I am in love with zippers right now.
Love that they come in a rainbow of colours. Love that they are easy to use, and make a polished-looking product in no time. Love that little children adore opening and closing zippers. So what happens when I fall in love with a particular material? I buy hundreds of them, in varying length and colours, ready for any new project that comes to my mind. Never mind I have no storage space left in my sewing room. I can’t help myself.
So far I’ve made pencil cases and nappy cases.
I know, I know, everyone makes zipper pouches and has been for decades. It is such a cliched thing really. I have made a few pencil cases and pouches before, too. But when I started Piggledee, I vowed not to go down the zipper pouch route, because I wanted to make things that are slightly less common.
So why the change of heart? Well, it’s the colours. I just “discovered” a whole range of lovely pastel zipper colours available online — whereas before, I wasn’t inspired by the same boring selection of darker colours available at local crafting shops.
Besides, as much as I love the cute Japanese fabrics I use for my shops, they don’t leave much room for creativity, because it’s those amazing fabrics that do all the talking. With these zippers, I can have a little more fun combining the main fabric, the zipper colour, and the lining fabric. Like this:
Fun, isn’t it? Padded mobile phone cases, Children’s shoulder bags, maybe even laptop sleeves – Watch out, here I come!
For some time I’ve been wanting to make my daycare bag (or nappy bag) a little bigger. The original ones were just the right size for a family daycare my children had been attending at the time, and they are great for Miss M’s preschool.
But some daycares in Sydney require you to bring a ridiculous amount of stuff – a sheet, blanket, not one but two sets of change of clothes, a water bottle, sunscreen, a hat, lots of nappies and even food. It’s hard enough to find a bag big enough to contain all the gear. And if you are using cloth nappies, you might as well find a suitcase to fit everything in.
So when a friend wanted a daycare bag, I asked if she might want it slightly bigger. And here it is.
I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. It is only about 5 cm taller than the original one, with the width being the same, but it looks huge next to my children. No, it still doesn’t fit cloth nappies for Mr. A, but it is big enough for everything else, including a lunch bag, 4 or 5 disposable nappies, a hat, a water bottle, change of clothes, sunscreen, a cot sheet and a blanket, and a teddy bear.
As a nappy / diaper bag for casual outings, it should be large enough for everything you need. I love the open-top shape of the bag because it’s easy to access whatever you need when the baby starts crying – snack! bottle! a clean nappy! A new mother’s sanity seriously depends on such small details that allow for a split-second response. I don’t know how many times I drove myself insane with my commercial nappy bag with a flap and a million pockets to hide just the item I was looking for.
I think I’ll list the large version in my online shops soon, as a custom-made item.
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!
I have been making little things lately for upcoming markets (in particular a school market at Lorien Novalis (Sydney) on July 23 and Mathilda’s Market (Sydney) on August 27). I thought my market collection needed something small, pretty, useful and wallet-friendly. So I started with pincushions.
These pincushions didn’t come out as I planned. My plan was to make $5 pincushions that are super, super-fast to make, using scrap fabric I had been hoarding, and hence doesn’t cost me anything. Well, as I started with simple two or three-patch pieces, it got boring. I wanted something prettier, something a little more precious. So I ended up making mini log cabins (or technically, I think they are the beginnings of a pattern called “courthouse steps”). Very pretty!
And then Mark suggested that I scent these, so I thought, why not? I do happen to have an embarrassingly large collection of essential oils from my other (now forgotten) hobbies (making soap, perfume, and natural skincare products, if you must know). And if you were to scent these cushions, how boring would it be to use something so ordinary like lavender. I chose Rosewood Brazil, which is exquisite (and expensive).
I love these pincushions, especially when they look all cozy together in a basket. But I beat myself up afterwards for spending hours and hours on something that is supposed to be super simple and inexpensive. My business brain has been defeated by my creative brain, yet again.
So, to atone for my pincushion indulgence, I also made these popcorn bags, a la Gymbaroo.
