Sunday, July 24, 2011

stencilling impro

Andy asked if I might be able to help with a piece of (set? prop?) for a theatre show he directed. He wanted some black images on a white quilt cover.
I'd love to help, I said... quite a few weeks ago.
Tomorrow, Andy goes to Sydney for the show.
It wasn't a make-or-break item for the show but I didn't want to let him down. Besides, it was an exciting challenge.
I've often read about freezer paper stencilling, which would be great if Australia sold anything like the US type of freezer paper. Nuh uh. (Although I've seen some in an online shop, but that wasn't going to work on my timeline.)
About 25 years ago I had a silk screen, whereabouts now unknown. Digging about at my parents' place for the silk screen, I found these, which must be practically museum-worthy these days:

Hmm, potential.
Off to Spotlight, which is thankfully open on Sundays.
(Bumped into my sister there, who was buying plastic sheeting to make caterpillar race tracks for the school garden where she works. How cool is that?)
Grabbed a few supplies including this:
Fingers crossed, I'd have adhesive stencils.
Andy printed out the images, created for the show by a rather clever local artist called Luku. I laid the clear sheets over the images and cut out using a small craft knife.
Then I sprayed the back of my stencil with quilt basting spray and pressed it down well onto the fabric. It seemed to make quite a good seal.
I used ordinary acrylic paint mixed with fabric fixative and applied with a flat-ended stipple brush. After a couple of trials I thinned the mix down a bit with water. It's a delicate balance: thin enough to soak into the fabric, but not so watery that it leaks under the stencil.
A clean sheet of paper under the fabric at each image soaked up any paint that came through. The fabric was taped to the bench in places to help hold it all still and smooth. 
Before I removed the stencil each time, I blotted the top with a tissue. Before repositioning the stencil, I would recoat the back with basting spray. 
The paint started to bleed under the edges a bit after a number of repeats so I wiped the back of the stencil well with a damp cloth and the lines were much cleaner next time.
A good hot iron over each image and then through the wash to get rid of my wonky pink pencil lines and check for colourfastness.
Then I sewed it all up into a single-sized quilt/doona cover, with three metal snaps to close up the bottom.
looks a bit crooked at the top but that's just the hasty 'can you hold it up?' photo
And here it is. Just in time. I'm a bit like that with deadlines.
A little thrilling to know just a wee bit of my work will be on stage at the Sydney Opera House... eeeee!

- Jane x

Saturday, July 23, 2011

snowflake honey cups

Argh, the boy can work me.
This morning as he ate cornflakes for breakfast, Clem said
"Mama, can we please make Snowflake Honey Cups?"
He meant, of course, what are normally known as Honey Crackles or  Honey Joys.
"Of course!" was my totally-sucked-in-could-you-have-come-up-with-anything-freakin-cuter reply.

Fortunately they're about the easiest thing ever: 1/3 cup sugar, 90g butter, 1tbsp honey, melted together and tossed through four cups cornflakes. Bake at 150 degrees C for 10 minutes.

Just the thing to take across the road for a play with his dear friend Summer this afternoon.
A happy day in Clem-land.

- Jane x

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

what to do with sewing scraps

Drape over one's arm, run about for a bit then say
"Mama, can you tie this around my head, like a headband?"
There really is quite a complete look going on here, perhaps misplaced by several decades:
sorry, still getting the hang of the exposure on my camera, I usually go too dark
Oh but look who's getting some loving since I've been decluttering.

Cleaned out more from Clem's clothes and linen cupboard yesterday. Rediscovered the cute vest he's wearing, not quite outgrown yet, yay.
Not regretting a single thing I've ditched yet, and it's been a lot. Onwards!

