Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Wallet - Part 1

The other half is desperately in need of a new wallet and I'd like to give making one a go.

The problem is that his wallet holds more stuff than my entire handbag at the moment (I'm going through a minimalist stage with my bag so there is almost nothing in there - weird I know!). To be honest a man-bag would probably be a good idea considering the amount of 'stuff' he carries in his wallet and pockets, but he just won't go there. He still wants something small enough to fit in his pocket.

I found a few possible patterns and tutorials last night but none that seem exactly right for him so I'm thinking that I might try taking the best parts of those that I've seen so far, mashing all those ideas together and try to come up with my own pattern.

Be warned - I did say right from the start of this blog that I'm not great at creating from scratch - this has the potential to be a complete disaster but I'm hoping the power of positive thinking will be enough to get me through.

I did make a heap of little notepad wallets for the monster's teachers and school staff last year (using a pattern and online tutorial) so I'm relatively comfortable with the construction of a very basic wallet.

I've been playing around with newspaper and a ruler this evening trying to nut it out and draw out a pattern. I think I've got my head around how to get card pockets sized, pleated and sewn appropriately and I can probably even  work out how to create a separate full width section for notes.

The bits I'm stuck on at the moment are:
  • how to make a clear window section for his licence - not so much the material to use, but how to cut a suitable pattern piece and how to finish the edges so the fabric surrounds don't look rough and frayed
  • how/where to add a zipped or velcro section that he can put coins in without it getting too thick and clumsy.
No pics tonight.. there's nothing to see yet other than a few bits of newspaper with scribbles and scrawls all over them.

Any brilliant ideas you readers have would be greatly appreciated. :)


Monday, 25 February 2013

Quilting Quandaries

I had always thought of quilting and patchwork as an old fashioned pastime - something that only older, retired people do. Who else would have the time or patience to piece together all those tiny random bits of fabric to make something that looked so obviously handmade or "country bumpkin"?

Isn't it strange the way our minds work? Most of the people I know that actually do quilt hardly fit into the retired or old category and my significant other had been given an amazing quilt for his 21st birthday, made by his Nana, that was definitely not "country bumpkin" so I really had no justification for this prejudice against quilts or quilting, but still, there it was.

During some of my recent marathon web browsing sessions (I've spent way too many hours on Pintrest and Etsy lately) looking for inspiration and patterns for handbags and other random stuff I found myself being drawn again and again to images of quilts. Not the traditional country patchwork quilts, but modern quilts - vibrant colours, clean simple lines. What's not to love about some of these pieces that could only be considered "art"? 

Strip and Flip baby quilt from CluckCluck Sew
Xylophone Quilt by Elizabeth Hartman
Mad as a Hatter - Modern Quilt Pattern by Elaine Wick Poplin
Wonky Log Cabins by Ellison Lane Quilts
Buttonholes - A pattern available for purchase from Shiny Happy World
And so the brain bubbles started - they kept growing and multiplying and floating around in my head, refusing to be popped until only last week the monster says "Mum, I want a new bedspread for my room". I don't know if she had been looking at quilts over my shoulder in previous days, whether it truly was just a random request or maybe it was just an excuse for a shopping trip - she looooves shopping.

Instead of a shopping trip I suggested that I could make something for her (at which point I expected her to drop the idea - no shopping usually = no interest) but she wouldn't be swayed and I set her loose on my computer to decide what she wanted in her new bedspread. This is the image she eventually came up with:

The image the monster found of her
preferred bedspread - I agree that it looks pretty awesome and would
suit her room  perfectly (if her room were ever clean that is!)
It turns out that image comes from a fantastic tutorial at Train to Crazy. The pictures and instructions in the tutorial make it look reasonably simple. Only straight lines to cut and sew and no tiny piecing. Even all that gathering shouldn't be too hard with the ruffler foot I got for the Brother. I can do this right??

