It snowed last Friday in the upper Blue Mountains. It wasn’t just a few fluttering snowflakes, either — it was real, pile-up-high kind of snow you rarely see in Australia. Here in the Blue Mountains, snow like this hadn’t happened in decades (or so the locals told me — we’ve only been here for six months). The snow started late Thursday night, and when we woke up Friday morning, it had piled up to a magical proportion. Our balcony covered in snow. Our front yard transformed. View from my sewing room. Oops I had forgotten to take in the laundry!
Our kids had never seen snow before. Upon seeing the snow in the morning, they began singing Christmas songs — which I thought was funny. Their excitement doubled when they learned that school was cancelled — not that our car would have made it through the snowy roads anyway.
Mark and I were just as excited. I grew up in Japan with annual ski holidays, but I hadn’t seen snow in 10 years. Needless to say, we didn’t get any work done on Friday or Saturday. The snow brought back my childhood memories. I had forgotten just how much fun I had as a kid, on those snowy winter holidays in Hokkaido. Sledding, mini skis on the road, sliding down hills on cardboard boxes, and of course skiing. Our kids had been missing out! We might have to take them on a snow trip to Victorian mountains next winter.
Today I continued to play with the black “boy” fabric. I really love this fabric. First I made an insulated lunch bag.
I realize this lunch bag may not look too manly.… A while back, I asked my Facebook friends if their husbands and boyfriends might go for a tote-style lunch bag if the fabric was sufficiently manly. And their answer was largely — um, no. Men don’t care about a nice lunch bag, and they can’t be trusted to bring it back home safely anyway, they told me. Or men would be too embarrassed to carry a handbag-style lunch bag. Fair enough, I thought. But here I am making a handbag lunch bag anyway! Maybe I am hopelessly optimistic that there are some men (or older boys) out there, who are comfortable wearing this adorable bag to work or school. Or there are women who would like to carry this cool lunch bag. We shall wait and see what the global Etsy community will say about this bag.
In that same Facebook conversation, some people suggested that toiletry bags might be the thing to make for men — assuming the fabric is right. So just to be on the safe side, I also made a large wet bag pouch in the same fabric. This would make a nice toiletry bag with the waterproof lining and all.
Speaking of black fabric, I sewed with a few other black (or black and white) fabrics today — quite by coincidence.
This is an extra-large insulated lunch bag in black and white stripe — this fabric is popular. I’ve sold a lot of lunch bags in this zebra-chic fabric.
Here is a medium wet bag in a black and white checkered cat fabric. I also have this fabric in pink, green, and blue, but this black and white version is my favorite.
This one is a simple drawstring backpack lunch bag. It’s the same “Cocoland” series of cat fabrics as the checkered one.
The drawstring bag has such a cute shape, don’t you think? I have a tutorial here if you’d like to make one yourself. It would make a great craft project bag, too! Here is the bag with my current craft project inside. It’s going to be a scarf for Mr. Piggledee (because it’s really cold in the Blue Mountains). My knitting needles don’t quite fit in this bag, but if you use circular needles it will fit with no problem.
Most of these items are now available at my shop.
It’s a happy day when new fabrics arrive at my doorstep — particularly if they’ve taken six long weeks to arrive. Here’s are the latest additions to my sewing room.
As Piggledee continues to grow, I am now buying more fabric in bolts, rather than a couple of meters at a time. Bolts of fabric are heavy, so they get shipped by the least costly option — surface mail. I have to say, it’s worth the wait.
There is always an element of surprise when I first “meet” a new fabric in person. For example, the scale of the cactus print was bigger than I imagined (print scale is really hard to tell from photos). These cacti are huge! But that’s okay, I love them all the same. While they may not be suitable as smaller pouches, they’ll look stunning as bigger items, like tote bags.
This boyish fabric also had an element of surprise — I didn’t care for it too much when I ordered it (I ordered it for boys and men), but as soon as I saw it in person, I fell in love. It’s totally cool — for women as well as men. It’s the first fabric I wanted to play with — making a glasses case and a mini wet bag. I added faux leather zipper pulls to add more manliness.
This leaf fabric was gifted to me by my mother a few months ago, so I already knew I’d love it. Here’s an extra-large insulated lunch bag I made with it before.
My absolute favorite fabric in this shipment though, is the other leaf print.