- Jane x

Sunday, July 17, 2011

stretching myself: the freaky twin needle

Didn't I just say I wouldn't be sewing much for a while? I'd be too busy decluttering and simplifying all about the place? Ah, but it's all about striking a balance. Happy Mama, happy family. Yeah?
Er, whatevs.
(I did just unload another massive bootload of stuff at the Salvos yesterday.)
I've had Wendy Mullin's Sew U Home Stretch book for a while.
I really want to make that cute purple dress sometime
The first thing I sewed from it, I had so little idea, I got the stretch the wrong way. However, it did confirm to me that the Size M was (or would be) a good fit. Which is lucky, since I had so little idea I merrily chopped those Size M pieces right out of the tissue paper.
I have some lovely classic navy and white striped jersey, and I thought it would be good in the boat neck style (above centre). I tried it in some plain organic cotton jersey (that I was less in love with) first.
Sunday hair (oh who am I kidding it looks like that most of the time)
not in love with this colour, and tempted to embellish somehow, but probably should leave well enough alone
 The basis of this book is three patterns: a regular t-shirt, a raglan-sleeve version, and a basic dress. Then it shows you how to vary each of these patterns for a lot of different looks. 
here you can see the variations made to create the boat neck shape
The end of these instructions suggest you could add buttons on one side of the neck. But if that part of the pattern is only 1 inch wide (including seam allowances), this leaves a maximum of half an inch for the suggested three buttons??
Once I'd made this top up, I curved the sides in a bit for some shape. This pattern has you add two inches at the bottom for this style. I did that, then in the end had to take 4 inches off, due to my own body pattern having clearly been missing the 'waist' piece when I was sewn together.
The book has instructions for 3/4 sleeves but I wanted full length. I altered by lengthening and then narrowing them down toward the wrist.
bottom hem with revolutionary-to-me twin needle stitching
This is the first time I've tried the twin needle thing for hems and... it seems to defy logic but it works! I mean, I understand how the bobbin thread ends up in a zigzag so naturally would have some stretch. But doesn't the top just end up as two straight stitches? Why would they have any more give than two ordinary straight stitches? But they seem to. Can anyone explain this to me?

The book says to serge the neckline then fold under and topstitch. I originally did that with a zigzag and it came out a bit wobbly and stretched. So, putting my patient hat on, I unpicked and then stabilised it with fusible tape. Then twin needled it. So much better.
Here's the machine I used for the twin needle stitching, since they're not available for my Singer 319K.
the red tape on the throat plate was just to guide my hem since it doesn't have any measurements on there
 I bought this on a whim from a disposals store, telling myself I really needed a free-arm machine. Jasper calls it 'his' machine now and to his credit he can use it fairly well. I won't disclose how much I've spent on repairs for this little dear, hmmn. But I will show you its cute red case:
picnic, anyone?
and the original manual found inside:
you can just see the receipt sticking out, for some of that repair work
and the dear little double layered accessories box:

and the back of it with the twin threads in action:

and the front with the flat bed thingy attached:
ah, new camera lens that can blur out the background mess, how I love thee
Anyway, I quite like the end result. The top, that is, after that sewing machine porn digression.
What will I change for the stripey version?
I think the boat neck could be slightly less wide.
I will add a little more length in the sleeves to allow for a deeper hem; it just looks better.
That's it I think.
Although... perhaps I should try the raglan sleeve pattern first to see if that might be my favourite?

- J x

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The story of Cocoa

When Clem was around two, he developed a strong attachment to a crocheted bunny called Cocoa.
what's not to love?
Cocoa was essential for sleeping and came with us everywhere. So beloved was this bunny that I became anxious about the consequences if Cocoa should ever be lost.

Okay then, I thought, I'm a clever mother. I'll buy another one as a spare.
I contacted the Etsy seller who made the original Cocoa and she whipped up another.

I hadn't originally intended on showing Clem the second bunny but somehow it happened. They wouldn't both get lost at once, right?

At first he was thrilled to have two Cocoas.
he called them Mummy Cocoa and Baby Cocoa
Twice the joy, right?


Before I knew it, the Cocoas had been abandoned.
when I looked for the Cocoas today, they were at the bottom of this pile

With the best of intentions, I was trying to shelter my child from the reality that beloved things sometimes get lost (broken/wear out/die).

What I actually did was devalue the currency of the original Cocoa.

And teach my child that precious things are replaceable.

I kind of felt it at the time, but reading this book has really crystallised it for me. I mentioned it in my decluttering post. It's been better than I ever expected.

Between this and my decluttering book, I've become determined to strip back the toys and possessions and options available to my children.

Ever since the first deluge of awful cheap plastic toys with our first child, I've been aware that our kids have become surrounded by so many toys that they are overwhelmed and barely play with any at all.

The book above goes further to say that this applies to many areas of life: our kids have so much choice surrounding them: books, toys, clothes, food... they are overloaded and will tend to default to the easiest or 'loudest' choice available.

Rather than confront the heaping mass of toys, they switch on the TV.

Rather than enjoy a simple potato, they are drawn to bright sweets and crazy, overflavoured snacks because they demand attention from the crowd of options.

Some children are able to filter the options better than others. I can see that in my own boys. Jasper, shall we say, could use a large amount of pre-filtering to shut out the 'noise' that distracts him. Clem, right now, is whining at me "I want to go on the compuuuuuuuterrrrrr". He's three and a half. I don't want that.

