30 September 2013

Testing, testing, one, two...

Last year, I decided I would teach myself some new crafts, crochet and embroidery among them, and this was met with varying degrees of success. I am also a completely self-taught sewist (unless you count the term of sewing lessons I had as part of the school curriculum when I was around 11). The last 12 months have been spent learning new (to me) techniques, like how to sew in zips and make buttonholes and fundamental skills like threading an overlocker. It was a huge year of learning and while I do now have a few sewing projects under my belt, I would still really only consider myself an advanced beginner.

In spite of that, (or because of that), you will find me attempting ambitious projects, or more precisely, turning simple projects into more challenging ones because of my poor fabric choices.

I am very glad that I ventured into the world of blogging last year, otherwise I would never have 'met' some really talented people, like Lisa from Big Little. It's unlikely, but if you haven't heard of her, she designs and makes beautiful clothing for children, specifically adorable coats made from repurposed woollen blankets. I truly admire her work, so it was a great honour to be asked to test a couple of her sewing and embroidery patterns.

Holidays are most definitely not the time for me to be working on sewing projects, unless it's something really quick and easy. It turned out that this cape was one such project and the tutorial has very clear step-by-step instructions and accompanying photos. Keep in mind that I only started sewing in earnest over the last couple of years, so when I say the pattern is easy, it really is.

I ended up making two versions. The hooded cape is made from blue velvet. I cut out the Size 3 pattern, even though Aimee is 4, as she is quite small for her age - apart from her deceptively massive cranium (full of brains, like her mother's), so I probably should have made the hood with the Size 4 pattern piece. There is an option to embellish the cape, but I decided to leave this one plain. I have to say that working with velvet is quite tricky if you decide to sew without pins. The fabric likes to shift about, so if you do make one yourselves, save alot of time and heartache and take the extra few minutes to pin it well. It fits her perfectly and it looks so cute on. I was lucky to capture these few photos of Aimee wearing it because she now refuses to try it on since it's not pink. Fussbag. I should have learnt my lesson from the last time I sewed something for her.
The other cape was made from vintage wool fabric that belonged to my mother. It was moth-eaten in parts, so it meant that I had to opt for the collared version of the pattern and I couldn't line up the tartan as well as I would have liked.
When she first saw the material, Renee wasn't convinced and said it looked like a picnic blanket. Double fussbag. When did my girls start having opinions? I cut out the Size 6 pattern and as you can see the chances are high that she will get at least two seasons wear out of it. I like this collared version with this fabric, it almost reminds me of old nursing uniforms in style.

It was paired with a light floral and spotted cotton lining and I made a crochet rose to pin on the front of it. It turns out that Renee quite likes her picnic blanket. One out of two ain't bad.

Thank you Lisa, for taking a leap of faith and inviting me to test this pattern. If any readers would like to make one, Big Little's Little Red Riding Hood Cape pattern is available for purchase now in her Etsy store.

Slinky malinky at Leonie's this week.

26 September 2013

You say boutonnieres

I say buttonholes. You say tomayto, I say tomato. You say bouquet, I say bucket - wait a minute...

Instead of having bridesmaids and groomsmen, my sister has opted to have all of her nieces and nephews form the bridal party instead. It's a lovely idea, but with nine flowergirls and four pageboys ranging in ages from 2-13, it makes for a rather large group to cater for their bouquets and buttonholes.

Obviously, a group of this size impacts on my sister's wedding budget, but she insists upon having all of them in the bridal party, so we have been looking at ways to reduce costs by using alternatives to fresh flowers. With her blessing, the challenge for me has been to make something for each niece and nephew that looks passable and doesn't cost too much - without it looking like it didn't cost much.

Because not everyone has settled upon colours and styles for the pageboys and flower girls' outfits, it seemed logical to keep the flowers fairly neutral, which brings me to my latest project.

A couple of nights ago, I spent an hour making these buttonholes. They were surprisingly quick to put together. I made an extra one for our little baby nephew to wear, even though he may not be in the official bridal party, and I am debating making some extras anyway in case of buttonhole malfunctions on the day. You never know, it is only fabric glue holding these babies together.
To make the roses, I used the same technique to make the crepe paper flowers, but this time I dabbed some fabric glue around intermittently to keep the 'petals' in place. Then I wound some charcoal yarn around the stem and glued it in place with a small safety pin inserted in the back. Hopefully the charcoal will be unobtrusive on their suit lapels, but I am considering redoing them in lighter twine in case it's a hot day and the boys end up wearing white shirts instead of jackets or waistcoats.

