Birthday party

My children’s birthdays are two days apart.  So this year, like last year, we decided to celebrate their birthdays together.  It wasn’t a big party, because most of their little friends were away on holidays (note for families planning for a baby – giving birth during the summer holiday is probably not the best idea).  But still we had friends, family, and some little ones who could make it, and it was great fun.  Naturally I took the opportunity to make more things.

I made colourful bunting flags.  There are 14 flags, because I initially had a plan to print “happy birthday” on them… but I ran out of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made little party favour bags and traffic-coloured play-doughs to go in them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made two cakes – banana chocolate pound cake for Mr. A, and strawberry mousse cake for Miss M.  Decorations were rather simple (because I ran out of time yet again), but I got many compliments on the taste.  Which, to me, is the main thing – many birthday cakes are stunning to look at but are overly sweet and disappointing in the substance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two days before the party, amid this buzz of preparation, I realized I didn’t have a present for my children.  At all!  Feeling ashamed, I quickly made this dolly quilt for Miss M – because she got a new doll for Christmas from her grandmother, and she’s playing with her all the time, often using my precious new fabrics she drags out of my sewing room as blankets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used Liberty of London fabrics in my stash.  They are such beautiful fabrics, and no matter how you arrange them, they go together really well.  Machine pieced and quilted, it came together in a few hours.  The most time-consuming part was the hand-stitched binding.  It is a detail most people would not even notice unless they are quilters, but it is a little handmade touch that makes any quilt – even a doll-sized one – much more special. Now I want to make a quilt for Mr. A’s new teddy bear — but since he’s a little too young to notice my tardiness, I’ve given myself a slack.

Overall the joint birthday party was a big success.

Wipes

It appears I’ve been making lots of simple square things lately – table napkins, placemats, and now, wipes.  I have had a on-again, off-again relationship with cloth wipes, loving them for a while and then reverting back to the convenience of disposable ones when baby number two came along.  Now I’m back in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bunch of wipes for everyday use – great for using up scrap fabrics that are fast accumulating in my sewing room.  They are about 5″ x 6″ pieces of double gauze with organic cotton jersey or bamboo towel backing.

When Miss M was little (before I started Piggledee), I was too cheap to buy nice fabric just to wipe poop.  So I just cut up bits of flannel from a hand-me-down bunny wrap, finished the edges with an overlocker, and that was it.  They weren’t pretty, but they worked. This time I’m lucky to have gorgeous, luxurious, organic even, leftover fabrics thanks to Piggledee.  I don’t get bored sewing these simple squares because the fabrics are so lovely.

And of course I had to make something even lovelier for my shop:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The double gauze is buttery-soft organic cotton, with the cutest apple prints! It’s from Japan of course, and is the priciest fabric I’ve ever ordered – but thankfully you only need a little to make wipes.  For the backing I used organic cotton / hemp French terry, which has a lovely natural colour and towel-like surface.  It is the most absorbent fabric I’ve used.  Even the fabric ribbon is organic cotton.

Why use cloth wipes and not disposable ones?

(a) Most disposable wipes have icky chemicals in them that are bad for sensitive baby’s skin.  Okay, I don’t know what these chemicals are called, but isn’t it suspiciously unnatural how they never seem to dry out in a box?  Some babies seem to suffer from chronic nappy rash due to disposable wipes.

(b) Cloth wipes are easy to use and more effective for poopy mess than those thin, slippery disposable ones.  I used to use 4-6 or more disposable wipes to get a job done.  I only need one or two of my thick wipes on the other hand.

(c) Disposable wipes are expensive. As with cloth nappies, they will save you a lot of money in the long run.

(d) Disposable wipes are bad for the environment.

Also, like I said before about placemats and napkins, having pretty, high-quality accessories at otherwise stressful or no-fun times does wonders to brighten up your mood.  Wiping sticky messy poop from a squirmy two-year-old’s bottom? Not one of the highlights of a day – but at least I get some pleasure using those gorgeous pieces of fabric.



Thoughts on markets

I have done a flurry of markets the last few months, mostly new ones I hadn’t done before, just to see what they are like.  It is quite exciting trying a new market, be it a crafty one, children’s market, or school markets.  What would the venue be like? Will the weather be all right? Would there be a big turnout, and how will people react to the things I make? Will there be someone selling good coffee?  A lot of the market thrill is in the anticipation of the unknown.

