Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017

First Thought

When I woke up today: "It's TOMORROW!!!"

Flight leaves at 11:20am, and then we will be en-route to a blissful reunion with the Steve. Can't believe it's really here at last.

When I asked Sophie if she was excited for her last day of kindy, she said: "No. I'm excited to see Dad. That's what's really exciting."

Expect some radio silence for a while. We are about to embark on a crazy adventure!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Christmas Dress

Given our travel plans for this years, I wasn't planning on making the girls anything Christmas related at all. I told Sophie this, and she was totally fine with it. Until I also told her that we were going to a few Christmas parties in the next few weeks.

"Mum! I need a Christmas dress to wear to the Christmas parties!"

So, I obliged. I managed to find a hand me down one for Rachel, this scrappy one I made last year (sorry Rachel, hand me down's again. Promise I'll make a new one next year.) Then I asked Sophie what kind of dress she wanted. I gave her two options, the A-line dress with buttons that is quick and easy (despite the buttons) and I've used before heaps, (see here, here, here and here) or the Knot Dress that I used to make the girls dresses back in April.

Sophie didn't want either of these. She asked for one like a dress she had in her cupboard, from my parents travels somewhere. It looked fairly easy, so I pulled it out, traced around the different bits and sewed it up in an hour. All right for an afternoon's work.

It's a pretty rubbish photo, but she does love it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Addiction Complete

The girls started playing Pokémon Go with Steve. He took them for a walk one day and then showed them how to catch things on his phone. Suddenly it was a thing. They asked to go for Poké-walks. They started to know all the names of the Pokémon. They knew more than me. Granted, all I really knew about Pokémon was that they evolved and there was a small yellow one called Pikachu, but even so!

I was a little against it at first, but it has actually been really lovely to go out with the girls on the weekends and walk around together. They love it, and we get to spend lots of time together outside. When we found out Steve was going to be away for six weeks, I knew that the girls wouldn't survive that long without a Poké-walk of some kind, so I even got it on my phone so we could play. 

It's been fun and I have loved seeing the girls expand the Pokémon into their own imaginary play too. They don't have any Pokémon specific toys, so their own stuffed toys became their Pokémon. It's been lovely beyond words, they don't need a Pikachu toy to have a Pikachu. Jungle Bear became Pikachu. The blue cow was now Snorlax. Rachel's Lady Bug was now Ledybar The little blue bear was now Squirtle. A little hard to keep up with I'll admit, but beautiful none the less. 

Anyway, given that their love for Pokémon is only expanding, I decided it was time to make them a little something. Time for sewing! 

Originally I was going to make two Pikachu, because I didn't want fights over this most-prized-of-all Pokémon, but lately, Sophie has been really into the Vulpix (Jungle Bear has even been renamed!) so I went with that. The picture below was my reference point. Sophie was very insistent that her Vulpix have red tones, not just brown. 

Image result for vulpix
Image from here.

Again, I used the Racoon Tutorial from Ikat Bag, who actually has a Menagerie pattern for this kind of thing (using a base pattern and manipulating it to make lots of different things), which I should totally buy, but just haven't yet for some reason. If you are interested in making soft toys though, it's a great place to start - some of the animals are amazing!

Rachel was pretty excited to be a part of the making process while Sophie was at kindy, but then they both got to help stuff them when Sophie got home. Sophie even held Vulpix's paw while I sewed up her back by hand and whispered things like: "It's ok Vulpix, it won't hurt for long" while I did it. 

I did want to make full size ones that are good and hugable for them (like Sophie's Tiger). Sophie especially likes to be able to give them hugs, but I rationalised that these would be coming with us on the long plane rides to the States in December, and a smaller size was much more travel appropriate. I did promise Sophie that I would make a larger one when we got back though. 

The girls are both over the moon excited about all of the Pokémon making potential and delighted at their first Pokémon. I think they want me to make them all. 

Pikachu looks a little out of proportion to me, I'm not sure why, and I know I should have put the ears on differently, but didn't realise that until it was finished. Oh well. I also regret assuming no one would see the stitching and using a dark coloured thread, because it's totally noticeable on the bright yellow Pikachu. So much regret! Rachel doesn't notice though.