So as of last night I have sacrificed a cream coloured single bed sheet to cut the 10.5" x 10.5" backing squares and I've raided my fabric stash and the bags of old clothes destined for the salvos for suitable pink and purple toned fabrics for the ruffled pieces.

The tutorial calls for something like 63 ruffled pieces (they start out as 21" x 10.5" rectangles) and so far I'm up to only about 20 pieces of suitable scrap and re-purposed fabric. I was hoping that I could get this project done without having to buy any more fabric, but I didn't realise that my stash consisted of so many knits and totally unsuitable (for quilts anyway) home decorator fabrics. I think a shopping trip might be in order after all if I'm ever going to get this project finished.

I do have a little bit of time up my sleeve to get this one done, the monster started bugging me to have it finished almost immediately after she had decided on the pattern - the compromise we came to was that I would put effort into making the quilt as long as she put effort into cleaning her room so she has somewhere nice to display the quilt once its finished. At this rate  I probably have until some time next century to finish this particular quilt!

More on the progress of this quilt:
Ruffles, ruffles and more ruffles

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Knitting in the tropics

I vaguely remember my mum trying to teach me to knit as a kid and me not being the slightest bit interested. So why on earth would I now, as an adult living in the tropics, decide to take up knitting?  I really have no idea, I guess it just seemed like a good idea at the time.

During the June-July school holidays last year I decided that the monster and I should both learn to knit. The monster had been french knitting for weeks having picked it up at school or after-school care, and I was struggling to work out what to do with the metres and metres of ugly coloured, coarse yarn tubes that she was producing. I figured that if I could redirect her apparent passion for working with yarn into standard knitting there might be a chance of something functional coming from all the time she was spending on it. As a bonus I thought it might be something that we could do together that didn't involve spending lots of money or that needed an electronic screen of any description.

Well I completely underestimated the difficulties of teaching someone something while trying to master it yourself and after a couple of very frustrating days the monster put down her knitting in disgust while I continued working to understand it all. Only a few days after that I was confident enough with the basic movements to be able to help the monster and she started up again. It still wasn't a comfortable relationship between the monster and her knitting needles, but she became reasonably capable of knitting a couple of rows without too many dropped stitches. The monster lost interest again fairly quickly once she discovered that it would take more than a couple of rows to make something that she recognised as useful or pretty, but I've been knitting reasonably consistently since then.

I've managed to finish a few things since I started knitting and have a couple of projects on the go at the moment.

One of my works in progress is a tank top for the monster - it was the 2nd or 3rd knitting project I started so she will probably have grown to big to wear it if I ever do get it finished now (I haven't actually done anything with it since about October last year).

The other work in progress is a "Four Seasons Knit Vest" - a mesh cardigan/vest thingy that I'm making for myself. The pattern is a freebie from Red Heart - it's basically 3 almost identical rectangular panels sewn together with the mesh made using a simple combination of yarn overs and knit togethers.

The promo pic for the Red Heart
"Four Seasons Knit Vest" I'm working on.
Those of you that we caught up with on our road trip over the Christmas/New Year period would possibly have seen the very early stages of this project. I'm using a bamboo/cotton blend yarn in a silver grey colour that has a very slight shimmer to it - it will be interesting to see if my version turns out as nice looking as this promo pic. So far I've finished the back panel and I'm almost halfway through one of the front panels. I must say I'm pretty pleased at how its coming along so there's a fairly high chance that this is one project that will actually get finished.

I've generally stayed away from the traditional beginner knits of basic afghans, scarves and hats - I would have absolutely no use for any of them here; instead I've trawled the web for lighter knits. It surprised me that there are so many functional, lightweight knitting patterns out there (and a lot of them free patterns! I love free patterns!). I have about a hundred bookmarks saved for projects that I might like to try at some stage with about 6 of them being serious contenders for the next project. To the relief of my significant other though I don't own enough knitting hardware yet to have more than a few projects on the needles at any one time.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The old Crown dies and the Brother reigns supreme

After our daughter was born (hereafter referred to as "the monster") I decided that I wanted to be able to sew some clothes for her - after all, what is cuter than a gorgeous little baby dressed in lovingly hand made, quality clothing? and I thought that maybe I could save myself a few dollars at the same time by making some of my own clothes too. So off I went to one of the local second hand / deceased estate auctions and I came home with an ancient Crown brand sewing machine for the princely sum of $5.

