Wednesday, 25 November 2009

thank you and a call to arms

Well first off wow and thank you all so much for your wonderful support of my last post! I am gobsmacked by how many of you have commented and with such warm things to say! I feel totally loved and I hope the patterns and me live up to expectations!! I have to say it isn't hard to make such good fabric shine :-)

But I am also super keen to get out some larger size patterns - I totally hear you people! My pattern sizing choices are based on having a limited range of lab rats, er children, whom I can measure and make try stuff on. But the mutlti sizing expereince has been pretty positive, so I'd like to try getting things upscaled further.

Now since I am a long way from home, and from friends with lab rats, er children, I may borrow I am asking for your help. I'd like to move beyond "average" sizing charts and get some real data. My experience is that kids just like adults come in all shapes as well sizes and I want to be able to help people choose the right size pattern.

So if you have children and a few moments spare please ready your measuring tapes and keyboards! Here is what I would like to know:

1. Age
2. Gender
3. Height (floor to top of head,
4. Height (floor to top of shoulder)
5. Height (floor to waist)
6. Height (floor to knee)
7. Chest circumference (widest point)
8. Waist circumference (narrowest point)
9. Hip circumference (widest point)
10. Crotch height (easiest way to do this is measure an existing comfy pair of pants. Fold pants in half so you have the relatively straight side seam on one side and the pointy bit of the crotch arc on the other. Now measure the distance straight down from the top of the waist band towards the centre back or centre front to a line level with the lowest point of the crotch arc for both front and back)
11. Crotch depth (as above but measure distance between side seam and the widest part of crotch arc for both front and back. You may find you need to wrap the measuring tape around a bit to get the back depth all the way to the seam.)

If you can think of anything I've missed do let me know.

I really appreciate your help!

edited to add - thanks LissyLouLou - I should have added the diagram the first time! Hope it helps!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

from here it begins

So in the last few weeks here I've been mentioning some creative work I've been doing but I didn't want to jinx it by giving out too many details. D's rule of thumb is that for every three creative partnerships/enterprises you set out on, only one comes through and I think that's about right. And I really didn't want this one to be in the other two category.

But I think we're far enough down the road now that we're all committed and so knuckle in mouth it is time to share.

If you've read my blog for a while and paid attentions to the things I sew and buy, you'll know I've been a fan of Ink and Spindle since before they were Ink and Spindle. I bought hand printed fabric from Lara back when she was doing tiny occasional print runs and I'd wait with baited breath when a new batch appeared so I could grab some before it was all snapped up overnight. Looking over my sewing archives there is ample evidence)

When Bianca came on the scene I bought a piece of what I am pretty sure was her first ever print run. As a long time fabric buyer, collector and user the advent of the new textile mafia was exciting - this was the beginning of an era and I knew it. I've used a lot of the fabric pieces I bought from this time, but some I still have and treasure.

Locally produced hand printed fabric just seemed like a dream come true. Not only because they were nice fabrics, with interesting and unusual designs, and made locally but because in buying them I was supporting people who were like me - people doing what they loved and sharing it with others.

And when Ink and Spindle was born and environmentally sustainable business practice was thrown in the mix and I actually got a chance to meet Tegan, Bianca and Lara my admiration grew to pop star status. I like their products, I like their business.

So when a bit of playful banter developed into a full blown proposal to do some creative work with them I jumped at the chance. I was happy to risk the infecting of my hobby with the work virus for a chance to take my designs, combine them with their fabrics and make accessible contained sewing projects for beginners. With the Melbourne Design Market on December 6 as the launch date I set to work sewing and testing and sewing some more to refine and simplify four projects just perfect for summer and Christmas. No fuss, no fear, all fun.

We haven't finished all the detail work for the packaging and so on, but we're all really happy with the way the fabrics and designs work together and I'm so excited about the whole thing I am fit to burst. I love how the finished pieces look and feel and when my kids tried on the clothes for photo shoots I had to engage in some fairly disgraceful bribery to get them to take them off. Except when I got Wil into the size 2 skirt - clearly a man's man already since he immediately felt his dignity compromised and shouted off! off! Not even time for a photo for the vault...

So the patterns start with the sling bag (above), modelled on the beach bag I devised for myself a few months ago. This is simple to construct, but just different enough from the standard tote to be a real accessory. I love its simple lines and symmetry and get a lot of use out of mine.

