Thursday, December 30, 2010

Alabama on my mind

After the mammoth effort of making the twins' books and then after Christmas doing bunch of mending and altering for a friend of my sister (for which I will be paid with her professional services a a massage therapist - can't wait!) it's high time for MEMEMEMEME. So it's time to get on with the corset from the Alabama Stitch Book. David made me go to Spotlight for fabric a couple of days ago when I discovered that one of the maternity tops I planned to use was too narrow in the shoulders. Love that man. And dress fabric was 30% off that day.

So, it'll be red with a cream underlayer. Here are the front pieces. (They'll all get a cream underlayer.)

And here's the stencil I've decided to use. Roses, how surprising, hehehe. I'm cutting them from freezer paper. I still need plenty more to make an all-over pattern.....

I suspect that this will be the "Foundling"/"Draw the Line" corset. David gave me David Gray's latest album (Foundling) for Christmas, so naturally it's on my mp3 player now and being listened to All Day Long while I work on this. I found "Draw the Line" on sale in K Mart yesterday (which was meant to be my birthday present last year, but we never got around to it. With five kids there's always a higher priority!)

Whenever I hear certain songs from one or other, or both, Finn brothers I think of making my wedding dress because that's what I listened to while making it. Does anyone else have certain music evoke certain sewing projects? I can think of way worse associations!

In the meantime my sewing time has been highjacked because in our house it's time for this:

And as I've mentioned before Nicholas has the smallest bum in the world. I kid you not. He wears cloth nappies, and the cover is intended to fit a baby up to four months old. I will never find undies small enough for him. (I did look, just to prove it to myself). So it's another thank-goodness-I-sew moment. I bought Jalie 2327 some time ago. (With the best of intentions to make the trunks for David, Cayden and Oliver. They're still waiting) Anyway, I figured it'd work well for Nicholas. When I measured his hip circumference and compared it to the size chart in my drafting book it turned out to correspond to about newborn to three months. Yeah, thought so! Anyway to size the pattern down I simply traced the size 2 and drew on the stitching lines, then scanned it into the computer and scaled it to 75% of it's original size. Print it out and trace it again, adding back the seam allowances and voila - undies that fit Nicholas. They look like doll clothes! I have a stack of eight pairs to sew for him......

And just to show what Christmas looks like in our house, here are a couple of my favourite pics. I love this one of Nicholas on the table with Isabella's book.

Although this is more like what he looked like.

David took this one of our annual Christmas Eve Gingerbread House Decorating Session. (No points are given for neatness of decoration or economy of lolly-usage. Creativity is encouraged.) I love this photo. Even though it reminds me that I really should do my hair more often.

Our Christmas Day looked in part like this. A picnic with my family at Brighton Domain on a gorgeous hot, sunny, windy day. Isabella and David on the slide. She's only wearing a cardigan because I couldn't find the sunscreen. (I added some new and interesting tan lines to my shoulders personally) That's my Dad walking past below. I really don't know about the bright blue Crocs.

There was also some eating.......

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Isabella's book

Thanks for the lovely comments yesterday! Just for posterity, here's Isabella's book, pristine and new.

Tie my shoe, to match Nicholas' book. Sometimes twins need one each of something.
Clock. Once again, yay google and photoshop!
Dress-up doll. The pocket holds more clothes. As time permits I'll probably make more clothes. This dress is made from leftovers of one of Isabella's dresses. The doll has velcro "undies" to which her clothes attach.

Another double width alphabet page. (That twin thing again).

Fairies in the dell. I combined and adjusted craft patterns from the same designer for this one. The fairies are made the same way as the dinosaurs from Nicholas' book. Isabella likes them, so they'll no doubt be pulled off to play with.

Barn, template from here. Scarecrow and fence from a craft magazine.

Inside the barn and hay bales (the idea for having hay bales came from a 12 year old neighbour!) are these finger puppets, designs from a library book. (Apart from the horse on the left, which I designed myself.)

