Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The great finds

While researching for my no elastic panties tutorial (I wanted to see what was already available!), I fond this great website called the Pattern School, mainly for making swimwear, but it also has a section with pregnancy size charts!
It's quite technical but easy to understand, and it has all the info if you want to make your own swimwear, or even some for your husband or child. There's even a section for "lazy people" where you can enter your own measurements or find "lazy" patterns. It is a great reference, and I'm stoked there is a size chart for maternity wear!

Another cool blog I've been checking out is Makeshift. The author is on a one year mission to wear only what she can make (she even made her shoes!). She's a few days away from completion, but it is so inspiring! She makes coooolll clothes. Here are a couple of my favorites.
I love the asymmetrical look of her tops, and the loose collar. So many ideas!

Monday, August 30, 2010

mini art journal challenge: week 22

This week's prompt: "What would you like to learn?".
There are many things on my list, too many! I have been trying to learn mandarin chinese on and off for 10 years, very unsuccessfully since I can hardly introduce myself. My dad is chinese, speaks 5 languages, my brother is married to a chinese woman (martial arts teacher too!) and speaks fluent mandarin. I went to China several time, but never long enough to completely submerge myself and speak fluently. I have books, even an audio course on my Ipod, I've met a couple of lovely chinese ladies keen to do some conversational chinese. But I'm still at the same point. I recently met a lovely chinese mum, and we had one afternoon of "conversational" chinese so far, but time seems to slip away and I've been so tired too, I just can't find the energy. Maybe/ hopefully this card can be a good motivator!

The background is from a chinese calendar, I wrote the text with a silver pen and stuck a magazine cut out of a chinese sign. Don't ask me what it say!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Second hand makeover

When I was pregnant with Tahi I found it hard to find nice comfortable clothes to wear. Oh, and cheap. Luckily my cousin gave me some of her pregnancy clothes and I didn't really pop out until the 6th month.
Pregnancy clothes in New Zealand are never my style and very expensive for items that will only be worn with a big belly (4 months max?). This might be my last pregnancy and there is no way our budget can stretch to include nice pregnancy clothes. So what do I do? I use what I have, i.e. my sewing machine and cheap or free clothes.
I get given second hand clothes by people who know I like to chop them up and make kids' stuff (see my shop!), but sometimes I find something too nice to be chopped... yet.
A while ago a friend sent me a box of such clothes, among which was a summery tunic type dress. I love the fabric used, it's lightweight and has beautiful prints of flowers. Perfect for hot Gisborne summers on the beach! I wasn't a big fan of the cut though, and with my growing belly in mind, figured it would just be a little bit too short. I also wanted a dress that would flatter a pregnant belly a bit better.
This is a very easy makeover, with very few steps.
First I slipped the dress on, decided I wanted the top to stop just above the navel. I marked it then cut the dress in half.

Then I found a piece of scrap grey merino wool (lightweight and stretchy) and wrapped it around my hips. I made it very slightly tighter so it would fall off the hips but would be loose enough to allow for an expanding belly. For the width, I measured from under my breast down to the very bottom of the belly and added a bit for seam allowance. Now you should have a big rectangle. I serged the side to make a tube that will be inserted between the top and bottom of the dress. The resulting tube can be folded over to make a thin strip or stretched to its whole length as the belly expands (or for a different style, see photo!).
Now because the dress is wider than the tube, I gathered it. This is very easy: set your machine to straight stitch, with a long stitch. sew a straight stitch along the edge you want to gather. Do not back stitch. Grab the thread on one side then pull it, holding the fabric. You'll see it gathers the fabric. Even it out by pulling the fabric away from the thread (don't let go of it!), then keep going until you get the length desired.
Once I'd done this, I pinned the dress to the tube (right sides together) then serged them.
The shoulder straps were of the adjustable kind and one of the plastic eyelets was broken so the strap was loose. I decided to adjust the length to my shoulders and use the loop on the backside for front, so I could sew a button on the adjusted strap and put it through. This means I can unbutton one side if I want to breastfeed!

