Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! I drafted this post yesterday afternoon, wanting to get in one last post for 2007, but just as I was about to upload the photos, our computer randomly crashed for no apparent reason (ahh, Windows Vista, how I love thee).

We arrived back in Welly on Saturday afternoon after a lovely Christmas at my Mum's house in Rotorua, followed by a road trip back home via the East Cape. I'd never been to that part of the country before and loved driving past beautiful beaches and tents full of families on their Christmas beach holiday. We were a bit worried that we might not be able to stay in Gisborne after the big earthquake they had on the 20th, but our motel was still standing and they assured us it was structurally sound, despite the cracks in the plaster on some of the walls! We also called in to see a friend in Whakatane and had cuddles with her gorgeous 4 week-old daughter Greta (the recipient of the cross stitch sampler).

I hope you all had a lovely (and hopefully crafty) Christmas. This week we are planning on attacking some of the outside garden tasks we have been putting off for a while, so I might not get much crafting done. I'll check in occasionally though and might post a couple of pictures of our progress.

In the meantime, here are a couple of photos of the beanie I knitted for my brother Richard for Christmas. I finished it in the car driving up to my Mum's house on Dec 22nd. I managed to persuade him to model it for me on Christmas day - he is doing his best Zoolander Blue Steel face! He does a lot of snowboarding so I think the beanie will come in handy - he also told me it is very similar in design to a favourite boarding hat he used to wear all the time.

I used the ski beanie pattern from the new Stitch and Bitch for men book. The version of the pattern I used was actually a freebie from the CraftSanity podcast website to promote the book, but based on how well this pattern has turned out, I think I might have to look out for the book in the library and check out the rest of the patterns. The yarn I used is a NZ brand called Naturally Merino et Soie 8ply, which is 70% merino, 30% silk, so the beanie turned out nice and soft. The pattern called for two balls of the main colour and one of the contrasting colour but I ended up using just under one ball of the main colour. Alex is hinting for me to knit him an identical beanie with the remainder of the yarn.

Right, I really must go outside and attack the garden. Thanks for all the bag love on my last post. The recipients all loved their presents. And I'm loving my new Wasp bag. It was great on the road trip - large enough to fit all my handbag contents plus a bottle of water (essential - it was very hot in the car driving back) and my digital SLR (normally I have to carry my camera separately).

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Bags (and photos) galore

A couple of weeks ago, making almost half of our Christmas gifts seemed like a good idea. Last night at 10pm, when I had just finished the last sewed gift (one more knitted one to complete) and still had to pack to go away this morning and wrap all the presents, I wondered what I was thinking. We are driving out of town today to spend Christmas with my mother so the deadline was last night for everything except for the knitted beanie for my brother, which I hope I can do in the car (or complete secretly at my Mum's place).

Most of the female rellies we buy for are getting a bag of some sort this year. My original plan was makeup bags, but I got a bit sick of those after I'd made 8 of them, so I switched to larger bags.

Here is the bag I made for my Mum, following the Pleated Beauty Handbag pattern in Bend-the-Rules Sewing:

The main part of the bag is black cotton drill to give it a bit of weight. I also used a piece of timtex in the bottom to help it keep its shape. The pleats and inner straps are made from Kirinco fabric designed by Lara Cameron. There is a large pocket inside made from the accent fabric. I'm really pleased with how this turned out. I wanted a bag that would be big enough for taking stuff to the beach or taking to the supermarket, but not too unwieldy. I also wanted it to look nice :)

Here is a tote I made for my brother's new English girlfriend who has joined him on his visit out to NZ to meet the family:

This again is made from black cotton drill. The accent leaf fabric is a Japanese cotton from Spotlight.

Here are a couple of the makeup bags

These are both made from Kirinco fabric again (see the other two fabric designs I used in my earlier post here) and follow the same tutorial I used for the earlier bags.

And then, just because I am a sucker for punishment, I decided I needed a bag to take on summer holiday with me. So I made this:

I followed the popular Wasp Bag pattern and used (there is a theme to this post) Kirinco fabric. The straps are the same black cotton drill. I added a little fabric self-covered button to each strap. Inside is a small pocket. I bought this fabric to make myself a bag several months ago and it has been sitting waiting in my fabric stash while I found the perfect pattern. I really love how it turned out and have already up-ended my numerous handbag contents into it ready to go away today.