I've added a pocket here but that's completely optional.

The shoulder bag is the second pattern and it's a refined version of the olive bag I made for myself. It is the bag I use everyday and I love it to death. It's also easy to make with a minimum of details and fiddly bits.

An itty bit of extra patience is required to fit the base into the sides, but it isn't anything a beginner couldn't do with a bit of time. It has a fully adjustable strap so it can go from messenger style to handbag height in a snap.

The last two patterns are my essential kids wear - the long shorts and the just above the knee length slightly A-line skirt. The shorts come in a multi size pattern for 6 months to 3 years and the skirt from 2 to 6 years. The sizing is very generous - Amy is comfortably wearing the size 6 skirt and she's 7 and a quarter and while Wil is almost 3, he'll be wearing his size 3 long shorts for years yet I am sure. At the moment they are super dude big, which is the look I really wanted, but they will look great at a more fitted size too.

The skirt has a flat front which is a bit more sophisticated than an elastic waist, but it has elastic at the back so it is comfy and easy to get on and off. And of course making either of these shorter or longer is a breeze.

Both these patterns are super super easy. You can embellish them to your heart's content if you want something more complicated or want to use a plain base cloth like I have above, but you can also keep it simple if that's where you are at too. With beautiful designs in Ink and Spindle fabrics, it's not like you really need to add anything to make a great garment. My kids like pockets for keeping toys in, so I tend to add those and there are instructions in the patterns for doing it, but you can skip them if you want to.

Depending on how things go I guess they will be available through the Ink and Spindle shop too, and I know they will be at Stitches and Craft next year. And who knows if they prove popular, maybe we'll expand the range? I'll keep you up to date when I know more!

Anyway, it's such a relief to be able to tell you all! I'm so crappy with secrets and nerves, and the whole project has completely absorbed me in the last few weeks, in the best possible way. I've been sleeping and dreaming about these pieces! I hope people like them, but even more I hope people who may perhaps have felt a bit scared to have a go will feel like maybe this will give them the courage to do so.

Monday, 23 November 2009

my creative space

I haven't done this for a while, this creative space thing. A lovely little gig organised by Kirsty.

But it is good to do because it got me thinking about a few things. Things about creative spaces, and creativity and me...
  1. It is entirely apt that I couldn't get both these spaces in the one frame. I mean they are right beside each other and I move between them in a fairly fluid way and yet they are distinct and separate. The sitting in front of the computer, the reading and writing and thinking space engages a whole different part of me to the sewing machine, doing, making place. And it marks a similar and equally fluid and complex distinction between work and play. But that's another post.
  2. I love my storage and organising systems, but they tend to break down when I am busy. I have these cycles where I start off clean and organised, putting things in their rightful places as I go and then as demands on me (and my level of absorption in the task) escalates there is a corresponding decline in my devotion to maintaining order. What you see here is the result of weeks of fairly pressured work on both sides of the office. A major clean up was done the minute my deadlines were met and it is now positively transformed.
  3. While I have this dedicated space, for which I am truly grateful, the truth is my creative space often travels with me. Right now the lap top is on the kitchen table so I can write whilst cajoling a small lad to eat his breakfast and make multiple trips to the kitchen to help a girl reach the yoghurt in the fridge, get the lid off the honey and so on and so forth. Similarly the creative space is often overrun with children and their various activities. Sometimes I envy D and his capacity to enforce a no kids in the office rule, but really if I stuck to a hard line I'd get a lot less done.
  4. I have always felt that good tools are important. While there's always a way if there is will, and in a pinch much can be improvised, good tools definitely improve both the quality of the outcomes and the efficiency in getting there. This creative space was not furnished by me (except of course the sewing cabinet which does a fine job even if it isn't exactly pretty), so I have thought a bit about what I like and don't like about it. The return to Melbourne will see me starting fresh in my creative space and I am looking forward to the chance to deck it out. One thing I know I need to deal with is the sad death of my planet lamp - for me the epitome of desk top lighting since I was a kid (it dates me, doesn't it?). But time to move on and get some new lighting. I'm thinking this. I was kind of tempted by their lamp ipod dock combos too, but now I have an ipod speaker set of some note, I think not. I'm also thinking about more wall based storage, and making better use of some of my favourite storage vessels. Because I labour under the illusion that better storage will prevent the inevitable downward spiral into squalor. I also harbour a dream for a better sewing machine, but it irks me considerably that the only things I really want to upgrade - the power of the motor and size of the neck - entails paying a lot for a bazzilion electronic stitches I don't want. And I continue to obsess about a dress form, but am still struggling to get my head around the issues.
  5. And now that the decks are clear and my last major jag of projects complete I am wondering what will turn up next? I am watching this space.

