Thursday, April 30, 2009

My creative space...

Not a lot of creating, or SPACE, around these parts at the moment. I'm embarking on a long-term 'clutter overhaul project' (not so much decluttering as thoughtful recluttering), and the precious snatches of time I get to myself sans boys are being spent on finding new homes for things, sorting notions, folding fabrics, and dreaming about the big picture. I'm itching to get the sewing machine out again but just can't do it until some of the chaos subsides.

So my creative outlet this week has been this old corkboard. Previous home to uninspiring shopping lists, timetables and the like. Now home to some of the cherished bits and pieces I've found on my clutter travels, and awaiting more rediscovered finds as I continue. Propped on the kitchen bench near the computer, it's providing a little burst of creativity as I go about the endless mundane activities that are pressing all around.

Creative spaces c/o kootoyoo... go and have a peek.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Confessions of an Eco-Jerk... Fantastic Plastic.

Ahhh, plastic bags. So strong. So versatile. So crinkly underfoot.


I thought I'd kick off my Eco-Jerk confessions with the plastic bag issue - an oldie but a goodie! Plastic bag use is one of THE most unsustainable aspects of our society. Made using lots of energy and non-renewable resources, used in large numbers and discarded without reuse, non-degradable, clogging up landfill, choking animals... and so on.

For a long time, I felt vaguely guilty about using plastic shopping bags so often, but that did not compute to actually bringing my reusable bags. It just seemed too hard, and, well, everybody else was still using them! (Funny how often that excuse pops into my head). Plus, it just seemed like a token gesture to reject plastic shopping bags when practically everything else came covered in plastic wrapping and packaging.

Over the last few years my green conscience has grown. For me, being eco-conscious used to involve half-hearted recycling. If the bin wasn't too far away. Now I see the greater importance of reducing consumption altogether, and thoughtfully reusing what I do accumulate. This has FINALLY driven home the need to avoid accumulating plastic bags.

Saying no to plastic
Things I am doing to reduce my plastic bag use (nothing new here!):

1. Providing my own bags at the shops. Mostly. See below.

2. Not buying plastic bags: garbage bags, bin liners, sandwich bags.

3. Avoiding over-packaged products and bulk-buying.

4. Washing and reusing zip-lock bags. I was inspired to do this by Amanda Hunt's article in Mixtape zine issue 4.

Saying yes to plastic?
*Gulp* - I do still actively use plastic bags. Mostly, I line the kitchen bin with shop-bags, which I get intentionally for that purpose. I detest bin-juice! I've wondered about what other people do in this instance. Does anyone go plastic bag free and just wash out the bin? If so, tell me. Am I just being wussy? I need inspiration.

I'm also wondering about biodegradable/water-soluble plastic bags. I've seen such products online and they sound great. Why aren't they stocked in supermarkets? A bit of light bedtime reading (!) suggests that they're more complicated that they sound. First, there are many different 'degradable' products, some far better than others, and not all very sustainable to produce. Second, they still require the right conditions to break down, and it's not likely that many will end up in such conditions. Most of these bags will also end up sitting in landfill for centuries. Would buying them be just a band-aid solution?

Having FUN with plastic!
Anyway, let's not get too heavy. Here are some cool crafty things I'd like to try with plastic bags. When we have a stockpile, which we currently don't (hurrah!).

1. Reusable lunch bags: Check out this fabulous idea at Consumption Rebellion - spunking up zip-lock bags to reuse.

2. Knitting and crocheting with plastic bags? Get out!

3. Fusing plastic bags to make other longer-lasting bags (also at Craftzine).

Have you done anything fun with plastic? Apart from suffocating the spouse, of course...
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Five favourites - online craft hubs

Edit: Take heed. Too much time on the web yields disasterous results. Whilst writing this post, my toddler decided to stage a rather messy protest by doing some 'freestyle defecating'. If you know of a nice environmentally friendly method of removing faeces from an upholstered chair, please share it with me!!