Phew! I really am ready for a holiday now. I'll be taking a bit of a blogging break for a week or so. Best wishes to all of you for a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Birth Sampler

I'm getting closer to finishing my Christmas crafting and should have something to show you later tomorrow. In the meantime, here is a photo of the cross-stitch birth sampler I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It has taken me a while to frame it. Apologies for the bad photo quality. This was again photographed late at night before it was wrapped to be delivered the next day. Must plan my photo-taking for earlier in the day when the light is better.
I used a free pattern from the DMC website for the bear and an alphabet out of one of my cross stitch books for the name and date. I think the next one of these I make will be on linen - I've decided I much prefer the look of embroidery on linen rather than aida and it means I'm not restricted to just crosses - I can try out other stitches too.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Baby bibs

I don't know what was special about the last week of November, but 3 couples we know had babies that week. I showed you the other two baby presents last week. Here is the third one - four bibs I made for baby Jude:

They are again made following the excellent pattern in Bend The Rules Sewing. The fabric is craft cotton from Spotlight, except for the navy gingham which I picked up at a thrift store. They are all backed with white flannel. I love this pattern. The method of construction is really simple and they sew up really fast. I think I completed these in about an hour.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Digger Cake

My baby brother turned 21 on Saturday. Most of our family gathered in Rotorua to celebrate. He wanted a low-key affair - barbeque and beer on his deck - but he did agree to having a cake, which Mum and I volunteered to make. My brother works as an apprentice for a big company that manufactures and services construction equipment, so there was really only one option for a cake for him - a digger (I think this one is technically called a scoop loader...):

I'd found a few pictures of other digger cakes on flickr, but in the end we sort of made it up as we went along. The icing was yellow buttercream. I used two sizes of chocolate biscuits for the wheels. The arms attaching the scoop to the main part of the digger are licorice logs, as is the exhaust. The windows are made from an icecream container, cut to size and then outlined with black icing. The dirt/rocks in front are chocolate covered raisins.

Here's the chocolate cake shapes, prior to icing.

And here is the icing, fresh from the Kenwood mixer. We used a ridiculous amount of colouring to get the yellow we needed. Luckily the buttercream was so sweet that most people only ate the cake and not the icing so I'm not feeling too guilty about poisoning everyone with artifical colouring.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

More Christmas Crafting

Here are a couple of makeup/cosmetic bags I made for Christmas presents - the mushroom one is for my 12 year old cousin and the bird one is for my aunt. Sorry about the quality of the photos. They were hurriedly taken at 11pm last night, just after I'd finished the bags and before they were wrapped up to be delivered today.

I loosely followed a tutorial on Craftster but changed the dimensions from the original to match my favourite makeup bag. I'm planning to make another 6 for female relatives. If I get sick of making these before then, I may switch to tote bags.

The mushroom fabric is a Japanese craft cotton from Spotlight. The yummy linen bird print fabric is some I bought on Etsy from Lara Cameron of Kirinco. They are lined with a red polyester. I also interfaced them with plain flannel (a la Amy Karol) - the first one I made wasn't interfaced and was a bit floppy. The flannel gives them just enough structure to allow them to stand up by themselves without the crunchiness that you get from heavy iron-on interfacing.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Christmas Stocking

I hope you are enjoying your pre-Christmas rituals. Over the weekend I got to do my favourite pre-Christmas task - putting up the tree. Over the last few years I have collected or been given a lot of lovely ornaments and I love upwrapping them and remembering where I got them from. This year I hung up for the first time the paper mache bells I bought in India last Christmas and the cloisonne balls I bought in Hong Kong in January.

Once the tree was up, I hung our stockings on the mantlepiece. Here is my much-loved stocking that my Mum sewed for me when I was about 2 or 3 (very early 1980s), along with a matching (but more "boyish") one for my younger brother.

It's designed to look like a house, with the hanging loop being the chimney and the yellow and white stripes being the steps up to the house. Most of the appliqued shapes are cotton, but the tree trunk is chocolate brown corduroy. We were living in the Pacific at the time and a lot of goods like fabric were hard to come by. I suspect she was sent some of these from NZ and delved into her extensive fabric stash she took with her to make these.

Here is some detail of the girl and the window behind her:

My favourite piece of fabric used in the stocking is that one on the window right behind the girl - the orange and blue flowers make me happy.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Christmas crafting

My first handmade Christmas present is complete. I knitted a scarf for my brother who is living in London, using the My So Called Scarf pattern. The yarn is Patons Inca, an alpaca, wool and acrylic blend. Despite my earlier reservations about the yarn, I decided to keep using it and I'm pleased that I did. The stitch pattern shows up the varegations in the yarn really well and it is not shedding as much as I thought it would.

