Monday, April 27, 2009

Signing off

Hi Guys, just popping in to sign off for a bit. I have school camp for the rest of this week. We are off to the Grampians - lovely place - cold as cold this time of year though, so I fully expect to be sleeping in my beanie and scarf as I have done on previous trips. Its very fetching actually.

Of course late yesterday afternoon it dawned on me, that with the weather forecast to rain for the whole week, there might be a little less abseiling , canoeing and general outdoory-ness than I imagined and a bit more - sitting in the dining room playing board (bored?) games....

So some camp-friendly hand sewing was called for......

With inspiration from Andi, who in turn got her inspiration from Alissa I rustled up this quilt top.
Thanks so much girls....

I realise it would have been better balanced with another row at the bottom but I am out of time on this one.

Brisbane Stitches and Craft show is about to get underway and even though I won't be there - my Kinder Boy and Girl patterns will be there, in the incubator with Sandra of Winterwood.
Of course the selvedge frock will be there, showing off and hopefully looking gorgeous.
I'll be thinking of all the crafty girls having a great time at the Stitches and Craft show without me. But I have my hand sewing taken care of so I can look forward to a few freezing cold wet days, lolling by the fire calmly stitching away...... Just me, a few teachers oh !
and about seventy very excited 11 year olds.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Obsolete, Abandoned
and left to decay
green robot by Mimi Kirchner
Mimi Kirchner's works of art never cease to amaze me. To say I adore her work would be an understatement. Her work is just so incredibly good.
I have been sitting here for ten minutes trying to make sense of what it is about her work that I wanted to tell you about, to explain why I love it..
It is this:
Every piece of Mimi's work evokes an emotional response in me. Her collaborations of wool and felt and buttons and stuffing and doo-dads makes me actually feel something.
I want to gently prise this fellow from his damp bed, brush him down and take him inside. I would wipe away the moss and mud and maybe oil his limbs a little. I would clear a shelf in the sewing room where he could rest his days away in the sun. I would collect small keys and metal parts to keep him company and cheer his little metal heart.
Go and visit Mimi, lose the day trawling through her blog, it will be worth it I promise

Friday, April 24, 2009

Soft and subtle

I have a friend who is a bit unwell at the moment. Unfortunately, she is having some major headache troubles is really disturbed by light. Of course she can't spend all her life in a darkened room, especially as she is off visiting so many doctors so I thought I'd whip up something to help her in the car.

I got some beautiful linen and a deliciously soft piece of minkee....You can see where I was headed can't you, something soft and subtle with a little bit of girliness.

All I can say is it takes some skill to make something this ugly.
(Oh man is she going to freak out her kids)

Monday, April 20, 2009

When the planets align

You know the planets are aligned when you suggest a trip to Melbourne that involves a visit to a patchwork shop and Mr Ric-Rac enthusiastically agrees and wonders if I could possibly manage to drag the visit out for at least an hour so he can pop off and do something in the next suburb!

Could I?

thankfully the shop was Amitie. Now if this is a place you have to get stranded in , you are onto something wonderful.
This was my first trip to the store and I was greeted like an old friend and introduced to everyone in the shop, in fact I am still not sure who was working, who was browsing and who was shopping. Everyone was chatting and sharing and laughing and running out to put money in parking meters. The shop itself is lovely - lots of room and bright and airy...... even their scraps look good.

I ran into PatchAndi there who showed me the quilt top she had made the night before (go over to her blog she has already finished it). I just kind of murmured over all the quilt discussions as it is soooooo not my strong point. I love the off set little pictures in each block though. Andi had just popped in during her lunch break (How dangerous would that be?)

Did you Australian bloggers know you can join Amities VIP Blog group? I have been a member for ages and four times a year I get a little parcel with fabric inside, sometimes a pattern-always something to get excited about. I always forget about it in between times and then it is a great surprise when it arrives . (Hmmm I sound like such a Nanna don't I?)

I bought surprisingly little fabric while I was there.....but that is because I was on a mission......

Oh yes - this stuff is divine. Beautiful over dyed wool. As soon as I saw this on Amitie's blog I could not get it out of my head. They got it in especially for a class But this stuff is screaming toys to me.

It is the most seriously delicious stuff I have seen in ages. I also have the most beautiful dark squid ink purple that I am busting to use. I haven't got any real ideas for the toys yet , I'm just letting it all brew away in the brain for now.

Remember Milton, and his SISTER ? Well while I was sewing with the wool felt for their faces I totally fell in love with it and placed a teeny tiny order with Sandra over at Winterwood. It arrived today. Annie was at my place after work checking out how tidy my sewing room is (as a result of the EITTTS) and we opened the felt.........

and the planets aligned. This wonderful stuff combined with the wools I got at Amitie???

