Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just a minute... in October

Thank goodness for Jenaveve's just a minute meme. Sometimes I get to the end of the month and think 'now where did all that time and energy go?' Good to trawl back through my diary, the blog and my photo stocks to jog the memory.

Mmmm... now that's my cup of tea

Editing... a book, just a wee bit at a time, mostly in the evenings because during the day I'm very busy playing 'tackle time', visiting the zoo and trying to get the mushy weetbix out of my eyebrows.

Thinking... about underwear, my new ethical clothing pledge and what I'm really going to do when the Beloved runs out of decent jocks.

Exploring... thread sketching ideas. I've done a bit more machine fiddling, but mostly I've been surfing the net and oggling at the artistry of many talented people who already employ such techniques in their textile arts. *Sigh*. I feel like I've found something creative that really excites and compels me... and I'm just letting it sink in and develop somewhere in the back of my head for a while.

Meeting... lots of lovely, lovely people, for the first time or again, at the Quilt Project Live! It was such a privilege to be involved, and fun to see my little offering nestled there amongst so many gloriously designed and executed squares. Have a look at the virtual version if you haven't already.
Hand stitching... various bits and pieces when I get a chance (and potentially when I should be editing). Hexagons (some of which wound up on a little pinch pouch);

some stitching on a skirt;

a bit of quilting-ish stitching experimentation;

and a cute Dear Fii burrito for a little friend (I do recommend this as a lovely way to use fabric scraps, and a perfect cuddly size for a one-year-old too).

How was October for you? I'm sure Jen won't mind if you join in a day or two late... I'm just scraping in on time!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My creative space...

In my space today I'm...

waiting for some fabric to dry in the glorious sunshine

drinking chai

watching my boys enjoy the simplicity of a better-late-than-never birthday present (thank you Peta for the idea, and the ever-thoughtful, random-gift-giving Nikki for the supplies!)

and regaining some perspective, on mess, clutter and parenting:

Thank you all for the reminder after my last post that mess and chaos are just par for the course. And in fact, according to Amanda, a healthy sign of creativity going unstiffled. Duh. That's kinda what I told myself when I started out on this little bloggy adventure.

Children + Mess = Good Clutter.

Concern about appearances + keeping up with Joneses = Bad Clutter.

Got it.

For more creative spaces, visit lovely Kirsty.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One Day...

Dear blog readers,
One day, I will present you with pictures of my wonderful children frolicking through fields in cute handmade outfits.

Note to self: youngest child appears to have astigmatism. Must book him in for his (long overdue) 1-year-old check up.

One day, I will give you a tour of my serene and stylish family home.

One day, I will tell you that we made it through an entire day without reaching for the growing pile of DVDs; without resorting to bribery; without mama raising her voice; without at least one kitchen cupboard being emptied; without anyone eating glue or running with scissors.

One day, I will become a Real Mother.

Today is not that day. But salvation may be at hand... I just received this book in the post:

Help me, Amanda Blake Soule, you're my only hope.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My creative space...

Playing around with a bit of applique, thread sketching and pears.... mmm, pears....

A set of serviettes, each one just a bit different. The green solid is scrap fabric from a quilt I'm making for my sister. I like that pop of green but actually I'm still pretty partial to the basic black-and-white scribble on the reverse side...

Now enough of my lame-o pears, if you want to check out the real thread sketching talent around these parts, please pop over here and salivate over Tara Badcock's work (thanks Lauren for pointing me in her direction). While you're at it go give Linguisticky lots of praise and adulation... she found my thread sketching tute via WhipUp and immediately took it to another level with THIS:

BAM! A continuous line drawing taken from a life drawing class and transformed into fabric art. LOVE IT. And I love the fact that a little tutorial from my blog has prompted a new burst of creativity for someone over the other side of the globe. That really gives me a kick.

Anyway, I'm grabbing a coffee and heading off to check out the explosion of creative spaces happening at Kootoyoo... see you there!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beyond refashioning... a new clothing pledge

My six months of being on the Wardrobe Refashion pledge is drawing to a close. Time to do a summary post about what I've learned during this time, and also to have a think about where I'm going to from here.