The old Crown was possibly older than I was and not in fantastic condition, but it worked, and as I'd never done much more than clumsy hand stitching in primary school and sewing on a few buttons it was perfect for me to teach myself on. I figured that even if I blew it up after just one item of clothing then I really wasn't losing that much.

Well I did make a few barely wearable items for the baby monster and a hideous teddy bear out of reclaimed denim (it wound up looking like an evil mouse rather than a bear and never did get all its arms and legs attached) but as with most of my crafting flurries, it didn't last long. After about 6 months the old Crown languished in its vinyl, mission brown with mustard yellow lining, case in the spare room.

The monster wearing a K-Made Red Riding Hood costume
The monster wearing a Red Riding Hood
costume made on the old Crown.
The dress, apron and hooded cloak
are all K-Made
Since then the old crown has been pulled out of hiding a few times a year and each time my sewing skill has improved slightly. The old Crown served me well for a couple of pairs of curtains and a handful of items of clothing for the monster (mostly costumes for school dress-up days that don't need to be hard wearing or long lived) but although I tried several times I'd never successfully made a garment that I would be happy wearing myself.  To be honest I can't blame the old Crown for the lack of self-made wearables, it was more my poor choice of patterns, even poorer choices of fabrics (looking back now some were truly hideous) and not particularly good pattern cutting and sewing skills that stopped me finishing wearing anything I'd made for myself.

I knew that the end was coming when I pulled the old Crown out for a costume making session last year and the light just wouldn't turn on - I managed to track down a replacement bulb that fit, but still no joy, it just wouldn't light up. But even with no light, the rest of the machine was working OK so I set it up on the kitchen bench, turned on all the room lights, ploughed on and got the costume finished just in time. By the end of that project though the poor old Crown was struggling and protesting each stitch loudly. The next time I pulled it out for a whirl I found that no amount of pulling apart, cleaning, oiling and coaxing would persuade the poor old thing to make even a single stitch - the Crown had finally seized up and died. :(

Not long after the death of the Crown I was complaining about the number of times each week that I had to do washing. My significant other has a complete aversion to anything other than one particular style of shorts for everyday wear and the number of wearable pairs he owned was diminishing as they wore out or got ripped and wrecked. This meant washing more frequently or he would be going out pantless. So I suggested a shopping trip to pick up a few more pairs of shorts (same style of course and only dark colours, preferably black). As is always the way when you go shopping with a specific item in mind not a single store had anything that was just right so we came home empty handed. It was then that he made the comment that as a child he had often watched his mum deconstruct clothing and use that as a pattern for making new clothes for him and his siblings.

I initially just ignored the comment by my other half, knowing that my mother in law is a wonderful seamstress who has made tonnes of beautiful items of clothing and items for the home over the years, he knows I'm nowhere near as skilled as his mum with a sewing machine, I wouldn't even contemplate sewing clothes without a proper pattern.

But the more I thought of it the more I couldn't help feeling that I'd like to give it a go. How hard could it be really? I examined a pair of his shorts and decided that they really didn't look that complicated,  I probably could replicate them if I tried. I had a problem though... with the death of the old Crown, what was I to sew these shorts together on? I definitely wasn't going to hand stitch them, even if I weren't too lazy to even consider it they'd probably fall apart on him the first time he wore them!  I needed a new sewing machine.

After examining the budget and making a promise to myself that I'd sew more and spend less on store bought items, I decided that I could afford a modestly priced new sewing machine.