Oh man, somethings brewin'

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From my sick bed.....

So the EITTTS is still raging and I am also suffering that weird Sunday night before you have to go back to work after two weeks holidays malaise.

I know regular people would have all their clothes organised (I have a clean bra). Their bag tidied and freshly packed ( I found mine ) and their plans and strategies outlined and highlighted. (I'm planning more of a go-with-the-flow kinda term).

However, I do have a slew (what a fantastic word) of goodies to share with you.
First off I got a great pressie a while back (embarrassingly long ago) from my A+++ student at the Stitches and Craft show. The gorgeous Sandra , was absolutely the best kind of student to have - she just "got it' and wasn't scared to take know just indulging in a bit of free-motion embroidery on the side...
So, as if just getting to have her in my class wasn't enough - she made me this fantastic selvedge notebook cover ! Like I said...she "got it". After the show she went home and started her own blog !!!!!

Catherine from Swan Hill popped into Ballarat recently to do a class, so of course Rachel, Annie and I hijacked a fair bit of her time, talked her ears off and fed her takeaway pizza.

After all this ---- she thanks me with this gorgeous scarf (These are totally my colours and I will quite possibly wear it to work tomorrow).

I expect (and hope) to see more of this crazy woman.

Sorry, but speaking of crazy women, The wonderful Michelle sent me the mother load of gifts.
I sent her a you get that? a (singular) pattern. In return she sent me so many goodies. One of her patterns, and a gorgeous hand painted face so I could complete it. Another gorgeous hand printed panel that I think is destined to be a bag.....and a wee little box......

and inside ! Isn't she gorgeous...I am getting myself some of more these as soon as they hit Michelle's shop.

Now Miss Holly, I have left you for last because I cannot believe what you sent me.
Do you see Mrs Rabbit and her baby? This is, apparently Holly's first attempt at needle felting.

(I have done needle felting once or twice and remember posting my first attempt, lets just say I will not be trawling the blog looking for that photo to show you a comparison- I think I managed a fruit )

These two are just gorgeous and they even have their own little blanket for a picnic.

(Now, everybody stop being so nice to me, you are freaking me out!)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Doctor Craft - or why that tutorial is not actually done yet

Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen to our first informative session with Doctor Craft.
Todays case whilst not unusual, is often misdiagnosed.

The patient (lets call her Jodie) presented as slightly distressed and obviously in need of expert medical attention.
She carried with her, the remains of what she says was to be a messenger style bag. I observed a collaboration of fabrics and vinyl, obviously sewn and unpicked many times.

She claims she had made one recently and it worked fine, she went on to say that she had also helped a friend make one. Again it was fine. But this third attempt had, I have to say, gone horribly wrong. I have seen some horrors in my time but this shocked, even me.
An interesting case.
Was she just a woman with delusions of craft grandeur? Did she really make those others successfully?
The patient was concerned that this string of abject failures may have to result in a total craftectomy . She felt her identity was so tied up in her craft that she could not be left craft-less. She felt she would be losing part of herself. She seemed to be a little hysterical at this point and I felt there may be more to the story.

It turns out, and it obviously pained her to admit it.....that she had spent the whole afternoon trying to make a small zippered pouch. She explained to me that she had made so many of these in her time that she should be able to do it in her sleep. She has even written tutorials showing other people how to make them. Again, after three attempts......unmitigated disaster.

I turned from the project in horror.

Although I didn't feel that a craftectomy was called for in this case, when presented with someone of such obvious mental frailty, there is certainly some argument for total removal of the crafting gene, if only to lessen the distress when things go wrong.

After some consulatation among my peers, I was able to accurately diagnose, (much to the patients relief), a common but somewhat severe case of EITTTS .

EITTTS (Everything I touch turns to sh*t),
While a quite distressing and sometimes frequently reoccurring problem, it is totally harmless. Over time, and with due diligence, crafters often begin to self-diagnose and also learn to treat themselves in the comfort of their own homes.

A range of therapies, including chocolate eating, beer drinking, book reading, movie watching, life having and couch sitting have been known to be effective. These treatments may be employed as often as needed and in whichever configuration best suits the patient . The reading of craft magazines and books is permitted so long as it does not result in the patient beginning any new projects. In that event, all magazines and books of a crafting nature should be taken from the patient for their own good......
Ladies and Gentlemen, keep an eye on your loved ones and keep an eye out for the signs of Early Onset EITTTS .

It may not be curable.........but it is treatable
See you in our next episode where the enigmatic Doctor will look at the perplexing question......How many projects are too many?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In the nick of time....

What seems like about a hundred years ago, I made a new handbag (its over there on the sidebar, the one-hour bag tutorial).
Well, I have been carrying that bag ever since. Each school holidays I vow to Annie that I will make a new bag to return to work. Then, of course something more exciting comes along and the bag goes to the bottom of the to-do list again.

