Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday fun :: the end of 2013

Summer holidays are on and we are all at home.  We've been alternating between relaxing together and preparing for the Christmas celebrations.  Interstate and overseas guests are joining us this year so it's going to be a full house of laughter, stories, conversations, music and eating up a storm.  I think this will be my last blog post for 2013, time is sparce for blogging.  I'll leave you with some holiday pictures from the last few weeks:

:: we've been playing and tidying up in the garden ::

:: I've been keeping the kids amused sewing them some new pillowcases.  We went fabric shopping together and found the Christmas fabric to be basically sold out so we went for Dr Seuss and dancing gnomes.  I call this photo "Thing One and Thing Two" ::

:: I also snuck in making a new green pillowcase for myself using some vintage sheet fabric scraps ::

:: and in between all this, and usually at nap and TV time, I've been sewing myself a new dress.  Another Washi dress from this beautiful navy linen, a recent op shop fabric find ::

:: I've finished a vintage sheet dress for the shop ::

:: and a book delivery in the mail has had me doing some dreaming and planning new sewing projects for 2014 ::

Thanks for reading along this year :: have a great Christmas and New Year's break and see you next year!  xx

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Let it snow :: making snowflakes

Not long to Christmas Day now, it's certainly well into the hot sub-tropical summer where I live but those Northern hemisphere traditions of fir trees, snow and sleigh bells prevail.  My son's class at school were busy in the final weeks of school making paper snowflakes and covering them in glitter to decorate their classroom, and while I have to say they looked a bit out of place in the heat, they were pretty.  Plus they got the kids pretty excited at the patterns they were making when they opened up their folded and cut paper.

Maybe your kids would like to make some too?  You only need to grab a few sheets of paper from your home office printer and square them up and you're ready for a quick and satisfying activity that no matter how hard you try its pretty hard to make a bad one or mess them up (glitter is absolutely not required if you don't want to go there in the mess department).  If your kids are old enough to wield a pair of scissors by themselves then they can make (and hang!) a few on their own which would give you at least thirty minutes to "get something done".  Goodness knows we're all making lists and checking them twice this time of year!

And ho!  Making his crafty debut on this blog is my seven year old son, Alexander and his instructions for making snowflakes.  

Here he goes (instructions left to right, top to bottom):

1. take a square of paper (we used 21 x 21 cms)
2. fold it diagonally into a triangle
3. fold it again down the middle to make a smaller triangle
4. take one corner bring it over enough to make a fold down the centre

5.  take the other corner and fold it towards the centre so that it wraps around the fold you just made
6.  cut off the two sticking out points so that the bottom edge of your folded paper is straight
7.  cut small shapes out of the two long edges of your folded triangle.  Little curves and triangles are good,          using pinking shears would also give some rather cool effects
8.  carefully unfold your triangle and you have...

...a snowflake!

I put little holes in the top of our snowflakes and hung them at the window with a couple of mini reindeer, a snowflake-reindeer bunting of sorts.  It's hard to photograph against the light coming in the window but it looks really great, plus they blow around gently and dance in the warm midday breeze and are guaranteed not to melt :: a win win.

Happy snowflake making.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Kimono scraps patchwork cushion :: for Mum

Last month my Mum had a birthday, a good enough excuse for me to travel back to my hometown of Melbourne for a family weekend.  It was great, I went alone and relaxed without the children.  I listened to my siblings and their partners talk around the dinner table about their pets. So refreshing, no talk of small people at all!

I tucked a handmade present under my arm when I flew down south.  I made my Mum a cushion - a patchwork of little scraps of kimono fabrics that I had been hoarding for years.  I know she loves pale shades of pink and purple so it just seemed like the perfect project to cut into those lovely fabrics.  I was so pleased at the way it turned out, and Mum loved it too.

Sewing with these fabrics was very much try it and see, there were lots of different fabric types and textures from a stiff kind of crepe to slippery silky ones.  I wasn't sure how they would combine together but it worked out just fine.  As you can see above the layout of the slightly rectangular pieces was four rows of six.  I top stitched down both sides of the long seams to add a bit of interest and to give the patchwork some strength.

The reverse side was three larger pieces using some of the same fabrics. I sewed these together and then just trimmed them with my rotary cutter to match the finished size of the patchwork side.  Again I top stitched along the seams.