I'm planning a "weekend o' sewing", so hopefully I'll have a lot more Christmas crafting to show you next week. Have a great weekend.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Baby Gifts

Over the weekend I finished off some baby gifts for two couples we know who had babies last week.

This set is for Jasper, born Sunday a week ago:

Bibs are made from the pattern in Bend the Rules Sewing. Shoes are from the Stardustshoes tutorial I wrote about last week. These ones are completely reversible, although they are only lined in white flannel.

This set is for Greta, born last Thursday:

I appliqued a star on a store-bought baby t-shirt, to go with the shoes I showed you last week. I have also cross stitched a birth announcement for baby Greta, which I'll show you later in the week once I've framed it.

We have had builders at our house for the past week so things are a bit disorganised. I'm hoping they will finish their work today and I can put the Christmas tree up tonight and make some progress on my Christmas crafting this week. I can't complain too much about the builders - they are dividing our huge laundry into two spaces - one half for the laundry and the other half will become a back porch/sun room/SEWING ROOM (albeit a very tiny one) for me. Can't wait to have my sewing machine set up all the time. At the moment my machine is stored away and when I want to sew it's a bit of a pain to get everything out and then put it away again when I'm done.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Rescued quilt

I bought a half finished (actually more like a quarter finished) quilt on TradeMe a few days ago. I've never made a quilt before and thought that buying one that someone had already started might make the process a bit easier first time around. Also, I like the idea of finishing a project that would otherwise sit in someones cupboard.

The quilt is a triangle design and came with hundreds of triangles already cut out of yummy vintage cottons.

Someone has already started to assemble the triangles into circles and has sewed a few of them together. But it is obvious something is not quite right. The circles do not sit flat when sewn together.

After playing around with the triangles for a while and trying to figure out the problem (geometry is a handy skill!), I think I've worked it out. The triangles are not equilateral - they have two long sides and one slightly shorter side. Therefore the circles should not be constructed like this (out of 7 triangles joined by their longer sides)....

..instead they should be constructed like this. With six triangles making up a circle. I think this way I will be able to join the circles together and still keep the quilt flat.

I think I'll sort the triangles into colours and then construct the circles out of six triangles from the same colour. I am still undecided whether I will unpick the work that has already been done, but I think I'll have to if I want to use those triangles. I'm not sure how big it will be once finished, but I'm hoping it will be big enough to snuggle under on the couch.

I'll post some more pictures once I've made some progress but this weekend Christmas crafting will take priority (I'm really behind on getting my homemade gifts finished).

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Fabric Love

After browsing for weeks, I have just recently started buying things on Etsy. I think I could easily develop an Etsy habit! Here is the first thing I bought, which arrived last week:

Wonderful handprinted linen from Lara Cameron's kirinco shop. This is even more lovely in person than in the photo. At least some of it is destined to become zipped pouches (maybe make-up bags) for Christmas presents for some of our female relatives. I am already dreaming up other ways to use it. I think it would make a great accent on a bag, or a panel of an A-line skirt. Lara's shop is due to be updated again next week with more fabric designs/colours in case you're interested in getting some of this yourself.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Weekend in pictures

We have both been fairly busy and stressed at work lately so decided on the spur of the moment (most unlike us) to have a weekend away in the Wairarapa.

We stayed in this lovely cottage in Greytown:

It had a wonderful cottage garden:

The roses were at their best:

Much sleeping, knitting, reading and eating of chocolate was done:

We arrived back tonight, batteries recharged, ready to face the week. I managed to finish the scarf for my brother and a cross-stitch birth sampler for a friend who is having a baby this week. Photos of those later.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Flashback Friday

This week's Flashback Friday theme is Hippie Love. I don't have a photo that quite fits the theme, but I think this one could be called Flower Power:

Me and my friend, aged about 4, dressed up in our bikinis, accessorised with flowers (I think they may be frangipanis).
I am off out of town for a lazy weekend so won't be posting for a couple of days. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Cloth Baby Shoes

A couple of friends are due to give birth sometime in the next week or so and I decided to make them some bib and shoe sets. Here are the first pair of shoes, using the tutorial from Stardust Shoes.

