Tag Archives: Sewing

Upcycling

You might have been a bit bemused by my focus on de-cluttering yesterday.  Today I can report that it has a purpose in the sewing/crafting/bag making world – I have used some of my de-cluttered clothes to make a bag for a very special friend of mine who has his ninth birthday today.

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I used a pair of my old jeans for the outside, including using the pocket as the bag’s outer pocket, and lined it with cotton from a pair of pyjama pants (lovely soft worn cotton).  I appliqued his initial in the same denim so it is subtle, but still personal. The bag was designed for him to be able to carry his iPad mini, so I also took the opportunity to experiment with the fusible Buckram that I bought a week or so ago.  I used it for the flap, and for the back panel of the bag, so that it has some structure and stiffness around the iPad.  I am really happy with my experimentation but did learn a few things along the way.

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The first one ( so obvious in hindsight) is that if you are using a really stiff interfacing, don’t expect that you will be able to turn the bag inside-out or outside-in through the normal smallish opening!  Much wrangling was required to get the bag in the right way – next time I will have the opening in a completely different place, and MUCH bigger!  However using the rigid interfacing and fusing it to the denim meant that I was much less concerned about the ‘worn’ parts of the denim, like the hole(s) appearing above the pocket.  It won’t be a weak spot on the bag – just a feature! (and please excuse the slightly wonky stitching – it did get a rework before being gifted!)

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The birthday boy was thrilled with his gift, and I was inspired to re-inspect the bags of clothes to be donated to see if there are any more bag worthy garments to be upcycled or repurposed!  I am also eyeing off the linen cupboard next……..

Those of you who read my newsletter will know that I provided some sage advice on maintaining focus in your business and remembering what is in scope and what is out of scope.  Within hours of sending that out I had an idea that was very bright and shiny and completely distracted me for a good 24 hours.  Luckily I have a great team of cohorts to bounce ideas off and one in particular helped me to sort through the idea, recognise it’s merits, and put it into perspective.  Phew!  The idea involves working with other local crafts people to do a pop-up shop to showcase our wares, and is, in fact a really good idea.  But not for next month!  (Yes I was completely overambitious for a few hours!).  That will now be bubbling away on the back burner and gaining slow momentum across the next few months, rather than the next few days.

Time for me to take my own advice.  I need to come back to my plan, use my focus, and stay within the parameters.

With that thought in mind, I am off to the sewing room to prepare for a week of being creative!  The chicks start school tomorrow, which means that anything could happen, but I hope to get a few hours in and create some new pieces of colour.  Have a great week!

 

The whirling head

Arrrggghhhh….I have a head that is whirling with ideas and dreams and plans, but have lost the ability to translate it into action!  A house full of children all day, with their demands for food, water and time (such demanding little creatures they are) is sucking the ability to create out of me!  Throw in some hot weather, some unwelcome news on a different front, and a nice dash of burn out and hey presto – nothing is being made.

Well – that is not quite true.  Today I actually finished a bag that I started two weeks ago(!!).  But I have made more mistakes in this bag than any bag I have previously made – including forgetting to put one half of the magnetic snap in the bag before finishing it all up!  Then, after unpicking, inserting the snap, and resewing, I realised that it was not quite centred!  Doh!  Two things I just haven’t done before!  (A sign that I need to keep sticking to doing one thing at a time). I love the fabric in this bag, but after all the endless unpicking and restitching, and re-doing (because there were other errors too) I can’t bring myself to sell this one to a customer who is expecting good quality.  So it looks like I have a new bag for the new year!  Oh well – there needs to be a silver lining after so many mistakes!

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The good news is that I am loving my new sewing room.  I go and sit in there and it is like a little wave of calm flows over me.  It continues to be a great move, even if I am not actually making much in there.

And that means that I have been sitting in there to calmly work my way through my planning/thinking/dreaming workbooks.  I mentioned these in my last post.  A fellow creative friend put me onto the site run by Leonie Dawson who produces these wonderfully illustrated workbooks and calendars that you can buy as digital downloads for a very reasonable price. Given that I am a bit stuck at the moment ( you know – the whole burn out thing) and that I am pretty much allergic to planning (which is part of the reason that I tell you so often that I am doing it – partly to hold myself accountable and partly to desensitise myself to the concept) I was a little sceptical.  But I am a sucker for clear vibrant colours and messages of hope and inspiration and support.  So after reading testimonials, examining the site, and loving the illustrations, I decided that the risk was minimal and the colours were worth it.  (How superficial can one planning-avoider be?!)

I was just intending to buy the business workbook, but given that I have announced to you all quite emphatically that 2014 is my year, I bought the life workbook on a whim too.  I am working my way through the Biz workbook first (because I printed it first!) and have already had some lightbulb moments.  Some of them turned out to be blown lightbulbs when I re-examined them, but that doesn’t matter – I was thinking and reviewing and not breaking out in hives.