The first store I went to advertised themselves as a sewing centre, specialising in new machines of a couple of well-known brands. The machines on display certainly looked lovely, even if only a couple of the least fancy machines fit within my self-imposed budget. But I stood in that store for almost 15 minutes and even though I was the only customer in the store and I made a point of making some noise as I walked around looking at machines, cleared my throat a few times and generally looked like I needed assistance, the sales lady glanced at me a couple of times from where she sat at a machine but never once looked up long enough to say hello, tell me she'd be with me in a moment or ask if I needed any help. I walked right out of that store without looking back - if they weren't interested enough to even say hello they obviously weren't interested enough to take my money.

So off I went to my local Spotlight store where the range of machines on offer was much better than at the specialist store (if not quite as fancy or expensive) and the store staff were very helpful in pointing out the pros and cons of each of the machines on display depending on the type of sewing I was planning on doing. In the end I decided upon one of the mid-priced, general purpose Brother machines.

Wow what a difference a new sewing machine makes! I couldn't believe how quiet the new Brother was the first time I turned it on and tried a sewing a few scraps together. I went into a frenzy of scrap sewing just trying out all the different stitches that were either not available or had never quite worked properly with the old Crown and generally making friends with my new machine.

Since the Brother has joined the household there has been quite a few items produced that I'm actually quite proud of. So far over the past few months I've made:
  • personalised messenger bags as Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephew that looked pretty awesome (I'm only disappointed that I didn't take photos before gifting them).
  • a mini-messenger bag (a trial run for the Christams gifts) that the monster uses regularly to tote around her ipod, DS and other electronic bits and pieces
  • pyjamas for the monster
  • a knot-style wristlet/handbag
  • a pleated handbag for myself
  • a heap of little notepad wallets as Christmas gifts for the monsters' teachers and school support staff
I've even managed to make a dress for myself that I wore outside of the house to a semi-formal work function.
    The pleated handbag
Inside the pleated handbag - lined
with pockets and everything !
I even mastered the hidden zip pocket :)

The notepad wallets I made
for the monster to gift.
These ended up being really handy little items -
I kept one of the less successful ones for myself
and use it ALL the time.
Inside of the notepad wallets.
And the main reason for the purchase of the new machine in the first place - the new shorts for the other half? Well they were one of the first things I tried. I took one of his oldest, rattiest pairs of shorts and cut it apart at the seams, used those pieces to create a pattern including seam allowances, bought some fabric and got to work.

Right now that first pair of shorts are in my "Work in Progress" pile needing to be hemmed and finished. Ooops. I'll get to them eventually.

My first ever blog post

OK so I've thought about doing this for a while but I've only now taken the plunge and actually created a blog, named it, chosen a template etc.

So why a blog and why now you ask?
Well while I want to be able to see that my efforts at whatever I do in life are making a positive impact in some way I'm not a particularly motivated person, in fact I'm really quite lazy. But occasionally I go through stages where I feel like I want to get all creative and actually do something productive - I'm in one of those stages now, in a crafty form (other times its been web design,  cooking, gardening, home improvements or other random pursuits).

I've spent lots of time over the last few months googling crafty projects, bookmarking them, getting inspired and making plans. I've even spent a bit of time actually doing some of those things. Some of my creations have worked out and some haven't been so successful. I have a tendency to get hyper-motivated at the start of a project and then partway through drop it because its not going quite how I planned, or its taking longer than I imagined it would, or I just get bored (lazy) and couldn't be bothered with finishing it.

This blog will hopefully be a way of documenting my creative process from inspiration to finished product and working through any issues that I come across during the project; but most importantly, I'm hoping that by committing to blogging these things I will maintain the momentum and follow through to completion a few more of my projects.

I'll admit right fron the start that I'm not particularly imaginative - I can see something, be inspired and sometimes recreate it in my own way, but coming up with my own stuff that actually works out as I envision it is not one of my strong points.

If you're happy to follow along my random musings then you're welcome to join me for the journey as I try and post my inspirations and works in progress as well as my triumphs, my failures and more than likely a whole heap of unrelated disjointed rambling. I can't promise that my posts will be particularly regular, well written or even relevant all the time, but I am going to try.