Friday, December 31, 2010

End of an era

Although this is predominantly a craft blog, it is also a record, a journal of various events in my life that I would like to remember or mark in some way.  One such event, which I felt I needed to document before this year is over, is the end of my and my children's association with Playgroup.  I am putting these words down I suppose mostly for my own benefit,because Playgroup has played such a big, big part in my life over the past five years.  I have learnt so much and grown so much as a person.  I have gained skills and confidence.  I feel I am a better person for it.  It is something I will truly miss.

Within weeks of Miss A being born in 2004 I began to attend a regular mother's group at my local
Early Childhood Centre.  As a new mum with absolutely no idea what I was doing this was a much needed opportunity to interact and talk with others going through the same baby related things as me, at the same time as me. 
After some months it was suggested to us (the mother's group) by the clinic nurse that perhaps we should consider starting our own playgroup, as our suburb currently didn't have one. 

With some help and guidance from Playgroup NSW we did just that. 
Three mum's including myself started the group and as there needed to be three committee members, hey presto I became the Treasurer. 
So I was very involved with Playgroup from the word go! 

At the time when Miss B was born (literally the day after) in April 2006, my growing family and I moved suburbs.  So I said goodbye to the first playgroup I was a part of. 

2006 for me and my family was frought with ill health (predominantly my two daughters). 
It was a very hard year. 
My confidence as a person and a mother was sorely tested and greatly deminished. 
I struggled quite a bit. 

By the start of 2007 Miss A was 2 and a half years old.  If I had to describe Miss A, extrovert and social butterfly are terms that spring readily to mind.  After being close to housebound (or hospital bound) for 12 months she n.e.e.d.e.d. some form of social interaction. 

birthdays and graduation
And so it was I resumed my connection with Playgroup by finding one in my area.  With a small baby in tow, I had no intention of taking on a committee position, but every Thursday, week in and week out, we attended Playgroup.
This was an absolute highlight of our week.  Just what we needed.  Not only was it a time to spend playing with my children but also the opportunity to mix with adults!  

As time went on, this Playgroup became an integral part of our weekly routine.  Other things could wait or be postponed - but not playgroup.  Miss A and Miss B just would not stand for it. 
It wasn't always easy as I don't have a car and the playgroup was in the next suburb.  So the girls and I had to catch a bus to get there.  But that too was half the fun.  

four years worth of Christmas'
After about a year, the time came to elect a new committee.  Unable to help myself, I put my hand up for the position of Co-Ordinator.  This meant I held the keys and was responsible for opening/closing, set up/pack up, craft activites, replenishing stock, organising outings and special events, plus more............ phew!  I did not do ANY of this alone.  Playgroup works on a volunteer basis, and all members are expected, no make that needed, to chip in and do their bit for it to work.  But all ships need a Captain right? and I was wearing the hat!

What had been a small group of about four mum's when I joined had suddenly exploded to about ten mum's (so 15 to 20 kids) by this stage.  Things were not always easy with that many kids but somehow we always managed to make it work.  And I always went home every week feeling great.  I really loved it.

I held the position of Co-Ordinator for two years running, which is the maximum time allowed (rules you know) and then this year, moved into the role of Secretary.  So, for four out of the five years I've been a member of Playgroup I have held a position on the Committee.

Although I have been more relaxed and organised then in previous years, this year threw up it's own hurdles.  Last year (2009) we had about eight children (including my Miss A) leave playgroup to go on to 'big school' or pre-school.  Most of the members continued to come this year with our other children so we still had roughly 15 kids. 

The start of each year always sees an influx of new members, but this year we were swamped.  Absolutely inundated  - to the point where for the sake of safety and sanity, we had to start turning people away.  Not something I like doing, as I know from my own experience Playgroup can be a lifeline.  But with more than 30 children now in our group it was really getting to be too much.  But the real difficulty lay in the fact we now had children ranging in age from 5 1/2, down to several newborns!!!  The older children, including Miss B, were beginning to find playgroup abit old hat and began playing very..........energetically.  With babies and toddlers around this caused some heart in the mouth moments. 

