Monday, November 11, 2013

No Postmen Traverse the Skies

I heard somewhere that it's only 6 weeks til Christmas.
We are making gifts again this year, so we've already started production lines and crafting days. Most of it is organised, a lot of it is wrapped, some have already been sent.


There is one gift that cannot be sent.

We bought a gift and wrapped it up:
The paper has butterflies.
We tried to send it off to you,
But no postmen traverse the skies.

So during these bittersweet days,
We send our love and tears.
Even though you are no longer here,
We thank God that we our years.

So we will keep your gift,
Wrapped with butterflies
Because no postmen traverse the skies.

Spare a thought for those who suffer for one reason or another at Christmas. Please don't get caught up in the hype of gifts and buying. It's not the dollar value that counts.

Remember the reason for the season...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Taking a Moment

We just got back from our biannual trip to Perth so that the girls can spend time with their Gran and Poppy. It’s no secret that my relationship with my mum has not been what it should be for some time, so I must confess that there was some trepidation on my part about the trip. But I strongly believe that the girls need to know all of their grandparents.

Once we got there, Mum and I had the chance to say things that needed to be said. I’m not sure if it’s just because I have a different perspective on things now or that enough time has passed, but for the first time, I felt like we were moving forward, making the trip a really good one.

Then I got sick. Everyone laughed when I woke up with no voice on our third day there. I very rarely get sick and if I do, it’s a runny nose and a sore throat for a couple of days and then I’m fine. This was swallowing razor blades, no voice, dizzy, short of breath, feverish – in short, a monstrosity of a cold.

Fortunately, as awesome grandparents do, Gran and Poppy indulged the girls and kept them entertained while I moped around. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time, I just think the shock of being sick turned what I had into a bit of a man flu. It didn’t help that Perth is two hours behind us, making bedtime and wake up very difficult. The girls were overtired by 7pm over there, because their bodies were telling them it was 9pm and then they would be up at 4am, which is our 6am.

But in amongst that, there were the most amazing moments with them. Absolutely stunningly, melt-your-heart moments when it was quiet and still.

The first one was Little, who had such a hard time getting to sleep at night. I was laying in between the girls, one arm over Little, the other holding Big’s hand. Big had fallen asleep long before and Little was laying quietly. To help them at night, Gran had kept a battery operated candle for them as a nightlight. Little slept with it tightly clutched in her hand each night.

As I lay there, wishing she would go to sleep, she gently took my hand and began to paint my nails, using the candle. She very gently swiped each nail and then said, “Other hand,” very softly. I gave her my other hand and she repeated the process. The she traced my face as she whispered, “I’m colouring you in.” Not long after that, she simply rolled over and went to sleep, cuddling her teddy and her candle.

Then it was Big’s turn to melt my heart. We had spent the day in the city and I dragged everyone to the Oxfam shop. It’s my favourite and I would buy everything if I could! They have the most amazing handmade creations and you get the bonus warm fuzziness of having helped others. Both girls clearly take after me as they also wanted pretty much everything in the shop. Big finally settled on some ‘Worry Dolls' from Guatemala.

The inscription inside says,
“Here are some tiny people for you to keep
So you can have a good nights [sic] sleep
put them under your pillow when the day in [sic] through
and let them do all the worrying for you”

I mentioned in one of my whingey moments that I probably wouldn’t feel so bad if I could at least sleep through the night. Ever the thoughtful one, came running up to me with her little yellow box and said, “Here, Mummy. You can have one of my people to put under your pillow so that you can sleep all night.”

But my favourite moment occurred more than once and gave the entire household joy. Poppy is quite the musician and has the most amazing grand piano. Most evenings, he practiced while we were there and the girls either sat with him, making their own contributions to the pieces he was playing, or they donned their frilliest dresses and whirled and twirled around the room as he played.

David and I both turn the big 3-0 this year, so Mum and Big planned a birthday dinner for us. There were party hats and whistles, party poppers and cake, candles had in the formal dining room, followed by a special concert where Poppy played and the girls danced.

Each time Poppy played, Little begged for ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ over and over again, and of course Poppy obliged.

It was also a great moment when I got the email at Brisbane airport on the way home telling me that I could finally have my toys back!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

All in a whirl...

We have taken a break from toy sewing here at the little house. Big has suddenly shot up an entire size overnight, it seems, and so she has needed a new wardrobe.

That also means that Little needed some compesatory outfits as well. Fortunately, circle skirts are ridiculously easy to make and so much fun to wear!

In fact, we are circle skirt mad at our house!