Under the sea/in an aquarium (depending who you ask!) Have I mentioned google rocks?

The flaps hide these guys. Georgia points out that this was her idea. (I was going to do a fish bowl with clear plastic and have the fish loose.)

An early page, counting. Isabella likes to count.

And me hoping they'll remember me fondly when choosing my nursing home!

Phew, that was a lot of work, but so much fun. I will not be repeating this effort till I have grandkids.
Now I'm off to finish cleaning the gingerbread dough from under my fingernails and enjoy the aroma imparted by a morning's baking with my sister. Tomorrow we'll take it all to her house and deocorate it. Yuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wanna see the last four months of my life?

This is what four months looks like.

A 23cm (9 inch) high pile of cloth books for my twins.
I took them to our fortnightly crafty girls meet up on Monday and they all very nicely oohed and aahed and told me to blog them. So here they are. I'll make it two posts or we'll be here all day! First up, Nicholas' book.
Tie my shoe. Shoe template from here. (Other images from various craft magazine patterns for other stuff. I very seldom use craft patterns as set!)
Of course we have to learn to tell the time. I got the clock image by googling "clock colouring pages". I love google. And photoshop.

My idea, mix-up robots. The pocket holds the other pieces.

And since we gave our children long names, these pages have to be double width! The pocket with animals and letters on it holds two entire alphabets. I got a bit sick of making the letters by the time I got to letter #104! (And kept asking myself why I did this for my twins)

This is possibly Nicholas' favourite. (I made no attempt to keep these secret since the twins are only 2 1/2. When the pieces (which hold on with velcro) were done Nicholas got hold of them and wouldn't give them back. I take this as a good sign that I have not wasted four months. Images again from all over the place. The robot in the rocket is from a pattern in a Homespun magazine which I got after combining two other rocket pictures to get what I wanted. Saw this and decided to make it instead. So glad I found it before I made the other one!

What little boy (and most girls too I think) doesn't love dinosaurs? The landscape started with this and this. The cloud is from a book of stained glass quilts I think!

Hiding in pockets are these guys. Yay for google and photoshop once again! Once I had my images the right size I traced them onto press'n'seal and stitched them onto felt, which I backed with stiff interfacing and cut out. I cut a matching piece of felt for the back and sewed a bit of velcro onto it before blanket stitching the shapes together.

I'm not sure where the idea for this came from, but once the idea sparked, it was back to google for some leaves.

For these guys to hide under. They're made the same way as the dinosaurs.

And after all that work you can bet I want credit for it!

So there you go, Nicholas' book. I hope it will be loved and worn out with use (but not for years!)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where'd November go?

It CAN'T be a whole month since I last blogged anything! Apparently it is. November is a pretty busy month around here anyway with two birthdays and a week of sole parenting while David was away with Georgia on her year six camp. I'm not sure who had more fun! Next time I want to go.

Just to really ramp up the busy factor I got a phone call from the secretary at Georgia and Oliver's school a couple of weeks ago, and after reassuring me that nobody was sick and in need of collection, she asked if there was any chance I could sew up a tutu for her daughter's end of year ballet performance. Apparently the costumes were supposed to be made at a sewing bee by a group of ballet Mums but this had fallen through and with two weeks to go before the performance she'd been handed a cut out tutu and told that sorry she'd have to organize it herself (!) After some fruitless phoning around anyone who looked promising in the phone book, she asked in the staffroom if any of the teachers knew anyone who could help. Which naturally led straight to me! (The secretary is actually very good friends with a friend of mine, who would also have sent her straight to me. I was destined to make this tutu.) Anyway, long story short, I made up the (very simple) tutu, and the skirt she had dumped on her with a week to go, and all was well. The phrase "saving my bacon" was uttered more than once and I got a very happy text after the performance to say that M's dresses were clearly the best on stage. (Which is really important to a teenager, and much appreciated by her Mum!)

Then the call from a friend of my sister last week to ask if I could alter a dress for her to wear this Friday. No probs - finished that today.