Then, in October, and almost in unison, the mother's with older children - women and children who I had formed friendships with and watched grow from babies to confident, beautiful children - who I had been seeing every week at Playgroup for the last one, two, some even three or four years, stopped coming to playgroup.  But we still had a large group, and lot's of lovely mum's and children, so although I was sad I was still very busy each week.

It was then that I really had to assess whether Playgroup was still relevant for Miss B and I.  For you see although Miss B will turn 5 next April and was accepted to start Kindergarden next year, we decided to hold her back until 2012.  I assumed when I made this descision that we would continue to attend playgroup next year.  But then I realised that all the older kids, her friends, would be moving on from playgroup next year and the average age of children in our group will be 2 1/2 - 3 y.o.  The signs were there too, that she had outgrown playgroup - she was bored.

So at the beginning of November, when we had our AGM, I advised the group I would be leaving at the end of this year.

As per last year, I organised a Graduation Ceremony for all the children leaving playgroup at the end of the year.  Each child was presented with a Playgroup NSW attendance certificate and a library bag made by me.

Miss A and Miss B's Grandpa - 'Santa' and I
We held our annual Christmas Party during the final playgroup session for this year. And as per every other year we had a special visit from Santa to hand out presents to all the children. 
I thought it especially fitting and touching that this year it was my girls Grandpa who played the part of Santa (and did so superbly at that!) but also because Miss A started school holidays the day before, she got to attend playgroup with Miss B and I.

And so a long and happy association has ended. 

I was presented at the end of the Christmas party with a gorgeous bunch of flowers.

And although it was never my intention to send my children to pre-school, I realise Miss B will need some structure and stimulation coming from someone other than me next year.  She will be five years old for a good portion of the year so I have enrolled her in a pre-school just across the road from Miss A's primary school for one day a week next year. 
This too will mean that for the first time in six years I will now have one day a week to myself.

So to the end of an era and the beginning of new things...................................

Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

One per Month - December (handmade gifts part 2)

In January this year I signed up for a "One per Month" challenge, proposed by another blogger.  A challenge to choose one craft book in my possession per month and make at least one item from the book. 

I thought (and still think) this was a marvellous idea.  

I, like many others I suspect, have purchased my fair share of craft books. 
I squeal with delight when they arrive on my doorstep. 
Caress their pages lovingly as I pour over them, oohing and aahhhing over the many delightful projects and possibilities contained within. 
And then what? 
I place them on the bookshelf side by side with the books which came before, only to be forgotten about and passed over as I look forward to the arrival of my newest aquisition.

This "One per Month" challenge would get some of those books down off the shelf, and I would end up with some lovely handmade items at the end of each month!

I cannot say the challenge was always easy. 
As time wore on I became aware of just how difficult a challenge it was, as everyone (including the original instigator of the challenge) dropped like flies..................
But I am proud to say I stuck with it, completing twelve  make that eleven (I'm still working on August's challenge) different projects from twelve different craft books.

And so today I present to you my final project in the One per Month challenge,
from a book called Gifts You Can Make (published 1978). 
I remember this book being around my house when I was a kid.  I think my sister may have even made a bag for me from this book.
  Some of the projects are sooo, sooo dated (as is the styling and photography, he he he), but there are afew projects which I would still consider making.

I made the Quick and Easy Summer Hat as a Christmas gift for my mother-in-law.

Awhile ago she admired the hat I made for Miss A as part of my February One per Month challenge.

Miss A piped up and advised Nanna that "mum made it for me!"
My MIL was suitably impressed and went on to discuss the merits of having a soft, foldable hat, which can be carried around in one's handbag etc. 
I knew I had a pattern for an adult version in one of my books so offered to make one for her.

And here you have it.

Gifted to my lovely MIL who is a very accomplished sewer herself on Christmas Day.  She was most pleased. 
I did, as per usual, alter the pattern a little to make the hat fully reversible.  I just couldn't see the point of lining the crown and the brim, only to then attach the brim in such a way that the seam allowance was exposed..............