To make a skirt for my girls, I only use one metre of fabric per skirt - so cheap if you can get awesome fabric on sale, like all of the above fabrics, which are just a sample of what we have recently made!

Using the full metre also means no seams! All I have to do is edge the waist circle and add elastic and then I do a rolled hem on the overlocker. Once you work out a pattern for the sizes you need, it can take as little as 20 minutes to produce a completed skirt!!

But I must confess that I have a secret weapon! To make a circle skirt pattern involves a lot of maths - definitely not my strong point! Enter The Snugbug! I stumbled across their blog post on ciricle skirts that contains a lot of information. But right down the bottom, in the last paragraph of the post is a link to a spreadsheet that works it all out for you!!

I saved it on my computer and have not looked back. Neither have the girls. And what little girl wouldn't want to have twirling fun?!

 I also bought a copy of Five and Ten Designs, a pattern book that sounded awesome: 1 dress block, five designers and ten options for dresses. The block is supposed to fit ages 1 to 10. The pictures on the website are so professional and beautiful. I wanted all of the dresses immediately!

Unfortunately, my first go was not so awesome. I picked the flapper inspired dress, followed all of the instructions, and could not get it over Big's head. It was too small everywhere, despite measuring. Fortunately, I was able to expand the added panel (I think I had to quadruple it) and I added a zip to make getting it on and off easier. But it still will not fit her for very long and the waist tie is nowhere near long enough to have a lovely bow at the front like the picture. Hopefully the next pattern I choose works out a little better...

She is such a photo loving poser! She will sit for a couple of serious photos before pulling weird faces and cracking herself up. But I seem to love those photos more than the serious ones!

We are currently on holidays visiting the girls' Gran and Poppy in Perth, but I have some new designs that I am hoping to get prototypes completed when I get back. What are you up to these school holidays?

Monday, September 16, 2013

A man walks into a bar...

Well, it was a restaurant really, but the bar was right next door and he was eighteen, so it wasn’t long before he made his way there. But before he got to the bar, he sat down across from me and I have never been the same since. He was wearing khaki pants with a bright green Billabong long sleeved t-shirt. He had blonde tips and his hair was gelled to perfection. He also had the coolest cover on his Nokia that I had ever seen!

A couple of weeks ago, in August, we celebrated our 12th anniversary. Thanks to the in-laws, we also got to spend our first night away since Big was born. It was so wonderful and I’ve already said that I want two nights next year!

While I brag on here about what I make, I don’t spend a lot of time showing off what David makes, and I probably should. He is the most creative and talented person I know. I did show the bookshelves that he made, but he has done so much more.

A couple of years ago, he single handed (and I mean it, one arm was in a sling because he had broken his collarbone) made a king size bed from a gorgeous slab of timber my dad had given us for the bed head. The rest of the bed was made from recycled hardwood from his parents’ verandah when they had it renovated. It is complete with reading lamps and I absolutely love it!

When I started working for Cairns Parenting Companion magazine, I was spending a considerable amount of time at my laptop and with our house being so small, the space I could have possibly had a desk is filled with sewing stuff. But I had seen an idea on pinterest for a desk that folded out of the wall and doubled as a picture frame when not in use. David rolled his eyes, but got planning and looked at what we had lying around in the garage.

A few years ago, friends of ours renovated their kitchen and gave us their old cupboards. Most of them are in our patchwork kitchen, but there were a few left over. One of the doors was an ideal size for my desk. David cut some scraps of decking left over from when we renovated our deck (there is a pattern here...) and bought some hinges.

It’s not completely finished. I’ve covered the top side of the desk with fabric to match the bookshelves, but we want to put a piece of tin on the other side to cover the raw edges (I leave the desk down because it looks bad without the tin!) and so it can be a magnetic display board for the girls’ artwork. It is such an awesome solution!

But perhaps the most amazing thing David has made recently was a present for his best friend’s birthday. When David came to me with the idea, I thought it sounded awesome and simple enough. But he is a perfectionist through and through and the simple sounding project turned into an epic task that took over four months of working every night, getting help from people with the tools and expertise needed on weekends and a lot of frustration and broken wood.

But in the end, seeing Will’s face when David presented him with a handmade cigar box guitar with a handcrafted neck and head stock that was completely playable with pickups and everything, was worth every minute of frustration. I could not have been more proud when I saw David's face as he handed it over (I would include pictures, but our friends, being childless, dropped by once we were already in bed, so David was in his pyjamas and would kill me for posting pictures of that!). He put his heart and soul into the gift, and into every single thing he makes for the people he loves.

My contribution was making a green felt thingywhatsit to cover the post thing that runs down the neck (see how much technical stuff I learned about guitars through the process?!)