Friday, 20 November 2009

The kids laughed themselves sick spitting water at each other in the bath. Despite how much the thought of putting bath water in my mouth makes my skin crawl I didn't have the heart to tell them to stop. The kind of laughter should go on unimpeded I say.

And all that stuff I said yesterday about a yarn diet is under threat from this photo. I can't say exactly why but this yarn is speaking, nay yelling, my name. Perhaps I could add it to my Christmas list...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

just like christmas

There's nothing quite like looking up from your desk to see the post man staggering up the drive carrying this.

I had an idea what might be inside, because I had organised a little swap with Ingrid a while back and she'd tipped me off that my side of things would be here any day. I'd sewed her a bag and she was dyeing me some yarn and that was all well and good.

But a little yarn was not what I got. You see in the intervening time Ingrid had gotten the word that she would be moving from Hong Kong back to Australia to live. And for her this entailed more than a little divesting. Lucky, lucky me!

Here's the little yarn we agreed on for the swap - two skeins of the super luscious silk merino Kiama (that's the two on the left) for me to knit up a shawl, and a skein of Footscray sock yarn (on the right) - all three dyed by Ingrid in reds and purples that just perfectly suit me. Now I haven't had the Kiama before and it is as gorgeous as I suspected it would be, but I have knit with Footscray before (in fact it is currently on my needles!) and I know it is great to knit with.

Ingrid also slipped in some new especially for knitting on planes itty bitty DPNS since I broke one of the ones I took to Darwin last month. So I will be knitting when I fly off to Melbourne next week.

Imagine my surprise when what was already a swap which seemed to me heavily slanted to my benefit I found this in the box too.

Cashmere blend lace weight in the best ever shade of red. I can't wait until the weather cools down to get onto something super snuggly with this! So many possibilities!

But wait - there was also this

A whole cone of undyed Footscray yarn! A whole CONE!! You see because Ingrid only sells top quality yarn, she felt she couldn't sell this one since it had been ever so slightly marked in warehousing. I am sure it won't show once dyed. Thank you so much Ingrid I am bowled over by your generosity and lovely yarn.

And this couldn't have been better timed - I am off to craft camp next week and dyeing yarn is my number one planned activity. For the first time ever I am heading of to CC without my own sewing machine, so last month in preparation I bought a bunch of Ingrid's yarns for a dye fest (including some Footscray, Bambaroo and Grafton). Now I will be dyeing all day and night! And I think this may well mark the beginning of a serious yarn diet for me. Between what I have at home in the stash and that haul here I think I have enough to keep me going for all of 2010!

But the best bit about all this has been getting to know Ingrid a little better. Swaps are one of those things I do and do and then stop. There's so many unknowns with swaps, and lots of possibilities for things to go wrong, to disappoint and be disappointed.

And yet some of my best friends have been found and our relationships solidified through swaps. At the heart of it, a swap is a kind of throwing out of your good intentions to the world to see what comes back. And when you see that someone has taken care and put real thought into what might please you it is such an affirmation of the goodness of people. It's totally not about the stuff, even though the stuff is how we describe it.

So I feel I may have made a new friend and that's the best thing to have in any stash.

If you'd like to get a piece of the swap action why not sign up for the tea towel swap? It promises to be a doozy.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

tea towel blanks

To participate in the swap you will need blank 100% linen tea towels as a starting point. You can sew linen into tea towels but it is much easier and in some situations much cheaper to buy ready made tea towel blanks. You can locate tea towel blanks through google searches in your area. There are far more suppliers than I would have guessed!

While you can buy the tea towel blanks in small quantities, the shipping is usually very steep for smaller quantities. With the company Kate and I will be using (linen line) the shipping is flat rate no matter how many you order! You may find it worth while going in with others who live close by to split shipping...or planning on getting into some mass production!

