Going Down Under

March 11, 2012

I hinted in my last post that there was some huge personal news I wanted to share. Well, here goes…

I am moving toAustralia!

Yup. Mr & Mrs Cotton & Sunshine, as well as our little E, have upped sticks and decided to go on a crazy adventure Down Under.

How long are we going for? - we don’t know
Where will we live? -we don’t know
Has my husband got a job yet? - no but I sure hope he finds one!

We will arrive in Brisbane in the middle of March and spend a few weeks travelling around, before we eventually settle in Melbourne, probably by the end of April.

We were actually supposed to fly on March 5th but were delayed by a well timed bout of chickenpox in little E, who is currently recuperating. But we’re happy to have some extra time with the family before we go.

I am really excited about our trip, and Melbourne has a huge crafting community that I can’t wait to become a part of (Sew Tessutti and Thread Den, I’ve been online-stalking you for months now…!)

Watch out Australia, the Taylors are (almost) on their way!!

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Oops….  hello everyone.

It’s been a little while since my last post, hasn’t it?

Thank you to my lovely readers who have sent me messages asking if everything is ok :-) It’s really nice that the online crafting community is as thoughtful and closeknit as it is, and I appreciate you reaching out. And it’s pushed me to finally come back and say a big fat hello to you all!!

And the answer is yes, I am very well thank you, as is my family. My little E is not so little now, she is a running, laughing, talking 22 month old little girl (not a baby anymore – where did the time fly???)

And, even more suprisingly, I have been finding the time to sew! I won’t pretend it’s easy, in fact it has been very hard, though now that little E is getting older it is becoming easier and easier (or maybe I am just getting better at household/time management).

Little E helping Mummy to sew

The reason I haven’t been blogging is purely because, having only limited time available for ‘me’, I’ve been using that time to actually sew, instead of writing about sewing. That probably sounds a bit silly, but as time is so scarce for me those extra 20 minutes mean I do about twice as much creative stuff as I otherwise would.

Knit top from Sewing Clothes Kids Love by Nancy Langdon

daddy's old trousers refashioned

Dress from Lil Blue Boo Handmade Dolls Dress pattern

Sleeping bag for dolly, from a Flossie Teacakes pattern

I do miss blogging though, and now that little E is a bit bigger, and I have a little more time to myself, I hope to blog more frequently. And I have some HUGE (I am not kidding) personal news that I want to share. And no before you guess, I am not pregnant! Watch this space for the news later this week..

L x

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Recently, I went to a bread baking lesson organised by our local NCT at Munckins Cookery School. I’ve been making my own bread for a while (albeit with a breadmaker) but wanted to learn more about how it’s made from scratch and the processes involved, as my knowledge was limited to “add ingredients to breadmaker >> set program >> wait >> oooh yay it’s finished, delicious bread”.

It was a great lesson and I thoroughly recommend the cookery school. I’d love to do more lessons but they’re a bit too pricey unfortunately; not overpriced, as I can understand why they have to charge £40+ per head, but our budget just doesn’t stretch that far right now!

Anyway, back to the subject in hand: keeping bread fresh. The tutor mentioned that the best way to keep bread fresh is in a paper bag or cloth bag. And with brilliant timing, a few days ago in my Google Reader I stumbled across a fab tutorial for a 5 minute bread bag, made from an old tea towel.

Mine is made from the whole teatowel, not half, as I make quite big loaves sometimes: so it didn’t even take 5 minutes. Brilliant.

 

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Hot on the heels of a wonderfully relaxing week in Corfu with my family, I’ve had what has to be one of the toughest weeks I remember on the baby front! I think little E was a bit confused by the whole holiday thing and has found it challenging coming home (“what, no swimming every day? where’s the beach gone? waaaah!”).

So last night imagine my utter amazement/relief that she actually put herself to sleep. I’d put her down and left the room in complete exasparation, to give myself 5 minutes to recentre. And there was no noise. Result = a sleeping baby!!! Wow! And even more amazing, she has repeated the trick this morning! It’s too soon for me to believe it’ll really last, but, it’s a major improvement.

So last night I found myself with a spare hour. And I felt so frazzled from the week that’s been, that I felt I had to use it for myself. Sod the kitchen; sod the mess (and thankyou hubby for so lovingly cleaning the kitchen while I sewed. I love you!). I had to make something, and something fast – I needed to see results. I needed some fast therapy, and instant gratification.