Here are some of the great things that have come from being involved with WR:

1. I've tried my had at new creative/sewing skills: I've felted and refashioned jumpers; I've made lots of different aprons; I've made kids' pants that have actually been wearable, and I've made skirts from a tablecloth, a men's shirt and even from a pattern!

2. I've become a decent op-shopper: I've learned to look at items of clothing from a different perspective. Instead of just rifling through racks to try to find something in a style I like that also fits (a tough ask!), I scan entire sections for textures, colours and patterns that catch my eye. Some items have fit me or fit my friends, others have been refashioned or joined the 'stash'.

3. I've started to find a style that suits my own tastes and shape: A year ago, I lived permanently in jeans and baggy tops. Now I'm barely out of skirts and dresses, and I often throw in a scarf or brooch for a bit of flair. I'm clearer about what suits my figure. A great benefit of this is that I've become far more content with my body. This is in spite of the fact that I am significantly heavier than I have been before. Dressing the body as it is with respect and acceptance does wonders for the self-esteem!

4. I've thought a lot about where clothing comes from: I had no idea just what a big impact our cultural appetite for 'disposable fashion' was having on the environment. We buy cheap stuff, made in sweatshops, then toss it and let it go to landfill. I feel ashamed about my part in this to date.

So... now what?

I really want to carry on developing my skills, style and new attitude towards clothing. I was trying to figure out whether to take the WR pledge again on behalf of my whole family, when I came across a new-to-me blog Isismade, and THIS:


I pledge to only wear clothing that is one or more of the following:

1. Pre-loved

2. Handmade (preferably by me)


4. Made with ethical / environmentally friendly materials

5. Made by a company with strong ethical policy & workers' rights

Isis adds: "Companies with environmentally friendly practices (such as cutting down on waste/energy/water) get brownie points. If I get one little inkling of sweatshop labour, I'm outta there! Above all though, I think the most important thing is reducing the amount of things we use in the first place. Not purchasing ANOTHER piece of clothing just for the sake of it is the biggest statement we can make."

I heartily agree. So with permission from Isis, I'm joining her pledge. My aim is to clothe my family primarily from the first three sources, and the latter two where necessary. For specialty items (like shoes and underwear) I'll do my darnedest to find things that fit with the pledge but, failing that, we will buy things to LAST.

If you've been thinking about the same things and want to join in the pledge too, you're welcome to copy the button for your blog, from here or from Isismade.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My creative space...

Well, there are thousands of things I could be working on... things already started, things with time limits, things that I've promised to people, things that are needed around the home...
But the combination of continued wet weather, my new multitasker, Sew Mama Sew scrap-buster month and some gorgeous donated little scrap materials, are all screaming 'handstitching time'.
I'm just hoping I don't find even more crafty distractions in all the lovely creative spaces today...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Oh, the teacups...

I don't usually do this, but goodness gracious, this is a giveaway not to miss. Have you popped over to Bespoke Press recently? They've got a doozy of a project going on, supporting up-and-coming illustrators... and there's a lovely, lovely set of 10 limited edition prints up for grabs. So go on over... and if you win the set, pretty please may I have Krystal Melson's "The Sugar In Your Tea, In My Camomile Dreams" illustration? Because really, a set of 9 is much better and would look good hanging together in 3x3, so you'd have one left over. And I could help you out with that.
Am. Obsessed. With. Those. TEACUPS.
They will be mine... oh yes... they will be mine....

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thread sketching on fabric: techniques and tips

Recently I've done a little free motion machine embroidery, or thread sketching. From some of the comments I received it's clear that this seems all a bit fancy, mysterious and only for extreme sewists.

It's not.

So I've written this post to demystify the process of 'thread sketching', and hopefully some of you will be encouraged to give it a go. Disclaimer: I am no expert. I do not hold a degree in thread sketching. I've done no reading or classes. I'm simply giving you some tips from my own experience. This is the old 'hey, if I can do it...' approach. My way is in no way definitive, or even right at all! But it's worked well for me... hopefully you can bounce off what I've done and go and make your own wonderful discoveries.


