Monday, 24 December 2012

Silent night

All is calm.

All is bright.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.  See you in 2013.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Retro revival

Time for another sewing show and tell.  This gorgeous silky fabric originally formed the skirt part of a floor length maternity dress that my mother made for herself.  Once she no longer needed the dress, as thrifty mothers do, she removed the zip and stashed the material only for me to discover it and repurpose it a few decades later.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of her wearing it when she was expecting, and I forgot to take a photo before I took the seams apart so you'll just have to imagine a basic A-line skirt cut on the bias with a split where the zip would have been.

I love everything about this fabric, the pattern, the colours and thought it would make a great tunic. Because the fabric is really old and was stored for years without adequate protection, there were a few moth-eaten patches, so it was a very careful exercise to cut my own self-drafted sleeve and bodice pieces around the holes.

The front worked out well, the bias cut drapes well and I like the fluted sleeves.  I would have preferred the sleeves to be a little longer, but I was constrained by how much useable fabric there was to work with.  I had just enough fabric left for the neckline facing and bias binding.  It was meant to be.

Of course, there had to be several holes right in the middle of the back bodice and there was no way to avoid them, so the only option for me was to cut out a keyhole back.

Excuse the poor photo, it's really hard to photograph yourself and hide the mess in the background (heehee). Maybe one day I might be bold enough to wear the top back to front (ha!).

Degree of difficulty: This was my first time upcycling a garment and it was largely painless, surprisingly
Time taken: I forgot to take note of the time, maybe 4 hours, most of which was spent cutting around holly fabric (Autocorrect kept wanting to change that word from holey, it's Christmas, let's go with it)
Result: It's my go-to top when we go out (which is never, but if we were to go out, this would be my go-to top).

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

We washi you a Merry Christmas

After noticing the Santa sign on Aimee's door, the other bedroom door was feeling left out. These doves were inspired by a washi tape bird that I saw on the internet.

I didn't just wake up this morning and was suddenly able to draw, unfortunately, so I printed out a dove template from the internet and drew two outlines on the door. I really must remember to rub out the pencil marks before I take photos.

To achieve this look, I cut some striped tape into thin strips and criss-crossed them.  I soon got tired of that, so I cheated and cut the lime tape and spotted tape to size for the rest.

I like the way it looks when the light hits it.

Cost: $0
Time taken: 1 hour to make one
Result: Let there be peace on earth one washi dove at a time.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Patchwork crochet blanket

Give the lady a beer.  It's done.  It took 13 hours to stitch the squares together and then add the border, so I was MIA this weekend.  My husband, as patient as he is, is pretty pleased to have his wife back.  When I tallied up the total amount of time it took to make this blanket, he said, "Now multiply that by the minimum wage".  Point taken.  But isn't crafting as a hobby more about the enjoyment rather than any monetary gain?

Anyway, I am really pleased with how the blanket turned out, it's exactly as I imagined it to look even with a couple of happy mistakes.  Two squares are out of sequence because I crocheted a flower using white yarn rather than red, but you would never know unless I told you.  I also stitched the squares with the right sides facing rather than the prescribed wrong sides together so the raised ridges are on the back of the blanket.  It just looks nicer to me to have a smooth seam on the front.

However, just to spoil my party, my aching shoulder was the annoying uninvited guest who just refused to leave and now my wrist has pulled up a chair next to it.  Crochet - hazardous to your health. I might have to learn to crochet using my left hand.  Or my elbow.

Here is the amended Krista throw pattern that was helpfully compiled by members of a crochet support group on Facebook.  I have asked permission to post a link to it.  I wish I had waited and worked from this updated guide instead of enduring weeks of working from mistake-riddled patterns. It is a massive file, be warned, but the instructions are clear, there are step-by-step photographs and it will make for a much better crochet experience.

Cost: nearly my marriage
Time taken: Four and a half weeks
Result: I love it and I double dare anybody to disagree.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Paper baubles

Owing to the untimely deaths of some baubles in my disastrous wreath-making exercise, our Christmas tree is still looking a little bare in places so I had a go at making some paper baubles.