You start by a review of the past year.  Wow – I had lost track of how much I had done in the last year!  Then start on your goals, dreams, and plans for the new year.  Uh-huh.  Now we are talking.  While you might be able to do this with lots of different tools and planners, I am loving this one so far.  It has me thinking about what I need – not just what the business needs.  Powerful stuff being reminded to make time for yourself!  On that basis alone I am happy to recommend the products (which I don’t do that often).  Then of course there are the beautiful illustrations by Leonie.  I would be happy to just be surrounded by them all day!  So I have become an affiliate and put a link up on the side of my page so that if you want to buy them for yourself you can!  (I am also thinking of the meditation course she sells – I would love to go to a health spa and do it that way, but on my current budget think that an e-course might be a more realistic place to start!  I will let you know what I decide!)

I have talked before about how much I love lists – and this workbook involves making lists.  So in my next post, all going well I will share my ‘list’ with you – again working on that accountability thing!

The other thing I am doing is buying fabric!  Oops!  When I sat down and did an inventory of what I had I realised that I am actually in need of updating my stash, replacing some that are almost at an end, and embracing the new season’s fabrics.  What a task!   (Mwahahaha as my son would say!)  So online orders have been happening, and tomorrow we will hit Spotlight – which starts the new catalogue sale tomorrow and has goodies on sale that I need (because when it comes to fabric we always need, rather than want, don’t we?!)

In school holiday updates – the boy has beaten me in Uno, but lost to me in Carcassone in a close run game.  The two girls joined us for a game of Carcassone tonight with two add-ons (extra tiles and rules and pieces that you can add to the basic game) and it was hilarious.  I went all out and strategized my placement of pieces and for the first time it worked!  I cleaned up and won convincingly.  Yes – I know that it is sad that a grown woman is gloating about beating three children who are all under 11 – but they have been beating me in everything so it was time for a win for the oldie!

I hope that your week is going well and that your head isn’t whirling!  Remember – one day at a time.  (For me and for you!)

Friday finds – tutorials for Back to School projects

The summer school holidays are stretching on in a haze of heat, sunburn, bushfire warnings and crankiness at being told to drink more water and stay in the shade.  And that means that it is time to think about pushing the little bodies back into uniforms and shoes to see if they still fit (because it is a well known fact that amazing feats of growth happen over the summer school holidays every year – especially if you have stocked up on their school uniform at the end of last year!)  It is also time to think about what they need for going back to school.  Which is the basis of the following list of tutorials.

Each of these has been found on the blog of another crafter who has also been faced with the back to school dilemma, so I present simply a gathering of their ideas so that you can think about some projects to help the back to school process begin!

School bags

While some schools require a uniform bag, complete with school logo, many still allow students to bring along a bag that reflects their individual personality.  That is where the following patterns come in.  With the amazing range of fabrics available the possibilities for individual fashion statements are endless!

I just love the vintage feel to this bag by Hannah13 from Sew Adorable Fabrics that is posted on the Riley Blake site – Vintage inspired boxy school bag

The Quilt as you go Improv Patchwork school bag by TeresaDownUnder provides lots of opportunities to personalise a bag for your student.

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For a completely different look this bag by LisaMarieblog uses burlap – DIY Burlap messenger bag

The lovely people at Plaid have already collected a lovely selection of tutorials with their collection of 5 DIY back to school bags

 

Library Bags

There are so many bags that children need for back to school.  Library bags are a definite need, especially in the junior school.  (The librarian at our school is constantly pleading for parents to remember to pack books in bags to protect them!)  They can be as fancy or as simple as you like.

The 20 minute library bag by And Sew We Craft is a great place to start.

The Library Bag Tutorial from Pam at Threading My way is along a similar vein – with lots of potential for using different fabrics to make a statement.

Another option is the Simple Library Bag Tutorial from Embracing Life’s Journey.

Samelia’s mum provides a beautifully detailed tutorial to make a  Library bag with name applique tutorial.

Library Bag with Name Applique

While Sewing by Moonlight provides a different take again with her Nancy Drew Blog Hop Library Tote Tutorial.

 Pencil cases

In addition to the various zippered pouches you will find listed here, the tutorials below might also assist in making a new pencil case for your school goer.

At Crazy little projects you will find a zippered pencil case bag pattern – nice and straight forward!

Then there is this one Ann Kelle’s site for a Pencil case

A slightly different take on the traditional at Heidi and Finn with their pencil case

And yet another style with A Spoonful of Sugar Designs

Snack and lunch bags

Of course, in addition to the books and pencils there are also nutritious lunches and snacks to be thinking about and if you are packing them in these lunchbags or snacks bags they are going to look good as well as tasting good!

A Kids Lunch box pattern from Crazy Little Projects guest posting at Skip to my Lou is a good place to start.

The Girl Inspired has a great tutorial for a re-usable snack bag.

As does/do Sisters Sisters

and Rugrat Design posting on Lazy Green Mama.