I had also been waiting for an excuse to try out using pompom trim so when I saw this mauve trim in the store I knew it was the perfect finishing detail.  I pinned it into the side seams and then machine basted all the way around to keep everything in place before doing the final seam.  There was no way I was going to get a zipper closure into this cushion so I simply stuffed it with poly-fill and hand stitched the opening closed.

This corner was my favourite, a touch of gold on the flower and the dark blue leaves coming in from the edge.  So pretty. 

:: Happy Birthday Mum ::

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Parsley pants test

Somewhere in the next two months I have to finish some formal outfits for the boys for a family wedding. I already made them some vests during Kids Clothes Week but I'm still pondering options for pants.

I have been buying a few patterns lately, one of which was the Parsley Pants pattern from Made by Rae.  I wanted to see if the style and fit was something I would use in a formal outfit, and also now that we are pretty much out of Big Butt Baby Pants stage its timely that I add another pants pattern to my collection.

From my stash cupboard I pulled out a lovely woven Indian cotton fabric in blue and white stripes and set to work on a test pair that would at least be good for everyday wear if everything went to plan.  I made a size 2 for my two year old and included the option for the box pleat pockets on the legs for a bit of fun.

They were good for playing...

...and good for eating...

...and good for climbing...

...and good for running away in a search for more biscuits.

So overall a success for the one wearing them!

My thoughts?  The fit is slim at the top and flared through the leg and I think I had in mind something with more of a straight fit, but that's something that would be easy to adjust.  They were also very long, I took up a heap of fabric into the hems.  I think I'll do some comparing with some store bought pants to see where I could tweak the fit a bit, and probably I should try them on with shirt and vest to see them as part of a whole outfit.  Some thinking to do here.

Have you made the Parsley pants pattern, what did you think?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday shop update

Ah, the poor little Maika shop, so neglected! This week though I have been giving it a bit of love and care and have been tidying up some of the photos and info...and in the bargain I've found time to add three boys t-shirts into the offerings.  The elephant and yacht are size 2 and the fish is a size 3 - lovely and soft knit t-shirts with original design appliques using fabrics from my scrap bag.

And if I keep up the pace on my list of things to do there could be a new dress coming next week.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

1000 cranes Tsuru skirt

It's not often I see something on the internet and absolutely must make one for myself but...when I saw Rae's flying cranes skirt on the Made by Rae blog it immediately made it up to the top of my list of things to sew for myself.

The fabric I just fell in love with.  Swoon!  It's the gorgeous 1000 cranes design from the Tsuru range from Cloud9 Fabrics.  I jumped online to search a piece out and found it for sale locally from Funky Fabrix here in Brisbane.  Once that little delivery of one metre of fabric had arrived in my mailbox I picked up a few extra supplies from my local sewing store and set to work.

For my skirt I have gone for a fairly full style with a gathered elastic waist.  I used Anna Maria Horner's free pattern for the Flirting the Issue skirt (it's more instructions than a pattern per se).  I used the whole one metre of fabric from selvedge to selvedge and added a contrasting band of pale pink homespun cotton to the lower edge which added about 14cm to the length of my skirt so it sits around my knees (Rae's skirt is above the knee but I like a little more length personally).


Here's a few details of the skirt construction:

The lining is a cotton lawn in royal blue. I was going to line it in navy but the cotton lawn didn't come in navy and in the end I realised that was lucky as it would have dulled the white print on the skirt too much.  I think maybe a pale pink lining would have been ideal but I kind of like the unexpected flash of bright blue underneath.  The lining is only as long as the dark blue cranes fabric so as not to affect the pink contrast band with blue show through.

I love a comfy elastic waistband. The waistband of this skirt is really wide (the wider the better for elastic waists in my opinion), but I have to admit that it's construction is fiddly.  You sew four casing channels around the top edge of the skirt and feed elastic into each of them - this is time consuming and hard on the fingers, the more fabric you have in the volume of the skirt the more difficult this task is.  I sewed the four channels and then gave up after pushing elastic through three of them.  I decided that was enough waist elastic for my needs anyway.  If I make a skirt this way again I am going to just put a single wide piece of elastic through the top like I did with my recent op-shop resize.

I attached the contrast band as the last step after constructing the rest of the skirt.  I made the band of pale pink by taking two strips of fabric about 20cms long and selvedge to selvedge wide (112cm).  I sewed these two strips together at the short sides (the selvedge edges) to create one big loop of fabric.  I finished one long edge with a zig-zag stitch to stop fraying and then ironed this edge over 1cm towards the wrong side.  I carefully pinned this folded edge of the pink fabric to the inside of the skirt so that it sat 1cm above the hemline stitching of the blue cranes fabric (the zig-zagged edge was facing the inside of the skirt).  I sewed the seam attaching the band to the lower skirt edge from the inside (see right hand side of the picture below).  Careful pinning here was the key to getting a nice straight finish on the outside.

