Tag Archives: Craft

The birthday decisions

The middle chick’s birthday has arrived, which means that I can report on the gift making and decisions! Of course the most important thing to report is that the chicks are home again, safe in the nest. It is delightful to have them back, but very noisy!! I was woken several times in the night by different ones at different times, and then woken very early yesterday morning by the birthday girl who wanted to remind me that we needed to ring her cousin, who she shares a birthday with. I mumbled something suitable (which, I regret to say, was not “Happy Birthday darling”) and went back to sleep. However by 7.30 they had all been woken and presents were presented and admired and enjoyed. (The return to ‘normal hours’ tomorrow is going to be a shock for their mother!)

After my list making last week I decided to make her a kindle cover,

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and to make her a space of her own. She is currently occupying the top bunk, so a curtain,

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a shelf for her treasures and a fabric bucket (that can be hung) to assist in the collation of those treasures (well – to attempt to keep things tidy really),

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and a pin board (not covered in fabric I regret to say) were the contributions to her own space. She is thrilled! Unfortunately the kindle cover is too small (that will teach me to rely on measurements online instead of measuring the device before she left!!) but I have my technique sorted so will make another one with no problem, and she assures me that she will find things to use it for!

Other gifts she received that had the big tick of approval, that might prove useful ideas for anyone else looking for 9 year old girl present suggestions included a gift voucher to do a cooking class, tapestry and cross-stitch kits, and a Science kit – equipped to grow micro-organisms, isolate DNA, and various other experiments. Oh – and her father bought her a camping chair of her own – a Moon chair – that she is delighted with!

Because her father was in town for one more day he was able to take her, the other chicks, and her best friend, bowling for the afternoon, and then in the evening we all went out for dinner, with another family who are great friends of ours, for Teppenyaki – the birthday girl’s request. We very rarely go out for dinner because once we factor in the dietary restrictions, the boy’s excess energy, my usual state of exhaustion, and the expense, it isn’t worth the effort. However it was such a successful outing that we will do it again! The entertainment factor of Teppenyaki helped, with speedy quick chopping, flames, food catching, and general hilarity.

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Their father stayed the night with us before flying out early this morning.  I had one of those delightful reminders about the advantages of not being married to him anymore when his snoring from the boy’s room, where he was sleeping on the trundle (the boy was soooo excited) kept me awake!!  Ah well, you have to laugh!

I can also report that my birthday, after my initial ambivalence, was just delightful! I ended up having impromptu wine with a dear friend at the pub down the road and as the weather was perfect we were able to sit outside and enjoy it. Then dinner out was with another beautiful friend, at a very trendy restaurant called Eighty Six where we let the waiter pick the food for us, with the instruction that we needed room for dessert! He did a superb job and we had a smoked ocean trout salad with poached egg, followed by a lamb ragout with gnocchi. That left room for my dessert of crème brulee with drunken prunes and pistachio biscotti, and hers of lemon curd with elderberry jelly, yoghurt gel and something else that I can’t remember!! Combine that with some wine, a hard lemonade (in other words lemonade with booze in it) and I was in seventh heaven! Didn’t take any photos (was being cool after all) and had a lovely time enumerating the good things about our advanced ages. We both decided that our decidedly reduced care factors were one of the best things about getting older!

Of course what would one of my random blog posts be without an update on my ‘to-do’ list? I can report that the boy’s room was returned to a sensible state, including some sorting of the toy boxes. His wardrobe was cleaned out and changed over for summer. The presents for the middle chick were completed (without me going overboard for once!). The other things? Not yet. But the weekend is not finished yet!

I hope that your weekend is going well.  The weather here is delightful – hopefully you have the same!

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Nurturing the muse (or just attempting sanity)

Sunday night in the nest is always a little chaotic. I try to hold on to the freedom of the weekend as long as possible, and then reality sets in at about 6pm and I remember that I need to clean up from that very ‘freedom’, prepare for the week ahead, load my photos, list any new items, write this blog entry, put clean sheets on the stripped beds, sign notes for school, feed the dog, and tackle Mount Washmore (which is really Mount Foldmore but is still referred to as Washmore – a teetering pile of clean clothes, sheets, towels, school uniforms, sports uniforms, and generally everything that will be needed urgently first thing tomorrow morning if I don’t fold and sort it tonight.)

