31 December, 2011

Post-Christmas letdown

Well not exactly a let-down (for me anyways, Hazel is another thing altogether!) just sort of a "well what now?" and a reluctance to start something new. I had a total disaster while we were away - I was making some more of the little felt gingerbread men for myself and got all the bits ready for finishing up at Taupo Bay, took stuffing along, scissors, embroidery floss and put them together in a plastic bag. Which looked like rubbish and someone threw it out without checking what was inside. I didn't get too upset when I realised what had happened when we got home and it was missing, but I had to go and be by myself for awhile in my room!

But good things happened too!  There was sun...
Hazel and Kate

...and sand castles...
Biggest sandcastle ever


Waterfront cafe and bar

...and walks on the beach.


And even though the weather crapped out towards the end we all had a lovely time

Afternoon squall

23 December, 2011

Wishing you (in advance) a very Merry Christmas!

 I'm off up north for a week to a lovely spot called Taupo Bay - there will be sun, sand, surf and lots of food and hopefully a book or two read. I'll be putting pictures up on Instagram and if I can manage, a photo or two here, but basically Hazelnuts is on holiday for a week! Have a very merry holiday yourself and if you are lucky enough to have snow send me some I'll send you some beach back.

19 December, 2011

Clothed Tomtes

Phew, I've got the two Christmas present Tomtes clothed and decent! They've turned out better than I'd hoped, though they do tend towards the pin-headed. I used the pattern in Scandinavian Stitches as a starter and then made some changes so they were more similar to the Maileg Pixies I love so much. I'm not one for promoting the "knock-off", which is a term and a business that I really have no time for, but I'm going to be a total hypocrite here and say that I was more than a little influenced by the lovely outfits you see on the Maileg pixies (as well as their ears, though mine are a work in progress I think!) and the proportions of the bodies. I would absolutely buy some of those though, if I had the chance to see them in person, the more I look at the pictures of them the more you can see the effort and class that went into them, I don't mind paying for that!

I figured out the patterns for their tops but the pants came from a pair in the Wee Wonderfuls book. The girl is in French General and the boy is in cotton jersey and pants are a Lecien fabric (I think). My mum knitted the scarf and was also a huge help putting the bodies together - stuffing, attaching arms etc. Their pear shapes made dressing them a little difficult but it's kind of adorable, especially in the boy. 

If I were to do them again I think I'd make them a little less pear-shaped, the heads a bit wider, and integrate the ears rather than sewing them on as an after-thought. I'd make the arms a little less long and the mittens rounder. I wouldn't change the clothes though, they're perfect and I'm really chuffed with myself for figuring out how to make the tops like that, and the fabrics are perfect. My two will be wearing the same outfits for sure; but imagine, I could do them a new set of clothes for each Christmas!

17 December, 2011

Second zippy pouch

This one is for Hazel's lovely teacher Ms. Nicholson

It's essentially a pencil case to put the Smiggle pens in, but I decided to put a bit of effort in because she really has been rather fabulous this year and anyone who can deal with that many kids on a daily basis needs all the affirmation I can give! Even if the fact she loves Smiggle (purple is her colour) drives the Smiggle-frenzy to fever pitch in the class at times! Her favourite colour is red, and hey it's mine too! (we share a similar taste in shoes) so I made up this bag using the 'Perfect Zip Bags' pattern by Elizabeth Hartman - I just checked for the link and the pdf pattern is out of stock... The pattern itself is super-easy to follow and this time the zip insertion worked nicely:

I'm not a 100% sure about the dart placement though, it seems a bit strange - the bag isn't hugely rounded, nor will it sit flat on a surface (it's propped up in the photo above) so it's a bit of 'neither one thing nor another'. I'd love to make one of the bags for me though, either the flat ones or the boxed bottom ones I think next time. However, there's no denying that it's a cutie, darts or not!

16 December, 2011

A mousie pouch

The other night at the AMQG challenge unveiling Helen asked me if I had any other Christmas sewing on and I said no, just a couple little zippy pouches. I suppose that wasn't quite honest because this is a bit more than a plain old zippy pouch in the end - and I'm very pleased with it even if zipper was a bit of a disaster because I tried to get all fancy with it.

It's for Hazel's bestie Brooke and I'll put in a chocolate Santa and a couple chocolate coins to round it off. The pattern is from Scandinavian Stitches.

13 December, 2011

Half-way there!

The tomtes are done but not clothed - still, they're rather appealing sitting in a row like that all nudie-nudie. Hazel has appropriated two already and is lugging them around the house.

09 December, 2011

Me on Instagram

Me on Instagram
One of the groups I regularly participate in on Instagram asked us to make up one of these little images to put up, I thought it was kind of neat and wanted to share it here.

Still beavering away on the Tomtes, I found some perfect knit fabric remnant today to make little sweaters for the boys. Will be so cute!

05 December, 2011

A cautionary tale for Tomtes

The caption for this image on Instagram was "Christmas Elf [Tomte] legs - particularly nice dipped in chocolate and served with seasonal berries" Ellie over at Petalplum asked, most reasonably given the time of year, how they were going to run around and help Santa? I replied that they'd do fine in their little wheelchairs.  Then I posted this photo of arms:

If Santa fails to make it to your house this year I do apologise...

04 December, 2011

What's next?