Since I am about 3 months pregnant, I can't test the stretch and the fit with a big belly, so I will post an update in a few months. It feels like it will work though, and it means I can wear the dress afterwards as well.



Thursday, August 26, 2010

Spreading the word

I've subscribed to GiveawayScout, a giveaway search engine... Good way to get more exposure!

Fabric storage bins giveaway

Ok, I've finished making my storage bags and got a bit carried away... There are lots, in various fabrics and a couple of sizes. I took some pictures of a few with my new light box I made today, once I've sorted out a proper lighting system I'll take some more and list some of the extra bins in my shop.

But for now, I have two storage bins to giveaway, yes two! I haven't decided which ones yet, so I will post some pics a bit later. One of them will be a small size (cd case size) and the other a medium (DVD case size).

Here are the ways you can enter:
- Follow this blog
- Link to this blog
- Facebook or twitter

Each one of these options is worth one entry! And don't forget to leave a comment to let me know how you've entered, with email address too!
Entries close on the 26th of September.
Good luck everyone!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My creative space

Is clean for the first time in months! I had a big shuffle around, finally got rid of the big wardrobe taking up all the space and then Josh made me some awesome new shelves. I have to admit I am a lover of organized uncluttered spaces. I feel much more inspired and more efficient. Hard living with someone who's pretty much the opposite! Luckily I've got my own room to go crazy with my obsessive cleaning compulsions.
The shelves are already full with fabrics!
Love high ceilings: lots of space on the walls!
My sewing corner

Of course this meant that I couldn't sew for a few days, so I just finished the fabric storage bags I started last week (giveaway tomorrow) and am slowly getting through the third lot of patchwork curtains (one to go, yay!).

I've also got a couple more projects to start working on which hopefully I will post about soon. I have to say I have been enjoying doing more personal projects as opposed to only making things to sell in my shop. Although I really want to make more yoga pants soon too!
Check out Kootoyoo for more creative goodness!

Mini art journal challenge: week 21

This week's prompt: "your redeeming qualities/qualities you aspire towards".
Hard one. I thought for a day about this, then decided on (a few) qualities. Then I decided how I was going to put it on the card and realized they weren't all going to fit (!). I chose two, more or less randomly but that I have been thinking about lately. 
The top one reads "intelligence of the heart". My best friend came up with this theory when we were teenager that everyone one was intelligent but in different ways. When I asked her what kind of intelligence I had she answered the one I wrote above. In that, she meant that I was sensible with people, listened and observed and understood feelings I guess. Looking back on it now, I think it still makes sense, well I hope anyway!
The bottom one is a quality I think I have but I would to develop and improve. I noticed I can loose my patience with people when they are a bit "slow" to understand things, and with Tahi when he behaves in certain ways. I wish I could have infinite patience and wisdom. There is a french word, "pedagogue", that resumes it quite well I think, although in my dictionary it translates as "be a good teacher" I see it as meaning more than that.

The background is a stone wall cut out from a magazine. I used a ruler alphabet letter for the text, then sewed a heart with my sewing machine, free handed using several shades of red.

Monday, August 23, 2010

the food I love

Can't always be found in Gisborne! After a Skype session with my brother talking about making chinese dumplings, I thought I'd see what the web could point me to. And I found tons of recipes. How much I like this global network.
Being half chinese and having spent many a summer holiday in Hong Kong, I have got to eat a lot of chinese food over the years. The particular dish I could happily live on for the rest of my life is dumplings. Oh, how much I love these little parcels filled with goodness, just the thought of it makes me salivate. I actually went to the best restaurant on the whole world in QingDao (I think), where all they make is chinese dumplings. Yes, that's it. There is a huge variety and they are all amazingly good. And lots of vegetarian ones too. Heaven on earth.
In Gisborne there are no chinese restaurant, just a few take-aways. They serve the traditional cantonese rice, sweet and sour chicken and so on. The food looks old and tasteless.
So last night I set to try out the recipe for making Ha Gow (shrimp dumplings). And they tasted just like the real thing. They are one my favorite kind, and I was surprised how easy they were to make. For the first time in months, I felt hungry last night and didn't feel sick after eating them. And I was still craving them when I went to bed. Might have to make some more soon. Double the amounts. Freeze some. Make more.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A baby in my tummy