I used the paper from our weekend magazine, it's a bit better quality than newspaper so the newsprint doesn't smudge once glued.  To make the circles, I used a shot glass as a template (it doesn't see any other use nowadays, sadly).

Then I blew up a water balloon and started glueing the circles onto it, overlapping them and working my way around until the whole balloon was covered.

The font size and style worked really well.  Yes, some panels are upside down, and no, it wasn't intentional.

Then I decided to make more colourful ones.  Here is one in tonal greens using paper from the same magazine:

And in what could be a world first, I made some chevron ornaments.  You saw them here first people.  These were paper bags that I had left over from Sienna's birthday party.  They looked better in my head.

Cost: $0
Time taken: 30 minutes to make one
Result: Our Christmas tree looks very, um, rustic??!  Ok, it totally looks like we can't afford Christmas decorations, but I kinda like it, as do the girls.  My job here is done.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

DIY Christmas gift labels

Less than two weeks until Christmas and I have not started my shopping yet.  Nothing like a bit of last minute hunting for meaningful gifts amongst the heaving crowds to really make it feel like it's Christmas.

I've been having one of those mornings when I probably should have been out shopping/gardening/doing anything other than what I did.  As you know, my poor chair is still unpainted, and I had some colour charts just sitting there begging to be looked at. Again.  So, using an idea I saw on the internet, I cut them up and made some gift labels for my non-existent presents.  That will teach you to nag at me, Colour chart.

I even went all out and made a Pretend Gift to go with the Real Tag just so you can see what the labels look like.  I'm committed, dear readers.

Time taken: 2 minutes
Cost: $0.  Not only have I saved you one whole dollar for some store-bought ones, but when you get to the part of wrapping up your own last-minute gifts late on Christmas Eve and realize you don't actually have any gift tags, you have also been spared from the need to get in your car, drive all the way across town, struggle to find a carpark, stand in line for half an hour and be served by a disinterested clerk behind the counter who doesn't actually mean it when they say Merry Christmas.  You're welcome).
Result: Cheap and cheerful.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rua tekau ma toru, rua tekau ma whā, rua tekau ma rima

Ka rawe!  Génial!  Yee-hah Grandma!  In anyone's language, it's feeling pretty darned good to make it to the final few blocks!  Here they are:

The final flower on block 23:

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 45 minutes
Result: This is my favourite-est flower of them all.

The penultimate block:

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 45 minutes
Result: Not my best work, hopefully with a bit of yank in a few different directions, it will hold its shape better.

At last!  The final block is upon us.  It was an easy one to finish with using just one stitch - the double treble crochet.

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 35 minutes
Result: Granny square on steroids.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, those daily crochet posts must have felt like pulling teeth there for a bit (it certainly felt that way for me), but we are nearly out the other side.

You'll see that these squares have a bit of curling going on around the edges.  In my gallop to the finish line, I photographed these ones without blocking them first.  Blocking is a process to help the squares stay flat, usually by pinning them to a firm surface, spraying them with a fine mist of water and then allowing them to dry.  There are probably plenty of tutorials demonstrating this step already, but please leave a comment if you would like me to show you how I do this.

After I've blocked the ones above, I will stitch the squares together and show you what you have all been wanting to see - the finished blanket.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Button wreaths

Determined to try and find a way to include my children in a wreath-making exercise, I decided to downsize the previous project and use buttons instead.  This was much easier and there was no chance that they would burn themselves on hot glue.

Firstly, I cut some black card into circles using a breakfast bowl as the template for the larger circle and a ramekin for the inner circle.

Even though all three girls took part in this activity with me and were sitting close together, we all managed to come up with different coloured wreaths.

Sienna wanted her wreath to be in the Christmas colours so she snaffled all the red and green buttons for her one:

It made me smile that Aimee chose to place her buttons in an orderly fashion around her one, being quite the methodical child that she is:

Renee also chose to use an array of coloured buttons:

I made one just from red buttons. Once the glue had dried (this took hours in the case of Sienna and Aimee who drowned their buttons in it), I attached some ribbon in different lengths and hung them up today.


This was an activity that we all really enjoyed.  Simple really is best sometimes.

Time taken: 10-30 mins
Cost: Averages out to roughly $4 per wreath
Result: I love how they are all unique.