- A piece of plain, preferably medium-weight cotton or linen (i.e. woven) material. A tea towel or serviette would be perfect.
- contrasting thread (your regular sewing thread)
-An air-soluble fabric pen to draw your design on

- Just your regular sewing machine, set up with your regular sewing foot and a universal needle.
- No, you do not need a special foot, or to lower your feed-dogs. You could experiment with these later, but your regular set-up should work fine for now.

That's right, 'free motion' does not mean '100% improvised'. A simple and minimal design will work best. You will be drawing only an outline onto your fabric - not too much detail. The sketchy, improvised look will come, not from your design, but from the way choose to stitch it.

Stuck for a design? You don't have to be a drawing genius. Use a stencil! Copy something out of your kids' colouring book! Trace around your hand. You are welcome to use my Bird on a Branch design idea. Draw your own bird, use a free applique design (like these ones) or trace/print the one below if you like:


1. Transfer your design onto your fabric

Using an air-soluble marker, draw your design on. As you can see I've kept it fairly simple. The outer shape of the bird I used here was based on one in a kids' stencil book I was given. See, not looking so clever now, am I? :-)

2. Straight-stitch over your outline

Now you want to 'draw' over the outline with thread, just once, to make it clear on the fabric:

To do this, set your machine on a plain straight stitch, set to its shortest length (this will make it look like one long line). Start sewing, guiding the outline under your presser foot.

When negotiating turns and curves, just go slowly. To make sharp corners (like the beak, above)stop, lift your presser foot, pivot the fabric and lower the foot before continuing to sew along your outline.

TIP: Stop and start as much as you like, but try to do the whole thing with just one thread (i.e. don't pull the fabric out and cut the thread). The fewer loose threads you have, the better.This will probably mean going over some parts of your design more than once to get to other parts, which is fine.

3. Straight-stitch over your outline again. And maybe again!

Now we want to start adding some character and complexity. I think the most simple way to do this is just to sew over your outline again in straight stitch:

Pick up from where you've left off, preferably without removing the fabric or cutting the thread. This time, don't be so careful. Try to follow your design line approximately, but not precisely. (You can lengthen the stitch here if you like, but remember that the smaller the stitch length, the more ink-like your line will look).

Can you see what is happening? Just by tracing around the same thing a few times, you will start to build up texture and movement in your design. It will start to look a little sketchy, a little messy. Go out of the lines a bit, just for fun. Wasn't that naughty? Wheeeee...

Now, if you like, you could do your whole design simply in straight stitch like this. That would look just lovely. If that's what you'd like, read no further... go and get on with it!

4. Add some grunge!

For those who like to live really dangerously, well now it's your moment to shine. It's time to add some splotches and 'ink blobs', a bit of shading and thickness. To do this you will want to go over part or all of your design again, adding a bit of detail largely by varying the stitch length and stitch width:

This is what my stitch width dial looks like... you should have something similar on your machine (although I can't talk for computerised machines, sorry!)

This is my stitch length dial. For the straight sketching I kept it all between 1-2. For this part, I like to set it on 'satin stitch', which is the 'F' setting.

Choose a simple part of your design to start on (e.g. the branch). Decide on your stitch length. Start sewing, and as you go, wiggle the stitch width around a bit. I like to do this in short bursts, sometimes just going wide for a bit, sometimes cranking it up to maximum. There is no formula here, you have to be brave, have a go and see what it looks like. Here's a snippet of my branch:

Just to be clear, here's what I did:

- The top line is a wobbly zig-zag stitch. I have set my stitch length to maybe a medium. Then, as I'm sewing, I have turned the width dial up and back again.

- The second line looks like a regular straight stitch, but it's actually a satin stitch, which is just that bit denser. I didn't vary the width on that one.

- The fourth line is a satin stitch again, this time with the width varied, which produces a nice, thick, inky look. My favourite technique is to go over the design in satin stitch, just every now and then playing with the width dial.

And here's a shot of my bird:
As you can see I was fairly minimal on this bird. I did a widening satin stitch for the legs, and a wee bit of zig-zagging on the outline just for variation. I didn't think about where I was doing things, I just wanted to break up the line a bit.