And speaking of handmade gifts.  I did make afew this Christmas. 
Nothing like last year's mammoth effort but I did get afew things made, including:

this diary cover, using this fantastic tutorial from Bloom.  I made afew of these last year and they were all well received.  In fact this one was a request by my sister.
I really must remember this for the teachers gift at the end of next year! 

And a couple of On-the-Go Art Satchel's, using my very own tutorial, found here
I made them slighly different to the tutorial this time.  Instead of using fat quarters of quilting cotton, I used plastic vinyl for the pirate themed one and some cotton drill for the floral one.  As both these fabrics are heavier then quilting cotton I omitted the lining. 
Both held up well.
 Inside the Art Satchel's along with the VA diary and twistable crayon's I've included one of these fabulous activity books I stumbled across at a local toy shop recently made by a company called Buki. 
My girls are hooked!

So I bid a happy farewell to the One per Month challenge.

It's been fun!

If you feel compelled at all to revisit any or all of the projects I've made this year you will find links to each of them over on the right side bar.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vogue 5782

I finished this dress about a week ago but have only had the chance to take photos today - and pretty dodgy photo's they are at that!  But it has been kinda crazy weather here lately. 
Windy, rainy, overcast, you name it.  Not conducive to good picture taking anyway.

So just to recap. 
I've made this dress to wear to my sister-in-laws upcoming wedding, from a vintage pattern Vogue 5782 in size 12. 
After choosing three possible dresses to make, I settled on making this one first, as it was the closest to my correct size out of them all.

Next I had to choose fabric. 
I did contemplate going up market and making a trip to Tessuti's, but time and finances got the better of me. 

No matter though because I really love the fabric I purchased from a local fabric shop on Marrickville Rd, Marrickville. 

As soon as I saw the bolt of fabric I knew it was the fabric for this dress.  I just love the jade green colour and although not really visible in the photo's, the lovely texture.  My mum says it reminds her of straw cloth???? but the lady at the fabric shop could only tell me it is a cotton/poly blend.............  It has a slight sheen, but not so much as to make it unsuitable for a daytime wedding.  Perfect!  And at $2.95 per metre, the cost of this dress came in at under $10!!!!

My mum, who did a dress making course at East Sydney Tech more than 40 years ago, gave me a hand altering the pattern to fit me properly.  She was fantastic.  She made everything seem so easy and simple, "a toile, why do you want to make a toile.  This pattern is so simple........" she said to me! 

So I started by cutting all the pieces as per the pattern.  The only alterations I made, based on my body measurements, were to shorten the bodice by 2 inches (I am obviously very short waisted) and I had to move the bust line darts.

As far as sewing was concerned it was all very straight forward and easy, until I came to inserting the zipper.  By this time, mum had left me to it, so I couldn't consult her. 

The pattern instructed "insert zipper 3/8" below neck seam, following directions with zipper for a lapped closure" W.H.A.T. the?????? 

Enter my trusty copy of "McCall's Sewing in Colour".  Published in 1964, it is a vintage pattern sewer's bible. 

With step by step instructions and illustrations for inserting said lapped closure it was actually quite easy and I was most impressed with the finished result.  I don't know what I would have done without this book though! 

My main dissapointment with this dress would have to be the hemline.  Even though I hand stitched it - twice - you can still see it through the front of the dress.  I don't have a tailors ham, so pressing it flat didn't help.  But at the end of the day I'm abit over it so it's just going to stay that way.

As for the shoes and accessories, well I picked up the lovely silver Midas heels from a local Vinnies store on a day they were having 50% off sale, so paid the princely sum of $6.  The necklace and earrings are from my mum's collection of jewelry, circa 1950's - 1960's, so are the genuine vintage article, as too are the gloves.  These particular gloves I do believe, just happen to be the gloves she wore on her wedding day!

So there you have it and all for under $20!!

I can honestly say I don't know if the other dresses will get done before the wedding as I had hoped, but after making this dress I can definately say I will sew from vintage patterns again.

edited to add: I entered this dress in Julia Bobbin's Mad Men dress challenge! 
For more Mad Men inspired goodness click on through to
Julia Bobbin: Mad Men dress challenge Big Reveal!!!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

handmade gifts part 1

This has been some big year.