In case I haven’t said this before, I LOVE weekends. After years of being a busy social butterfly I am now the complete opposite and work very hard to keep weekends as free from commitments as possible. Sports fixtures and birthday parties are about the extent of it. When I find myself with a day with no ‘bookings’, instead of rushing off to ring my friends to see who is free to go off on some wild adventure with multiple children in tow, these days I stay very quiet about it and inwardly breathe out at the thought of a day where I don’t have to be anywhere at any time.  Which means that I have time to sit, have a cup of coffee and take in the sight of hot air balloons drifting past the back of my porch, looking like musical notes against the electric wires.  (I was feeling a bit poetic this morning!)

Of course I love it when I do catch up with my friends, and think ‘we should do this more often’ – there is just no pleasing some people – but the reason for keeping weekends as simple as possible is that it is part of my plan to keep myself sane (or on bad days – to attempt for sanity!) I suspect that it also contributes to nurturing my creative muse, mojo, or whatever you want to call it! Between a busy office during the week, lots of after school commitments with the children, and all the other busy ‘stuff’ that just comes from being a family, if I don’t carve out some hours for myself on the weekend, then I start to disappear.

Luckily this weekend had a good balance of sports and parties – only one of each – and great weather, so I was able to do lots of thinking, planning and some sewing. I felt rotten on Saturday and thought I was getting another cold, but a bit of resting seemed to do the trick. I used the resting time to make lists. Lists of the things I want to make, lists of the things I want to make right now, lists of the things I could make if I suddenly had a time-turner and could be in two places at once, and then, lists of the supplies I ‘need’ to buy. It was a long list of lists. The inability to do everything I want, all at the same time, can be a little overwhelming, so I chunked it down. The end result? Two overnight bags from the great pattern I bought at the beginning of the year from Gingercake.  One with some lovely fabric I received from Spoonflower earlier this week…

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And the other with some divine retro fabric I bought a few weeks ago….

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I am quite happy with them.  I also intend to make a travel pack to go with them – a zip up pouch and a draw-string bag, but the reality of life means that that might not happen for a day or two….

During the week I made the bag to go with the pouch I posted on Wednesday – a custom order for a colleague at work.  Again I included an adjustable strap – will definitely be making more of those!

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Some of the other ideas I am itching to start on?  A series of appliqued t-shirts, some travel bag sets, some cushion covers, some hats, hot water bottle covers, skirts, pillowcases, ipad covers…..  sheesh!  You can see why my brain is buzzing!

Taking one thing at a time…… have a look at this delightful offering from Spoonflower….

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one of my friends, immediately upon seeing it on Facebook, asked for scatter cushions.  She has a fantastic eye!  I had just been sitting there admiring it and wondering how best to use it….. and cushions are perfect!  (As are travel bag sets I suspect….)   So at some point, that is what will happen.

I often write here about my ongoing struggle to ‘maintain the balance’.  I read an online article today where it said “Balance is a myth. Parenting isn’t a tight-rope walk; it’s a dance. Strive for rhythm instead of balance, and trust yourself to move to the ever-changing beat.”

I think I like this concept.  Balancing always feels a little precarious.  Dancing, however, has moments of fun, of pure joy, and of fumbled steps.  I might adopt this.

I had two random moments of joy today at the hands of my children.  The boy was playing with an electronic world globe that they got for Christmas (from grandparents who don’t have to hear it all day long…….) and started singing the national anthem.  I was quite proud of his patriotism, and knowledge of the song, until I listened a little closer and heard him singing “Avast Australia Fair”……. apparently we live in a land of pirates.  (For the non-Australian readers amongst you the correct phrase is “Advance Australia Fair”.

Then some hours later the two girls were talking about something on the computer and the eldest chick said to the middle chick “You are one little world of weird”.  Her sister (fortunately)took it as a compliment, while I sat and marvelled at the imagery one phrase from a 10 year old can elicit.

As I head off to tackle the mountain of clean laundry, and face the working and school week, I can reflect that I am still one of the lucky ones.  My sanity is reasonably present, my muse and mojo seem to be in the vicinity and my children are delightful.  Especially now that they are all asleep.

Have a great week as you work towards another fabulous weekend.

Its the little things

Half way through the week already? The long weekend means that while the week feels like it is just starting, it is half way over. Which, on a cold, wet day, when staying in bed with a good book, or curling up on the couch with a dvd and some crochet is more appealing than venturing out to school and work, is a good thing!

Tonight I am pondering the little things that can happen in a day to turn a frown into a smile. While my day was not a bad day (I didn’t have to leave work to address issues with any children – yay!) by the time I got home I was feeling a bit flat. Contemplating the ongoing juggle of trying to be a competent employee and leader while also being a supportive parent to a child with ‘issues,’ and the way this is perceived by my colleagues, had me overthinking my work-life balance once again. This is not a struggle special to me – so many parents face it on a day to day basis. Trying to be a good employee, and a good parent, when the two don’t always sit well together. Combine it with a healthy dose of judgement from the media, other parents, extended family, and so many of us feel that we can’t win, no matter which way we turn.