These are the simplest bags, about 6″ x 4″, filled with popcorn. At Gymbaroo they called these bean bags, and use them as a stimulating toy for babies, or for target throwing for older children. You can play with them in a lot of ways basically, which is why I love simple toys. I used popcorn just because the beans I had in my pantry were large and menacing looking. Popcorn seemed more friendly.
I’m happy that I made at least something that’s pretty and wallet-friendly. And useful, too – if your kids are in need of a snack, just rip one of these open and make popcorns!
Every now and then, a friend or family member asks me to make something specific for them, something that is not in my normal line of child-friendly products. I love these challenges because they give me a refreshing change of scenery.
Last week I made a sun hat for a relative in Japan (yes, it is getting towards summer over there). I sent her a few photos from one of my favourite Japanese craft books, called “Stylish Cloche,” by Ohko Ishida. I love this book not only because of the gorgeous hat patterns, but because the photos are styled exquisitely, sometimes featuring an older model, which is unusual.
My “client” chose this last hat for me to make. She picked this design because of the large, bucket-shaped brim to avoid evil UV as much as possible. She requested a cotton linen canvas fabric in a beige or off-white polka dot print. She also added: “please make it look good!” I’m sure she didn’t mean to give me any pressure or anything. Lucky for her, I’m the kind of arrogant crafter who thinks she can make anything – especially if there is already a book with a pattern to trace. Easy peasy, I thought.
This is the hat I made:
I call this the lampshade hat, because the moment Mark saw it, he said “lampshade!”
I know, I look cool and breezy in those photos, but in truth, I was sweating as I made the hat over one long afternoon. It wasn’t as easy to make as I thought it would be. I didn’t examine the pattern closely before I offered it up to my relative (further proof of my arrogance) – but it turned out the top of the hat had four tiny darts to give it a rounded shape. Fiddly! I also had trouble getting the right interfacing – I ended up using heavy-duty interfacing for the brim lining (so it won’t cover your eyes blind), while using no interfacing at all for the crown of the hat (so it won’t be too hot to wear in Tokyo’s sweltering summer). With all this cutting and re-cutting, I nearly ran out of my lining fabric, causing me to panic because I could not have sourced more of it easily.
In the end, I’m 95% happy with the result. In fact I love this hat, and I might make one for myself next summer; I’m sure I can sew it more easily the second time around. But the real jury is still out, because I had just shipped the hat off to Japan… I hope she will like it, too!
I had been thinking of making a daycare bag for my son for a long time. There doesn’t seem to be anything cool out there in the shops, except plastic backpacks with commercial characters on them. I thought I’d make a fabric alternative to those large backpacks, but I kept wondering — does it really have to be a backpack? Who’s going to carry something so big and heavy? Not my 16-month-old son for sure. It’s either me or Mark. And if it’s the parents who carry a daycare bag, then it sure doesn’t have to be a backpack, because we are not wearing them like backpacks. That would look silly.
What we needed then was a large tote bag of some kind, with some pockets for nappies, sunscreen and a drink bottle (but not as crazy on the pocket front as a proper nappy/diaper bag – we don’t need to store our keys or phones in there), that are “adult” enough for us parents to carry but at the same time not too adult — because it’s for our little ones after all, and black or brown would be too gloomy.
So I kept thinking. And finally this week I came up with the right design. I love this bag.
Coming up with a new design is my favourite part of all. Sometimes my concepts don’t work out at all, and sometimes it takes a few trial and errors. This time though, I think I’ve pretty much nailed it the first time. I love everything about it – those large dotty print (cotton linen canvas from Japan), the oval-shaped bottom, the colour combination, the huge outside pockets with magnetic snap closure, the adjustable shoulder strap, and a little side pocket inside to hold a water bottle. I love the “drape” of the bag, or the lack of it. It is a pretty sturdy bag with a good shape, and not too slouchy. Yet when you carry it on your shoulder, the bag looks more rounded in shape, like a bucket, and very stylish and playful.
Most of all I love this fabric combination that strikes the right balance between “adult” and “child.” It even transcends gender, and dads can carry the bag as well as moms. In my humble opinion anyway. Plus if you are not too keen on a million pockets, you can use it easily as a nappy/diaper bag. It’ll look great on a stroller.
I will list them in my shop soon.