Life has been so full this year.

I've been so busy.  Busy adjusting to life with one child at school, and all that entails.

Busy making things.  Lot's and lot's of things.  Way more than I ever post about here.  Sewing, crocheting, baking, other crafty persuits....................

But the whole school thing has definately been the biggest defining factor when it comes to what 2010 was about for me.

Miss A settled in well, and over all has enjoyed her first year at school.  It took me much longer than her to adjust I think.  So often I have pined for those days, now lost to me forever, where I could just say "let's not go anywhere today".  We could just hang out, doing our own thing, whatever that was, on any particular day.

Everyday now seems to be a rush.  Rushing to get ready, rushing out the door, rushing to squeeze this, that and the other into those seemingly very short six hours.................

So now that the summer holidays have finally arrived I am planning to enjoy kicking back, taking our time, just spending time together.

Before the school year ended though, a special present for a special teacher needed to be made and given.  After being unhappy with my first attempt at a bag for Miss A's teacher, I settled on another bag pattern.  This time I used the bag pattern that came with Simplicity 4116 .  The dress will get made at some stage.  I just decided to face reality and accept it won't be before Christmas.

The bag though is done, and was very well received!

For the outside of the bag I used some lovely midweight olive coloured poly/cotton I found in my stash.  Beautiful fabric, and perfectly matched to the fabric I chose for the lining and detail of the bag.  I chose this fabric because Miss A's teacher often wears bold, floral prints in oranges and greens!  This fabric was also from my stash, left over from this dress.

I did add a few details to the basic pattern. 

I added the button and loop closure. 
And the fabric rosette, using this great tutorial from Little Birdie Secrets blog - what a great blog it is too!

And some pockets to the inside of the bag, which just make the bag a little more user friendly.

Would you check out these two doing a spot of hand bag modelling.

If nothing else, my blogging has taught these two how to strike a pose! 

One of the really great things about this year was meeting and getting to know some of the wonderful mums with children at Miss A's school.  Having their help, understanding and friendship has been a definate high light of this year. 

As a little thank you, my girls and I spent some time last weekend making a very Christmassy batch of Gingerbread cookies.  Just a small token of my appreciation. 

I also made a whole lot of these hair ties/clips/headbands to give to Miss A's friends.  Of course I forgot to take photo's of them all together before gifting them- they all looked so good too!  Oh well.

With only afew days left before Christmas I still have some gifts to make. 
I'll get there, I alway do!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One per month - November

Last night, as I was hammering away on the sewing machine making library bags for some lovely little kiddies I know as per last year, it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't posted my November One per Month project.  Ooooooooops! 

It dawned on me because I have once again used the Library Tote pattern from the book The Crafter's Companion, which I was lucky enough to win in a giveaway Cass had recently.  And it just so happens that this is the book I chose for my November project. 

I had been contemplating what I could make as a gift for Miss A's teacher and also something I could make afew of to have on hand for last minute gifts.  I wanted to make something quite practical and useful. 

I settled on the Market Bag. 
The fabric - I used (from my stash) two fat quarters from the Wildwood collection by Erin McMorris for the outer of the bag and some Ikea fabric for the lining and handles.

The bag was simple to make but I have to say, for me, a bit of a largish and awkward size. 

Perhaps my biggest mistake was to double the length of the handles. 
I did this because I can't stand bags which are hard to sling over your shoulder.  But due to the large size of the tote, in hindsight, shorter handles probably do suit this bag better.  One good thing about the longer handles is that I can wear it across my shoulder allowing greater mobility when chasing the kids around while we're out and about.

Also, the design includes a nifty little pocket on the inside top of the bag.  This has a double use, acting as a pocket while your using the bag but when you're finished with it, you can roll the bag up and squish it into the pocket to put away. 
I found that this pocket could be a little smaller, so that when the bag is folded up and put away it wouldn't take up too much room say in your handbag. 
As it is, I would just find it too big to carry around all the time.

So after I finished making it, I decided I wasn't happy enough with it to give as a gift.  So I put it away and promptly forgot about it until last night.

I still think it will make a great gift, so I will tweak it abit and make afew more.