And Sew Can Do

And for the ultimate collection of patterns for lunch bags, over at fresh juniper she has collected 50 patterns together for lunch bags and totes with tutorials!

I hope that you find some inspiration in this collection to assist you with the back to school requirements!  (I can tick ‘new school shoes’ off my list, but have found post it notes from the eldest chick stuck to a pillow on my bed, and the screen of my computer, that list her ‘stationary’ requirements.  Think a trip to the office supplies store is in order – plus a quick lesson on the difference between things that don’t move, and things that are used to write on and with……)

If you have ideas to add to the list, please feel free to add them in the comments!

 

 

Testing, testing, testing

Although I am still focussed on making the bags that I listed in my last post, and have in fact been able to sew a couple in between wrangling children in the midst of a heatwave, I have also been designing and developing a completely different type of product from my norm, in response to a request from a friend.  I have learnt to sew through plastic, to insert plastic snaps, and tonight am walking around the house with wet pieces of bamboo terry towelling sitting on my linen top so that I can see how much moisture wicks away!  The things we do!! (Don’t worry, all will be revealed when I have finished my testing!) It is perhaps fortunate that we are experiencing the heatwave – doing this in winter would be dreadful, whereas now it is quite pleasant!

I have finished the blue canvas satchel, adorned with blue police boxes, that I gave you a sneak peak of earlier in the week and will take proper photos of that, and the other bag I am working on tomorrow, using my new light tent, but for now, as you have already seen at the top of the page – ta da!

My other news is that I received my photographs from the delightful Grace Costa, a wonderful and very talented photographer here in Canberra, who gathered a group of creative souls together last Sunday and took photos of us so that we could update our websites etc.  I have updated my ‘About’ page, but thought that you might like to see the shot that I selected to use.  (So glad that I went to the hairdresser that day!)

family portraits Canberra

I hope that you have had a good weekend.  Ours has been a combination of cleaning out and driving a trailer to the rubbish and recycling depot (where I demonstrated quite successfully that my ability to reverse a trailer has deteriorated) and organising the complex school holiday social lives of my chicks.  This week has temperature predictions reaching 39 C (102F) so I am aiming for lots of cool indoor activities to help keep tempers and temperatures under control.  Wish me luck!

I hope that you have a great week!

Catching Up – and my lessons

Between moving the website, writing my business plan, re-installing my website, and various other necessary evils like sleep I feel that I haven’t had a chance to sit and write a proper post for weeks!  (That would be my overly dramatic side showing through again.)  So many little things have happened that I would normally share with you that I thought it was time for a catching up post!

First of all I hope that you all had a peaceful holiday period.  I certainly did!  The chicks were off visiting their grandparents with their father and I had this quiet, clean (except for my mess) house where I didn’t have to be responsible for anything or anyone except the animals and myself.  It was just what I needed after the turmoil of the weeks/months/year before Christmas and just what my health needed.  I didn’t do any sewing until about the 4th of January!  Then I made this bag which was a custom order left over from last year.  I love the colours that she chose!  I also made myself a new cushion cover, given that all my sewing recently has been for other people.  I love this fabric!

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I did however set up a new sewing room.  I have commandeered the spare room that had been occupied by the eldest chick earlier in the year, and then by the au pair, and then my mother when she came to our rescue.  Although it would be nice to give the chicks a room of their own each, I have decided that I need to start putting myself first a little more (one of my recent learnings) and that most of us survived sharing a room with our siblings until we left home, so the two chicks who are sharing a room will be just fine!  I have a little tweaking to go with the set up, but so far am really enjoying the space.  It also has the best light in the house – especially in winter when it becomes a sun trap.

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I also spent a few days focussed on working on my business plan.  You know – the one I started back in July and then kept meaning to work on?  I am still not finished, but I do now have a clear vision of what I want to achieve with my making and selling, and how I need to think about overheads and pricing.  The Right Brain business course that I did encourages you to make collages to capture things like your competition, perfect customer, brand values, etc.  I enjoyed that much more than I thought I would!  It also helped when I was writing an application for a Handmade Market – I just had to turn my pictures into words!  Another good lesson learnt!

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Part of the planning process is looking at your money.   Hmmmm…..at worst depressing and at best thought provoking.  That process prompted me to also look at setting up accounting software etc….. but after a day or so of trying to do that I realised that I am not ready for any of that.  My buying, making and selling can be accommodated in a simple excel spreadsheet.  When I become a mega-industrial mogul with warehouse sites etc maybe I will need to use the software products I was exploring but until then keeping it simple is just perfect!  Phew – one less thing to worry about, and another lesson to add to my list.

One of the ideas that I have been playing with for a long time and that I am putting into action soon, involves developing some graphics that are precise (like pattern pieces for example).  So I downloaded a trial copy of Adobe Illustrator and did some tutorials to see what I could do.  Many, many hours/days later I finally came to the realisation that I am not a graphic designer and that I need to outsource that to someone who is!  The upside of all of those hours?  I now understand what is needed to give really good instructions to the graphic designer!  Yep – another useful lesson!