This one is 100% linen, and linen feels oh-so-wonderful against your skin. It also has amazing colors and drape. At nearly twice the cost of other fabrics here though, having a whole 13-meter bolt feels like having a precious treasure. I just want to cuddle the whole bolt!
I hope you like these fabrics as much as I do. I can’t wait to make more things with them.
A few weeks ago I bought a domestic sewing machine — Janome Memory Craft 6600P. I needed a back-up sewing machine in case something happens to my Mitsubishi industrial workhorse. I also wanted a relatively high-end machine so I could do stitches that I can’t do on my straight-stitch industrial machine — like button holes, zig zags, and monograms. Automatic thread cutter was also a “necessity” now that I’m so used to it.
Budget was limited though, so when I found a second-hand Memory Craft 6600 at a reasonable price, I went for it. Having never owned a high-end domestic machine, I was excited! I bought a new sewing table and chair for the Janome and welcomed it to my studio — here it is next to my Brother overlocker.
Sadly, my first impression of the machine was… disappointment. It was a nice machine for sure, and the stitch quality was good. But it felt like a toy compared to my powerful, responsive industrial machine. After a few hours of playing with it, I didn’t go back to it for weeks. It was that frustrating to sew with.
Eventually though, I decided to give the Janome another try. Maybe I judged harshly too soon. Maybe I just needed to get to know it better. It was unfair to expect it to perform like an industrial machine anyway…
Today was a lazy Sunday. The kids were away at a local market with Mark. I decided to do some light patchwork and quilting with the Janome.
Piecing lightweight pieces together went trouble-free. Then I tried the built-in walking foot. It worked very well! Much smoother, quieter, and more effortless than the clanky walking-foot attachment I had for my old Janome machine. It’s great that the walking foot is built-in — no need to attach it with a screwdriver. Finally, I felt a glimmer of hope — maybe even love - towards this machine.
Here are other things I love about this machine:
(1) The bobbin winder that works with a touch of a button. You don’t have to operate the whole sewing machine to wind up a bobbin, and the process is fast.
(2) Auto thread cutter works like a charm, at the touch of a button.
(3) The machine is a little faster than a regular domestic machine — at 1000 stitches per minute, it is of course slow compared to 5000-stitch-per-minute industrial machine, but still fast enough not to feel too frustrated.
(4) The stitch quality is solid and clean. I can definitely use this machine for my professional sewing work (although I haven’t tried out heavy canvas bags yet on this machine).
What I still find frustrating is that the machine is not instantly responsive. I like to start sewing at a fast pace, but the machine starts out slowly for the first few stitches, no matter how hard I step on the foot controller. I get the same sluggish response when I stop and backstitch.
I am also disappointed in the knee lifter attachment. I had to get a height-adjustable chair just to reach the knee lifter comfortably. However, when I do reach the lifter, I’m sitting way too high to operate the machine ergonomically. I have given up on the knee lifter for the moment.
Still, I quite enjoyed sewing with the Janome today. In just a couple of hours, I made three small placemats, a large pot holder / table runner, and a small potholder for our kitchen. I wouldn’t have made so many things if I hated the machine. That’s right, the Janome and I are finally becoming friends.
It’s been years since I wrote pattens for an insulated lunch bag and drawstring gift bag / mini towel. I had lots of fun with them and had plans to do more patterns, but had since been struggling to find the time (I know, excuses, excuses.…). Finally though, I’m working on another pattern — this time fabric boxes! Why fabric boxes? Well, everyone loves them. They are not only useful, but they instantly brighten up any space in your house. The boxes are also a snap to make once you get the hang of it, and the satisfaction level when you make one is immense. Trust me. You can’t just make one. Actually I have written a mini tutorial on a fabric box before, but this time I’m using a different construction method, which is quicker to cut, sew, and wastes less fabric. I’ll be offering several size options, but more importantly, I will show you how to draft your own custom-size box. Here are some sneak peak of the pattern-making process. Aren’t these bright fruity fabrics gorgeous? They are my current favorite, by Cloud 9. They are organic cotton corduroy, and they are great for zakka sewing. I’ll write more about them in another blog post. Here are my kids “helping out” with a photo shoot. Can you guess what they were bribed with? Candy, of course! Would you like to know when the pattern is ready for purchase? Please sign up to receive an email notification of my blog post, and/or newsletter! Both signup boxes are at my front page. With the Facebook reach rather dodgy these days, I’d really love to keep in touch with you on this blog. Stay tuned!