Oh yeah, and I'm working feverishly on the pages for the twins' activity books. Still assuming there'll be some late nights in the week before Christmas. Still loving doing them, so late nights won't be too dreadful.

Which leads me to my next big project for me. Here's what the first toile looks like on me.

Every year I cringe a bit at my 14 year old advent calendar and vow to make a new one. One day I'll get around to it. Probably for my grandkids.

The top is the corset from the Alabama Stitch Book. As soon as I saw Natalie Chanin's work I fell head over heels in love with it all - not only is everything just stunningly beautiful, but made by hand and embellished in a style into which I have dipped a toe and love doing, and want to pursue. Her books are on my list of coveted items. And there it was - on the shelf in the Dunedin Public Library. I actually said "SWEET!" out loud (in my library voice of course) as I snatched it from the shelf. We have a very good library here.

I want to make it as it is in the book - stencilled, reverse appliqued and all sewn by hand. So it aint gonna happen this summer! I have some maternity T shirts which would be perfect to refashion, but obviously at least one toile was needed to check the fit before proceeding. The measurement chart and comments led me to think that in a good stretchy fabric a small would probably be right for me.

Enter a cast off T shirt from my brother in law. Perfect for a trial run.

Only just big enough for my corset, thanks to inset panels in it's sides!

And it's great. Bring on summer 2011......

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Crafty

Well that was a longer break than I intended! Mostly because the teenager (grrrrr) used up our monthly bandwidth allowance with Apparently all his games had updates and it was the holidays so he wanted to play them. Nobody enjoyed twelve days of dial up internet. And since it was school holidays and I had all my offspring underfoot I didn't do as much as I'd have liked. (But I kept telling myself that if I didn't have them I wouldn't be making this fun stuff anyway. Usually through slightly gritted teeth....)

Anyway, I thought I'd start this off with pictures of Isabella in her new dress. She is a very willing model, but will do what I ask for approximately 35 milliseconds before racing off to do something else. So these are the two best shots I got.

I got a lot of these!
On the Hand Crafted Christmas front, I'm getting a slightly panicky feeling that Christmas is going to be here in five minutes and the twins' books will have a dozen started-but-not-finished pages and I will be pulling all nighters for a week and not enjoying the run up to Christmas at all. I think I need to write a list of what I'm going to do for each book. And finish each page before starting a new one. Um, not likely.

This is probably my favourite idea so far. Maybe because it's pretty much my idea.

The spark of inspiration came from a book of kids quilts which featured one with those mix-up pictures - head body and legs from different characters could be mixed up. I decided robots would be fun and found a picture of cupcakes which did a similar thing (great minds and all that!) Using those for inspiration I designed my own robot stitcheries and made tags which can be interchanged to make different robots. The 9 and 10 year olds love these. We'll see what the two year old thinks!
This is how the pictures are attached. I still need to add velcro tabs to hold them in place. The plastic tags are cut from template plastic and make it very easy to thread the ribbon through the slots on the back of each tag. I think Nicholas could manage this pretty easily. Whether he puts heads at the top and legs at the bottom remains to be seen.

The options. So far. I don't think I'm finished yet.

This guy is going to be the pocket which holds the extra tags. I think I like him best. Nicholas will probably like the zip on the pocket best of all.

After the drama making one little horse finger puppet I found cute animal stitchery patterns and figured I'd do those on felt scraps and cut around them. The designs are drawn onto press'n'seal which is pulled out aferwards. To support the felt while I stitched I sewed the felt scrap onto a fabric scrap like this.

And cut (very carefully) a window behind the felt.

As you see I stitched onto my backing fabric a bit, but after stitching I just cut the backing very close to the stitching and pulled it out.

And way down here at the bottom are juggling balls made for Georgia and Oliver. Named in case they forget who they are. (In my experience kids love things with their names on)

Sitting on my latest score from the library. Yes that's the Betty Kirke Vionnet book. Turns out the library had two copies - one for issue, one not. Oh the eye candy in that book!
Now to delete the photo from computer and camera before Georgia sees it - she saw her pincushion on the camera, but since the screen is quite small she didn't see the details and I sort of dismissed it as "something that didn't work". She may have fallen for that!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Someone else's pattern - what a novel idea!