So there we have it.  One more One Per Month to go and God only knows what it will be.  I am so flat chat at the moment, what with, you know.........the end of year and all that.  But I'm too close to completing this challenge I set myself now to give up so we'll see!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

almost..... but not quite

Wow, thanks for the response to my last post everyone! 
It's great to see so much enthusiasm for vintage patterns.

Simlicity 5017

Simplicity 5017 was definately the favourite,
followed by Vogue 5782.

Vogue 5782

I am having such a hard time deciding which pattern to make that I've decided to make them both.

I made a trip to Spotlight to peruse the fabrics and came home with this lot.
Getting side tracked as I do, I fell in love with this beautiful Liberty print rip off. It's a cotton voile named Ashley in Khaki.  It is actually the softest shade of grey and I absolutely adore it.  I spent a couple of hours on Saturday making the Simplicity 3835 view C (the blouse).  I put it on as soon as it came off the machine and promptly wore it for the next two days! 
I'll take some pictures and post a bit more about this when the weather fines up here in Sydney. 
Tommorrow is the first day of Summer but you surely wouldn't know it. 

I bought this cotton voile called paint by numbers in wild green, with Simplicity 5017 in mind. 
But I just. don't. know. 
I want to make something I can wear again and again, but I don't want to be too casual either.  I think with the right set of heels and accessories I should be right.

And even though the Simplicity 4116 didn't get any votes, I decided to make that one too.  Mostly because I once saw a woman on TV wearing a similar dress made from black broderie anglaise and I fell in love...........
but also because I thought a new (as opposed to vintage) pattern would be more simple to make and I could ease myself into the dress making experience. 

Boy was I wrong! 
Luckily I decided to make a toile first - thanks for the suggestion little betty
First off I found mistakes in the instructions straight away, then, after taking my body measurements, remeasuring and measuring once more just to make sure, I cut out a size 10. 
I didn't expect it to fit like a glove first off but nor did I expect it to hang off me like a potato sack! 

To say I was feeling a little discouraged by this stage is an understatement.
So after spending an hour or so last night pinning, moving darts, lifting the waist line, dressing and undressing numerous times I decided I'd be better off starting again this time cutting a size 8.
And did I mention that this was a printable pattern, which I spent several hours taping together on Saturday night - thank God I've got all of Mad Men Season 3 to get through.......... 

And as for the Vogue 5782,  well I just cannot decide what fabric to use for this one.  I truly swoon each time I look at this pattern.  I think something special is called for for this dress. 
A trip to Tessuti perhaps? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

decisions decisions - whats a girl to do!

With my youngest sister-in-law's wedding looming my thoughts have turned to what to wear..............
I don't want to spend alot of money on something that might only get worn once, so I've been thinking about making myself something.  And after getting into Mad Men in a s.e.r.i.o.u.s.l.y. BIG way I thought vintage might be the way to go!  It's going to be a day time wedding so no need to go overboard with the dress.

Something classy and classic I think.

Luckily I have a few vintage patterns in my stash!
Not because I ever really thought I would use them but just because I love to look at them.

These are the ones I'm considering.

This pattern, Simplicity 4116, is actually not vintage, but was a free download from somewhere.  I think with the right fabric, it does have a vintage feel.

This dress is gorgeous.  Vogue 5565, the pattern includes a cute little 3/4 length sleeve jacket.

Simplicity 5017. Simple yet stunning 1960's evening dress..............

Vogue 5782.  Screams Joan.  Love, love, love this dress.

So which one do I go with?  Which is your favourite?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday morning cookin'

There have been repeated requests for pancakes around these here parts lately. 

I'm always a little reluctant to endulge one child's "treat" requests when the other child cannot partake in the spoils.  So I was hugely pleased when Jo posted this recipe for egg-free (and dairy free if you use soy milk like I did) pancakes recently!

Yum, yum, and double yummo!!!! 

Miss B was actually a little hesitant to try them, having never eaten pancakes before.  But once my little cat loving girl saw the kitty cat version I made for her, she hoed in with gusto.

Here's to pancakes we can all share :)))))