Here is a simple tote bag I made this week, using a stunning “Echino” line of fabric designed by Etsuko Furuya.
I love this large-scale faux patchwork print. It’s very colorful and the mix of different patterns could have looked busy, but it doesn’t. The earthy tones of the colors make everything look cohesive instead of chaotic. It’s joyful and delightful.
I designed the bag a while ago actually, and made these for a couple of customers. The first one was a very large one — great size as a diaper bag.
The second one was a little smaller. This week was the second time I made this smaller bag.
When the fabric is this special, simple designs are the best. There is an exposed zipper pocket and a large patch pocket inside. The handles are padded for comfort. There is also a key-holder tab. But that’s about it for features.
After sewing the bag, I was left with a bit of scrap fabric. Normally it would go into this big box of scrap fabrics for use “one day.” But this time I felt too sad to toss this perfectly gorgeous bit of Echino fabric in there. So I made this little… pouch thingy at the end. What is it? Hmm. I’m not sure. It’s too narrow to be a tissue holder and too short to be a pencil case.
Could it be a coin purse? Why, yes, it could! I hope my customer will enjoy this little impromptu gift of a coin purse, along with the bag.
There is just enough of this Echino fabric left for one more bag — and then sadly, that’s it!
It feels good to make a new product for my shop. Yes I know I have so. many. products. already, but there’s always something new brewing in my head. I just can’t help myself. This particular library bag had been brewing in my head for so long, sewing it up was the easiest part.
The bag is a flat tote bag in the “portrait” orientation, that is just large enough for a few books, and other A4-sized documents and folders. It’s lightly padded and I used heavy-duty cotton for the lining, so it is sturdy enough to carry not only heavy books, but your iPad or even a laptop computer. My 13″ MacBook fits in there perfectly.
This one is in the dark blue cat fabric, which I love. It’s not too childish, and a grownup cat-lover would (I hope) carry this to the office as a casual document bag. I know I would totally carry this “briefcase” to court hearings if I were still practicing law. That would make me giggle inside, feeling like a small-time rebel in a world of all-black-and-all-serious environment. Actually the clean lines and sharpness of the bag make it more grown-up friendly, allowing some wiggle room for a playful print.
The tote bag is available now at my shop. I have this gorgeous print in black and red as well, but if you’d like a different fabric, please feel free to request a custom order.
Oh, did you notice the cute felt cat mascot hanging from the bag? That was made by Ina Sudjana, who made a bunch of felt bag tags in collaboration for my popular prints, including the strawberry print. She can even stitch an initial to the back of the charm, which is a great way to personalize your bag. It’s totally adorable.
Here are more bag charms by Ina, and they are available to purchase from my shop, as well as from Ina’s Etsy shop.
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It’s well and truly winter in the Blue Mountains, and our whole family has been struck with the flu the last couple of weeks. First me, then Miss M, then Mark, and finally Mr. A fell ill as well. It sure sucks to be sick, but I count it lucky that by the time my little ones came down with a fever, I was reasonably recovered enough to look after them.
Today I felt even better, so I made these healthy muffins as a treat for my kids. For days, they have been just managing with milk, strawberries, and ice cream. It’s time I try to get them to eat something a little more food-like, I thought. These muffins are full of wholesome goodness, and accidentally vegan to boot. Well, I just couldn’t find any eggs in the fridge, so I went without, and they still came out wonderfully.
I threw all the ingredients together without following a recipe, but noted the amounts just in case the muffins came out well and I wanted to make them again. And they did! So, lucky for you and me, I have a winning recipe to share.
1/2 cup apple sauce (cooked and pureed apples with a tiny bit of sugar)
1/2 large carrot, grated
1/2 large ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
How to make
1) Melt coconut oil in a small pan with olive oil.
2) Using a wooden spoon or spatula, mix grated carrots, apple sauce, mashed banana, maple syrup, and melted oils together. Add the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and gently mix the whole thing together.
3) spoon the mixture into silicon moulds or paper muffin moulds. Top with slices of strawberries and bananas for decoration.
4) Bake at 200C until baked — about 20 minutes or so.
