costumes, props, sets, etc. Sort of unsurprisingly, but still a bit sad, only 5 parents (out of a possible 50+ households) indicated that they could sew…… so the five of us are responsible for making the 80 odd costumes (apparently they change during the performance.) So over the next two weeks I am making tunics, capes and other wonderous things. To keep costs down we are using polycotton – and after months of only sewing with 100% cotton it feels quite strange!
I am not the organiser of costumes (I am realistic enough about my restricted availability that I have finally learnt not to put my hand up for everything!) but did have one moment of success in contributing on the weekend. My friend who is organising the costumes said that she had been looking for a wedding dress in the charity shops, but they were still relatively expensive. She didn’t want to ask anyone at school to donate their dress as they are traditionally kept. I agreed, saying that while my marriage might not have lasted, I was still keeping the dress for my girls to have, if they want it. Then, while sitting through the hours of martial arts grading on the weekend I had a brainwave and put a call out on the freecycle network. I had two responses within half an hour! I picked up one dress that had been handed down as a ‘back-up’ through a family member and then stored for a few years, and another that had never been worn, and came with two bridesmaids dresses, also never worn. (I didn’t ask for the full story but was intrigued!!) So we now have plenty of fabric for the costume that is required, plus metres and metres of tulle and satin rosettes to be used for our craft stall later in the year! My girls were quite intrigued with the older dress and how ‘big and foofy it is’. I explained the concept of the ‘meringue dress’ (a la Four Weddings and a Funeral) to them and they were highly amused!
The good news is that the other change in this house is that I am finally healthy again! I had my first day back at work today and although I am exhausted, I made it through the day! The virus was nasty but I appear to have beaten it! I knew I was well again when I was able to sew. A personalised superhero cape for a little girl in Tasmania was finally made and sent yesterday. I think we should all have one tucked away in our wardrobes, no matter how old we are!
Being sick did give me time to think about this blog more though and I finally worked out how to have a link at the top of the page straight to my Etsy shop, and one to my Pinterest boards! A little change, but one that took me ages to work out!
I have also found another way to combat the winter blues in a small way and have finally bought a heated clothes airer (a drying rack that heats up)! So that is one less basket of wet washing sitting around the kitchen (and a bit more dry washing for me to fold!)
Even with all these little changes, the week is going well (unless you are in the Australian Labour Party of course!) I hope that your week is going well too!
My usual Sunday night summary of the week and the sewing that has happened will be quite brief this week. I was laid low with a virus (possibly an influenza virus) and am still not back at full strength. The only sewing I have done is to add new ribbons to the martial arts belts of two of the chicks, and two of their friends! I sat and watched their grading for nearly 5 hours on Saturday and, while being very proud of them, was wrecked by the end of it. (The one bonus for me was being able to add quite a few rows to the rainbow ripple afghan – a photo will need to follow soon.)
The highlights to report are the wonderful friends that I have, who stepped in to help out with getting my kids to school, making sure we had food in the cupboard, taking my kids to the school disco (!!) and generally keeping an eye on us all. I am so blessed to have such wonderful support. The kids also stepped up a bit and helped out with less whinging than normal. One of the downsides to being a single parent is that when you get sick, there is no one else to get the meals, do the laundry, etc. I thought that was the main issue until my eldest chick approached me in tears, worried that I might end up in hospital, and worried about what would happen to them. Oh my. I was able to reassure her that I wasn’t that sick, and that they would all be fine and I would be with them, but it did stop me in my tracks a little.
To reward the kids, and to get out of the house without completely wiping myself out, we went to the movies this afternoon to see “Monster University”. It was just the thing we all needed. The chicks loved it, I laughed, and we agreed that we now need to re-watch “Monsters Inc” (that we have only seen 200 – 300 times) to pick up all the references….. It was a good reminder that we should do these things more often.
After nearly a week of being unwell I am approaching this week as a new week, full of new promise and possibilities. And hopefully lots of sewing! Apart from my own ‘to do’ list (that never, ever, gets shorter) I am also committed to assisting with making costumes for a school theatrical production, so at some point will be provided with the pattern and fabric for 40 odd Greek tunics! Could be interesting!
I hope that you have a great start to this new week and that we can all report great things by the end of it!