In the midst of all of this I realised that I wanted to move the site to be self hosted.  In hindsight I could have taken a different approach to that and made it easier on myself, but after learning all sorts of new jargon and processes it seems to be up and running!

I also did a bit of assessing my stock.  I took an inventory of my fabric (boy was that hard – trying not to get distracted by pieces I had forgotten I had!), and of my bits and bobs – zips, slide buckles, etc.  A bit of time on Ebay saw most of that addressed, so the parcel man has been a regular at the front door and will be for another week or so!

All of that really did take up a lot of time and headspace!  I was a hermit for most of the holiday period, with the exception of a lovely dinner with friends on Boxing Day, and visits from Ms C, one of my dear friends who also helps me to brainstorm and problem solve.  I was feeling great and thinking that perhaps I didn’t need to be on leave for long while recovering from all the events of last year.  I got a bit cocky, forgot that I have limitations on what I can and can’t do, and organised a bit of socialising.  I caught up with the MIML, and a couple of really good friends, and that turned into eating three meals out in one day.  Mmmm…fun but very, very foolish.  A good reminder that I can’t run around like I used to, and need to pace myself and do only one thing at a time.  Really.  Timely really, as the chicks are returning this week and I need to be able to look after them properly, on my own.  So my mantra is two edged.  Keep it simple.  One thing at a time.  Wish me luck!

All of this means that my sewing, despite my very best of intentions, has been slow.  However the small bits that I have done have also helped me to look at my processes, assess them and think of ways to refine them.  Two more purchases have resulted.  (And probably the last for a while given that there is a lot of spending going on and not a lot of making/selling!).  The first is a photographic light cube tent – a white polyester box that pops up and is used to take product shots with even light etc.  After having my professional shots done I realised that my own photography is very inconsistent, so this is the first step towards addressing that, and reducing the time spent trying to get it right!  (I just keep learning don’t I?)

The second investment?  A steam press.  One of those gadgets that irons your clothes/fabric etc between two surfaces.  I am hoping that it will dramatically cut the time I spend attaching fusible interfacing and fleece!

Oh – and a third purchase as a result of a request by a friend to make up a particular product for her (that I will share if it works) is a cast iron press for attaching plastic snaps to fabric.  The potential for replacing hook and loop was enough to make me think that it is a good long term investment!

Now that the bank balance is so drastically reduced it is probably time for me to simply knuckle down and get back to the stuff that I actually love – sewing!

Oh – I had another lesson during this time.  It is VERY difficult to give chickens oral medicine.  The ridiculous antics that I got up to in trying to achieve this were worthy of a comedy sketch, but completely hopeless at actually treating my poor chooks who have been infested with lice.  However today the vet set me up with syringes with needles to inject them and that took seconds to administer, required no antics, ridiculous or otherwise, and will hopefully see them healthy and well again very soon.

I also had to break it to the boy that his favourite climbing tree is a little less than it was following a big storm.  Think we will be off to the garden waste place with a trailer this weekend!

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You might have seen that I have started a newsletter subscription thingy.  My plan is a monthly newsletter with links, tips, some giveaways, etc.  I am gathering together all my ideas for the first one, so do sign up so that you can enjoy the things I am finding for you!

Now it is time to go and sew.  I hope that your week is going well and that any lessons you are learning are positive, affirming ones!

The Aftermath

My house is quiet and peaceful, the sun is shining, and the next two weeks are stretching out in front of me in a sea of unplanned possibility. What a treat!

I hope that your Christmas celebrations were full of joy. I was very fortunate and am happy to report that my day was just lovely. Our Christmas Eve celebrations with our friends went well and both desserts were successes! (More to follow on that soon!) The chicks were well behaved, and reminded me about leaving food for Santa, hanging stockings, etc. The boy gave me an early Christmas present, including a drum roll to announce it, by not just tidying his bedroom, but making his bed, arranging all his soft toys in lines on the bed, his shoes in his cupboard and putting his dirty clothes in the basket. It might sound like a small thing, but he was so excited to be doing such a good job and to have done it so well, that it was a gorgeous gift!

We read the Nativity story and talked about what it must have been like for the shepherds to see a heavenly host of angels singing and how freaked out they must have been (I love the perspective of children!). And then I had my second special gift – an uninterrupted night of sleep, with no children trying to wake me until 6.30am! I managed to stay in bed until 6.45am which makes it officially a two hour better sleep-in than last year! We had a lovely morning with presents, sharing, Lego building, Wii playing and laughing before I took them to their father’s house where they spent the afternoon and evening in great happiness. I spent the afternoon and early evening with friends at their house and had the most delightfully relaxing, happy day. Nothing overboard in food (although the Christmas trifle was a thing of great beauty and taste!) or alcohol (although a few champagnes were enjoyed a lot) and just lovely time being with friends. I talked to my parents on the phone for an hour and received the reports of the day for the rest of my family who were gathered in New Zealand and was happy to hear that they also had a lovely day.

