Meet wonky little Miss Fairy Dolly. She’s a prototype that is in need of a few tweaks. If I was clever enough, there would be a whole back story about her life and personality*, but in the interests of actually posting something, you will have to meet her, sans story.
I can see all the things I am going to change about her, but one thing that I’m super pleased with is her bubble dress. It’s so bubbly that it’s practically effervescent. Her rainbow hair was tricky. Although I like it, it was hard to hide the stitching that attaches it to her head, so a less variegated yarn might be better next time. I’m already started on her cousin, the slightly less wonky Fairy, I’m hoping that you will be able to meet her soon…
*(Perhaps you can come up with the back story of wonky Miss Fairy Dolly).
This weekend I went on the annual Guild retreat, that my Quilters Guild, (NOTYQ) runs. It was a pretty nice reward at the end of all the driving required during the last two weeks. This was my fifth retreat, and the third for this quilt top, which is understandable when you consider that it is all hand-pieced. The inspiration for this quilt was Cathy’s quilt, or I should say, her two quilts, as she has made this twice. Cathy English-Paper-Pieced hers, but I have been using traditional hand piecing methods.
It took me all year to piece this last ring, made up of the 88 cocoa coloured diamonds, although to be fair, I haven’t touched it much at all since our holiday in January. Next I have 48 squares to add, for the last full revolution. 24 of these will end up being trimmed back to triangles, when I square up the quilt, and there will be 5 lots of partial revolutions in the corners to fill in the square.
The 48 squares will be green, and I spent the morning cutting them out. I am lucky enough to have three kids home sick today, with a mild tummy bug that I am still recovering from (my kids bring out the sarcasm in me). It’s too hard, with them all home, to concentrate on any pattern writing, so I figured that I may as well use the opportunity to do something quiet and happy.
Looking up from writing this post to see my quilt, (which was still draped over my ironing board from the previous photo) silhouetted against the sunshine through the window, made me really happy too.
Does hand piecing make you feel happy too?
For the past week, theatre has taken over my life. I have become a taxi driver, taking my eldest daughter to daily rehearsals in the city, at Hisense arena. Thousands of parents, from across the state, have been doing the same. Saturday was the culmination of all the months of work, with 2 performances of the Victorian State School Spectacular.
Amelia is a member of the Performing Arts Unit Choir, a choir of about 30 kids that lead the rest of the mass choir, which is made up of many seperate school choirs. She was sitting at the front of the group that you can see, that is lit up in pink, at the centre of this shot. All the people around them, with little lights, are members of the mass choir. Amelia has committed every Saturday afternoon to this choir all year, and they sounded terrific.
Our commitment has been to drive her every week, and in the past week, every day. On one particular day, I drove three return trips to the city, and racked up 5 1/2 hours of driving! A highlight of these lengthy peak-hour trips was seeing this car. I got Amelia to take a snap, because I knew Rory would love to see it.
The Spectacular performances are not the end of my job as a taxi/Theatre-Mum. Every day this week Amelia has a rehearsal or performance of her High School Production. That’s right, 2 solid weeks of singing every single day for Amelia, which means two weeks of driving at odd hours for me. This morning we covered new territory for both of us, when I applied her first lot of stage make-up ever. I was pretty glad that the school had given very specific instructions regarding what to apply and where. I think we did OK.
Due to all the driving and late nights, I haven’t had much creative energy, but I really needed to reward myself in some way. I decided that following someone else’s pattern was the best kind of distraction, so I have been making another of Nikki’s fabulous A-Line Skirts. This time I have drafted my own pocket, and have inserted it with french seams. Even though I have made it in stolen moments here and there, I am almost finished, just the hem to go. I can’t wait to wear it, and show you.
I’m pretty impressed (if I do say so myself) that I did manage to turn Luke’s old straw hat into a Regency era bonnet, which was relatively comfortable and carefully finished. The hardest part was actually getting a good photo of it.
In the end I resorted to putting it onto the most cooperative living mannequin available, my eldest daughter, Amelia. If you look here you can see the inspiration for it. To create it, I cut off the crown of the straw hat, (just above the hat-band) and stapled together a pinch of the brim at the back. I made a replacement soft crown with a large gathered fabric circle and band, just like on my chef’s hat.
Above is a reminder of what the hat looked like before.
After gathering a large amount of fabric, I attached it to the underside of the brim, and stitched it in place, around the edge. I bound the edge of the brim with bias binding, just like on a quilt. The crown was gently stitched to the brim, covering up the old hatband, (which was a really handy thing to stitch through, easier than the straw) and a red ribbon finished it off, covering the stitching.
The red ribbon crossed over at the back, and I stitched it to the edges of the brim in 2 places that corresponded to just behind my ears. This gave it the bonnet shape when it was done up. To show you what it looked like on me, I will have to show you a terrible night-time selfie.
