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.