I put my current projects to the side as they’re all a bit slower. I remembered Lil Blue Boo’s taggy toy tutorial from earlier this week and I thought that’d be a perfect quick project that I could really enjoy, and even better, finish. And it didn’t disappoint – I amazed myself at making it in less than half an hour! I almost started a second one before I decided an early night would be a better idea.

For someone that normally overanalyses everything and wants to know exactly where a project is going before starting, there was a real pleasure in just grabbing and doing. I didn’t really plan the fabric; I didn’t plan the shape; the ribbons; or any of it. I just grabbed two bits of scraps that were nice and soft (the owl is needlecord, the green spots fleecey fabric), cut out a rough shape, and then chose some random ribbons and attached them without thinking about how they matched or how to position them.

the front

the back

Definitely recommend this as a quick project to replenish those creative juices. E’s a bit old for the toy now but I have some pregnant friends who may find a few of these on their way to them :)

In separate news, I have another very exciting project on the go, though this definitely falls in to the slow-burner category. I am hand piecing a quilt made from 99 pieces of Liberty tana lawn. More on that soon!

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I’m soooo thrilled to hear that Ray Stitch, the gorgeous online haberdashery and fabric shop previously only of virtual existance, is opening up a real bricks and mortar shop! How exciting! And funnily enough I used to live about 2 minutes away from where the shop will be. Gah! If they’d opened 5 years ago I may never have moved.

The shop will be at 99 Essex Road, N1 2SJ. Angel is becoming quite the crafting mecca, what with the Make Lounge and Loop also just around the corner.

Which means I need no more of an excuse to go on a day trip ‘up north’ (I live south of the river now, so it counts as The North for me ;-) ) when Ray Stitch opens, currently scheduled for September. I’d better start saving up!

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The Sis Boom Sophie Tunic

Before I found the Sis Boom Sophie Tunic pattern I spent ages searching for a pattern for a simple, long-sleeved sun cover-up for toddlers. I was amazed how few there are out there! Most long-sleeved toddler tops are made out of knit fabric, but I wanted the cover-up to be made from thin, breezy cotton lawn so it would be super comfy in the heat. I’m not super worried about the sun, as I know a good dose of sunshine is good for the little ‘uns. But I’d much rather Eva was dressed sensibly so she can play outside without me worrying too much about sunburn, and I much prefer it to exposing all of her skin and slathering suncream on her instead. Pah!

Anyways, unfortunately I don’t have any really good full frontal pictures of the top as it’s pretty hard to get a 1 year old to stay still in an upright position. However the pattern came out really beautifully and I love the finished result.

The Pattern Description: The Sophie Tunic is a cool, classic top for girls sized 6/12 months to 11/12 years. It is simple to sew, and a great way to showcase stunning fabrics. With a range of sleeve and length options, there are design possibilities for all seasons. A stylish tunic can be worn with jeans or leggings for casual fun, or paired with a pretty skirt for a dressier look. A long tunic makes the perfect cover-up for lounging by the pool or walking on the beach.  Three separate sleeve patterns are provided for each size: a short sleeve, a long sleeve, and a cuffed sleeve. The short sleeve has an additional cutting line for cap length. The long and cuffed sleeves have multiple cutting lines to make a range of lengths from ¾ to full. The keyhole neckline is finished with a facing, which can be made from a contrasting fabric and placed on outside of the garment. Sweet ribbon ties or a little button/loop fastener can be added as well.

Did the pattern turn out like the picture or drawing? Yes it did. The detailed instructions include illustrations that demonstrate what the finished sleeve and tunic lengths will look like for different sizes, which is a lovely, very thoughtful feature. It meant the tunic length and sleeve length I chose for Eva were spot on.

I used a really stunning, soft, buttery cotton lawn by Liberty which worked really well with the pattern – much more drapey and fluid than if I’d used quilting cotton. You can buy the fabric here at Sewbox. I can’t rate Liberty tana lawn highly enough; it feels so indulgently luxurious to work with. Saying that, it was harder to sew cotton lawn than I was expecting, as the fabric is pretty thin and prone to a little distortion if you don’t guide it through the machine carefully. It’s not hugely difficult though, and should be fine even for a beginner. It was just something that caught me by surprise, never having sewn with cotton lawn before.  And it’s still way easier than most dressmaking fabrics – just a little bit trickier than your standard, mediumweight quilting cottons.

What level of difficulty is the pattern? Are any particular sewing techniques used? The pattern is super easy. The instructions are extremely clear with helpful photographs to illustrate each step. The techniques used are all very simple, yet the pattern still includes definitions and instructions for all of them – topstitching, edgestitching, narrow folds, backstitching and zigzag finishing. The pattern also uses a facing around the neckline and the instructions take you through this very clearly too.