Which means that gifts have been delivered, and the few that I remembered to photograph can now be shared! After I made the boy a hat for his birthday Mum commented that a hat would be a nice present for my father, and that if it could incorporate some orange, in honour of his Dutch heritage, that would be great. So this is the result! He informs me that it is a snug fit, which suits him as it won’t blow off easily.

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My parents have recently acquired a campervan/motorhome and are very excited about the trips they will do in it. The chicks and I decided that we needed to make some gifts for the motorhome, so we used some of the middle chick’s new fruity fabric design and made placemats and a tea towel for the van. We had also wanted to make them some cushion covers for the van but time constraints meant that I only managed to make one – but I think it is pretty cute, so will have to try for another one to match it for them!

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I also made a present for my grandmother, Oma.  She will be 98 in February.  She has 10 children, about 24  grandchildren, and (I think) 23 great-grandchildren.  She was never very tall but she shrinks further every year, and yet her heart, her energy, her love for us all, and her sharp mind, never shrinks.  When I was talking to my ex-husband about having a second child he was worried whether we could love another child as much as we loved our first one.  I was able to illustrate that love is not finite by using Oma as an example.  Each of her 10 children knew that they were loved, and that she knew them as an individual, not as one of a group.   So when she requested a bag to carry when she is going out to play cards or mah-jong, or on a day trip I was delighted.  Then I heard her instructions were that it was not to be an ‘old-lady bag’ and she would like something in pinks and blues, with short handles, and I was further delighted, because that very statement sums up my Oma.  She doesn’t want an ‘old-lady’ bag, because she still doesn’t feel like an old lady.  So this is what I made for her, and what my parents delivered to her earlier in the week on my behalf.

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I am told that she likes it (which makes me very happy) and when I posted the image on my facebook page I received a lot of positive feedback, so I am thinking of making a few more in this style and calling them the “Oma bag”!

The aftermath of Christmas can often be a let down, but for me, having kept our Christmas simple, it is just lovely.  I am pottering around the house tidying up, putting the children’s presents that they left here in their rooms for their return, deciding which leftover dessert I will have for lunch (so, so bad I know!) and reading some books that Santa brought me.

Now – before I sign off I have to share the desserts that I made.  I have no photographs (of course!) but do have recipe links to share.  The first was Salted butter caramel ice-cream.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  It is soooooo good.  Although it required a bit of standing at the stove stirring and worrying about whether I was going to burn the caramel, by following the instructions it turned out well and was declared a hit by adults, and two of the chicks.  (Which meant more for the adults!)  The recipe is by David Lebovitz and includes a link to tips on making caramel – great, clear instructions, and with a delicious result!

Of course, the recipe calls for 5 egg yolks, so that meant that I had 5 egg whites to use.  The solution?  The traditional Australian/New Zealand (there is great debate about which country it belongs to) dessert – Pavlova.  The crispy outer meringue with the gooey inside, whipped cream on top, and fresh fruit (mango and passionfruit in our case) on top of that, is a favourite in our household.  The recipe that I use, and that has never failed me, is by Donna Hay.

I have one slice of pavlova left, half a tub of the salted caramel icecream and a serving of the trifle made by Mrs B for our lunch yesterday.  The best bit?  I don’t have to share it with anyone!!

I hope that your Christmas aftermath is a relaxing happy one and that are also enjoying some delicious leftovers as you spend time doing things that you like.

 

Catching up

I have realised that after all the hype about the boy’s birthday last week I didn’t report any of the details! It was a great success – he loved his quilt (and I promise that a photo will follow within a few days – I just need to remember to do it when he isn’t sleeping under it!) Mum ended up doing the quilting, and attaching the binding and then we both handstitched it down together. She used the girls’ very basic Singer sewing machine – no fancy feet, attachments or anything special and it all worked really well, so I have the confidence now to try one myself at some point in the future!

I also made the boy a hat from various Star Wars themed fabrics. It is reversible, so there is different fabric on the inside and he has had great joy in flipping it inside and out! I used this free pattern from April Cobb Designs and it worked really well. The pattern includes adult sizes, so I might have to work on a few more (you know – in all that spare time I have!).

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I have had a slow return to sewing this weekend. I started doing a few little bits and pieces on Saturday but was making lots of mistakes and was not feeling great. I then had an email from my ex-husband who has never had good timing, so decided on the spur of the moment that it was time to get out of the house, get some fresh air and look at beautiful things. Mum and I were out the door a few minutes later and off to the National Portrait Gallery where the 4th annual Undercurrent Design Market was being held. I knew about it as one of my fellow Etsy sellers, Kyoko from So Soap, had told me that she was having a stall there, but that was about the extent of my knowledge. It was great! Full to the brim with beautiful, innovative and colourful design – jewellery, homewares, clothing, ceramics and more.  I got to talk to a number of stall holders whose products I have stalked online. I have to give a big piece of praise to Briana from Mrs Peterson Pottery who not only has just beautiful pieces (one of which is now hanging on my Christmas tree) but was so generous with her knowledge of all things to do with market stalls. I walked away full of ideas and inspiration! (And determined to buy one of her bangles one day soon too!)