I count myself as the luckiest woman alive because David sat across from me 12 years ago and then answered my text message the next day and I am so thankful!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Toys have been Stolen

**Blogger is being an absolute pest, so I am just posting this. I had intended more photos, but it's just not happening for me. Seriously considering switching to a different blog host :\ **

On Monday night, around dinner time, a group of artists met at a pub to discuss what they could do about their work being stolen. Before long, they reconvened outside the building where their belongings were being held, working out how to ‘legally’ break in.
As dusk fell, providing more concealment, the group stood nonchalantly on a main road while scoping the perimeter.
A simple lock thwarted the gallant attempt at retrieval, leaving the group thoroughly disheartened (artists, after all, do not do well in prison, nor are they able to afford huge fines, seeing as their work has been stolen and cannot, therefore, be sold!).
We all dragged our feet homeward for dinner and a stiff drink, contemplating our next course of action, the mums wishing the action had lasted ten minutes more so they could have at least missed bedtime. This is mine.
About four months ago, I was told that there was a new shop opening in Cairns and that my work would be perfect for it. Artists would pay to ‘hire’ a shelf and receive 100% of the profits of sale. I was definitely excited! I designed, cut and sewed for a month solid, preparing my stock.

When I dropped my stock off, the shop looked amazing – recycled and reclaimed pieces made up the shelving and display cases, the floor was covered in a patchwork of Astroturf off cuts and the other work in there was incredible! I spent before I earned!
The first month was not great for me personally, but still encouraging nonetheless. I anticipated extra sales in the second month of opening and the wonderful shop owners renegotiated my rent so that I would be able to remain.

Then, one Friday morning I got an email that there had been a fire in one of the units above the shop. But it would be okay. There was just a bit of smoke damage, everything was fine.
The next week, we were told that the building was condemned, but it was still okay, we could collect our work the following week.

But then there were fears that water seepage had contaminated all ‘soft’ stock with asbestos. But it was okay. It would be tested and cleaned and it would all be fine.
Then the shop owners saw people bagging stock. When they asked why, they were told it was for disposal.
Meanwhile, the building was no longer condemned, the cafe next door was in the process of reopening – with all of their original furnishings and equipment, yet our stock, from the same section of the building, was deemed as having a ‘risk’.
Obviously, the owners did the right thing and hired a hygienist for testing and all the stuff I don’t understand. All of the tests came back showing a negligible risk.
Despite the paperwork, the hoops jumped through and the phone calls made, the contracted company has sent misogynistic emails stating that they don’t care what we do, we will not get our ‘dresses’ back – that elicited incredulous laughter.
Let me be clear – I take asbestos risk very seriously. However, no one has been able to provide any proof that there has been contamination and the cafe next door is back to preparing food with all of their original hard and soft furnishings.
Not a single one of the artists in the shop sold their items or gave them away. We still own them. They are our personal property and yet we are denied access to them.
Our indomitable Handmade Cans duo have jumped through every legal hoop and have even had the asbestos hygienist and the police state that we are within our rights to take back our stock because it is being held without cause and without our consent.
But we are not thieves, so we are trying to do this the right way by appealing the decision. 52 of us are losing our hard work. Most of us are SAHMs or pensioners, trying to eke out a living.
These items did not come out of a factory staffed by low-paid workers. Each one has been handcrafted from materials that we personally bought. Time was taken to produce each product. It is art, not ‘stuff’ or ‘stock’.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Noteworthy Blogger

I only follow a couple of blogs. Each of them I have stumbled upon quite by accident and have loved the crafty awesomeness of the writer. But my absolute favourite would have to be Abby Glassenberg’s blog.

What’s more, Abby is incredibly generous with her advice, tutorials, tips and tricks. I have learned so much from her blog. Her free tutorial for an octopus was a huge hit when I made them as party favours for Big’s fourth birthday and her techniques have featured in a lot of my own designs.

Recently, Abby’s blog has undergone a massive overhaul in the last year to focus more on how she has succeed in her business as a toy designer and author (her second book looks amazing!).

When I emailed Abby, she was lovely enough to get back to me, answering all of my questions.
Abby is a plush pattern designer, craft book author and sewing teacher. She blogs about sewing stuffed animals and running a handmade business, as well as being the mum of the three girls. She lives in Massachusetts and works from home with her studio in a corner of her bedroom.

Look at that space! I would give anything to have a work space like that!

And one for her girls!!!

As a strong believer in honesty, Abby speaks openly about what goes on behind the scenes in a creative business and is lucky enough to have her blog supported by sponsors, which supplements the income she makes selling softie patterns and teaching sewing classes.