One thing I always enjoy about trying a new market is seeing what other stalls are selling, and how they are displaying the goods.  Usually, once I’m all set up with my stall, I walk around the room to check out other stalls, admire their handmade goodness, and have a pleasant chit-chat with the stall holders. There is a great sense of community among crafters at markets. And this is the reason why, even when the market turns out to be disappointing in terms of sales, I usually have a good day at a market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my stall at a recent baby and kids’ market in Menai.  My stall always looks rather messy and crowded! I need to stop making so many different things.  Most other handmade stalls are much cleaner and streamlined.  They seem to make just one type of thing – be it girly hair accessories, bibs, girls’ dresses, or cupcakes.  I’ve got to admire these people.  They have the focus I don’t have, and their stalls look beautiful and organized.  The truth is I get so bored making just one thing, I keep expanding my sewing repartoire.  I don’t think I can ever be a handmade “specialist”….  but maybe I can bring fewer things to markets next time.

 

Smock dress

I used to think that it was a sign of maternal love to make clothes for your child.  Like, wrapping your baby with love.

I don’t think that anymore.  For the past year, Miss M has rejected most of my creations because I can never seem to get anything right for her taste.  And the silliest thing about it?  Is that I am still making clothes for her, knowing the chances of rejection are pretty good.  Why?  Why stay up late at night sewing for an ungrateful child?  Don’t I have work to do?  Or at least watch some more Garden Girl episodes for my much-needed relaxation time?

Well, I now have no choice but to admit it — because I like it.  I love sewing little clothes for little people, using pretty fabrics I can never wear myself.  There is so much satisfaction in it that I (well, almost) don’t care that my daughter wears it or not.  It turns out I am just a selfish sewer.

And that is probably why Miss M doesn’t like my creations – because I am too selfish to choose fabrics she would like, as opposed to what I like.  Sigh.  I just can’t bring myself to sew with pink and purple…. Or maybe I’m hoping against hope that one day soon she’ll grow out of her pink phase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here is my latest selfish creation.  It is not pink or purple, but green, blue and white.  It’s a simple smock-style dress with elastic gathers around the neck and sleeves.  I put a patch pocket with a little green button.  The pattern is from one of my all-time favorite Japanese craft books:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The title translates to something like: Proper Clothes Even for Children.  The author, Yuji Ogata, is a designer at a New York children’s clothing store called Makie.  I just love all his designs because they are clean, simple (though not always easy to make), classic, and beautiful.  This book has patterns for 3- to 8-year olds.  He has another book for babies and younger children, and I’ve made quite a few things from that book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used a double gauze fabric by Heather Ross.  I love how comfortable and breezy the dress is – perfect for hot Australian summer.  I actually had made this dress before using a different Heather Ross fabric (also not pink).  Here’s Miss M wearing that dress a year ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my surprise and joy, Miss M actually agreed to wear the new dress for the day.  She complained about having only one pocket (I promised to put on another one later), and said it was too long (she is right) but still decided to wear it, putting aside her usual preference for everything pink.

It was a sign of love, I think.  Not a sign of maternal love, but of my daughter’s love for me, or pity at least, for her recognition of my efforts.  Aw… it made my heart melt for a while.  But Miss M being the rebel she is, she made it clear that her love for mommy didn’t extend to letting me follow her around with a camera.  This is the last photo I managed, while she’s saying “I don’t want you taking photos of me!”

Oh well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beach

We went to Manly yesterday for a family birthday lunch.  At first Mark and I were pretty grumpy about having to drive all the way to such a crowded area with two little kids, cutting their naptime short — never a good thing, I tell you.  But then it ended up a lot of fun.  Why?  The beach!  Being so far away from a beach, we hardly ever take our kids to beaches.  Beach play wasn’t planned yesterday, either, but when Miss M saw the beach, she really wanted to go down there and play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She proceeded to take off most of her clothes off, including her undies, and went right in the water.  This took me by surprise, because she has always been a cautious child, afraid of much of nature.  But could it be that she’s changing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then both children had great fun playing with the little fountains lining up the main shopping area.  Mr. A got soaking wet and took his pants and nappy off right there.  Others were mortally embarrassed but I didn’t care.  If not for the nagging inlaws hurrying us along, I’d have let them play there for much longer, bare bottomed and all.  Maybe I’m becoming one of those parents people would roll their eyes at for letting the kids run around like feral kittens?