Mum really enjoyed the markets and seeing all of these beautiful designer items. She bought beautiful ceramic pieces from Tania at Kittila who uses vintage hand crocheted doilies made by her family to imprint on the porcelain – just beautiful! Mum bought a candle holder to use on her prayer table and she and Tania had a beautiful conversation as a result. It added to the experience for both of us.

I was able to talk to Kyoko who makes the most beautiful body products – she is a qualified herbalist and the smells are just lovely! I also ran into another couple of people I know and talked to a number of stall holders about all sorts of things (where to get digital prints on fabric in Australia, colours, market stalls, etc!). It was a delightful outing and I arrived home tired but full of inspiration again. The results? Little pieces of sewing – because I need some smaller things for my market stall. I am still not producing anything at my normal rate, but have accepted that I can only do what I can do, and as a result am not putting too much pressure on myself. I have been making little coin purses that can have a key-ring attached – and made sure I got some ‘boy’ ones in there, and some zip up pouches that can be pencil cases, make-up bags, charger cord organisers – anything you want really! It is a good way to build back up to constructing larger things – and they are cute!

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However the best bit of creativity that has happened this weekend was after the chicks returned from their trip to Victoria. As it is the first day of Advent and December – ta-da! The tree is up, and the Nativity is in place (before it is rearranged multiple times a day by children.) This little tree was purchased for our first Christmas after the eldest chick was born – and until this year the chicks have resisted any efforts to replace it with a larger one. Of course every year we add new ornaments – so it is getting quite full. Each ornament has a story – and the chicks have amazing memories for the stories.  The middle chick’s favourite ornament is a little wooden angel that I have owned for at least 25 years.  She searches for it every year to hand it beside the glitzy, the handmade, the artisan and the pre-school produced.

Mum and I tried to redistribute them a little bit but gave up so the decorating is well and truly as the chicks wanted it. They have agreed that we might need to think about a bigger tree next year…….

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Thank you to all who have reached out to offer words of support over the last few days. I am following all the advice of the professionals and am on the road to recovery. Lots of sleep, good food, exercise (the dog is in seventh heaven) and listening to music – with the occasional browse of a crafty website – is great medicine.

I hope that you are enjoying the beginning of the festive season. A friend of mine who has some health issues noted that this year she couldn’t do all the extra stuff (cooking, presents, parties, etc) and that Christmas had been stripped back to the most important focus – family. She and I agreed that this will be a great Christmas as a result. Keep it simple and remember what is important. Feel free to take our advice!!

All sorts of developments

This week seems to be flying past quite quickly, yet at the same time a lot is happening. I am still off work so have been trying to focus on resting and recharging so that I can return to work on Monday. Of course this would not be possible without the support of my delightful mother. Part of recharging involves remembering to focus on just one thing at a time, especially while the chicks are at school. Would you like to hazard a guess what I chose as my one thing????

As a result a few new bags have been produced, and the cross body bag featured in my recent tutorial has been produced in all sorts of different styles and fabrics.
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I also discovered a lovely piece of burnt orange linen in a pile of fabrics I had been given, which inspired a new style of bag that I am enjoying playing with. Canvas and linen makes such a lovely combination!

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I had a mild panic on Monday, wondering if I am completely mad to think that I can have a stall at the Christmas markets, whether I will have enough stock, etc, etc, etc. Instead of making a rash decision to quit, I decided to lay out all my stock to see what I had. And guess what? I have quite a bit! It also helped to see that the things I am passionate about, and that hang together best as a collection, are my bags. All the other ideas – pencil rolls, pillowcases, t-shirt, etc, are fun, but I don’t have the same passion for them. Which was the first of several lightbulb moments I have had this week. I also addressed my dilemma of stockpiling rather than selling – I will stockpile until the markets then list the remaining stock online for sale. And I will take custom orders in the meantime too. Phew!

This also prompted me to get organised and accept that if I want to take this whole making and selling thing seriously, I need to act seriously. So I now have registered business, and a registered business name!! Oh my! I have also had the next light bulb moment in where I want to take this all next year, so stand by for announcements, developments, etc after Christmas when I will be completing my business plan.

Then, to celebrate all of this in style, I received my copy of the latest issue of *bespoke* magazine which includes a feature on handmade holiday escapes – and features overnight bag, in the lovely fabric by Sally Roydhouse, aka Peppermint Patty from Spoonflower!