So after giving myself a good talking to , I made a new bag for work......and the best thing about it apart from the deliciousness of the Aunty Cookie print, is that it is hands free.
(front flap covered in vinyl)

(large back pocket and there are pockets under the front flap as well.)

I carried it about yesterday and I adore being hands free..... it is just so unfussy!.

I am in love with this bag and am running a private one - woman workshop on Friday.
(That just means I am going to Annie's and we are going to make another one together but it sounds posh when I write it like that!)

Whilst I can't promise this is a one hour finish, I could do a tutorial if you like.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Step 4- Dissection!

Step 4 is all about the things that didn't work or could be improved on next time. This is where my anal tendencies abandon me. I really should write things down at this point, so when I revisit an idea in 6 months or so I can remember how I did it and what I need to change.

So although I am reasonably happy with how Milton turned out, there were a few details I thought could be improved on.

The shoes were a bit weird, I only made them from the front view. Next time I need to add sides and backs of shoe somehow as well.

Milton's hands - I liked the shape but sewing those weeny fingers was just ridiculous and the stitching looks pretty bad up close. Maybe I need to make mitten style hands.

I also think the joining seam (currently on one of Milton's back corners would be better in the middle of his back. It would be easier to sew for one thing and may make the back look more like two legs....

So armed with all this I made a new person. This was the person I thought of halfway through the making of Milton.

I think the shoes are a definite improvement.

I really love the puff sleeves and box pleats ( but I need to remember to start box pleats in the middle and work out if I want them to be centred properly....)

I like her less rectangular shape

I really want to love her,

but this face is just wrong!

So I tried this one - I like it much better, less pretty - I like the nose and mouth.....but I might lose those eyelashes......

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Step 3 - The actual sewing

Step 3.

Certainly for Milton this step was the easiest part of the project. As I said, halfway through the poor fellow almost got abandoned for a new shinier idea but here is he is in all his Milton glory.

The sewing process for Milton was reasonably straight forward I just had to be sure to sew it from the front to the back. That means the black of the eye to the blue of the eye and then the blue to the white and then the white to the face. This means I was only ever sewing through the least number of layers possible.

I started with Milton's face as you saw in the last post because to me, that seemed like it would be the hardest part. I usually start with the bit that I think is going to be hardest, (or the bit I am most excited about) just in case I cannot make it happen. There is nothing worse than spending ages on something only to stuff it up.

Yes, the observant among you will notice he lost his red glasses. He felt he needed something more manly once I put him into a mauve shirt!
(That's a Teflon foot on my machine-especially for sewing plastic stuffs and yes I have just realised how crooked that sewing line on the glasses really was - ! )

(see I unpicked that bit and fixed it)

One of the things I have learnt from doing this little Milton-a-long is how much of my "making" happens before I get anywhere near the sewing machine.

Whilst I still go off on crazy half cooked ideas, I do tend to spend more time preparing for a project than I realised. Apart from the incredible grumpiness I share when something goes wrong, maybe this is part of the time constraint as well. If I am finding the time to make things (and we all know that is often the hardest thing to find) I really do want it to work out.

I also find, that as frustrating as step 2 is, it is often the part I enjoy the most.....I enjoy trying to see if I can make something work and step 2 helps build that crazy library of knowledge that crafters hang on to , the knowledge of what works and what doesn't, which fabric does what - all those things that we learn by trial and error.

Milton, once I got to this step was reasonably straight forward. That is not to say I am totally happy with him or that he can't be improved upon. All that comes in the last and final step.

Onto Step 4- Where did I go wrong- Or the dissection of Milton.
(not for the faint of heart)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Step 2. Fantasy versus Reality or Will it really work?

For me Step 2 is where it often gets ugly. This is the most dangerous point if you are a project at my place, the point at which you are statistically most likely to be abandoned*
This is where I have been percolating an idea in my head for some time and now need to try and bring it into reality. Often my ideas are simply not do-able due to my lack of skills, lack of materials or just because they are ridiculously impossible.

Getting it on paper.
The biggest problem I have with this step is the fact that I cannot draw. I see other people little snippets of their sketch books and things on blogs and I groan..... I know I draw badly so I have learnt to live with it. I know what I mean to draw...... but my hand and brain just don't communicate.
I tend to draw on whatever piece of paper is handy, and with whatever pen/pencil/finger dipped in blood is nearest. I have so many sticky notes with little faces and things on them it is ridiculous.

BUT for me getting it onto paper is really important. I have folders of crazy stupid bits of paper. Ideas that I have had that did or didn't work, ideas yet to see the light of day and things that will probably never even get attempted.