Bauble wreath

I intended for this to be a nice, communal activity with my children this weekend.  The reality was that I was left to carry this out by all myself as the girls all scattered like mice once they saw my shirt ripping and my skin change to a nice shade of green.  They are very perceptive, my children.

It makes me laugh how it all seemed so easy to do at first glance.  Automatically be suspicious of any tutorial that only has a photo of the finished product and has instructions that use the words 'in no time at all'.  I am here to reveal the cold, hard truth.  This wreath took ages.

I had to make two attempts fashioning a circle out of a wire coat hanger after the first one died a very slow and painful death when I tried to bend it into shape by hand.  Don't. Do. That.  If you have a penchant for coat hangers, please look away now.  The following photo is not pretty.

Rest in peace, my old friend, rest in peace

On the second attempt, I grew a brain and used a pair of pliers.  Much easier.  I also got to reacquaint myself with the glue gun, a tool I hadn't used in years.

During this activity, I discovered that not all baubles are created equal. The loops at the top of some of them were slightly too small to feed on the coat hanger and would snap - not all the time but just enough times to make me hiss.  If they did not break, the entire clasp would come loose instead and I'd be left holding the bauble in my hand with the clasp dangling on the coat hanger.

Off to join Coat hanger in the Christmas decoration graveyard

Here is a look at the wreath almost completed.  If, by some small miracle, you are tempted enough to try this for yourselves, save yourselves a lot of heartache and glue the clasps to the baubles before you start to thread them onto the coat hanger.  Or, do yourselves a favour and just go to the shop and buy one.

Monstrosity or masterpiece - I really can't tell?!  I'll let the thief plundering the neighbourhood at the moment decide.  If it's still hanging up on the front door in the morning, it's a pretty safe bet it's ugly.

Time taken: 3 hours
Cost: $17 (I used 45 baubles for this wreath and had a truckload left over so I was able to decorate our tree with the remaining ones)
Result: It looks cheap and nasty. Maybe it might look better without the pendant baubles? I'm deluding myself - not even the nice silver ribbon can save it.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Washi, you make my heart sing

You make everything groovy, washi.

I fully intended to include the children in most, if not all, of the advent activities I had planned, but today, I couldn't resist getting out the washi tape and creating while the girls were at school.  I just cannot get enough of this stuff.

The girls might not even get a chance to get their hands on it again before I use it all up.

Time taken: 40 mins
Cost: $0
Result: I might keep the sign up all year round.

Dauddeg, dauddeg un, dauddeg dau

Block 20 was quite a repetitive pattern using a v-stitch.  My finished one seems to be more elongated than the block in the pattern photo - I hope it doesn't come back to haunt me when I crochet the squares together...

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 1 hour
Result: An interesting pattern (by interesting I meant boring).

A crochet hook twice the size of the one I am using was specified for Block 21, but, (possibly with the exception of the one pictured above), it doesn't really seem to have mattered that I have used the same sized hook all the way through.

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 45 minutes
Result:  I like this one.

Block 22 reminded me of the square I did way back here. The flower hides the pattern underneath, but it really is very similar.  Another small error was found in round 2 (what is with that??  The Row of Certain Doom) and in round 4.  In spite of that, I really enjoyed crocheting this one.  It was quite dark and dreary when I took these photos so I think the camera finally captured the true colour of the yarns used for this blanket:

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 45 minutes
Result: Another favourite.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

World's most uninviting entrance

I debated whether or not to blog about this but I think a little public shaming might be just what I need to do something about it.

This is our front entry.  It's not just you, I shudder looking at it too.

Not very welcoming is it?  Feng and Shui certainly don't live here.  This area doubles as our garage, which is code for general dumping ground; there is no suitable storage and I could be describing myself here but it Could. Be. So. Much. Better.