Then I hemmed the pink fabric to my desired skirt length ( hem on the left hand side of the picture above).  On the outside of the skirt you see two hem lines on the blue which I think is a nice detail (see below) and the pink band looks like it comes down from behind the blue cranes and is not just tacked onto the lower edge of the skirt.

Such a good looking skirt and lovely to wear, it will be a favourite wardrobe piece this summer for sure.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Second hand re-size

What do you do when you find a really nice cotton skirt in the op-shop but it's a size too big?  
Well of course you attack it with your unpicker and your sewing machine to get the perfect fit.

I found this beautiful and light "Colorado" brand skirt in my local oppy and fell in love with the green floral print and the black border.  Despite it being a size 14 and despite it falling off me I bought it anyway.  It sat around for a few weeks while I considered what to do with it to make it fit.  It had a back zipper closure and a lining of white cotton, I could sense possibilities but couldn't quite work out a way forward.  I kept pinching in the sides and knowing that it would look really hack to just sew up the side seams a bit tighter which would have nasty flow on effects for bunchy lining and fabric volume at the waist.  I told myself: "Come on Caroline, you do so much sewing, you can do something smarter than that!"  Then I had a eureka moment and I picked out the zipper and sewed up the lining and the back seams to the waist and then sewed the lining to the skirt front where they met at the upper edge of the skirt.  Now I had a skirt with no closures, but still too big.

Noticing that the facing of the waistband was wide enough to accommodate a nice wide piece of elastic if I made it into a casing, I sewed a seam around the waist of the skirt where the facing met the inner lining, picked open a gap at the back seam and threaded in my elastic.  Adjust to fit, sew elastic ends together, poke back inside casing and slip stitch the opening closed and you have yourself a new skirt with a fit just perfect for you.

A great sense of satisfaction, I love a good save of something old into something new.

Friday, November 8, 2013

400th post :: the one about the technology

Hello!  It seems I have had something to say over here 400 times over the last five years.  That's pretty amazing.  Sometimes blogging has been easy and sometimes its been really hard, I've waxed and waned with my enthusiasm for this space, but I've kept it up and that I'm proud of.  I'm proud of all the things I've made, amazed at all the skills I've taught myself and glad of all the people I've met.

In five years I've gotta say that blogging has changed a lot.  It used to be just me with my laptop in the night or at baby sleep time and I would sew and photograph, write posts, visit other nice blogs and write nice comments and that was really it.  These days though I'm more likely to be flicking through my favourite blogs on a reader, (still in the dark while I wait for my toddler to fall asleep or late at night on the couch), and I know this is the case with so many of you also.  Plus with the advent of social media there's so many platforms now on which to express your thoughts and share your projects that it's become quite the time consuming activity to keep yourself  "seen" and also to keep up with everybody elses goings on!    To be really honest on one hand I can't keep up with it, being everywhere on the web all at one time - I have a life! On the other hand I've become quite frustrated with plain old blogging and the time it takes to produce a blog post.  I've been struggling for about a year with some not quite 100% working DSLR equipment and that's been annoying, and these days my little laptop is not a quick and snappy as it used to be, and then my phone...well lets say its an old one and still a relatively good one but I kind of knew that it didn't really have the capability I wanted.  Me, need an upgrade? Need a re-think about the way I do things? Never!

But. My husband came home with a new smartphone from his work this year and I started to look over his shoulder at that shiny thing.  I slowly came to realise that next to my husband's new phone, my phone was really old.  It wouldn't load the latest versions of certain apps, the camera was rubbish, the screen was small and it had started to give me annoying little warnings about full memory.  Oh my little old android phone!  I didn't want to upgrade it just because I was caving in to a want for the latest, and definitely not if it was working just fine...as a phone.  Yes, I faced it, I took the plunge and got an upgrade, not the latest mind you, but good enough for me.

I wanted to make it easier to write blog posts, read other blogs and take great pictures away from my laptop.  Now I can do all that with my new phone, I can slip it into my pocket or bag, no big fat camera equipment, no slow computer, no finding the elusive camera cable so it will talk to said laptop.  It's quite the revelation and I know probably most of you have been doing it for years.  So I'm just declaring myself "in" with the 21st century crowd.  Someone once said, "If you can't beat them, join them".