I draw them, write them down, annotate them, leave notes for myself about them. These folders are a great tool, and I often flick through them when I am bit lost in the crafting jungle or feeling mojo-less. I tend to think of so many things that I want to try and create that I force myself to put everything on paper......once it is on paper, I know that I can come back to it, so I can let it go and move on.
(At this point you need to know that I often draw and re-draw things a few different ways and the whole project might change. *This time I hit upon a far better idea and normally would have rushed straight into it and forgotten poor Milton ,but he is the star of this series so I have decided to keep him till he's finished.)

Once I have a few things on paper I turn to materials. Often the project dictates the materials, does it need to be soft, is it going to be played with? Colours? textures? For Milton, I want to add a bit of detail so I have a few options.
1. Embroidery - Definitely not my forte and not quite the look I am going for. So if I am going to add the detail with fabric I need something that won't fray.

2. Fleece - Oh man I want to love fleece, I see the amazing plush creations that people
make using fleece and I really really want to use it. It is versatile and it doesn't fray
(very important for this project). So here is where I start to play.

I take the fleece that I have in the house (at this point colour and shape don't matter) and experiment with it. I sew it to itself and to some other fabrics. I try a few things like raw edge applique, blanket stitch and just a folded over and sew style. But in the end I don't love any of it.

3. Felt - The felt I have that I use for my dolly hair ,whilst gorgeous, is just not robust enough for Milton, I do have some great stuff I got from Winterwood though. I rummage through
and find a flesh coloured piece and finally feel I am on the right track.
OK. So I fiddle through the cupboards, waiting for something else to leap out at me...Eventually I end up with a mix of vinyl, denim, fabric and felt.

I then spend some time, again, sewing them to each other to make sure it will all work before I launch into the project.
Am I always this anal? No, not really but working with things like vinyl can be tricky so I like to make sure before I......
make a quick trip to spotlight (because I seem to have to buy something for every bloody project I start) and get a bit more vinyl.

I test out a few things...Can I free motion embroider on vinyl? Yep turns out I can. I probably won't for Milton but at least now I know I can if I want to.

.....anyway that's kind of like what step 2 is all about for me, just experimenting a bit and fiddling a bit before I can get down to the sewing. This step often takes me just as long as the actual construction.....who said anal?????

(That would be step 3- Actually bloody starting!)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Doctors flannel -update

Hi Guys,
Sorry to interrupt the Milton series.....

Just popping in to give a little update on the patterns. Some people are finding the doctors flannel for dollies hard to come by - I get mine here. from Ballarat Patchwork. It is delicious stuff.

I have also made a flickr group for people to post pictures of their kinder girls and boys when they are made. It is a funny feeling seeing "my dolls" popping up made by other people. They are the same but different if you know what I mean.

Did you see Michelle's tea set that she made her mum for mothers day? It is fantastic.....

So here I am in my P.J's and not-for-public-consumption dressing gown, with a cup of tea, on the first day of school holidays. Two cats are wrestling behind me, the teenagers are still in bed , I have Milton to work on today, I am getting emails from people showing me what they have made with the my patterns ........and I am feeling like a proud mama.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

STEP 1 - But where does it come from?

I want to make a doll - not like my normal dolls- a different doll.

A doll with details.

I thought it might be interesting (or possibly as boring as bat poop) to share the whole process with you guys over a few posts. It may even help me to work through some of the "problems" this way...and in a way I can revisit later I guess.
(Be warned: it could take a while and you know I am prone to craft-related tantrums.)

Step 1: Where does the initial idea come from?

So here's the background- I sew - a LOT! I sew weird things sometimes, chip packets, laminating sheets, tape measures etc. This means my sewing machine seems to visit the sewing machine repair man quite often. In fact, over time I have developed a crazy on-the-phone type relationship with Milton the sewing machine man.

I never bother to give full and detailed descriptions of the problems on the little sheet provided when I drop off the machine because I know Milton will ring and he will understand my discussion of thingos and doo-dads and you-know-that-weird-little-wire-bit-just-under-where-you-bring-the-thread-up-again....

Milton speaks my language.

I may have mentioned my "love" of Milton at the local patchwork shop after he had returned my machine from what I thought was certain death. Have you ever met him they asked?
I haven't ! That got me to wondering? Was Milton young, not so young? I imagined a Milton. Milton had a moustache.

I decided to make a Milton.

That's it! So that little project gets tucked into the overflowing back-of-the mind list of projects where it bubbles along. Occasionally I will see something or think something and add it to the "Milton" file. A collar and tie? Some tools?

At some point, maybe I find the right bit of fabric, or maybe something like an upcoming birthday means that the project gets to see the light of the sewing room. Then it is time to try and get the ideas out of the brain and into reality, but thats Step 2.
(stay tuned, this step was the easy bit. Step 2 is the one that often ends in tears, it is Fantasy versus Reality)