It's likely that this will be an ongoing project over the next few months. It has taken us 8 years to paint the front door but I am pleased to report that I have made a start on that.  I know exactly how I want this space to look, it is just a case of finding storage solutions that fit, are functional, affordable and gorgeous and that both my husband and I agree upon.  See what I am working with here?  Not an easy task.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Hope Jars

I'm not going to lie, my kids are awesome, but I'm the first to admit there are times when their behaviour towards each other and us is less than angelic.  Lately, I've been struggling with the old chestnut of getting them to tidy up after themselves.  I love that my children like to write, draw and cut up paper and I don't want to stymie their creativity, but it's the paper, pens, pencils and crayons that are left strewn everywhere afterwards and my repeated requests to pick them up that is starting to wear my patience a bit thin.  Sorry, neighbours.

Even shutting their clothes drawers would be a good start. I'd like to think it's a gene they have inherited from their dad (he's a fan of the floordrobe), but if I am honest, I was the messier one out of my twin sister and I so our kids never really stood a chance.

Mum had a clever strategy though. I shared a room growing up and my side only ever got cleaned under duress.  If I wanted something, she'd pointedly ask "Is your room tidy?".  Clever woman.  My children aren't at an age yet where I have got their specific currency worked out. I've tried taking away their pocket money.  No tv. No friends over after school.  I've picked up the items myself and confiscated them.  They. Don't. Care.  Nothing works.

I was chatting to another parent about this just recently and she suggested that I try positive reinforcement instead.  The plan is to give each of my girls a jar and each time that they clean up after themselves, or do as they are asked without dragging their heels and complaining, they get a colourful pompom.  Every time they misbehave or they fail to clean up, a pompom is removed.  At the end of the week, the person with the most pompoms gets to choose an activity for the whole family to participate in.

I used to read about these kinds of strategies in parenting magazines and just laugh to myself at how stupid and time-consuming it all sounded.  Just make them tidy up, it's not that hard!! Now that the birds have come home to roost, the pompom idea doesn't sound so silly after all. I'm calling them my Hope Jars, as in I really hope this works.  But more than that, it is my wish for my girls to carry that Christmas spirit of giving, showing kindness and being respectful towards others with them every day of the year.

Each jar has a label with a line from a Christmas carol on it (you'll recognize the letters from the spoons at Sienna's party):

I sat down with the girls to ask them what they thought about this idea and they seemed quite excited. Sienna even wiped down the kitchen table after our chat without even being asked. I'm liking this plan already.

Time taken: 30 minutes
Cost: $0
Result: I'll keep you posted.

Halfway through the second week - I really had my doubts about this gimmick, but it has been a pleasant surprise to find a parenting strategy that is actually working for us.  The chance to select a family activity at the end of the week is more of a motivator than accumulating pompoms for Sienna, but all of the girls are enjoying see their jars grow more colourful through the week and I am enjoying a calmer, tidier home.

Monday, 3 December 2012

सोलह, सत्रह, अट्ठारह, उन्निस

Just like Alison Moyet, I'm feeling all crocheted out.  So, I am going to give you the rest of the blocks LMNOP-style - you know, the bit in the alphabet where it goes faster than the rest of it. That way, we can get through this drudgy bit a little quicker.  I just want to get the blanket finished already, and I'm sure you want me to as well.

So, here are four completed blocks, numbers 16-19.

Just when you think you are getting the hang of crochet, they throw number 16 at you.  I tried, I really did but it still looks like a dropped pie.

Degree of difficulty: Rounds 3 and 4 require careful attention
Time taken: 1 hour
Result: See above photo - and then laugh.

There was another mistake in the pattern for block 17 (some instructions were printed twice in round two), but I could see that for myself and corrected it so maybe now I can elevate myself from novice crocheter to the ranks of beginner?  The white pattern in the middle is made using cluster stitches and the outer stitches are treble crochet stitches.

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 1 hour
Result: A bit like Kate's new 'do', I'm a little unsure on this one.

I am still scarred by the memory of block 16 and it doesn't help that I can actually see it on this page but here is my shining crochet moment.  It actually looks the one in the pattern photo.  I love you, block 18.

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 1 hour
Result: Another of my favourites.

Ok, block 19 looks a little sunken in the middle, but it's actually not, I just pulled a little too tightly on the tail when I weaved it in and didn't correct it before taking this photo.  I know you'll forgive me.  

Degree of difficulty: Easy
Time taken: 1 hour
Result: This would probably look better as one solid colour, but I wanted to use white to give balance when the blanket is put together.