I spent the day of the party in bed with a migraine, so even though I was on track to finish the dress and bonnet in plenty of time to get a daylight photo, it wasn’t to be.
In the end, I cut a few corners with the dress. I only finished it thanks to my hubby Luke who pinned up the hem, (while I stood there in the dress feeling frail) and my Mother, Madeleine, who stitched it, just in time for us to leave. Next time I’ll show you the dress…
I know this doesn’t look like much, but it’s actually a Regency costume in waiting, just squint a bit and use your imagination. I have a book character costume party to go to this weekend, and I had plan A, B and C for the characters I was considering going as. I wasn’t planning on making a costume, but a trip to the costume store turned up nothing suitable (except for one dress, which would have been perfect without the multiple grey stains on the cream fabric).
This is plan D. I’m making a Regency dress because it’s achievable, and doesn’t require the same crazy amount of fabric and sewing skills that plan A,B and C would require. What you can see there is the lining of the dress. I adapting an old Empire-line Maternity dress pattern that my Mother already had, just using the pattern pieces to make the bodice. I’ve made the lining using the pattern pieces as is, while I am adapting the top layer to have lots of gathering in the bodice area. I’ve spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at the many boards dedicated to Regency Dresses. They are both lovely and fascinating, but not particularly flattering. The idea seemed to be to disguise the real shape of a woman’s curves, and create artificially high boobs.
This is the pattern piece for the sleeve, which I have cut 3 slits into, and inserted paper to add volume along the lower edge to create puff. I was hesitant to add any bulk into the top of the sleeve, because it actually forms part of the neckline. It’s an experiment, so I’m not sure how it’s going to go. I have fair sewing skills, but no drafting skills to employ when it comes to garments, but I figure that I only need to wear this dress once. It’s not the wisest plan to be making this in the school holidays either, but I’m giving it a red hot go, wish me luck!
By the way, at this point I’m guessing that most of you will be thinking that I’m going as Elizabeth Bennet, but I’m not. I tell you after the party who I was.
What is your proudest costume creation?
Michaela decided yesterday that she desperately wanted to embroider a panda. She came to me with her drawing, all ready to go. Usually I would just scan her drawing, scale it to fit in the hoop, and trace over the lines in Illustrator to create a pattern. The scanner has been a bit temperamental lately, so I explained that I would redraw it in Illustrator, as closely as possible.
After recovering from the disappointment of hearing that she would not be able to operate Illustrator by herself, (it took me years to teach myself) she started directing me. She decided to leave out the eyelashes, and after looking at some pictures of real Pandas, she decided to make the face and the black-eye-surrounds more oval in shape.
She worked out her own colour plan and has chosen all of her floss. Now she just wants me to release a pattern!
If I design some more “Hoop Faces”, what do you think I should add to the collection?
Are you ready to get crafty with felt? This is my newest pattern, a Creative Card “Felt Blossoms”, (which will retail in Patchwork stores for as little as $6) which is making it’s way to stores as we speak. The pattern features really clear illustrations, that make whipping up a few of these blossoms very simple. You may find it hard to stop at just one.
Looking through my archive I discovered that I first designed these clips in June 2008. In this photo above, Michaela is wearing the prototype. She is not quite 3 years old, awwwwwww. After making several hair clips that were more generic flowers, I decided that I wanted to design one inspired by the Cherry Blossom. The bottom-right hair clip, in the top photo, (and on the cover of the Creative Card) is the same clip that I made back then.
I have made so many of these for presents, that I have lost count. They are a great hand-made addition to any store bought present. I’ve made all of my “Felt Blossoms” with 100% wool felt, most of which is from Winterwood, who sell online. The other ingredient you need to get your hands on are hair clips like these…
I bought these in a pack from Spotlight quite some time ago. Clips like these are listed under a myriad of names online, you may already have some in your house. The pattern illustrates how to sew them onto the blossom, through the hole. If you only had clips without the hole, I think that you could use some improvisational sewing to find a way to attach them, (or perhaps you could resort to the hot glue gun).
The Creative card looks like this…
If you would like to try making one of these, and your patchwork shop does not stock my patterns, you can politely ask them to get one in for you. If you mention that there are no minimums on orders from my friendly distributors, Creative Abundance, they might be more willing, (in other words, if they wanted to, they could order in one pattern only, just for you). Otherwise, you can find my patterns at one of the retailers listed under “My Patterns and Stockists” on the top-right of my blog. “Under the Mulberry Tree” stocks all of them.
I’ve been working on a new pattern, a “Creative Card” that will be available soon. At the moment it is being tested, and as soon as possible, I will send it off to my wonderful distributors, Creative Abundance.