Yes that's right, I am with child! Thanks to my not so subtle week 13 card ( a reminder below) a few people had already guessed. I've just passed the first trimester, so it's been 12 weeks of evasiveness or blatant lies, I kind of feel bad for the people I misled but we didn't want to get too over excited just in case...
We had our first scan last Thursday, I am the kind of person that feels reassured by seeing with my eyes the little being inside (and hearing its heart at the midwife's last week was a great surprise too!). According to the scan the baby would be due... on Valentine's day!
Anyway, I haven't got much further with my fabric organizer bags, but hopefully by next week they will be finished and ready to house Tahi's toys (it's a real mess right now, toys all over the place!). I will also have two of these bags to give away, yay!

The secret thought revealed... ok, not very subtle

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My creative space

I've been getting a bit side tracked in my curtain making. My excuse, they are buried under a huge pile of fabrics since I moved a big wardrobe and while waiting for my beloved half to make me some shelves they will stay there. In reality I have started a new project that I find much more entertaining: Making fabric storage bags. Tahi's toys are overtaking the house, and since I like a bit of order and organization, I decided to make a whole lot of these pouches to sort the toys out. The great thing is that I can sort out toys by "theme" (music, cooking) and also get some new ones when he gets tired of playing with his current bag. Kids love novelty and rediscovering old toys!
Anyway, I've made two so far, and have a whole lot more cut out fabric ready for sewing. And since I got a bit carried away, there will be a giveaway of some of them coming soon, so stay tuned!
Pop over to Kootoyoo for some more creative goodness!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

mini art journal challenge: week 20

So, with a bit of delay, here is my card. The prompt this week was: "change". Again, it took me a while once I had the idea to get it on the card, it's been an interesting process. When I started this challenge 20 weeks ago, I would think about the prompt then start making the card pretty much straight away. I thought it would only get easier as the weeks past and my brain got used to the "creative" process (ooo, I feel like an artist!). Yet every week I find it harder to get the concept for my card. It feels like I'm searching deeper for the real meaning I want to give, and I'm not sure whether it is visible or not.
Change is something I never get used to, and no matter how many times my life has changed direction (willingly or not), I have always found the first step to be the hardest. And there have been some big steps involved: moving town, country, taking on or turning down a job, getting married, having babies, being a home mum. I am an optimist though, and I try to make the best of every situation. After the first step, change has always been welcome and I learned to appreciate the good outcomes (or learn from the bad ones). I like to believe things happen for a reason, and I like to make the most of it.
I also have a compulsion to change the layout of our furniture when I feel it isn't "right" (call it intuitive feng shui!), as Josh can attest. It usually comes with little warning too! A few days ago I decided I needed to move the big wardrobe in my workshop (it was taking up vital storage space and the room is invaded by fabric at the moment). So I cleaned up a bit of Josh's mess room, even though I'd sworn not to touch it. But it's not going to sort itself out by magic, so well... So I moved this piece of furniture, then realized we could use it for our bathroom renovations, saving us time and money. Great change number one!
Then when we started moving the wardrobe, we realized it was too high to get through the door. So josh took the top off. Once the wardrobe was in his room, we both looked at the top bit and decided to use it to place the sink in (the top on the piece of furniture was falling apart). Great change number two!
And as a bonus, taking out all my fabrics I found some great ones for this week's project. Not the curtains, but some storage bags for Tahi's toys (photos to come).
So there we go, I believe change is a good thing!

I wanted to make my card one that I could change, so I used a chinese game I rediscovered this week and I used to play a lot when I was younger. It's called Tangram.
The Tangram square
Today's figure: a dancing lady!

I used some colored paint swatch cards (we took some for ideas on colors for the bathroom and kitchen), cut out the shapes that make up the Tangram then put blue tack on the back. So whenever I feel like it, I can change the figure on the card. the background is a drawing of a chinese woman taken from a chinese calendar.