Of course, my life is actually quite good. I have a supportive work environment, where I can have flexible working arrangements, where my staff understand that sometimes when my phone rings I need to run out the door, where I am paid very well to do a job that I like. The ‘issues’ that my family face are not insurmountable. No one is terminally ill. My children are healthy, intelligent and loving. We have a warm home, good food, warm clothes and the ability to be safe. I have found a creative outlet that keeps me sane when the walls seem to be closing in. The fact that some of my colleagues don’t see it that way is really about them, not about me.

But my mind was working through all of this, and I was wondering whether I was kidding myself that I can keep making things, be respected professionally, keep my kids safe and supported, when one little thing came along to make me stop, celebrate a success and remember that, in fact, I don’t really care about my ‘image’, but I do care that I am succeeding in many ways in my life.

The little thing? I opened up the Etsy website, and there, on the front page, in a handpicked treasury of bright and lovely things, was one of my bags. Yes. One of MINE!! The kids were thrilled, I was excited, and the world stopped spinning out of control and returned to it’s normal axis.  (It was featured as part of a treasury that you can see here.)

I let go of all the overthinking, all the teasing the problem until a new angle could be found, and just smiled and got happy. Perspective is a wonderful thing!

And having a clear head means that I can celebrate my other small successes of the last few days, and that we had a lovely family evening because I was no longer flat.  At dinner we have a tradition of each of us reporting our ‘best thing’.  The artist-in-residence had us enthralled with the report of her drama class, the boy had a list of 16 ‘best things’ that had us all smiling, and the eldest chick waited patiently to tell us the news of her class’ work in preparing for their theatrical performance.  So lovely to just sit and enjoy our time together – no TV, no fighting, and no stress.

On a personal level, I  had my first appointment with a personal trainer yesterday in a new bid to start improving my fitness.  I was very upfront about the need for the children to attend the sessions with me, and I think (hope) it is going to work.  The amusing part was watching the boy, at 6, spending most of his time wanting to lift weights in front of the mirror.  It starts early!

My recent efforts in getting more organised about this blog have paid off too, with a few new followers (hi and welcome!) and realising that sometime this week I passed the 200 follower mark (combining facebook and the blog). Another sign that I am doing okay in my own small way!

On the crafting front I am making up a custom order for a colleague who wants a bag for weekend wear, and wanted a zip up pouch to go in it (at my suggestion). So, here is the pouch I made – without a pattern. Something small – but I am proud of it!

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And finally – I offered to crochet a beret beanie for a friend who dropped in the other day and was admiring the black one I made for the artist-in-residence. While the children were training at martial arts last night I sat and started a new hat. And, in a first, did not have to unpick it once! I have about three rows to go to finish it, but for now – looking a little like a purple sea creature – here is the beret.

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So, as the mid-week ‘hump’ goes, my week is alright.  As I fall towards the weekend my approach will be to continue putting one foot in front of the other, remembering that my family is more important than anything else in my world, and that I am one of the lucky ones.  I wish you a great second half of the week, and lots of things that you can celebrate as successes.

Getting my mojo back

This has been a week of personal growth and revelations. It coincided with having to miss a lot of my paid work to care for children. Could be something in that!  I should post a warning that this post contains very little about sewing (for once) and more of my self-revelation musings!!

Having time at home gave me time to clear my head a bit, to think about various aspects of my life that I tend to tuck away into the ‘when I have time’ basket, and to rediscover parts of myself. I have written before about how I have found the process of making things gives me a chance to de-stress, to focus and to work through issues in my mind. What I hadn’t really appreciated before this week is that once I start that process, I also gain in creativity.

What have I achieved this week? As I wrote earlier in the week I came up with a plan for managing my blogging more regularly. I also spent some time preparing some posts for weeks when I don’t have as much time. I looked at my Etsy shop and realised that I didn’t like the overall look and feel of it. So I did some reading on taking photos, played with my camera a bit, tried out an Etsy App for ‘fusing’ photos (and abandoned it) and then re-shot all the photos for my Etsy listings. Instead of the outdoors backgrounds I had been using,  I have gone with white. I have used the macro setting to get some close ups, and to gain different perspectives on my pieces. While I can still spot room for improvement, I am much happier with it now. (And am happy to get feedback if you have time to have a look!)