It also comes with a folding template which you can print on to card and then use as a guide to help you fold the hem. This is another feature I have never seen before in a pattern but which is a brilliant idea and saved me a lot of time as I could skip the measuring and pinning stage for the hem.

Did you make any alterations or modifications? No, none at all. Little E is 14 months old and I made the size 18m-2y with a tunic length of 16″ and a sleeve length of 11″.

As expected, it is quite roomy, which I see as a good thing so she’ll get plenty of wear out of it. However, her head only just fits through the neck opening! Argh! I am hoping the rest of her body will grow faster than her head, otherwise she might not be able to wear it for too much longer. I was surprised the neck opening sizes up so small, though it may also be that little E has a frightfully large head – quite possible given that both her mummy and daddy do (I speak for the packaging, not the contents :) ). When I make the pattern again I’ll have to widen up the opening. I’d also probably add some embellishments for a bit of fun, and to add interest.

I should have measured her head so that I can give you the information in case you decide to sew up this pattern too. But of course I am writing this review while she is napping, so no can do, unfortunately. I’ll add a postscript if I remember to measure her head size when she wakes up.

How long did it take to sew? Despite the pattern being so simple, it still took me longer than I was expecting, and I am not quite sure why that is – overall I think I spent about 4-5 hours on it, from printing the instructions and pattern, cutting out, and sewing it up. I suspect I was just being very slow. And remember, I was sewing it up in 30 minute blocks of time, so maybe that slowed me down a bit. Next time I make it I will keep a closer eye on the clock to see how long it takes, as I feel it should be doable in a couple of hours really.

Will you make it again? Do you recommend it? Yes, absolutely, on both fronts. I think this will become a staple in little E’s summer wardrobe! However, I did have three minor irritations with the pattern.

  • When it comes to marking the facing, they ask you to mark a V-shaped stitching line at the centre of the facing (where the V of the neck is) and it’s quite difficult to do this accurately without a geometry set. I feel the pattern could easily have come with this stitching line already marked on the pieces, and I don’t really understand why they didn’t.
  • The seam allowances are only 1/4″. This didn’t cause any problems for me but I like to know I have some spare room to play with, just in case.
  • The pattern supposedly provides a fabric layout guide, but it made no sense to me! All the pieces are to be cut on a fold yet the diagram shows them laid out flat, no fold in sight. I just worked out a layout that worked for me and ignored their diagram.

These three issues aside, I still recommend the pattern as a “go-to summer essential” for little girls. The instructions are super clear and it’s refreshing to see step-by-step photographs instead of sparse illustrations. And with the handy drawings of the sleeve and tunic length variations, you pretty much know what you’re going to get with this pattern.

Conclusion: Definitely feeling the love for the Sophie Tunic. It’s not the most exciting of tops, granted, but sometimes designers forget that we also need basics for our little kiddies, and as I said at the beginning, I searched for a long time for a sewing pattern for a simple tunic top like this.

It’s a super basic for everyday wear, and also offers fantastic value… the sizes range from 6 months to 12 years, and when you combine that with the different sleeve lengths (from cap sleeves to full sleeves), different tunic lengths, and the ability to stitch the facing on the inside or on the outside as a contrast, you have a huge amount of options for sewing a variety of tops. This won’t be the last time you’ll see one of these on little E!

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I did it! I sewed for 30 minutes a day for (almost) 30 days in June.

It started off pretty easy, but got harder throughout the month, as it got harder to ignore the things that I let slip in order to fit in the time to sew, such as housework. I did end up skipping a few days here and there. Initially, if I skipped a day I tried really hard to ‘catch up’ the following day by sewing for an hour instead of thirty minutes; but this ended up being a bit stressful and almost turned it in to a chore, so I stopped stressing about it and if I missed a day I just picked up where I left off on the following day. Another credit to Flylady for reminding me that “You are not behind! I don’t want you to try to catch up; I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?” The lady is a legend. And as it worked out, some days I’d have some extra time anyway and carry on sewing, and overall I am sure I averaged the equivalent of at least 30 minutes a day.

Despite that, progress was also slower than I was expecting, no surprise there – I have a habit of being a bit too optimistic about how much I can do!

I did finish the Sis Boom Sophie Tunic, and am really pleased with the end result. It’s a deceptively time-consuming pattern for what looks, and is, a very simple top – but it was worth it as it is just what I was hoping for: a very cooling, light summer cover-up to protect little E from the sun. I’ll be doing a full pattern review soon. Unfortunately, little E was less than co-operative when it came to modelling for my photos. How hard is it to get a 1 year old to keep still ??!