This one goes out to my pal Anna*, who I'm sure needs no extra help in frittering away time on the big bad Interweb, or finding MORE craft projects to start. But in the interests of streamlining searching time online, here are five favourite sites for finding craft inspiration, projects and tutorials. In no particular order. (BTW the image is irrelevant, but plain text looked so boring!)

1. Crafting A Green World: New to me this year, and given my desire to 'green' my crafting habits, a wonderful site with a diverse range of articles on a whole range of crafting ideas and materials.

2. Sew Mama Sew (the blog) : I've spent a lot of time here, given my preference for sewing-related crafts. Great for reviews, contests, and stacks of ideas and tutorials, especially in the lead-up to Christmas. And of course way too much pretty fabric!

3. Whip Up: A great site which aims to centralise what's happening in the world of handcrafts on the web. You can get feeds or a weekly email newsletter. They do a great weekly round-up

4. One Pretty Thing: Same general aims as WhipUp, but posting twice daily - a Daily DIY project in the morning and a round-up of crafty happenings in the blogosphere in the evening.

5. Living Creatively: An Australian 'online community dedicated to creativity'. Basically an online magazine. It has great feature articles, a fun projects page, and runs monthly competitions (which I'm yet to attempt to enter!). I think the only bummer about this site is that unlike the others, you don't receive updates via feeds, rather they send an email newsletter. Which just means I visit it less often.

So there you go. Phew. Happy 'research', Anna!

*Or 'Rival Anna', depending on which Anna is reading!

Friday, April 24, 2009

For PANDA with love

Oops, somehow managed to blog, and then un-blog, these pictures this morning. So anyway, I thought I'd show you one of the items I made for the PANDA hampers being put together for auction by the aforementioned Shannon (of yoga-pants fame).

It's a little reversible smock that overlaps at the back and ties at the shoulders. It's for a little lassie, probably anywhere between 1-3 years. The basic inspiration came from this gorgeous free tute which I've made a few times now, but I've lengthened the ties because it makes the fit more flexible for a range of builds and ages.

I love the happy yellow floral cotton, and I hope a little girl will feel happy wearing it too. The reverse side is plain brown: boring but practical when it comes to helping lick the chocolate-icing bowl. I wish I could say the fabric is vintage but it ain't - it's a Spotlight print from my stash. Never mind, stashbusting is a good start in the green-crafting stakes. But I'm already eyeing off a lovely retro pillowcase or two to make a few more smocks. They're so sweet! Now to find some little girls to give them to...

Oh, and did I mention that PANDA gets no government funding? How crappy is that! I hope some good dollars are raised.

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Morning mooching...

A few pics from this morning. Yes, it may be early now, but we've been up since 5am!

The poor bub was just sitting around, eating plastic toys and minding his own business (oh, and modelling his very new sewn-by-me YOGA PANTS, did I mention that?!!) when he was crash-tackled by the older brother.

The pants were sewn up yesterday afternoon during a fortuitously co-ordinated nap time. I scored a few metres of this stripey (cotton jersey-esque) material for small change at Savers on Tuesday. Thought I'd give Shannon's yoga pants for happy babies a go. It's a super-cute, super-easy introduction to the world of kids' pants, and I'm chuffed with the result, even though I used stretch material rather than straight. I did some extra top-stitching above the elastic waistband and around the hems, and used wider elastic because that's what I had on hand.

I know it's rather dumb to try something completely new using STRIPES, but a little wonk here and there just adds to their boutique charm, I reckon!

BTW Amityville is having a giveaway for her 100th post (hurrah!). Go on over and say hi, and maybe score yourself a little something.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

My creative space...

I'm playing along with kootoyoo's meme, go and check out her (spunky new-look) blog for more spaces and inspiration. Here's my newest space... a little nook in our kitchen.

I don't have a dedicated craft space in our flat. Stuff migrates between our bedroom and the living room. But I've been looking for somewhere to 'centralize' my most frequently-used craft notions and tools and UFOs.