I used safety eyes for the first time, and love how cool they look. Installation was not as scary as I thought. Looking forward to making bigger versions and more Pokémon in general. 

Hope you like them!

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Can you guess what I'm making?

I'm so excited! Finished product coming soon.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Long Distance

This is what I see of Steve now days.

Sophie misses him terribly. Even on the second day that he was gone she commented: "I miss Dad. Why does he have to be gone for so long?"

Nearly half way there. Slowly but surely, we will make it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Travel Sewing

Obviously, going travelling means sewing right? Well for me it did. When faced with the troubling prospect of organising and keeping safe all the different travel documents (passports, visas, car hire info, accommodation, tour bookings etc!) I was struck with the sudden realisation that we needed a document-holder-type-case. 

Now, before jumping to a sewing conclusion, I did investigate potential purchasing options. There was a pretty one in Kikki K that I coveted for quite a while, but in the end could not justify the $80 price tag. Even if I would use it again. Even when I looked online, I was put off by high price tags or expensive shipping costs. 

So, determined that I could make something just as good, I reviewed the sewing options by looking at the different cases and bags in iKat Bag's Zip a Bag collection. The Single Zipper Tape Pouch/Case seemed to be the best fit for what I was wanting. Namely that I would lay flat so I could get to everything, and also fold and zip to keep everything safe and sound. 

I did make a prototype which was using what I had lying around the house and was pretty hideous. But, it taught me some valuable lessons about how everything went together and confirmed some of the things that I knew I needed. After thinking that we might be able to get away with using the obscenely ugly prototype for about a week, we realised that the amount we were going to have to pull the thing out to use it in our travels would be such that it was worth a second try. 

So I went to Spotlight and splurged on some really pretty, heavy duty material and a new zip. Even with this splurging, the case came in under $20, so I'm pretty happy with that. I couldn't find a zip that was long enough to go all the way around (like in the tutorial), but I managed to MacGyver up a solution that works quite well. I possibly should have trimmed the bottom end of the zip, but it's extra length helps to distinguish between the top and the bottom of the pouch, so it stays for now. 

Hidden inside the layers, is some plastic that I ripped off the cover of an old art book. Under the advice of a good friend, I cut it in two and sewed it in sections so that it would fold easily. All advice was that the plastic would be too hard to sew through with the fabric and interfacing, so I glued it with basting spray. Then I went with my gut and tried to sew it anyway. I did succeed, so that plastic is going nowhere.

On the inside, each of the pockets has two lines of top stitching to make it pretty, which I used the shiny gold thread that I'd used in mum's confetti bunting for. The metallic thread was as tricky to sew with on fabric as it was on the cardboard. I did try to use it for the outside of the pouch as well, even so far as to try two strands of it at once for reinforcement, but to no avail.

I'm still so happy with how things turned out and that we have this great travel wallet for all the documents for the future. Totally worth the money on the fancy fabric.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Table Tent

Be warned: This is a long post.

I've been teasing you guys about this latest creation since the middle of October. Even though that's only four weeks ago, it feel like I've been working on it a lot longer than that. Maybe I have, but it can only be a few weeks longer, so, given the scope of this project, the fact that it only took six-ish weeks is pretty stellar.

I had seen ideas for this kind of thing on the internet before, (which is probably why, when people tell me I could sell a pattern, or start making them, I tell them I don't think so. It's not really my idea at all!), but we previously had a round-ish dining room table, that had all four legs doing some strange curvy thing into the middle before coming out again to support the table. It was not conducive to play at all.

Then our chairs fell apart. Then we got free ones from Steve's work. Then those chairs fell apart too. And for the first time in our lives, we were thinking about actually having to purchase dining room furniture. It was a little daunting even just thinking about it, let alone actually shopping for it. Thankfully, right as we needed to make a decision, the people who lived diagonally behind us announced that when they moved they wouldn't be taking a dining room set and would anyone like it, for free? Yes please! Let's put off being grown ups and buying dining room furniture just a little longer shall we? :D

The new dining room table has legs on the outside, and is rectangular. All the things it needs to be to allow for a table tent to be made. My time had come!