Boy apron

I don’t know why I like aprons on children so much.  I never wear an apron, except when I was working in restaurant kitchens.  But then the aprons I like on children are not the chef-like aprons anyway. They are real clothing items, semi-fitted, with proper armholes and neckline, that opens at the back for tie closures.  They are more for mealtime, like bibs, but provide wider coverage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. A thinks he’s too cool to wear bibs these days, but he’s okay with aprons.  In fact, being a rather messy eater, he asks for one when he starts to stain his favourite clothes.  Until recently he’s been wearing Miss M’s girly aprons I’ve made before, but now that he’s nearly two (!), it was time for a proper boy version.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, okay, maybe the light green gingham wasn’t exactly a manly choice.  But still.  It’s a very simple design, with a big pocket in the middle and no gathering or frills.  Don’t you think it just looks adorable on boys?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course girls can wear these, too.  But when it comes to girls, I find it hard to resist adding a few girly touches.  Like a little gathering at the neck, or a ric rac trim on the pocket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I might make a couple of these for my online shop.  Just to see if anyone else would find them as cute as I do.

Market report

Oh no, has it really been over a month since I posted? Lazy, lazy me. And isn’t it shocking that it’s nearly November? It’s a busy season for markets now, gearing up for the holidays, so I want to write about my favourite new market today: the Bluebird Market in Leura, Blue Mountains.

I had the honor to participate in their launch market in October (the markets are on the first Saturday of each month). It was the first market, with only a handful of stalls, and the weather was not promising…. so I didn’t expect much from it. I went because I’d love any excuse to go to the Blue Mountains. And sure enough it was cold and rainy that day. Surprisingly though, it was so much fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was the view from my stall. Live music! And not the loud and hideous kind. There were children dancing in the morning, obivioius to occasional showers. Behind them, coal trains came and went all day long, which was cool. The grounds of Alexandra Hotel was beautiful, with lush greens and flowers. Most of all though, I sew a different kind of crowd up there in the Mountains – people who are a little more relaxed, a little more into enjoying the “now” and a little less on a strict schedule than in Sydney. Children were allowed to have fun where they found it, and grownups weren’t all staring into their phones every spare minute. Funny how it’s a very different place, even though it only took me a little more than an hour to drive up there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my stall. The usual suspects, plus I had a new rack from Ikea to display baby blankets and such. The problem with my tendency to make one new thing after another, is it’s hard to find display space to house them all.

As ever, the best thing about doing markets is meeting new people and making new friends. And I met a few lovely crafty people that day. It was one of the most enjoyable markets I’ve ever done.

 

Shopping Bag

As promised in my previous post, I made a sample reusable shopping bag over the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fabric of choice: 55% hemp, 45% organic cotton canvas in natural, stone colour. I love this fabric. I know, I know, how could I just tuck away all those adorable new Japanese prints, and spend a weekend fondling this plain beige fabric instead? Is Piggledee having an identity crisis, you wonder? But before I answer that question, let me show you more of this bag first.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used an orange cotton facing to finish the opening edge of the bag. The pretty bird fabric is actually a big pocket – which is mostly decorative, but is still useful to hold a few lightweight things like an envelope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the inside.  Simple .  I topstitched the side seams, encasing all raw edges, so it looks neat and tidy inside.  I used to love my overlocker, but of late the overlocked finish has been bothering me. It looks too factory-made and not pretty to look at. Encased seams exude quality, I think. Beauty is all about details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This bag wasn’t meant so much for grocery shopping – even though you can of course use it anyway you like.  Personally, I already have a dozen reusable grocery bags I bought from supermarkets, which are cheap and ugly but lightweight and functional.  Besides, if I’m doing a grocery run, I don’t really care what I look like much. But for other kinds of shopping — craft supplies, books and magazines, clothing —  that might involve a leisurely stroll through an upscale mall (or not), it gets depressing having to carry those unsightly grocery bags.

So with a pretty bag like this, I can reduce consumption of disposable bags I’d otherwise accumulate from the shops (did you know disposable paper bags are just as evil as plastic ones?) while looking pretty cool.

Now, to answer your presumed question about whether Piggledee is going schizophrenic, well, I don’t think so.  I’m not giving up using cute Japanese prints for making children’s accessories.  I’m just trying to incorporate more and more sustainable materials in my children’s items, like blankets, washers and towels, without sacrificing the “aw… so cute” element.  Because in my opinion, sustainable items should look good as well.  Unfortunately, those cute Japanese children’s prints do not come in organic cotton…

At the same time, since most of my customers have young children, I’m also making a few earth-friendly products for their daily use, like this shopping bag.  Because, after all, parents of little ones are in a peculiar position to be most concerned about our environment, aren’t they?  It’s the children who are most vulnerable to pollution or pesticides, and parents are the first to watch them suffer.  Even the most selfish of parents must be concerned whether there will be any habitable planet left, at this rate of pollution and abuse, on which their children could live long happy lives.

