Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trying to be more organised

I still have a few more posts about my hand made Christmas to do, but I just need to get this off my chest.
I’m not an organised person. I still have a paper diary that I rely on to tell me exactly what I am doing each day - even recurring things like my dance classes and music lessons. My bedroom is often a bomb site - I typically have a few feet sized holes to stand in to get from the door to the bed to the wardrobe and back. My desk hasn’t been seen in over a year. I hate tidying. I rarely put clean clothes away. 

I think you probably get the point.
But, this year, I am going to try for a little organisation.
Baby steps. I am going to try to spend 
    • 30 minutes each week tidying my bedroom
    • To put away clothing as soon as it comes off the line
    • Vacuum once a week
Also, my hand made Christmas went really well. I was thoroughly pleased with it. So, I'm doing it again next year.
So, I am going to try to be a bit more proactive, and not start my gifts in November.
To do this, I am setting up a nice poster on the back of my door to keep track of all my people - and also of their birthdays. 
These are the baby steps I want to take this year. Lets see how I go.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Strawberry Fields outfit

For Christmas, I gave my friend Kiwi what I named the ‘Strawberry Fields’ outfit.
Kiwi has commented several times about how she loves some of my outfits, especially the number of skirt I wear. My clothing is not overly ‘out there,’ but she has also commented that I wear things and combinations that she would never think of putting together. 
So, for Christmas, I made her an outfit that is something I would wear. 
The inspiration for this outfit was a old nightgown I found at an op shop, which had a cute strawberry motif. It was one of those full length, long sleeve numbers that in my opinion is totally hideous. (And, for anyone who sleeps as violently as me, pointless. They end up with most of the fabric bunched uncomfortably around my waist by the time I wake up.)

But, the pattern of the fabric was really cute.
So, I took the night gown apart, and used a pattern I based on this skirt:

It’s really simple. You have a three pattern pieces: a waistband, a triangle, and a rectangle that is slightly wider at the bottom than the top (a trapeze, I guess). You cut one of the waist bands (like my roll top hem skirts), and eight each of the rectangle and triangles.
Once everything is cut, you simply sew a rectangle and triangle together, matching the bottom seam. 
Then, you sew these pieces together, again matching bottom seams.
Lastly, attach the skirt to the waistband. The skirt should be slightly wider than the waistband (wide enough to fit over your hips), so you need to stretch the waistband slightly as you sew in order to make the two fit each other.
And, you’re done :)
The waist band I used was the lower half of a long sleeved top the same colour of the strawberries. It was one of those ones that had lace detailing and buttons to about the bust line. So, I carefully used a rolled hem stitch to finish the edge of, shortened the sleeves slightly to a 3/4 ish length, and I had a cardigan.

Lastly, I found an olive tank top at an op shop. I had diamantes on it already, and inspired by the packet of diamantes I had bought, and the super glue in front of me, I decided to add a strawberry to the top.
I placed the diamantes in the shape I wanted, and set about gluing them down. I soon learned the easiest way to do this was to get two wooden skewers. Using one to move the diamantes, I would move one out of the way, and then use the second skewer to put a dab of super glue in its place. I would then move the diamante back into place, and press it into the dab of super glue using the blunt end of the skewer.

Put together, we have the ‘Strawberry Fields’ outfit.

Christmas Napkins

Every year, my family has a large Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. It's part of my dad's Polish heritage, and it always means Christmas to me.

As a result, we have at least 14 (usually more) friends and family to dinner. This year, we had sixteen. We cook huge amounts of food, and eat far too much. There is wine, and conversation, and it's always been one of my favourite nights of the year. It's as much about family as it is anything else. The celebration is traditionally a dinner that keeps vigil before midnight mass, but that isn't part of the tradition that we have ever followed.

This year, as part of our celebrations, I made napkins.

I got inspired by this post and  instructional pdf by craft sanity, which I originally found via craftgossip.

So, I worked out how much fabric I would need (and massively over estimated it, but hey, next year I have fabric ready to go, right?), found the fabric, and purchased it.

And then it sat in a bag in my room for months. And months.

Then, maybe a month before Christmas, I decided that in fact, I needed to start them, because that was a whole lot of little snips to make to have them sit flat.

I mostly followed the awesome tutorial, but I used a dinner plate for my circle shape. Placing right sides together, I cut both fabrics at the same time. I used a pen to trace around the plate, and then put like 3 pins in to hold the two fabrics in place, before cutting around the circle, about 1.5cm from the line I'd drawn. I then used the line as my stitch guide, and I actually got perfect circles that way.

In the end, I made 44 napkins - I gave 4 to my sister, 8 to my grandmother (with a matching apron for my grandfather), and that left 32 for my family.

You know what?

I didn't even take a photo of them, and now they're all packed up and put away with the rest of the Christmas linens, so I can't even give you a pretty photo of my work.