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Before and After

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Before and After

I was feeling a bit virtuous by this time, so decided to keep going. I joined some Etsy teams, and created a couple of treasuries (curated collections of other people’s listings – not my own), and enjoyed that so will try to keep it up. Then I made the decision that I am still a bit directionless with all of this, so registered to attend a Right Brain Business Plan workshop with Canberra Creatives.  The timing is perfect as it is on while the chicks are visiting their grandparents during our July school holidays.  I am hoping to create a plan and focus my energy in one direction instead of stopping to look at every bright and shiny thing that comes along!

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Hey look – better light today!

All of this made me feel a lot more connected with the business side of my creating.  Which lead to my creation of the new bag design yesterday (in my last post) and a feeling that I had ‘got my mojo back’.  Which was interesting as I wasn’t aware that I had lost it!  This is a recurring theme in my life.  I think I am happily pottering along, then something happens and I find myself being truly happy again and realise that until that point I have been slowly sinking into survival mode for a while, without realising it.  A year after my husband left me some dear friends gave me a gift with a card that read “Celebrating the becoming of Theresa”.  It was a sharp reminder that by the time my marriage ended I had lost so much of myself, and hadn’t realised it.  Although the pain and grief that came with the end of my marriage was so strong, and still lingers these years later, the rediscovery of myself and the things that make me feel happy and alive was a gift that kept me going.

A few years later, after being a full-time single parent for a couple of years, I am conscious that I have lost a bit of myself again.  Creating things, and having another focus in life seems to be a good way of keeping those bits of me sustained when everything else is getting a bit much!  So the realisation that I had lost a bit of my creative mojo, when it returned this week, was a good reminder that I need to nurture that side of my life too.  I am not quite sure how to do this yet, but am mulling over a few ideas as I sit and sew bags and match fabrics and colours, so I will see what pops out at the end!

These are the fabrics I am playing with for my next set of bags!

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I hope that your week is full of love and support – and that you are able to nurture your mojo too!

Getting creative

 

There is something about a long weekend that lets you breathe out and relax a bit more.  We have a three day weekend here in Canberra this weekend and just knowing that there is an extra day up our sleeves has seen the chicks and I enjoying pottering around the nest without rushing off to fit everything in.  (The fact that none of their sports had a scheduled game on today didn’t hurt!)

Between having friends over to play (the boy and his friend spent a few hours rearranging all spare pieces of wood they could find in the backyard as part of their game – and when they couldn’t find anymore they just liberated some fence palings!) and catching up on laundry, it occurred to me that I needed a gift for the children to give their afternoon visitor.  Their father’s partner has been in the country, and in town, for a few days for work, and had arranged to come and spend the afternoon with us (yes it is complicated – but she is lovely.)   She had her birthday last week, so the artist-in-residence got to work on making a card, and I decided that this was a great opportunity to work on a design that I have been mulling over in my head for a few weeks.

The end result?  A new ‘bucket bag’!

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I was keen to play with different fabrics to create different looks.  This was my first one and I like the way the colours and patterns worked together.  We presented it to our visitor this afternoon and she liked it – and promptly put it to use (always a good sign!).  So I decided to make another one and perfect the pattern a bit.  For this one the only real change I made was making the strap a bit wider.

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Hmmm…. the contrast between nighttime and daytime photos is pronounced isn’t it?  Might have to reshoot these tomorrow!

I might try the same shape with a more integrated ‘wrap around’ pocket as the next variation.  I am also toying with the idea of making a tutorial on how to make it.  (I have been spending so much time looking at other people’s tutorials recently I am thinking it is about time I gave something back!)

Tomorrow my plan is to get to the Handmade Markets that are being held in Canberra.  I have wanted to attend for a long time (they are held several times a year) and this weekend there is nothing more pressing to prevent me getting there (so far!).  I hope to walk away even more inspired to create some other designs, or combinations of colour and pattern.  They are also holding an event for “Knit in Public Day” – and I made the mistake of telling the artist-in-residence about it.  So now she wants to learn to crochet (because I can’t knit!) by tomorrow afternoon so that we can go and participate.  Hmmmm……wish me luck.

I hope that your weekend is going well.

 

Getting organised

With winter weather comes winter health, so this week I have had two of my chicks sick for a day each (so far) with throat infections.  I have also been dealing with some behaviour issues with the remaining chick.  All of this means unexpected time at home.  While the downside is knowing that my work is piling up in the office, the silver lining is that I have been using the time to be productive and get a bit more organised about how I want to manage the business side of my crafting.

The first thing I have done is added to my Tutorials page on this blog.  From now on it will have links to any tutorials I produce (quite aspirational as I have only managed one so far), any posts where I list links to other people’s tutorials (also aspirational with only one so far), plus links to any tutorials that I have used myself.