It was not as fiddly as I thought to make these buttonholes and I really enjoyed the process. I'm already looking ahead to the next project on my list, the flowergirl posies. Something tells me they won't be as quick to make.

Joining in for Show and Tell again this week. Check it out for more creative inspiration.

22 September 2013

Postcard from {Wellington} - Zoo sleepover

One of spring's impressive thunder and lightening displays coincided with a very exciting outing on Friday night. Fortunately the extreme weather conditions only seemed to add to the sense of adventure for Sienna's Brownie unit which was spending the night at Wellington Zoo. With the evening sky lighting up at regular intervals, our family drove across town through the downpour, watching street lights flicker and lose power, navigating the flooded streets and splashing through huge pools of water with our windscreen wipers on full tilt, much to the delight of the girls.
The group of girls assembled at their meeting point and after a watching a brief introductory safety video, our guide took us through the rain up to the giraffe enclosure where he attempted to feed one of them.  They weren't at all interested, with one disappearing into her bedroom but the other didn't seem to mind the torch light trained on her or the flash photography. They are such beautiful creatures. Who knew that a female giraffe is pregnant for almost two years? Nine months ain't so long now, hmm?
We were taken behind the scenes to a shed called the enrichment area where the girls all made some tactile toys for the monkeys by wedging popcorn and raisins inside pinecones and toilet rolls. They also viewed the prep area for the animals' food and the large chillers where their vegetables and meat are stored.

I probably should have spent time familiarising myself with how to operate my camera in nighttime settings; so many of my photos were unusable and don't truly capture how eerie but beautiful it is to be walking around the zoo at night.
The girls were taken down to the creepy crawly enclosures. Hairy spiders are only marginally worse than squealing girls. I find large spiders and snakes so intriguing, probably because New Zealand doesn't have them in the wild. Whilst I regard them with both awe and revulsion in equal measure, I can appreciate them more with safety glass between us. The following day, we returned to find one of the spiders upside down, still big, still hairy, but seemingly dead. She was just tricking us though and was in fact in the process of shedding her outer skin, which is something that only happens once or twice a year. Depending on how you feel about these things, we were quite lucky to witness that.

After two hours spent wandering the zoo, it was time to return to our lodgings for the night. Our sleeping quarters overlooked Monkey Island and waking to the sound of spider monkeys calling was very cool.

The rain that had fallen steadily through the evening continued into the next morning, but it did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the children as we ventured back into the zoo after breakfast to watch some animals being fed. Some of the girls were able to help the guide throw their makings from the previous night's activity over the moat to the monkeys.
Although not visited by us on this occasion, one aspect of the zoo that I really love is its veterinary clinic called The Nest, where sick zoo animals and injured native wildlife brought in from outside the zoo can be treated. Two such creatures were some little blue penguins, one with only one leg and it was being rehabilitated in an enclosure when we visited.

We were taken into an area of the zoo that is still under development and will open to the public this weekend. Called Neighbours, it is an exhibit of some of Australia's furry creatures. Visitors will be able to walk through without barriers between themselves and the animals. In this place, my camera battery gave up so I can't show you how close we could get to the wallabies and kangaroos. Instead, you get a picture of a sun bear, taken by Sienna.
It was an amazing 14 hours and at a cost of $800 for up to 20 people, it is not something that we would have ever contemplated doing as a family, so we are very grateful for the wonderful opportunities that Sienna has been given through being a Brownie.

19 September 2013

Crepe paper pomanders

Part of the reason that I set up a new blog was to document the build-up to my sister's wedding.  She is getting married in a couple of months and I am so excited for her. Who doesn't love weddings? Most of the critical elements have already been taken care of, so now it is down to finalising all the small details that help to personalise the day. I think this is the part that is the most fun aspect of planning a wedding.