So I was thrilled to find this old writing cabinet at the Brotherhood of St Laurence a few weeks back. (Half price - they were having a 'stimulus package sale', tee hee!).

Thanks to my lovely pal Alex and her car, we got it home to my place and I've been gradually gathering my supplies to put inside.

Oh, ok, I've been grabbing fistfuls of craft junk that is usually left around the house, shoving it willy-nilly inside, and telling myself I'll organise it later. But hey, at least the doors lock shut so the toddler's stopped breaking stuff and the baby's stopped swallowing it!

The gorgeous cookie container was also a second-hand find. Perfect for toting my small-but-growing collection of embroidery supplies in and out of the living room.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Confessions of an Eco-Jerk... advanced warning.

I'm going to start a little regular segment for myself (and of course for YOU, my massive readership) looking at an aspect of life from an ethical/'green' perspective. But before diving right in I thought I'd do a bit of an overview of my content, approach and perspective.

You may have started to notice that I'm a little structure-obsessed.


I plan to take a particular item (e.g paper, plastic bags, sewing fabrics), or sometimes a broader category or concept (e.g. eating, cleaning, consumerism) and talk about how I'm currently approaching it. I may add some links and resources. I'll probably list some personal goals in the area, or a few how-to-do-better options. I'll also be asking for tips, comments, and perhaps guest appearances from people who know and do more!

Approach - from the confessional, not the soapbox
I'll be starting from the basis of my own experience, with warts-and-all confessions about what we are or are not doing at home. Why? Because this is reality, and in reality I'm still a bit of an eco-jerk! Cynicism and laziness get in the way of good intentions. So to avoid hypocrisy, I'll be honest about where we're at. Furthermore, I think there's enough 'eco-guilt' out there, and we all know that guilt is not a great motivator. I'm far more encouraged by seeing someone's small steps than by reading a list of lofty ideals.

I'm sure my perspective will emerge as I go - it's still evolving anyway. There is one major thing to note though. My desire to live and consume more thoughtfully does not spring from a belief that I, or we, can save the world. I believe the earth's future is in the safe hands of its Creator. But we are the earth's appointed caretakers, and frankly we've done a cruddy job, and I'm taking some ownership. Hopefully on this point, my actions will be at least as loud as my words.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Seeing Red

Since starting to blog and take more photos, I've started to notice just how much RED is in my life. It's been the only consistent 'feature colour' in my otherwise plain wardrobe for a while now(apart from a brief flirtation with teal a few years back - special). But it's starting to dominate in a serious way. The double pram is red. My new winter coat is red. Hudson is very, very red. Felt necklace, bird decals, favourite fabric swatches, all RED.
So I have a preference for a colour which is frequently associated with blood, lust, danger, war, violence and aggression - so what? Want to make something of it?
Perhaps more disturbing to me is the assertion that the colour red stimulates the appetite and makes objects seem closer and larger.* Oh dear. That's not a winning combination. Suddenly the cause of my expanding waistline becomes all too clear...
Hence the collage above. Just to prove that there are more colours in my life. The greens and browns are a wonderful vintage pillowcase haul from my ma-in-law. The outrageous pink and orange flowers belong to a thrifted apron that I have taken to donning around the house as a pick-me-up. Couple of gifties in there with some handmade labels I've been playing around with. See, I'm not all about red.
Time to go to bed. In a blue nightie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Introducing Hudson

Meet our new friend, Hudson.

Hudson is a big, cheerful fella. He may appear slightly awkward, perhaps a little goofy, but he's a good sort. Definitely not the fastest kid on the block, but what he lacks in speed he makes up for in strength.

It's a rare soul who will tolerate two little boys clambering all over them for endless hours. Or concede to exceedingly lengthy 'horsey rides'. But Hudson is a patient soul, not to mention extremely child-proof.

