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.