Here's another bird I tried, with different effects:

This time I 'scribbled' inside the bird. You can do this by using a straight stitch and sewing back and forth in an area, holding and then releasing your reverse/back-tacking switch to change directions. You'll probably need to pull the fabric across gently as you sew so that the lines don't all end up on top of each other.

(I don't think this effect suits the design as well, but you need to experiment with techniques to see what you like!)

5. Finish, clip threads, iron, pat self on back.

That's it folks.

Please let me know if this is helpful, and if you do some experimentation. I'm very happy for you to use my design, but please link me in if you're blogging, and if you become rich and famous making 'bird on branch' thread sketches be sure to remember me in your will!

Happy sketching.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My creative space...

Today in my space, I'm doing some more free-motion embroidery, or more appropriately, thread sketching*...

I'm trying to figure out (after the comments on my last post) how best to translate this process into a 'how-to'...

Because everyone who says 'I could never do that' actually has the tools, they just need a little push and shove, a little encouragement, a little knowledge... and a willingness to think outside the square.
I'll be back later when I've figured out the best way to give that push and shove.
Meanwhile, why don't you pop over to Kirsty's place and check out what's happening in other creative spaces today?

*Thread sketching... darn it, I thought I'd made the term up but then I googled it to check and of course someone else had thought of it waaaaay before me...

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bringing back the Fashion Smock!

After the girl talk that's been going on around here recently I was feeling the need for less chat more craft, before you all ran away.

So last night I pulled out some garments and started hacking away. After completely ruining a beautifully-felted charcoal jumper (why can I only make these things look good for other people?), I decided to do some damage to a linen-blend singlet top I thrifted the other day:

Beautifully modelled by Mrs Doubtfire there.

I really don't know why I picked this one up. It's not exactly my style of top - more what I can see myself wearing in 20 years! Totally boxy and unflattering at this stage. But the feel of the material was pleasing, and looked like it had potential.

After prancing around wearing the thing in front of the mirror for a little while, I started thinking 'apron'. Those who've been hanging around here a while may have noticed that I do love a bit of apron action. Not so much your 1950s housewife aprons - I'm more and more drawn to the loose, flowy Japanese-style smock garments, like this one here, or the one Amy Karol made here.

So anyway, long story short, there was a seam up the middle of the back and I cut that open, then bound the raw edges (and made ties with) some grosgrain ribbon in my stash.

Then it was all done but looking a bit bland-tastic, so I did this:

A bit o trusty free machine embroidery. I've got a serious taste for that since participating in the Quilt Project. I'm telling you, you MUST try it out. This took me about 20 minutes from thinking up the idea to drawing the idea on with a chako to finishing it. It's done with regular thread on an old basic sewing machine with a regular foot.

All smocked up and ready to go this morning. I wore it in public and didn't get asked to do the washing once.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Woman of the cloth.

Ahem. This is one of those awkward topics. I may as well just launch right in.
About a year ago, just after the birth of my second son, I switched to modern cloth nappies. Up until that time, I'd been completely reliant on disposable nappies for my 18-month-old. And not your eco-conscious, biodegradeable nappies. Nup. I was into your pure, made-from-crude-oil, -hanging-around-for-the-next-millenium dolphin-chokers.
The reasons for choosing to switch were varied, and in truth the sustainability factor was not my highest priority. But when I made the change, a whole lot of pennies started dropping. Scary pennies. I started to see what an unthinking consumer I was, how driven by lazy choices and the desire for convenience, how quick to believe what I was told I 'needed', how naive about where the things I bought came from and the impact they might have on this earth and its people.
Anyway, many changes have been made, slowly slowly, at chez clutterpunk since the arrival of cloth nappies. And last week, it came to this:
image from
That's right. Cloth pads. I'm going there.
It was inevitable really. From cloth nappies, I moved to cloth wipes, serviettes, handkerchiefs and breast pads. I hadn't really thought much about 'that time of the month' until, well, it became an issue again (after a lovely 3 year hiatus!).
So. Ahem. There you go.
What do you think? Are you apalled, impressed, thinking 'well duh!', or bringing up your dinner as you read? Believe me, I NEVER thought I would be getting excited at the prospect of a bunch of cloth pads turning up in the mail. I could not have predicted this a year ago. How quickly things change...