Hudson may have a large girth, but he eats very little. Particularly when compared to his petrol-guzzling cousins.
Hudson has come to live with our family for an indefinite period. We love him. He's enabling us to live a car-free existence.
If you'd like to meet some of Hudson's immediate family, check them out over here and here!
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Makey makey

I've been rather productive in the sewing department over the Easter break, thanks in no small part to having my beloved around, as well as my sister, the wonderful Aunty Moo, who is a champion at distracting the offspring. The glory list:

1. Almost finished Abi's quilt: I've made a funky 2-tone backing with some trim, constructed the linen binding, and have sandwiched (om-nom-nom) and machine-bound the quilt (all firsts for me!). I'm taking it down to Hobart with me to hand-finish the binding. Pics when I'm done.

2. Little boy's tea-towel apron, which has been gifted before I even took photos! But I'm making more of these. Need to stock up on some decent vintage tea towels first...

3. Vintage-style smock for a girl. I'm not going to show you that one yet, because it's for a special cause, part of a bunch of stuff to be auctioned for PANDA. You know, mental mums. I can say that, because I was one!! (AM?)

4. Bit of baggage... on a whim I thought I'd make the cute vintage bag pattern (pic above) from my Meet Me At Mike's book. I used some stash decor material for the main body and cut up an unloved apron (with ric-rac already on it, rah!) for the lining. I altered the pattern a bit, because I decided to square off the bottom and use the bag to hold bibs. I need storage options more than new purses!

Mmmm. Productivity.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

On Clutter...

I harbour mixed feelings about clutter.

On the one hand, there is clutter that is probably universally acknowledged as bad. It remains quite a feature of my life. It includes:

  • The clutter of laziness. Everyday items that have a home, but don't find them. Simple household chores that don't get done for no real reason. Things that get broken and not fixed because they are not valued properly.
  • The clutter of greed. Stuff that we've accumulated even though we don't need, use, or cherish it. Things owned in multiples, because one wasn't 'enough' or because the original got lost in the chaos. The constant need to 'upgrade' to the next model even when the old one is perfectly fine.
  • The clutter of selfishness. Waste. Food that gets chucked out because of disorganisation or because we 'felt like something different'. Excess rubbish and packaging because I valued convenience over common good.

However, there is also such a thing as happy clutter. I'm never going to be a minimalist. To me, clutter can be welcoming, reassuring, and beautiful. I love:

  • The clutter of creativity. Evidence of things being created in the midst of mundane life - piles of fabric, bits and bobs waiting for inspiration. Old items being reused in new ways. Upcycling, punking, reinventing.
  • The clutter of history. Precious things that have significance beyond their functional or aesthetic appeal. Books. Letters. Memorabilia. Gifts. Things that are accumulated not just because they fit the latest colour scheme.
  • The clutter of real life. Children and their toys underfoot. A well-used kitchen. Books with dog-ears. Dirt.
In essence, my desire is to curb the bad clutter, and to cherish the happy clutter.

I aim to accumulate less, to take care of our household a little more, and to consume more thoughtfully.

I hope to learn to DEclutter, just enough to make our space workable and welcoming for all, but not so much that it is stiffling for young kids, or creative urges, or evidence of real life.

I want to take better care of what I have, to use it carefully and creatively, and to hold on to it lightly, knowing that we are not what we own.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The joy of new things

Who knew the satisfaction that would come from turning this:
into THIS?
I was skeptical of my abilities to make my own binding tape, but in the interests of learning something new, using what I already have, and creating joyful chaos in our little house, I went ahead. And, yeah yeah, just like everyone said, it ain't that hard.  I decided to make straight rather than bias binding, mostly because I wanted to preserve a little of the linen I was hacking into to make something pretty (scarf or softie, can't decide). 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Creative Space

Ahh, the top of the ironing board - THE place for creativity. Space is at a premium in our two-bedroom flat, especially with a toddler, his many train-related accoutrements, and a rolling baby underfoot. The ironing board has been erected in our loungeroom most of the week, keeping things in my view and out of their reach. A simply-pieced chocolate linen and spot/stripe quilt top, waiting patiently for backing, binding, and quilting before heading off to baby Abi.