In an effort to continue using up the material in my stash, I started there. For a table tent, you need quite a lot of fabric, it's ideal for recycling things like sheets. Luckily, I had some sheets. A linen one that was from my great Aunts, kind of special actually, because I can even remember the day they gave it to us: Steve and I had gone around for afternoon tea to tell them we were engaged. My Aunty Vi disappeared into a room at the back of their unit and came out with some sheets for us straight away. When I showed them to mum, she said they must have come from the hotel that they had once had. Special.

Anyway, there was another one that I've no idea where it came from, and some blue checked ones that Steve used as a teenager that his mum gave me a while ago (probably with the space sheets), and a cot sheet of blue stars that my friend Megan from down the road had given me (when she gave me the other star cot sheet that became Rachel's dress). Then I had a heap of a bright yellow material (not a bed sheet), which I think came in the same lot as the blue floral from this post, though I'm not sure. I do know that I didn't buy it. Finally, some green checked material from the lady at church. It was kind of soft and flannel-y feeling.

Finding all of the fabrics was step one. Thinking about how things would come together was step two and took a lot more time. I knew I wanted it to be fully lined, so the inside walls would be different to the outside. I worried that it would be too hot, so it obviously needed windows for ventilation, not just fun. I ummed and ahhed over curtains but ended up not bothering mostly for the heat reason, but also because I was a little over the windows by that point.

I also took ages to figure out what I wanted to do with the door, for which I didn't initially have fabric for. Luckily, I took all of the sheets over to my parents house to cut out (because they have a table big enough and space for kids to play and not be in the way while I was cutting) and as I cut, mum mentioned she had some red fabric she wasn't using. Turned out it was the perfect amount for the door. And I mean the perfect amount.

Then I thought a lot about whether or not I would put words or windows on the door, and how it would come together. It's the thinking that takes the most time! I also knew I wanted the garden part of the house to be usable and interactive for the kids. I was a little bit inspired by Ikat Bag's Little Blue House (of course), but I also know my girls like things to be useful or changeable. They play with it much longer if there are options.

Anyway, when I finally got sewing, things came together pretty quickly, though I did keep adding details, which lengthened the process quite a bit. If I were doing this for anyone that was not my daughters, I'd probably not bother with fully lining it, because that's really overkill for a play-tent. And would make window instillation much easier.

My friend from down the road Leesa had just started a sewing studio in Moorooka, which you can check out here. It's a great space to sew in and they have all sorts of classes that you can do. I went along with mum on a few Wednesday nights of Social Sewing to work on the table tent. It was really good to sew with other like minded people who I could also bounce ideas off.  First thing I made was the bunting, out of the cot sheet. I was going to sew it in to the tent, but mum suggested using velcro to make it removable, which I liked even more.

Then I put the walls together (sewing the green grass onto the bottom of each outside wall) and worked on the gardens. The gardens look spectacular when they were a work in progress and lay flat on the ground (as you can see in the next WIP photo), but they don't look as great on the actual table, or so I think. The weight of the flowers makes them droop, and because the gardens are so close to the floor, the hang of the fabric means you can't see some of them.

Not the end of the world though. The girls still love picking the flowers. It was one of the first things they did when they discovered the house in the morning.

After they had picked the flowers, they asked where they could put them, which made me so grateful that I had thought to sew a basket on to the front for them to display flowers in. There are two kinds of flowers, those on stems (green pipe cleaners) that are kind of droopy, that get "planted" into the longer green clumps of felt grass.

Then there are smaller flowers with no stems that are buttoned on. These can be unbuttoned and put on the decorative buttons on the basket for display. I hand sewed all of those flowers out of felt. Again, using  up felt from my stash. It was a nice change of pace (as always) and I even had a little bag of the cut flowers, needles and thread that I could take out into the yard and work on while the kids played. Ahh the serenity.

I also put a mail pocket on the other side of the front door, obviously for mail. As yet, unused, but it's only been a day.

The door splits in two. There are ties up the top, so you can roll up the top half and tie it out of the way. Sophie just lay it on top of the table though, so I guess that works too. The bottom half lays flat to be a mat. When the door is "closed" it's held together by velcro dots.

Inside the house are the a pocket on the wall for the bunting to be stored in, when not in use, and some "art work" which I "framed with some more material. The pictures are actually some spare fabric I had from the Colouring In Kindy Dresses so Ikea material. I had the girls colour random bits and then cut them out and sewed them in.