My sister is trying to keep to a modest budget and so it calls for some creative thinking. We have been working on a few bits and pieces for her special day, and I have created a Pinterest account to collate ideas. Cripes, a girl could get lost in there! And depressed. Anyway, musn't dwell on the things we could never afford in a bazillion years and focus on the parts we can make ourselves.

I was asked to make some decorations for the church pews. Although nothing beats fresh flowers in a church, in my opinion, there are still some equally lovely cost-effective alternatives to help make the venue look bridal and beautiful.  Initially, she requested tissue paper pompoms, but as soon as I started to look online at other church pew paper decorations, I discovered pomanders. While pompoms are lovely too, white rose pomanders instantly scream "wedding". I set about making one for my sister using white crepe paper and she loved it the moment she saw it.
Here is the video tutorial that I referred to if you would like to make these yourself. I used pins to secure the roses to a polystyrene ball. It would have looked fine without further embellishment, but I experimented with a few options to show my sister, as she is a girl who loves sparkly things. She opted for self-adhesive rhinestones which were applied to the heads of the pins. The balls sparkle when the light catches them and they do look quite elegant. I am looking forward to seeing them on the church pews. For now, they are being safely stored away from interested little people and their curious little hands.
I'm joining in with Leonie and fellow creatives at Show and Tell this week.

17 September 2013

A tribute

A significant anniversary was quietly observed today; on this day 30 years ago, my father died suddenly. I had an off-kilter day, almost as though I was running behind on everything all day.

When new acquaintances learnt that Dad died when I was quite young, they would often remark that I had missed so much. I found this a curious statement - how can you miss something you never had? Now that I have children of my own, I understand what they meant. My eldest daughter is nearly at the age I was when Dad passed away. The thought of her and her sisters going through their lives without their father around to share in their achievements or be present in the mundane moments or to help guide them through the challenging times is something I do not like to even to contemplate.

Growing up, I had no dad on the sideline cheering me on or to ask for help with my homework or draw upon his life experience. These were all things my mum did instead, unfailingly and without complaint. She, who at the age of 38, the age I am now, was suddenly left shouldering the responsibility of raising six children and running a farm alone. She is one amazing woman, I have nothing but total respect and admiration for her.

This overexposed photo is one of only a very few that I have of my parents. I love it. They looked so happy together. They shared a love for music; Mum an accomplished, self-taught pianist and Dad on his beloved guitar. I remember our whole family spending many evenings singing accompanied by them both on their instruments. I remember the oversized watch he used to wear, his large farm-roughened hands and the way he would slick his hair back with Bryl cream Fonz-style when he got ready to head out for community group meetings.
So, on this day, if I could have one more conversation with you, Dad, what would I say? I would say that I feel like I am living a blessings-filled life with a family that you would adore. I am happy. I have married a man who you would have approved of. He is so incredibly good and patient and kind. He's good with his hands, like you, Dad. Although your granddaughters never got to meet you, they ask about you, I talk to them about you and I think they each have their own, unique picture in their heads of what you were like. You would be so proud of them, they are quiet achievers and I think a couple of them may have your natural sporting talent and showmanship. One of them has your dancing blue eyes.

We feel your absence acutely at family gatherings but mark it all in our own way and we carry on. It is all we can do. We continue to live our lives in a way in which you would be proud. We love you.  But I think you know all this already.

14 September 2013

Postcard from {Wellington} - Cable Car and Queen's Wharf

Now that the winter sports are over for another season, it frees up the weekend for us to spend more time together as a family. Something that I have always been very keen to do with the girls is to spend a few hours acting like tourists in our own city and capturing it though my lens. So, let me introduce you to what I hope will become a semi-regular feature Postcard from, in which I will document our outings and the family-friendly sites to visit in this beautiful city of ours, and beyond.

It has never been natural for me to pick up a camera and take photos. I struggle to remember to make sure the battery is charged for birthday parties, so I hope that by continuing to blog, photography will become more natural for me, I will learn how to take great photos and at the same time, I will capture some wonderful memories for my family.
Today was one of those beautifully calm, sunny days that held true to the statement that you can't beat Wellington on a good day. We decided to head to the waterfront via the cable car. Other than that, we had no set agenda, and we spent the best part of the day letting the girls wander and discover this beautiful part of our city.