This book has so many constructive ideas on how to remedy these situations, that will suit all sorts of families. There has not been one moment when I have wanted to shout "shut up you smug hippy!" and throw the book away, like I suspected I might.

I have work to do. There might not be much sewing for a little while. But it's good to have a plan.

Oh and Clem has another favourite bunny in his life. He's had her since he was a baby. The one. And only. Never to be replaced.

- Jane x

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

rat hammock

Jasper turned nine yesterday and his dearest birthday wish for some time has been some pet hopping mice.

Very cute little Australian natives, hopping mice are however quite nocturnal and unable to be handled a lot.
After some research, I swayed him in the direction of rats.
Soon he and Charlie were jumping out of their skins about the idea and had it all planned out how they would have one each and share the related chores.
(Jasper would do just about anything - even share his birthday present excitement - in order to minimise his chores.)
apologies to any of you reading whose skin is crawling right now

Long story short, Clem couldn't quite understand why he wasn't getting one as well and now we have three pet rats. Three brothers, named Hiccup, Asterix and Zac.

Now, don't think I'm some sort of martyr parent here. Because, confession time: I had a burning desire for a pet mouse as a kid, but I was never allowed. So I'm partly living out an unfulfilled childhood dream of my own.

Rats don't really smell. They're quite intelligent. They can be reasonably well litter-trained. They like to eat breakfast cereal and popcorn and hang out in boxes.
Charlie took this photo, which I love, look at that tiny hand on that tail!

They're very friendly. They'll happily ride around on shoulders, in pockets, up sleeves and in hoods.

There's a lot to like about them. I just wish they weren't called 'rats'. I feel like I have to apologise every time I say it.
I like them so much, I made them a warm winter hammock out of an old woollen top of mine, and some cotton twill tape.
Yup, I sewed a rat hammock. It ties onto some wooden rods that go across their cage, which is kind of a large palace. After I took this picture I tried it out then added some pleats on the end edges to help it form a more cosy shape. A pleated woollen rat hammock. That's got to be one of my proudest sewing achievements, no?

- Jane x

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mission declutter

I've always been a clutterer. But as years go on and our house is cluttered with five people's clutter (not to mention, five people), I'm less fond of it.
The clutter fills our house and it also clutters my mind.
I don't kid myself that I'll ever live in an all-white house where nothing ever accumulates on the kitchen bench. But I ordered two books about decluttering and simplifying, and before they'd even arrived via Bob-the-Australia-Post-delivery-man, I had given our bedroom a pretty good cleanout. It felt great.
These actions tend to spark chain reactions and thus I was able to free up some cupboard space in our study and give my fabric stash a proper home.
all happy behind glass; below that the cupboard is crammed with Andy's paperwork stuff... who knows what
knit fabrics up top, interfacing & other fusibles plus small linen-ish pieces below
top left, quilting cottons. top right, flannel & miscellaneous warm stuff. bottom, voiles, lawn and double gauzes.
top: barkcloth and other vintage lovelies. bottom: chenille, and silks and similar lovely fabrics that I am afraid to use.
I probably shouldn't buy any more fabric for a while. But it's not too frighteningly hoarder-like, is it?

My two decluttering books arrived yesterday. (Am I cluttered now with decluttering information?)

In case you're interested, one is Organised Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider (that's a real name). I was reasonably sure I read about it at Flossie Teacakes but in searching to link there, I couldn't find mention of it. (It's a lovely blog anyway so if you've never been, take a look.) What I've read of this book so far seems pretty good. It talks about an interesting concept called 'opportunity cost' which is another way of looking at the value of decisions and purchases. Of course I can't find that bit in the book now to clarify it but it's kind of about weighing up the benefits of having 'stuff' versus the benefits - really - of not having it. There's also a step-by-step plan to declutter, one room at a time. Perhaps best of all, the book is spiral-bound, so it stays open and flat. Someone thought that through!
hello, simple jonquil. thank you for breaking up my large block of text.
The second book is Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, which I know for sure I read about at Small Things, another lovely blog with stunning photography. This book is a paperback with terribly small type and no pictures. I'm not sure how many people looking to simplify their parenting are going to find the time and patience to read it through. However, its principles seem sound and I know my kids could use some simplicity: fewer toys, less screen time, less clutter, to allow them to focus on a greater enjoyment of what's left. I'm going to dip into the book and possibly wade through start to finish. We'll see.
Aiming for less stuff.
And more of this.

Jane x
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