And on the windowsill... a good-enough-to-eat bowl of felt rocks in various shades of red that I picked out for myself from a felt shop at the Stitches and Craft Show. I'm planning thread them together (alone or with something else?) to make myself a nice chunky necklace for winter. Don't know how, but I figure it can't be that hard...
Creative spaces brought to you c/o kootoyoo - go on over, check out all the fabulous art taking place around us!

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

A bit frayed at the edges...

Our little clan is doing it a bit tough at the moment, thanks to two talented Sleep Saboteurs.
And I find that, the tougher it gets, the more ambitious I get with my crafting. The act of creating something can be so nurturing and pacifying, and the feeling of accomplishment so gratifying, amidst the chaos. There IS the danger of compounding my stress, however, by trying to do large projects in small time frames. A bad plan when one is short on time, energy, space and skill!

From clutterpunk

And so to coasters. All Hail the Coaster - the perfect small-scale project. The ideal size for fabric scraps; a cute, functional gift; and a perfect canvas for trying new things. My new thing here was the hand-embroidered letters. You may notice by the...ahem...rustic nature of the stitching that I'm not a seasoned embroiderer! But I was so inspired by pigeon-pair's skillful stitches that I just had to try it.

The other inspiration for these coasters came from this wonderful project in my favourite new book, Meet Me At Mikes: 26 crafty projects and things to make. I love the freestyle stitching in Tiel's coasters. So I did some rough-and-ready top-stitching of my own. Still a bit too neat and square perhaps! I like the aesthetic, the texture it adds to the raw edges of the linen applique. But I also enjoyed the freedom that a certain measured lack of precision can bring. More representative of our chaotic existence than something neat, anyway.

These two coasters are heading off to a dear friend under duress, and her mother who is looking after her. If I can't be much practical help, I can at least be there in spirit when they have a cup of tea. I thought about them and prayed for healing while I stitched...

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Right up my alley!

Check this out. An upcycling contest, woohoo. Not only that, but some awesome prizes from a few of my favourite crafty peeps - Sublime Stitching, Mixtape, Amy Butler, and this book that I've been keen to get my hands on for inspiration.

Hmmm, what to make, what to make? Might have to get moving on that toilet roll wedding gown sooner rather than later.

Only slightly annoying is the fact that today, before I read about this comp, I was daydreaming about hosting something similar, some type of upcycling contest based around a particular common object. But I was going to wait for a few months, settle into a blogging rhythm, make a few connections etc then do it. I'm so six-months-ago. Oh well, someone has to bring up the rear. And what a rear...

Why am I here?

No, I'm not about to get all metaphysical. I'm trying to get a bit sorted out in my muddled, addled - oh, ok, CLUTTERED - head where it is that I want to channel my creative energies most. Frankly I find Meaning Of Life questions a doddle in comparison to the what, how, why and when of my next crafting endeavour.

I figure I should clear my head a bit and list a few goals here, so that
a) I can remember them (and no, I'm not amnesiac or alcoholic, just a mother of two young boys who subscribe to the motto somnus est deficio - Sleep Is Failure)
b) I can be more purposeful when I blog, and in general!

OK, enough pre-goal goals. Here are the real McCoys:

1. Live more creatively.
I already love making stuff - mainly with fabric, sometimes with paper and ink and paint and food and egg cartons. There's so much more to being creative than making the odd cushion cover, and I'm keen to expand my crafting skills, as well as using my creativity more in daily life while I mooch about at home with two tiny fascists.

2. Live more sustainably.
I'm no veteran hippy keen to tell everyone else where to go. Rather, I'm a recovering Eco-Jerk, and I want to spur myself on, find inspiration and hopefully bring some others along for the ride. Yes, living more thoughtfully and sustainably is good for everyone, but I'm discovering just how fun it is, too!

3. And, all together now: create more sustainably!
Buy less. Make more. Use what I already have. Recycle, upcycle and refashion. Buy secondhand and handmade. Turn old socks into urns! Make a wedding gown out of toilet rolls! Etc.

That's about it really.