What I've been up to lately

I feel really guilty for not posting here so often. For a while, I was doing well, and then Christmas happened. Which meant that, as I had decided part way through October that I was doing a handmade Christmas, most of my creative efforts were spent on Christmas and holiday related things.
This covered most of November and December. 
Pelicans on a sand bar in the tidal river near where I holidayed this year.

Sitting on a park bench near at the lookout on holidays.

Overlooking the surf beach on holidays

The amazingly green sweeping fields by the road near Ballina.

Then Christmas came and went (and all my gifts, thankfully, were very well received), and, on December 27, I went on holidays for a bit over 2 weeks. Up the New South Wales coast further than I have ever been before. The town I, and eight of my friends, stayed at was gorgeous, and the surrounding country side was oh, so, very picturesque. The beach, although a surf beach and far rougher than I like, was awesome because of just how warm the water is. It was relaxing, and rejuvenating, and just a great holiday.
Maybe a week before Christmas, I had finally come up with an answer to a question that has been plaguing me for months. You see, I graduated from university in June 2010. I have a Bachelor of Arts (honours), and after I do my last exam in January, I will also have a Bachelor of Science (Psychology). So, education is all done. But, throughout my life, education has been the goal. While I was in college (high school for any North American readers), the goal was to get marks to get into university. Which I did. I took a gap year, working and travelling (I lived in England for the first time as part of my gap year). Then I went to university, and decided I wanted to do an exchange year as part of my degree. So, I worked full time and studied full time, and went on exchange (this was the second time I lived in England). I then took 6 months off to travel Europe, and visit friends in North America. During which time, I decided that I wanted to do honours. Luckily, the marks I needed to do my exchange year meant that I also had marks high enough to be admitted into the Honours program for my major, which is Gender, Sexuality and Culture Studies. So, I finished (almost) my psych degree, and started honours. I then finished honours, graduating with a mark I am pleased with that means that if, in the future I want to do further study, I can probably get into a decent program. That was last June.  Over the last few months, I have been doing the last subject I need to finish my science degree. Which I now have one exam to do. 
Over the last few months, because I was still technically studying, I didn't get myself a 'real' job. But, I have been plagued with the question 'What am I going to do with my life?' This question seems to be a favourite of almost everyone I meet, and it irks me. I hate the question, because until maybe a week before Christmas, I didn't have an answer. Even a vague kinda, 'Oh, maybe I'll do X, Y, Z with my life." Nothing.
So, when I came up with an answer to the question, you can probably understand that it was quite an awesome feeling. I have decided that rather than using my degree in any way, I'm going to try and make money from my creative side.
So, plans. I am going to start selling stuff on etsy, while working part time. To begin with, I'm going to concentrate on upcycled clothing - mainly singlets, tank tops and shirts, but maybe skirts and other things as well. 
Having made my decision, I started working on it

As part of my holiday, I have begun to make things that I would sell on etsy. I know, I know, I'm was on holidays, why should I be 'working,' but honestly, it wasn't work. I had forgotten just how relaxing I find sewing, especially sewing my hand. Over the two weeks, I managed to complete eight garments that I can sell. So, I figure I'm on my way to being able to actually be an etsy seller :)
Describing sewing techniques to Squirrel

More technique description. I *may* have a stitch unpicker in my mouth.

Creatively, I also helped on of the other girls here, Squirrel from my sewing group, to start and complete her first ever dress. She seems to have a real fear of ever completing a project, and it took days to talk her into actually hemming the dress. Which, by the way, looks really cute. A few things that possibly could be a touch neater (but, as this was the first dress she has ever really sewn amazingly neat) that come with practice. Otherwise, though, this dress is totally wearable. After helping her, and Kiwi (who, sadly has moved away to Perth) complete dresses, I realise just what an asset I have been giving with my knowledge and sewing skills. Things that seem so basic to me, because I have been doing them forever, are clearly not so easy to beginner sewists. It makes me incredibly grateful that I not only learned to sew when I was much younger (I was ten, maybe, and making dolls clothes. Which, are actually really fiddly and difficult because they are so small. Clothing for real sized people is actually much easier), but also that I had the ability to further my skills as part of my college years. I still have things that I want to learn - pattern drafting, anyone? - but, for the most part, I could get away with never needing to buy clothing again. (I won’t because I don’t have the patience for jeans, bras and underwear, but you get the point.)
Anyway, back to my decision, etsy and a part time job. The part time job (probably with the government, because they are the major employer in the city I live in), will give me some breathing space, and allow me to see how successful I can be at selling things. It will basically let me know if I can make enough to live and so on, or if it is just pocket money. Because, right now, I'm not sure.
Having made the decision, I feel quite liberated. I have decided that I want to keep this blog and etsy distinct - I started this blog so that I could share my experiences, and techniques, not as a selling tool. And, I want to keep it that way. In the future, I may add a buttony, linky thing to my etsy store, but right now, they will be unique entities.
Which means, my creative efforts, and therefore my posting, may diminish. I have tentatively set myself a goal of one post per week here, but I don't know how realistic that is. 
So, my readers (and, just quietly, I have followers! People I've never met!), please bear with me. This year may be... interesting... for me. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Upcycled T-Shirt gifts