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I have also realised that I need to draw a distinction between sewing for sale, and sewing for family and friends.  That way I don’t miss out on the fun stuff like making quilts or clothes, that doesn’t have anything to do with making money!  On that note I am off to make the boy a sun hat with Star Wars fabric as it is his birthday on Saturday.

I hope that your week is going well, and that you are having your own light bulb moments!

Friday finds – a list of Eco-friendly Christmas gifts, gift wrap, and decorations to make

Your calendar is not wrong. Today is not Friday. However….my submission to the Handmade Holiday series on Sew Mama Sew – Eco-friendly Gifts– is on their site today, so I thought it would be useful to have a complementary list to celebrate this event!

Looking after the environment, reducing waste, re-purposing and re-cycling, being aware of our eco-system and, as my boy says, looking after nature, are all things that are important in this nest. In fact, for most of my friends and family, these things are automatic these days, and form part of our everyday life. We have a water-tank, raise chickens, compost, grow vegies (with variable success), recycle, etc. Being able to make gifts that incorporate these principles is great – both from an ethical point of view, but also from a budgetary one! In my search for eco-friendly gift ideas for my submission to Sew Mama Sew I found wonderful ideas. Not all of them could be published on their site, so today I provide you with the supplementary list of ideas – and hopefully some inspiration for other ways of making eco-friendly gifts, decorations and having a cleaner, greener Christmas!

Lacy at Every Day is a New Day has a tutorial for making Resuable-washable paper towel. I love this concept. One step past having a pile of cloths to use for spills – making a roll that is convenient to ‘tear off’ and use instead of paper towel is a great gift for the eco-friendly domestic goddess in your life!

Vicky Meyers has a blog full of wonderful ideas about how to make recycled bags, however it was the idea of a Recycled denim Foot Muff that caught my attention. A great gift for the hipster in your life!

Of course denim can be used to make many wonderful re-purposed gifts. This denim bag from Art Bar is another great idea.

Another denim idea is this one from Planet Forward – The Green MacGyver Eco Friendly Crafts Blue Jean Notebook

On the same site there is also a tutorial for Recycled T-shirt Bracelets – a great way to upcycle old t-shirts.

Another up-cycling idea comes from Creative Jewish Mom – Crochet with Sheets.

Fabrics from favourite clothes, or sheets can also be re-purposed into pillow covers. The Creative Place has a great tutorial for making a Repurposed Clothes College Pillow.

The tutorial from Happy Hour Projects – Resuable lined snack baggies is a great present for children and parents alike. It shows you how to use plastic shopping bags to make a plastic liner for a snack bag, so it is doubly eco in my books – reducing plastic bag waste in landfill, and providing an alternative to using more plastic bags and wrap! Gifting it with some homemade treats inside would be a great eco-gift!!

Similar principles are used for the Recycled plastic bag placement by Inhabitat. Although it was designed as a Father’s Day gift it would adapt well to the Christmas season too!

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Another way of using up plastic shopping bags is to re-purpose them into ‘plarn’ – plastic yarn – and then crochet something new from them! At Sustainable Baby Steps there is a great tutorial on how to do this!

7 Easy Steps to Make Yarn from Plastic Bags

The number of tutorials for re-using old woollen jumpers (sweaters) is large. Here is one with a bit of a difference – just great for an eco-baby – Felt Block Rattle – My Poppet

On the same site there is a great tutorial for making your own Dress Up Girl.

 

Excess CD’s can be used to make very pretty coasters, using this tutorial from Crafts by Amanda

Stenciled CD/DVD Coasters - CraftsbyAmanda.com

Another upcycle idea is to use Scrabble Tiles to make fridge magnets. This tutorial by Adventurous Every Day – Upcycled Scrabble Tile Magnets shows you how.

Other gift ideas that are eco-friendly, are a bit like the non-paper paper towel at the top of this list. Making things that replace disposable objects is always good for the environment. One of my favourite things to make for use around the home is crocheted dish cloths. I use bamboo yarn as it is super absorbant. When you have used a cloth for the day, its just goes in the wash and comes up fresh again. One of my wise friends has 7 in 7 different colours – one for each day of the week. A gift like that would be a beautiful thing to make for an eco-conscious friend or family member. I have used this tutorial from Bubblegirl – dishcloth pattern with great success but there are a plethora of patterns out there to use (maybe I will put my collection into another list one day!).

In addition to the market bag tutorial linked on my Sew Mama Sew post, there are, of course, a list of tutorials for market bags here on this site that I prepared a few months ago! Where I live the shops charge you for providing a shopping bag, so we carry our own fabric bags instead. It has reduced landfill and makes us all think twice about using plastic bags. They make great presents!

When it comes to wrapping gifts, the possibilities for being eco-friendly are endless! I was reminded recently of different ways of wrapping presents that I had employed for gifts about 20 years ago. The fact that one of the recipients still remembered and treasured the effort I had gone to in making her gifts so special gave me great joy. Some of the ideas I used included brown paper with hand drawn and painted decorations, calico fabric parcels tied with string, handpainted or stamped paper, etc. If I had access to these links back then, who knows what else I would have done!

