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!
Today I received another shipment of Japanese goodness:
Double gauze! With baby elephants in an assortment of colours. And blue “working cars” print. Just how cute are these fabrics?
Double gauze is my newest object of infatuation. It is the softest, cushiest, most snuggle-able cotton fabric ever. It is also extremely lightweight – it’s like air. If you have never seen one in person, it is like cheese cloth (or muslin in Australia) but with two layers of them fused together to make a more dense, workable fabric.
In Japan, people make children’s clothing (even adults’ clothing) with this material. It is especially perfect for baby clothing and accessories because of its incomparable softness, lightness and absorbency. This type of fabric may not be Japan’s invention, but only in Japan does it come in such wonderful range of children’s prints.
What will I do with these double gauze prints? Why, make accessories for babies of course. I’ve been wanting to make things for babies. But the usual suspect of baby items – you know, bibs and wraps and such – didn’t inspire me creatively because they are so overdone. I mean, go to any retail shop and you’ll find an overflowing amount of pretty baby goods. I thought I had nothing new to offer in this market. But now I do!
Actually I’ve been making washers lately with double gauze and organic cotton jersey or bamboo terry (towel material). These are divine – so soft, absorbent, and just a delight to hold in your hand. Useful, too, for wiping little noses and as a wash cloth in bath. I just listed a few in my shop.
Stay tuned for other baby items using my brand new stash of Japanese double gauze.
It is officially winter in Sydney, though it feels like it’s been winter for months. It is the coldest winter I remember in the six years that I’ve lived here. And I am no longer the hardest worker in this household – it is our new Paloma gas heater, without which we’d all perish in this cold, cold house.
And what do I think as I curl up in front of our new heater friend? Quilts. I am yearning to make quilts again. Quilts in warm, cozy colours to snuggle up with at night, or to wrap around a shivering child after a bath… Actually I have a million quilts already at home, but it doesn’t matter.
Last weekend we went for a stroll to Auburn Botanical Gardens. It is such a magical place, with a large Japanese garden, a majestic reflection pool, rose gardens, ducks, geese, swans, and even kangaroos and wallabies. Its magic is doubled when you consider its unlikely location – Auburn, a working-class neighbourhood with a large Muslim population.
Yet while strolling through this wonderland, I kept my eyes on the ground and thought of quilts. I mean, look at these amazing bricks!
As I walked on these brick roads, I saw them in a myriad colours recreated as quilts. The brick designers and quilters must have similar minds. Maybe they are even the same people – brick layers by day and quilters by night? The middle two brick pattens would be particularly stunning as quilts, I thought.
I haven’t started on any brick quilt yet…. I have been busy. But I cannot stop thinking about them, so I will have to find the time soon.
I did manage to put together a simple cot quilt top in warm, autumn / winter colours though.
I pinned it with pure wool batting for extra warmth and loftiness, with a beautiful vintage Amy Butler fabric as backing. It is ready to be quilted – by hand, I think. I suppose it is not a typical cot quilt of bright pastel or juvenile prints. But I could not resist. I hope, when it is finished, the quilt will find a good home where a precocious baby or toddler might appreciate the colours of falling leaves and golden autumn sun…. And if not, Miss M or I can always use another quilt.
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.
We’ve just moved to a new house. From a two-bedroom apartment where we lived for five years, we moved to a three-bedroom house with a backyard. This is incredibly exciting on many levels. It’s incredible that, first of all, that we could buy a house at all, a real, freestanding house, in a city that was rated the second worst in the world in housing affordability. Second worst in the world. Just behind Hong Kong. How lucky are we to live in Sydney.
Mark and I started looking for a house after Miss M was born. We looked at dozens of them, spending countless Saturdays looking at some truly miserable houses that fell in our price range. Houses that were falling apart, a house with asbestos leeching into the air, a house in high-crime area with metal window shutters, a house with a high-voltage power line looming over the front yard, a house that was around the corner from a rifle range. We’ve seen it all. We’ve given up hope many times.
So it is incredible to me that, we not only finally found a house we could afford, but that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this house. The house is in a perfectly safe and quiet neighbourhood, among other well-maintained lovely houses, and is nicely renovated so we didn’t have to do anything to it. Yes we are slightly “out there” in suburbia, but still within reasonably commuting distance for Mark.
Best of all, what’s most exciting to me personally, is that I finally, finally have an area of the house I can call my own work space.
The last time I had a desk to myself was before the children came. After that I sewed on the dining table. It was okay, I got things done. But now that I have my own work space again – I have a renewed sense of appreciation for it. I feel so much more creative and motivated. I am officially ending the creative hiatus I’d been in due to the move.
Stay tuned for a flurry of new items in my shop in the coming weeks!
More lunch bags in the making:
Patchwork cushions in the making:
I used to make a lot of things for my children. But between full-time parenting and starting my own business, I haven’t done much of that lately. These days, when I’m at my sewing machine, my three-year-old daughter (let’s call her “Miss M”) would come to me, all hopeful, and ask: “What are you making, mommy? Is it for me?” And I would say, “Sorry sweetie, it’s not for you.” I must have disappointed her like this one too many times.
Because when Miss M needed a new cushion, and I got her a new cushion from a shop — which, I have to say, was a perfectly lovely one with red pompom braids — she decided to strike back. Barely looking at her new cushion, she announced, “I don’t like that one.” She pushed it away with her legs. Dismayed, I pleaded my case – “But look, it’s red. You love red. And look at these cute pompoms!” To no avail. “It’s not my cushion!” She kicked it off the bed. Dismissed. Case closed. There is no mercy in the court of a three-year old.
Okay, I got her message. I rose to the challenge of making a cushion my daughter would like.
I designed it as I went – I wanted a quick and easy cushion, not a heirloom. I took a piece of fabric I had in my scrap box, and pieced other fabric strips around it, in an impromptu log cabin fashion. I stopped when it was large enough to be a cushion top. The top took less than an hour.
I admit I wasn’t too impressed when it was finished. I thought the magenta was too strong. I was debating whether to rip the whole thing apart and start over, or stitch something over the magenta to rescue it somehow — when Miss M snatched it from me, pressed it against her face, and said “Is it for me? My cushion? I like it!”
So that was it. I made it for her, and it was special to her. She liked it, and that’s all it mattered. I quickly finished the back of the cushion in white and pink polka dot fabric.
Of course, I then had to make a cushion for my 14-month-old son as well — because he wants everything his sister has.
If I had more time, I might have made different cushions. But as far as quick and easy cushions go, they are not too bad. In fact they are growing on me. The main thing is that my children are happy with them, and that makes me happy as well.