I used craft cotton for the top, denim for the sole and lined them with plain white flannel. One thing that bothered me about the construction method used in this tutorial was that the inside seams would still be visible. Partway through making these I realised I could construct them a slightly different way so that the inside seams around the sole would not be visible. And once I'd finished them, I had an "a-ha" moment where I realised how to make them completely reversible. I have another pair (to be lined with flannel) already cut out so I'll try out the new method on the next pair and see if it works. And then I might have a go at making a completely reversible pair with a patterned lining. These could get addictive!

Monday, 19 November 2007

Crafty Scores

A few gorgeous new crafty things I received at the weekend.

My scores from the craft show at Pataka on Saturday:

A couple of wonderful laser-cut acrylic Christmas decorations from Papertin and a crocheted cupcake from Baibin which I'm going to use as a pincushion. As soon as I got home I filled it with my new coloured pins (I'm getting rid of my plain silver pins - too hard to find when I drop them on the carpet - I've had a few near misses of nearly stepping on one). The craft show was really good but I think a little smaller than last time. Although I didn't buy much, I dragged a friend along and she bought more than enough for the both of us, stocking up on presents for her 18 month old niece and her new niece who'll be born any day now.

I came home from the craft show to find this lovely package in my letterbox:

Six gorgeous cards from Kimberlee, my prize in her blog giveway. They are even more lovely in person. I think I might have to keep one copy of each to frame for my wall. Thanks Kimberlee!

I have decided to keep going with the scarf I talked about in my last post. It doesn't seem to be shedding as much now and I don't think my brother will mind.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Advice please

So I’ve started knitting a scarf for my brother for Christmas. He lives in the UK and so it’s an appropriate gift for this time of year. I’m using the So-Called Scarf pattern that I used once before and have chosen a yarn called Inca from Patons. The yarn is 50% wool, 30% acrylic and 20% alpaca. I’m liking the way the pattern is showing up the variegations in the yarn but I have a problem - the yarn sheds fibres. I guess the Alpaca content is the culprit. Now I don’t know about you but I really hate fluff on my clothes. I avoid buying anything with angora in it for that reason. And I have a lint roller at work and at home to de –cat-hair myself. Therefore I have a problem with knitting a scarf that sheds fibres. I’m considering ripping it out (I’ve only knitted about 10cm) and knitting a hat instead or starting the scarf again with a different yarn. Any advice? Should I just get over it and knit it anyway?
Edited to re-upload photo

Friday, 16 November 2007

Flashback Friday

In an attempt to get me blogging more regularly, and also because I love looking through old photo albums, I have joined the Flashback Friday pool on Flickr.

This week's theme is Travel Bug.

In 1979, when I was a year old, my Dad got a job in Vanuatu so we packed up our house in Auckland (Mum, Dad and me) and set off for what must have seemed like an endless tropical holiday. A couple of years later after my brother was born, my Dad was transferred to the Solomon Islands. I spent my first year of school in Honiara attending an international primary school. We arrived back in NZ in 1984 and settled near family in Rotorua.

So, with a childhood like that you would expect that I would have lots of pictures of planes and airport farewells to fit the theme, but there don't seem to be any in the albums I have. I do recall a great picture of my parents posing with me and my grandparents outside our house in Auckland shortly before we left for Vanuatu, but that photo must be in my Mum's albums.

Instead you will have to settle for a couple of pictures of me travelling slightly shorter distances on my tricycle.

Here are a couple of photos of me racing around our flat in Vanuatu in 1980 aged about 2 1/2, still dressed in my nightie and with the remains of breakfast on my face. Obviously riding my bike trumped all other things like getting dressed or washing my face! I don't really remember living in this flat but the painting on the wall still hangs in my Dad's house today. I love the decor, especially the orange shaggy rug and the patterned curtains.

My Dad took these photos on his brand new camera - a couple of pages earlier in the album is a picture of me and him at the camera shop picking 0ut his Olympus SLR. He must have still had the new photographer eagerness happening when he took these shots because I noticed when I took the photos out of the album to scan them that he had written the camera settings he'd used on the back of each.

Thursday, 15 November 2007


Without really meaning to I've started collecting buttons. I saw a big lot selling for peanuts on TradeMe and since then I've picked up a few here and there at op shops and antique shops. When I got them out to sort through the other day I realised I've amassed quite a few.

The collection is still lacking in bright coloured buttons. Lots of grey and black and white though.