Green New Zealand? Let me laugh out loud (LOL)

I meant to blog about my card of the week, but it can wait another day.
I've been wanting to rant about this subject for a while, and now is as good as ever. If you're not aware, New Zealand is doing everything it can to get rid of that clean green image and get the bucks rolling (into which pockets I'm not sure, definitely not the ones of common good).
When I first arrived in New Zealand, I was blown away by the amazing sceneries of untouched nature. And you'd think people would value it.
I won't go into the details of everyday "un-greenness" (top loaders? Hello!) or even the paradoxes of an industrialized country that has people living in freezing cold un-insulated damp houses half the year, thus using shameful amounts of power to run heater and dehumidifiers (and burning tons of wood).
The governments attitude itself is enough for a long blog post.
Since I have been living here, I have seen a hill on the West Coast of the South Island (home to native snails) flicked to a mining company, proposals to open some reserve land to "exploration" and to look for oil offshore (just after the BP oil explosion, what a timing that was) and now a proposed development on a beautiful un-spoilt beach, namely New Chums in the Coromandel. And I'm sure there has been a lot more going on that I missed (we don't have TV and I don't read the paper everyday).
Still think this is a green country? It only looks green because settlers deforested 90% of New Zealand and set up cattle and sheep farms.
I really saddens me to watch this happening and feel completely helpless. On days like this, I really wish I'd  won Lotto. Twice. Greed and power will always make a man weak and kill his brains. I guess we just don't enjoy the same things and our foresight of the future is different. Maybe all the rich people are just getting richer so they can build a rocket ship that will take them to Mars before Earth breaks down completely. I wish they'd left already.
Anyway, I am still crossing fingers that all this proposed development of New Chums sees is the bin. And that John Darby dies of a heart attack. I mean it.
If like me you don't have TV and if you're wondering what the ! I'm talking about, take 12mn off and watch this. You can also have a stroll on this facebook page and show your support for one beach in the whole of New Zealand.
Someone told me once that in China they paint the grass green on touristy areas... looks like they're not the only ones!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Round yumminess

Today I tried out a new cracker recipe, found on a blog started by a friend of a friend, called knife loves spoon. The name alone would have prompted me to check it out, it sounds so much like one of those paintings Magritte could have done! And when I found out it was about food, healthy food, well, I couldn't give it a miss really.
The great thing about it is that the food is unpretentious, simple and easy to make. Plus it has a few raw food recipe that look fairly easy (not too many hard to find/expensive ingredients) and raw food desserts are usually to die for.
We love crackers in our household, so the wholegrain seed cracker recipe was just calling out my name. Tahi and I set to mixing all the ingredients, which took 20mn (not too bad with a toddler in tow!), 15mn of cooking and we had a nice pile of warm inviting crackers on the table. I doubled the recipe, knowing how fast we would go through them. I should probably have quadrupled it. they are a perfect match with blue cheese!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Intimate tutorial: panties

I have been thinking about making my own pairs of panties for a while. I have these great bamboo ones I bought a year ago, made by Jockey, and I love the way they fit. Unfortunately, living on a budget like we do, can’t afford to buy too many!
And off course what seamstress doesn’t love a challenge.

So a few nights ago I took the jump…

You can do the same with your favorite pair at home, and you don’t need to chop it up. I personally don’t like panties with elastics, I find them uncomfortable, so mine just have a band of fabric, and they hold up very well After a few washings some didn't hold up that well, so I am going to insert an elastic in the casing at the top, which is very easy to do. I will keep experimenting with various fabrics and see which ones are best for wearing with no elastic though. You can adapt this to any pair.

What you’ll need:
- Pattern paper or cardboard
- Pins
- Pen and scissors
- Sewing scissors (for cutting out the fabric)
- Overlocker

1- The pattern:
Place your “model” on a piece of tracing paper or thin cardboard. Pin the edges down. You will have to do one side first then as you progress take off the pins so the panties are lying flat. Stop at the seam in the middle. Once done, join the dots and you’ve got your pattern. Do the same for the other side. On the front panel, mark the edge for the pad.

