21 December 2013

Season's greetings

At last, school holidays are here. We can unwind and do all the things for which summer was intended - swim, go to the beach, play outside and enjoy the last of the evening sun after dinner. There are no schedules, no lunchboxes to fill, no homework. Six weeks to just live and be.

My family and I are looking forward to spending the summer with family and friends; I hope that you also get to spend some time this holiday season surrounded by those who matter most to you. 
This will be my last blog post for the year, so I just want to welcome my new followers and thank you all for being so generous with your time and leaving lovely, supportive comments. That is more than enough for me, so imagine my surprise when I received some lovely Christmas mail from fellow blogging friends over the past week. You know who you are. My daughters were in total awe that people I have never met would send us cards and gifts. My husband just doesn't understand it at all. But you know and I know. We get it.

I've never been huge on sending Christmas cards (or birthday cards). Sorry. As I taped these cards to the wall in our lounge, I thought of each person who had taken some time to let me know that I mattered enough to them to be sent a card and so I made a promise to myself to do better next year.

Happy holidays, my lovely Moonies. See you in 2014.

19 December 2013

I am {dande}lion, hear me velour

If you have followed me across from my Year of Crafting Dangerously days, you will know that I have a blog crush on Lisa at Big Little. Her children's garments are full of whimsy and wonder and everything is so beautifully detailed. Having really enjoyed testing her cape pattern a while ago, I was quite excited to then be asked to test one of her embroidery patterns. This project is only my second attempt ever at embroidering, as you can probably tell from the uneven stitches and rather unothodox lean of the dandelion stalk in the photograph below.

I had already taught myself how to do a basic straight stitch and back stitch, but this particular dandelion pattern has a chain stitch too. It was a little challenging to get the foundation stitch right, but after watching a couple of videos on Youtube, I picked it up and it only took a few minutes to complete the stems.

I sewed this coat using another of Lisa's patterns, the dandelion coat. Had I more sewing experience, I would have known to steer well clear of the quilted silk-blend that frayed almost as soon as it was cut and gone for something less temperamental, like wool (as the pattern suggested). Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I will learn from my mistakes.

The colour of the quilted fabric is a very pale pink, although it looks almost white in these images.
Because the exterior fabric was relatively delicate, I ironed some interfacing onto the reverse side to reinforce it and I am so pleased I did otherwise there would have been pulled threads and runs all up and down the front panels.  The coat is lined with some sage-coloured velour, which gives it quite a soft and snuggly feel and it fastens with hidden domes.

The dandelions were really enjoyable to embroider and satisfyingly quick to make. Lisa's instructions are very clear so I have no doubt that anyone who has never embroidered before would easily be able to attempt this pattern.
If you would like to purchase the dandelion embroidery or coat pattern, both are available in Lisa's Etsy store.  I also spied a cute dandelion baby shoe pattern in her shop too. If you love hand-embroidered garments but sewing or embroidery is not your bag, a ready-made dandelion coat is also available, waiting to be shipped. If you are anything like me, you will love all of Lisa's garments, they really are heaven-sent.

This post was not sponsored in any way, I simply love to support creative people whose work I truly love and believe in.

I'm joining in with Show and Tell at Sunshine x 3 this week.

14 December 2013

The one where I disappoint 571 people

I'm sorry.

The winner of the Lizzy House Red Letter Day bundle has been selected. Somewhere in New Zealand is a very happy Scottish woman. Och aye, Tartankiwi, it is you. Please get in touch to let me know your postal address.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered, it's been a busy few days trying to keep up with the email messages, but I have loved interacting with so many of you. I did not have much time to enter many giveaways myself but I did manage to discover one or two beautiful blogs along the way and I hope you did too. Maybe you were one of the lucky few to even pick up a prize elsewhere? If not, there's only a few months to wait until the next Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day.