Here's the first thing I made with those buttons from TradeMe and some black waxed thread:

I LOVE this necklace. The black and brown means I can wear it with lots of things. I always get interesting comments when I wear it too - some people are amazed that I'd want to wear buttons as jewellery, others really like it. One guy at work once said "at least if you loose a button on your clothes, you'll have a spare one handy"!

This is another necklace that I almost finished and then decided it didn't sit right. I found it stashed with my other buttons when I took them out to sort through. I still really like these big red buttons so I think I'll have to rethink the placement of them - maybe big ones only at the bottom, graduating to smaller red ones around the sides.

And this is my red button bracelet which I also wear a lot. It's on stretchy elastic cord and you can move the buttons around to get it sitting just right. Its a good one to wear to work because you can play with it during long meetings...

I didn't make this breaclet - I bought it at the last Crafting event in June at Pataka in Porirua. Which reminds me, there is another Crafting on this weekend (Saturday 17th from 10-4). I'm planning on going along. And this time I might even pluck up the courage to say hello to some of my fellow bloggers who'll be there.

Oh and in case you were wondering - I've started using one of my knitted dishcloths and it's holding up OK so far. No gross bits stuck in it yet Jessicah! Its textured surface is good for scrubbing and I can squeeze it out much easier than the sponge we used to use so it dries a lot quicker. I'm a convert! Off to buy more bamboo yarn today to knit some more.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Knitted dishcloths

I've joined the knitted dishcloth bandwagon.

These are both knitted from bamboo yarn using the Grandmothers Favorite Dishcloth pattern from here and the Stockinette Triangles Dishcloth pattern from here. They were quick and easy to knit up - each one took about 2 episodes of Greys Anatomy on DVD to knit (so I guess about 2 hours). I think these could be addictive.

They also look lovely draped over my kitchen tap. Now if I could only bring myself to use one and get my handiwork dirty...

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Beading fun

Went to a class at our local bead shop yesterday and made this (click on it for a bigger image to see the detail):

This is the first time I've tried making a linked necklace and it was a lot of fun and not as hard as I thought it would be. The hardest part was choosing which beads to use! I think variations of this necklace could be good Christmas presents this year. I haven't made the total handmade pledge but I am trying to make/bake as many of our presents this year as I can.

I am off out of town for work for a few days and in my rush to finish packing this morning I forgot to pack my camera or my knitting. So there won't be much happening on the craft front for a few days.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Baby blankets

I didn't get very far with my knitting this week, so I thought I'd show you a completed project from early last year. I made two embroidered blankets for my husband's aunt and uncle who were having twin boys.

The pattern is taken from this Australian book by Gloria McKinnon (it seems to now be out of print - I bought my copy from TradeMe).

I used dark blue merino fabric for the blankets and backed them with quilting cotton. The bear is made of velour fabric, with appliqued detail and the flowers are embroidered with wool. In the book the blankets are quite small (bassinette sized), but I made these ones big enough to fit a cot as I thought this size would be more useful.

While this book has nice design ideas, it is really aimed at people who already know embroidery stitches so I ended up constantly referring to a stitch dictionary each time I had to do a different stitch. This was the first time I'd done embroidery other than cross stitch and I struggled at first with wanting my stitches to be "perfect" and look exactly like the picture in the book. It took me a while to realise it didn't matter if my buttonhole stitches were uneven - they still looked fine and no-one else would notice.

Monday, 29 October 2007

A thank you gift

A few weeks ago just before I started this blog, Jessicah at Spinning A Yarn blogged about a felt kowhai flower that she had made. I commented on her post and said she'd inspired me to make some felt native flowers for a pram mobile. In response to my comment Jessicah kindly offered to send me the kowhai to start me off. A coouple of days later I received the kowhai flower (even lovelier than in the photo), a kowhai stencil she'd made at the same time and a lovely card encouraging me to take the plunge and start blogging.

I haven't yet made a start on the flower mobile, but I have sketched a few ideas in my notebook.

This weekend I made something to thank Jessicah for her lovely gesture. I've been interested in making pincushions for a while because I thought they'd make good Christmas gifts (after all, what sewer doesn't need another pincushion?). I made this flower pincushion for Jessicah loosely following the tutorial I found here. It's made out of vintage cotton and vintage buttons with a felt stalk/hanging loop. I had a lot of fun making this. Hope you enjoy using it Jessicah!