2- Cut out your fabric (remember to cut a bit for the pad too). Don’t forget to add the seam allowance (I usually make it 5/8” or 1,5cm). Make sure you choose a fabric with a similar stretch to the one used for your “model”. I used some organic fair trade tee shirts I was given by KowTow.

3- Pin together the middle bit: first pin together the front and back panels, right side together. Then on the wrong side of the back panel, pin the pad, right side down (hope that’s clear!). Pin the sides of the two panels, right sides together.

4- It is possible to use a straight sewing machine (most have an overlocking type stitch nowadays), but it is much easier to use an overlocker for this. Mine is a 4 thread but I took the left needle out to make it a 3 thread so the edge doesn’t stick out so much and become uncomfortable.
Sew the middle first, then the sides.

5- Cut three strips of fabric, about 1.57”/4cm wide. Measure along the edge of the waist and legs of the panties. Cut it slightly shorter so there is a bit of stretch, but not too much otherwise you won’t be able to slip your panties on! It might take a bit of experimentation.

6- Overlock the bands of fabric, then fold then in half lengthwise and pin them to the panties. For the waist band, leave an opening where you will insert the elastic if need be, then overlock. When pinning the leg bands, make sure you include the pad, folded to the front, with it as well. Overlock again. You should now have a new pair of panties!

I am not sure whether to giveaway one of the pairs, is it too inappropriate? Also the ones I made are small-ish (measurement around waist 66cm/26", and they sit on the waist). Anyone feel free to comment on this!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Morning goodness

We are lucky to have a little orchard in our garden, with a cooking apple tree, a Granny Smith tree, a mandarin tree, a Tangelo tree, two Navel oranges and an "ugly fruit" tree. And I have been loving making a glass of fresh orange/Tangelo juice in the morning. Nothing like fresh juice to start the fay on a good note! After all those years in France drinking bottled orange juice, I now know what the real thing tastes like and I would never again buy the bottled type. last year we made lots of Tangelo juice, and it was even sweeter than Navels. They are really juicy too, so you get lots! Yuuuummm...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The chameleon house

Our house is in shambles again, this time the bathroom and backyard are the ones getting a makeover.

Josh decided to start making our deck at the back, then thought he might as well start ripping the bathroom apart, since he's got no upcoming jobs and a bit of cash from the previous one (melting away like snow in the sun at the speed of light!). Tonight I took a bath in an empty wooden box, with a hot water cylinder for company. It felt pretty gloomy, no white walls to reflect the light!
It's been interesting removing walls, ceiling and floor. Some of the wood was rotten, everything was dusty and dirty. Most interestingly, we found out where our rats where hiding. Under the floor! I always though they nested in the ceiling while all this time they were crawling under our feet... eeeeekkkk! And even more interesting (well, sort of) was to find out they were the ones keeping our snail population time (I always thought it was the thrushes, who happily knock the snails' shells on the concrete slab until they break). There were enough snail shells under the bathroom floor to cover the whole surface when laid out flat. re-eeeeeekkkk!

That's how far Josh has got, now we're looking at cheap and stylish ways to furnish it. Hum, not that easy! Oh, and we rapidly need to make good friends with a plumber!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mini art journal challenge: week 19