While she admits that working from home can be isolating, Abby loves the fact that the internet has made it easy for her to stay motivated each day by checking with what the makers and bloggers she admires are up to.

Like most of us, Abby has moments when things do not go according to plan (an admission on her blog that made me breathe a massive sigh of relief!). When this happens with her patterns, she takes a break and reminds herself that it is not wasted time, but failed experiments are tremendous moments of growth.

Abby also collects paintings, but says that her favourite form of art is anything in three dimensions and clever.
What makes me utterly envious is how efficient she is. Abby has a work table that allows her to keep everything out so that when she has five minutes while someone is in the bath, she can close a seam or cut something out. I, on the other hand, tend to faff about doing something completely useless because I never feel like I have enough time to start something.

Even if you don’t sew, the advice on Abby’s blog can be translated into all forms of small business ventures and it is nice to read about a SAHM who is making her business to work. When the internet can seem so vast and uncaring and it is difficult to break into online cliques, Abby’s blog is very refreshing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I have been doing stuff...

As ever, I am completely incapable of keeping up with this blog. I am hopeless about it. I really want to do it, but there always seems to be something else I’d rather do.

It doesn’t help that I find posting so time consuming. I thought technology was supposed to make things easier! Clearly I’ve missed something or it just doesn’t!

So, I’ve been on a little bit of a sewing sabbatical. I crafted up a storm for weeks getting ready for the opening of Handmade Cans (which is looking gorgeous, by the way!) and then...stopped.

I’ve been doing other things, writing, working for Cairns Parenting Companion (which I’m loving!) and generally faffing about.

There have been a couple of sewing projects that I’ve finished. I hand-quilted (!) a blanket for the girls. I had been watching a particular panel to come on sale at Spotlight and when it did, I grabbed one. The woman cutting it was clearly going to be crooked, so I tried to politely point it out. She was so rude to be about it, and continued on. Then when she realised I was right, her response was, “Oops!” while I was quietly fuming. I’d been waiting for this panel for ages and there were only two left, so it was not correctable.

But she gave me the last panel for free, so I can’t complain too much. I’m just not happy that the border is not what I had hoped for. But the girls love their ‘Sister blanket!’

We have also had a couple of birthdays, so that has meant making presents. I never remember to take photos of them. One that I should have was a gorgeous seahorse I made from a free pattern. Big informed me at 4pm last Tuesday that it was a friend’s birthday the next day and could she please have a seahorse for her. Fortunately I did actually have the pattern already printed and cut out. So there was a seahorse the next day - fluoro pink with a sparkly blue fin. I really loved it!

Then there was a good friend’s daughter’s birthday. I asked her what she wanted and after asking for a Peppa Pig cake (fortunately someone else was already doing that!) she asked for a doll with orange hair.

Enter the most beautiful doll book ever! I have been following the blog Bybido for ages and loved the dolls I was seeing. Jill released her book, Storybook Toys, quite a while ago and I finally wore down and bought it. While I love making the Waldorf style dolls, the embroidered faces on Jill’s dolls captivated me and I really wanted to learn how to recreate her style. My amazing hubby had no idea what to get me for Mothers’ Day, so he said I could get a couple of books from – best present ever! 

I made the Little Cub for Big as a special toy for her to snuggle at kindy. I cut off a torn section of her ‘Nigh Nigh’ (cot sheet tied in a knot that she has been carrying around for almost 5 years) and she helped me dye it with tea to create a nice colour. Then we used bamboo fleece to create the body and hat. The cub has been dubbed ‘Sharn’ and Big loves the fact that she can be both asleep and awake!

But back to the doll. I picked the next simplest design (Jill states that it takes 4 hours to stuff one of her more detailed dolls and I just did not have the time!). Her instructions are wonderful and detailed with diagrams and all of the patterns are included in full size at the back.

Embroidering the face and hair (each strand is hand stitched) took me four hours alone, but I loved the end result. Everyone who saw the doll before it was gifted commented on how amazing the face and hair were – so totally worth the time! Hopefully with practice I’ll get quicker and tidier with my stitching.

Little calls her 'Emily' and keeps asking if she can have one. Seeing as I made Big a Little Cub, it only seems fair!

Jill has many other vintage inspired toys in the book, all of which I am going to try at some stage. Both girls regularly flick through the pages, putting their orders in for what they want!

And finally, here is one of Big's creations. We were playing with playdough and she asked for some tiny snails. I made those, the rest is all her! They are kissing on a rock, if anyone is wondering!