The upshot of all this is that I've gone and signed up at Instagram.  You can find me there as maikacreations.  My pictures there are a bit more of a personal nature, some shots of my kids and the things we like to get up to as a family, but also a good dose of craft and works in progress.  It's great, I like the chatty nature of it, a bit like the old blogging used to be.  I've even found old friends who've given up on the blogging thing but they're alive and well on Instagram, and that's been nice too.

But the last laugh is on be because it took me over half an hour to put the little Instagram icon on the sidebar of my blog - sometimes I think it's my brain that needs the upgrade.

Thanks for reading and happy weekending to you all xx

Monday, November 4, 2013

One of those moments

We weekended away on an island and after a day of swimming and playing we had a bracing boat ride home with the wind in our hair.  Fresh sheets on the bed at bed time and he crawls into the crispy cotton with a sigh. "I love my Maisy pillow", he says with contentment. His childhood love of Maisy mouse and his Mama's love of sewing for him is wrapped up right there, warming my heart. Despite my own tiredness I read out loud a quick few chapters of his well read and loved Faraway Tree book and he's away to dreamtime.

Friday, October 25, 2013

KCW Fall 2013 :: Little Gentleman's Vest

A full Friday of sewing and photographing and its come time to do my wrap up of my efforts for Kids Clothes Week.

Mission ::
Make waistcoats for my two boys for upcoming family weddings and keep the project on a ridiculously small budget.

Pattern ::
A quick search on Etsy threw up a few pattern choices, one that caught my eye covered sizes for both my two year old and seven year old, plus it included a pattern for pants, so it was the stand out winner - the Little Gentleman's Pants and Vest pattern is available from the Peekaboo Pattern Shop for $8.50 (AUD). It's an instand download, print and stick job and it's beautifully easy to work from with detailed instructions. I used the 3T and 7 sizes.

Materials ::
This was the most time consuming part, a thorough search through my local fabric store saw me come away empty handed.  They simply don't sell suiting type fabrics, there probably isn't that much demand for them.  I wanted something (a) lightweight for wearing in the summer weather; (b) washable because it's kids wear after all; and (c) looked like a man's waistcoat.  Brainwave - head to the biggest second hand shop I know and search through the men's suits section.  I was initially going to buy a suit jacket until I realised that jackets have a lot of seams and tucks and pockets and linings so there isn't a whole lot of usable fabric in them. The suit pants were really the thing I need.  I steered clear of anything that looked too worn out and anything that was dry clean only....and for the grand price of $4 I found myself a large pair of polyester/viscose men's trousers, black with a fine white pin stripe - perfect!.  A quick wash and line dry and I was in business.

The choice of lining fabric also saw me spend about an hour in the fabric store.  I could have gone the way of the novelty lining, and this idea had merit for the fun factor and the vests could have been used in the dress up box after their official duties were done with, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I also shied away from a silky lining, in my head silky fabrics are hard to sew and easy to wreck and I didn't need the hassle.  In the end I chose a simple charcoal grey homespun cotton from the quilting section.

Construction ::
I laid out the pattern pieces on the trousers, I cut the smaller size 3T vest from the lower leg and the larger size 7 from the upper leg because naturally the trousers are wider at the top and the larger size pattern is also wider.

I cut both layers of the size 3T at once, carefully lining up the pattern with the pinstripes and making sure the reverse side was also a suitable fabric to pattern line up.  The upper section of the trousers had a lining in them so here I cut the trousers at the outer and inner seams and removed the lining fabric.  Then I cut the four pieces I needed individually.  More time consuming but I really needed those pinstripes going straight up and down the waistcoat and that was the only I could guarantee a great result.  (Note: the back pattern piece was supposed to be cut on the fold but as this wasn't possible I cut 1cm out from the pattern edge and sewed the two back pieces together with a 1cm seam allowance which gave me a perfect back piece, you can hardly tell!).

The pattern instructions are easy to follow and a chopstick to poke out those corners and an iron for pressing are definitely good helpers in getting a nice neat shape to the vest.  I was floundering around for buttons...

...when I realised the pants had the perfect buttons already on them.

Two from the back pockets and one from the fly were enough for the 3T vest and I bought a card of four buttons for $2.50 at the store for the size 7.

Mission accomplished? ::
Oh yes!