Little E isn’t walking yet so that makes getting a full-frontal, standing-up shot even trickier. Here she is after playing a game of “yes I can stand up but as soon as you press the shutter on your camera I’m going to sit down mummy!”

I moved indoors to see if her leaning on a prop would help. Here are some of the out-takes.

Ah well, you get the gist. And as she demonstrates very well, the top is perfectly suited for playing around in! In fact it’s so practical yet pretty that I really want to make a couple more before our holiday. But as we depart next Friday, that just isn’t going to happen.

One more thing I managed to do in my 30 minutes for 30 days challenge was sew on some cute straps to a ladybird sunhat. Another holiday essential.

The hat itself is from H&M, but I added the polka dot straps in an attempt to get the hat to stay on baby’s head for more than half a minute. It works. Kind of – for about 5 minutes, which is still a noteworthy improvement!

Well thanks for sticking with me during my challenge. I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to keep my goal of sewing for 30 minutes (almost) every day, indefinitely. Next up are a pair of leggings for little E: it’ll be too hot on holiday for proper trousers but she’s too much of a heavy-kneed crawler for shorts or dresses, so leggings are a great compromise. It’ll be my first time sewing with knits, eek! I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Wow, it’s been a tiring week. It started off well, and I spent three days last week making the Father’s Day card for Daddy T, which went down very well. But since then, we’ve had a baby going through an “extreme teething” period, waking up at all sorts of unsociable hours, and I’ve been completely exhausted. We were also away at the weekend visiting my parents and although I took some hand sewing with me to do, I didn’t manage to get to it. Sorry folks, but I am behind! I didn’t do any sewing on Friday right through to Monday. That means I have four lots of half hour blocks to catch up on, and I am hoping that I can do that this week by doing an extra half hour each day. Eep!

That does mean I’ll have to be  a bit quiet on the blogging front, so that I can concentrate on the sewing. But have no fear, I’ll be back next week to report progress. And in case you were wondering, my current project is a delightful summer cover-up for little E, courtesy of Sis Boom’s Sophie Tunic.

It’s really hard to find long sleeved tops made out of light cotton, so this will be the perfect addition to her holiday wardrobe. I’m sewing it up in a lovely Liberty lawn.

Have a good week everyone!

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Eva’s still a bit young to be making Daddy a Fathers’ Day Card, so I thought I’d help her out this year. This’d make a great project for a slightly older child, and it’s a good rainy-day activity (hmm – and what do you know, it’s raining today!). It was really quick and easy to do, and took less than an hour start to finish.

The picture was originally this-

One of my all-time favourite photos of my little girl! Such a spontaneous moment, and I think it really captures her sparkly, cheeky personality. I used Photoshop to change the photo to a line drawing, which literally takes only a handful of mouse clicks (let me know if you’re interested in how I did it and I’ll post up a quick tutorial).

Originally I wasn’t going to paint in any of the drawing, but it lacked a little punch so I decided to paint in her gorgeous blue eyes and her golden hair. I painted in her teething necklace on a whim as a nice highlight.

I then got a piece of tissue paper, placed it over the area where the letters were to be stitched, and drew the letters in pencil. With a pin I pushed holes through in to the card at regular intervals, following the outline of the letters; these are the holes for the stitches. It’s far easier to create the holes first using a pin rather than trying to do them as you go along with the thread!

After creating all the holes, I stitched the letters using embroidery thread and sewed on a couple of buttons. It was still missing a little pizazz so I raided my stash box and glued on some ribbon and ric rac along the top and bottom of the card – and voila! I am pretty sure that Daddy will love it. And who knows, maybe next year little E will be ready to make her own :)

While I was making it it didn’t occur to me to photograph all the steps but if anyone is interested I’d be happy to make a full step by step tutorial, as it really is an easy peasy project even for those who think they are ‘craft challenged’.

Have you been making anything handmade for Fathers’ Day?

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I’m really in the swing of this challenge now and am really loving spending those precious 30 minutes a day sewing. It’s meant I’ve had to be a lot more organised with my time (definitely no lounging about on the sofa after dinner), but that’s no bad thing! And I’m pleasantly surprised how much it is possible to make progress in such short pockets of time. After all, thirty minutes is a lot more than no minutes.

I finished my Sorbetto top on Day 12, and for the last two days I’ve been working on a secret project for a rather special day this weekend…. here’s a sneak peak.

 

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