I have been known to wryly comment that poor Isabella is going to spend her life dressed in prototypes. The best way for me to trial a new design is to make it to be worn. And when I have a small model living in my house (who is too small to complain that she is not paid for this) I take full advantage and she test wears many of my designs.

The downside to this is that I seem to be constantly having to make things up as I go along - sometimes it would be nice to just open a pattern and make it. One where someone else has worked out the kinks and written instructions so that I don't have to think!

Enter My New Pinafore. A delightful pattern designed by Karen Davis and sold through If you go to their patterns page and scroll down you can see it, but apparently you have to email them to buy it. (I got it from the Craft and Quilt Fair in Christchurch.)

Here it is in a size three for Isabella. A pretty, simple pinafore.

The pattern for which I probably wouldn't have bought had there not been a beautifully made sample right there which I unbuttoned to find a very clever opening. I love clever, elegant design solutions so I just had to make this!

The instructions for this were fantastic - clear and thorough. Gotta love instructions which tell you to press - repeatedly. I didn't line the skirt which simplified it a bit. Isabella is currently napping and today is grey and cold so I have yet to photograph this on her. Once I do I'll do a proper review on Patternreview. Short version - Good pattern. Worth buying.

Edited to add a photo of Isabella most willingly modelling her new dress. I ask her if she wants to try on a new dress and she starts jumping up and down and trying to rip off whatever she is already wearing. Once in the new dress she immediately climbs onto the chair placed for her photo. When she's older she might start asking for her modelling fees to be direct paid into her bank account, but at the moment we get by with cuddles.
This is a size three on 2y4m Isabella. The fit is described as "very easy" and it fits my chubby little girl perfectly - not too tight or baggy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So Spring already!

Well ok the past couple of days have been lovely - I wore my new Vionnet dress yesterday and felt a million bucks in it! David concurred ;-)

In a desperate attempt to force the weather to play nice, I made these two dresses for Isabella.
(Although Keely and I are convinced that as soon as she starts thinking about making a warm coat the weather warms up. Start thinking Keely!)

The one above is made from the softest cotton (?) sateen which has been mellowing in the stash for ages since I bought it as a remnant. There wasn't enough to make anything floaty for me or Georgia, so it waited till I had Isabella. Then it popped up and politely requested that I make it into a summery dress for her. Done.

The one below is the result of several design ideas I've had floating around for a while, most notably back wrapped styles and external facings. I saw something somewhere which smacked me in the face and those disparate ideas coalesced and this was the result. The fabrics are quilting cottons from Spotlight, which I found in their remnant bin on Sunday. There was just enough of the pink, if I cut the bodice upside down and put a seam in the bodice at CF. I'm not sure how they'll stand up to wear, but I'm keen to find out. And they cost only $5.40 so I won't be heartbroken if this dress doesn't wear terribly well. The joy of drafting my own patterns is that I can repeat a design any time I like, with alterations as I choose.

The bird stencil is one I got from a library book. (It took aaaaaaaaages to cut from freezer paper, so I was really careful peeling it off to see if it can be reused. I've never heard that stencils can be reused, but I have heard that when used for patterns for quilting and such, freezer paper can be readhered.) I dropped the paintbrush while I was doing it, and there's a small smudge to the left of the image. Can you see it? I was careful not to go near it with the iron while I was heat setting, so it may wash out over time. Too bad if it doesn't!

In the mean time, not a lot else creative has been happening, often because of this guy. This is why we have a kiddie proof gate across our kitchen. (He's not allowed in at all if the oven is on!)

Totally unrehearsed or coached - he just watches us and when allowed in for a snack, copies. The boy is T.R.O.U.B.L.E.
Maybe this would help?

Would you believe that this was his idea as well?