The pocket material is left over from some cot bumpers I made in 2014, and I feel like I've used it somewhere else, but can't think where. The frames on the pictures are some left over material from the Pink Flowers Bunting that I made in 2016. I really like the "pictures" because I feel they are something special for the girls. They even signed them with their wobbly-learning-to-write signatures. Love!

I feel like I should talk about the windows, but they were honestly such a pain in the butt to sew that I really don't want to. If people are interested in their story, they can ask me in the comments.

Finally, here are some little detail shots of the gardens. I sewed a few little extra buttons on for Rachel, who loves her bugs. There are two bees and one little lady bug.

And several felt butterflies flying around too, making the garden beautiful.

When it's all packed up and done, it looks like this:

Which is a lot of material with copious amounts of play potential. Provided it stays with this table, because it is exactly the right size.

Thanks for making it through the post (if you are indeed still with me). I hope the pictures and my ramblings do this justice. The girls and I just had dinner on the floor of the kitchen because they are so busy playing in their table house that they've moved half of their rooms in. What have I done?!

Monday, November 06, 2017


I'm still working on the sewing things, but over the weekend, the house was clean enough that I got excited about something else. Something cardboard.

The first half of this term, I had pulled the Cardboard Rocket out of storage under the house for everyone to play in. I didn't realise it is a year old now! It was out for the first four weeks of term, and because it's so big, some other toys had to be put away to make space for it. Actually, the entire living room needed to be reorganised. Anyway!

The kids loved it, which was great, but unfortunately they were a little too robust in their affection for the rocket and I knew it probably wouldn't live much longer. Which was fine. It was fantastic and they loved it while it lasted, and it was only cardboard, so it was never going to last forever anyway.

With the rocket gone now (still under the house, but I think after I take the gadgets off, it will go out with recycling soon), there was lots of space in the living room, so I got excited about more cardboard. Enter the cardboard castle.

I'd been thinking about making another cardboard castle for a while actually, but they do take up space and are somewhat inconvenient given the amount of space they take up tends to be all of the space available in the living room. But, with Steve away in Seattle at the moment, I figured I've got one less person to inconvenience, so now was the best time! Also, the weather is already incredibly hot, even in October, so new play things for inside is a good since we can't really venture outside much. :(

All it takes is some nice cardboard, that you think of was walls and cut battlements into at the top. I also scored this one below so that it would fold nicely to be a corner.

And also add windows if you want/need them. I didn't bother with windows that actually open and close this time, because though the kids love them, they are too rough with them and they are usually the first things to go. Notice the girls in the background? They were eating popcorn as they watched Totoro.

Anyway, when you have your nice pile of cardboard walls with all the bits cut out, then you start to assemble them. Rachel insisted that we have an "open close" door, so despite my misgivings, they got one.

Assembly is pretty easy, hot glue gun and some sticky tape. I am really lucky with my cardboard, because not only do I get lots from obliging people like my parents who just bought four new chairs that all came in lovely boxes, I also live in a great community where strangers give me cardboard too.

What is this? I hear you say. Well! Someone posted on the community grapevine that they worked in a place that didn't recycle much, and since he was sad to see so much cardboard get thrown away, he was wondering if anyone would be interested in some. Yes please! He even delivered it in his car in the evening for me. So nice!

For the bits of cardboard that were just straight cardboard with no tabs (as in, I didn't unfold them from boxes), I used other bits of cardboard as braces for the corners. For one end of the castle, I used a wipes box that I put a brick into for weight, and then cut a slit for the castle to slide into. This end can go anywhere it likes, because the box keeps it stable and upright.

Then, because I designed it with turret/tower rooms, the castle zig-zags across and that keeps the rest of it upright. I can slide the other end between furniture if I like, to help stablelize it, or it can just stay free and help make the castle a different size or shape. Here it is as a wall across the living room:

And here it is more curved in the morning, to give the stuffed animals (that you can't see, sorry) more shelter inside.

Though the door is good and works, they often choose to go through the "secret passage way", which is the small flap on the bottom of the second picture above, on the far right, near Rachel. I don't know why, but crawling through that is apparently a more appealing way of entering the castle.