At the beginning of the swap Kate agreed to buy a big order and then onsell them to people participating in the swap. Kate has put in her first order for towels, and they have all been snapped up. Everyone who has already emailed her will be getting their towels, but there's no leftovers for anyone else.

She'll be doing another order next year, probably start of January some time. If you want towels through that, let her know so she knows how many to order - kaviare[at]

I will be doing an order after that at the end of Jan or start of Feb, but I'll just be back from up North and trying to sort out my life, so I am not offering to post out blanks! If you're in Melbourne (I'm in the inner North) and want to save on postage, you are welcome to come grab some from me. Because I can't promise to have my act together enough to track who wants blanks and how many right now, if you want me to get blanks for you, then keep an eye on the blog. Sometime in Jan I will post a call for orders and if you want blanks from me you'll need to contact me then.

If you have any tips about buying and using blanks, please leave comments here so we can all share our experience and knowledge.

wash the dishes, dry the dishes...

You can't sign up in the comments section!

The purchase of the exquisite tea towels last week has started me on a rampage through etsy, made it and various other sites that just seem chock full of seriously good tea towel fare.

Clearly I am late to the tea towels are the new black party. But luckily better late than never and now that I'm here I intend to enjoy myself!

Because really if you looked at what was in my tea towel drawer you'd be well within your rights to cluck your tongue and reflect on the irony of the effort I put into delightful handmade items I rarely use, yet neglect the things I look at everyday.

So right!

Time to do something about it. And I've been having conversations with a few people about printing tea towels (one of whom gave me one of the stunning ones she printed about this time last year. Still my bestest tea towel :-) and Kate and I took the next and obvious step of hatching a plan. A tea towel swap!

Now I know Christmas is coming and most people will be maxed out right now on the making stuff for other people front, but we thought firstly that some people might need time to get their tea towels done, but secondly (and oh so obviously) if anyone was thinking of printing up tea towels they might like to do so for Christmas presents and a swap all at the same time.

I know not everyone is a screen printer or has a gocco they can use (though I know lots of you do!), but you might be able to do stamping with fabric inks, or painting or even embroidery. There are loads of ways to make a tea towel fantastic.

So the basic idea of the swap is that you sign up for 2, 5 or even 10 partners. For each partner you make one linen tea towel then send it off to them. We don't expect you to make the actual fabric bit by hand, but you do need to print, stamp, dye, embroider, print transfer or otherwise embellish by hand.

You can buy inexpensive linen tea towel for printing from lots of different places (just google linen tea towel blanks), but both Kate and I are going to buy a bundle locally and will be happy to on sell them to anyone who wants them for this swap. If you live in Melbourne and would be happy to do pick up to save on postage and can wait until early Feb when I will be back at home contact me[at] If you would like some posted or are in Adelaide and would like to pick up then you can email Kate about it kaviare[at] ***See update notes at the end of the post!

We are specifying linen because it lasts much longer, looks much nicer and doesn't really cost much more. We want this to be a quality swap, which will give us beautiful hand styled tea towels which will last for years. At a pinch we'll take 50% linen 50% cotton.

The closing date for sign ups will be mid January (for those who suffer from Christmas exploding head syndrome and can't possibly commit to anything right now), you will be advised of partners within a week of sign ups closing, and then mail outs will have to be done by the end of the first week of March. You must be prepared to post internationally, though I will try and keep postage costs and fabric miles as low as I can. You are free to include additional goodies with your tea towel, though this is not a requirement.

If you would like to participate, please send me an email at[at] with your name, address, blog if you have one and whether you want 2, 5 or 10 swap partners. It would help me A LOT if you could send this info all in one line with commas separating out all the bits - like this: name, address line 1, line 2, line 3, line 4.. (include your state, postcode and country please!), blog address, # of partners. I'm also happy to answer any questions should you have them.

Oh and of course, please pass it on! More blog posts with more images of great tea towels to inspire!

edited to add - just so you know, while you can buy the tea towel blanks in small quantities, the shipping is usually very steep for smaller quantities. With the group Kate and I will be using (linen line) the shipping is flat rate no matter how many you order! You may find it worth while going in with others who live close by to split shipping...