It might feel like this mini art journal is all I have time to do, but I am working on other projects!
This week's prompt: "Surprise"
It took me a couple of days to decide exactly what to do and how... although it doesn't appear on the card!
As far as surprises go, I'm sure any parent will agree with me they happen everyday with kids, good or bad ones. This whole parenthood thing has been a huge learning curve for me, in a good way. I came across the words attachment parenting and wondered what it meant. Then realized I was following that path already. This card is dedicated to the philosophy behind the words. My biggest surprise was to discover that my preconceptions of babies, children and parenthood felt wrong. I thought being too lenient would only turn a child into a cry baby or a tantrum monster, I thought all babies slept through the night at 6 months and were meant to go to childcare, I thought breastfeeding past 6 months never happened, I thought births in hospital were the way to go. I thought all that then, surprise, I thought differently!
I am lucky to know quite a few mums who share the same philosophy. Some have older kids, brought up attachment parenting style. They are no different than other kids their age, they are independent, sociable, polite, quite normal really. And I've been watching Tahi, recently he's opened up to the world. A few months ago, Tahi would stick to me wherever we went, turn shy as soon someone would talk to him, want to breastfeed for any reason (unsafe, hurt, bored). Two days ago he was running around a hardware store saying "hello" to anyone he met. He's started going up to people at our playcentre and chatting to them. He just seems more confident. And it's great to see that he has got there himself. Maybe later than most, but he has nonetheless. When I see all these little steps my boy takes on his own, it makes me proud and give me confidence that he will achieve all those "steps" in his own time. Hopefully sleeping through the night is next!

Words cut out from a magazine, fabric hearts cut out with pinking scissors (my top op shop find of the week!) then sewn onto the card. The words attachment parenting were pasted on last.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A bit of catching up

Winter is an interesting time. Everything slows down, or hibernates even! I am reminded of this everyday when I go for a walk in my vege garden (I like to do a daily check!). Since the cold weather has set in, growth pace has halved and we haven't got as much as I was planning out of the garden. By the time autumn came, we were still harvesting our summer crops and by the time I got our beds ready for winter, well, it was winter! Good lesson for next year!
Winter has got me into the same slow pace as well, and I am far behind everything, including this blog.
So first catch up, the mini card challenge. I am three cards behind, eeek, I was dreading this since I started the challenge. I did make the cards though, and the camera finally turned up, so here they are!

Week 16's prompt was: "Get someone else to contribute". I asked my best friend of all times, my soul sister, who happens to live in Germany and just got married. I was very very sad I missed out on the wedding.
She made a collage, which we used to do a lot when we were teenagers. This one is about me (!) and how she sees me now. I quote: the wood for my vintage side, the chinese screen, my ethnicity. I make babies (well, one so far!), I am an artist (glad someone sees me that way!!!) and a talented musician and I plant my own veges. Thanks for your contribution sister!

Week 17: "Your bedroom". This is the card that has taken me the longest to make! It was a cold evening, and I spent it between the couch by the fire and my cold workshop. Bedroom have always been important to me, perhaps the most important room of the house. When I was a teenager especially, since that was the only room in the house that was really "me". The card represents my bed, because when it comes down to it, that is what a bedroom is for, and to me it was like the womb, my safe place, cosy and warm. When I was younger I could spend hours in bed, even days (no joke!). I could probably still spend all day reading in bed if I didn't have a little wriggle worm. The colors represent my favorite colors at the time: purple and white. Those were the colors of my basketball team, and I was obsessed with it! My whole room was two tone: purple carpet (yes), purple and white wall paper, purple and white bed sheets... What a geek!
I wrote under the blanket what the bed represented to me, and on the little "me" doll (Josh calls it my voodoo doll) what I aspired to in those days.

Week 18: "Nature". We got given a swan plant last summer, which Monarch butterflies love, so we got lots and lots of caterpillars. Unfortunately most of them got eaten by wasps and praying mantis, but we managed to get some pupal cases from somewhere else and hung them on our plant. Hoe exciting to see the monarchs emerge! I took some photos of it, so I made a collage of these photos for this week's card!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eco friendly doll house giveaway

Here's a doll house for the crafty family: built out of cardboard (remember that box in the attic you don't know what to do with it?), you and your kids can customize it. Hours of fun. Tahi and I started a similar project a while ago, I'll have to start adding photos as soon as I get a camera!
Anyway, this clever mum is having a giveaway to celebrate her shop opening on Etsy, so check it out, you never know, you could win!

Eco Friendly Dollhouse pdf pattern Giveaway
Sarah’s hosting a fabulous Giveaway over at Dolls And Daydreams   for her Eco Friendly Doll House PDF pattern!
Let your children’s imaginations grow whilst learning about recycling at the same time!
I’ve entered, how about you?  Fingers crossed!!  Good luck everyone!!