I really enjoy drawing diagrams, but I find writing clear, concise instructions a little harder. I’m usually pretty wordy. Keeping all of my instructions to one single page was hard, even for a simple project like this one, (I’m not telling you what it is yet, but can reveal that the main ingredient is delicious felt). Hopefully I have been brief and precise about the right things, and elaborated enough on the things that most need it.
Last Friday, I went with some friends, for a day trip to the divine Millrose Cottage, (Quilting and Gallery) which is, I think, one of the most delightful patchwork shops in Victoria. We lunched at the cafe next door, The Mill Cottage. My exciting news is that Millrose are now going to stock my patterns, and have several samples of mine to put on display, so if you ever drop in there, keep your eye out for some Matching Pegs goodies.
Do you have a favourite Patchwork/Quilting shop?
I have created very little recently, but this is one ‘finish’ that I managed. This baby top is made of a lovely wool/cotton blend, that felt so soft and warm, but it was crying out for a simple embellishment. I needle-turn-appliqued on the heart. The coordinating pants have a very sweet little ruffle across the bum. The baby is yet to arrive, but I finished these for the baby shower, which was a festival of pink, and sugar, and a lot of fun.
I had a quiet Mother’s day, with a morning at home, and an afternoon with the rest of my family, at my parents. The kids all gave me lovely presents, with special mention going to Amelia, who put in a lot of work on her hand-crafted Tardis, (a vehicle for chocolate delivery).
The kids have recently been introduced to the viewing pleasure of Dr Who, and love to watch it in their ‘Grandma-made’ beanbags, under their ‘Mum-made’ quilts.
In completely unrelated news, our new Dyson DC29 vacuum cleaner arrived this morning, and it will never look this clean again!
James Dyson has impressed me from the beginning. I remember discussing him whilst studying for my Industrial Design degree, and the way he doggedly worked at perfecting his design, when no one was interested in funding him. Luke and I were very early adopters, purchasing a DC02 as poor newlyweds, straight out of Uni. It was a pretty big financial decision at the time.
Our old machine happened to be a funky looking ‘DeStijl” model, inspired by the Dutch artistic movement of the early 20th century. By far the best thing about it was that it enabled me to manage my allergy to dust mites, as I could vacuum them out of our soft furnishings, without sneezing myself silly at the same time.
Dyson have now decided to stop manufacturing the replaceable filters for these early machines, but have impressed me again, this time with their service, and commitment to the environment. Because we can no longer buy the filters, they traded in our old machine, for $200 off a new one, and an automatic 5 year warranty, instead of the usual 2 years. We posted off the old one (reply payed by Dyson) to Sydney, where it will be taken apart for recycling. If you own a DC01 or DC02, you can read more about it here. Dyson vacuums are a great reminder that good Industrial design is about function and beauty, and can be found in all kinds of ordinary objects.
Finally, the beauty of nature, Melbourne’s beloved Yarra river, “the river that runs upside down”. Mum and I took a quick fortifying walk along it’s banks yesterday afternoon, as the sun was actually shining and it had been a particularly hard day. It really lifted our spirits. It has been a favourite place in my family, since I was a small child, and occasionally, (if you are quiet, and lucky) you can spot a platypus or two.
I’ve had the felt out again, which seems the perfect choice for the cooler weather, and as an antidote to days that are starting to become more grey. I love to keep the tiny offcuts, like precious jewels. In the past I have put these offcuts into clear glass Christmas ornaments, but these may end up in a tiny jar. I will share the project I have been working on soon…
I must admit that I have really needed the simple pleasure of beautiful colour to help cheer me. Last week I reached for the “disco ball” glitter nail-polish and M&M’s as an injection of “bright and happy”. There is definitely something to be said for enjoying the small and simple pleasures, when times are tough.
This week I have spent a lot of time up at the primary school for “Education Week”, which involves lots of activities that parents and friends can be involved in. Yesterday I was at a local park to cheer on my son as he ran 3 km (1.86 miles) with all the other boys in his age group, over a very hilly, cross-country course. He came 2nd! Rory just loves to run, and I was so proud of him. I also spent time playing the “Echo Cello” with Michaela’s class for a while. It was fabulous fun playing these strange instruments made of bits and pieces, and played with violin bows.
After all the excitement I returned to the running theme again when I spent the remainder of the afternoon prototyping a running case for a friend’s phone. She is running in the Mother’s Day Classic, a run to raise money for Breast Cancer Research, this weekend. She wanted a simple case to allow her to carry her phone, so that it sits in the small of her back. She only wants it “in case of emergency” and hopes that she will not need to access it while running. Ann-Marie did a run previously, in steep terrain, and came across someone who had fallen and broken their leg, far from medical help, so running with a phone is important to her. I still have some improvements to make, so prototype 2 is the next order of business.
What are you making at the moment?