Mat told me I should take a break from sewing after the pillow marathon but all I can say is "Tomtes ahoy!"

Red wool felt for the caps, with a range of fabrics from French General and (I think) Lecien. Can't wait to get started, but I need to make a few pattern alterations first. I hadn't realised how pretty the French General fabics were, they're much more appealing in real life than they are in pictures.

We had our local Santa Parade yesterday, and our tree is up, so I'm starting to get into the mood; although the fact that Hazel has decided that 'Feliz Navidad' and 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' by the Jackson Five are her favourite Xmas songs tempers that a little!

03 December, 2011

Stringing it out

How many posts can you get out of two pillows that you didn't photograph comprehensively before you took them off for a challenge? Three! Here are the two together.

I find it amazing how they have essentially the same fabrics (the spotty one has a couple extra) but completely different techniques and backing fabrics almost completely removes that similarity to the point where I don't know they go particularly well together. I don't mean that in a negative way or anything, I love them individually but not together so much. I think it's the very formal style of the Cathedral window with the freestyle look of the circles.

The modern quilting thing is funny isn't it - often I see it defined through fabric choices and negative space, as well as old patterns reinterpreted in the light of the first two criteria. So the Cathedral window pillow certainly qualifies for all three of those points - but what about the circle pillow? I think another side of the movement is heavily influenced by the use of linen and 'natural' fabrics, and a sort of Japanese/zakka aesthetic as personified by Rashida Coleman-Hales' work over at I Love Linen and my circle pillow definitely falls within that zone of influence. Are there any other genres of the Modern Quilting movement that you can think of?

02 December, 2011

Second AMQG pillow

For this pillow I really wanted to use linen and circles. I decided to applique the circles on and then quilt/embroider them both to hold them down and to look pretty! To be honest this pillow took me a lot longer than the Cathedral Window pillow, which was all done by machine. Luckily I had an old needlepoint frame to use with the quilting, but the size determined the height of the pillow - it's essentially a regular bed pillow but narrower top to bottom and slightly longer so it didn't look so...beddy.

I forgot to take closeups of the embroidery after I put the pillow together but I put teaser photos up on Instagram a few days ago

The worst part of putting it together was putting in piping and then an invisible zip along one edge. What a freaking nightmare! I had to resew things So. Many. Times. I thought I was going to go mental. The invisible zip foot wouldn't work on the piped side and my regular zipper foot sucks at the best of times, but with top and bottom being quilt sandwiches, plus the piping fabric and the general bulk of it all, it really didn't want to get close in to any edges! But hey, if you sew around something about 20 times eventually you get pretty close by small increments even if you die a little inside each time you have to resew a section or rip something out. :P

The back is plain with different-sized circles quilted all over it - why on earth did I not take photos of it? It looks great - I've noticed I often like the backs of my cushions as much as the fronts, I guess that's a good thing!

01 December, 2011

First AMQG challenge pillow

Well phew, I can blog about this at long last! I suppose technically I should wait until the 13th when we can all see each other's pillows, but I honestly think I'll bust if I can't blog about something. I've been spending all my time on these two pillows and other than having Instagram photos to put up I haven't had much to discuss*. So. This is the first one and not surprisingly it's a Cathedral Window pillow - I'm quite sure I wasn't fooling anyone with that thing of acting like the grey version was a random choice unrelated to the challenge.

While I love the grey version a lot, I think the colour placement was better on this one, and I know technically it's superior.

Not all the points are as perfect as these by a long shot - I discovered that the points formed at the joins between blocks are lovely, while the ones formed by the centre of each block look slightly mitered. I tried so so so hard to not have that happen but it did anyways, so I suspect it's an artifact of the method (I used the tutorial and A La Mode). I don't think I'll do another one but if I did I'd try one of the methods where you sew the blocks initially instead of ironing them and see if that made a difference. As I mentioned with the previous cushion, I tried sewing the turn-overs in circles and it was much more successful than sewing around four sides of each colour. The points are reinforced and much smoother with no back-tacking. I also paid more attention to how much I was folding back so my circles are more circular! The other thing I figured out after the fact was that if you want a directional print to run straight up and down on the finished item, you need to cut it on the diagonal initially - my prints were cut on the grain and as you can are all on the diagonal when sewn up. Not sure what that would mean for keeping the fabrics straight while sewing though, you might get too much distortion to make it worthwhile.

I've just realised I forgot to take proper photos of the backs of both pillows, but I did have an Instagram one from when I had just put the invisible zip in and was super-duper proud of myself. Can you spot it? The back is quilted with widely-spaced straight lines, and the row of blocks about a 1/3 of the way across. The rule of thirds is my life!

Screen Shot 2011-11-30 at 12.51.15 PM

Second pillow tomorrow!

*Well I could have blogged about how depressed I am at the NZ election results and the fact this lovely country seems to be moving away from an inclusive and caring community to the "f**k you I'm in this for myself" attitude so prevalent these days. I hate the meanness of spirit and mind that seems to be such an integral part of the right, and I hate that the world that Hazel is going to inherit is all about the individual, what they can get out of life and what it owes them, rather than the individual as part of the community and humanity as a whole. I'm more than pleased that the Greens did so well, but in practical terms I guess I question how effective that will be when Labour is at such a low point. Sigh. I need to go and cuddle a cat or a child I think.


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