How to make Newspaper Gift Bags – How About Orange

DIY Maven – Recycle Greeting Cards into Gift Pillows

Gathering Dust – Last minute Gift Tags

Decorella – Easy Eco Holiday Gift Wrapping Bag

Zakka Life – Eco Christmas Wrap

Eco Novice – DIY Resuable Gift Bags

As for making your ornaments – either for yourself, or as gifts, again there is a lot of inspiration out there.

Wayfaring Artist -Upcycled Christmas Ornament

Eco Empire – DIY Recyclable Paper Christmas Wreath

Recyclable Paper Christmas Wreath

Computers memory Christmas decorations – Recyclart

Computers Memory Recycled for Christmas in electronics diy  with ram Ornament Christmas

Michele Made Me – Heart house ornament

Needles and Wool – Recycled Card ornament

Recycled Lovelies – DIY Light Bulb Ornaments

Of course I am not the first one to think of such a list! So here are some links to other sites that have gathered together tutorials for making eco-friendly gifts, decorations and seasonal craft.

1800 Recycling – DIY Gift Guide for the Crafty and Financially Savvy Greenie

Ecouterre – 14 Eco Chic Gifts you can make yourself

Fave Crafts – Recycle Crafts

Everything Etsy – 101 Green Handmade Gift Tutorials

Mom Coloured Glasses – Eco Christmas fun

I hope that between all of these lists you are able to find some great ideas to have a cleaner, greener Christmas this year!

Being productive and colourful

There is a lot of activity in the nest this week. Having my mum here means that we are tackling those jobs that I never seem to get around to. She has de-cluttered my shelves in the family room, I have sorted my fabric stash, I have had tradesmen in to quote on repairs, things that were put in the hall to be put away, and ended up becoming permanent fixtures, have been put away, and lists have been made. The house feels lighter already.

I started to write that I have little to report on the sewing front. But when I looked at my photos, and my sewing table I realised that I have actually produced quite a bit in the last week! I have felt that I haven’t been able to sit and do any major sewing, but have managed little projects along the way. I decided that instead of beating myself up about not making things, I needed to have small goals. So I have been making little zipped pouches. I can do one in the evening before I go to bed. They are quick, they are cute, and I can feel that I have achieved something. I haven’t been listing them to sell, thinking that I would use them at my craft stall. Then a friend dropped around, saw them and bought 4! I guess that validates that they are going to be attractive to buyers!

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I also wanted to make a farewell present for Miss N. She has left us much earlier than expected, but was of help when she was here. She loves tea, and was travelling with an overfull suitcase, so I decided to make her a cushion cover, that will pack flat, and applique it with a tea-cup. I am quite happy with the end result! I think she liked it too.

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A friend dropped by for a cup of tea (I am a bit partial to tea myself) and asked if I could make a superhero cape for her nephew. So that was ticked off the list next.

Teacup

Amongst the menagerie that lives at my house we have a budgie called Frill. Frill belongs to the artist-in-residence and has been living in her bedroom for the last year. He makes a dreadful mess – seeds being flicked all over the place, and she is not the best cleaner-upper you have met. With the arrival of Nana, we decided to move Frill out of the bedroom, to reduce the mess in there. A quick internet search found us a very reasonable price for a stand to hang his cage from, so we can now easily move it around the house. Which meant that the seed scattering had potential to spread all over the house. The solution? A fabric ‘skirt’ of sorts for his cage. While I will tweak the design before making another one, it is doing the job quite well!

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I also had a lovely experience in selling another piece to a buyer in the USA. One of my bicycle cushions is winging it’s way to Washington DC.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been joking that with two sales to the US I must be a household name by now! One of my friends saw my post on facebook about it, and promptly bought another one of the bike cushions for her husband’s bike shop! I might have to make some more!

With all the ups and downs in our household the chicks have been suffering a bit. The artist-in-residence needed a day at home with her mum to rest and collect herself. She sat and did some drawing and created such a lovely piece that she and I decided we needed to make some fabric from it. That inspired her further, so she did another drawing for fabric. We have ordered samples of each of the pieces to check for colours etc, and once they are proofed, she will be able to list them for sale on Spoonflower! She is very excited, and I am very proud!

Chloe

Chloe

Of course, through all of this, and various appointments that needed to be attended, I am trying to make my Christmas lists. Things to make for sale, things to make for gifts, things that I want to make. The lists are long! Until I have time to publish them with links, I highly recommend looking at the lists of Handmade Holiday ideas that Sew Mama Sew are publishing each day. My list of eco-friendly gift ideas will be featured on 10 November. There were a number of ideas that I had collected that didn’t make the post, and some ideas that I have found since then, so I will do a follow-up post here with some further ideas for eco-friendly gifts to make!

I hope that your week has been productive and colourful!