First stop was the Cable Car Museum. This houses an original wooden cable car at the entrance and a wooden grip car dating from 1905 on the underground level, which I never even knew existed. The girls enjoyed clambering on the old car but if I'm honest they were more curious about the construction work being carried out on the new terminal adjacent to this building. Free admission is always a bonus at times like this.
Then it was time to board the real cable car for our trip downtown. I wonder how many people have this exact same photo in their travel albums. I feel like bursting into song at the sight of it. I might just return and stand in that spot to sing Funiculi, funicula just to shame the kids. Payback for the public humiliation they've subjected me to over the years.

There was only one other passenger on the journey down, so the girls had unrestricted views. Predictably, they stationed themselves right at the front. Sometimes a friendly driver will let the children push the control buttons or ring the bell, that's always a thrill for them. It didn't happen this time, much to Renee's disappointment.
After a short trip, we arrived in the CBD. In amongst some very unspectacular high-rises was this rose. It looked so out of place nestled between the newer buildings and yet I had never noticed it before. Love windows, it's my thing. I even spy a beauteous chandelier. Photography 101 - when taking photos, always look up. You never know what you might see.
A brief stroll across some inner-city streets and we were on Queen's Wharf.  It is such a beautiful spot, and the children love the wide open space and tactile public artworks on display. My girls were my artwork outside Shed 5. While it is not a restaurant I would ever consider taking my children to, it provided the perfect backdrop for taking some photos.
By this time, the girls were getting hungry. The inner-city waterfront easily spans a few kilometres and there are plenty of eateries dotted around Queen's Wharf to suit most tastes and budgets.

We lunched at Chicago, a favourite of ours as the portion sizes are generous for larger appetites and it caters well for children. For an inner-city restaurant, is surprisingly great value - $7 for children's meals which includes a drink. The staff also provide the children with colouring pencils and activity sheets to keep them entertained while awaiting their orders. The only negative aspect is that the womens' toilets are in desperate need of an overhaul. Whilst there, I noticed a broken tap handle, the cubicle door for the disabled wouldn't lock and the condition of the other unoccupied toilet was enough to force me to wait for the toilet in use to become available. Enough said.
I loved the idea of the reading nook in the restaurant. It's something I never noticed on previous visits. The days of sitting down and reading a book over lunch or a quiet drink are non-existent for the time-being, but it's nice to know it's there. If ever like, you know, when I have spare time again.

After lunch, we spent the next hour wandering down the sidelanes and dock to view the naval frigate HMNZS Canterbury. Unfortunately, no public access was allowed today. The girls weren't disappointed at all. I was.
Further around the wharf lies Frank Kitt's Park, a green space in the middle of the city, with a playground that is popular with young families. It has a great slide, but being a little older now, not much else holds Renee and Sienna's interest. Instead, they were eyeing up the vertical bungee and battery-operated cars on the other side of the park. The fee of $5 for a five minute ride was well worth the money for the looks I captured on their faces and capped off a busy morning for this family.
 There is so much more to discover in this part of town and we hope to return to explore further along the waterfront some time soon.

11 September 2013

Great blog, but...

I read your mind. You were wondering why would someone launch a blog with no clear way of allowing people to follow it? Well, I have your interests at heart. You can follow me through my recently added Bloglovin' button in my sidebar.

I might get all flash and add more social media buttons, just as soon as I work out exactly how to do that.

Still, no rush. There's creating to be done.


Well hello, you've found me. I am invariably creating things in and around my home with children attached to my legs. I love to sew, crochet, bake, read and photograph my family and places of interest.

This space chronicles my creative life and experiences with my husband and our three primary school-aged daughters in Wellington, New Zealand. It is also a place where I like to share with my readers products that I believe in and the talented makers behind them. I hope you like what you find here. Feel free to tag along for the ride.

  • When a bag of lollies is opened, I will eat the red and orange ones first. Every time.
  • I love to travel but have yet to explore much of my beautiful homeland.
  • When I was younger, I imagined I would have six children. I am content with half that number.
  • My first and only C grade was received in high school Home Economics. I still hate cooking.
  • This is not my first blog. You can read about my other creative projects here.

10 September 2013

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