Edited to add - a message from Kate:
I've put in an order for towels, and they have all been snapped up. Everyone who has already emailed me will be getting their towels, but there's no leftovers for anyone else!

I'll be doing another order next year, probably start of January some time. If you want towels through that, let me know so I know how many to order. Sooz will be doing an order after that, but she'll just be back from up North and trying to sort out her life, so pickups only. If you're in Melbourne and want to save on postage, let her know. If you want towels before christmas, you'll have to source them yourself, I'm afraid! Good luck and looking forward to seeing everyone's creations!

Monday, 16 November 2009

tired and emotional

The reality of the reunited family unit sinks in.

Wil is ridiculously fragile, taking monumental offence at the slightest aggravation. Sadness despair anger. Poor little man.

Luckily for him a bit of soothing truck time and he's back to his happy self, laughing and dancing with his sister like it's always been so. Until the next tragedy strikes.

The girl child escaped the camera but had her own epic meltdown this afternoon, the big post trip come down and a return to the school of horrors. Poor big girl.

She was delightfully happy this morning though and keen to pose for some photos in her school uniform. But she's getting more self conscious around the camera these days and it gets harder to catch a moment when she isn't trying to look like someone else.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

back to basics

We've gotten the band back together.

And had celebratory cake.

The man and the girl child made it home. Dirty and tired but happy. The house is now a total pigsty and the kids have alternated between delightful imaginative play and trying to scratch each other's eyes out. The shopping still isn't done. Wil's hair is still rediculous.

So situation is basically normal.

After the afternoon nap routine I finished off the shorts I made for D last week.

Mostly so there would be one less thing strewn on the floor of my office which is awash with sewn samples, scraps of fabric too special to toss, more fabric waiting to be sewn, paper patterns in various states of construction and deconstruction, shreds of paper, pins, threads, books and more fabric in little piles just waiting to be dispatched to various recipients in no less than four separate locations.

And speaking of textiles, I picked up some gorgeous tea towels hand printed by Black Button from my favourite little local gallery. They are destined for giftees - though since the one on the right is for D at least I get to enjoy it too. I also got some very cool christmas crackers there, my first and so far only concession to the festive season. This year I am going to do my very best to totally opt out.

And the fires nearby are still burning. And we are still being periodically overtaken by smoke that comes without warning and fills the house and then blows out again some time later. Living close to the bush has its complications.

Friday, 13 November 2009

hello my electronic friends

Another odd day today.

Another day without other grown ups around, another day of over reliance on electronic communication for my sanity.

Blogs, facebook, twitter, skype, even the old fashioned telephone - they've been running hot all day.

I tried to head it off at the pass by going to see a film but the cinema had changed all the sessions times since I'd looked them up on Wednesday and when I turned up it was all over.

That made me a bit cranky I can tell you, but since I didn't want my only real life human interaction of the day to consist of me acting like a spoiled brat I shut my trap and came home instead.

Luckily supplies for my major sewing job arrived shortly after so I was pretty much instantly sucked into a creative vortex that was exciting and productive and involved a fair bit of feeling like I was shit hot.

Always good when there aren't people around to adore you.

But seriously, sewing for 'work' is a dangerous undertaking. All too often it results in taking all the fun out of it which is especially bad since you don't even get to keep the stuff you make. So I was doubly happy to find myself enjoying the sewing as well as liking what was coming of it.

I was most definitely in the zone and reluctantly pulled the pin at the very last moment in order to resume parental duty.

The bushfire smoke that blew in last night hung over the horizon this morning making me think it had had blown out to sea. But a few hours later it had come back in thicker and stinkier than before so I had to keep all the doors and windows closed. When I went to pick up Wil I could see actual plumes of smoke as well as the general haze. It wasn't till I saw the news tonight that I realised how big and close the fire was and I find it kind of surprising and frustrating that it is so hard to get information about fires up here. I goggle my little head off, but generally until it turns up in the newspaper sites it's like it isn't happening. That seems a bit slack to me.

And no, I didn't go fabric shopping today - this is totally just window shopping. A quick trip to the local fabric store to pick up something for someone else and with my camera in hand I took a chance to prove I don't actually buy every nice piece of fabric I see. Just so you know.

And lastly a little compare and contrast. Think they might be related?