The second thing I have decided is to have a plan for when I blog – a blog timetable if you like.  Sunday nights seem to be when I am able to sit and write about the crafting and family activity of the week.  Friday nights seem to be a good spot to add posts with links to the many tutorials that I have collected from other generous crafters.  So that leaves mid-week.  I have lots of ideas for a regular mid-week post, so might leave that as slightly random initially until I work out what is working best.  (Some ideas include reviews of tutorials I have used, tutorials I produce myself, links to other great blogs etc.)

Then I downloaded an Etsy app so that my Etsy shop now appears on my Facebook page.  I had previously been loading photos into a separate album on Facebook and marking them when they were sold.  This is much more efficient!

I also worked out how to put my photos into collages, so that I can post multiple images within one image.  (Feeling a bit proud of myself at achieving all of these technological things and ignoring the fact that I could have done all of this ages ago as it really wasn’t that hard!)

Being home is also a bit dangerous…… too much access to online shopping.  Even though the Australian dollar has dropped a bit, the exchange rate with the US, and the amazing fabric range available there means that online orders are still worthwhile.  I have to praise the postage system used by Fabric. com – I ordered some fabric from them a couple of weeks ago (they are based in the USA) and it arrived at my house (in Australia) within 48 hours!   Given that it can take up to two weeks for a parcel to cross the country domestically I was blown away!!  So I have placed another order….. wonder how long it will take to arrive?

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A couple of dandelion pouches, with pockets inside – playing with fabric and playing with ideas!

Finally, having some extra time at home has provided a bit of extra sewing time (of course) and crochet time.  I had a chance to play at making some pouches as gifts for friends, and also made my first zipped pouch – just a bit bigger than credit card size, as a little gift for a friend who is about to travel.  It matches a bag I made her last year.  I forgot to take photos but can assure you that I found it so straightforward I will be making more!

I also made another bag for the shop – and added two pockets to the outside of it.  I like the extra storage they provide and am thinking of making one with a number of different fabrics to give it a different feel.

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Dealing with the behaviour issues of one of my chicks, and the impact on the school, my work, and the other chicks that flows from the issues can wear me down and take its toll.  I have written before about how crafting helps me to clear my head and maintain some sanity.  This week crochet has been my escape.  The results are a few more rows on the afghan (that should be finished while the weather is still cold!)

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Now that I am feeling a bit more organised it might be time to plan the next thing to make!

I hope that your week is going well, wherever you are.

 

A productive weekend – and a facebook giveaway!

Winter has arrived early here in Canberra – the dog’ water bowl, and the chicken’s water dispenser were both frozen this morning for the first time this year. Of course this didn’t stop the children running around the yard in short sleeved shirts and pants. Each time they got cold they would each have a complete change of wardrobe, then return to playing, get hot, and have another new outfit. My washing basket is overflowing!

We have had a lovely quiet weekend. Having finally returned to full strength after my head cold, we have restocked the pantry, cleaned out some cupboards, folded the ever present large pile of clean laundry, had some lovely visitors, attended the children’s sporting fixtures, and I have, finally (it feels like) managed to sew!!

I have finished three custom orders this weekend. The first for a lady who breeds and shows Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (and my first truly new customer – we don’t have a previous direct relationship of any sort.) She requested a bag and an ipad cover.

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The second order was for a Dr Who hot water bottle cover. I actually made one last week – but it was about a centimetre (roughly half an inch) too small all round. This week I took a different approach and used polar fleece as the inner lining, as it works so well as insulation. It is still not perfect – but is much better – and has a hot water bottle in it, so I know that it fits! My lesson from all of this? Next time use calico for a mock up before cutting into good Spoonflower fabric!

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The final order was for two art folders. I took a box with my current (quite small) stash of ready made items to my office last week for one of my team to look at as he wanted a bag for his mother. I didn’t want to make too big a deal of it, as I don’t want my team to feel obliged to ooh and aah over what is essentially my hobby, nor to feel obliged to buy anything. But one of the guys saw the art folders and decided that his daughter, who is turning 8 next weekend, would love one as she is a budding artist. Then he decided that his younger daughter needs one to avoid fights, so I made two! I even went back to making the pencil pockets pleated – although it is quite fiddly they really do work better…..

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As I was updating my facebook page tonight I realised that I have hit 100 ‘likes’. So I am having my first giveaway through facebook. If you ‘like’ my page and comment on the relevant post, you will be in the draw to win this art folder.  I need to thank everyone for supporting me in my crafty adventure this year!

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I hope that you had a great weekend!