This recipe makes about 9 small muffins. The cute silicon moulds are from IKEA. These muffins are not very sweet, but just sweet enough to feel like a special treat — or so I hope.
I love linen. Cute prints are great, too, but sometimes, I love the simplicity and earthiness of plain linen. It just so happened that my mother, who recently visited Japan, bought me this gorgeous fox fabric in navy blue. It went beautifully with 100% linen canvas. Naturally I had to make something right away.
At first I thought I’d make an insulated lunch bag in a plain zippered sleeve style — no tote handles and no gusset. Many customers have been purchasing my lunch bags for themselves, rather than for their kids, so I thought another style of grownup lunch bag would be nice. Here it is.
I loved it! It fits a large lunch box with compartments perfectly, along with an ice block and utensils. It was a little too big for my kids’ stainless steel lunch boxes though.
While I was testing the pouch as a lunch sleeve, it occurred to me that this bag will also be great for an iPad — doesn’t it look quite stylish carried under your arm? It just so happened that I needed an iPad case.
So I made version 2. I adjusted the lunch bag size a little to fit my iPad. I used normal quilt wadding this time, instead of Insul-Bright. I kept the ripstop nylon lining to keep my iPad from getting accidentally wet from a leaky water bottle, etc. Then I thought how nice it would be to add a little pocket to the bag, to carry my stylus and other little accessories. So I made a “hidden” pocket with the foxy fabric, just on one side.
Perfect fit! The pouch is wide enough so the iPad goes in and out smoothly without getting caught in the zipper. Once inside, there is a little extra room for a small notebook, or notepad.
This little pocket is so handy. It’s not big, but all I need to fit in there is my stylus, and maybe another pen. Here are the two pouches — looking quite similar but serving different purposes.
This 100% linen canvas will go with a lot of different “accent” fabrics and colors. I can’t wait to make some more soon!
Two months ago, we sold our house in Sydney and moved to a semi-country area called the Blue Mountains. We love it here. The air is fresh and clean. The traffic is non-existent. Our new house in a bushy area is incredibly peaceful. But the move meant our kids would attend a new school — a public school. Having only experienced Steiner schools before, the new school has been as much a culture shock to me as to the kids.
For one, this school has a lot of events — and I mean a lot. Every week there is something new. Crazy hair day, cake stand sales, snake education (yes there are snakes around here), excursions, and Harmony Day dress-up. It’s hard to keep up, and I admit, I’ve failed to prepare the kids for a few of these events, much to their dismay and embarrassment.
So when the school sent us a note that we needed to “make” special hats for our kids for the Easter Parade (and oh by the way, could you also contribute cakes for the cake stand?), I saw this as an opportunity to redeem myself as a Committed Parent.
I consulted my children about the designs of their Eater hats. My 5-year-old son immediately requested a “pirate bunny” hat. My 7-year-old daughter didn’t have any ideas. So I thought I’d make her something bright and rainbow-y, because she likes rainbows. I got this Japanese hat-making book out (“Oshaberina Boshi” — or “Chatty Hats” by Yumiko Itoyama), and got to work.
For the pirate hat, I modified this brimless hat pattern.
I used black canvas for the hat, and dark blue canvas for the lining. I modified the pattern to make the sides wider, to make it resemble a pirate hat. Then I painted a skull-and-swords pirate symbol on a piece of fabric (yes you can laugh at my feeble attempt)…
…and attached it onto the finished hat with fusible web. Lastly I made a tiny eye-patch for a store-bought bunny doll, and pinned it to the hat. Finished!
For my daughter’s rainbow hat, I decided on this tulip hat pattern.
I used six different Kona cotton colors in pastel shades.
Then I pinned some store-bought pastel eggs at the top for the finishing touch.
I was very pleased how these hats came out. And the kids seemed happy as well!
I didn’t forget to make carrot cupcakes for the cake stand, either.
The Easter Parade was so much fun to watch. It wasn’t quite what I expected though, because other kids had truly crazy and bright-colored hats, which looked like they were made by the kids, not the parents. The black pirate hat especially looked demure and tame among the ocean of colors.…
But it doesn’t matter! Because for once I felt like a Committed Parent on top of a school event. And my kids were happy to wear the hats I made, sing happy Easter songs with their classmates, and eat yummy cakes for lunch — though maybe not necessarily in that order.
I hope you all had a happy Easter weekend!