I costed up what a shirt and waistcoat would cost from the department store - $56 (not that I think it comes in a size small enough for my two year old).  The average cost of my waistcoats (pattern and materials) was $11.  Throw in a shirt from BigW for $15 and my ensemble is  $26 for each of the boys.

But the best bit?  They're super cute to boot!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Kids clothes week :: some progress

Wow, what a week, I had considered pulling out of Kids Clothes Week due to a lack of time but a last minute reshuffle of some long weekend plans means time for sewing has fortuitously dropped into my lap. 

I have moved my sewing machine temporarily upstairs to the dining room table to speed things up.

I'm going to one big wrap up tomorrow of what I've been up to, for now here's a few teaser pictures of my progress so far - big size pants, button holes and fingers crossed a perfect fit.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Op shop blues

A trip to the op shop yesterday yielded a few surprises in blue.

Three metres of a navy blue linen with a very pleasing white print.  At 140cm wide there's plenty of fabric here to make another summer dress (I admit that this summer I am becoming rather addicted to dress wearing!)

And a rather lovely, if not a little chunky, Arabia Finland teacup sitting amongst the Christmas themed pottery.  It wasn't cheap by op shop standards though, I can tell you!  I have managed to track it down to being a Sinilintu (bluebird in Finnish) teacup from the mid-60s, and I did see one website that described it as a chocolate cup.  It really does look like something for a nice hot chocolate rather than tea, don't you think?  It seems to be quite a rare item so I wonder how much it's actually worth?  I guess I'll never know.  This folky design is so me but I won't be becoming a collector in a hurry or I'd break the bank.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kids Clothes Week

As a rather late decision I have signed up for kids clothes week next week.  

I wasn't going to as the kids don't really need much in the way of everyday clothes right now. We do however have a couple of weddings to attend in the near future and I realised they are coming up faster than I was thinking.  So I'm going to be making something very specific and different and give sewing some formal wear a go.  A little challenge to make the boys some matching waistcoats at least. I'm not sure how I'll go for pants but I really don't think there will be time in my week for those anyway.

These pics are a little flashback to 2010, my then 3.5 year old Alex at a wedding in Bulgaria.  So cute!  Unfortunately this outfit won't fit my youngest boy just yet so I hope I can do a really decent handmade version.  In this quest the internet is my friend, lots of inspiration on Pinterest and a few patterns that look good on Etsy.  I've already scouted out for some fabric but this will be the more difficult part as so far I have found nothing at all decent.  I have but a few days to come up with some solutions and it might have to involve the second hand shop.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Holiday pet

So often I sew for the children, but hardly ever with them.  Last week, at his request, my big boy and I sat down together with sewing materials and made a little pet.  

The kids often flip through my Softies book and fantasize that I might be able to make them one of every toy (yeah right!).  A quick and easy project was the pattern for Arno the cat, no enlarging the pattern or special techniques needed, just tracing, cutting, sewing and stuffing.

He picked out fabrics from my stash cupboard and felt box and helped me to pin down the pattern pieces and push in the stuffing.  Any actual sewing was left for me to do, I didn't mind at all though, it's been ages since I made a softie myself.  He was keen from start to finish and I was surprised at his colour co-ordination, picking a blue felt for the face and the orange thread for the stitching.

We had fun and the result was perfect for my boy who loves a pocket sized, palm sized toy.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cloud washi dress

Technically this post belongs to Selfish Sewing week, but technically I started sewing this dress before the week started and technically I am writing a blog post about it in the week after.  And, if you are a regular reader you will, technically, have seen a few shots of this dress already - but I thought I would share the pictures my man took of me wearing it on our regular Sunday walk up the hill from our place to the local church.

This little church built in 1867 is a top a hill in Mitchelton and you get a view right over our local area all the way across to the skyscrapers of Brisbane city.  It's the halfway point on our walk it's here we catch the very last rays of the afternoon sun and re-set for the week ahead. We stop and sit on the benches in the cemetery and the kids have a run around on the lawn, then we walk the through-way between the properties down the the street above ours and wander our way around and along back to our house.  Just us four together, nowhere else to be and nothing else to do but just enjoy the walk, its a lovely family ritual - of course made all the nicer wearing a new summer dress you've just sewn up for yourself.

I think that's it for dress sewing for now, the pattern papers are folded away and the left over fabric is in the stash cupboard.  Although, I've got some shorts that need shortening for my littlest boy and the bigger boy wants to make a softie so I won't be away from my machine for long.


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