12 December 2013

The Summer Christmas Company - and my first market

Right peeply-deeplers, it's been a while since I showed what I've been up to lately on the creative front. I have always wondered what it would be like to make things to sell, but never had the courage to try it. Until recently. A friend of mine has launched a new business called the Summer Christmas Company. There are a range of non-traditional festive decorations and wares that evoke the fun and frivolity of summer as opposed to the more typical Northern Hemisphere winter wonderland Christmas scenes. Her simple, stylised decorations are a direct influence of native New Zealand flora and fauna.  Here are a couple of my absolute favourites:

Pohutukawa wreath, anyone?
These lightweight plywood decorations, sold in packs of three or half a dozen, could be strung together as a garland or individually hung on a tree and would make great gifts to send to loved ones overseas as a reminder of home.
I have known Mela for years, she is an absolute dynamo and she has designed all of these decorations herself. There are both plywood and acrylic options and she also sells plywood Christmas trees, and an acrylic LED version. Everything, right down to the packaging, is made right here in the A of the tearoa. I know this sounds like a sponsored post, it's not, I just really want to support her novel idea.

Quite unexpectedly, she asked me to help make some items to complement her fledgling business and with it being summer market season, my kitchen table went into serious production mode over the last few weeks. I gave away small glimpses of my makings on Instagram. She asked me to sew some Christmas stockings and bunting and I made some Santa sacks too, which was a nod to my own childhood when we would place a pillowcase at the end of our bed. Some of the products are in soft, muted tones with a bit of a Kiwiana feel, and most items were made using fun, bright prints rather than traditional Christmas colours and I hoped that this would be their point of difference.

Having never made things to sell before, it was really hard to know if there was even a market for these items, but I guess the only way of knowing was to put them out there and see what happened. What did happen? I shared the stall with Mela and while she made a couple of sales, I sold nothing. Zip. Zilcho. Nada. Niente. Unless you count Mela's lovely friend and her sister who bought a couple of bags and a stocking respectively a day or two after the market - and for the sake of my confidence, I am totally counting them. Ha!
So, now that the worst thing that could happen has happened, I'm feeling buoyant, and would love to try another market. Obviously, I am not planning to sell Christmas stockings in January, because that would be stupid. Unless any Russians want them? Did that last bit make me sound quite ignorant? I'm kidding, we all know the Russian children leave out their empty vodka bottles. Now I'm really going to burn in hell.

On the whole, my first market experience has steeled me for the customers who have no filter at all and quite happily stand across from me and tell their friend that they could make it themselves for much less (that didn't actually happen, my overactive imagination ran through a few of these pre-market scenarios). The old me (the 2 weeks ago old me) would have cried into my bunting and then felt a strong urge to punch someone in the face, which would not work very well for repeat business. The new post-market me has fallen in love with the vibe of the market experience and being around enthusiastic and positive artisans. I did get the sense that many, if not all of the buyers who came through the market, were looking for bargains (as in let's haggle the price down to zero profit margin for the seller), but that is probably a whole other blog post.

09 December 2013

{GIVEAWAY}: Lizzy House Red Letter Day

My children are tired, cranky and emotional and I could have buried all three of them at the bottom of the garden the other day when our simple activity of decorating the Christmas tree regressed to a total whinge-fest. I just feel sorry for the tree. It has a CD hanging from it for a decoration. Our next door neighbour's finely decorated tree taps on the window when it thinks we're not looking and laughs at our one. I have a gathering of 18 children descending upon my door tomorrow afternoon for an end-of-season sports team celebration and I bet it rains so we are all stuck inside eating burnt rice bubble cake off each others' laps and I haven't even started my Christmas shopping. So, burglars, don't get any ideas and raid our house because all you'll get under our tree is some paper baubles with hand-drawn smiley faces on them. Let's just cancel Christmas and have a fabric giveaway instead? Are you with me?
Twice a year, Sew Mama Sew holds a Giveaway Day which runs for almost a week and you serial giveaway enterers can enter every single one from bloggers all over the world. Or you could be selective, and just enter the good ones. Like mine. Just joking. But not really. It is actually quite good. Look:
Yes, I know. 15 fat quarters of Lizzy House Red Letter Day fabrics. Whaat?

Wait a minute. Haven't you seen this giveaway before? Why, yes. Yes you have. I gave away the same bundle over six months ago on my old blog, and enjoyed the experience so much, I have decided to give up the other bundle. As Lizzy House fans know, these fabrics are out of print and very hard to find. Don't worry, my children haven't made me go completely crazy, I do still have enough left for moi, but I love to give and just know this will be a nice Christmas present for a fellow Lizzy House LOOOOVERRRR.