Anyway, to summarise my point, it’s all about integrating “pretty” and “sustainable” in a fun and non-dogmatic way in everyday parenting.  It’s my lifestyle that’s showing in my products, and it’s not schizophrenic.

I just listed this bag on my madeit shop here.

So what’s next on my to-make list using sustainable materials?  I think something fun and pretty for kids’ mealtime.  Cloth napkins, place mats and maybe aprons.  Because all too often, mealtime with little ones is anything but fun.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Fabrics from Japan

My stock of Japanese prints have become pretty low lately, so I ordered and received a whole new batch of Japanese goodness. Hurray! They are all canvas-weight fabrics, most are cotton linen blends (my favourite type of fabric).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberries – Can you see little bees as well?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage-look cars and trains on natural, linen-coloured background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kittens on pink background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage kids’ items – this one is too cute for words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green-on-natural elephants are back by popular demand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By far the most interesting fabric I found is this one: a panel print of a boy traveling by car and ship. If you cut this panel in half, you’ll see:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This on one side, and

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This on the other side. Too cute for words. Beautiful colours, too.

Aside from the elephants print, all the other ones were designed by Mico Ogura. Of all the cute (or “kawaii”) Japanese prints out there, I just love her designs best, and I notice I’m almost exclusively buying her fabrics these days. She also designed the “Paris,” “Animal Friends,” and “Flower Garden” fabrics that I’ve used before, and have been popular in my shop. I adore everything she designs! The only other children’s fabric designer I madly adore is Heather Ross.

Well, even though I am still in the zone for making things from sustainable fabrics – blankets and towels are done; reusable non-grocery shopping bags are next on the list – I will be making more kids’ bags and backpacks using these new fabrics soon. Meanwhile if you see a fabric you like, I can still take custom orders.

 

Non-towel towel

I’ve been wanting to make a bath towel for children for a long time. It’s something many children use every single day, and the commercial ones are rather boring and unappealing. I wanted something super soft and eco-friendly, with a pretty visual detail. I gathered samples from around the world for organic cotton or bamboo towel fabric. But none of them felt quite right. Some were too rough to touch, some were too expensive, and while bamboo felt very nice, I am a little confused right now about how earth-friendly bamboo is, considering it appears to take a lot of chemicals to convert bamboo into fabric.

Then one day it occurred to me. Why, a bath towel doesn’t have to be made of traditional towel material! Any soft and absorbent fabric will do. That’s how I found this perfect non-towel towel material: hemp and organic cotton blend jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard to describe how beautiful the fabric is without the benefit of touch. It is lightweight. It has a lovely natural, off-white colour. It is very soft, but has some knobby texture to it that is warm, earthy, and welcoming to touch. Forget about your children, you just want to wrap yourself in it.

And hemp is brilliant. Before I saw this fabric, I had the impression hemp was a little on the rough side – suitable for canvas or heavier fabric, but not for something soft and delicate for baby items. Well, I was wrong about that. Or maybe hemp gets “tamed” here with the blend of organic cotton. Did you know hemp is extremely absorbent – more so than plain cotton? It is also naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, and as such well suited to children’s items.

The jersey is stretchy in both directions. I bound the raw edges with my all-time favourite fabric – Liberty of London tana lawn, for that gorgeous, luxury look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The towel is also beautiful as a swaddle wrap for a newborn. Stretchy, generous-sized, and lightweight for the Spring-to-Fall seasons. In fact, I’m not sure if I can convince anyone else to use this as a towel, so I think I’ll list it in my shop as a wrap and a blanket….

But I love this as a towel. I’ve been using it on my little ever-willing (forced?) product testers, and I’ve been very happy with its absorbency and function. It’s great for warmer weather. Moreover, don’t you hate washing heavy traditional bath towels? They take so much space in the washing machine, takes forever to dry, and what a waste of water that is. Washing this lightweight material is a breeze.

Oh, another thing about traditional towels I don’t like: after a while of use, they tends to get hard and brittle when dried in the sun. Maybe this is because of the water quality in Sydney, or because the soft ones have some synthetic material blended in it. But some of the bath towels I have turn into a sand paper when I dry them, I wouldn’t in a million years want to use that on my skin.

Here’s Miss M wrapped in her new favourite towel. She insists on sleeping with it as a blanket, too. I love it when she approves of something I make…. because as you’d know if you’ve been reading my blog, it doesn’t happen very often!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve listed one on my Etsy shop. There’ll be more shortly.