I gave my sister an upcycled t-shirt as a Christmas present, and a friend from my sewing group, Squirrel, two upcycled t-shirts as a birthday present. They were really fun to make. 
For each of them, I started with a plain item, sourced from an op shop. In this instance, they were all T-Shirts.
Then, I stared at the t-shirts, and the findings and other fabrics I have in my stash. Picked things up, put them down. Looked at the colour combinations. Swapped things around. Stared some more (seriously, I can stare at things for a long time trying to figure out exactly what I want to do with it. I could be all wanky and say that I want the original items to ‘speak to me,’ but really, it’s just a case of being happy with my colour choices).
For my sister, I started with a blue T-Shirt, and white beads. 
I thought the scoop neck was really cute.
It reminded me of the colour of an outdoor swimming pool. I added rows of white beads, slightly gathering each row, and was was reminded of the line markers for lap swimming. So, the top was named - Lap Lanes.
The beads were added in two places - three rows down the front centre, and five rows on each shoulder.

For Squirrel, I upcycled two T-shirts - because I couldn’t decide which one to give her. Both were grey T-Shirts to start with. (I am growing to really love grey as a base colour to work with. Which is odd, because it is a colour I basically never wear myself.
The first one had a cute, but boring button detail, and cap sleeves

It was just screaming for some bling.
So, I took the buttons off, and added bronze beads and sequins and findings. These were all from an op shop.

I love beads and sequins - so pretty
In the beads, I found a few bells and coins. These became the start of me design, and then I randomly placed the beads and sequins around them.

The double cap sleeves were doing that annoying turning up hem thing, so I added a row of sequins on each of the hems to hold them down.

And, ‘Bronze, Beads and Bells’ was complete.

The other T-Shirt for Squirrel used reverse applique. I am growing to love it as a technique - it’s so fun, and easy, and because I do it free hand, it’s fun to discover what and where the design goes.
Like with the Birthday Dreamings Tank top, I used a chain stitch, and circles. The grey T-Shirt seemed perfectly suited to a navy thread and navy cut outs. 
I tacked the backing fabric in place before starting to sew, because then I could hold bunches of the fabric in my hand without worrying about it moving or stabbing myself with pins - in some of the photos you can see the tacking stitches before I took them out.
I started my design at the right shoulder seam, and worked down. 

I then turned the T-Shirt over, and worked part of the design down the back, so that the design goes over the shoulder.
Then I cut away the circles.
The blue circles reminded me of lakes, interconnected by waterways, so I named this one ‘River Systems.’

Birthday Dreamings Tank Top

For my birthday (about a month before Christmas, but I’ve been a bad blogger) I received the Alabama Stitch Book. 
Oh, my, the pretty in that book! While I haven’t tried the exact techniques that Natalie Chanin uses (none of the reverse applique I’ve done to date includes any fabric paint), I am loving the book as a source of inspiration.
Using the book as inspiration, on the night of my birthday, I stitched the ‘Birthday Dreamings’ tank top. I used a chain stitch in navy thread, on a navy tank with sky blue cut outs. I’m really happy with how it turned out - and it only took me an hour or so, while I was watching TV. And, I get compliments about it every time I wear it.

Kiwi's Dress

Kiwi, one of the girls in my sewing group, has spent most of the last few months working on a dress.
The dress represents the third thing she has ever sewn - she made the sea horse hat pack, then the bucket hat, and now a dress. An impressive feat, considering that up until she sewed the sea horse, she basically had never touched a sewing machine, or sewed anything, in her life.
(Sorry Kiwi, I know it's not the most flattering photo, but I didn't get another one of you sewing)
Her goal was to have the dress completely finished and wearable by December 18, so that she could wear it to a dance party we were going to.
So, once a fortnight (give or take) we have been having sewing sessions. She learnt some things, and I learnt some things about how much information I just ‘know’ about sewing because I’ve been doing it for years. Just reading a pattern was an interesting task for Kiwi, because sewing has it’s own special language. Things that seemed so obvious to me, were perplexing to her. For example, it just seems normal to me that when a pattern asks you to press something, you iron it. But, as it turns out, that is a sewing (and dry cleaning) specific term. Who knew, right?
In walking Kiwi through the dress, I think I learned almost as much as she did, although we learnt very different things.
And, On December 18, Kiwi finished the dress.
Isn’t it pretty?
I love this photo - Kiwi and her boyfriend look so natural in it.

The sweetheart neck line is perfect for Kiwi, and the colours - red with white detailing - are great on her

She was so proud, and rightly so.
Well done Kiwi!
(And, on a sadder note, Kiwi has subsequently moved to Perth, and will be greatly missed.)