Just let me know where you're from. That's it. There is no requirement to sign up to my blog, but if you would like to, new followers are always welcome and as an added bonus, existing and new followers will qualify for two entries. Since I will be using a random number generator to select a winner, please leave a second comment letting me know you follow. No reply commenters, please leave your email address in your comment, otherwise I will not be able to reach you.

This giveaway is open to international readers. It will close on Saturday 14 December (New Zealand time), with a winner announced shortly afterwards. If I do not receive a reply within three days of the announcement, I will choose another winner.

The last time I participated in the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day, my fabric bundle ended up going to the armpit of Florida. I wonder where this one will end up? Exciteballs.

02 December 2013

Introducing Mr and Mrs M

Three and a half months in the planning, my sister and her fiance are now husband and wife. Such a joyous weekend, not even the showers and cold weather on the day itself could detract from the occasion (much). I have been feeding glimpses of the build-up to you on Instagram, and now here are some more details for your viewing pleasure.
My sister looked radiant in her Belladonna Elodie dress (something new). It fitted her perfectly and if you Google the dress, I think it looks much better on my sister than it does on the model. Just sayin'. She used our mother's vintage clutch purse (something old), wore my cathedral length veil (something borrowed) and when her blue garter showed through her dress, she decided to tie some blue ribbon around her shoe instead to complete the old good luck tradition.

From a photographic point of view, I had a disastrous time on the day. I would love to share with you photos of my girls and glimpses of them with all their cousins in their wedding finery and of the happy couple, but because of the way the day panned out, I only managed to take a small handful and they are mostly out of focus or have dignified poses and expressions like these:
I am so thankful that I spent some time taking photos of the church and reception venue the day before the wedding when we were helping to set up. The vows were exchanged in the new annex at Pukekaraka/St Mary's in Otaki, an hour's drive north of Wellington. The historic wooden church is so picturesque but was not able to be used because it was too small.
My first mistake was allowing my daughters to get into their dresses two hours before the wedding as I spent much of that time trying to ensure they stayed clean and dry (I forgot to pack an umbrella and their raincoats). My second mistake was leaving my seat at the church to check on the girls as they waited for their turn to walk in the procession. When I returned to my pew, the entire row was taken so I had to sit away from my bag - with my camera in it. I ended up in the front row across from the pageboys and flower girls and spent much of the ceremony looking over at them thinking I had the perfect spot to take photos. It was agonizing not being able to capture those moments. It must be said that all 14 nieces and nephews who formed the bridal party were so well-behaved during the service and made their parents very proud reading their prayers of the faithful and carrying out their duties during the course of the day.

I consoled myself with the fact that I could take some photos of the children after the ceremony. Third mistake. Children do not stand still at the best of times, let alone when they are excited to be with all of their cousins and in a new setting that has so many places to explore. I will be amazed if even the official wedding photographer managed to get half of them looking in the same direction at the same time.

The setting for the reception, the Milk Station, must be one of Kapiti Coast's best-kept secrets. It is a disused dairy factory, and the owners have spent considerable amounts of money converting it into a function centre with a rustic, Tuscan feel.
It is still being developed but the potential is undeniable. The statement fitting though is unquestionably the milk bottle chandelier that hangs in the banquet area. It looked so amazing at night, and with all of the candles lit up around the room, the ambience was perfect.
The table decorations were simple; a tealight floating in a punch glass filled with water, gorgeous flowers picked from the gardens of local friends and family and from my mother's garden and transported all the way from Taranaki in her tiny little car, hessian table runners and paper doilies to mark each guest's place at the table. My sister is a huge fan of candles; they were dotted on every flat surface and gave even more ambience to the room.
The wedding cake was a fruit cake made and decorated by my sister's friend. It looked so stunning, she did an amazing job.  The pomanders were brought to the venue from the church after the ceremony and placed in the gift room, which gave a nice touch to the area. The vintage suitcase to store cards from the guests belonged to our late father.  This was a day filled with such love. It was a day to make us all pause and reflect on what is important and even though the setting for the reception was truly spectacular, I felt in my heart that the location and the peripheral details we had all worked on in the lead-up to the day really did not matter at all in the end. I heard it in their heartfelt speeches to each other, I saw it in their gestures and I felt it in the company of those I was with. Without sounding nauseating, this is a couple so in tune with each other, I really get the sense that one would not function as well without the other.
Diane and Chris, you both deserve every happiness, here is to a wonderful future together filled with love, laughter and precious memories.